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The Safest Countries in South America to Visit in 2024

Susan Laurent
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by Susan Laurent

According to World Population Review, the safest countries in South America are:

  • Uruguay
  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • Paraguay
  • Bolivia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Guyana
  • Brazil
  • Colombia

These South American countries are rich in heritage, history, and culture, with beaches, rainforests, and a wide variety of lifestyle options. Of course, it’s essential to enjoy South America as safely as possible.

Before we dive into what each of these countries has to offer and how safe they are for you to visit, we’ll show you where we get our facts. These are the primary sources we used to evaluate the safety of these exciting, beautiful, and diverse countries.

Sources of Our South America Safety Stats

These are the main sources we consulted to assess how safe each of these South American countries is for tourists in 2024:

  • The Global Peace Index (GPI) was developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and gives a peacefulness rating from 1 to 5. Lower scores suggest safer experiences for travelers.
  • The Global Happiness Index was created by the WorldPopulationReview in 2002 to measure the happiness of countries according to six factors, including GDP per capita, social support, and life expectancy. The higher the score, from 1 to 10, the happier the people. Happy people usually translates to less crime and safer travels for tourists.
  • The Global Organized Crime Index (GOCI) rates countries from 1 to 10 according to how much crime is present, the types of crimes, and how resistant the country is to those crimes. The lower the score, the safer the place.
  • Numbeo ranks countries according to how safe people—website contributors—feel. Again, a low score suggests more safety.
  • The Women, Peace, and Security Index, made by the Georgetown Institute, scores destinations from 0 to 1. In this instance, the higher scores suggest safer places for women travelers.

1. Uruguay


Uruguay has a calm atmosphere with friendly locals (well done, locals!). It features varied, stunning natural pleasures, including waterfalls, lakes, mountains, and beaches!

In 2022, the English marketing and advisory firm found that Uruguay was the most peaceful nation in South America and the 25th safest country in the world. This obviously makes people in Uruguay pretty happy. They are the 25th happiest nation in the world.

The country currently scores a 1.8 on the Global Peace Index, making it the 50th safest country globally. This puts it above Greece, Cyprus, and France. The index also shows that Uruguay has pretty much no organized internal conflict, political instability, or terrorism. Your trip is unlikely to be marred by violent demonstrations or military personnel. It is also the 59th safest destination for women travelers.

The Organized Crime Index supports this view, saying that Uruguay has the least organized crime in South America. It’s the most resilient country to organized crime in all the Americas.

Uruguay was the first country to legalize the cultivation, sale, and use of cannabis for recreational purposes, so don’t be surprised if you see people openly smoking cannabis. This decriminalization only applies to nationals or residents though, so don’t accept or buy these illegal drugs.

A visible police presence will help you and your fellow travelers feel safe. Even better, the officers are helpful. Most don’t speak English, though, so learning a few words of Spanish is a good idea. Learning some of the language will also help you get the most out of Uruguay, as you enjoy the country’s 400 miles of Atlantic coastline.

Things to see and do in Uruguay:

  • Montevideo—the capital; if you’re near or in it, go see this architecturally and culturally fascinating city
  • Punta Del Este—a world-class beach resort
  • Colonia del Sacramento—a popular day tour where you can let the sights wash over you

2. Argentina


Argentina comes as a close second in safety to its neighbor Uruguay, but brings in more tourists due to the many attractions it offers. Things to see include: rainforest, waterfalls, historical sites, museums, art galleries, stunning architecture, breathtaking landscapes, and national parks.

Argentina is ranked as a peaceful nation on the Global Peace Index: 54th out of 163 countries, with a score of 1.84. As well as being considered at low risk for violent crime, terrorism isn’t a concern here, either. It received a “low impact” rating on the Global Terrorism Index 2023.

At 95th spot for organized crime, Argentina is about average. Pay attention to your belongings in big cities, as you would anywhere in the world.

Can women travel safely in Argentina? The country ranks 50th in the world for safety for women travelers, with a score of 0.77 on the Women, Peace, and Security Index. Normal precautions are advised. For example, hiking in any country is always safest in groups. Prioritize your safety with sensible precautions so as not to miss out on a popular tourist activity and a great way to experience Argentina’s natural landscape.

