20 Latinas Advice on How to Travel Safely in Latin America
Latin America is not a dangerous place for travelers. Traveling safely across the region is just as possible as anywhere else in the world. Fearmongering has been used in an attempt to frighten female travelers in order to deter them from exploring an entire region of the world after the tragic murders of Carla Stefaniak, Maria Mathus Tenorio, and Arcanza Gutiérrez López in Costa Rica. Theses horrific violent events are isolated, yet they’ve been sensationalized in order to make travelers feel unsafe in Latin America and instill fear.
To dispel this negative narrative we’ve spoken to 25 Latinas to get their actionable travel safety tips for traveling the LATAM region.
1. Trust your gut.
“Be a good judge of character, meeting new people abroad is part of the fun when traveling. Trusting your intuition and the vibes you get off people is so important. When you’re alone you have to just trust your gut instinct. If you don’t feel the vibe of a certain situation or person, just leave. Text any friend or family member, go to the nearest local restaurant/shop or report to the police immediately letting them know of any sketchy situation. At the end of the day traveling solo is the most rewarding experience you can have. Don’t let the media change your mind about traveling to Latin America. Form your own opinion by visiting yourself!” – Stephanie of Wanderlust Beauty Dreams
2. Travel with a padlock.
@rosaalexc / Instagram
“Keep your valuables locked up, always bring a lock that way if your hotel doesn’t offer a safe you can lock your luggage.” – Rosa of The Traveling Roses
3. Utilize free professional travel resources.
@wanderlustbeautydreams / Instagram
“Many local tourism boards and conventions bureaus have lists of trusted hotels and tours for every budget, which can, in turn, help you find other providers (such as transportation and food). You can also look to travel guides and recommendation sites for additional feedback from real customers. You’ll always need to be a little more vigilant when you’re out of your comfort zone, but if you plan accordingly, Latin America will feel just like home in no time.” – Monica
4. Don’t draw attention with expensive accessories.
“When I go to the beach, I place my belongings in a plastic bag as the locals would, and bring as little as possible. When I’m walking in the city streets, I only wear non-flashy costume jewelry. I keep anything of value like money or identification in my bra. This makes pick-pocketing pretty tricky!” – Ashley of Rhinestone Rambler
5. Don’t be an obvious tourist–be an observant one.
@babesandbeignets / Instagram
“You should always be aware that you’re going to stand out as a tourist; when you’re taking photos or when you are trying to find your way around. Plan your itineraries and routes in advance. When taking out your camera and phone be aware of who is around you and put them away once you don’t need them. You don’t need to be flashing our expensive pieces of technologies in countries where the majority of the population lives under the poverty line.” – Alessandra of Babes and Beignets
6. Don’t be too trusting.
@nomadic_chica / Instagram
“Be nice enough, but don’t 100% trust anyone. Don’t give too much information about yourself to anyone. Show you’re confident and not scared, you will look like a foreigner living there and not as a new scared and lost tourist.” – Gloria of Nomadic Chica
7. Avoid drugs and handle your own drink.
@mapsnbags / Instagram
“Say no to drugs, even when your new buddies are using. Pour your own drinks, needless to explain why. Don’t let the fear of missing out put you in a dangerous situation.” – Bruna of Maps ‘N Bags
8. Be clear about your boundaries.
“Latin America is a big region, there are many countries and cities. Latinos are very affectionate and love giving hugs and having physical contact. They might not have other intentions other than to be friendly but if you’re not used to it or you don’t feel comfortable: say it clearly.” – Justine of Talk Travel
9. Try group travel.
“For group travel, do your best to stay together. Group travel can be hard with all the personalities but know when you can solo it out and when to just go with the group. – Francheska
10. Get to know your destination in the daylight.
@mapsnbags / Instagram
11. Buy a local sim card.
“Get a phone sim card, it’s cheap and having internet will help you navigate. Use Google Maps to save the place where you’ll be staying so you can track the taxi route. If you ever get a bit lost don’t look up directions on the street, get inside a store, cafe and check there.” – Carina of Power Latina Shop
