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Top 5 Safety Tips for Shopping / Sightseeing Abroad

Posted in: Our Perspective

Top 5 Safe Shopping TipsWe feel very comfortable shopping and traveling around Cuenca, but sometimes people do take advantage of an easy target.  So it makes sense to think ahead.

Here are 5 things we do to stand out a little less:

1) Dress Down

If you dress like you have money, people will think you do, and probably feel that you won’t miss what you’ve got all that much.

So try to blend in by not wearing flashy colors, or having brand names all over your clothes.

Keep this in mind as you look at your child before heading out too. Children tend to draw attention, especially if they are blond with light eyes.  People stare at them because they are so “preciosos” (precious).

If your child is dressed in visible brand names, again “you obviously will not miss whatever money is in your pockets or purse because there’s much more at home, if you can afford to dress your child like that.”

2) Keep Jewelery to a Minimum

Jewelry draws attention, especially gold.

People know the value of jewelry so you make yourself a potential target by wearing the bling.  Silver is better than gold, and beads/non precious gems or metals are even better.

3) Don’t “Pull a Tourist”

It would be hard to do something to standout more than doing this: Stand in the middle of the city with a guidebook in your hands.

If you need to consult your guidebook, or map, it’s much better to find a bench, or better yet duck into a cafe and regroup there.

4) Leave Your Big Purse at Home

If you need to carry a bag, pick one that doesn’t standout, and one with a long shoulder strap that you can wear across your body.

Better yet, don’t carry a bag.  Wear a light jacket with zip pockets, and pants with zip or snap pockets. Leave the credit cards at home or in the hotel.

5) Don’t Flash Cash

Carry cash in small bills individually folded.

When your cash is folded individually you only have to pull out two little fives, not a big wad that requires searching through, right there out in the open in front of everyone.  This can also save you money because if what you want costs $6, but you pull out your folded $5 and say “is $5 OK” they usually just say yes, they don’t know you have more folded up in your pocket.  It works for me.

It’s better to have a small wallet in a zipped pocket, and small bills in another zipped pocket so you don’t have to take out your wallet at all.  If you need what’s in your wallet chances are you’re in a restaurant or something anyway, and not that much of a spectacle, otherwise try to keep it hidden.

Please keep in mind that we’ve never seen a purse snatching or anything like that.  Our daughter did have something taken out of her purse (which was unzipped) but she didn’t even know until a half hour later. Read more about moving abroad with kids.

If you’ve picked up some of your own tricks along your travels please share by commenting on this blog.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

6 comments… add one
  • Jacquie Jun 23, 2018, 3:15 pm

    Hey I am going to be travelling to Ecuador – Quito and Tena for 2 weeks and curious if you had footwear recommendations. I am reading mixed things in the running shoes versus a hiking boot or hiking shoe debate. Did you have any advice?

  • Helen Oct 29, 2011, 7:05 pm

    I would add the following:

    1. Don’t bring electronics unless you have to. It is understandable if you want to bring a camera while out and about, but leave the iPod and portable DVD player and laptop behind.

    2. Fanny packs that can be worn under a jacket or tshirt are convenient.

    3. In the company of merchants or inside a taxi, it helps if everyone in your party speaks the local language. Babbling away in English only makes you stand out as foreigners.

    4. Try to pick up local idioms if possible. It is amazing what using local expressions, no matter how small, can do to help the speaker feel like “one of us.” Just imagine your reactions if a foreigner throws in a few “you know” and “like” vs. speaking more formal English.

  • Elizabeth Jan 5, 2011, 12:21 am

    Thanks for this post. As a single middle aged woman, who's never travelled abroad before, I am nervous to travel alone in foreign country where I don't speak the language. I will keep your good advise in mind when I come to Cuenca… hopefully this year.

    Any more good tips for single women travelling alone in Ecuador?

    Warm regards,

    • Bryan Haines Jan 5, 2011, 10:42 am

      Hi Elizabeth, you know I've never been a single (let alone woman) traveler :). Dena is always with me on my travels. We met a great blogger last week here in Cuenca. Ayngelina a young single traveler – you should check out her blog

      We did breakfast with her last week, and she commented that it isn't really any different for women than men. You might find some good tips on her site (but don't forget to keep reading here too!)

  • Trudy Oct 16, 2010, 7:22 pm

    Hi Bryan & Dena – I am excited to find your blog. We have been looking at relocating, and think that Equador may be the right choice. We had a friend that rushed over to tell us how dangerous Cuenca is, and that 15 people a day are killed, mostly tourists for their money, and he didnt enjoy his visit there at all.

    I didnt get a chance to ask him where he got his statistics, but its really got my husband spooked. Do you go out at night. What are safety statistics, really – not just your own experiences. Can you help with this.

    • Bryan Haines Oct 17, 2010, 6:57 pm

      Hi Trudy,

      Thanks for the post. Thats a bizarre story. If 15 people were being killed every day in Cuenca, I can promise you that it wouldn't be the top retirement city in the world. In fact, at that rate every foreigner would be dead in 4.5 months. (I've heard numbers of around 2000 expats living in Cuenca.) I've never heard of one expat or tourist being killed in Cuenca, let alone hundreds every month. That information is absolutely wrong.

      One the other hand, there is no city that's going to be loved by everyone. Sometimes a bad experience with a taxi driver or hotel will taint the view of the whole city (or every country) for some people. Thats what it sounded like with your friend. I would love to hear where he heard that statistic.

      Yes, we do go out at night – a few times every week. This isn't a dangerous city. I will do some research and find some solid stats. I don't believe they exist (at least in the public domain) for Cuenca alone, but I'll see what I can find for Ecuador as a whole. Before we moved here, we checked all the crime stats and Ecuador came in as the safest in South America.

      I'll take a look at

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