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The 10 Safest South American Countries to Visit in 2024, Ranked

Travel in South America has so much appeal. It’s an area known for its dramatic natural beauty, rich, millennia-old cultural heritage, and warm communities.

However, a concern often nagging in the back of people’s minds when choosing to travel to is whether it’s safe to travel in South America.

This continent has attracted quite a worrying reputation over the years, but this is a sweeping and unfair generalization that doesn’t reflect the realities of life and travel in the 13 diverse countries within South America. I’ve spent over 10 years traveling in the region and, touch wood, have never experienced any security concerns in any of the countries I’ve visited.

This is partly because I speak the language (which ensures that I’m a lot more aware of my surroundings and what’s going on), but also I’m a fairly cautious traveler – something I highly recommend you are too.

Before planning your trip, it’s worth getting to grips with how safe the country you’re visiting is – as well as common scams and issues you should be aware of before you arrive.

Christ the Redeemer statue above the city of Rio de Janeiro

So here are the top ten safest countries in South America, according to the latest Global Peace Index, as well as links to the relevant travel advisories and travel warnings for each destination.

1. Uruguay

Sitting at the top of the pile of safest South American countries is Uruguay. According to the 2023 Global Peace Index, Uruguay ranks 50th out of the world’s 163 nations. Despite historically being one of the lesser-known South American countries on the tourism trail, this is now changing thanks to a growing awareness of its allure.

Tranquil, safe, and green, Uruguay is fast becoming a getaway for holidaymakers looking for great wine, gorgeous beaches, and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.

How to stay safe traveling in Uruguay

When traveling to Uruguay, safety concerns to be aware of are pickpocketing, muggings, and car break-ins in the big cities – but care should be taken in the smaller towns and resorts, too. It is advisable to avoid carrying large amounts of cash or expensive jewelry and, in Montevideo, it is generally best to avoid walking alone at night.

Uruguayan destinations you shouldn’t miss

Uruguay has some stunning places to visit, including its capital, Montevideo – a place we consider to be one of the best places to visit in South America. Another one of Uruguay’s most lauded tourist attractions is Colonia del Sacramento, a city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to some of the finest wineries and vineyards in the country.

A speedboat on the water in the bay of Punta del Este in Uruguay, the safest country to visit in South America, according to the Global Peace Index
Uruguay is home to incredible beach resorts where you can relax.

Another unmissable destination is Punta del Este, an exclusive beach resort that boasts a breathtaking coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. A quieter alternative to Punta del Este is Jose Ignacio – a former fisherman’s village turned idyllic beach getaway. Salto, Uruguay’s second city is also well worth a visit, with its leafy walks, picturesque plazas, and laid-back vibes. 

2. Argentina

Argentina is ranked 54th in the 2023 Global Peace Index and is considered the second-safest South American country, having increased in the rankings by 15 places since 2022 to overtake Chile. This is despite turmoil in the country due to economic turmoil, which has seen inflation reach 143% in October 2023. The election of populist president, Javier Milei, could threaten safety across the country, however.

One of the most visited countries on the continent, it’s chock-full of rich Latin American culture, an exciting nightlife and food scene along with breathtaking natural beauty added into the mix. The local people, perhaps thanks to their Italian and Spanish blood, are often incredibly warm and welcoming, and keen to make you feel at home.

It doesn’t matter where your passion lies, whether that’s partying, local cuisine, or adventure-seeking, this nation has so much to offer and it’s one I’ve spent many months enjoying the brilliant wine, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

How to stay safe traveling in Argentina

When visiting Argentina, there are some safety considerations to be mindful of, particularly in the capital, Buenos Aires. The most common of these is distraction theft. If you are approached on the street and something doesn’t feel quite right, refuse to engage and walk away – otherwise, a bystander in on the rouse may well steal your purse or bag while you’re distracted.

Be vigilant to pickpockets, and do not resist should a mugging occur – hand over valuables and money and report the incident to the local police. Always be sure to check out government travel advisories for more information on how to stay safe – there are some neighborhoods for which more caution is advised and these can change more quickly than I can update this post!

However, millions visit Argentina annually, and most visits are free of trouble. Areas such as Patagonia in the south are some of the safest places on the planet and where you’re highly unlikely to face any issues.

Destinations in Argentina you can explore safely

Buenos Aires stands out as one of South America’s most enticing capital cities. Latin passion, bohemian neighborhoods, and fantastic steakhouses – what’s not to love? Common-sense precautions are necessary here, so read my guide to safety in Buenos Aires to get prepared.

