Travel in Latin America
Every year hundreds of thousands of people travel to South America. They may not know it, but these people-tourists-are almost always immediately marked as targets. South America is an amazing place to visit, but it is vital that you know how to protect yourself lest you move from being a target to being a victim.
Don't rely on cash. First of all, don't carry large amounts of money because it makes you more of a target. Also, you never want to be in a situation where you'll be unable to survive if you are robbed. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Carry a small amount of cash and your ATM card; leave the credit cards and travelers checks at the hotel, or any variations thereof as long as you split your assets.
On a related note, don't carry personal valuables with you. If you're staying at a good hotel, leave your passport locked up in the hotel room. Also, be careful where you show valuables. For example, you might want to listen to music on your iPod. If, however, you're on a bus in Bolivia with people who could live for months on what that iPod is worth, it might be a good idea to keep it in your bag.
Try not to look like a helpless tourist. It's obvious; they'll know you're a tourist. Everything about you screams where you are from: clothes, hairstyle, attitude, and so on. However, they won't necessarily think that you are a helpless tourist. Dress like a local. Put the guide book away. Don't stand in plain sight with a fold-out map for 30 minutes trying to figure out where you're going. If you look like you have no clue, you're asking someone to try to take advantage of you.
Stay out of the dangerous parts of town. Yes, this means staying in the touristy parts of town. Many people think that you can't get a true feel for a town if you don't go where the locals go, and to an extent this is true. However, you are also much less likely to be in danger. The parts of town that cater to tourists tend to be more heavily policed and much safer. It's a choice you'll have to make.
Don't get distracted. Locals will use everything and anything to distract you from what's going on around you. So, they'll send children up to you, scream, cry, and try anything else to get you to pay attention to them rather than to your belongings. In general, always be wary when anyone approaches you on the street. For example, in Cusco locals will often go up to single tourists and yell, scream, and even spit in their face while their partner empties out their bag. Be aware of what's happening.
Know where to go to get help. If something bad does happen, you need to know where to go. Learn how to contact the police and your embassy in case of an emergency. They're there to help you.