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Central America Warnings

JDuffey

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  • Added on: February 2nd, 2006
Last year my brother and his friend were on a bus in Guatemala. The friend had a canvas bookbag that he set on the floor next to his feet. A person sitting behind him reached under the seat with a small razor, cut a slit in the bookbag, and removed his wallet. My brother's friend didn't know about it until several minutes after he got off the bus. Moral of the story: carry your bag in your lap or at least right next to you.

Netts

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  • Added on: February 3rd, 2006
Also keep your daypack with any valuables on your frontside because they'll do that when you are walking too.

Chenbaaxal

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Joined: May 20th, 2005

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  • Added on: February 3rd, 2006
I spent three days in Zone 10 in Guate recently without spending a whole lot of money. Xamanek Hostelis so great. I am not all that fond of hostels, but this is a friendly and well located place to stay in the Zona Viva.

I walked to two museums,and rode the bus downtown for the Mercado Central from there. It has free DSL and a kitchen, and there is an inexpensive regular restaurant about two blocks away, but just one block as the crow flies if you are standing in front of the hostel and looking across the street. It's no big deal to make a beer or wine run at night. Just walk down to the corner convenience store.

It is also so close to the airport that a metered cab charges the minimum 25 Q to get to the airport.

maury

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Joined: July 15th, 2004

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  • Added on: March 19th, 2006
Ok, I have to add my Guate experience to this list. I wrote up a piece a while back on how my bag was swiped off a bus – from the rack directly over my seat! - by a really sophisticated few guys. Here's an even scarier one that happened on the bus from Antigua to Guate.

I was carrying my passport wallet around my neck, under my shirt, suspended by a length of nylon para cord, and sitting (with bag in my lap) on an aisle seat. Well, these buses get pretty crowded, epically as they get closer to the city, and I was pretty well squashed between the folks standing in the aisle and my seat mate.

Anyway, no real problem, but about half an hour later as I was in line at the airport, I discovered that the cord holding my wallet had been cut! This meant that someone had reached over with a sharp blade – right against my neck! - and cut the cord. Equally disturbing is that the folks standing and sitting behind me had to see this. And did nothing to warn me.

I guess I got off the bus before the thief had a chance to try and pull the wallet free. Dumb luck on my part.

My advice: if you must take that bus, only board if you can get a window seat and be aware of this particular robbery technique.

gringo_mike

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Posts: 42
Joined: March 28th, 2006

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  • Added on: March 30th, 2006
We have been on the road for 8 months now, all through Mexico and Central America.

I busted a pick pocket with his hand in my pocket on the Metro in Mexico City. It happened during rush hour, and a mob of people were really crushing up against me, red flags went flying. Caught the guy "red handed". Sold him out right there on the train, he retreated quickly and played dumb. Not a single person on the packed train even blinked, or cared.

The point of this post is this.

If someone is touching you, or close to you, watch your back. Take inventory of your surroundings.

Nobody is your friend on the bus, or at the bus station. Make friends elsewhere.

Good luck out there.
My often updated photo blog:
http://www.msimonphoto.com/southamerica/

Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: March 30th, 2006
You got lucky. Sometimes they work in teams, and can take what they want.

Rule 1 in the Metro: Never have anything inyour pockets or in any kind of outside access pouch that you can't afford to lose.

gringo_mike

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  • Added on: March 30th, 2006
yeah, I learned that day.

Looking back Im fairly sure there was at least one more person. We were total targets. We had just arrived by bus, it was 5am, and we took the metro from the bus station. We had all of our shit with us, so we looked like walking treasure chests. When we were getting onto the metro some guy stopped dead in front of me right at the door and forced me to squeeze by him before the doors shut. I think he was trying to feel what pocket my wallet was in. I was wearing cargo pants, and the side pockets were fastened by strong buttons, my wallet was in one of these pockets, and I thought no way someone would be able to get at it. Wrong worng wrong. At the next stop a crowd of commuters crammed onto the train, and a major crush ensued. I felt a jiggle down by my pocket and stepped back to see a little 50ish year old sweatered dude with his whole hand in my pocket about half a second from a sucessful lift. He had managed to undo BOTH snaps before I noticed. I freaked out on him just short of a brawl. I backed off because I was scared he had partners, or that his playing dumb would look like I was beating up a poor old guy. Im huge and he was little. He totally played it perfectly. I announced loudly that he was a ladrone, nobody cared. He skipped off the train at the next stop. Lesson learned. Dont carry a wallet, dont put anything in your pockets, and if someone is touching you, it is probably for a reason.

