24 Most Common Tourist Scams in Argentina

Safety at Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario, Mendoza, San Miguel de Tucuman, La Plata, Salta, San Juan, San Carlos de Bariloche, El Calafate, Iguazú Falls
Note: If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. World Nomads Travel Insurance, backed by Lonely Planet & National Geographic, is one we recommend. Check it out before your adventure.


Perito Moreno

Perito Moreno


As one of the biggest countries in the world and in South America, Argentina is home to a diverse set of stunning landscapes.

You can find glacial lakes, spectacular waterfalls, haunting steppes, some of the highest peaks in the Southern hemisphere and of course, a bustling and cultural city that is Buenos Aires.

However, due to years of economic mismanagement and unrest, living standards amongst the locals have since suffered.

Both violent and petty crime against tourists have been reported, along with a multitude of creative scams.

So read on to learn how to protect yourself and enjoy this beautiful land!




1. Street pickpockets


How it works:

Based on a survey, Buenos Aires has been ranked as one of the top 10 cities with most pickpockets cases.

A non-exhaustive list of hot spots include:

  • Buenos Aires: shopping areas (Florida Street, San Telmo, Feri Mataderos – Sunday fair, Recoloeta street fairs), other areas (La Boca, Recoleta Cemetery, parks in Recoleta, Belle Artes Museum).
  • Other cities: Mendoza, Cordoba.
  • Public transportation: discussed later.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround you and work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts the target (e.g. ask you a question / survey / drop something and ask you).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.


What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep your wallet in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


2. Spilled liquid theft

Buenos Aires caminito

Buenos Aires caminito


How it works:

This happens in many places (e.g. Thailand, UK), where someone will bump into you and spill mustard / ketchup / chocolate milk / or even a semi-liquid that looks like bird poo onto you.

Next, they or someone else will appear out of nowhere to help you clean up.

As you are distracted, the accomplice will swoop in to steal whatever valuables he can find on you.


What to do:

Be alert and careful in tight places. Push anyone away who tries to help.

And as mentioned, arm yourself with an anti-theft bag and a money belt or hidden pouch, and thieves will almost never be able to steal from you.


3. Street tango dancer scam

Image source: blogpatagonia.australis.com


How it works:

Similar to the movie characters you see at New York Times Square or the Roman warriors you see at the Colosseum in Rome, you will find tango dancers as you walk along the streets (primarily Caminito of Barrio La Boca) and who gamely pose for a photo with you.

Right after the photo is taken however, you will be hounded for payment.


What to do:

Avoid taking photos unless you don’t mind paying.


4. Mendoza sob story scammer

Image source: touropia.com


How it works:

This scam has been very well documented in Argentina.

A blond guy, seemingly Dutch or Belgian will approach you and chit chat a bit, asking how you have enjoyed Mendoza.

He will then say that it sucked for him, as he has lost all his belongings in a robbery, and that he was even pepper sprayed!

He’s now at his wits’ end, as he has no identification documents on him and so is unable to receive money from Western Union from his family.

At this point, he will start tearing and then ask if you can help him with a small amount of money for his bus fare to his country’s embassy to get help.


What to do:

Decline and walk away.


5. Viudas Negra / black widow scam

Image source: yournewswire.com


How it works:

This is usually perpetrated by an attractive woman on single men.

Long story short, you find them at bars where they approach you, make small talk, and then they will suggest going back to your room.

Back in the room, once your back is turned, she will slip a drug (e.g. Benzoate) into your drink which will knock you out.

This will give her time to steal all your valuables and to escape.


What to do:

Avoid such offers. If you do, watch your drink throughout.


6. Spiked drinks

Image source: nevseoboi.com.ua


How it works:

This is targeted at single tourists, and is again, another very common scam globally.

The scammer will approach you, act like a fellow tourist and ask you for directions. Next, he will continue the conversation to build trust and ask if you would like to get a drink together somewhere.

It could be at a bar, a restaurant or somewhere. It doesn’t matter, as the drink will be spiked.

Next, he will casually advise you that the banks will stop operations, or that they are so stricken that they will run out of cash in the next few days / week because of some event.

Thus, it is wise to withdraw some money first. This could be before or after the drinks.

Either way, you will pass out at some point and robbed of your valuables and the money you just withdrew.


What to do:

Do not head to a suggested bar together with a random stranger on the streets.

But if you do want to make new local friends, some questions to ponder:

  • Does the restaurant / bar seem legitimate? Are there customers?
  • Is the stranger reading from a script? Evasive about things?
  • Is he / she only bringing you to a particular restaurant or bar?

