Getting Robbed in San Juan del Sur

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I was once robbed in Vietnam. I was in Saigon and fresh off the bus from Cambodia, a scooter with two guys passed me and cut off my purse taking $12, my DSLR camera, debit card, visa card and passport.

I was lucky as the Canadian Consulate gave me a new passport within days and I was traveling with someone who paid for everything for the remainder of the trip.

I do believe everything happens for a reason and I knew that robbery was preparing me for this trip. I knew I’d be robbed again. Perhaps more than once.

I didn’t think it would be in Nicaragua.

On a clear night, Andres and I went to the beach to sit and watch the waves. The tide was out and the water was calm.

Suddenly, I noticed something over Andres shoulder. A guy grabbed my camera, with my change purse attached.

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Nicaraguan Food

Looking up we saw two more guys demanding money. Everything happened pretty quickly and while they had a knife I wasn’t afraid.

I knew they weren’t going to hurt us, they were just 3 guys from town trying to get a few bucks from tourists.

This time I lost my point and shoot camera and 3 dollars. They also managed to get only one of my beloved Chacos as Andres had the other, which seems a shame as now no one can wear them.

Afterwards we just walked back to the hostel, oddly enough through the beach and joked if someone else tried to rob us how would we explain we had nothing.

We went to bed and slept soundly. Neither of us were scared. Getting robbed in Nicaragua wasn’t so bad.

The next morning I found out that the girl in the bunk below me was also robbed the night before. Later I learned seven other people in the hostel individually had the same thing happen.

Some on the beach, others near the beach on the street.

As San Juan del Sur is small and pretty inexpensive, no one has much money on them and no one fights over a few dollars.

We’ve all just seen the knife and handed money over. I have insurance, things can be replaced, it won’t ruin my trip.

But just as Vietnam is one of my favourite countries, Nicaragua remains close to my heart.

Join the Conversation

  1. giuliadventures says:

    I had a nightmare about this a couple of nights ago. I dreamt they robbed my camera and I’m still in shock! And it was just a dream!
    I know it’s likely to happen but I hope it won’t be my case… this scares me a lot!
    It’s funny to read you were actually relaxed in the situation:)

  2. Ayngelina Author says:

    @giuliaadventures
    It was just my little point and shoot camera and I usually transfer my photos every day so I lost some from that night but that’s all.

    1. I too just had this happen in January, in San Juan del Sur on my last day in the country…last day of the trip. This doesn’t ruin my impression of Nicaragua or its people. Thanks to the net I was able to salvage a few pictures from friends I had met while there.

      camerafound.com has no cameras found in Nicaragua, though useful for others.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Was it from 3 guys? I think it’s the same people just robbing everyone.

        I was so disappointed but it was so polar opposite to everything else that happened to me in Nicaragua. It is a very safe place and I hope to go again soon.

        1. thank you for saying good things of my country and as for the fuckers robbing tourist we have all reported this inconvienience to local police and i guess they already captured 3 individuals that were stealing from foreigners again thank you so much and you are more than welcome to come to nicaragua
          regards.

  3. Glad you were ok! Yes, robberies around here are so non-violent that if you don’t lose much, you really are fine. It’s hard to explain to people. Be careful going on the beach at night, missy!! Oh, but I wish I were still in San Juan del Sur!

  4. I would think not understanding the language would be the scariest part of being robbed…ok, well, after seeing the weapon that would be the scariest part….by the way…I would recognize those toes anywhere…..

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      @Carmie
      When someone approaches you with a knife on the beach you don’t need to speak the language – they want your money.

  5. Wow. I’m glad you’re okay. I can honestly say I’ve never been anywhere where people become blasé about being robbed. What a different culture.

  6. Well done for seeing the bigger picture and not getting worked up about it. Hope everything goes alright with the claim!

  7. It’s strange how once you’re traveling things like this don’t seem as big of a problem anymore. Kudos to you for seeing the bright side of things.

  8. The build up was so intense… then your fearless attitude made it anti-climactic hahahaha. JKs!

    I always wonder what the robbers do at the end of the day…
    – it would be pretty funny if they blogged about it and highlighted the best or funniest.

