How Bad is Crime in Buenos Aires?

Editor’s Note: I originally published this article back in 2009. Since then, I’ve received many comments and emails from both tourists and Porteños concerned about crime in the great city of Buenos Aires. Is the city safe? Is crime getting worse? Read below for the original story plus recently updated comments.

How bad is crime in Buenos Aires? The question is more difficult to answer than you might think.

On one hand, many people who have visited Buenos Aires will say things like “I walked everywhere in Buenos Aires at all hours of the day and night and never had a problem or felt unsafe. I saw women pushing their strollers at midnight for gosh sakes. It’s safe.”

On the other hand, you will hear people who have been touched by crime say things like “the crime here is horrible, especially against tourists. You wouldn’t believe the stuff that goes unreported.” And you can certainly read stories in the newspapers about robberies, murders and all manner of terrible crimes taking place with alarming frequency.

So who do we believe?

We could turn to official statistics and try to compare crime rates in Buenos Aires with that of other cities, but that won’t really answer our question. First of all, official statistics are probably not accurate. The police are not sufficiently organized to provide accurate statistics. Plus the government is notorious for reporting inaccuracies. For example, last year the government reported the official inflation rate at 8% when any objective measure will show that it was closer to 25%.

Another reason crimes rates aren’t that relevant is that most crime happens in parts of the city where tourists never go, in impoverished areas nothing like Palermo or Recoleta or other tourist zones.

So that leaves us with anecdotal information. Let me pass along a few personal stories and observations that I hope may answer the question about how bad crime is in Buenos Aires, in particular as it relates to tourists. I’m not out to scare anyone. I just want to try to answer the question posed in the title of this blog entry.

First of all, I wouldn’t even think about wearing an expensive watch in Buenos Aires. I know it would set me up as a target for robbery in any neighborhood. By comparison, I would have no hesitation wearing that same watch in any city in Canada or the United States. Does that mean that Buenos Aires is more dangerous than Canada or the US? In this regard, I would say yes. Money is tight and unemployment is high. That breeds desperation and crime.

Here’s another thing I wouldn’t do in Buenos Aires. I certainly wouldn’t go to a bank, withdraw a large sum of cash (thousands of dollars), then catch a taxi in front of the bank. I’ve read too many news stories of people being robbed or killed this way. Again, I wouldn’t have the same fear in New York or London or Tokyo. It’s different here.

Perhaps my cautious nature is paying off. I’ve spent a lot of time in Buenos Aires over the past few years and I’ve never had a problem. But I’m tall, male and speak Spanish. And I do think this city is more dangerous for women than men.

For example, last September Clarín (a local newspaper) reported on a taxi driver who would pick up lone female tourists outside a Palermo nightclub late at night and sexually assault them. The newspaper indicated that at least eight women were attacked before police captured the man.

Last month, in December, the newspaper also reported on not one but two, separate serial rapists committing a string of attacks on women in Recoleta. The attacks occurred in the daytime, even on a Sunday afternoon. The rapist would follow a woman into a building, pretending he lived there or was visiting a friend.

So women do need to take special precautions. But, sadly, isn’t this true in all big cities?

I do feel the level of crime in Buenos Aires is rising. A female Argentine friend of mine recently told me “this year for the first time I felt unsafe in my city. My grandmother has been robbed twice. It’s getting bad.”

But we need to put all the crime horror stories in perspective. Buenos Aires is a huge city of some 13 million people. Of course awful crimes are going to happen. They happen here but they also happen in Toronto, Munich, Sydney and Paris — in all big cities, everywhere.

To sum up, I believe the question “how bad is crime in Buenos Aires” is best answered by a quote I read in a report prepared by the US Overseas Security Advisory Council:

Crime is a serious problem in Argentina that can be managed with common sense precautions.”

I encourage you to read the report which includes advice on how to avoid becoming a victim.

Read recent comments and updates to this article

Filed under: Need To Know


  1. nicasio Says:

    i travel to Argentine for 3 month is really one of the best Places vacation,people culture,really Amazing !! bs as yes some areas is bad,i never have any problem ,..
    i travel same year to Napoli, italy and i get robbed one time gun point and one time with a knife total 2 times in two weeks I’m so mad my passport and many more,,… so no worries is bad every big city just Be careful !

  2. Marija Says:

    Hi all,

    After reading all comments I really dont know what to think. I am going to BA in a month to learn Spanish all by myself from eastern Europe (I know the basics of the language). My question is how can I blend in and look like a local. I am not that tall or white 🙂 after a few days on the sun I will become Latina. What kind of clothes do women wear in summer? I am not afraid of robbery because I have been to a lot of places and I am never reckles, but after reading this I see there is a lt of rapes? Taxi drivers? I will probably be taking metro all the time 🙁

  3. Alex Says:

    Is it realy That bad in BA? =( I beleive it’s just the same way in any big city unfortunately. My friend was robbed (wallet stolen) in Paris , France, a few years ago (on a subway). Heard of lots of crime in Europe in big cities. Never had any problems like that in US (heard of some crime in bad poor areas or big cities). Just need to be careful and everything will be all right.