The country is obviously doing something right, because it’s 48th in the world for the happiness of its people according to the Global Happiness Index. This suggests that you can expect a stress-free time when mixing with the locals. To break the ice, you might try talking about Argentenian football. In 1930, it became the first country to host the Fifa World Cup. And the late, Argentinian superstar footballer Maradona is a national hero. That’s why they created a religion in his honor.

Things to see and do in Argentina:

  • Iguazu Falls—spectacular waterfalls (yes, plural), which form the biggest collection in the world; alternatively, there’s Garganta del Diablo, which I promise is safer than it sounds
  • Teatro Colón—the architecture alone makes this theater worth visiting; bonus: you’ll be in Buenos Aires
  • Perito Moreno Glacier—it’s not every day you get to hang out with icebergs

3. Chile


Chile is one of the safest destinations in South America, attracting visitors with its breath-taking views and access to the world’s longest above-ground mountain range. But Chile actually has everything, from deserts to glacial lakes.

While some might connect Chile with political unrest, it has a 1.87 on the Global Peace Index, making this country safe for tourists. It also has some of the happiest people on the planet, ranking 38th on the Global Happiness Index.

It’s one of the safest countries in South America according to the Organized Crime Index and the second most resilient! As further reassurance, Numbeo tells us that you don’t need to worry about being singled out because of the color of your skin, ethnic origin, gender, or religion. Chilean people understand.

Chile has a rating of 0.74 on the Women, Peace, & Security Index, making it above average on a global scale for solo women travelers.

Hiking is a great way to see this beautiful country. Let the local authorities know if you plan to go mountaineering or adventuring so they can help you more easily if you run into difficulty.

Avoid demonstrations and protests, the largest of which may occur in Santiago, the capital. Santiago is safe if you maintain your general awareness and keep your belongings safe to avoid petty crimes. Drink responsibly to enjoy being in the home of some of the most renowned wine producers in the world safely.

Things to see and do in Chile:

4. Paraguay


Tourists and travelers often miss out on Paraguay as it can be eclipsed by the more widely-known Argentina and Chile, but there’s so much to see in Paraguay. It is actually one of the safest countries in South America, with plenty of areas that you and your family can enjoy, day or night.

Paraguay was ranked 68th on the Global Peace Index with a score of 1.94, which puts it on a par with France. The country has the 57th happiest people in the world according to the Global Happiness Index, which should make for a warm welcome.

To avoid crime in Paraguay, it’s advisable to stay away from the border with Brazil. It is largely unregulated, which attracts illegal activity. For this reason, the area has attracted some organized crime and corruption, but it’s not the kind of thing that affects travelers or visitors.

With a 0.77 rating on the Women, Peace, and Security Index, it’s the 50th safest country for female travelers—meaning, it’s pretty safe.

The nature here is exceptional and comes with exciting wildlife including deer, monkeys, anteaters, armadillos, tapirs, cougars, and jaguars! Don’t worry, attacks on humans by jaguars are extremely rare.

A great tip for staying safe in Paraguay is to consider your personal hygiene and health. Wash fruit before you eat it and drink bottled water. Avoid swimming in the River Paraguay, which can be grubby; instead, check local information to ascertain the safest swimming areas.

Things to see and do in Paraguay:

5. Bolivia


Bolivia has a moderate rating of 2 on the Global Peace Index, so it’s generally safer than the US. It has a Global Happiness Index rating of 5.8, so you can expect people to be polite and respectful.

The country also has one of the lowest crime rates in South America, with a score of just 4.95 on the Global Organized Crime Index. And it scores 0.7 for female safety on the Women, Peace, and Security Index, which is above the global average.

In Bolivia, you can enjoy mountain biking, salt flat tours, the world’s highest cable car system for unique views of La Paz, and even expeditions into the Amazon jungle!

You’ll find that Bolivia is a safe country, but exercise usual caution in the big cities to avoid petty crime.

Things to see and do in Bolivia:

6. Ecuador


On January 8th, 2024, the President of Ecuador declared a 60-day heightened state of emergency due to gang leaders escaping from prison. The special state of affairs includes a daily curfew with doors locked from 11pm to 5am.

