The beauty of the Internet is that you can, easily, from the comfort of your own home, get first hand impressions from people about particular topics. Anything from how dangerous a certain part of the world is, to how easily do the women put out, and anything in between. People love shortcuts, and would rather get their views via second hand sources, than putting themselves out there and learning themselves.
One of the first questions people ask me after finding out that I lived in Brazil, is how dangerous the country is. The short answer: it depends. It depends on about a million things: a big chunk that you have control over, and a big chunk that you don’t.
Simple example to illustrate my point. When I was living in Rio, I was at the same time frequenting various travel forums. On one of these forums, there was a discussion started by a guy who was robbed twice in Rio on the exact same street and close to the same hour that you’d usually find me walking home from my Jiu Jitsu training. The street in question (Avenida Copacabana) was a busy artery in one of the busiest neighborhoods in Rio and at the said hour was filled with tons of people coming home from work.
Knowing that I walked that street pretty much five days a week, week in and week out, I was quite perplexed how can something unfortunate happen twice to someone when I personally found the area anything but dangerous or shady.
“How the heck can you get robbed twice in two weeks, when as I’m reading your story I had just come back from being on the same street, and nothing bad had ever happened to me. Am I from another planet, or am I missing some key information?” I was completely dumbfounded as I read this guy’s story in my apartment in Copacabana.
It was at this point that I realized that every single person will have a unique experience, and no one can be trusted to provide any kind of “de facto” reference written in stone that other people can infer conclusions from. It’s silly, stupid and downright dangerous.
Sure it seems common sense, but tell it to the hundreds or thousands of people who ask these questions on Internet forums every single day.
Everybody is different and everyone will have a unique experience. Period. End of story.
Having travelled as long as I have and talked to hundreds of travelers about their stories, I can probably look at you and tell what your chances are of being robbed/mugged/assaulted in Latin America.
There was an 18-year old Dutch kid who got robbed in Venezuela when he crossed the border from Colombia. Does this make Venezuela dangerous? Maybe. But when you actually meet the kid things become clearer. He is a scrawny kid with a baby face. He’s a virgin traveller on his first trip outside Europe. His body language reveals someone who wouldn’t be able to defend himself if a situation arose.
An English guy who I met in Colombia was robbed in one of the safest places I’ve ever been: Buenos Aires, Argentina. Does it send shivers down my spine of ever visiting the place? Of course not. I’ve been there five or six times, and never even came close to having any kind of problem. Of course, I’d argue that I look more Latin American, have more New York swagger, and being a more seasoned traveller than someone experiencing their first culture shock on a plane from London. Or it could just luck of the draw.
Speaking of Colombia, a guy and his wife were robbed in an affluent area of Medellin. He is Venezuelan but his wife is as American as apple pie. I’ll be the first to bet the farm that had it been just him walking down that dark alley alone, nobody would ever step up to him.
On the flip-side, take a typical 25+ year old guy from Brooklyn, NY. He could be a native New Yorker but with an Italian, Russian, or (insert your Southern/Eastern European country here) heritage. He could also be foreign born. He is not a hipster and doesn’t live in Williamsburg, Park Slope or Dumbo, but in a more “working class” neighborhood like Coney Island, Midwood or Bensonhurst. He’s street smart and knows how to hustle. He’ll probably be OK.
Same goes for a Mexican guy from LA, or a Cuban guy from Miami Beach.
The proliferation of travel blogs made it seem that independent travel is easy; that it’s for everyone; and that you’ll be OK travelling anywhere if you just follow common sense precautions like keeping a copy of your passport and knowing where the nearest embassy is. The result is that Latin America is flooded with first-time travelers, many from small cities with limited experience of dealing with less savory individuals. Many of those are from rich countries and are not accustomed to the chaos of less developed nations. Many of those will have the time of their lives, some will not. The latter will probably write about it and scare the rest.
It all depends on your prior experience in life, what obstacles you faced and how you dealt with them. But don’t take a page out of my thick and worn book; get on that plane and start writing your own very first chapter. Just be aware that your experience can be vastly different than that latest thread about being assaulted on 5th Avenue on a busy Saturday in New York that is spreading virally on the Internet.
For information on how to meet and date Brazilian girls, subscribe to my Brazilian Dating newsletter and find out when my long-awaited Brazilian Dating Guide is released.