Which are the safest places to visit in South America in 2023?
When arranging a journey to the most secure South American nations, it is essential to take into account various elements that can contribute to an enjoyable and safe experience. This blog post suggests the top 10 safest South American countries for travelers to consider, with insights into their unique attractions and safety conditions.
From Chile’s diverse landscapes and low crime rates to Argentina’s rich culture amidst stable security conditions, we have carefully ranked these nations based on several criteria such as crime statistics, political stability, and societal safety. Furthermore, we will discuss essential safety precautions for traveling in South America that will help you stay safe during your journey.
Beyond ensuring personal security while exploring cultural experiences, popular tourist destinations or natural wonders in these beautiful countries, responsible tourism is also of utmost importance. As such, our guide offers practical tips on the best way of engaging with locals respectfully and supporting eco-friendly practices throughout your travels.
By following our recommendations for visiting the safest South American countries responsibly, you can create unforgettable memories without compromising your well-being or the environment.
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Table of Contents
The 10 Safest South American Countries
Discover the safest countries in South America to visit based on crime rates, political stability, the presence of organized crime, and overall safety measures. These destinations offer rich cultural experiences and breathtaking natural beauty while providing a secure environment for travelers.
Chile: A Diverse Destination with Low Crime Rates
Chile is known for its diverse landscapes that range from the Atacama Desert to Patagonia’s glaciers. Its stable economy and government make it one of the safest countries in South America for tourists. However, always be cautious of petty crime or thefts in crowded areas.
Besides its stunning landscapes, Chile is also famous for its wine industry, and visitors can enjoy visiting vineyards and trying some delicious Chilean wine. The capital city, Santiago, has thriving museums, theaters, and art galleries.
For adventure seekers, Chile offers an exciting array of outdoor activities, such as Andes mountain skiing, hiking in national parks, and surfing in the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the country’s unique cuisine, which is influenced by indigenous traditions and European flavors.
Overall, Chile is a fascinating destination that offers a little something for everyone. With its natural wonders, modern cities, and friendly people, it is a must-visit destination for those traveling to South America.
Argentina: Rich Culture Amidst Stable Security Conditions
In Argentina, the second-largest country on the continent, you can enjoy tango shows, delicious cuisine like empanadas or asado (barbecue), and stunning natural wonders such as Iguazu Falls. The country has made significant strides in improving public safety over recent years but still exercise caution when exploring Buenos Aires or other urban centers at night.
Other popular destinations in Argentina include the wine regions of Mendoza and Salta, the picturesque colonial town of Salta, and the stunning glaciers of Patagonia. Sports fans can catch a football (soccer) game at one of Argentina’s famous stadiums or join in on a polo match.
Mount Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Americas, attracts hikers and mountaineers from around the world. Argentina also has several national parks, including Tierra del Fuego, which is home to penguins and sea lions, and Los Glaciares, where the famous Perito Moreno glacier is located.
Argentine culture is a fascinating meld of both European and Latin American aspects, with an important emphasis on family and friends. Argentina is famous for its beef, wine, and traditional music such as tango, which is still performed in the streets and dance halls of Buenos Aires.
Paraguay: Tranquil Landscapes Away from Major Tourist Crowds
For a truly unique experience, Paraguay is an ideal destination with its improving safety standards and attractions. This landlocked South American country offers beautiful scenery such as that which is found in the Gran Chaco region without overwhelming tourist crowds found elsewhere on the continent.
Paraguay’s cultural heritage and interesting history originates from when Spanish settlers intermarried with indigenous people. Learn more at several museums, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the National Museum of Ethnography and History, and the Museo del Barro, which all showcase the unique crafts and skills of the Paraguayan people.
Moreover, Paraguayan cuisine is a blend of different influences such as Spanish, Guarani Indian, and various South American cultures. It is characterized by its use of cassava, a staple crop, in most dishes. Visitors can also taste the traditional drink of Paraguay, tereré, or the alcoholic beverage, caña, which is made from sugarcane.
Paraguay also boasts of several natural wonders such as the Paraná River, the Itaipu Dam – the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world, and the UNESCO World Heritage site, Jesuit Missions of La Santisima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesus de Tavarangue, which are ruins of Jesuit missions established in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Overall, Paraguay may not be as well-established tourist destinations as its neighboring countries, but it offers an authentic experience of South American culture, history, and nature that is not to be missed.
