Stay Safe in Argentina
The road death rate in Argentina is 12.6 per 100 000 inhabitants. This compares with 10.4 and 2.75 for the United States and the United Kingdom respectively. In Argentina, drivers kill 20 people a day (about 7,000 a year), and more than 120,000 people are injured each year. These deaths include some unfortunate tourists. Pedestrians should exercise extreme caution. Do not cross outside the traffic lights if you feel uncomfortable, and always keep your eyes on you when crossing the street.
There is a lot of activity and foot traffic at night. Nice neighbourhoods have a very strong police presence, perhaps one officer for every three blocks, plus shop security and auxiliary patrols. Public security in all major cities such as Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Rosario is provided by the Federal Police and the National Gendarmerie or the Navy Prefecture, especially in the Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires.
As in any large city, specific areas of Buenos Aires and other cities are very dangerous. Some shady areas are Retiro, Villa Lugano, La Boca and Villa Riachuelo. Seek advice from trusted locals, such as hotel receptionists or police officers. Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts. If an area seems suspicious, leave it.
On the street and in the metro, many people hand out small cards with horoscopes, lottery numbers, pictures of saints or pretty drawings on them. When you take the card, the person asks you to pay. You can simply send the card back with a “no, gracias.” or just be quiet if your Spanish is not good. Persistent beggars are usually not dangerous; a polite but firm no tengo nada (“I have nothing”) and/or hand gestures are usually sufficient.
Most robberies are not violent if you simply hand everything over to the thieves, as they may be drugged, drunk, have a knife or a gun; in most cases, if your wallet is stolen, you will not notice it until hours later. In the unlikely event that you are confronted by an attacker, simply hand over your valuables – they are replaceable. Watch out for pickpockets in the metro and on busy city streets. Never hang your wallet or purse on the back of your chair in a café or restaurant – surreptitious theft of these bags is common. Put your wallet or backpack on the floor between your legs while you eat.
Popular demonstrations are very common in Buenos Aires and tourists should avoid them, as they sometimes degenerate into violent clashes with the police or the national gendarmerie, especially when they approach government buildings in the city centre.
Since 2005, the government has successfully cracked down on illegal taxis. Petty crime (such as taking detours or, more rarely, giving counterfeit money) still exists. Taxis lurking outside popular tourist destinations like the National Museum are on the lookout for tourists. Do not approach them. The risk of being scammed increases in these situations. It is a good idea to hail a taxi one or two blocks away on a typical city street, where other residents do the same. Also, carrying small bills will help you avoid the problems mentioned above, and you will often find taxis that do not have change for 100 peso notes.
Take an ID with you, but not the original passport; a copy (easily obtained from your hotel) should suffice.
Security alert at Ezeiza International Airport
In July 2007, the Argentine television channel “Canal 13” conducted an investigation which revealed that a group of airport security employees were stealing valuables such as iPods, digital cameras, mobile phones, sunglasses, jewellery and laptops when checking passengers’ checked-in luggage. According to the special report, airport security staff are required to check each piece of luggage before it is loaded onto the plane; however, some employees take advantage of the scanning machine to identify and steal valuables. The report states that this incident occurs on a daily basis and that the items stolen range from electronics to perfume to art.
It is strongly recommended that you put valuable items in your hand luggage to avoid any mishaps.
Police officers will often try to convince you to bribe them during a traffic stop. It is better if you give them the money (otherwise they will arrest you for a long time). However, if you want to accept the ticket, they will give it to you without any problem.
- Ambulance (Immediate Emergency Health Service, SAME in Buenos Aires): 107
- Fire brigade (National Fire Brigade): 100
- Police (Argentine Federal Police): mainly 911, in some small towns it may also be 101.
- Tourist Police: +54 11 4346-5748 / 0800 999 5000
Stay Healthy in Argentina
Visiting Argentina does not pose any major health concerns. Some vaccinations may be necessary for visitors, depending on the areas of Argentina you plan to visit. Yellow fever vaccination is recommended for those visiting the northern forests. Different weather conditions may surprise your body, so check the weather forecast before you arrive. Stomach upsets are most likely as your body adapts to the local micro-organisms in the food. It’s also best to acclimatise slowly to the local diet – sudden amounts of red meat, red wine, strong coffee and sweet pastries can be very destabilising for a stomach used to milder meals – and although Argentina’s tap water is safe to drink, even if it is sometimes heavily chlorinated, it’s best to be cautious in the rural north.
Although oral contraceptives are available over the counter, a woman considering taking them would be well advised to first consult a knowledgeable and licensed physician about their proper use, as well as possible contraindications and side effects.
Hospitals are free. They will not charge you for treatment, but it is common to offer a contribution if you can afford it. In public/government hospitals, it is now illegal for any hospital employee to receive or even ask for payment. This does not apply to private health care facilities or medicines.
The use of sunscreen is recommended in the north of the country, where the heat can be intense (38°C in some areas). Heat rash, dehydration and sunburn are not uncommon among first-time visitors.
Dengue, a mosquito-borne disease, is a serious and potentially fatal disease, but it is only a risk in the far north. Mosquito bites should be avoided at all costs in the far north. There are many mosquito repellent products, from lotions and sprays to citronella candles and ‘espirals’ (spiral incense). They are available in most kiosks (kioskos) or pharmacies.