The Safest South American Countries in 2022

What are the safest South American countries to travel to?

It is no secret to most that South America doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to safety. With everything from dangerous roads to scams and even violent drug cartels, this is a continent that requires travellers to be a bit savvy.

We constantly get asked ‘is South America safe to travel?’ and generally our answer is yes. However, there is no disputing that some countries in South America are safer to travel than others. If you’re planning your trip and feeling a little nervous about where to go, we’ve put together this comprehensive list of the safest South American countries.

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A note about COVID-19: This article will not be focusing on coronavirus travel restrictions in South America but rather, the general safety levels pertaining to the Global Peace Index. If you are considering travelling to South America, make sure you know the rules around COVID-19 vaccines and testing for entry.

How Did We Decide the Safest South American Countries?

In order to compile this list, we’ve used our own travel experience as well as general research and the Global Peace Index rankings for 2022 (GPI). This index is compiled based on the degree of ongoing conflict, the extent of militarisation and the level of societal safety and security.

Military vehicle in city

Militarisation is one determiner of the Global Peace Index.

To give you a bit of context before we dive into the safest countries in South America, as of 2022, the United Kingdom sits at 34 (score 1.667) on the Global Peace Index, the USA sits at 129 (score 2.44) and Australia comes in at number 27 (score 1.565). The most dangerous country according to the index, is Afghanistan which sits at position 163.

To make it easy for you to compare, all the South American countries will have their Global Peace Index ranking and score explicitly listed. Interestingly, all the South American countries listed have a better Global Peace Index ranking than the United States!

The Top 6 Safest South American Countries

Disclaimer – Safety advice changes quickly across the world and all the countries listed below still fluctuate in terms of their overall stability. What is considered a safe country today, may not be so tomorrow. Therefore, we always advise travellers to do their own research before booking a trip.

1. Uruguay

  • Global Peace Index ranking: 46/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 1.795

The safest country in South America is Uruguay! Holding the accolade for another year running, Uruguay is also the second-safest country in Latin America as a whole, with only Costa Rica claiming a higher spot on the GPI.

Whilst an enormously popular destination by those who visit, Uruguay is still under-visited compared to its neighbours. The country is one of the smallest in South America but this doesn’t mean there is nothing to see.

A nighttime view of Monetvideo, Uruguay (South America

Uruguay is the safest country in South America in 2022!

Known for its friendly locals and beautiful beaches, Uruguay offers an authentic and safe destination without the crowds. There is also plentiful wildlife here which means it is a great choice for nature lovers.

Due to the geography of Uruguay, there are no real threats of sudden natural disasters. Violent crime is uncommon too, however, travellers will need to be savvy in the main cities to avoid pickpockets.

Uruguay is often touted as the ‘most chilled’ country in the whole of South America. This is, in part, thanks to the liberal laws regarding marijuana possession and gay marriage (both of which are legal).

It is one of the wealthiest countries in the region and as 96% of Uruguayans vote in democratic elections, the citizens also seem to benefit from a positive relationship with their government – something which cannot be said for many countries full stop!

If you’re looking for a stress-free and safe country to visit in South America, Uruguay is definitely your best bet! You never know, you may fall in love with it so much that you never want to leave – Uruguay is one of the best places to live in South America after all!

Skyscrapers seen across the water, Punta Del Este, Uruguay

Uruguay is often said to be the most chilled country in South America!

Traveller Highlights in Uruguay:

  • If you’re brave enough, top up your tan on Playa Chihuahua, Uruguay’s nudist beach!
  • Wander down the cobbled streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Colonia del Sacramento.
  • Head to the ‘Mercado del Puerto’ in Montevideo for a chance to try ‘parrilla’, a delicious taste of Uruguayan barbecue.
  • Hike Quebrada de Los Cuervos for the chance to see rare birds and other wildlife.
  • Take a dip in one of the country’s many hot springs. You deserve it after a long day of exploring!

