At 5am it is still dark out and i stumble downstairs and get in the back seat of my friend’s car, ready for what should be an epic road trip to the beach. A young man is sitting for no apparent reason on the sidewalk, which is odd since Cuenca has very few homeless. He saunters up and pulls something black out if his pocket and points it at my friend who is driving. “I have a 38. Give me money and I won’t kill you, he says in Spanish. As gazillions of crime movies start going through my head, to my amazement my friend casually says no and pushes the would-be thief’s arm away. “Well can you give me a ride home then?” says the thief. “No dude, this ain’t no taxi” replies my friend as we drive away.
Bottom line? We were “held up” at the point if a black cell phone with a rather large antennae sticking out the “barrel”.
This is a rather bad example, reader beware. Crime does happen in Cuenca as in any city.
My Safety Tips:
- Locals have told me to stay away from Plaza de las Artes, especially at night. It’s just not a good area.
- Watch your wallet especially in Plaza Merced (the most popular pickpocketing location due to high gringo population).
- Don’t walk alone at night.
- At night, if alone, call a reputable taxi company, which is safer than hailing one from the street. I use a secure taxi company (number is 0969726190).
- Beware of census takers (i.e. some thieves will knock on doors, tell you they are taking an unemployment census on behalf of the city, and want to know how many people reside in your house, how many are unemployed). What they really want to know is when or if the house will be empty/vulnerable to theft (and how many TV’s you have!)
- Watch your drink and watch your back, the worst cases I have heard have been gringos having black-out / zombie powder thrown into their faces, and then once under the influence, raped, or made to let in thieves to their house to help themselves.
- Out of paranoia, I personally keep two bank accounts, but I shredded the ATM card to the first. Why? In the case of “secuestro expreso” or express kidnapping, thieves taking the victim to an ATM and force them to withdraw as much as possible. Keep the bank account to the card that you carry empty, and just transfer money to that account right before you go to the bank, voila!