Peace
My often updated photo blog:
http://www.msimonphoto.com/southamerica/

eastcoastjedi

Thorn Tree Refugee
 
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Joined: September 7th, 2005

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  • Added on: October 23rd, 2006
Today marked the third time in only 3 weeks that I have heard about someone being robbed in Puerto Viejo.

The town is nice and very popular(little too party for me, I prefered Cahuita)

However the three instances were disturbing.

1.) male... walking alone...9pm on the beach not very far from the center of town...held up at knife point. Wallet taken

2.) females... group of three...threathened on the beach as the sun was going down bu the would be attacked was scared away by a group arriving on the beach from the road.

3.) male...3pm afternoon...just had gotten into town...tired from the bus trip...laid down on the beach to relax and put his backpack as a pillow. Semi-close to the trees that seperate the beach from the road. UNknown male run out grbbed the bag from UNDER his head and ran off. Ths guy chased him, but the man had a bike and rode away. Unfortunatley he had not given himself time to switch his belognings to the locker at the hostel so the guy got everything.

Be smart! These tips really go for travelling anywhere, not just Costa Rica or Central America...

Keep only what you really need on you.

If you need to carry money keep only a little bit in your wallet and stash the rest (of what you pan you need for THAT particular mission only!) in another pocket.

Lock your valuables in the hostel provided lockers

No need to wear a flashy watch or jewlery of course

Know your surroundings. Try to run though possible options for thieves and do your best to eliminate them.

I have found that bringing 2 small snowboard cable locks with me when I travel helps quite a bit.

I lock the belongings to myself through my belt if I feel there is any chance of me falling asleep (say...on the bus)
Or having the bag ripped from my back.
I will also use the cable lock to lock together big bags I am travellng with when I am at a bus station or anywhere I feel vunerable. Then I use the 2nd cable lock to lock the whole kit an caboodle to my belt, making sure it is visable.

Sending the message to wood be theives that...if you try to steal my bags, Im going with you is the message.

I also will lock the zippers together on the bag with a very small padlock to ease the fear of having things taken out of the bag without my knowledge.

I wear a simple $1 chain through my wallet (with a zippered compartment) connected to my belt at all times.

Thieves will always try to take the path of least resistance. If you can demonstrate that you are aware of that path and are nowhere near it, many concerns will be aleviated.
"there is only do or not do, there is no try" yoda

eastcoastjedi

Thorn Tree Refugee
 
Posts: 6
Joined: September 7th, 2005

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  • Added on: October 27th, 2006
Puerto Viejo unfortunatley continued...

Still in San Jose currently and ANOTHER group just arrived back from Puerto Viejo.
A guy had his backpack stolen while he was in the water just 50 feet from it during the afternoon.

He had a full description of the guy, went to the police who told him there is nothing they could do. According to one local business owner... the police are being paid off to a certain degree.

This group then went to stay at Rockin J´s, a pretty popular hostel.
Around 10pm they were in their double room taking a nap and heard some noise outside the window. They stayed quiet for about 10 minutes and then saw a hand reach through the bars to try to grab some of their stuff within reach.
They obviously yelled at the people outside the window, ran out the door and scared them off.

Funny thing was the security guard was on duty the entire time not to far away...
So again BE CAREFUL in Puerto Viejo.

These are scary stories told by those who these incidents happened to that have all come in recently.
"there is only do or not do, there is no try" yoda

obruni26

Thorn Tree Refugee
 
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Joined: January 11th, 2007

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  • Added on: January 12th, 2007
Just a quick warning about Antigua-
I've read a lot of posts recommending people to stay overnight in Antigua instead of Guatemala City, which I completely agree with. But keep in mind Antigua can be dangerous, too. It's mostly common sense, like don't walk around by yourself at night, but many people feel so comfortable in Antigua when they see the large amount of tourists that they let their guard down. I have no stories to tell myself, but after spending a month in Antigua, a good percentage of friends that I met had been mugged. No real harm was done- just the typical money and camera theives. Some people claim that it is safer to take the little bike taxis (can't remember what they're called) but the drivers of these are often teamed up with someone that will mug you, as well. Just be careful where ever you go, especially at night.