2. Chile

  • Global Peace Index ranking: 55/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 1.84

Chile is one of the most diverse countries on the continent which makes it an amazing destination for intrepid adventurers. Chile is (arguably*) the longest county in the world and covers 10 climatic zones! This means it really does have something for everybody.

*Some claim Brazil is longer but there is only around 100 km in it!

Graffiti in Valparaíso, Chile (one of South America

The colourful streets of Valparaíso, Chile.

Whilst Chile had been voted the safest country in South America for years, their Global Peace Index status took a big hit in the 2020 rankings and is yet to recover. Previously, the country was always graded within the top 30 safest countries in the world but owing to recent civil unrest and violent protests over the increased cost of living, inequality and privatisation, they’ve been hanging around closer to 50.

Generally speaking though, Chile has a very low crime rate which makes it one of the safest South American countries to travel through. As with any kind of backpacking, common sense is advised. Don’t carry large amounts of cash on your person if you can help it and invest in a money belt or an alternative to keep your valuables out of sight. A theft-proof backpack is also a good idea.

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Chile has one of the highest quality of life rankings in Latin America, largely due to its modern infrastructure and internet connectivity. It also has one of the strongest healthcare systems on the continent which should be reassuring for accident-prone tourists. This doesn’t mean you should skimp out on travel insurance though!

Potentially the biggest risk factor when visiting Chile is the chance of earthquakes. This is because the country sits adjacent to the Nazca Plate, which is fast-moving and has a history of producing massive quakes. Travellers shouldn’t worry too much though as scientists are always keeping an eye on plate activity to provide warning for those in the country.

Traveller Highlights in Chile:

  • Head to Rapa Nui, one of South America’s best islands and the world’s most impressive archaeological sites.
  • Visit the place considered to be the driest place on earth: the Atacama Desert. Visit the otherworldly Moon Valley and go to see the petroglyphs of Hierbas Buenas.
  • Sample some hiking in Chile with the epic W trek through the magical Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. Related:1 & 2-week Patagonia Itineraries.
  • Sip on the finest Chilean wine on a vineyard tour just outside of Santiago.
  • Enjoy Valparaiso’s New Year firework display, it is the largest in South America!

Read more about staying safe in Chile.

3. Argentina

  • Global Peace Index ranking: 69/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 1.911

Argentina is the second-largest country in South America and offers plenty for all kinds of travellers. From natural wonders to urban cityscapes, this is a country of contrast. It has a big digital nomad and expat population too, with many of the latter originally coming from the USA.

Colourful houses in La Boca, Buenos Aires

The colourful houses of Buenos Aires.

The Patagonia region is home to some of Argentina’s best hikes and the scenery is out of this world. The cities of Argentina are vibrant and colourful but there are plenty of natural places to retreat for a dose of serenity.

Whilst petty crime occurs, especially in major cities, Argentina is statistically one of the safest places in South America for visitors, including solo travellers. Hitchhiking is common, particularly in the areas around Patagonia, however, as Argentina is a Spanish-speaking country, it helps to have a basic command of the language. As with any kind of hitchhiking, always tell someone where you are going beforehand for safety reasons.

Dengue Fever is perhaps the biggest health threat to travellers in Argentina, however, this can be prevented through practising mosquito bite avoidance. For more about potential health risks and the necessary vaccines needed for South America, see this post. The plus side is that if you do get ill or injured in Argentina, the health system is of a good standard and free for everyone.

Unfortunately, Argentina has been suffering from an economic decline in recent years which has amped up tensions over equality. This means that protests are becoming increasingly common. Whilst there is no guarantee that things will turn ugly in these situations, travellers are advised to avoid protests whenever possible.

Argentina pesos

Economic decline in Argentina has caused the country’s safety rating to drop.

Is It Safe in South America?

Bonnie is a freelance writer born and raised in South America who has covered the continent for 11 years.

Colored and steep neighborhood of Valparaiso, Chile

Pierre-Yves Babelon / Getty Images

South America—home of the famous Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Patagonia, and more—attracts roughly 37 million tourists per year. Naturally, due to the presence of rebel groups and its notoriously violent illegal drug trade, parts of the continent have been deemed unsafe for tourism. But even Colombia, widely avoided as a travel destination until the early aughts, has turned its reputation around in recent years. There are many places to visit in South America if you practice basic safety and stay away from certain areas and activities.

