Is Buenos Aires Safe for Travelers? Here’s What to Know

Is Buenos Aires Safe for Travelers? Here’s What to Know

ViaHero · October 4, 2019

Is Buenos Aires safe? Absolutely! This exciting and vibrant South American city is ranked as one of the safest cities in South America for travel. This guide contains everything you need to know about safety in Buenos Aires, including common scams to avoid, tips for solo female travelers, and staying safe on public transportation. 

For the best safety advice, connect with a Buenos Aires local. In addition to safety tips, they’ll design an entire itinerary that ensures your experience is immersive and unique. Learn more

Overall, Buenos Aires is one of the safest cities to visit in South America

Is Buenos Aires safe? Yes!
Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires | Julianza/Pixabay

Bueno Aires is an awesome (and safe) place to visit. The city ranks as the third safest city in South America—and safer than Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Brussels. But as with any big  city, you should exercise standard safety precautions when you are in crowded areas like bus and subway stations—Buenos Aires, like most metropolises, has its fair share of petty theft and scams.

Petty theft is the biggest concern

As in many well-traveled places, Buenos Aires has its share of issues, and visitors are targets for petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching. So, be careful on crowded buses (especially at the Retiro bus station), on the Subte (metro) and at busy ferias (street markets). As you navigate the awesome sights of Buenos Aires, use these tips to avoid being a victim of pickpockets:

  • Don’t use your phone in public – it can get snatched. Duck into a cafe or shop if you need to check something. 
  • Only carry the essentials—leave your passport, cash, and jewelry in your room.
  • If you’re carrying a purse or bag, wear it across your body when you use public transit.
  • Don’t flash money or expensive jewelry. 
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and act like you know exactly where you’re going (even if you don’t).
  • Seek tourist police if you need help – you’ll find them around tourist areas.

In addition to taking all these steps, you can also talk to your local Buenos Aires contact to get more thorough advice and safety tips before your trip—no one knows about navigating the city safely like they do.

Some common scams to avoid

There are people in BA who will try to scam you, but as long as you are aware of your surroundings, you can avoid becoming a victim of a crime. Here are the top scams to watch out for:

The mustard trick on public transit

This scam involves a helpful local pointing out mustard (or other stains) on your clothing and then offering to clean it off. Next thing you know, they have made off with your wallet, watch, or phone. If this happens, refuse their offer firmly. This is a common scam, so it’s not unusual for a local to come to the rescue. Locals don’t sit idly by and watch someone get robbed.

Counterfeit bill scams

Counterfeit bills (especially the 100 peso note) are a massive problem in Argentina. A common scam involves a vendor or driver offering to help you check your pesos, and then swapping your bill with a counterfeit one.

Pro tip: Always keep small cash available to avoid these scams. 

You may come across the occasional protest

You may come across a public demonstration while in Buenos Aires. These are usually peaceful and have little effect on tourists—other than blocking traffic and making it hard to see the sights. Most take place in the Plaza de Mayo, Av 9 de Julio, and Congreso, so take care in these areas. 

Pro tip: There are also sporadic transit strikes, so check the news before you head out each day. Better yet, check with your local Buenos Aires trip planner on how to get around if there is a strike.

Taxis are safe, but it’s best to order one via app

Are taxis in Buenos Aires Safe? Yes, but use an app
Taxi in Buenos Aires | g_u/Flickr

Buenos Aires is full of licensed black and yellow taxis, and they're a great way to get around the city. You can flag one down on the street (look for a lit libre sign), but it’s best to book one using the e-hailing app BA Taxi.

Also—private hire taxis called remís can be reserved in advance through agencies and are a great alternative to renting a car for day trips.

Uber exists in Buenos Aires, but we wouldn’t recommend it

Uber does exist in Buenos Aires, but we don’t recommend using it. First of all, the company is involved in a contentious dispute with city officials over whether or not Uber is legal in Buenos Aires. Secondly, taxi drivers are extremely hostile towards Uber drivers—which means it’s not always the safest, or most comfortable way to travel. Many drivers will ask that you sit in the front passenger seat so it looks like you’re driving with a friend. 

If you have your heart set on using Uber, we strongly suggest you connect with someone who lives in Buenos Aires. They can give you the on-the-ground report on what using Uber is like, and suggest possible alternatives.  

Cash is the best currency

Many shops, cafes, and restaurants don’t accept credit or debit cards and ATMs often charge a high fee—so you are better off just using cash (try to keep the notes as small as possible). To avoid carrying around too much money, break your day into segments, taking only as much as you will need for each part.

Pro tip: Leave credit cards in your room unless you know you can use them.

Buenos Aires is a great place for solo female travelers

Is Buenos Aires safe? Yes, even for solo travel
Woman in Buenos Aires | Fábio Alves/Unsplash

Women can travel safely in Buenos Aires without any issues, but if you are traveling alone, it is essential to exercise particular care in crowds, on public transportation, and in isolated parts of the city (especially at night).

Here are some tips to keep you safe:

  • Catcalling in Argentina is a fact of life, especially if you are walking alone. Just ignore it, and it will become background noise.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, move towards a public place, duck into a shop, or find the tourist police.
  • Walk with a purpose like you know where you’re going.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers

Pro tipConnecting with a local woman from Bueno Aires is a great way to get even more tips on navigating the city as a solo female traveler.

Public transportation is largely safe to use

Is Buenos Aires safe? Yes, and so is public transit
Subway in Buenos Aires | Phillip Capper/Flickr

Is public transit in Buenos Aires safe? Quick answer—yes! The Subte is safe, but again, you’ll need to be wary of pickpockets, especially during crowded peak hours. There’s also the public bus system called colectivos. It’s a fun and fast way to get around the city, but it can be crowded, so stay aware of your surroundings.

Pro tip: To make sure that you know the safest way to get around BA, check with your local trip planner for public transit tips and tricks.

You probably have all your necessary vaccines

If you’re up to date on routine vaccinations, you should be all set. However, the CDC recommends that travelers heading to Argentina should also be covered for hepatitis A and typhoid. Based on how long you are staying, or if you plan to explore the rural areas, you may need additional vaccines.

Pro tip: Make sure you protect yourself against mosquitoes—dengue fever is a threat. Cover up and use bug repellent.

Water is ok to drink—but pack bottled if you're going out of the city

Tap water in Buenos Aires is perfectly safe to drink. But if you take a day trip to a nearby rural area, bring or buy bottled water just to be safe.

Emergency numbers everyone should know

Here are some numbers to know just in case you run into trouble while exploring Buenos Aires:

  • Police and general emergencies: 101 & 911 (dial *31416 from a mobile phone)
  • Ambulance and Medical Emergencies: 107 
  • U.S. Embassy Buenos Aires: +(54)(11) 5777-4533

Pro tip: You can always reach out to your BA trip planner 24/7 if you run into any issues. 

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For even more safety tips, connect with a local from Buenos Aires. They’ll explain how they stay safe, so you can focus on the important stuff, like the best Parrilla—and hey, they’ll have suggestions for other great places to eat and drink, too. Local trip planners create an itinerary customized to your travel style, offer phone support in case you run into any issues, and let you in on a few of the country’s secrets. Basically, it’s like having a best friend in Buenos Aires.

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