  9. Really, You weren’t scared when they pulled a knife on you? I was. Here’s my story of getting robbed in San Juan del Sur: http://gomadnomad.com/2009/12/16/getting-robbed-at-knife-point/

  10. Well, I’ve been robbed in Vietnam, too. So we’ll have to be extra vigilant in Nicaragua. But then again, I’ve been the victim of an attempted mugging in Montreal, too. So — it really can happen anywhere. Glad to hear you are okay — and you handled the situation well. Being calm and collected in these moments keeps everybody calm — even the perpetrator. Less chance for something to go wrong!

  11. I am glad that even after being robbed, I would still argue that Nicaragua is my favorite Central American country hands down. The people are amazing and beautiful.

  12. Ayngelina Author says:

    @Daniel I agree you can be robbed anywhere and having been robbed once I realized that if all you lose are ‘things’ then you’re okay.

    @Stephen Your story is a bit more traumatizing than mine and I can understand how you would be shaken up. These guys held the knife close to them, not directing it toward us and it was quite small. Instincts kicked in and I knew we’d be fine if we just gave them our stuff, which really wasn’t much.

  13. I was robbed in Bangkok in 2004, but it was my own fault for being drunk outside of a 7/11. Long story…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      @Cam

      It’s okay I feel the same way about being on a beach at night, kind of my own fault.

      Although your story sounds interesting too…

  14. The Jetpacker says:

    We’ve never been robbed, but I always feel like we’re asking for it because we obviously look like tourists. Luckily, we never carry much money on us.

    I’d be more pissed about losing my pictures than a camera. That would be like someone stealing my memories.

  15. Ayngelina Author says:

    @The Jetpacker

    In some places it’s impossible not to look like a tourist. But like you I rarely carry much money on me. The camera was just a little point and shoot and not my big DSLR, I had photos from that night on it but that’s all so I guess I was lucky at being unlucky.

  16. Wow, glad you’re okay! Also good that you only had a few bucks on you. Stay safe!

  17. All robberies are different! When my home was broken into in Costa Rica, I felt so violated. But when my jacket was stolen from under a table at a Spanish nightclub? Eh. I cried over the jacket, but that might’ve been the vodka talking… Stay safe, stay OFF the beaches at night, and I love your attitude. I am so a life-long fan!

  18. Woahhhh… thats crazy. I had a similar experience a while ack and they actually let me keep my credit cards. Just took my cash, camera, and wallet. I agree with your reply to the jetpacker, im spanish but I look like the son of an albino mother. People always look at me crazy when i speak spanish. lol.

  19. No clue what I’m going to do when I go abroad. I live in a super safe city. All our neighbors look out for each other, we rarely lock doors, taking money out in public has never been an issue… I’ve never been in a situation like that and I think I would flip if someone took my camera.

    Big kudos to you for being so calm!

  20. Margaret VanBlarcom says:

    So so glad to know you are OK. Can’t imagine how I would have reacted–not near as calm as you were, I’m sure. Stay safe; I don’t like reading this stuff!

    1. i worked as a translator in san juan del sur for about 2 years and what i always would tell tourist is not to trust in people that offer a free lift regarless of the way the person looks like there have been cases where women use their own little babies to gain the tourist trust just with the only purpose of getting tourists robbed so please guys if you come to nicaragua make sure you do take a safe cab if possible write down the plate number

  21. Migration Mark says:

    Living in Nairobi, I’ve had a few phones snatched, a lot of pick pockets, and a couple cameras taken, but nothing ever with much force.

    Glad it wasn’t a huge loss and that you were ok through the situation.

  22. Matt Hope says:

    Ughh…. No fun… It sucks that this happens as often as it does. It is good you weren’t carrying too much but it is still such a pain in the ass even to just replace a camera…

  23. Yikes! That’s scary…I’ve always been wary of it happening in Vietnam, but never known anyone it’s actually happened to.

    Good to hear that you were okay in both instances, and that you didn’t let it spoil your trip 🙂

  24. What is it about Vietnam with everyone getting robbed? In my whole life Ive been robbed once, and that was in Vietnam. Although it was also non violent, and in the end I think it prepared me for South America as well, but not quite the same way. I was meeting my boyfriend and there was no way I could have taken all my crap on his motorcycle. And it did teach me that it all really is just stuff.

