Argentina has it all: beautiful cities, astounding nature, and world-famous cuisine, all in one colossal country just waiting to be explored. It should be on your bucket list, but, understandably, you may have some questions about safety in Argentina – especially if you’ve never visited before.
Generally, Argentina is a safe place for travelers. Due to its many appealing destinations, it has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, including reliable internal transportation options.
Unfortunately, you should be aware that pickpockets and petty theft, and occasional violent crime can occur. Due to its varied geography, Argentina is also at risk for natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
However, don’t let this dissuade you! This guide will walk you through some of Argentina’s most common safety issues, so you’ll know how to best look after yourself when you visit.
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A Guide to Staying Safe in Argentina
Is Argentina Safe On Paper?
In their 2022 analysis, Argentina was given a 1.911 rating by the Global Peace Index, ranking 69th globally. Positive feedback included low levels of organized conflict, militarization, and political instability.
Negative feedback included high perceptions of criminality in society, a high likelihood of violent demonstration, and a civil police force that is not sufficiently indistinguishable from the military.
Overall, Argentina is considered one of the safest destinations in South America, less often characterized by the stereotypes that plague other countries on the continent, like drug-related violence or kidnappings. While the city of Rosario is a bit higher risk for drug cartel activity, the country overall is not really a cartel hub.
You’ve likely heard about Argentina’s issues with inflation and currency instability in the news, but this is not something that particularly affects tourists. The safety precautions you should take in Argentina are essentially the same as anywhere else: don’t take unlicensed taxis, don’t wander around alone at night, and avoid calling too much attention to yourself, from wearing flashy jewelry to making yourself a target for crimes of opportunity like pickpocketing.
But as always, statistics and stereotypes don’t explain the whole story, and we’ve looked into the main issues that may be concerning to you in more detail below.
Public Transport In Argentina
Argentina has a well-developed public transportation system, from the ‘subte’ subway system in Buenos Aires to a network of national charter buses and a ‘hop-on-hop-off’ tourist bus option in major cities.
Most Argentinians commute to work by bus or train, and the stations are usually bustling and well-maintained. In fact, they get absolutely crammed at rush hour, so if you’re on a more flexible schedule, consider avoiding travel at peak times.
Cities like Buenos Aires also have licensed taxi drivers, and ride-shares like Uber operate in most major cities. Bear in mind that there has been friction with taxi unions in the past, which may influence how safe you feel taking them.
Avoid ‘gypsy cabs’ or unlicensed taxis, and consider calling a taxi or ride-share ahead of time rather than flagging one down on the street. FYI: licensed taxis in Buenos Aires are yellow and black, and the driver’s credentials are on the door and inside the taxi.
In more remote areas such as Patagonia, hitchhiking is common but obviously comes with risks.
Related: Amazing Patagonia itineraries.
Overall, public transit in Argentina is relatively safe and will often be the best option for you to get around, both for within-city transit and traveling to other regions. However, the usual rules still apply. Be hyper-aware of pickpockets, avoid wearing anything flashy, and keep your belongings close to your body. Bags and backpacks should be worn in front of you, and purses should be cross-body if possible.
Certain areas in the bigger cities (notably the La Boca area in Buenos Aires) should be avoided, full-stop, after dark. Locals will undoubtedly tell you where to avoid, and a bit of research about the cities you choose to visit before you go should be enough to keep you safe.
Crime In Argentina
Argentina has struggled financially for decades now, which is a shame for such a vibrant and wonderful place. The last few years have seen a shrinking economy, an exodus of foreign direct investment, and huge inflation, sometimes above 40%.
Argentina is also unfortunately known for sky-high corruption and political polarization. As a result of all these factors, public trust in the government is relatively low, and poverty rates are pretty high.
Unfortunately, this high poverty level can lead to increased instances of non-violent crime, such as petty theft, robberies, pickpocketing, etc. Don’t leave luggage or belongings unattended (even for a second), and be careful in transportation hubs like airports and bus or train stations.
Motorcycle robbery, called motochorro in Argentina, is also common. This is essentially a drive-by robbery, where two people on a motorcycle grab your bag or whatever is in your hand as they pass you. Be on your guard if you see a motorcycle slowing down or riding on the sidewalk towards you. Muggings and violent crimes aren’t common but do happen. As always, cooperating with any demands is the best way to avoid getting hurt.
Ultimately, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid getting too distracted taking photos or looking at South American landmarks – though we appreciate that this can be hard when you’re in such a beautiful place!
Currency scams and other ripoffs involving tourists are high, so consider booking attractions in advance and double-check your change. One of the most common scams found in Argentina is counterfeit bills, so only get money from official ATMs or currency counters.
Alcohol & Drugs In Argentina
Argentina has fabulous nightlife, especially in its boliches (nightclubs) and whiskerias (bars). As always, it’s best not to accept a drink or cigarette handed to you by a stranger. Spiked drinks and laced cigarettes can happen so beware and don’t leave drinks unattended.
While small-scale marijuana possession was decriminalized in 2009, you can still be arrested for possession. Despite efforts to separate penalizations for lifestyle use versus intent to traffic narcotics, the law is applied very unevenly to this day, and it can come down to which police officer you get.