All this is unlikely to affect you significantly unless you’re a night owl. You can be exempt from the curfew if you are traveling to or from an airport, in which case you’ll need your passport, ID, and boarding pass/flight booking information.

Carry your passport everywhere. It’s the law. Keep a color copy somewhere safe.

This extra security makes it no surprise that Ecuador has a Global Peace Index score of 2.09, slightly higher than many other South American countries. Despite the challenges, its people are moderately happy, with a Global Happiness Index score of 5.73, making them the 74th happiest country on the world stage. And the country gets 0.65 on safety for female travelers according to the Women, Peace, and Security Index, which is within range of the global average.

While Ecuador attracts curious male and female travelers from all around the world, it has also, unfortunately, attracted organized crime. However, there’s plenty to see without poking around the Ecuador-Colombia border in the north, which is where crime is higher due to drug trafficking.

Things to see and do in Ecuador:

  • TeleferiQo—an unforgettable, spectacular way to see Ecuador
  • Galapagos Beaches—exceptional, even if you don’t see humpback whales
  • Chimborazo—there are mountains and then there is Chimborazo

7. Peru


Peru has a Global Peace Index score of 2.13, making it safe for travelers practicing good travel habits, such as staying alert in public places, keeping phones and valuables out of sight, and withdrawing cash from supermarkets or malls rather than street ATMs.

The country’s people are pretty happy, with a Global Happiness Index score of 5.84. Women traveling alone can enjoy the relative safety of a score of 0.71 on the Women, Peace, and Security Index, which makes it one of the safest countries in South America for women.

When it comes to the Global Organized Crime Index, it gets a score of 6.4, which puts it about midway compared to other South American countries. According to Numbeo, people aren’t too worried about the prospect of being insulted, attacked, or having their stuff stolen from their homes. The voices of over 400 contributors also came to the conclusion that it’s fairly safe to walk around in Peru during the day.

We recommend that you follow the US Travel Advisory Service reminder and avoid the Colombia-Peru border due to the crime there. Fortunately, there’s lots to see and do in Peru in tourist-centered areas without having to venture near the border.

Things to see and do in Peru:

8. Guyana


Guyana scores 2.13 on the Global Peace Index, making it number 106. It scores 5.97 on the Global Organized Crime Index, which puts it at about the halfway point when considering all the South American countries. With a score of 0.76 on the Women, Peace, and Security Index, it’s one of the safest places in South America for women travelers.

As an English speaker, you might be delighted to learn that English is the official language in Guyana. It’s the only country in South America where this is the case—it’s a byproduct of British colonization, which stuck around after Guyana became independent in 1966.

The current political situation in beautiful Guyana includes only occasional protests and demonstrations. The best way to enjoy the fascinating landscape and culture of this wonderful country is to avoid protests and avoid traveling to the Venezuela-Guyana border due to border disputes.

There is sufficient police presence and don’t be alarmed to see officers armed and ready to tackle any potential threats from criminals.

Things to see and do in Guyana:

  • Kaieteur Falls—this waterfall is remarkable because of its sheer size and power
  • Botanical Gardens Guyana—this attraction dates back to the 19th century and is perfect for plant lovers; there’s also a zoo
  • Iwokrama Canopy Walkway—see nature up-close and personal by walking on tree-top suspension bridges and decks

9. Brazil


Brazil. Home of Pelé. King of the South American countries.

Brazil has everything from rainforests to world-class, historical architecture. It’s the beating heart of carnival and a stunning place to take a selfie.

Due to poverty—or, more accurately, income inequality—crime is higher here than in many other South American countries. It has 2.46 on the Global Peace Index, putting it at the 132nd place in the world. Its Global Organized Crime Index score is 6.77, making it the 4th highest in South America.

However, this increased risk of crime is frequently related to gang activity, so unless you’re planning to go all Breaking Bad, you can have a lovely time. Brazil gets 0.63 on the Women, Peace, and Security Index, which is about the average globally for the safety of female travelers.

Via Numbeo, over 5,000 contributors gave their opinion on safety in Brazil. Collectively, they were not too concerned about having things taken from their homes or being insulted or attacked. Plus, they consider it pretty safe for walking around alone during daylight.