Bolivia: Unique Attractions with Improving Safety Standards
Bolivia boasts the world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, as well as captivating indigenous cultures. While violent crime rates are higher than in neighboring countries, safety conditions have improved significantly over recent years, particularly in La Paz.
Travelers should exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings, especially in tourist areas where pickpocketing and theft can occur. It is also important to be aware of political unrest and protests, which can sometimes turn violent.
In addition to its stunning natural wonders, Bolivia offers diverse indigenous communities and ancient ruins to explore. Visitors can witness traditional dances and festivals, sample delicious local cuisine, and learn about traditional medicines and healing practices.
When traveling in Bolivia, it is important to be respectful of local customs and traditions, and to take responsibility for preserving the environment and supporting local communities. With careful planning and a bit of caution, Bolivia can be a truly unforgettable travel destination.
Peru: Ancient History Combined with Increased Police Presence
Peru, famous for its ancient Inca sites like Machu Picchu and delicious cuisine such as ceviche, has seen a substantial increase in police presence throughout tourist areas to ensure visitor safety.
Be aware of altitude sickness when visiting high-altitude destinations like Cusco or Lake Titicaca. In addition, visitors should be cautious when using public transportation and should avoid wearing expensive jewelry or carrying large sums of money. Pickpocketing and other street crimes can occur in crowded areas, particularly in Lima or other major cities.
Also, it is recommended that travelers only consume bottled or filtered water to avoid gastrointestinal illness. By taking these precautions, visitors can fully enjoy all the incredible experiences that Peru has to offer.
Brazil: Rich Culture Despite Some Challenges in Urban Areas
The Brazilian culture is rich with samba music, soccer passion, and iconic landmarks like Christ the Redeemer statue. However, muggers are common in certain urban locations such as Rio de Janeiro; thus it’s essential to stay vigilant during your visit.
In addition, Brazilian culture emphasizes the importance of family and social connections. It’s common to see large family gatherings and friends spending time together in public places.
Brazilian cuisine is also diverse, with popular dishes such as feijoada, a hearty bean and meat stew, and churrasco, a type of barbecue. The country also produces a variety of tropical fruits, including mangoes, papayas, and pineapples. Religion in Brazil is predominantly Catholicism, but there are also significant populations of Evangelicals, Spiritists, and Afro-Brazilian religions such as Candomblé and Umbanda.
When visiting Brazil, it’s important to note that the country is vast and offers a range of experiences. Visitors can explore the Amazon rainforest, relax on beautiful beaches, or explore cities filled with history and culture. However, it’s important to research the area and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable stay.
Colombia: Rising Tourism Star Overcoming its Past Reputation
Colombia’s tourism sector has been progressing, due to heightened security and a surge of international attention to its picturesque cities like Cartagena or Medellin. Although crime rates remain relatively high compared to other South American nations listed here, Colombia continues making strides towards becoming an increasingly safe destination for travelers, and it’s one of the best places to get acquainted with South America as a first timer.
Tourists flock to Colombia for its diverse landscape, rich culture, and vibrant cities. The country offers stunning beaches, lush rainforests, snow-capped mountains, and picturesque colonial towns, providing travelers with an unforgettable experience.
One of the top destinations in Colombia is Cartagena, a charming city filled with colorful colonial buildings, lively squares, and exquisite cuisine. The walled Old City, surrounded by ramparts and cannons, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit for history buffs. Tourists can also enjoy the beautiful beaches of nearby Rosario Islands and indulge in delicious seafood.
Another top sight in Colombia is Medellin, a city that has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. Once known for its infamous drug cartels, Medellin is now a thriving metropolis with modern infrastructure, innovative public transportation, and a buzzing nightlife. Visitors can explore its many museums, parks, and restaurants, as well as its hip neighborhoods like Poblado and Laureles.
Other notable destinations in Colombia include the coffee region, home to some of the world’s best coffee plantations, the Amazon rainforest, where tourists can spot exotic wildlife and learn about indigenous cultures, and the vibrant capital city of Bogota, with its stunning colonial architecture and world-class museums.
