Nellie Bly, a noted traveler of the world, was an early pioneer for women’s travel. Thanks to a warp in the time space continuum and the miracle of the internet, she is our advice columnist.
Dear Nellie Bly,
I was thinking of traveling with 2 girl friends to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I just wanted to know your opinion on how safe it is for young women to go there (in terms of women violations and others). Thank you
Since I do not know how often you and your friends have traveled, I will give you specifics (as far as we are able to determine them) and generalities:
You wanted to know about violations that affect women in Buenos Aires, but alas, the police stopped collecting national crime data for about eight years and started publishing the data again in April 2016. That means I don’t have verified data on crimes and crimes against women. Accuracy in data collection about violence against women (VAW) is pretty much a universal problem, as women often don’t trust authorities to treat their attacks sensitively or seriously, and thus VAW is usually under-reported. Additionally, VAW data is not recorded the same across various organizations or political boundaries. The European Union, for example, is working on collecting data about VAW in a more uniform way.
With that said, however, I can piece together information that can give you a picture of what is going on in Buenos Aires, and most of it is relatively standard for large cities.
According to the OSAC, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Crimes reported to the U.S. Embassy by U.S. citizens reveal they are most often victims of theft or non-violent robbery, principally in the tourist neighborhoods. Street crime in the larger cities (Buenos Aires downtown, greater Buenos Aires, Rosario, Mendoza) is a constant problem for residents and visitors alike. Visitors to Buenos Aires and popular tourist destinations should be alert to muggers, pickpockets, scam artists, and purse-snatchers. Northern suburbs (Vicente Lopez, Olivos, Martinez, San Isidro) and Federal District neighborhoods (Palermo, Belgrano, Nunez) of Buenos Aires have been targeted by criminals
It’s also clear that Buenos Aires regularly has political demonstrations for various reasons; labor unrest, specific political events, and even violence against women. Although no doubt fascinating, I’d suggest avoiding political demonstrations as they sometimes become violent and besides, the wafting of tear gas is hardly what the woman on vacation wishes. In fact, I think it would be so tragically ironic to be clubbed at a rally against violence towards women that it doesn’t rate your participation.
I’m afraid I should also share with you reports from the press of some horrendous crimes against women, but with the dearth of actual crime data, it is unknown how widespread crime against women really is and how it compares with other vacation destinations. If such data existed, I could compare the nefarious activities in Buenos Aires with other world cities, like Paris and Rome. In Argentina, there is clearly a pattern of violence against women, though it seems to be mostly native women rather than tourists:
- According to an Al Jazeera piece Fighting for the murdered women of Buenos Aires, was published in January, 17, 2017. It said, A woman is murdered every 30 hours in Argentina, a disproportionate number of them in informal slum settlements.
- The Denver Post photo essay PHOTOS: Argentina Portraits of Violence Against Women was published June 18, 2017.
- PassBlue.com, Argentina Has a Problem: Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls, was published January 24, 2016.
- The 2017 Human Rights Watch World Report in Argentina, said, The National Registry of Femicides, administered by the Supreme Court, reported 235 femicides, but only seven convictions, in 2015.
- There is a strong grassroots movement in Argentina that is raising awareness of violence against women. The Associated Press piece titled Argentina grassroots movement fights violence against women was published via Fox News on June 19, 2017.
Although less lethal, it must also be said that Buenos Aires has a culture of machismo so you may encounter verbal harassment as you tour the city. You are likely to run into this if you go clubbing. Depending on the woman, this can be traumatizing, annoying, or merely cause for briskly insulting the perpetrator. Prepare your most lethal stare as your first line of defense should this occur. If groped, however, loudly yell No! In some places the harasser will be tossed out of the club.
I realize all of this seems off-putting to the female vacationer so it must be said that although things can be grim for Argentinean women, you and your friends are tourists so it seems that you are far less likely to run into trouble or I’d see headlines like “Women Tourists Statistically likely to be Murdered by 2nd day of Vacation in Buenos Aires” or possibly “Another Tourist Bagged at the Airport Increasing Tally to 622 for April” and so on. Since I am not seeing such headlines, perhaps I should proceed with generalities and positive aspects.
Your friends and you are considering visiting the capital and largest city in Argentina. Like most big cities around the world, it has relatively safe areas and some that are dreadfully dangerous for women residents and tourists, and the distances between safe places and dangerous ones may be just a block or two away. Make sure you carry a good map of the city so you can stay in the safe blocks. (See above for more specifics.)
Street crime, even in tourist areas, is relatively common so be alert to pick pockets, thefts, scams, and other crimes of opportunity. Head this off by not telling the entire city you’re a tourist by walking briskly even when you have no idea where you’re going. This would also be a good time to focus your attention on potential dangers and also on scenic vistas. Staring at your cell phone tells the average criminal you’re distracted and an excellent mark. (There is an added bonus that if you’re not staring down at your phone, you’re more likely to admire ornate fountains rather than fall into them.)
Public transportation is fine in the daytime, but it is safer to use registered taxis to get around the city at night. You won’t need to tip the driver as they earn good money, but keep your map handy for making sure your taxi driver takes you to the right place using the most direct route.
Buenos Aires is famous for its clubs that can open at midnight or later and party until morning. While any woman is flattered to be offered a drink, it’s not worth risking that it is drugged in this terribly unromantic time. This type of crime is infrequent, but why become the subject of a made-for-TV movie? And need I add drink responsibly? Drunken women are vulnerable to crimes, and you will want your mind alert to manage the language and cultural differences. For the same reasons, it would be best not to invite handsome strangers into your hotel room.
I encourage you and your friends to visit Buenos Aires, a vibrant city with much to offer tourists. Be sure to go to the grand Teatro Colon for opera, ballet, or plays; La Recoleta Cemetery to see the famous mausoleums, including Eva Peron’s; and the Museum of Latin American Art. If you want to experience (or watch) authentic Argentine Tango, avoid the tourist shows and instead check out The Real Argentina for the 10 best milongas in Buenos Aires. Argentina is famous for its beef, so set aside any vegetarian principles to sample some of the tasty specialties at local restaurants.
If you and your friends want to venture into additional parts of Argentina, be sure to read our Best Countries in South America.
Cover photo credit: Two Tango Dancers via Denver Post