A Travellerspoint blog

Being Street Smart

How to not fall for tricky robbers

So, I have been travelling South America (Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile) for 6 months now.
I came here on my first day not trusting anyone. Keeping my passport on me, hidden. Putting money in at least three different places. Keeping my actual credit cards and identification in a separate bag than the copies.
I did everything necessary to be prepared.
Not only that, but I was prepared. Mentally.
I had heard about all the dangers and problems that can occur while being a tourist. But, I had travelled all different parts of Argentina with no issues. If anything I met many kind, helpful people.

Today was my last day in South America. I was off to Canada before heading back to the States. I left my friend´s house in San Telmo, Buenos Aires around noon. I wanted to walk to the bus station which was only a 40 minute walk. I have walked longer than that with all my bags. I was determined to try and walk as much as I could during my travels.
I made sure all my bags were ready, packing for the plane ride. I had my small bag with all my important things so I could have it with me as a carry-on.
This included:
passport
2 debit cards and 1 credit
phone
ipod
warm clothes for landing in cold Canada
4 beautiful mate cups
little bit of cash for the bus ride to the airport

I was on my way. Four blocks into my walk I felt something on my leg. I thought I stepped in a puddle or something. Then I felt something on my arm and head. It was a green-yellow liquid with a foul smell. An older woman behind me noticed it too and started cleaning herself off. She looked like she lived in the apartment that we were in front of because she was facing the door.
She told me that I had it all over my bag. She took out some tissues and helped clean my hair.
I thought it must have been bird droppings and thought to myself, "Well I was always told that this means good luck! So I guess I´ll have plenty of luck for my flight!".
I took my big backpack off to see how dirty it was. And WOW it was all over. I noticed how it could not have been from a bird. It was way too liquidy and smelly.
I turned around to a man yelling at me. Said that someone had taken my bag. My small bag. The one with all my documents.
When I realized he was right I turned and saw the older woman walk away.
The man who told me said the guy walked away and to the left on a main street. He saw the man do it, but he didn´t help me.
I ran. Not knowing where to go or who I would be running after.
I saw a cop and ran to help telling him my situation, hoping he would run to him faster (since I still had my large backpack on). He made a call and said another policeman would pick me up in a car and help me out. No one came.
I was waiting when an older gentleman came up to me asking if I was robbed. He told me where I should go to make a claim. I mentioned how someone was supposed to come and help me. In spanish he said, "no one is coming". The cop agreed.

I walked back to my friend´s house where I was able to finally break down in tears. I felt like an idiot. So incredibly stupid.
I KNEW about the old "mustard trick". I read about it. I knew people got robbed in the city. I knew tourists were a target. I should not have trusted an elderly woman.
And most of all I should have kept all my important things on me. In my pants. In my bra. In my shoe. Just like I did my first few months here.

As stupid as I felt, and as much as I knew I wasn´t flying out of Argentina quite yet, I had to laugh. The irony of it all was too much.
And really I know that all I lost were things. I was alive. I didn´t get robbed with a gun to my head or by getting the shit kicked out of me. I was lucky.

Now it all is just a damn hassle. Having my parents help me cancel my cards, change my flight, transfer money (which I can´t do until I have my passport), send my copies of identification, and of course, pay for all these inconveniences.

Also I am inconveniencing my friends. One who is an angel, letting me stay at his place longer. And another who will help lend me money.
These people give me faith in humanity. They make this situation not so difficult to go through. I am incredibly grateful for their kindness. Much love and positive energy to them.

So now I have a flight for Friday, but going directly home to Southern California, and will head to the US Embassy tomorrow morning to get a new passport.
Even when shitty things come about, everything will work out in the end.

So for the future, I now know to not get cocky. It can happen to anyone because these people were pros! Just be prepared and make sure you and your family have copies of everything. And keep money somewhere safe along with your passport.
Also, it helps to make friends :)
Help those around you and it will come back around when you need it.

Peace and Love.

Posted by Laurdatri 20:09 Archived in Argentina Tagged locals city dangers safety robbery Comments (2)

How Traveling Alone Can Create A Better Experience

Dangers and Perks of Traveling Alone


View First Three Months on Laurdatri's travel map.

Before I started my journey to Argentina I had many people express their concerns--worried about me traveling alone as a woman, and only knowing basic Spanish.
Oh, and I also got the occasional, ¨It´s a 3rd World Country!¨, which it´s not.
Not only am I still alive, but I am also experiencing things I would not have if I traveled with someone else.

I first want to start by saying yes, the world is a dangerous place, but that shouldn´t keep anyone from exploring new places and cultures. You just have to be smart.

These are ways that I have kept myself from being in dangerous situations:

1.=== I don´t get drunk===
I make sure that if I go out I only have one or two drinks, and of course I watch it at all times. When I do go out I am always with a girl that I am staying with at the hostel so we can go back together.

2.=== I always go hiking with someone else and take a recommended guide if necessary===
I have heard of girls getting killed or robbed on hikes, and not only that, no one wants to get lost in the middle of nowhere with no cell signal. When going with one other girl it can still be dangerous if on a quiet, secluded trail. I went hiking with a friend in Cafayate and we paid a guide to take us, who was recomended by the police at the trailhead.
I have hiked alone though, but it was a very popular trail with signs, where you are always seeing other trekkers.
Ask locals or other travelers about dangers and recommendations.
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A guide Sabrina and I had to the waterfall

3.=== If I am lost in the city I try to only ask women for directions===
I have heard of men following women to their hostels, or being a bother when they know they are tourists. I don´t like dealing with pesky men so I only ask women questions, or elderly men that I know I would be able to outrun. ;)

4. ===I always let my family know my next destination===
I give them the name of my hostel or address, and tell them the buses I´m taking.

