Thank you for your kind comments. We’re glad you are enjoying Discover Cuenca blog. We appreciate your question and it is a very important question.
Update 2016 - Anyone who moves to Latin America, without the understanding of the culture and how it works, will not know how to behave and react to certain situations that happen to come their way. Most people that come here have certain expectations of how its going to be for them, and those expectations can be taken from you in a twinkle of an eye.
What is boy/girl scout motto? "be prepared". Be prepared for what? We would say: be prepared for anything. Knowing this, then, shines additional light on the subject, we believe.
Dress conservatively, meaning do not give any of the local women any reason to be jealous of you. And the men any reason to single you out. Greet people appropriately and with a smile. You will be a happier person for it. Unfortunately if you're a woman alone or in pairs you are already singling yourself out to the lower "unsociables" as they're called here.
Update 2016 - We do think (some) single women alone will have a problem fitting in and that is because of all we've said so far. The single and divorced women that have the most difficulties here are those that come with the culture of the USA on their back and they can't let go of it. The bottom line is, "woman alone" (this includes women in pairs) really is addressing women without a male covering, is it not?
Update 2016 - On February 28, 2016 two Argentine young women found dead on the beach in Montanita, Ecuador. In 2014 two Dutch young women found dead in Chiriqui, Panama. (Google it)
It's not so much that you are alone but that the bad guys find out that "you are living alone". There have been more home invasions lately of men and women living alone. It is not unheard of for older retirees to be raped; in fact a 65 year old retiree was recently raped in Chiriqui Panama. Perhaps had she been with someone else or a group of people this would not have happened.
We think younger women alone in a Latin American country will be more vulnerable to having unwanted attention, which could lead to something worse than just some disrespectful hissing and cat calling, especially if they find out you "live alone".
By the way, this is not how a real (macho means male) gentle(man) behaves towards a woman..this is how a disrespectful man behaves...
Here in Cuenca a youngish woman was walking in broad daylight on the river walk in Cuenca and got stabbed for her cell phone. We're not trying to scare you, but show you reality of crime in South and Central America.
Update 2016 - It's funny, but foreigners all over in Latin America sweep crime under the rug instead of talking about it and maybe helping people to understand who becomes a target and who is less likely to become a target. And then of course, there are those people who have something to gain from keeping any amount of crime from the public.
Here's the thing, what good does it do to minimize crime by comparing and rationalizing? If you're the target, or your daughter, sister, mother, father, etc. Does it make one hill of beans what anyone says on a forum or in comments that is contrary?
A Christian missionary friend of ours got her apartment/condo broken into in September when she was out for the day and they took her jewelry, television, computer, and even her kitchen pots and pans. And she lives in a good area of Cuenca by Mall Del Rio. So stuff happens here.
Update 2016 - We can't decide for other people what to do. You need to do your own due diligent research and be honest about "what kind of person you are" so then you can make a more informed decision about moving to Ecuador or any Latin American country for that matter.
People just love to ask Frank and Angie about women traveling and living alone in Ecuador and our answer is sticking. We do not recommend it. That stance stems from the kind of people we are, i.e. careful and conservative when it comes to our personal safety. We don't/won't play russian roulette with our safety. Will you?
There are so many variables and different circumstances for women living alone in Latin America but some women simply make themselves more vulnerable and target-able. It really depends on you and a lot of other things on how safe you will actually be living in South or Central America.
The first thing we recommend to solo travelers is to get out of La La Land, thinking it will not happen to you. Secondly, if we all just keep sweeping crime under the rug then we will feel too safe and feeling too safe is when bad stuff happens. Nothing wrong with feeling safe but feeling too safe, there's a lot wrong with that.
Well guess what, a petty crime incident did happen to us and you can read all about it here.
It’s all about smart travel and staying due diligent at all times no matter where in the world you live. The more vulnerable looking you are, the more of a target to petty crime you will be in Cuenca and other Latin cities.
Update 2016 - How do professional thieves think? They watch and study until they see a vulnerability in someone. Older people are vulnerable from the get-go because of their age and then if they don't take certain precautions they can be pick-pocketed, robbed and their home invaded or worse.
We do not compare Cuenca crime to another city in the USA of the same size; that's like comparing an apple to an orange, very different and not worthy of any real statistical basis. If you want to compare crime levels do it with cities in other Latin American countries of the same size.
- You should never pull out your wallet with lots of big bills in it and walk around with a purse, or wear lots of jewelry, because these kinds of things are asking for trouble here.
- You should never use an ATM machine that is outside of a building. If you use an ATM machine you need to watch out and make sure that no one is watching you get money out and then follow you home. In almost every instance where a gringo has gotten something stolen from them it was because they were too relaxed about their surroundings.
Update 2016 - When it comes to your safety, it is not someone else's opinion that matters so much. What does matter is that you KNOW YOURSELF! Have you traveled to a developing country before on your own? If not, then it is probably not a good idea for any woman of any age to travel from her familiar stomping grounds to a Latin American country. We say this for several reasons and from seeing how some expats react to certain behaviors.
About 3.5 years ago in July 2012, a expat woman was attacked by three men on the Yanuncay river walk at 10:am in the morning. Being the brave and (naive) woman that she was, she attempted to defend herself against three armed men, she was severely stabbed and was taken to the hospital where she required ten stitches.
|River Yanuncay - great hiding spot for an unsociable|
This is a violent attack for Cuenca but it happens from time to time. Her first mistake was walking alone in a secluded area and her second mistake was defending herself against multiple armed attackers.
Young girls go missing all the time in Latin American countries, and many other places. I can think of several women gone missing, found dead weeks or months later right off the top of my head in both Ecuador and Panama. It is VERY sad for the parents.
It's odd how many of these young girls that go missing are usually traveling in pairs too. Two girls, walking and hiking in secluded, off the well worn paths is dangerous anywhere in the world!! But 'well worn paths' can be misleading, as some areas are just dangerous in and of themselves for women alone.
Do your research. Older woman are vulnerable too because they are older. They come to these places thinking they will have a better life, and perhaps many of them will, but for anyone who has slight walking vulnerabilities, can't speak the language, and simply does not know how to behave and react to certain circumstances will be a target while living anywhere in Latin America and that includes Ecuador.
Many older alone retirees, including men are having their homes invaded and robbed while they are in the home. The thugs will not hesitate to use their weapon or cause bodily harm if they have to. It just boggles our mind how many people want to move to these Latin American countries by themselves and expect everything to be the same as where they just came from.
OUR NOTES: (a friend of ours told us that this happened to her 21-year old son in October in Cuenca)
- Keep yourselves aware and diligent when out and about.
- We also suggest that you rent a secure condo or apartment while here in Cuenca or a house with electric fencing around the parimeter.
- Do not go out or ride the bus after dark.
- Keep your apartment locked when you are inside, even during the day.
- We would not advice travel to Guayaquil or Quito for two women alone. Two British women took a fake taxi cab and both were robbed and raped by the driver in October 2011 in Guayaquil. This happens in Quito too.
Until we write again you might like to read these related articles.