Overall, Colombia’s tourism sector is on the rise, and the country’s efforts to improve security and infrastructure are paying off. With its breathtaking natural beauty, rich culture, and welcoming people, Colombia is definitely a destination worth considering for any traveler.
Uruguay: Politically Stable with Solid Tourism Infrastructure
Uruguay is one of the best countries to visit in South America, known for its political stability, low crime rates, and high quality of life. It has a well-developed infrastructure and offers a range of attractions, including beautiful beaches, colonial towns, and vibrant culture.
One of the must-visit places in Uruguay is Montevideo, the capital city which is home to many museums, art galleries, and historic landmarks such as the Palacio Legislativo, Teatro Solis, and Plaza Independencia. Punta del Este, on the east coast, is another popular destination known for its glamorous beach resorts, casinos, and nightlife.
For nature lovers, the coastal town of Cabo Polonio offers a unique experience with its pristine beaches, sand dunes, and the chance to spot sea lions and other wildlife. Another natural wonder is Salto del Penitente, a waterfall nestled in the countryside near the city of Minas.
Uruguay is also famous for its wine and food culture, with many vineyards and wineries scattered throughout the countryside. Visitors can enjoy wine tastings and tours, as well as sampling traditional Uruguayan dishes such as asado (barbecue), chivito (a sandwich filled with steak, bacon, and other ingredients), and dulce de leche (a popular caramel-like dessert).
Overall, Uruguay offers something for everyone, from beach lovers to history buffs, and is a great destination for those seeking a safe and peaceful travel experience.
Ecuador: Rich Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage
Ecuador has made significant efforts to enhance its safety and security measures, particularly in tourist areas. Nature lovers will appreciate its diverse natural landscapes, such as the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon rainforest, and the Andes Mountains.
Moreover, Ecuador has a rich cultural heritage, evident through its architectural landmarks, museums, and festivals. The country also boasts a thriving arts and crafts scene, producing unique textiles, pottery, and jewelry.
In recent years, Ecuador has undergone economic and social reforms that have improved the country’s infrastructure, healthcare, and education systems. As a result, it has become more attractive to foreign investors, entrepreneurs, and students.
However, like any other country, Ecuador has its share of problems. Poverty and inequality remain significant issues, especially in rural areas. Political instability and corruption have also been persistent challenges for the country.
Therefore, visitors should exercise caution and take the necessary safety precautions while traveling in Ecuador, such as avoiding poorly lit or isolated areas and keeping valuables out of sight. It is also advisable to use reputable tour operators, follow local laws, and carry adequate travel insurance.
Overall, Ecuador offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and entrepreneurial potential that make it an exciting and rewarding destination to explore.
Suriname: A West African and Dutch Cultural Meld
Although less frequently visited than some other South American countries, Suriname is a small country that has been making strides in terms of safety and security. It offers vast expanses of unspoiled rainforests, stunning waterfalls, and a unique cultural blend of Caribbean, South American, and Indian influences.
Visitors to Suriname can explore its capital city, Paramaribo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and experience the country’s diverse cuisine, with flavors from Indian, Creole, and Javanese influences. Adventure seekers can trek through the jungle, go bird watching, or try their hand at fishing for Piranha.
One of Suriname’s main attractions is the Central Suriname Nature Reserve, a vast protected area with an abundance of wildlife, waterfalls, and rivers. Another popular destination is the Brownsberg Nature Park, where visitors can hike to the top of a mountain for panoramic views of the surrounding rainforest.
Suriname’s culture is also unique, with influences from the colonial Dutch period and the indigenous peoples of the region. Visitors can experience folk music and dance performances, or take part in traditional ceremonies and festivals.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination, Suriname may be just the answer. While Suriname is not as well-known as other South American destinations, it has increased focus on safety and security, and is quickly becoming a popular choice for eco-tourism enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.
Safety Precautions for Traveling in South America
While these countries are considered safe by regional standards, it’s essential to take certain precautions when traveling throughout South America. Stay informed about local customs and potential risks to ensure a smooth journey. In this section, we will discuss some important safety tips that can help you enjoy your trip while minimizing any potential dangers.
Research your destination thoroughly before departure
Before embarking on your adventure, make sure to research the specific country or region you plan to visit. Familiarize yourself with local laws, customs, and areas of concern so that you can be prepared for any situation that may arise during your travels.
