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The Safest Countries in South America (RANKED)

With an array of stunning scenery, from white sandy beaches, luscious green rainforest, rocky mountains and vibrant cities, South America has a lot to offer travellers. But there is sometimes a concern for safety in South America, with some countries earning a reputation for high crime rates and generally being unsafe for tourists. But just how safe is South America? Using the Global Peace Index, which considers factors such as violent crime rates, political stability, and police numbers, we investigated which South American countries are the safest.

Uruguay

According to the GPI, Uruguay is the safest country in South America, ranking 46th in the world with a score of 1.795. It’s one of the most economically developed countries on the continent, with a low level of corruption, stable democracy and a high standard of living. Even so, Uruguay is not completely without crime. Like most busy urban areas, pickpocketing and petty crimes still occur in the large cities, and tourists are advised to take care of their valuables and be aware of their surroundings.

Chile

Chile ranks 55th on the GPI, with a score of 1.840, making it the second safest country in South America. It’s a well-developed country with low crime rates, but it has been noted for some occurrences of mugging and robbery, sometimes at gunpoint. Carjacking can also be an issue, with tourists intentionally targeted. There has also been some civil unrest in Chile, with protests throughout the year. Whilst usually peaceful, larger protests can sometimes turn violent, and tourists are advised to avoid all demonstrations.

Argentina

Argentina is the third safest country in South America, ranking 69 overall with a GPI score of 1.911. Despite having a relatively low crime rate, it is a popular tourist destination, so there can be high occurrences of petty crime. Pickpocketing can be an issue, especially in the larger cities and tourist hotspots. Scams can also be a problem, with people targeting tourists and overcharging for products and services. When visiting Argentina, tourists should be aware of their surroundings and negotiate prices in advance,

Paraguay

Paraguay is the fourth safest country in South America, with a GPI score of 1.976, ranking 77th in the world. Whilst many areas in Paraguay are generally safe, other areas have a high risk of crime, especially petty, non-violent crimes such as pickpocketing. There can also be instances of more violent crimes, such as muggings and also drug trafficking, particularly near borders where there is a lack of security. Travellers should speak to the hotel to find out which areas should be avoided to stay safe.

Ecuador

Ecuador is the fifth safest country in South America, ranking 79th in the world with a GPI score of 1.988. It can be safe to visit but it is a poor country, which contributes to its high crime rates, especially in tourist and urban areas. Pickpocketing is an issue, as is robbery in taxis, where criminals will follow a tourist into a cab and force them to an ATM to withdraw money. Armed robbery is a risk throughout the country, as is criminals using drugs to subdue victims. Travellers should be wary of people approaching them offering them food or drink and should seek advice for safer areas to visit.

Bolivia

With a GPI score of 1.989, Bolivia is the sixth safest country in South America and ranks 80th in the world. As with many other countries, pickpocketing and petty crimes are high in urban areas. Violent crime is also rising in Bolivia, with muggings and kidnappings occurring with foreigners targeted. Social conflict is also common in Bolivia, with demonstrations sometimes turning violent and road blockades set up. Tourists should avoid these protests and shouldn’t attempt to cross blockades.

Peru

Peru is the seventh safest country in South America, ranking 101st in the world with a GPI score of 2.091. Whilst improvements are being made, some areas of Peru have such a problem with crime that the army has had to be called in to help manage it. Poverty has exacerbated the crime issues, with pickpocketing and muggings being common around the tourist attractions and cities. Protests are also common and they often begin at short notice and can turn violent quickly. Drug trafficking and organised crime can be an issue too, especially around the Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil borders. 

Guyana

Guyana is the eighth safest country in South America, with a GPI score of 2.140 and ranking 107th in the world. Whilst the local people can be friendly and welcoming, it has a high rate of crime. Combined with a low police capacity, visitors to Guyana should take special care when travelling. Both petty and violent crime can be an issue, with armed muggings, burglaries, and assaults all common. Women travellers are especially at risk and women should always travel within a group around Guyana. Rural areas are generally safer than the cities.

Brazil

Brazil is the ninth safest country in South America, ranking 130th in the world with a GPI score of 2.465. Pickpocketing and bag snatching are common, as are scams targeting tourists. Rates of violent crime increase in Brazil throughout the high seasons, such as during carnival and holiday periods. Some areas are safer than others, but crime can occur anywhere. Social conflict can also occur, with protests happening at short notice, disrupting roads and transport and sometimes turning violent.

Colombia

Ranking 144th in the world, Colombia is the tenth safest country in South America, with a GPI score of 2.729. It has made vast safety improvements in recent years; however, crime still remains an issue. Some areas are safer than others, and there is not necessarily a difference between rural and urban areas. Muggings and kidnappings can be common, and visitors should pre-book their transport rather than walking along roads or hailing a taxi from the street. Pickpocketing and petty crime are also common in tourist areas.

Venezuela

Venezuela is the least safe country in South America, ranking 148th in the world with a GPI score of 2.798. There is a high risk of violent crime and kidnapping, including burglary and carjacking, and it has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Certain neighbourhoods and areas should be resolutely avoided but tourists have been targeted in all sorts of places, including in their hotels and airport terminals. Many people choose to travel to Venezuela with private security services and armoured vehicles to reduce the risk of being victim to crime.


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