Travel Advisories

  • The U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 3 Travel Advisory (“reconsider travel”) for all South American countries except Uruguay , which remains a Level 2 (“exercise increased caution”), and Argentina , Brazil , and Venezuela , all under a Level 4 (“do not travel”).
  • Prior to 2020, all but one were under a Level 2 due to crime, terrorism, kidnapping, and/or civil unrest. Venezuela has been placed under a Level 4 due to “crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, arbitrary arrest, and detention of U.S. citizens,” the advisory says .

Is South America Dangerous?

While some parts of South America have been deemed dangerous by the U.S. Department of State, much of the continent is perfectly safe to visit. Travelers are advised to avoid the entire country of Venezuela due to ongoing political instability. Parts of Colombia—Arauca, Cauca (except Popayan), Chocó (except Nuquí), Nariño, and Norte de Santander (except Cucuta)—are also under a Level 4 because of crime, terrorism, and kidnapping  . In 2019, the U.S. Department of State warned of “K risks” in 35 countries following the kidnapping of American tourist Kimberly Sue Endicott in Uganda  . Venezuela and Colombia were the only two South American countries on the list.

The safest places in the continent seem to be the stunning beaches of French Guiana, Uruguay, the volcano-laden nation of Chile, Suriname (South America’s smallest), Paraguay, and Argentina. Wherever you go, leave your valuables at home and travel with an abundance caution.

Is South America Safe for Solo Travelers?

South America is safe for solo travelers so long as they stick to low-risk areas and remain vigilant. Many of its cities and countries are popular tourist destinations with countless hostels frequented by the backpacker set. Solo travelers should stick to these areas—Bogota, Colombia; Jijoca de Jericoacoara, Brazil; Santiago de Chile, Chile; Mendoza, Argentina; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for instance—and only travel to more remote or dangerous areas with a licensed tour guide. As with any city, solo travelers should avoid going out alone at night and taking solo taxi rides. Kidnappings happen, so use the buddy system as often as possible.

Is South America Safe for Female Travelers?

Women travel to South America all the time—often in groups, sometimes alone—and many of them return home with only positive experiences. Women’s rights are not as progressive in South America as they are in the U.S.   and there are frequent reports of domestic violence in many countries; however, this doesn’t generally put female travelers at risk. Because of South America’s very macho, chauvinistic culture, women may experience cat calling or other hassle from men. What they should really keep an eye out for, though, is pickpocketing and other non-violent crime. Female travelers are vulnerable, especially when alone, so they should keep their guards up and travel in groups when possible.

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Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers

Homosexuality is legal in every South American country except Guyana, where it is punishable by life imprisonment (although that rule is rarely enforced). Same-sex marriage is illegal in seven countries: Bolivia, Chile, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. Anti-discrimination laws are in place everywhere except Guyana, Paraguay, and parts of Argentina. Travelers should know the laws of the countries they intend to visit, and try to avoid public displays of affection even where it’s legal as violence towards LGBTQ+ individuals and couples still occurs.

Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers

Demographics vary by country—for instance, Argentina is 85 percent white whereas Suriname is primarily Black and East Indian  . Bolivia is 55 percent Amerindian while 75 percent of Paraguay’s population identifies as mestizo  . South America, as a whole, is a melting pot of races and ethnicities, and the vast majority of it is extremely hospitable and welcoming. That being said, racism is prevalent (as it is throughout the world), and exists in various forms. So long as BIPOC travelers stick to the tourist-centric places where locals are more exposed to diversity and are therefore more accepting, they shouldn’t encounter any trouble.