Some other tricks you can use:

  • Pretend that you have company by suggesting to go another place where you have a few friends at.
  • Ask for prices before ordering. Only drink what your waiter or you have poured.
  • Take a photo together.

When at the bar:

  • Watch how your drinks are prepared and monitor them throughout.
  • If possible, get a can or bottle drink as these are more difficult to tamper with

Alternatively, join locals and fellow tourists on a pub crawl!

  • GetYourGuide (leading day tour platform globally) has several such tours:




7. Free bar scam

Image source: embark.org


How it works:

On the streets, you will find club / bar sales promoters offering something free, which could be a shopping discount ticket or a free show to tempt you into their club / bar / “whiskeria”.

Once you are in however, you will not be allowed to leave unless you pay for a ridiculously priced drink.


What to do:

Reject offers from these touts. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Do some online research or check with your hotel / hostel staff on recommended bars locals go.


8. Cabaret bait / honeypot scam


How it works:

Another common scam globally (e.g. Hungary, Greece), this is very similar to the “bar scam”, but even more effective, as it plays on both greed and lust.

This is a scam that targets males.

As you walk around downtown Buenos Aires, you will find promoters offering men free drinks at surrounding cabaret bars.

You go in, get a free drink, and find yourself with a bevy of scantily clad girls who accompany you and have drinks as well.

When you are bored and feel like going off, you will be stopped by burly men who demand payment not just for your own drink, but for the girls’ drinks as well.


What to do:

Avoid entering sleazy bars. If you want, check out reviews online or ask your hotel / hostel staff for the reputable establishments.

Should you end up in a situation where you find a bunch of girls surround you, get ready to leave.

If you can’t, then pay the bill, get out and call your credit card company as soon as possible to block and dispute the charge.

It may also be a good idea to keep a separate bank account just for traveling:

  • Do not keep too much cash in there.
  • Only carry a bank card of that account so that even if you are accosted to the ATM to pay an inflated sum for the drinks, you would not have much to lose.


9. Counterfeit goods

Image source: shop-buenosaires.com


How it works:

Similar to those fake goods you see along roadside stalls in Europe, you will find a lot of fake designer goods here as well, one place of which is Barrio Balvanera.


What to do:

If the price is too good to be true, it is.

Should you wish to buy anything here (expensive items especially), learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff, or only visit licensed, experienced dealers with a good reputation.

You can find these by doing some online research or by asking your hotel / hostel staff.

Else, you may also want to enlist the help of a local through a private tour or shopping tour:

  • GetYourGuide: leading platform of day tours globally – has a couple of such tours:




1. Baggage handler theft


How it works:

There have been reports of airport staff, who are hired by the airport under the guise of a private security firm, stealing from checked in luggage.

They are usually part of a criminal organization.


What to do:

There are four key steps to protecting your luggage:


2. Corrupt customs official


How it works:

When inspecting your luggage at the customs, there are corrupted officers who will look out for high valued items in your luggage.

Once they spot one (or more than one), you will be asked to pay an exorbitant amount of tax for it.


What to do:

Refuse to pay and ask for the supervisor.


3. Customs official and driver intercept

Image source: YouTube – Panrimo


How it works:

What has been reported is that a customs official will note down your passport details (e.g. name) and your accommodation and then transmit this to an accomplice outside.

That accomplice then prints / writes your name and accommodation on a paper / board to intercept you when you are ready to leave the airport.

In the meantime, the customs official will take a long time to let you get pass, so that the accomplice has time to write / print your details.

Once you are out, you will be intercepted and should you take the vehicle the accomplice drives, there are a few possibilities.

You might be charged an inflated fee, you might be robbed, or you might even be sent to another hotel with the accomplice claiming that the hotel you booked is full / closed today.


What to do:

Make sure you have the name and contact number of the driver before your trip, so no one can try this scam on you.

If you did not arrange for any such transport arrangements, then do not take up offers to use an unofficial cab.


4. Public transportation pickpockets


How it works:

The pickpockets here are rife on local buses and trains and are as skillful as those in Barcelona and the Netherlands, the pickpocketing capitals of the world.

Besides on the trains and buses, the Retiro bus terminal in Buenos Aires and central bus terminal in Mendoza are obvious hot spots as well.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround you and work like this:

  • One blocks you at the door (pretends to tie shoe laces / drops something), the other steals from behind and slips to a third who escapes, and one other blocks others from viewing the act.
  • Some are able to time it perfectly such that they can snatch your stuff and jump out when the doors are just about to close.
  • Other times, especially at escalators, they might trip you or bump into you. Next moment, your valuables are gone.