While indulging or not is ultimately your choice, be sure to do so with caution and awareness of the potential consequences, which can be severe.
Natural Disasters in Argentina
Argentina’s size, geography, and location make it a high risk for several natural disasters. Perhaps most alarming are the risks of earthquakes, flash floods, and (to a lesser extent) volcanic eruptions.
The Copahue volcano on the border with Chile, in particular, erupts from time to time. Still, evacuations are well-organized, and if you’re in the area, local media coverage should be sufficient to keep you safe.
In general, paying attention to the news, familiarizing yourself with evacuation routes, and knowing what to do in the event of an emergency should more than suffice.
If you’re visiting certain areas, such as the wineries in Mendoza, you should also be aware of the altitude. Mendoza is (at a minimum) 900 meters above sea level, so be sure to take it easy your first few days.
You should factor in some time to allow your body to adjust and avoid physical activities that are too strenuous, as altitude sickness definitely will put a damper on your trip. If you’re sampling wines, remember that high altitudes inhibit your body’s ability to process alcohol, and take that into account while climbing.
Is Argentina Safe For Women?
Argentina is an excellent destination for female travelers – nothing about the country, in particular, makes it unsafe. Unfortunately, similar to other countries in the region, cat-calling is very common, and men may be pushier than you’re accustomed to.
The best advice here is to trust your instincts, leave a place if you feel uncomfortable, and ‘walk with a purpose’, i.e., not meandering around looking lost, even if you are!
Is Argentina Safe for Solo Travelers?
Argentina is one of the best destinations in South America for solo travelers due to its large variety of things to do and a more stereotypically ‘European’ lifestyle in regards to eating late dinners and staying out into the evening.
This means that popular areas are seldom empty, leading to you feeling safer. That said, it’s still not advised to wander around by yourself at night, as you can be a target for petty theft or scams. Generally, it’s still not good to advertise that you’re traveling alone.
Is Argentina Safe For LGBT+ Travelers?
Argentina is generally considered a very progressive country toward the LGBTQIA community. Same-sex marriage is legal, and it is illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Conversion therapy is illegal, and there are no restrictions against LGBTQIA couples adopting children in the country. A 2015 law established that 1% of public sector staff in Buenos Aires should be transgender.
However, there is still quite a gap between the legal sphere and the court of public opinion. Transgender people are still heavily discriminated against in practice, and many members of the LGBTQIA community prefer to stay closeted rather than face harassment or discrimination, especially in the workplace.
While larger cities like Buenos Aires have gay bars and clubs, visitors may face more homophobic interactions in other places or feel pressured to refrain from PDA.
Argentina Travel Safety Tips
- Avoid public demonstrations: These are often mild and peaceful but can also get heated quickly and generally aren’t a good place for tourists.
- Keep a photo ID with you: It’s a good rule to keep your passport with you anyway, but it’s common place to be asked to show ID when paying with a credit card.
- Separate your cash: While credit cards are accepted in some places, cash is still king in Argentina. Be careful not to carry too much cash at once, and split it up amongst your belongings. When approaching an ATM, be sure you haven’t been followed.
- Blend in with the locals: Argentines are known for being quite fashion-forward, so perhaps reconsider wearing your hiking boots for a night on the town. Relatedly, flashy jewelry and expensive accessories are magnets for pickpockets, so it’s best to leave them at home.
- Don’t look lost: If you’re not sure where you’re going, pop into a shop to ask for directions or consult Google Maps. Standing on a street corner looking at your phone will call attention, especially if you seem really focused or distracted.
- Avoid getting into conversations about the Falkland Islands: This is still a contentious talking point in Argentina, and disagreements can get heated quickly!
Argentina Safety FAQs
Is Buenos Aires safe?
Yes. Keep in mind that petty theft is common, and many popular tourist sites (San Telmo, La Boca, Caminito, etc.) can be dodgy after dark, so avoid these areas at night.
What are the safest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires?
Recoleta, Palermo, and Villa Crespo are usually considered the safest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires.
What are the safest cities in Argentina?
Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Cordoba are considered Argentina’s safest large cities.
Is tap water safe to drink in Argentina?
For the most part, yes. Municipal water is overwhelmingly safe to drink, and even in small towns, it’s generally safe.
Do you need any vaccinations to visit Argentina?
Your routine vaccinations are probably sufficient, but if you are traveling to the border areas with Brazil or Paraguay, you may want to consider malaria and yellow fever vaccinations.
Is Argentina Safe? The Final Verdict!
The quick answer is yes, Argentina is safe for travelers. You could easily spend years exploring this country – taking in the soaring peaks of Patagonia, the otherworldly landscapes of La Pampa, the elegant boulevards of Buenos Aires, or the wine country in Mendoza… among countless other things.
Argentina has so much to offer within its borders, and it is genuinely any backpacker’s dream. However, be aware of risks, ranging from petty theft to natural disasters. Knowledge is power, and knowing the situation on the ground will help you get the most out of your trip.
Have you backpacked in Argentina? What are your top safety tips for Argentina?