Piecar

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Joined: September 11th, 2003

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  • Added on: February 28th, 2007
La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula. The old taxi gag "Sure I said 30 Lemps but I meant thirty a piece" is alive and well. Get the price up front. Don´t fall for the stern incredulous face at the end. Just pay what you agreed and walk away. It´s a con. Good luck out there.

D
Good Luck Out There.

TomKirlin

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Joined: February 7th, 2006

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  • Added on: April 20th, 2007
WATCH YOUR BAGS ON LONG BUS RIDES...I was taking a five hour bus ride from Tegucigalpa to La Esperanza, Honduras and got a $5,000 video camera stolen right underneath my nose...The bus made frequent stops with people getting on and off...I dozed off for 10 minutes and my bag had been taken from the overhead compartment right above me (I guess that would be from right above my nose)...Snooze you lose!

Charlie Meador

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Posts: 17
Joined: June 6th, 2007

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  • Added on: June 9th, 2007
quote:
Originally posted by Piecar:
La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula. The old taxi gag "Sure I said 30 Lemps but I meant thirty a piece" is alive and well. Get the price up front.


Away from the airports, taxi prices are in fact routinely quoted per passenger in Honduras, not for the trip. Definitely get your price up front and confirm the arrangement. There's always the next taxi.
Charlie Meador, Coco Pando, La Ceiba, Honduras

centralamerica_adapters

Thorn Tree Refugee
 
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Joined: June 29th, 2007

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  • Added on: June 30th, 2007
When you travel...use common sense..be aware, never paranoid. For those younger travelers who wish to go out drinking and partying at night, part of a vacation, I guess, NEVER NEVER 1. become so intoxicated you become vulnerable, especially women traveling alone and 2. do not accept drinks from strangers nor proposals of late night rides home, again especially women traveling alone. It is very common in travel destinations such as Antigua, young men drive there from Guatemala City seeking young foreign females, they are usually well off and bi-lingual and haunt the Antigua 'bar scene', a few women have been 'ruffied' with date rape drug Rohypnol, some men who venture into red light districts in cities also risk pickpocketing in dark club-bars at best to being ruffied or 'mickeyed' at worst and waking up with nothing. At the beach resorts, especially in tourist crowded Costa Rica are the 'beach walkers' bi or even multi lingual natives who walk the beach and sell an illegal (in all Central American countries) substance, never purchase from them, and worse, never invite them to your room, a few of these characters, as on some Mexican beaches, work in tandem with local corrupt police, who may "raid" your room and demand a "fine" in lieu of going to jail, then returning the substance back to the beach walker to sell all over again. Again stay away from dumb places and dumb people. Beware of other travelers selling substances, or asking for small loans, meals or lodging, these type of people will rip you off in a second if they have a chance. Never never tell strangers where you are staying or your planned itinerary. Central America is a great place to travel and vacation, but for the first time novice on a low budget it is no "Disneyland". There are a few good 'Hospitality Clubs' on line where one, in advance, it takes some research and work on the computer, can arrrange to either stay with, a night or more, with a bi/multi lingual local or Ex Pat/long term volunteer worldwide or even just meet for coffee or be taken around the town, city or region by the host if they agree, you, in turn, host or show around vistors in your home town...this saves a lot of a--aches for budget travelers, anywhwere in the world. I would not recommend many of the cheap 'hostel' type lodgings in Central America..again too many dumb folks doing dumb things. I'll send the url's if you wish..you go on from there..I do no one's travel 'homework' for them.
Planning to travel or volunteer in Central America? I live here..so messsage me for more details.

Piecar

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Joined: September 11th, 2003

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  • Added on: July 1st, 2007
Charlie if that is what they are doing in Ceiba now, they've finally found enough suckers to make it worthwhile. Never used to be like that. Take control and make the change. Next they're going to go back to trying to charge your backpack as an extra person. Don't do it,folks.

D
Good Luck Out There.


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