What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep your wallet in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


5. Fake / unofficial taxis

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires


How it works:

There are quite a number of these “official looking” cabs which look similar to the radio taxis. You will find touts of these unofficial taxis at the airport, tourist attractions and transportation hubs.

However, these cabs are not registered with the government and hence not subject to the industry’s rules and regulations.

This means there is a high likelihood of being overcharged or even robbed by them.


What to do:

Do not take an unofficial taxi. If you do take one, take a photo of the car plate and the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.

Else, consider these options:

  • Take the official taxis or remis, where you prepay inside the airport at a taxi counter (out of the airport, only take radio taxis)
  • Use a taxi booking app like BA Taxi, Uber, Safer Taxi
  • Pre-arrange vehicle pick up through your hotel / hostel or through day tour platforms like GetYourGuide (global leader) – 20+ options:


6. Taxis with rigged meters

Image source: snowbrains.com


How it works:

A perennial issue all over the world (e.g. Brazil, Philippines), there are taxis which rig meters, or charge you more than what the meter shows by claiming certain additional charges.

Many guidebooks recommend taking radio taxis, that is one way but unfortunately not enough, as there are radio taxis who perpetrate these scams as well.


What to do:

Monitor the meter to see if it is jumping too fast or by too much.


7. Taxis without meters


How it works:

There are drivers who insist on not using the meter but on charging a flat fare, which is in most cases inflated.


What to do:

Take only those which use meters.

Alternatively, you can also estimate the fair price of any route and use that to negotiate. You can do so by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like BA Taxi, Uber, Safer Taxi.


8. Longhauling taxis

Image source: YouTube – Driving in Argentina *Fed Sher*


How it works:

There are taxis which take you on a longer route then required or drive you crowded areas just to inflate the fare.


What to do:

In the cab, be very clear when communicating the destination you are heading to. More prominent landmarks around your destination can be mentioned.

During the ride, check your phone’s GPS to make sure you are headed in the correct direction.

Sometimes, drivers do take detours to avoid traffic jams, but that should not detract from the correct general direction.


9. Currency switcheroo

Image source: bigthink.com


How it works:

This is one usually perpetrated by taxi drivers and can be executed in different forms.

One reported scenario is that the driver offers to help you review your pesos as you may be unfamiliar with the currency.

Then, without you realizing, he swaps your good bills with bad bills (i.e. counterfeits) of his. He then accuses you of passing him a counterfeit note.

Another reported scenario is that when you pass the driver a big note, some of the more skillful ones can pretend to rummage through their wallet, quickly swap it with a fake and then pass it back to you claiming that they have no change.


What to do:

Reject the “kind” offer and try to pay with small notes. If not, ask the driver if he has change for $x first before passing a big note over.


10. Taxi set-up robbery


How it works:

What happens is that when you board a taxi and the driver starts using the phone for a call or SMS, there’s a chance that he’s setting up a robbery further down a corner.

That is where his accomplices are waiting. When the accomplices attack your cab, the driver will play along, act scared, give up his wallet and ask you to do the same.


What to do:

Refuse to board / get out if you see the driver start using his phone right upon boarding. Better to be safe than sorry.

Use a cheap spare wallet with some cash inside to give up when faced with an armed robber, while hiding other valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch.


11. Carjacking at traffic lights


How it works:

The Province of Misiones is one hotspot, as the area borders Brazil and Paraguay, and is used to smuggle goods, drugs and weapons, across the borders. It can happen in many ways.

You could simply be asked to pull over by an armed criminal. Or gangs could set up an emergency or debris / fake checkpoint on the road to get you to stop.


What to do:

While driving:

  • If you see an obstruction in the middle of the road (e.g tires), drive around it and do not stop.
  • Do not stop if someone tries to flag you down. If anyone tails you, drive to a safe place where you can alert the authorities.
  • When approaching a red traffic light, slow down but avoid coming to a complete stop so as not to get ambushed.
  • Ensure that your car doors are locked and windows are up.

Do not leave any valuables / items indicating that you are a tourist exposed in the car:



1. Snatch thefts / motochorros / robberies


How it works:

A non-exhaustive list of hot spots to be careful at are:

  • Buenos Aires: tourist locations (La Boca, San Telmo), transport hubs (Retiro bus terminal), shady neighbourhoods (Villa Lugano, Villa Riachuelo), northern affluent neighbourhoods (Vicente Lopez, Olivos, Martinez, San Isidro), other neighbourhoods (Palermo, Belgrano, Nunez).
  • Mendoza: bus terminal, General San Martin Park.

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.


What to do:

When seated / not moving:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Avoid carrying valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.