5. ===I check with locals on where to ¨not go¨ at night or during siesta hours===
There are always going to be those dangerous places only at night or areas where mugging is most common during siesta (nap) time.

6.=== I don´t go home with guys===
This one is extremely important! I personally have no interest in meeting any guys here, but I have met other travelers who like to ´have fun´with people they meet in hostels. I think that´s the only safe option, but even then...

NOW I want to talk about perks of traveling alone (and as a woman).
People think that I get lonely, or that it´s difficult not being able to share my experiences with a friend, but that´s all a misconception. Yes, there are times I get lonely and times I wish my family could enjoy a beautiful view of nature with me, but mostly I am always with someone else. When I am alone, I take the time to enjoy my surroundings and meditate.

It´s also easier to meet new people. Either in hostels from different countries (or your own) or locals at shops or on buses, people are more likely to talk to you if you´re alone.

My personal perks of traveling alone:

1. ===I get invited out with locals===
I make friends with the receptionists at hostels or waiters at restaurants, and they invite me to parties or boliches (clubs) with their friends. I am able to meet more locals, and also go to places where there usually aren´t many other tourists.
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These are locals of Argentina that worked in the hostel I stayed at in Iguazu. I still keep in touch with Carola.

2. ===I meet people on buses that end up helping me===
I met an older woman who was so fascinated by my trip that she gave me AR 100 pesos as a "regalo". She was so incredibly sweet that she made my night a happy one, even though complications occured with sleeping arrangements.

3. ===I checked out Couchsurfing to meet travelers and locals===
Actually you can do this when traveling with someone else, but usually people only use the site for a couch. I also used it as a way to meet up. I met up with a girl from the US that ended up becoming a great friend of mine. She even came with me to Cafayate for the weekend to hike and wine taste. Having her with me made those experiences so much better.
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Sabrina and me on a hike to see the waterfall in the mountain

4. ===I lived with an Argentine family===
I decided to talk to a boy on a bus while I was on my way to a farm. We exchanged Facebook information and kept on touch. He invited me to stay at his family's cabañas for free when I arrived in Mendoza. I decided to check it out, but ended up staying at the family's house instead and fell in love with them! I stayed for Thanksgiving and cooked (& drank) with the mother. I was even invited to come back for Christmas and New Years! I did return and met the extended family. I am now volunteering for them, helping with whatever they need.
Doing this I am able to learn the culture, meet more locals, practice my Spanish, learn how to cook different foods, and see how people can be so nice to a stranger.
I now call them "mi segunda familia" :)
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5. ===I just get hooked up!===
I have been given free food to taste, cheaper rooms, and upgrades.
In Bariloche I was moved to a private room with a view of the lake because the owner needed an extra bed in the dorm for a reservation.
People also like to give me free things and cheaper prices because I travel alone. I think they feel bad for me. I'll take it!
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The view from my private room

6. ===I am able to take time for myself and enjoy the pleasure of alone time ===
I like having peace and quiet. It's nice to be able to take a walk and only hear nature and your own thoughts. I am able to meditate, take a nap, and just think about life and who I am while looking out into the mountains, trees, lakes, etc.
I learned a lot about myself and what I want to do for the world. I doubt I would have been able to do that with someone by my side all the time.
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7. ===I friended a couple of guides===
When I arrived in Puerto Deseado I was a little bummed. The town was lame and I was planning on sleeping at a free campsite without a tent.
I went to a place for animal excursions so I could see the penguins, and ended up making friends with the two guides. They invited me to have dinner with them and their friends, and then at 4am took me out to a place where you can hear penguins. I didn't have to sleep at the campsite. They gave me a bed to sleep on where they were staying.
These guys made that one day one of the highlights of my trip!
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8. ===I got over my fear of being alone===
I always hated being alone, especially alone and lost. Going to a country without cell phone service was scary. In the beginning I was sick from nerves and hated leaving a town where I was´settled´in. Getting from place to place made me so nervous because I was always worried that I´d miss my stop.
I finally was able to convince myself that really nothing bad could come from that and it´s all part of my journey.

9.=== Where I go is my choice===
I can go where I want, leave when I want to, change my plans last minute, and not have someone arguing with me about how they don´t want to.

10. ===Finally, I am able to meet a lot of people===
I have friended many from different countries, and have learned more about their cultures as well. I am able to hike, wine taste, dance, exchange experiences, and so on with strangers that become new friends, who I can also see again when I visit their countries (or when they visit mine).
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I think it is important to explore the world on your own. You can figure out more about yourself and become more independent.
I already know that in these last 3 months I have opened my eyes to more than I have in the last 3 years.

I also want to say that I am not saying people shouldn´t travel with a friend. I just want to let everyone know that just because you have no one to travel with you, that shouldn´t keep you from going.

Peace and Love,
Lauren

Posted by Laurdatri 10:19 Archived in Argentina Tagged me people nature hiking culture trekking locals meditation hostels buses volunteering free dangers couchsurfing freebies traveling_alone upgrades Comments (8)

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