  4. Carlo Sarci Says:

    I have been to Mexico City many times, but I felt safe.

    Buenos Aires is hell. Porteños live in constant fear.

    My friend has been held up at gunpoint 7 times in the last couple of years. During the day, at night, on a bus, at a store, on the train, on the subway and even at work.

    If you dare show a cell phone in the street, expect a gun be placed to your head.

    These animals are so out of control, that if you have nothing to give them, they will shoot you.

    Rape is epidemic.

    People go ringing doorbells during the day and night. If some unwise tenant / resident opens the door, he/she can expect the entire place to be robbed at gunpoint, apartment by apartment.

    It does not matter if it is the ritzy places downtown or the suburbs like Lomas (where she lives). Fear rules. Cops get killed.

    Corruption at levels rules this city. I have never seen anything like it and I have been all over the world.

    Stay away!

  5. Javier Says:

    I just visited BA for a week back in March. We went there to a training course for a week starting Monday, so we got in on Sunday afternoon, left our luggage at the hotel in Recoleta and immediately walked to Calle Corrientes to check if we could still get tickets for the Ian Anderson concert at the Grand Rex Theater. Afterwards, we walked Calle Florida all the way to Galerias Pacifico, where we started walking around checking out the shops. Out of the blue, a guy with a “so called” Federal Police ID approaches us and tells us that he had spoken to us last weekend at this same place, and that he had requested us to never return to Galerias Pacifico again. At first we thought he was looking for money, and so I approached the security officer at the door and asked for help, but the security officer just looked at me and did nothing. The guy continued shouting at us and demanded that we showed him our IDs. One of my friends gave him his ID and finally we all had to give him our IDs. We explained that we had just arrived in BA some hours ago, but the guy did not listen and continued his interrogation. We told him that we were going to a training course and that we were staying at a hotel in Recoleta, but he kept on shouting very aggressively and accusing us of lying. We kept on explaining him again and again that we had just arrived in the city some hours ago, until he “finally” looked at us, apologized and told us that had made a mistake. He then returned our IDs back and went his way.
    To this day I don’t know what the guy wanted, if he was a federal police officer as he claimed, or if he was a common thief that did not get his way because we got lucky. However, I am inclined to think that he really was a federal police officer who was trying to take advantage of three foreigners. So, be aware that these situations are common ground in BA, that these people are looking out for foreigners to take advantage of, and that some police officers are corrupt and trying to make and easy buck.

  6. Tim Says:

    I like how a lot of people are saying things like “It’s safe! I had problems and got robbed, but it was my fault!!”

    No. That’s exactly the point — it’s *not* safe, to the degree where you have to constantly watch your ass. It’s not “your fault” if someone robs you, ever. Thievery is never acceptable — but, in a city that’s this dangerous, yes, we have to make sure we’re vigilant, and take more precautions than would be needed in another less dangerous place.

    I love Buenos Aires — I call it “the perfect cross between sophistication and chaos”. I lived there for a few months. If you’re thinking of visiting, YOU SHOULD! It’s a wonderful city. The vibe is awesome. But don’t kid yourself: it’s dangerous. Crime is common. Sure, some people will have no problems; it’s a numbers game. But *most* people I know that live (or lived) there longer than just a small visit, have been robbed *at least* once. In New York/Berlin/Tokyo/etc, you hear of robberies occasionally, but it’s NOT NEARLY as regular an occurrence as it is in BsAs. (And many other large Latin American cities are even more dangerous — don’t let it stop you from visiting, but pay attention.)

    Latin American big cities are *not* “just like any other big city”. You can manage the danger, but you have to watch your ass. Stay out of areas you shouldn’t be in. Don’t carry things you don’t want to lose. Pay attention to your surroundings. Make local friends, and follow their lead — they know what not to do. Etc.

  7. Roy Says:

    I am a married to an Argentinean woman and lived in BA for 2 years its a great place and the everyday Argentineans are great but its not dangerouse say like London where I hail from you could get conned of mugged in London. South America is a different propersition I was speaking with 5 or 6 woman all of whom had been sexually assaulted or raped. There are guns everywhere we had a big dog and a smith & wesson at home. The police are useless or corrupt detection rates are LOW a policeman get shot in England is big news in BA its common. Having said all this its a woderfull country full of beautifull places great food good weather. The problem is poverty and desperation if you are not carefull you will get robbed my wife struggles in the UK but loves living without fear and we lived in an ok barrio oh and dont believe anything the govt says.

