Traveling through a third world country can be intimidating, riveting, and one of the most mesmeric experiences of a lifetime. It is also best to be aware that you are observed as a “foreigner” to the local culture and should take precaution when it comes to carrying valuables out in plain sight while traveling around. In my years of travel I have been robbed several times, (mostly petty thievery) and in retrospect, I am able to identify a few reasons why I may have stuck out as a target. Below I have outlined the dos and the don’ts of how to avoid looking too flashy as a tourist while traveling abroad through South America.
Don’t stash your wallet with cash
This is by far one of the most important rules to abide by while traveling through both rural and metropolis areas of South America. Before heading out on day or night excursions, calculate how much you will need. Prices of activities and sight-seeing in South America are on average way below prices in first world countries. For example, in Bolivia I only carry 120 bolivianos, (the equivalent of 15 U.S dollars) when I go out. If I get robbed, I will be far less devastated. You should also always consider leaving your credit card or debit card behind. There is usually no need for plastic, as most places in South America only accept cash.
Do walk with confidence
This is a great source of advice for anyone who is traveling, especially a woman who is traveling alone: always look like you know where and what you are doing even if you don’t. Confidence deters unwanted attention and harassment from the opposite sex. I learned this when I first landed in Bolivia by airplane with no plan and hardly any Spanish. I proceeded to walk out of the airport looking like a lost little “gringo” in the thick of a busy South American city. I was hassled by several taxi drivers before I decided to hop on a bus that took me to the wrong part of town. My point is, draft up somewhat of a plan before dropping yourself in the middle of foreign pandemonium. And once again, I cant stress enough how important it is to appear like you know where you are going always, even if you don’t.
Do leave your valuables at home
Have an iPhone? Leave it at home. Have fancy jewelry? Leave it at home. Have fancy outerwear, like a North Face brand jacket? Leave it at home. If you want to avoid looking like a tourist that could potentially set you up for robbery, leave your valuable electronics at home and avoid wearing brand names. It sounds a little silly, but South America sometimes judges wealth based upon a person’s clothes, belongings etc. If you are walking around with any apple product and sporting a highly coveted brand name, you are calling attention to yourself. It is best to travel in unassuming brands and leave your valuables and treasures at home.
I hope not to convey that being “robbed” while abroad is inevitable. Even if you follow my advice you most likely still be coined as a foreigner. What I wish to convey is to be conscious and stay aware of your surroundings.
How do you take precaution while traveling through third world countries?