Other measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


2. Counterfeit bills


How it works:

Besides on taxis, counterfeit notes are also used in several other contexts (e.g. nightclubs, restaurants, stores, etc), so it is useful to learn how to spot a fake note.

Some tips (check out http://landingpadba.com/ba-basics-counterfeit-money/ for more detailed pictures):

  • Fake notes usually are of a different, cheap feeling material. The print is bad with faded colours.
  • Watermark of face / animal can be seen without shining light behind the bill.
  • Always check for the watermark and security thread by raising a note to a light source.

However, besides counterfeit Pesos, there are counterfeit USD / foreign currencies around too!


What to do:

To avoid getting fake bills, only change your Pesos back to USD or foreign currency at an official money changer.

Also learn how to identify the fakes from the real.


3. Apartment security deposit scam


How it works:

There have been cases of travellers having their deposits not returned to them, because they misplaced their trust in the apartment owner from whom they were renting from.

The video above shows one such example.

For instance, when your rental period is over, the apartment owner can collect the key from you (or send someone to do so), then claim that they forgot to bring the deposit.

They then ask you to head down to a specific place or contact someone else to collect. However, once the key is handed over, they will disappear.

What actually turns the odds against you getting your deposit back is that you will be under time pressure. This is because you are most likely going to be having a flight / train / bus to catch soon.


What to do:

First, only book apartments with good reviews via legitimate accommodation platforms such as:

  • Booking.com: Frommer’s tests have found the site to offer the best selection and rates amongst competing sites most of the time.
  • Homestay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Argentina by staying with a local host!

Next, never return the key without getting the deposit back first. Also, avoid revealing your departing flight / transport details.


4. I accidentally dropped my money trap

La Boca

La Boca


How it works:

What happens is scammer #1 will accidentally drop some money on the floor, and scammer #2 will be nearby to make sure someone picks it up.

Once the victim picks it up to pass it to scammer #1, scammer #1 will claim that it is less than what he had dropped.

At this point, scammer #2 will join in and pressure the victim to pay the difference.


What to do:

Unfortunately, we have to recommend thinking twice before helping, especially if you find the set-up suspicious.



This is not a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:


1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Image source: smartraveller.gov.au


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: often occur, in side streets and after dark.
  • Hazards: n.a.
  • Hotspots: criminal activity around the Argentina – Brazil – Paraguay border.
  • Terrorism: small scale bomb explosions in Buenos Aires and surrounding provinces by suspected anti-globalisation groups.
  • Civil unrest: demonstrations common in Buenos Aires (Plaza de Mayo, Congreso areas), as well as occasional Falkland Islands protests. Organized strikes can happen as well.


What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, travelling alone at night, and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

Monitor local media in case of any terrorist threats, and avoid participating in demonstrations.

Some hotspots of violent crime to avoid / be careful at:

  • Buenos Aires: San Telmo, Recoleta, La Boca, Retiro, Florida Street, 9 de Julio, Avenida de Mayo, Rivadavia Avenues, Retiro bus station, Buque-bus ferry terminal, Congreso, “villas” or shanty towns.
  • Mendoza: bus station, General San Martín Park.


2. Medical care

Image source: buenosaires.gob.ar


How it works:

Standards of medical care are good in Buenos Aires but limited elsewhere.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: zika, chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, malaria.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, hepatitis.
  • Animal borne diseases: rabies, typhoid.
  • Human borne diseases: HIV.
  • Others: altitude sickness, air pollution.


What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: Hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis B, yellow fever, rabies (outdoor activities, activities involving animals).

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.


3. Natural disasters


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Earthquakes: San Juan and Mendoza are located in active seismic zones.
  • Volcanoes: several in the Andes region such as the Copahue volcano on Argentina – Chile border may erupt.
  • Flooding: the north such as Buenos Aires can be susceptible to flash floods.


What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reportsweather forecasts and sources such as VAAC Buenos Aires.

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture); expect aftershocks.
  • Volcanic eruption: avoid areas downwind and river valleys downstream of the volcano, do not drive in heavy ash fall, seek shelter (if no need to evacuate) or high ground if no shelter (crouch down away from volcano, cover head with arms).


4. Transport safety


How it works:

Argentina has one of the highest traffic accident rates in the world, a couple of factors to watch out for:

  • Aggressive / speeding / unpredictable drivers.
  • Not adhering to traffic rules.


What to do:

Before going out, check the latest media reports and weather forecast.

When on the road, stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up.



1. Emergency numbers to call

Image source: wanderingwagars.com


  • Police: 101
  • Fire: 100
  • Medical emergencies: 107
  • Tourist police: 0800-999-5000 / 0800-999-2838

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