Safety Tips for Travelers

  • Colombians have a saying, no dar papaya (don’t give papaya), which means “don’t be stupid,” or—in other words—don’t put yourself in a position to be taken advantage of. Travelers should walk with confidence, stay aware, and avoid looking like a target.
  • Educate yourself on the current affairs of your destination and avoid demonstrations or any unrest while there.
  • Keep in mind that pickpockets often work in pairs or groups. One or more will distract you while another does the stealing. or Portuguese in case of an emergency.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the locale and situation. Dress like the locals and conceal any valuable possessions (iPhones, cameras, jewelry, etc.).
  • It’s always a good idea to register with your embassy or consulate before traveling abroad.

TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

U.S. Department of State. “Uruguay Travel Advisory.” November 23, 2020.

U.S. Department of State. “Argentina Travel Advisory.” August 6, 2020.

U.S. Department of State. “Brazil Travel Advisory.” August 6, 2020.

U.S. Department of State. “Venezuela Travel Advisory.” October 30, 2020.

U.S. Department of State. “Colombia Travel Advisory.” October 30, 2020.

U.S. Department of State. “Introduction of K Risk Indicator.” April 9, 2019.

Is South America Safe? 2022 Guide

safety south america streets

This is one question that gets asked a lot, especially by backpackers and other travelers thinking of visiting the continent for the first time.

South America, one of the greatest continents in the world, sits on one of the most biodiverse and culturally historic landmasses in the world.

For one continent, South America has so much to offer compared to even its northern counterpart which is also a popular region for tourism.

Anyone studying biology has at some point studied either a species or location in South America since there’s no place like it in the world today.

Table of Contents

Is South America Safe?

From the salt flats of Bolivia to the Peruvian Andes, to the Amazon Rainforest, to the Ecuadorian Galapagos, to Argentinian Patagonia. South America truly has it all, with each country having its own specialties.

peru itinerary

The greatest question that arises when travelers consider South America, is whether the continent as a whole is safe for tourism and what are some of the common dangers to look out for as a visitor?

That is the exact question this page answers for you as well as provides the information you need to be able to travel to this region safely!

Firstly, let’s look at the current situation and see to what to expect.

Is it Safe to Travel to South America?

The simple answer is; yes. It is safe to travel to South America! Each country is very specific with its problems, but as a whole, it is quite safe.

The best tip for travelers hoping to get to South America is to consider checking the news before booking flights and accommodation.

An example of why you should check the news is Ecuador! In fact…

ecuador living streets

Ecuador which is statistically one of the safest countries in South America but can be dangerous in the inner cities when anti-government protests get out of hand. Quito can get paralyzed by angry protesters blocking off key roads where standoffs with police and violent clashes happen.

Another rule of thumb is to check what your national government’s foreign advice says about traveling to certain countries.

Safety Facts About South America

  • 38 million tourists visit South America every year, with most travelers visiting Rio de Janerio, Bogota, Lima and Buenos Aires.
  • 99% of reported incidents from tourists involve either petty crime or road accidents.
  • The average intended homicide rate in South America is higher than in Central America and parts of Africa.
  • The main crime of concern to travelers in South America is theft and mugging. Avoiding traveling around at night drastically decreases the odds of this happening.
  • In the last few years, there was a reduction of almost 20% in robberies using intimidation with a weapon.
  • Earthquakes are quite common, but only minor ones you cannot feel. The last major earthquake was the infamous 2010 earthquake.
  • South America’s backpacking industry has majorly increased in size within the last 20 years. Countries such as Peru and Colombia welcome backpackers more often than family package tourism.

How Safe is South America?

There are many different factors that make each country in South America unique. However, this also means that each country has its own dangers that may differ even to neighboring countries.

black man brazil

It’s for this reason that I ask that you check out the safety pages for each South American country so you know how to prepare for your trip.

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However, there are certainties in South America such as:

  • Don’t flash valuables; either don’t carry them or hide them.
  • Get to know at least some basic Spanish or Portuguese.
  • Use a money belt or anti-theft backpack.
  • Check if you need jabs from your local GP before traveling.
  • Know your route before traveling and navigate safely.

With those few pointers alone you can save yourself hassle on your travels since most common dangers can be avoided.

