I enjoy a relatively mundane existence in a generic American suburb. In my normal life, I simply don’t encounter prostitutes at home. All that changes when I travel in the developing world.
I wrote a whole chapter in Choose Adventure about dealing with prostitutes. For the record, I actually think prostitution should be legal; but it’s not for me. I have zero interest in banging a woman who is likely an abused drug addict. The disease risk is too high for me. Besides that, lots of prostitutes are opportunistic thieves as well. While you are resting in your post-orgasmic bliss, she is taking your wallet, passport, and phone.
No thanks. In more than 20 years of serious worldwide travel, I’ve never once hired a prostitute, even in places where such conduct is legal.
Some countries are prime destinations for sex tourists. Guys schedule entire vacations around finding as many call girls as they can. In countries like this, prostitution is far more noticeable to the uninterested traveler than in other places.
I’m in Colombia now. It has a lot more prostitutes than most of the places I visit. In fact, when I discuss “running the gauntlet of whores” in my book, I was in Cartagena, Colombia. Other countries where it’s more obvious are The Dominican Republic, Brazil, Costa Rica (especially underage sex trafficked girls), Thailand, and the very poor countries of Africa.
Many other places have their various “Red Light Districts” but you don’t see many streetwalkers outside those spots. Most of my readers likely have no experience dealing with prostitutes, so I’m going to outline a few ways you might pick up on the fact that there is sex for sale. Why do you care? Because where sex is sold, so are illegal guns and drugs.
The same pimps running the girls are also selling drugs and organizing theft rings. There is an entire economy based around the sex trade. Dudes who want girls often also want drugs. When you watch the ecosystem of a place ripe with prostitutes, you can observe the hookers, the “Johns,” the pimps, the dealers, the pickpockets, and a whole other class of folks looking to prey upon any of those people when they become distracted.
The dudes looking for sex in these areas are perfect victims. They are often impaired by excessive alcohol and/or drugs. The bad guys also know that a guy picking up a hooker isn’t likely to call the police to report any type of crime out of fear of being arrested himself or having his activities outed publicly.
These sites are really not the safest places to be. They’re probably not where you want to spend much time unless you are looking to be victimized.
Many tourists are completely clueless about some of these issues and unintentionally put themselves or their families in danger because they didn’t recognize the subtle indicators. Let me use my trip to Colombia as an example to provide an education about some of the things you should be paying attention to.
As I was in the taxi going to my hotel from the airport at 2:00am on a Thursday night, I saw a massive number of street prostitutes. Probably close to 100 girls in a 20-minute ride. I asked the cabbie about it. He said that they were a huge problem in the city.
The cabbie told me that in Medellin, they call the prostitutes “mujeres divinas,” or “divine women”. He said the term comes from an old Spanish song by the same title. Check out the video below.
If you don’t speak Spanish, the song is about some guys drinking and talking about all the women who had wronged them in the past, inspiring the creation of some drunken anti-female song lyrics. In the end, the singers declare that despite all the ways women have wronged them, all women are divine creatures to be adored, no matter their faults.
So if you hear the words “mujeres divinas,” the direct translation may not be quite correct. I’d never heard that particular term before.
I arrived at the hotel safely. I was staying at a very trendy and expensive (by Colombian standards) place. It wasn’t a cheap hourly rate motel in the ‘hood.
At registration, the desk clerk warned that the hotel does not allow guests to bring girls under 18 years old back to the room for overnight stays. All overnight guests must show identification to ensure that people aren’t bringing back underage prostitutes. The hotel wouldn’t need such a policy if there hasn’t been a problem with it in the past.
When you hear of such things, your guard should go up a bit.
When I got to my room, I had two more clues that there was a lot of “pay for play” going on in the neighborhood.
I don’t ever remember seeing condoms (extra secure at that) available right next to the M&Ms in the hotel room mini-bar in any of the US hotels where I’ve stayed.
I then went into the bathroom. They have a special separate trash can for disposing of said used condoms.
Another thing I’ve never seen in the USA.
During the weekend, you might see even more prostitutes trying to sell themselves. I’m staying at a ritzy hotel in the most expensive neighborhood in Medellin. The security guards chase the hookers away from the entrances so they don’t harass the guests. So then the women line up on the sidewalk just out of sight of the hotel guard and go to work.
Last Saturday night I walked to a restaurant about five minutes away from my hotel to eat dinner. On my short walk home, eight different hookers directly offered me their services.
Another clue that there is a lot of prostitution going on is seeing old Gringo tourists walking hand in hand with very young local girls. As I strolled the city yesterday I saw an American guy who appeared to be between 65 and 70 years old. He was holding hands with a local girl who looked to be about 15 as they were walking down the street. He stopped at a street vendor and bought the little girl a long stemmed rose. This is very common in Thailand as well.
Besides the street-walking prostitutes, a lot more women meet their “clients” on dating websites. Guys who get a sudden burst of online attention from young, hot women want to believe that they have stumbled upon a dating paradise.
Sorry, dude. That hot 20-something doesn’t really think you are cute, she’s just looking to get paid. A high percentage of women on dating sites in busy South American tourist towns are working prostitutes.
Take a look at the photo below. She liked my Tinder profile. It’s funny. I never have 24-year old girls interested in my profile at home. I’m more than double her age and live in another country. Do you really think she’s looking for a relationship with a dude like me?
At least this one is honest about what she’s doing. Read her bio. “Busco” means “I’m looking for” in English.
The issue is so common down here that the locals have a term for a woman who trades sex for favors, travel, or expensive presents. They call that girl a “prepago.” It means “pre-paid” like a pre-paid credit card.
It denotes a woman who doesn’t directly demand money for sex like a regular prostitute, but instead will gladly provide sex to a man who “pre-pays” her with expensive dinners or gifts. “Prepagos” are so common that women who are not prostitutes will often note they aren’t “pre-paid” directly on their dating profiles.
Here is another woman who swiped on my Tinder profile. Note what she says in her bio: “no soy prepago o amigos con derechos.” It means “I’m not “pre-paid” and will not be a “friend with benefits.” That shows exactly how common prostitutes are using dating apps to get their clients.
If you are single and in the dating market, be extra cautious about your online dating matches. Down here some of the girls use scopolomine to knock out their dates and rob them blind. Others will lure them to a secluded location where they are robbed by the hooker’s friends.
Meet all your dates in a public place. If you are going to get intimate, take your date back to your hotel or rental rather than going back to your date’s place.
One other good thing to do is to ask your date if he/she has identification. You can tell them (whether true or false) that the security in your building is strict and won’t let anyone in without an ID. Criminals don’t want you to know their true identity. If they don’t have an ID, that should be a real warning sign. If the name on their ID is different than on their online profile, that should also worry you.
Dating in other countries can be really fun, but there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid.
Here’s the bottom line. Even though I don’t partake in prostitution, I don’t judge. I think consenting adults (not trafficked children) should be able to make an agreeable business relationship, even if it involves sex. That doesn’t diminish the potential dangers of being around a bunch of prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers.
Where people are openly selling sex, it’s an indication that the people in your location likely abide by different social norms than what is common in the place where you live. You should be alert to the fact that if some social norms are drastically different, it is likely that other norms are different as well. That makes social situations harder to judge and places you in a bit more danger.
Be extra careful in these areas.