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Machu Picchu is breathtaking. Lima is a bustling city. If you want to get away from it all, the crystal clear Lake Titicaca at Puno is an option too. Trujillo, if you haven’t heard, has unfortunately gathered a bad reputation in the past few years among the travel community. Is it dangerous? Is it safe? Is it worth the risk? Here are some things to remember if you’re thinking about going to Trujillo or really anywhere else in Peru and South America.
Realize Anywhere In South America Can Be Dangerous.
If you want a risk free guarantee vacation or excursion, you will never find it here. The best you can do is pick a destination that you think has a good reputation for security. However, if you google “horror stories” along with where you are going you might be surprised at what you find. Read the local news from that area and see what shocking thing has happened. The point is this: Realize you’re never going to be guaranteed 100% safe anywhere and accept it. If you want to travel, travel.
Take Precautions Accepting the possibility of risk does not mean that you should just ignore any safety precautions.
You cannot ever be 100% safe, but you could be safer than what you were doing before. Experienced travelers will tell you about what precautions they take, what things they are aware of when visiting new places, and what to look out for.
A lot of the horror stories from Trujillo come from a certain kind of naivety. Now, this is not to exonerate any criminal element, it is just to say that you should always be aware of your surroundings. Here are some tips to be more careful.
Avoid getting pickpocketed by keeping your money in your front pocket.
Have it secured with something else. You could even have a safety pin to help fasten an envelope or a small wallet to your pocket. Periodically reach down into your pocket and make sure it is still there to give you peace of mind. When you do use any funds, look both ways before pulling out any cash. A lot of people will say this is excessive, but it does one thing. It shows any would-be thieves that you are aware of and are paying attention to. You are not an easy target, and pickpockets don’t want difficult targets.
Don’t use any services from total strangers!
This should sound obvious, but do not accept a tour guide simply because he seems nice. Do not go with a stranger because his English or French is so good. It should be obvious, but not all smart and handsome people are polite. If you are a young man and see a beautiful woman who comes out of nowhere and treats you like a god, you have the right to be a little suspicious.
Withdraw money from ATMs connected to banks or secure places.
If you do this, you will feel better, and you will also know that the service is more reputable. Take out larger amounts than you think you will need. You don’t want to be out partying late at night or see a souvenir you want to get and realize you have to make a sudden trip to the ATM.
When you take photos use both of your hands to hold your phone and, as with the money, look around first. Also, if you can, try to bring an older looking phone or one with a beat-up case it will make it less attractive. Don’t use selfie sticks!
You get what you pay for!
Sometimes a meal or a service at a nice restaurant may seem more expensive, but it may save you in the long run. Don’t go to a humble spot to get a drink just because they don’t list their prices. If you stay at a nicer hotel you might get better advice and recommendations for better services. A lot of new travelers want to travel as cheap as possible because they think it will make their time more adventurous! Pay for quality and get quality.
Blend in a Little Better
You are not a local, and you will never be a local. That’s cool though, and obviously you are traveling because you want to see the world outside of what you already know. However, doing certain things will help you stand out less like an easy mark.
You don’t have to be fluent, but if you can, learn numbers. Learn the alphabet. Just because your Spanish high school class taught you how to say, “Yo tengo una bicicleta roja” doesn’t mean it’s useful here. No one cares about your damn red bicycle. But, if you know what prices are it will save you an immense headache if you are negotiating prices for a souvenir or ordering a beer. If you do learn phrases or words, try to copy them to sound like locals. What people will hear is that you are not a newbie, and you have some familiarity with the language and possibly the area. If you need help with that, here’s my teacher’s website.
Dress more conservatively.
You’re not going to a job interview or anything, but maybe sport something a little nicer if you go out to eat. Wear nicer shoes and pants. Shave. This may seem odd at first, but what you are doing is showing you are familiar with the local culture. Sometimes the cargo shorts and flip flops scream that you are just another tourist. It will help you to be more of a natural part of the environment in more ways than you might think.
If you’re thinking about visiting Trujillo, do it. Your life is made up of experiences. If you chose to ignore visiting a place because you were talked out of it by others you will be angry at them and yourself for a while. If you take reasonable precautions, are aware of your surroundings, and do your best to not stand out as an easy mark for others, the biggest issue you might have to deal with is you didn’t take enough pictures because Trujillo is beautiful.