While Santiago is considered one of the safest capital cities (if not the safest) in Latin America, it is still necessary to be alert and careful with your belongings. If you are used to living in a big city, you may already be familiar with these tips. If you are coming to Santiago from a smaller town, as I did, take careful notice of my advice to stay safe and avoid pickpocketing.
1) Wear your backpack on your front
I know it looks silly, but if you have it out of your view, then you are an open target for pickpocketing. If you are going to wear your backpack like usual, I recommend putting any essential belongings such as your wallet and cell phone in a separate place. For example, for women, carry a small over-the-shoulder bag.
2) Be careful in Starbucks
This seems like an odd piece of advice; however, I can count at least five gringos that I know who have been robbed in a Starbucks. Starbucks is one of the international businesses that you can find throughout Santiago, and therefore it attracts many foreign visitors. Pickpockets and thieves know that tourists and foreigners frequent Starbucks, so avoid making yourself an easy target.
3) If the metro is closed, take a taxi home
The metro in Santiago stops running between 11-11:30 PM, depending on the station and line. If you are out past this time, there are public buses that are still operating. However, this means that you will have to stand outside at the bus stop for an undetermined period. Instead of risking your safety, take a taxi.
4) Don’t use an obvious camera bag
If you are carrying around a bag that says “Nikon” or “Canon” in huge letters, you are making yourself a target. Instead of carrying around a typical camera bag, I recommend Johansen camera bags for women. These bags look like regular purses! Do you see that purple purse in the photo below? That’s a camera bag!
5) Be careful with your phone in public places
If you are going to use your phone in public, only take it out to send a text or make a phone call and then immediately put it back in your bag. iPhones are especially sought after in Santiago as far as pickpockets are concerned, so if you are coming to Chile with a brand new iPhone 6s, I recommend extra caution. NEVER LEAVE YOUR CELL PHONE OUT ON A TABLE.
Enjoy your time in Santiago, and don’t make the same mistakes that I made when I first arrived. Be careful and alert to avoid pickpocketing.