  8. Bernadette Says:

    Hi! I googled crime in Buenos Aires because I was just a victim of a robbery. I can tell you that I’v been all over the world, and no where has crime been this bad. I was walking down Cordoba at 1330, and a man came up from behind, ripped my Rolex off, got on a motorbike, the driver was waiting, and zoomed off. My watch has sentimental value — it was a gift from my late husband who died I Iraq. I went to the police station to file a report, and the couple waiting before me had the same thing happen to them. I’m here in BA on business with a group of 30, out of the 30 people, 4 of us have been robbed. One man in the group had his chain snatched, the same day I had my watch stolen. The other colleague was walking around Florida street, two people pretended to spill something on him and helped dry him off while a third person unzipped his backpack and stole his laptop. Another man has a similar situation where two people spilled something on him, tried to assist him, while a third person tried to pick his pocket. Ask yourself, have any of you ever known 5 people to be robbed in the same city within days, within hours of each other?? STAY OUT OF BUENOS AIRES!!!

  9. Jesse Says:

    I visited Buenos Aires in 2005 some years after the big crisis. Things were getting better..I spent around 10 days in BAires this trip…the taxi driver seemed quite fearful…in general, I noticed a paranoia amongst the portenos. No problem, felt completely safe this trip.

    In 2008, things changed. Things were getting more expensive, Macri was the mayor, inflation began to be a problem again. I remember taking a bus around Juncal, and someone attempted to pickpocket me walking down the aisle. It was blatent and I saw this evil smirk from beforehand, so my hands were in my pockets. Nothing happened.

    Then there were strikes blocking the autopista back to Ezeiza. There was an airline strike. Strikes, screaming people everywhere. I saw a car on fire rolling backwards down 9. de Julio. This was not the same city I remembered during my first trip.

  10. manni Says:

    I grew-up in London. I think that was a good training for any big city. Believe me, you would never dream of putting your wallet in your back pocket and walking down Oxford St. My only concern would be the kidnappings!

  11. Gary Says:

    ” Bill Says:
    March 24th, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Some more good news, Buenos Aires is safer than many big cities in the US. I’m as fearful in some areas of LA and Miami at night than in Buenos Aires. The homicides per 100,000 people are lower in Buenos Aires than in most large US cities.

    To conclude Argentina, is no Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan or China. That said is no worse than some areas of the US. And I take BA over Washington DC, New Orlean, St Louis, or Miami, and the crime statistics back me up on this one.”

    What? I assume you meant BA’s murder rate is HIGHER than most US cities? Otherwise your comment doesn’t compute.

    BA’s murder rate is slightly lower than St. Louis and much lower than New Orleans, but it is certainly higher than LA, Miami and Washington.

    The point remains that it’s higher than most cities in the US including the big three of New York, Chicago and the aforementioned LA.

  12. Robert K Says:

    I arrived in BA today, Oct. 16, 2014, caught an “official taxi” at the airport. The driver dumped me out on the street no where near where I was going and passed me off to another driver who he said spoke English. He didn’t. At least not well. The second driver told me he’d have to drop me two blocks from where I was going because the street was closed (which it wasn’t.) I prepared to pay him the 420 pesos, but he grabbed nearly 1000 pesos out of my hand (my fault) plus two $20s then dumped my large suitcase on the street and dashed away. I’d like to report this to the police but am not sure it’s even worth the trouble.

  13. Teresa Schoch Says:

    I am a tall blonde American woman who fell in love with BA in 2005. I bought an apartment there and go back usually at least once a year. Over the years, I have taken women friends with me. One of my friends took a lot of long walks alone through Recoleta in 2010, another o would head down Libertad, while I tended to taxi alone. None of us had problems. Coming from the streets of Detroit and Miami, with summers in London, I did not feel unsafe in BA.
    During my last trip in 2013, one of my friends carried a very expensive Italian purse in Recoleta and had it snatched by a guy on a motorcycle. I had warned her against carrying a purse after reading these posts. The following day, a different friend, a man, and I were near where she had been robbed when we heard a motorcycle behind us up on the sidewalk. We both turned around and stared at him and he returned to the street.
    I have been warned that this is a tricky year with elections and that I should be extra careful. I hope I do not see any difference in this city that I love. The Argentines are a particularly kind people and that has been the impression that I get every time. I love the music, the dance, the food, the fashion. Admittedly, I never carry a purse, and stay sober.
    Maybe I am lucky. Maybe I missed the steep decline and I will feel like I am in Detroit this time. I hope not, but I will let you know.

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