Travelling to South America is an experience in itself, a unique adventure that you won’t find in other continents. However, when travelling anywhere unfamiliar and foreign, it’s a good idea to have your wits about you.
Although we try and make sure that your trek to Patagonia is as safe as possible, we can’t guarantee 100% security, especially if you unknowingly expose yourself to a scam. Depending on the type of adventure package you opt for, you’ll either end up in Chile or Argentina, after the 10-day trek, where you have the last day to explore these countries at your own leisure.
Unfortunately, many of the locals have taken to scamming tourists with the aim to steal belongings or money. While the majority of the locals around you will leave you alone, all it takes it one helpful citizen to get close and pickpocket your wallet.
Here are some common scams you may come across, and ways you can avoid them…
Broken taxi odometers
If you’re catching a taxi, and the driver tells you that his odometer is broken or faulty, you should get out instantly and find another taxi with one that is working. They do this so they can charge you an exorbitant amount at the end of your ride, benefiting from your unfamiliarity of the local streets.
How to avoid it: Negotiate a set price beforehand, or ask to see a working odometer before you set off. Remember, not all taxi drivers are scammers, with many of them honest and hardworking.
Whether you’re averse to taking a selfie, or just would like a nice full profile photo, it’s highly advised that you never hand your prized camera or phone over to a local. Before you know it, it’s possible that they’ve taken off with your camera, leaving you picture-less.
How to avoid it: Ask fellow tourists to take photos for you. It’s best if they’re part of a big group, so you know that it’s not a local dressed up as a tourist.
Your bank card and wallet should be the items you look after with utmost importance. If you go to draw money out at an ATM, make sure it’s at a reputable place. In Chile, many banks only allow people to enter one at a time into the ATM area.
However, for other ATM machines, a friendly local may come up and offer to help you avoid bank fees, but in reality, they just want to scan your bank card discreetly, whilst keeping an eye out for your pin. There may be a partnership with others in the line behind you. It’s likely that one will distract you while someone else steals your wallet!
How to avoid it: Find another ATM machine where you’re not bothered, and make sure you cover your hand when entering your pin number.
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South Americans can be lovely people, but they can also use this to their advantage. Some will target tourists and offer them a gift, seemingly for free. Whether this is travel advice, an offer to carry bags, or more commonly, a bracelet tied around the wrist, things can turn ugly quickly when they demand an expensive price for the ‘freebie’. If you refuse, they’re likely to make a scene, causing unwanted attention.
How to avoid: Don’t accept anything from strangers, and definitely don’t hand any of your possessions over to hold.
Keep your wits about you
Unfortunately, there are many more scams than the ones mentioned above. Your best bet is to thoroughly research the countries you will visit, and have your wits about you at all times. Keep your prized possessions in a front pocket, whether hip bag or attached around your waist. If someone is too friendly, just walk away.
The majority of your South American travels will be with our Aurora Expeditions team. You’ll be with like-minded travellers, so help each other out or a local may just see your struggle and lend a hand.
For more information on travelling around South America, contact our friendly team today – you can rest assured we’re not after your camera!