Is Crime High in Buenos Aires? Well, Yes and No.
I was talking to my Brazilian friends about Argentina a few weeks ago, and we asked ourselves how (nowadays) safe in Buenos Aires.
It is not a topic that is as widely discussed among Brazilian millenials as one might expect. Most Brazilians only think about Argentina during football games or elections (when both countries are famous for making bad choices).
While Brazil did not have an easy path over the last two or three decades, Argentina fared even worse. That, in turn, reduced Argentina’s advantage in a variety of areas, ranging from the per capita income to sewage availability in urban areas. Argentina and Brazil are not that disparate today in many ways.
Nonetheless, Argentina is far superior to Brazil in two areas: education and security.
True, Brazil narrowed the gap in both cases. In terms of education, Brazil has a literacy rate of 94 percent, up from 84 percent only two decades ago, but it is still far lower than Argentina’s 99 percent.
In terms of security, violence in Brazil has dropped dramatically over the last three years. Cities like São Paulo, for example, had their homicide rates dropped by almost 80%!
But, in general, many large cities in Brazil are still far more violent than anywhere in Argentina.
Is Argentina safer than Brazil? Is Buenos Aires safer than Rio?
Absolutely yes, for both questions. Violence in Rio decreased, but it is still 3X higher than in Buenos Aires. It is also safer than Guadalajara, in Mexico, a city than can bewilder your idea about crime statistics.
However, if the question is simply:
“Is Buenos Aires Safe?”
Then I dare to say not really, and here I will explain to you why.
Is Crime High in Buenos Aires?
The homicide rate in Buenos Aires is 4.6 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. This is less than some of the most violent European countries, like Russia (7.3 murders per 100K residents) and Ukraine (6.2). But it is far worse than most of the other countries, like Belgium (1.7), France (1.2), Hungary (0.8) or Poland (0.7 homicides per 100 thousand people).
There are dangerous cities in Europe as well, but they are few and mostly concentrated in industrial zones inside the United Kingdom or France.
If the comparison with Europe makes Buenos Aires look violent, it may pale in comparison to the US. While the United States has a homicide rate slightly higher than Argentina (4.96 homicides per 100K people), it would be fair to compare Buenos Aires with its American, metropolitan counterparts.
And that is how the Argentinian capital starts to look safe. Buenos Aires’ 4.6 homicide rate is far smaller than Chicago (18.26), Washington DC (32.78), or Baltimore (55.7, one of the most dangerous cities on the planet). There are some very safe cities in the US, but usually, they are far smaller and in southern states.
When we talk about other modalities of crime, like theft, robbery, or kidnapping, the situation is similar: Buenos Aires is dangerous when compared to European cities, but relatively safe compared to large American cities.
But we are still missing one thing here:
Buenos Aires, like every south-American large city, is very unequal.
Here is a shocking fact: Buenos Aires has 48 barrios (local districts). During the year 2019, 16 of these districts, one-third of the total, never had a single homicide. Meanwhile, a single barrio called Barracas had 17 murder cases.
Barracas has only 77 thousand residents, meaning a homicide rate of 22 murders per 100 thousand residents, comparable to very violent cities in places like Mexico, Colombia, or Brazil.
To put it into perspective, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, also had 17 murder victims during the year 2019 — but Warsaw has 1.7 million people.
So, bottom line: Buenos Aires is dangerous compared to Europe, relatively safe when compared to the US or Brazil, but it is also very unequal, with some districts as safe as Europe and others as dangerous as Mexico.
What Areas to Avoid in Buenos Aires
|Name of the District||Number of Homicides (Year)||Pop.||Homicide Rate||Comparable Country|
|Parque Avellaneda||7||54191||12.9||South Sudan|
Buenos Aires is a lovely city with a lot to offer.
However, there are some neighborhoods to avoid, including Retiro, Barracas, and Balvanera, as well as the neighboring metropolitan cities of La Matanza and Quilmes. Because of their high rates of criminality, these are widely regarded as among the most dangerous areas in the region.
The same is true for any area that appears to be run-down or dirty — these areas are likely to be dangerous as well. If you find yourself in a bad neighborhood, it is best to stay on the main roads where you can be seen by many people and keep your valuables hidden (such as your cellphone). If someone approaches you, it’s best not to interact with them at all — avoid eye contact and simply continue walking.
In addition to avoiding the above neighborhoods and following the guidelines above if you happen to find yourself in a high-crime area by accident, there are some other precautions you should take anywhere in Buenos Aires, and more on them can be found in the final section of this article.
