When I first touched down in Santiago in 2012, I was surprised how much the city reminded me of Europe. Chile has one of the fastest growing Latin American economies and the city of Santiago can be summed up in three simple word: picturesque, prosperous and very tidy.
By South American standards, Santiago is a safe city, but visitors should be aware of pick-pocketing and other petty crimes. Foreigners need to exercise caution in the city, especially if venturing into unsafe neighbourhoods or exploring the city during the night.
Here are my top safety in Santiago Chile tips for the city:
#10: BEWARE of the airport as there has been an increased number of robberies in the past year. El Mercurio (a Chilean newspaper) has noted that there have been 111 robberies in 2013. Be wary of any individuals asking for help or directions and always have your purse or backpack securely fastened to your some part of your body. Another area with a high incidence of crime is the parking lot. Three Chilean men have been targeting that specific area; they usually steal tires off of cares or break into the cars to steal valuables.
#9: The city has many different barrios (neighbourhoods), all of which can be easily explored through the city’s extremely efficient metro system. The different barrios are scattered across a hill. The basic rule of thumb is: the further up the hill you go, the richer and safer the neighborhoods become. The wealthier neighborhoods are often safer due to an increased police presence within the area. The safest comunas are Providencia, Vitacura and Las Condes.
Some of the more popular tourist areas, like Plaza de Armas and/or Bellavista, are often safe during the day, however travelers need to exercise extreme caution in these areas during the night. Police presence in tourist areas are almost non-existent during the night and therefore muggings and robberies are more prevalent in these areas once the sun goes down. If you do decide to go out clubbing, drinking or eating in the Centro (the center of Santiago) than make sure that you leave all valuables at home and do not wear any jewelry or hanging earrings. It would also be wise to avoid parks at night.
Try to AVOID the following comunas: La Legua (famed in Chile for its high crime rates), Lo Espejo, La Pintana, Puente Alto, La Cisterna, San Joaquin, El Bosque, San Ramon and La Granja unless you know exactly where you are going.
#8: Robberies have become more and more prevalent on the metro. During peak hours the metro is often packed full of individuals and thieves often use this to their advantage by slipping their hands into pockets and/or purses. Another method used is nudging or pushing someone, thus distracting them, while another thief picks your pocket. Always carry a cross-body zippered up purse when sightseeing and never carry your wallet in your back pocket.
#7: If you plan on partying in Bellavista then stay close to Pio Nono street. Thieves have been known to wait for drunk individuals outside of clubs so try and avoid walking home especially if you are drunk. Muggers often target inebriated foreigners. PLEASE be careful in Bellavista! I have personally known individuals that were severely beaten up by muggers and one girl that was almost raped in the area. Exercise EXTREME caution and never drink too much.
#6: Unless you are extremely sure of the bus route; avoid taking the bus after dark. Taxis are a cheap and reliable method to get you home. Nonetheless, most taxi drivers do not speak English. As a result, make sure you have a business card or your hostel’s address written down on a piece of paper if you do not speak the language.
#5: NEVER bring your valuables with you when you are sightseeing. Leave your passport, major credit cards and large amounts of cash safely locked in your luggage back at the hostel and/or hotel (NEVER leave your belongs in a safe). Avoid bringing flash jewelry as thieves have been known to rip off necklaces and even earrings.
#4: If you will be driving a car in the area, avoid placing your purse on the passenger seat. There have been reports that when cars are stuck in traffic or stopped at a red light, thieves will walk between the cars and smash the window to grab a purse or anything of value. Thieves have also been known to snatch phones out of the driver’s hand if their car window is open. Another common trick is to puncture the tires of the car when its stopped at a red light and rob any individual that pulls over their car to change their tire.
#3: Always keep your purse on your lap if you are seating at a restaurant. Never leave your purse hanging on your chair, on the chair right beside you or even on the table.
#2: Try to blend in as much as possible and always stay alert when walking down the street. Be especially vigilant if you are walking by yourself. Avoid speaking too loudly in English as this draws unnecessary attention.
#1: LASTLY! When paying for something avoid pulling out your wallet in public and flashing large amounts of cash. Grab and runs are extremely popular in Santiago and if someone sees that you are carrying large amounts of cash on you, they will probably target you. Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself.
If you are a victim of a robbery than please do not fight back. The thief that robbed me in Santiago (near Bellavista) was carrying around a knife. Thieves are often impatient and become violent if you refuse to hand over your belongings. Plan ahead and always carry a fake wallet that you can give up in the rare instance that you are robbed. Finally, the police in Santiago (Carabineros) are extremely reliable. You can definitely trust them but unlike other South American cities do not attempt to bribe a Chilean Police officer. Ever.
Those are my ten tips. Do you have anything to add?