wallet and personal items' security in peru - 2009/03/24 15:47I'm traveling to peru in a few months and would like to know what others who have traveled there, did with their belongings while they were out surfing? Where did you leave your wallet, passport, bags, spare boards,etc?
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Re:wallet and personal items' security in peru - 2009/04/05 06:22I lived and surfed in Peru for a number of years. Nothing is truly safe there, but you should always do your best to protect the things you need.
If you leave anything in the open it will be taken. Even some old dirty smelly flip flops can be victim to snagging if you leave them on the beach for an hour or more.
Things like passport, bags, boards, etc should be kept in your hotel or surf hostal. Generally these places are safe enough, but you get what you pay for. A cheap place will have no security at all. A more expensive place may have a security guard out front and decent locks, but both can easily be overcome if you appear to be carrying a lot of expensive stuff. The best security is subterfuge and modesty. That means you don't let people see you come into the hotel with ipods, cell phones, gold chains, etc. If you have them, obscure or hide them somehow so they aren't as flashy. Don't make yourself a target and you should have no problems.
The other issue is when you are actually in the water. I generally locked up everything in my car and took the key with me into the water (secured in my shorts or leash pocket).
Sometimes there are vendors with carts that hang out near the surf areas and either hold people's keys or can place some of their belongings in their cart for safekeeping. These people are generally honest and 'require' a tip for their services. I would suggest not using them at all unless you have some reason to trust them (ie: have been at the same beach for weeks and watched everyone give them their keys and talked to people who could vouch for them, etc). Generally you shouldn't have a problem leaving your sweater, street clothes, or mostly empty wallet with them. But I never trusted them to hold my car keys or credit cards or anything like that.
As far as putting stuff in your car. The same general rules apply, remove the radio face and put away anything that calls attention to thieves and makes the car a target. Many surfing areas have security who can watch the vehicles during the summer (when it is more crowded). But almost no where in Peru has security in surfing areas in the winter (I haven't been up to Mancora, maybe they do).
If there are security guards around, go up to them and say hi, let them know that your car is there, give them a smile and shake hands. It goes a long way to actually having them help you, many times they just don't care and will look the other way. But if you've met them and treat them well, you might actually get some help if there is a problem. Buying them a soda, some nachos, or something also goes a long way and is how things are done in Peru. Still don't expect any of these security guards (or even the police) to risk their life protecting you or your stuff. They might get in a fight to do their job, but no one is looking to take a bullet or get cut for any reason. Most of them are unarmed.
That said, more surfing areas are laid back and very chill. People are generally nice and honest, just don't tempt them with an opportunity (like an ipod on your front seat while you are in the water). Most crimes are opportunistic and assaults are surfers are extremely rare. It is more likely you could get assaulted on a bus.
I saw plenty of crime and problems while in Peru, but none of them in surfing areas or while I was surfing. It was a great experience and I had a blast doing it. Enjoy yourself and remember, it's the wild wild west... you take care of yourself.
Edit: Sometimes in the summer there are lifeguards, but they are few and far between. They mostly just watch swimmers, not surfers. 99.9% of the time I surfed in Peru there were no lifeguards within miles. Many of the waves are empty in the winter (June-Nov), so bring a friend if possible.