In countless publications about how to stay safe in Peru, you can always read the same thing: Adapt to the local situation and blend in. Not a straightforward task, especially if you are for example tall, blond, fair-skinned and/or don’t speak Spanish properly.
Whether we like it, foreigners usually attract attention in one way or the other and stand out from the crowd. So already your appearance, behavior and even your clothes could determine if you are enticing to criminals. Therefore, below some useful tips and recommendations on how to stay “unappealing”:
- For a Peru vacation, expensive and possibly striking designer clothing is unnecessary and only attracts attention. More appropriate is comfortable, breathable and durable clothing. Expensive jewelry and valuable watches also better stay at home or in the hotel safe; if you can’t live without choose silver over gold and simpler pieces. Only take the amount of money with you that you need for the city tour, excursion, shopping, etc. Leave valuables, documents (better carry a copy of your passport) and heaps of credit cards in your hotel safe or if possible at home. You can find more detailed info on this topic in our article "Money Matters – Useful safety measures when handling money and credit cards".
- Avoid being anxious, confused, or searching helplessly in public. Such behavior usually is unnecessary and might in some circumstance be considered as an invitation by less kind-hearted people.
- Don’t hold your cell or smartphone and cameras or camcorders carelessly in your hand. Before you even know what’s going on, thieves passing by on bikes, bicycles or on foot snatch what they are after and drive / run off. So better don’t play around with your nice smartphone on a busy street and leave it in your pocket. Use the little wrist straps of your camera / camcorder when taking pictures and filming; by the way these are also available for smartphones. And as a matter of course don't put your cellphone, purse, camera or other valuable items carelessly on the table in a café or restaurant.
- Even if it seems unfriendly to you be a little reserved when strangers including police officers, custom officials, your friendly tour guide and other foreigners try to quiz you about private details, your income or living situation. Surely these aren’t the right topics for a friendly small talk and the wrong person might just want to check out if you are a profitable target. So best don’t show off or brag, but rather downplay your living condition. Use your common sense.
- If you are approached on the street by a stranger and asked for an address, if you are willing to participate in a survey, if you have change or asks to come along as someone around the corner allegedly needs help, answer or not, but do not stop walking. This may sound extremely impolite and rude, but unfortunately there have been cases where tourists have been surrounded by dubious characters in such situations and been parted of their cash and valuables in no time or after a friendly money exchange been left with a bunch of forged bills.
- Never accompany or get into a car or taxi with unknown people approaching you and offering a good deal at another place just a few blocks away. In such cases, it’s better and safer to miss out on the lovely souvenir shop with the alleged bargains or on the great travel agency with the unbeatable prices or whatever.
- Unfortunately, not all police officers are honest and in some rare cases criminals might even disguise themselves as police officers. If approached by the police or security forces, ask for their official credentials and only tell them the necessary. If you feel something is off, insist on going to the next police station (do not get into a foreign car with them).
Please take your time and read through all articles in this series as they contain very helpful information to ensure your safety while traveling and staying in Peru!