Most U.S. citizens visit Argentina without incident. Nevertheless, street crime in the larger cities, especially greater Buenos Aires and Mendoza, is a problem for residents and visitors alike. As in any big city, visitors to Buenos Aires and popular tourist destinations should be alert to muggers, pickpockets, scam artists, and purse-snatchers on the street, in hotel lobbies, at bus and train stations, and in cruise ship ports. Be careful in San Telmo, an older traditional neighborhood specializing in antique stores, and La Boca neighborhood (home to the famous “Caminito” street and “Boca Juniors” soccer stadium) in Buenos Aires, where violent robberies have been occurring with increasing frequency. Tourists who go to La Boca should limit their visit to the designated tourist areas during daylight hours.
Criminals usually work in groups, and travelers should assume they are armed. Criminals employ a variety of ruses to distract and victimize unsuspecting visitors. Be suspicious of anyone who approaches you on the street. A common scam is to spray mustard or a similar substance on the tourist from a distance. A pickpocket will then approach the tourist offering to help clean the stain, and while doing so, he or an accomplice robs the victim. Another scam is to entice tourists into a bar known as a “wiskeria” with a flyer for a shopping discount or free show. Once inside, the victim is not allowed to leave until he or she pays an exorbitant amount for a drink. Thieves regularly nab unattended purses, backpacks, laptops, and luggage, and criminals will often distract visitors for a few seconds to steal valuables. While most U.S. citizens are not physically injured when robbed, criminals are known to use force when they encounter resistance, and there have been some violent and even fatal attacks on foreigners carrying valuables such as expensive cameras and equipment. Visitors are advised to immediately hand over all cash and valuables if confronted. Thieves may target visitors wearing expensive watches or jewelry, or carrying laptop computer cases. When staying in a hotel or apartment, it is a good precaution to call the front desk or security to identify uninvited individuals before giving them access.
Some travelers have received counterfeit currency in Argentina. Unscrupulous vendors and taxi drivers sometimes pretend to help tourists review their pesos, then trade bad bills for good ones. Characteristics of good currency can be reviewed at the Argentine Central Bank website.
Along with conventional muggings, "express kidnappings" occur. Victims are grabbed off the street based on their appearance and vulnerability. They are made to withdraw as much money as possible from ATM machines, and then their family or co-workers are contacted and told to deliver all the cash that they have on hand or can gather in a couple of hours. Once the ransom is paid, the victim is usually quickly released unharmed. There have been some foreign victims. Visitors are particularly advised not to let children and adolescents travel alone.
Travelers worldwide are advised to avoid packing valuables in their checked baggage. In Argentina, officials have publicly acknowledged the systematic theft of valuables and money from checked baggage at Buenos Aires airports. Authorities are working to resolve the problem and have made a number of arrests, but travelers should exercise continued care and caution.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
Your passport is a valuable document and should be guarded. Passports and other valuables should be locked in a hotel safe, and a photocopy of your passport should be carried for identification purposes. The U.S. Embassy has observed an increase in reports of stolen passports.
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