Things to see and do in Brazil:

10. Colombia


Colombia is a colorful, lively country that rivals any other South American destination. Since it has some challenges with crime, stick to the tourist spots—which there are plenty of—to keep yourself occupied and safe.

Though it has mountains, sun, rainforest, beaches, and a metropolis full of local music, art, and culture, Colombia unfortunately scores a little higher on the Global Peace Index than the aforementioned countries with a 2.69. This is largely due to isolated activities of the drug cartels, and shouldn’t be of great concern to tourists.

Colombia has the highest Organized Crime Index Score in South America and the 2nd highest in the world. Many of its problems are related to organized crime deals with neighbors, including Venezuela, Cuba, and Africa.

In context, however, it’s still possible to stay safe by sticking to the tourist spots in Colombia. The country’s GPI score is on its way down (going in the right direction), while the global peace ranking in comparison to other countries has steadily improved since 2008 (also going in the right direction).

Despite its challenges, the country is resilient to organized crime. According to the Organized Crime Index, it’s the 4th most resilient in South America.

Also, collating the data from over 1,250 respondents, Numbeo tells us people are not very concerned about walking alone during the day and crimes like cars being stolen, homes being broken into, or people being attacked are unlikely.

Things to see and do in Colombia:

  • Caño Cristales—AKA the river of five colors or the liquid rainbow will leave you breathless
  • The Gold Museum—this unique museum will dazzle you with exceptional goldwork and history
  • Cartagena—UNESCO describes this locale as having outstanding universal value and you’re sure to agree

Safest South American Countries Recap

Sometimes overlooked, but never forgotten, follow travel advice and stay vigilant to have a wonderful and safe vacation in any of these diverse South American countries.

South America has a reputation for civil unrest, but this tends to be infrequent and small-scale. In most cases, tourists avoid trouble by staying away from protests and demonstrations of all sizes. This is a wise precaution because of the unpredictability of protests.

The police will help you if they can, but there is a language barrier to consider, so make sure you adopt good travel habits and maintain your awareness, especially in big cities or on public transport.

The borders are often hotspots for illegal activity, so steer clear of these, which shouldn’t be difficult, since there is so much to see and do in any of these South American wonderlands.

Aside from that, many South American roads can be challenging, so check the weather before you travel. Avoid driving at night, and get yourself into a 4×4 if possible.

General Safety Recommendations

Check Out International Travel Advisories

It’s wise to make the most of these resources before traveling. They will give you up-to-date information aimed at keeping you safe. We recommend that you choose from the US, UK, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand travel advisories. They will help you prepare for your journey in terms of precautions, safety, and security.

Choose Accommodation With Safety in Mind

It’s typical to choose your accommodation based on whether they have a pool, proximity to great restaurants, or your budget. However, you can also choose prioritizing your safety!

For example, look beyond the star-rating to how close your hotel is to local amenities. Check out the location of useful organizations, such as hospitals, police stations, and embassies.

Picking a well-known hotel in a tourist-friendly area can help you feel and be safe.

Don’t Believe the Hype

Any organization will tell you that their hotel is great, their tour is the most interesting, or their restaurant the most delicious. Dig a little deeper by actually reading some of the reviews.

Read negative reviews as well as the positive ones. Both can contain useful information to help you make your trip safer and more enjoyable. Look for authenticity in tone and substance. Whether positive or negative, look out for recurring themes that have the ring of truth about them.

And another hard-earned lesson: check out who is reviewing the accommodation. A dodgy, noisy apartment may be a wonderful choice for five 20-year old men, but is it what you want when you travel with your family? In your thirties? On a retirement trip? Heavens, no!

Work With Nature

While it’s great to visit places like South America for their unique natural landscapes, it’s also wise to remember that nature can be harshly indiscriminate. Whether an avalanche, a rogue wave, or various native animal species, please stay vigilant and respectful of your surroundings.

Also, note that South America is vast. When the Galapagos is cool and dry, it’s also 30 degrees in the Amazon jungle, and it can be icy in Patagonia.

Thirdly, southern hemisphere seasons are the reverse of the northern hemisphere. November to February is basically summer. June to August could be considered winter. The South American countries nearest the equator, like Peru, will have warm weather throughout the year.

For this reason, we recommend checking the World Meteorological Organization’s World Weather Information Service, their Severe Weather Information Centre, and the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System before and during your travels. Check out the forecast before you book tickets.

