Although Cuenca has one of the lowest rates of serious crime, per capita, in Ecuador (only Loja has a lower rate among cities with a population of more than 100.000), petty and property crime are ongoing problems. The best advice to tourists is: hold onto your bags. Visitors should take special precautions to protect their property, particularly in the central historic district.

1. In restaurants, internet and phone cafes, secure your belongings. In popular downtown restaurants, keep backpacks and bags within sight and wrap straps around your leg or chair legs if necessary. Don’t expose belongings to walk-through traffic aisles. In internet and phone cafes, pick a secure place to sit. Avoid sitting beside an exterior door, especially if your back must be turned to it. Again, have bags in plain view and secure the straps if necessary.

2. When you leave your hotel or apartment, take only belongings with you that you think you will need for the particular trip. If you don’t plan to take pictures, leave your camera in your room or hotel safe box.

3. Don’t put valuables such as passports, money and credit cards in the same bag. And again, when you leave your room, only take documents and money with you that you will need.

4. Make a color copy of the identification pages of your passport to take with you when you make short trips around the city. Leave the original behind.

5. If you are carrying bags and backpacks in tourist areas, wear them on your front instead of on your back.

6. If you are approached by strangers, be aware of diversionary tactics such as the “mustard trick.” In this case, a nicely dressed, well-spoken stranger will attempt to clean something from your bags or clothing he claims was thrown at you. While this is being done and you are being distracted, his associates will be taking belongings. If this or something similar happens to you, refuse any assistance and move away as quickly as possible. Be suspicious of small groups of strangers who approach you. If you feel threatened or uncomfortable, walk into a nearby store or office.

7. In the evenings, stay within a few blocks of your hotel and, whenever possible, walk with others.

8. Don’t allow strangers into your hotel room or apartment until you are certain that they have legitimate business there.

9. Do not accept food or drinks from strangers.

Important phone numbers:

Emergency  911
Police    101
Citizen guard   282-0204