Be cautious of petty thefts and pickpocketing incidents
Petty theft is a common issue faced by travelers, particularly female travelers and solo travelers, in many parts of South America. Keep watch over your possessions and take steps to ensure their security, so as to not become a target of bag snatchers or pickpockets, or the victim of armed robbery. Consider using a money belt or hidden pouch for added security.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or flashy jewelry.
- Distribute valuables among different bags instead of keeping everything in one place.
- If possible, leave valuable items like passports locked up safely at your accommodation when exploring the area.
Avoid displaying valuable items or excessive cash openly
In crowded places such as markets, large cities, or public transportation hubs where thieves are more likely to operate, it’s best not to draw attention by openly displaying expensive items or large amounts of cash. Keep your phone and wallet out of sight when not in use, and be discreet when making purchases.
Learn basic phrases in the local language
Common sense tells us that being able to communicate with locals can greatly enhance your travel experience while also improving your personal safety.
By following these simple precautions, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of encountering any issues during your South American adventure. Stay vigilant and informed about potential risks so that you can focus on enjoying all that this vibrant continent has to offer.
Travelers to South America should take precautions such as researching their destination, avoiding carrying large amounts of cash or flashy jewelry, and learning basic phrases in the local language. Petty theft is common in many parts of South America, so it’s important to keep an eye on belongings and be discreet when making purchases. By following these tips, travelers can minimize potential dangers and enjoy all that this vibrant continent has to offer.
Exploring Cultural Experiences Safely
Immerse yourself in the rich Latin American culture without compromising your personal safety. Visit iconic landmarks and major cities, engage with locals respectfully, and participate in traditional events while taking necessary precautions.
Attend Popular Festivals like Carnival Celebrations Responsibly
Carnival celebrations are a highlight of South American culture, showcasing vibrant colors, lively music, and incredible performances. Stay alert and keep an eye on your belongings while enjoying the vibrant colors, exciting music, and captivating performances of popular festivals like carnival celebrations. Stick to well-lit areas during nighttime events and consider joining organized group tours for added security.
Explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites Across Different Countries
South America is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, each offering unique insights into the region’s history and cultural heritage. From tourist attractions such as the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru to Argentina’s Iguazu National Park, exploring these sites safely often means following guidelines set out by local authorities or hiring reputable guides who are knowledgeable about potential risks associated with specific locations.
Try Authentic Cuisine at Reputable Establishments
- Ceviche: A popular seafood dish found across coastal regions in countries like Peru and Ecuador. Sample this delicacy at trusted restaurants that use fresh ingredients for optimal taste and safety.
- Empanadas: These savory pastries are a staple in countries like Argentina, Chile, and Colombia. Look for eateries with high hygiene standards to enjoy this delicious treat without worrying about foodborne illnesses.
- Feijoada: A traditional Brazilian stew made from black beans, pork, and beef – it’s best enjoyed at well-established restaurants or recommended local establishments that adhere to proper food handling practices.
In addition to trying these mouthwatering dishes, learning basic phrases in the local language can help you navigate menus more confidently while also enhancing your overall travel experience.
Enjoying Natural Wonders Securely
Witness awe-inspiring landscapes unique to each country without putting yourself at risk. From vast salt flats to dense rainforests teeming with wildlife, explore these wonders safely by following guidelines set out by authorities or tour operators.
Visit protected national parks under official guidance
Numerous national parks in South America offer a chance to marvel at the region’s diverse flora and fauna. When visiting these natural havens, ensure you follow park rules and guidelines provided by local authorities or your tour operator. By adhering to the park rules and guidelines, not only will you ensure your safety but also contribute to preserving these natural havens for future generations.
Experience outdoor activities like hiking or wildlife watching with caution
- Hiking: Whether trekking through the Andes Mountains in Peru or exploring Patagonia in Argentina, always stick to designated trails and hire an experienced guide if necessary. Check weather conditions before setting off on any hike, carry sufficient water, food, and gear, and inform someone of your planned route.
- Wildlife Watching: Observe animals from a safe distance during guided tours such as those offered in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands or Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. Refrain from feeding wild creatures as it disrupts their natural behavior patterns; remember that some species may be dangerous if provoked.
