Welcome to Quito, Part 3: Crime

Many have asked, so here it is: Crime is a problem in Quito, but not unlike anywhere else. Theft and robbery are the two things you have to worry about the most, which is no surprise in a country with such a wide disparity in incomes. Indeed, my cell phone was stolen right out of my pants pocket on a crowded bus last month – it’s a drag, but it happens, and you have to take particular care to keep an eye on your stuff at all times. (At many food courts, outdoor restaurants and cafes, each table is equipped with a belt to tie one’s purse/backpack/briefcase to the underside of the table, lest an enterprising thief make off with it when your back is turned.)

I could tell lots of horror stories about robbery and theft in Ecuador, but the U.S. State Department is plenty good at that as it is (and I don’t want to scare anyone away from visiting us). Quito is like any other major city – know where you’re going, keep your wits about you, be wary of aggressively solicitous strangers, and you’ll be fine. If only more tourists took this advice: The young Americans who love to hang out and imbibe in the clubs and expat bars in “Gringolandia” – a Quito neighborhood popular with foreigners – are easy marks for thieves and hucksters.

One thing that took some getting used to was the sight of electric fences. Anyone in Ecuador who can afford it has a high concrete wall around his or her property, topped with an electric fence, to keep thieves out. Better safe than sorry.

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