They will tell you about rainy seasons, extreme weather to watch out for, and precautions to take if there is a risk of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or extreme flooding.

Use Travel Apps

Not only can travel apps save you time getting to your destinations, they can also help you stay in the safest areas. GPS and location apps are also great if your plans are interrupted by an impromptu protest; they can give you the fastest, safest, and most convenient way to get your holiday back on track.

Official ride-sharing apps like Uber can get you a safe set of wheels to advance your holiday. UberEats can save you the uncertainty of wandering the streets by having the food of your choice delivered to your location.

Learn the Language(s)

Spanish is the most widely spoken language in South America. Many people also speak Portuguese. Nobody’s expecting you to be fluent while visiting, but being able to speak a few words of a local language can go a long way for your own comfort and security as well sending positive vibes to everyone you meet.

Being able to start a conversation by saying hello, and saying please and thank you are the minimum requirement for politeness in most countries. Don’t worry about sounding stupid. It’s better to try than to assume everyone speaks your language.

Learning words you might need to find your way around, pay for things, or get help is a great idea to enhance your safety.

Apply Safe Travel Practices

A good trip is a safe trip. Wherever you are in the world, travel safety practices will help keep your trip on track.

  • Try to arrive in daylight so you can find your way around; there may be fewer opportunists, like pickpockets; and you can visit establishments for some assistance if needed.
  • Remember that it’s safest to walk in groups when out at night.
  • Drink responsibly.
  • Don’t accept illegal drugs.
  • Make copies of your important documents, such as visas (if you require them) and passports to carry with you, leaving the originals safely at your lodgings.
  • In hot weather, make sure you are carrying water and sunscreen.
  • Remember that ATMs in banks, malls, and supermarkets tend to be safer than those outdoors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to visit South America right now?

Yes, South American countries are safe to visit, aside from Venezuela. The US Department of State discourages US citizens from traveling to Venezuela, particularly discouraging land border crossings on the Colombian border, due to crime, civil unrest, and detentions. You can search the Department of State’s Travel Advisory Service for up-to-date travel safety information on all South American countries.

What is the safest country in South America?

Uruguay, my friends. Uruguay is just shy of the top 25% of the world’s safest countries. It has a Global Peace Index of 1.79.

What should I do before traveling to South America?

Before traveling to South America for the first time, it’s wise to take the following precautions:
1. Research current visa requirements—Even if you think you know the requirements, note that things change. Checking the facts will give you peace of mind. Do this well before your trip so a piece of paper doesn’t get in the way of a great time.
2. Plan your trip—Moving toward an agreed destination and following a travel plan throughout your trip will help you look purposeful and keep you on the straight and narrow, which can help deter opportunistic criminals in any country.
3. Research the time of year—The seasons are very different depending on which South American country you wish to visit. February and March are good months to visit Brazil, for example, while you might want to make the most of skiing opportunities in Argentina by traveling in winter.
4. Investigate the country’s currency—Despite seeing signs saying $, only Ecuador uses US dollars! All other South American countries have their own currencies. Several South American countries use pesos, but each has a unique peso specific to the country. You may be able to exchange dollars for the local currency or services, but it’s safest and easiest to have the correct currency for the country you visit.
5. Learn some Spanish. Yeah. If you’re leaving tomorrow, you’d better cram. Even in the service industry, few people speak English. It’s polite, practical, and safe to learn the basics of the local language.

What do I need to know about South America?

South America is huge! It’s the fourth-largest continent with very diverse geography, including the Amazon river (the largest in the world). It has a desert to bake in, a rainforest to explore (with an official guide, of course), and mountains to ski down.
It has miles of coast. And it has bustling cities. Salt flats. Wildlife. Volcanoes! Whatever you want to do, you’ll probably find it in South America. And it’s wise to spend some time choosing your destination and planning your trip carefully, so that you get the most out of your visit and pack appropriately considering the climate or climates you will encounter.

About Susan Laurent
Susan Laurent
I'm passionate about world cultures, travel, and discovering amazing new places. I've spent years traveling the globe, very often alone, so I focus on providing important information about travel safety to travelers that I've gathered from first-hand experience.
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