12. Know what kind of crime is common.
@lewildexplorer / Instagram
“My safety advice for anyone visiting Latin America is the same for anyone going anywhere in the world. I avoid walking around in unfamiliar and unpopulated areas after dark. Educate yourself on what to look out for, whether it’s pickpockets or something more serious like gang violence. There are bad areas almost everywhere in the world, knowing more about where you’re going and areas to avoid will help you stay vigilant. Being informed about a place is not to instill fear but instead is to use that knowledge in a positive way.” – Jeanine of Le Wild Explorer
13. Don’t dress like a tourist.
@kissupcheon / Instagram
“Anytime a woman is traveling alone, she must be aware of her surroundings. You want to blend in. Dress like the locals, not a tourist. Keep your money tucked away, don’t be flashing your dinero. Keep maps hidden, don’t be walking around looking at a map. Familiarize yourself with the area before you arrive.” – Rosalynda of Mixed Blessings Blog
14. Be mindful of how you wear your purse.
“I always wear my purse crossbody. The reason is for people who are purse snatchers to overlook me because I may be a more difficult target. Carry only a copy of your passport, leave the real one in a safe place. Carry the cash you’ll need for the day and night only.” – Madelyn of Karma Free Cooking
15. Listen to local advice about not-so-safe areas
@thehavekosts / Instagram
“Be wary of which areas you are visiting, especially at night, and most especially if locals are telling you not to go. Do your research, cross reference with locals on the ground, and listen to their advice. Use Uber’s or local taxi apps because they save driver information easily, or call for a taxi and write down driver information to send to someone trusted before you get in (call them and tell them in front of the driver). Make sure taxi driver information matches up (license, doors, license information because sometimes they don’t match up. You have to use street smarts to get around in Latin America, but other than that, you’ll have a wonderful time!” – Alexandra Tracy of Travel Latina
16. Only take advice from people who’ve actually been to your destination.
@marlene_ramirezzz / Instagram
“Nowadays, with so many informative resources online based on actual people’s experience, I would suggest searching what locals, expats, and people who have visited the country you want to visit have to say. Consider their advice as guidance when you travel. Join Facebook groups for people living in the city you want to visit and connect with locals. Let them know you are planning a trip and ask if they have any tips for you. It’s about being prepared with insight, finding unbiased resources, and being aware of your surroundings.” – Maritza of Travel Notes and Things
17. Learn some local lingo.
@mommypowers / Instagram
“Do your research! Try to get to know the culture and the language. Learn some basics of the language of the country you’re visiting. Be respectful and conscious of their cultural traditions as well.” – Vanessa, Designer of Wais Clothing
18. Know how border crossing work.
“If you’re crossing by land into Mexico, know what time the various border crossings close. Look at websites that give out the wait times at crossings. If you get pulled over by a police officer, ask for the name of the officer, badge number, and license plate number of the vehicle. If the stop isn’t legitimate, the officer might get spooked and leave you alone. Most gas stations in Mexico are full service. To avoid being shorted by the gas attendant, make sure the meter is zeroed out before the attendant pumps.” – Veneranda
19. Enroll in STEP before traveling.
“It’s important to register your trip with the US Embassy STEP Program. This will keep you up to date with any potential dangers in your designated travel area. In addition, this will ensure you’re included in the headcount of people they need to search for in case of any catastrophe. Once you’ve enrolled, make sure to identify the closest U.S. embassy to where you’re staying and provide that information to a family member or friend.” – Roxana of Latina Nomad
20. Be smart about the news you read.
“So you’re going to a high-crime area. What does that mean? Petty theft is annoying, but it’s not the same as violent crimes like rape. Crime statistics are widely available on the internet. Look them up and find out if what you’re reading in the news is catastrophizing an isolated incident or really reflective of an ongoing problem. Compare crime stats to places you’d go in the U.S. It’s easier to acquire guns in the U.S. than in many LATAM countries. After you’ve assessed your actual risk level, find out what you need to do in the worst case scenario. How is violence against women reported and prosecuted? Are there local groups that can help? How do you contact the police? How do you access a hospital? The only thing worse than being assaulted is being assaulted and not being able to report it and receive treatment.” – Ruth of Ruth Writes
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