Best Neighborhoods in Buenos Aires
The city’s safest districts (as well as the best cities in the metropolitan area) are frequently in the north of Buenos Aires, while the south is more dangerous and violent.
From Palermo to the north there are several highly recommended neighborhoods that are considered safe and secure areas to live without fear of possible crime or violence.
In terms of safety, the best neighborhoods in Buenos Aires are Belgrano and Núñez, as well as neighboring cities in the Metropolitan zone such as San Isidro and San Fernando. In comparison to other areas such as Retiro or Barracas, these districts have a low crime and violence rate.
Belgrano is a popular tourist destination due to its gastronomical options, historical architecture, and the River Plate football club; however, it also has some lovely residential areas where families can find safe havens close to their workplaces.
However, keep in mind that some of the safest districts in terms of homicides are also among the worst in terms of robberies, since they are business districts with a large influx of people. This is the case with Palermo, where there is a lot of petty theft. Below are some tips for you to avoid this kind of situation.
What Not to Do in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a lovely city with gorgeous old buildings and excellent gastronomic options. But, like any other large city, it is not without danger. If you’re going on a trip for business or pleasure, keep these tips in mind to stay safe and avoid criminals.
1st — Avoid walking around with your luggage. Wandering around with carry-on luggage, even in the safest districts, is NOT recommended.
2nd — Know where the dangerous areas are. Remember that Buenos Aires, like most large cities in Latin America, is very unequal, so in a few meters, you can go from a developed business district to a crime-ridden neighborhood. Some areas have much more crime than others. Check the table I posted a few paragraphs before with the violence numbers in different districts.
3rd— Get smart about pickpockets. Pickpocketing is common in Buenos Aires, so be careful when carrying anything you might need on your person, such as money and passports. To avoid this risk, keep your valuables in a money belt or under your clothing whenever possible. Also, keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings at all times — particularly in crowded tourist areas or on public transportation.
4rd — Do not use your expensive phone while standing in the middle of the street. There are numerous motorcycle thieves in the area who are experts at stealing cellphones from unsuspecting pedestrians. Remember that iPhones are worth a ridiculously high amount in Argentina, so they’re even more of a target.
5th — Don’t walk alone at night: Especially if you are a woman, walking alone at night can be dangerous in Buenos Aires. If you’re going out after dark, go with friends or take a cab or uber.
6th — -Stay away from La Boca at night: La Boca is famous for its colorful buildings, but this neighborhood is not safe. Most businesses close before dark, so it’s best to avoid the area after twilight.
How to Stay Safe in Buenos Aires
1st — If you are visiting the city, there are plenty of options in terms of luggage storage, so you don’t need to walk around with your carry-on bags. Reliable, convenient, and inexpensive luggage storage services you can find at Radical Storage.
2nd — Book a transfer in advance (both from the Ezeiza Airport or Aeroparque Airport) to your final destination. You can use Get Transfer for that.
3rd — If you are visiting places like El Caminito and its surroundings, hire a guide. You can find some amazing guides and tours at Viator. Not only they will give you insider information about historical and natural curiosities, but they will also warn you of risky areas and keep you safe.
4rd — Use a money belt to carry your credit card, documents, etc. In your pocket, leave a dummy wallet with expired cards and small money, in case a robber attacks you (something that shouldn’t happen if you follow all the recommendations above).
Is Buenos Aires Safe to Live? Conclusion
When we look at the big picture, Buenos Aires is more dangerous than most European countries but safer than American cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC. It is also safer than Brazil, despite the fact that the gap has narrowed in recent years due to a decrease in criminality in Brazil and an increase in crime in Argentina.
But to talk about Buenos Aires as a single entity does not say much. The Argentinian capital, like any major city in Latin America, is extremely unequal. (Here we explain how Sao Paulo, in Brazil, has a very similar situation).
Poorer, southern districts like Retiro and Barracas concentrate crime occurrences and have violence indicators comparable to poor regions of Mexico or Colombia.
Northern districts like Belgrano and Núñez, as well as neighboring towns like San Isidro, boast European indicators of violence.
It is also worth noting that there are also safer places in Argentina, areas that are very attractive to foreigners looking to retire with low costs and high quality of life.
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Levi Borba is the founder of the Expatriate Consultancy, creator of the channel Small Business Hacks and the channel The Expat, and a best-selling author. Some of the links of this article may be affiliate links, meaning that the author will have a commission for any transaction.