    Losing the camera is always the hardest part though!

  25. Christine says:

    This is exactly what I was worried about!

  26. You have such a healthy mindset, and I totally agree with you that things happen for a reason, it’s just hard sometimes to figure out what… 🙂

  27. Yikes!!!! That would freak me out. But I’m glad it was harmless both times. I’ve fortunately never been robbed. Though last year in Florence, I thought I was being robbed–I was standing in a busy piazza and felt my digital SLR being violently yanked from my shoulder. I hung onto it, and before I knew it, I was on top of a bicycle and its rider. Turns out a bicyclist was biking too close to me, and when he passed me, his handlebar hooked in my camera strap. I thought I was being robbed so I didn’t let go, and I toppled both of us. Oops 🙂

  28. good thing you were in a mellow mood or else you could have gone all Revengelina on them. 🙂

  29. It’s funny, when I went to South America (and to Brazil for Carnaval) I thought for sure I would get robbed for something and I was okay with it… and somehow I managed to spend 4 months and walk out with everything I came in with. I totally trust people and feel the same way about robberies as you do—they happen. All we can do is hope for the best and travel smart!

  30. david morris says:

    Good God do you have ugly feet! They look like a mens feet.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Funniest comment on the blog to date, thanks David – whoever you are

  31. Sarah Got A Passport says:

    Wow you are very brave! I would’ve been so scared since I’ve never been robbed (knock on wood!).

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      This seems so strange to say but once you get robbed once you know it’s not such a big deal. As long as you are not hurt giving away your belongings isn’t that traumatic.

  32. I am always very cautious (at least I think I am, Costa Rica might beg to differ) but I will certainly be more aware when I visit this area. What beach was it exactly? (aren’t there several?)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      There are several in the area but I was robbed on the main one in town. I heard it’s common there and no one really does anything about it because no one loses more than a few dollars.

  33. Hey, we met in Managua at backpackers Inn you were busy writing this blog.

    Just So you feel better or worse Im not sure your thoughts, three kids from Brooklyn and the US army went through San Juan, we surfed together.

    They put the whole gang of kids who rob people in the hospital last July. A serious retribution befell those punks.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Wow that is crazy news. I kept hearing similar stories from other people and the word on the street was that it was the same group of kids doing it over and over again but the police did not want to bother with it.

  34. Sorry to hear that your purse was snatched. What purses would you recommend for travel then? I’ve previously used a short handled bag over the shoulder, but I’m thinking for my trip to South America I should lean towards the cross-body bags. Any thoughts?

  35. Marianne - Netherlands says:

    My husband and I were robbed by a policeman. We were driving from Managua to San Juan Del Sur and halfway a police-car stopped us. It was our first day in Nicaragua! He claimed we had violated the law or something and demanded 100 dollars. Yes, one hundred dollars. We paid because he had confiscated by husband’s driving license. Later we heard all kinds of stories in SJDS about robberies on the beach, knifings in town. So be careful in Nicaragua!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have to say Nicaragua is a very safe country. I spent just over 5 weeks there and rarely encountered any issue. However, the issue you had is common all throughout Central America, and for that matter really around the world. And so many people are robbed on a beach at night, it was my fault for being there.

      But for those traveling by bus I do recommend people read this post -> https://www.baconismagic.ca/have-you-met/have-you-met-jeremy/ as it seems to be unique to Managua and someone tried to do it to me. Fortunately I was aware and stayed on the bus.

  36. I was robbed in Nicaragua too in the town of Astillero on the beach. Two guys in their mid-20’s came up to me with a machete. I had my 2 kids with me and fortunately they were getting along, playing in the water. As scary as it was, I believe they only wanted our belongings and money. They left with money, camera, iPhone, many little items. I am thankful we were unharmed. Weird thing is I had a dream about it months before my trip..

  37. Oh such a shame! We’ve travelled around in Nicaragua for around 4 weeks here and there and have never had any experiences like this thankfully. However, we didn’t go to San Juan del Sur (actually just because we’re not into beaches and didn’t think it sounded great for anything much else). Glad that your took your robbery so well!

  38. Veronica Cavanaugh says:

    That is scary! But I’m sure being robbed once makes it a bit easier the next time.

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