Respect local flora and fauna to maintain ecological balance
The ecosystems found across South America are delicate yet vital components of our planet’s biodiversity. As visitors, we must respect these environments by minimizing our impact on them while enjoying their beauty responsibly:
- Do not litter or leave any waste behind in natural areas. Dispose of trash properly and recycle when possible.
- Avoid picking plants, flowers, or disturbing wildlife habitats during your explorations.
- Stay on designated paths to prevent soil erosion and damage to vegetation caused by trampling.
Incorporating these safety measures into your South American adventure will allow you to fully appreciate the region’s incredible natural wonders while ensuring a secure and responsible experience for all involved.
Responsible Tourism in South America
Be mindful of the consequences your journey may have on these countries in terms of environment, society and economics. Support sustainable tourism practices that preserve the region’s natural beauty while benefiting local communities.
Choose Eco-Friendly Accommodations and Tour Operators
Selecting eco-friendly accommodations and tour operators is a great way to minimize your carbon footprint during your travels. Look for hotels or lodges with green certifications, such as LEED or Green Globe certification. These establishments prioritize energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, and other environmentally friendly practices.
Additionally, opt for tour operators who promote responsible travel by following guidelines set out by organizations like the International Ecotourism Society (TIES).
Engage with Locals Respectfully and Support Their Businesses
Sustainable tourism also involves respecting local cultures and traditions while supporting community-based enterprises. Engage with local people through genuine conversations about their customs without imposing your own beliefs or values upon them. When possible, support local businesses, such as family-owned restaurants or artisanal shops selling handmade products unique to each country’s culture.
Minimize Waste Generation During Your Travels
- Pack Reusable Items: Bring along a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing single-use plastic bottles throughout your trip – many places in South America offer safe drinking water from refill stations.
- Avoid Disposable Products: Refrain from using disposable cutlery, straws, or plastic bags – instead, pack a reusable shopping bag and utensils for your journey.
- Recycle: Familiarize yourself with the local recycling system in each country you visit. Separate recyclables from non-recyclable items to properly dispose of waste.
In addition to these tips, consider participating in volunteer programs that contribute positively to the environment or local communities during your travels. For example, join a beach cleanup initiative or support reforestation efforts by planting trees.
Be mindful of your actions while visiting South America to guarantee that its remarkable cultural legacy and natural splendor remain safeguarded for those who come after.
FAQs in Relation to Safest South American Countries
Which country in South America is the safest?
Argentina is considered one of the safest places in South America due to its low crime rates, stable political situation, and well-developed infrastructure. However, it’s important to take necessary precautions while traveling anywhere, as safety concerns can vary depending on the region or city. It’s a good idea to consult the travel safety map from the United States Department of State, which is updated frequently, for the latest assessments on which parts of the continent have current travel warnings.
Is Peru or Ecuador safer?
Peru is generally considered a safer South American nation than Ecuador. While both countries have made significant strides in improving safety for tourists, Peru is considered to be the safest country of the two, as it has a stronger police presence and lower crime rates overall. Nonetheless, travelers should remain vigilant and follow standard safety practices in either destination.
What is the most stable country in Latin America?
Costa Rica has long been one of the most politically stable countries in Latin America, with a strong democratic tradition and high quality of life indicators. Located in Central America, it also boasts an excellent healthcare system and strong environmental conservation efforts that attract many visitors each year.
What is the least safe country to visit in South America?
Venezuela is the most dangerous country to visit in South America due to ongoing political instability and civil unrest, violent protests, drug trafficking, economic challenges, higher violent crime rates, and limited tourism infrastructure. Travelers should consider alternative options for their trip.
South America Has a Variety of Safe Destinations
In conclusion, South America offers a variety of safe countries and exciting destinations for travelers. From Chile’s diverse landscapes to Colombia’s rising tourism scene, there are plenty of options for those seeking adventure while prioritizing safety.
When it comes to safety, take precautions such as researching your destination thoroughly to identify dangerous areas, avoiding displaying valuables openly, and respecting local customs.
Make sure your travel plans incorporate travel insurance for peace of mind and consult the U.S. Department of State’s resources for up-to-date assessments on the safest destinations.
By choosing eco-friendly accommodations and engaging with locals respectfully, travelers can also contribute to responsible tourism in the region. So why not start planning your next trip to one of the safest South American countries today?
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