When considering traveling to South America, safety concerns are bound to arise — and rightly so. It can be nerve-wracking to visit an unfamiliar place, especially if it has previously been reputed for certain dangers. For peace of mind when choosing a destination, it helps to be well-informed about its safety rather than letting rumors of danger put you off. For one, it will allow you to form your own opinions, have realistic expectations, and take the necessary precautions when traveling. Secondly, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you will find out!
To help you feel confident in your travel choices and enjoy your vacation to the fullest, we have listed the safest countries to travel to in South America in 2024. The list is based on the US Department of State travel advisories and the Global Peace Index, the two top official bodies for travel and crime statistics. As well as diving into information about their safety stats, the article also features advice for traveling in the places listed. But first, we answer some of your top questions about safety in South America. What do you think South America’s safest countries are?
Is South America really that dangerous?
South America’s reputation often precedes it when it comes to crime, leading travelers to feel hesitant about visiting the continent. While some areas have rightly earned their reputation with varying levels of organized crime and police corruption, South America is a huge continent whose travel safety cannot be generalized. This part of the world has a wealth of natural beauty, history, and culture that deserves to be explored without being foreshadowed by stigmas of danger. Therefore it’s important to address the potential dangers that are considered a threat when traveling to South America and understand how you can travel there safely.
Where is crime most prevalent in South America?
Overall, the safest countries in South America for tourists tend to be the southern countries including Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Other countries like Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador are often not considered to be as safe compared to Western standards, but they have such an excellent infrastructure for tourists that crimes against foreigners are rare.
What kind of crime affects tourists in South America?
Most crime in South America is related to political corruption and whilst this can cause unrest in the countries affected, it does not pose a direct threat to tourists that remain uninvolved on ground-level. However, it can lead to moments of unrest that can potentially disrupt travel plans if the country decides to strike or protest. The crimes most frequently reported by tourists in South America are robbery and pickpocketing. Therefore, the more cautious you are with your belongings, valuables, documentation, and money, the less likely you are to be targeted by thieves.
How do we know these countries are safe?
Before we reveal South America’s safest countries for travelers, we want to share the source of our information, so that you know it is completely trustworthy.
The countries we have included on our list of the safest places to travel in South America in 2024 have been ranked according to statistics by the Global Peace Index and the US Department of State. The Global Peace Index is an organization specifically tasked to annually rank countries based on their crime statistics and report on their safety. Meanwhile, the US Department of State is an advisory board within the US government tasked with advising its citizens of the latest and most up-to-date travel safety information of each country specifically to indicate their safety for tourists.
Generally, higher crime rates do not directly affect tourist safety because it depends on the nature of the crimes most prevalent in the country of question. For example, a country could have problems with white-collar crimes, which don’t directly threaten or affect tourists. So, while the overall crime rate is important to consider, it is better to refer to the US Department of State for up-to-date information and advice. In this case, however, we have done the leg work for you to find the safest countries to travel to in 2024 according to both organizations.
The Safest Places to Travel in South America in 2024
Argentina: the safest country according to the US Department of State
Interestingly, Argentina is ranked as having the third-lowest crime rates in South America after Uruguay and Chile, but it is rated Level 1 by the US Department of State (the lowest level). This indicates that while crime is higher in Argentina overall, crimes relating to tourists are actually lower. After all, most crime and disruption in Argentina relates to organized crime and political disruption rather than violence and robbery. As a Level 1 country, tourists can visit Argentina without particular concern for their safety. Of course, all the usual precautions should be taken including keeping a close eye on your valuables and IDs in large cities, but the chances of them getting stolen are relatively low.
Argentina is also one of the most well-developed countries in South America, which has allowed it to create a safe and efficient tourist structure. It’s easy to find luxury accommodation, use public and private transport, withdraw money, and communicate with locals wherever you are in the country.
As a destination, Argentina is probably the best country to visit for a well-rounded experience of South America. While the steppes, deserts, waterfalls, and mountainscapes of Patagonia, Salta, and Iguazu open the heart of South America to you, its cities’ potent Latin art and culture will transport you to its soul. Get more inspiration for an Argentinian vacation here.
Uruguay: the safest country according to the Global Peace Index
According to the Global Peace Index (GPI), Uruguay is South America’s safest country. Sandwiched between Gambia and Indonesia, Uruguay ranks 46/163 countries, putting it in the top 30%. Its political climate is stable and its crime levels aren’t considered dangerous to tourists.
The US Department of State categorizes Uruguay at Level 2. This means that you should keep a close eye on your possessions, avoid walking on unlit streets at night, and stick to areas with good tourist infrastructure such as hotels, ATMs, and transport.
Overall, Uruguay is among the best destinations to visit in South America if safety is of concern. It is a very warm, friendly, and welcoming place with a fair portion of the population speaking English. It is largely well-developed, which makes it logistically easy and safe to travel around when taking the usual precautions.
Since Uruguay is still off the main tourist trail, it is a particularly exciting place to discover and explore in 2024. Its cities are bursting with colonial charm, artistic vigor, and Latin American spirit while the vineyard-filled countryside embodies the gaucho culture, and the coast offers a rustic respite and long beaches.
Chile: South America’s second-safest country to visit overall
Chile is ranked as South America’s second-safest country by the GPI and Level 2 by the US Department of State. Like Uuruguay, the biggest safety concerns for tourists are theft and pickpocketing as the political climate is stable and there isn’t a concerning or unusual amount of violent crime.
Tourists can feel confidently safe when traveling around in and around Chile’s cities and rural areas by taking the usual precautions. Since northern Chile is covered by the world’s driest desert, central Chile is dotted with vineyards, and the remote realm of Patagonia reaches to the south, much of the country is too sparsely populated to experience serious crime. The cities, meanwhile, experience their fair share of crime, but this rarely impacts tourists.
Vast and diverse, Chile is a top destination for cautious travelers looking for an enriching South America experience. You can adventure across the Andes mountains, stare in awe of Valpraiso’s street art, ski in Santiago, and star gaze in the Atacama all whilst soaking up the country’s uniquely vibrant yet laid-back culture. Learn more about the enriching experiences you can have in Chile here.
South America’s other safest countries to visit
The other countries given Level 2 on the safety status by the US Department of State include Ecuador, Bolivia, and Brazil. Although these countries don’t score as highly on the GPI, the US has deemed them perfectly safe to travel to, provided you exercise extra caution with your person and belongings to avoid petty crime. Their tourist infrastructure is solid which shields foreigners from areas with higher crime rates by keeping them safely on the tourist trail. Even Rio de Janeiro, one of South America’s most notoriously dangerous cities is deemed safe to visit as long as you keep a tight hold of your bags and don’t willingly wander into favelas! Discover the adventures you can have across South America here.
Find out more from our South America travel experts
To find out more about safety in our South America destinations, you can get in touch with our travel experts by emailing us here or call toll-free at +1 855 217 9045. They will give you honest information and advice about safety when traveling in South America and help you materialize that trip you’ve always talked about.