1. Don’t Standout: try not to look like a tourist by wearing safari hat, shorts, timberland boots with long white sock and rayban sunglasses. Dress more like a local with jeans, tennis shoes and polo shirts, you can then use the rayban sunglasses and a baseball hat.
2. Don´t carry too much money on you: only carry enough for the day, the equivalent of $100 USD would be good for most countries in Latin America. Use a hidden belt bag/money belt with two credit/debit cards for times when a store or place doesn’t accept certain credit cards such as American Express.
3. Keeping your cellphone in a hidden belt bag is also a good idea. Do not to walk with your cellphone in your hand watching google maps or waze to find your location. When you are not sure of the route step into a shop or restaurant and look at your cellphone or use Air Pods or Bluetooth headphones to listen to the guiding voice. There are such people watching for unsuspecting tourists with their cellphones in their hands and they will snatch your cellphone, or worse threaten you with a knife or gun. If the latter happens to you just happily give your cellphone away and buy a new one; or buy a cheaper one for the trip in advance. It doesn’t matter if you are an ex-marine, black belt in any martial art, or superman or marvel woman a cellphone isn’t worth risking your life or injury.
4. Regarding security of your cellphone and information:
• Backup of your cellphone to the cloud or to your computer, then if you only lose your phone it is only the hardware that is lost.
• Download MacAfee mobile security app and VPN: if your phone is then stolen, it has a tracking function from any computer and it also will also take a picture of the person trying to access your phone good enough information to send the police to say hi. It includes a VPN (Virtual private network) good for making safe transactions or to use your private info connecting to a non-trusted WIFI network. It blocks any attempt to intercept your info and sends you through private verified tunnel and server elsewhere or from a different country. Another goodie for this is duckduckgo, it’s a search engine similar to google that don’t track you and you can burn your searches and info within the app when you’re done. Here are the links for the two apps:
5. Download the map of the city you’ll be visiting: you can download specific offline maps in google maps so you don’t need WIFI to navigate. Follow the images bellow.
6. Both currencies accepted: In some countries like Argentina or Peru you can pay with both currencies Pesos Argentines or dollars; Peru soles or dollars. Try to always to pay in the home currency if you are not in a place where there’s a menu or catalog with the two prices stated, as some places can take advantage of the conversion rate receiving dollars at a very discounted rate in their favor. That can also happen with a greater discount on conversion rate in countries like Colombia or Mexico where the dollar is not used for internal transactions; to give you an example, taxi drivers in Colombia or Mexico can be tricky with the way they request payment, let’s say your trip cost 10.000 pesos in Colombia which is just about 3 dollars, the taxi driver can tell you just 10, not 10.000 pesos or the more scamming ones can even tell you 10 dollars which is 30.000 pesos instead of 10.000 pesos, as you are not use to the numbers in thousands your mind can miss this counts with someone misleading you, and even if you are rich or think 10 dollars still not too much money you don’t have to overpay in any case. It is different if you want to tip the driver.
7. This is where the “Gringo” price comes up: just be aware that some people might try to trick you with the conversion rate or currency you should pay with, and if you feel comfortable with bargaining please always do, bargaining is in our culture everybody does that in Latin America and the sellers already know what discount they can give, that way they won’t play the “depende del marrano” (depending on the pig game) which basically is overcharging the ones that don’t bargain and don’t hesitate to verify counts and conversion rates. What you can do is tip the person that helped you with the product or service at the end when you finish your purchase if you think that they gave you good help and service.
8. Protect your skin: Always wear sunblock and have an insect repellent in your bag if you are visiting any farm or the countryside.
9. Plan your day in advance: with the tours or places you want to visit, count traffic time and delays as most countries in Latin America have traffic problems bigger than what you are used to. As we don’t have big roads and highways as developed countries do, they are just in the making right now with a 20 years delay to solve the problem. Waze is a really popular app in Latin America where drivers update in real time the traffic on roads, and it also learn statistically over time what hours have low, medium or intense traffic in any city. You can also check the average time you would take to go from one point to another at certain time the next day. That way you can schedule you day more accurately and save some stress and hanger in the road.
10. Snacks for the go: Peanuts, protein bars or granola bars and water are always good to have in your bag for the delays in the road or those places where you are not sure you could find a decent restaurant.
11. Hotel safes: Are the easiest safes to open so try not to use them to put away your valuable stuff they can be even more safe in your suitcase with a lock, hopefully not a cloth and zipper one. Plastic zipper less suitcases usually comes with 2 or three locks, those are the safest to have. You can hide your money, jewelry and passport within the socks and shirts and if you are overprotective then buy a chain lock to tie the suitcase in any bar of the hotel room. Anyway, if you prefer to just use the safe and hope nothing will happen at least take a video with your cellphone putting away your valuables in the safe. That way you have proof of everything you put away and good enough proof to make report it to the police and claim the hotel or hotel insurance for what you lost.
12. Be open to local people: Our Latin culture is very welcoming and friendly with foreigners, don’t feel awkward if someone just smile and say hola in the street, they might just want to have a chance to practice some English or help you for a tip or sell you something, but nothing bad. Any person in the world can notice a bad intention when there’s one with just body language just be nice if somebody talks to you just say Gracias, otro día (thank you, another day) a saying to get them some hope… or No estoy interesado (not interested).
Nevertheless, be cautious when someone is trying to touch you or approach you more than comfortable asking for directions with a small paper or any nonsense question, that might be just to get you in touch with scopolamine; It´s a drug that make you forget everything for a period of time and submissive to their requests such as give me your cellphone, let’s go to the ATM for some money, invite us to your hotel room to robe you and under the scopolamine effect you would comply. If for any reason this random situation happens to you, RUN fast and through yourself into a store or restaurant where people can help you, you have about one minute or two still aware to fail them in their intention.
The scopolamine thing is also common in nightclubs, where nice men or women approach to talk and dance but its only to get you away from your drink and have another accomplice to put scopolamine in your drink and once again, you will submissively go away with them. If you are alone never leave your drink unattended, better to get a newline if you were distracted for a while. If you are with a friend, one stay at the table while the others dance or relax.
Taking these tips into account will make you a rockstar tourist and enjoy the best of LATIN AMERICA which with dollars, euros or pounds is just great paradise so cheap for you.