Have you ever experienced the thrill of being robbed in Central America? If you haven’t yet, it might very well become your best travel story. In most tourist destinations down here, it’s the non-violent variety of theft you want to look out for.
You can push your odds by following these six simple guidelines when…
1—On the bus
Have too much to carry? Is that backpack weighing you down? Go ahead and place it on the shelf above your seat (or a few rows away, if there isn’t enough space) and enjoy the view from your window. Better yet, take a nap. That extra weight will be gone before you know it.
After you make a purchase, don’t worry about putting your change safely back into your wallet and bag. Casually tuck the cash into your pocket and wander through a crowded market. Enjoy the street entertainment like breakdancing or mime shows that can keep you distracted while people weave around.
3—Carrying a purse
When I wear a heavy bag on one shoulder, it often gives me back pain. If I have my bulky camera in there, I can hardly haul it. Sometimes, I wish I could just hand it off for someone else to carry. Well, any day in Central America, I might just get lucky. Motorcyclists can snag it off my arm as they whiz by, and so can any daring runner. Even if I’ve stretched beforehand, can I really keep up with anyone moving more than 5mph when I’ve got my kids with me? Adios, bag of burdens.
Bonus tip: If you sense someone following you, dangle your purse in your hand and look the other way.
4—Parking your car
Got too much spare change? Keep it in the car! Those quarters, colones and cordobas will vanish by morning. You could also lose those old CDs you’ve heard a million times and your coffee thermos that is ready for a new replacement. It will be like a maid came in the night and cleaned up!
At night, do not lock your doors and certainly do not keep a big dog in the house. If you happen to have an open-air courtyard, leave your laptop out in the living room or kitchen. Should you hear noise on the roof in the wee hours, convince yourself it’s probably a cat or a rolling mango.
Sit yourself down at a festive outdoor table and unload your bothersome property. Swing your bag onto the back of the chair, set your flashy phone next to your plate and enjoy the view. Peddlers mingle with tourists along the street, children race around excitedly, and little old ladies shuffle around to chat. By the end of the meal, you can recount all the faces that passed in an effort to figure out who snagged your stuff. This game can keep your mind entertained all night.
7—Getting good and drunk
Preferably, do this late in the evening. People might not want to get near a drunk gringo in the morning… they might think you’re already out of cash. Get yourself all done up, go out and have a blast—and make sure to wander home alone. Forget the taxi, you can walk. Maybe have a loud conversation on your phone in English, as well. This scenario is not only fun, but it will definitely bring you the best chance of success! But, don’t get angry at me if even this tactic doesn’t work—the locals might just shake their heads and warn you to be careful.
Have you ever been robbed in Central America? How did it go? Do share your technique—perhaps we can all learn from your story. Check out one of my near-theft encounters, if you’re interested in more tips. We need to glean from our mutual expertise, after all, because we all know theft is no joking matter.