Having said that you may want to avoid the statistically most dangerous country in South America unless you have a reason to be there.

Is South America Safe to Travel Alone?

South America is perfectly safe to travel alone. Most of the minor crime happens within the inner cities and border regions.

comuna 13 medellin tour

So most other areas are safer than most cities in America or the UK.

You’ll need to abide by the well-documented (as well as the unwritten rules) of doing solo travel in South America: such as don’t go out at night, don’t trust strangers, and don’t flash expensive items along your way.

Using coaches or bus hopping is a great method for exploring most of the continent. A lot of backpackers dream of traveling the length of the continent to reach the penguin parks near the southern tip.

If you’re looking to travel to a single country or a number of countries, it’s best to check out the local spots in the daytime rather than at night.

Backpacking South America Safely

Backpacking is becoming the backbone of the continent’s tourism since public transport and private transport is incredibly secure.

is south america safe

Whether you’re looking for hostels in South America, quick and easy meals on the go, or gas water dispensers; South America is great for boots on the ground so be sure to talk to locals to find out where they go.

South America Travel Safety Tips

South America can be dangerous if you don’t take the necessary precautions or preparation for any type of travel or tourism.

⤵️ Here are some useful tips to help you on your journey:

  • Many Foreign offices offering advice to travelers advise that Venezuela is a no-go for travelers. After the collapse of its government and economy, it’s too dangerous at the moment for any sort of travel.
  • Keep away from crowds of people. You could be attacked or arrested if it’s an anti-government demonstration.
  • Always use trusted sites for booking accredited hotels and once you’ve booked your room, book taxis or buses through the hotel.
  • Book a taxi through your hostel or another trusted service such as the airport. Unlicensed taxis preying on tourists are a real issue in certain countries.
  • Keep dummy wallets for pickpockets in urban areas and keep your money hidden. See these hidden travel wallets for something slick. Bras, money belts, or secret bag compartments work too.
  • Read up online on how to deal with high category earthquakes. You’re likely to experience small ones but it won’t hurt to know what to do when a big one hits.
  • Don’t take too many valuables with you. If you want to take expensive equipment such as cameras or smartphones, keep them hidden.
  • Make sure to take sunscreen for protection. This doesn’t depend on whether you’re in the north, because you may be surprised how hot the countries south of the equator can get.

Traveling Around South America by Bus

It’s more than 10,000km by road from Cartagena, Colombia to Ushuaia, Argentina, which makes flying by far the quickest and most convenient way of traveling to both the north and south ends of the continent.

bus colombia travel

However, splitting the trips into easily navigational sections such as Brazil with Uruguay and Argentina, or Peru with Ecuador and Bolivia, make your trip not only expansive but manageable.

South America’s long-distance coach services have enormous amounts of legroom, frequent departures, and flexible itineraries.

They make for the best coach trips you’ve ever been on.

A Pullman or Clásico contains standard semi-reclining seats, a Semicama has seats with twice the amount of legroom and a Salon Cama has seats that recline to 180 degrees like business class airplanes.

All buses have toilets (except in Ecuador) and stop at restaurants or rest stops. In my post on bus travel in South America I talk more about this.

One of the best ways for anyone to explore the fruits of this amazing continent is by coach or bus hopping.

Travel Insurance for South America

No matter who you are, it is recommended that backpackers and all types of travelers use World Nomads Insurance for a fully comprehensive cover.

travel insurance for latin america

If you are due to travel soon, you can get a Get Your Free Quote by clicking the link or the image above and filling out your details – that way you’ll get instant travel insurance cover from the date of travel that you choose.

Is South America Safe?

South America is well worth the trip, wherever you decide to travel to.

Make sure you’re fully prepared and have an itinerary ready before setting off. You’ll never forget your trip to South America!

Why not check out this post that looks at some of safest cities in South America to get a better idea of where to go while exploring the continent?

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Helping thousands of people worldwide with independent travel in Latin America. Layer Culture means to dig deeper into the ideas, customs, and behavior of a group of people.

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