South America has much to offer tourists, including beautiful landscapes like white sand beaches, lush green rainforests, rugged mountains, and vibrant towns. However, certain nations in South America have a bad reputation for being unsafe for tourists and having high crime rates, so there can be some uncertainty about safety there.
Buckle up as you roll down to an unforgettable trip to one of your favorite South American countries. Prepare to be mesmerized by these amazing locations, which exude charm and fascination.
Uruguay, a small country, is the safest place in South America. It is sandwiched between the South American superpowers Brazil and Argentina. The country consistently ranks among the most secure in South America due to its strong democracy, open social policies, and low crime rate.
Despite being well-known throughout South America for its wonderful beaches, Uruguay still has not been overrun by foreign visitors. Before too many people discover this charming hidden gem's value, make plans to visit!
The hippie beach village of Punta del Diablo, the opulent Punta del Este with its fantastic nightlife, and the little historical hamlet of Colonia del Sacramento, one of the top tourist destinations in South America and only a short ferry ride from Buenos Aires, are just a few of Uruguay's highlights.
The second safest nation in South America is Chile, which ranks 55 on the 2022 Global Peace Index, just a few places behind Uruguay. It is another destination where tourism has increased recently.
It's safe to say that everyone will find something to awe them in Chile, a magnificent country with a diverse terrain that includes everything from arid plateaus to mountain ranges dotted with glaciers. Travelers should use caution, especially in Santiago and other major cities, even though Chile is one of the safest countries in South America to visit.
In large part because of its cutting-edge infrastructure and internet access, Chile boasts one of the best quality-of-life scores in Latin America. Additionally, it has one of the best healthcare systems on the continent, which is comforting for those prone to accidents.
Argentina, the second-largest country in South America, has a lot to offer tourists of all types. This is a land of contrasts, with urban cityscapes and natural beauty. It has a sizable population of expatriates and digital nomads, many of whom are from the USA.
The Patagonia region has some of Argentina's best hiking and breathtaking landscapes. Although Argentina's cities are vibrant and colorful, there are many natural settings where you can go for some peace.
The country is statistically one of the safest countries in South America for travelers, although minor crime does happen, particularly in large cities. It is common to hitchhike, especially in the areas near Patagonia; however, since Argentina is a Spanish-speaking nation, you should know the language well.
On our ranking of South American countries for safety, Paraguay is fourth in the list.
You can visit Ybycui National Park, Rio Paraguay, and the Salto Monday waterfalls in Paraguay. Alternatively, if you enjoy engineering, check out the Itaipu Dam, named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Parana River is one of the longest rivers in South America, where the Itaipu Dam is located.
Making sure mobile phones and cash are out of sight is a good safety measure in Paraguay. They can lead to muggings and other forms of street crime, especially in Asuncion and Ciudad del Este near the Brazilian border. It makes sense to avoid going for a nighttime stroll in these cities. For convenience and safety reasons, travelers pick cabs over other forms of public transportation.
Peru's score on the Global Peace Index has considerably declined during the past few years, placing it at 101 out of 163 countries. The country's political system is in disarray; it hasn't been in for a long time due to the recent election that sparked suspicions of voter fraud. This political unrest does not particularly impact travelers, although crime rates have increased recently.
Although these problems have yet to impact the limited amount of foreign travel substantially, Peru may have trouble competing with some of the leaders in this ranking of the safest countries in South America.
Peru saw approximately 5.5 million foreign tourists in 2019, many of whom came to see Machu Picchu, the country's most well-known attraction. Visit intriguing pre-Incan sites like Chan Chan, historic cities like Arequipa, and the snow-capped mountains of Huaraz by going off the beaten path. You'll be astounded by Peru's wealth of resources.
Bolivia experienced the largest increase in the Global Peace Index between 2021 and 2022, rising from 105 to 80 in just one year to become the eighth-safest nation in South America. Bolivia may provide some difficulties for visitors due to its abundance of magnificent and different landscapes, but a trip here will surely be memorable. Bolivia is an adventurer's paradise with its vibrant towns, salt flats, volcanic scenery, and unique indigenous culture.
One of Bolivia's top tourist destinations is the Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt flat on the earth. Visit during the rainy season to capture stunning reflections, or go during the dry season to capture breathtaking perspectives.
Whenever you visit, your tour will take you to the most breathtaking natural sites in the area, including Laguna Colorada, a sizable lake where endangered flamingo species can be found.
Related: 15 Amazing Things to do in Bolivia
Ecuador boasts a beautiful coastline and is home to some of the most unique and unusual fauna, such as a portion of the Amazon Rainforest, the Andes, and the spectacular Galápagos Islands.
Ecuador has a lot of seismic activity because it is located near the “Ring of Fire.” This implies that earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions are all possible. You should be familiar with the essential safety and evacuation procedures in an emergency.
Even though this may sound concerning, most visitors won't have any problems because there is an advance notice of a natural disaster. Even though there is a lot of little crime, particularly in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador is a fairly safe country. Although pickpocketing can be a problem in large cities, you shouldn't encounter too many problems if you keep your valuables hidden.
Colombia has lower crime statistics than Brazil in some significant places that are more likely to affect travelers, even though Brazil technically scores higher than Colombia on the Global Peace Index. When making travel plans, it's important to look for current, local advice because safety conditions in Brazil can vary greatly from region to region and city to city.
This is particularly true while traveling through Brazil's bigger cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where it can be riskier for tourists in some places. Don't allow Brazil's lowly placement on our list to deter you from traveling there. The vast continent of Latin America is home to numerous exquisite and distinctive towns, breathtaking beaches, vast and varied areas of the Amazon, and plenty more. It is worth a trip!
Guyana is the ninth-safest nation in South America and ranks 107th on the Global Peace Index as of 2022. Even though it is the only English-speaking nation in South America, making it simpler to traverse for those who don't know Spanish, this magnificent gem frequently goes unnoticed by tourists. Guyana is a transformative destination for adventurous travelers. Its vast and highly biodiverse jungle and small-scale tourism businesses let you interact with and learn from the locals.
Nearly all of its land is covered in rainforest, making it a haven for wildlife and stunning natural sights. One of these is Kaieteur Falls, the tallest waterfall in the country and a magnificent example of the power of nature. Several important wildlife species, including the brilliantly orange Guianan cock-of-the-rock, are in the nearby national park.
Colombia comes in at number 10 on this list. At one point, Colombia was off-limits to tourists due to the high crime, drug cartels, and how dangerous the country used to be. It has improved to the point that tourists are coming from all over to see this beautiful country.
Colombia is full of many wonderful things to see, such as the beautiful Caribbean coast and the coastal town of Cartagena.
There is also Los Nevados National Park, which has jaw-dropping landscapes, an active volcano, and fantastic coffee.
There is so much to see and do in Colombia. Stay safe by following travel advisories, sticking to official taxis, and beware if there is any political unrest. For the rest of your adventure, enjoy the thriving nature of Colombia.
Is South America Safe to Visit in 2023?
In 2023, it will be safe to go to South America. Machu Picchu was momentarily closed due to protests against the government that began in Peru at the end of 2022; however, these are currently primarily focused in the region around Puno and Lake Titicaca, and tourism in the remainder of Peru is mainly unaffected.
Most travelers to the region will have a safe trip, but it's always advisable to take measures when traveling, such as not flashing your precious jewelry or devices and taking a taxi at night in big cities.
In a nutshell
As we have guided above, South America is completely safe to travel with taking a few precautions in mind. The top 10 safest countries in South America have been named above that you must add to your 2023 travel bucket list! Discover South America’s best-kept secrets while stepping into exquisiteness and beauty.
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.