Avoid Danger on the Road By Not Doing Anything Stupid!

Two years ago I wrote a really popular post on common tourist scams and a year ago I gave consolidated simple advice on how to avoid them.

Some people like chance encounters on the road, and are open to ‘strangers in a strange land’ but I tend to be skeptical. If someone approaches me, offering to help me or wanting to get to know me, I tend to be curt because I assume ill intentions at least until proven otherwise. No doubt I can be criticized for missing out on opportunities, but it’s a strategy that keeps me safe.

I grew up in New York in the 1980s (and late 1970s), when it was a very different place than it is now. I never carried a wallet in my back pocket until the 1990s, having left the state. I didn’t even know people ever did that. The only time anyone has ever tried to pickpocket me was in an Indian temple in PJ, outside Kuala Lumpur. I’ve never had issues on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, even.

So it struck me funny this notice given to every guest checking into the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires on basic tips that seem like common sense no matter what world city your a stranger in, but where in Buenos Aires the hotel feels the need to remind you:

    avoiding tourist scams buenos aires, argentina

What scams have you fallen victim to? And what do you do to protect yourself?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You would think it is common sense, but unfortunately there are more stupid people out there than smart people, so there is a need for that 🙂

    I for one am super cautious.

  2. This is going to sound really, really racist, but I’m going to say it anyway.

    When I’m abroad, I just assume that any dark skinned person, speaking fluent English, who approaches me first is out to get my money. The only question is how willingly (or knowingly) I give it up.

    If I’m in the mood to hold onto my cash, I don’t engage.

    Before y’all jump down my throat, please note that all three elements must be present before I assume the person is gonna get me. There’s a huge, huge difference between the locals who speak passable English (with whom I very much enjoy engaging) and those that speak better English than me (I’m a native speaker). Bonus points if they have relatives who are studying here, and I’m not in India, China, or the middle east.

    To my knowledge, the only time(s) I’ve been ripped off are riding with the “no English” cabbies who insist on taking me the scenic route.

  3. There is no scam in that note. Unfortunately Argentina is broke by a crazy lady that thinks she can run the country. Population is suffering and they do not have access to most things we do here. Also, there is a huge need for USD since they cannot buy there and with such huge inflation that is the only way to keep money from devaluing. Thus, if you are a tourist and play stupid you will be an easy target. The hotel is just making people that are not aware of the current situation in the country aware of what can happen.

  4. I don’t get the part about not carrying your passport with you. Isn’t it the law that you have to carry it? I always carry mine and I keep an authenticated copy at the hotel. Do they still give “authenticated copies” does anyone know? If so, I’d like to get another signed by John Ketchup Kerry.

  5. Common sense seems to get lost when people travel. Things they would never do at home for some reason becomes acceptable when traveling. It’s amazing to see the throngs of people who along with their young kids are hanging off the sides of the cable cars in San Francisco.
    Would you hang off the side of a bus in your home town? So yes at home then things noted on the list are common sense some just need a reminder she on the road.

  6. Sadly this letter isn’t related to scams, rather to Buenos Aires’ skyrocketing crime problem. Tourists are routinely targeted and there has been at least one fatal mugging in the last year. Shame because BA was once such a charming, relatively safe city to stroll around in.

  7. This one is more funny than serious because we didn’t lose too much money, maybe $40usd, but while in Venice, my husband and I saw an old man with a quaint little stand, painting watercolors at the pier and selling them. We pointed at one we loved, and he rolled it into a nice little travel tube and happily took our money. Only when we got home did we realize… He rolled up and sold us a PRINT!!
    We still framed it and hung it anyway, because it gives us a good laugh when we see it. Such idiot tourists… Must’ve been easy marks for the clever old guy!

  8. What a terrifying Welcome Letter. You read that and wonder what the hell you are doing there.

  9. The point about using the safe is the one I forgot. I innocently left my laptop on my desk during an extended stay at the Jerusalem Crowne plaza. I had stayed there before and had faith in the staff and security. When my laptop was not there upon return I sheepishly called security. I stressed that I had trust in the chambercrew and so did they.
    Ultimately it was determined that the chamber person hid my laptop charging in the room safe.

  10. As someone else mentioned, crime has increased exponentially in Buenos Aires in the past few years. I worked for our Embassy back in the early 2000s, and the ‘mustard scam’ was something employees were warned about. I see from the warning letter above that the scam it’s still alive. Argentine politics are a tricky mess, but they have been for decades going back to the early part of the century. It’s a way of life. (By that, I don’t mean to say no one is doing anything to change it. Au contraire, many regular folk are still trying to change corrupt systems, but it takes generations to do that). If you’re bringing in dollars, you can find huge bargains now and you’re also helping the local economy if you shop in local stores. Buenos Aires is still a gem of a city and well worth of a visit.

  11. We had a horrible experience on our last night in EZE. It was the fake bird poop scam. Tow people came out of nowhere (year right), and started ‘helping’ us by spinning us around trying to clean us off. We were both aware of what was happening. They got nothing from us (we’re New Yorkers).

    We won’t be heading back – EVER.

  12. My friend and I were at Amsterdamn Centraal train station. We just finished 2 week motorcycle trip through part of Europe, so had a lot of gear. He went to get tickets, while I waited with the gear. Some guy started a big commotion with several people one one side of the room. I had worked in Amsterdam for a few months before, so I knew the reputation of the station. I immediately looked to my right and saw a guy eyeing our stuff moving towards me. Once he realized I knew, he started wandering. A couple police came in and I flagged them down to point out the guy. Long story short, both the wandering guy and the guy making the commotion walked out with the police.

    I am super aware when traveling in another country. When in the states, I’m not so much, which I hope does not bite me later.

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