Kimberly Ellenson, is a graduate of Cornell University. Kimberly is living in Argentina for six months, where she is volunteering with the Foundation for Sustainable Development and focusing on increasing access to health care for impoverished citizens. Kimberly received a $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation.
Here are Kimberly’s travel safety tips:
The Argentine Northwest is replete with breathtaking landscapes, soaring mountains, and vertigo-inspiring scenery. If you are fortunate enough to travel through the region, there’s a lot to see within hours of each other – the Atacama Desert in Chile, the colonial city of Salta, the marketplaces and jungles of Jujuy, and mountain pueblos throughout the provinces steeped in tradition and culture of the indigenous people. The proximity of these wonders means that travel throughout the region is frequent and possible. Unfortunately, this also means that common and not-so-common travel awareness is necessary.
- Common travel tips: don’t carry large sums of money, make copies of your passport and put them in different places, travel with someone whenever possible, ensure others know of your travel plans and destinations.
- Read Lonely Planet or other travel books/blogs to familiarize yourself with the area before you go. Often you will find location-specific safety tips that will heighten your awareness and make you a savvier traveler.
- Prior to arriving in a larger city, find the number for the local remis (taxi) service. These remises are required to register their pick-up and drop-off points. Never enter an unmarked taxi, even though they will frequently stop if you need a cab. If you cannot access the remis number, only enter marked taxis, and be sure others know of your whereabouts.
- Always carry an extra phone card on you. Local cell phones operate on credit, and at times I would find myself out of credit but needing to call a taxi or friend. I always had an extra 30-peso (about $5) phone card on me just in case.
- Speak Spanish if and whenever possible. Locals will appreciate your efforts.
- Wear darker or subtler clothing. Argentines are conservative dressers and well-dressed, from blue-collar to white-collar individuals. Clothing with loud or bright patterns will peg you as a foreigner.
- If someone begs for money, respond with a polite “no gracias”. When you are courteous, the person simply turns around or stops asking; if you ignore them, they are more likely to follow you.
- If you are unsure about a destination or bus stop, just ask someone! Argentines are very friendly and love to help foreigners, and often times they will “have your back” and make sure you get to your final destination safely.
- Try not to engage in political talk. A common sentiment found in Argentina is that Americans have an Imperialist mindset and act entitled. The best approach is to remove yourself from such conversations or comment that your government doesn’t define your thinking.
- Stay away from plazas at night.
Traveling through Argentina is a life-changing experience. Be open to the wonderful people you will meet, things you will see and learn, and delicious food you will eat. Just use common sense and familiarize yourself with the places you’re going, and you will experience all the wonders this beautiful country has to offer!