For nature lovers, the famous Perito Moreno Glacier is a must-see. This is one of Patagonia’s most staggering natural ice formations. You can get up close to arguably one of the most beautiful natural landmarks on the planet, making it one of Patagonia’s most accessible glaciers to visit.

Iguazu Falls, one of the best places to visit in Argentina.
Iguazu Falls are some of the globe’s most incredible waterfalls and a must-visit in Argentina.

Bordering with Brazil, the Iguazú Falls are the largest, most breathtaking waterfalls on the planet and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Argentina’s second city, Córdoba, also possesses exquisite 16th century architecture and a large student population, making it an exciting destination for nightlife and culture.

The landscapes of Patagonia’s Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly city, are also spectacular and you can explore the Beagle Channel by boat to visit nearby penguin and seal colonies, or cross over the water to the Chilean city of Puerto Williams, a bizarre yet fascinating little town on the southern shores of the channel.

3. Chile

Chile ranks just a couple of places below Uruguay in the 2023 Global Peace Index at 58th and is South America’s third safest country, having dropped three places since 2022 and finding itself replaced by Argentina at number two. It is another place that has experienced a travel boom over the past few years, particularly now that the protests that gripped this country from 2019 through the start of 2020 have calmed down.

Chile’s mesmerizing landscapes range from desert plateaus to glacier-speckled mountain ranges, and is my favorite part of South America – living there for over three years will do that to you!

How to stay safe traveling in Chile

Despite Chile being one of the safest places to visit in South America, travelers should remain vigilant, particularly in Santiago and other large cities. I never had any issues in Santiago during the years I lived there or on subsequent visits, but I would still recommend caution when visiting.

2023 safety update: The US State Department has suggested “exercising increased caution” when visiting Santiago. This is due to an increase in muggings, assaults, and carjackings taking place in the city. Unlicensed taxi drivers are an increasing issue, too, particularly at the airport, so it’s recommended to always book through a registered provider (we recommend the reliable, English-speaking My Ride Chile). Previously safe tourist neighborhoods such as Bellavista and around the Plaza de Armas and the Central Market are becoming increasingly unsafe, and you’re best to visit them during the morning as things can take a turn later in the afternoon. It’s advised to take taxis (use Uber where possible or ask your accommodation to call a taxi; never hail a cab off the street) within these areas at nighttime. Read more safety recommendations here.

That said, over the past few years, safety in Chilehas been undermined by the arrival of criminal gangs from the north of the continent. Much of the country remains incredibly safe – you won’t have any issues in Patagonia or Rapa Nui, for example – but you should take extreme caution when traveling in cities such as Santiago, Valparaíso, Iquique, and Antofagasta.

A common issue is with fake, unofficial taxis whose drivers may attempt to steal from tourists – it’s, therefore, advisable to use pre-booked official taxis, which have desks at the airport in Santiago, or local companies such as My Ride Chile. I almost fell for a scam where a driver encouraged me to get into his cab claiming he was working for an official taxi company – which he was not.

Asking the driver for proof of reservation can mitigate this risk. You can also use Uber to get to your destination and when traveling around the city and never hail a cab off the street.

Los Cuernos in Torres del Paine National Park
Chile is home to some of the continent’s most outstanding scenery, including Torres del Paine National Park.

Carjacking whilst stopped at traffic lights has occurred in big cities, so it’s prudent to keep car doors locked when driving and parked.

Be aware of pickpockets on public transport such as the Metro in Santiago, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or showy jewelry, and keep your passport in a safe back at your hotel or in a hidden, inaccessible pocket in your bag.

If you do get mugged, don’t resist: it’s not worth getting injured over items that you can replace.

Formerly safe neighborhoods such as Lastarria and Bellavista are becoming increasingly less so in the past year. Explore them only during the day and take taxis around them at nighttime. Downtown and other parts around the city center should also only be visited during the day.

Chilean destinations you can explore safely

Most trips to Chile are completely trouble-free, which is why this is a South American destination you can’t miss. If you’re somebody who enjoys the hustle and bustle of the big city, Santiago has tons to offer: from stunning 18th-century architecture to some brilliant museums exploring Chile’s ancient history and civilizations, as well its more recent history.

Torres del Paine National Park is one of my favorite places to visit in Chile due to its incredible hikes and breathtaking views of Patagonia’s wildest landscapes.

The Chepu Valley, Chiloé is another must-see to catch a close-up of some unique wildlife. Home to an abundance of spectacular and rare birds, this river valley is a bird watcher’s dream, although not so many visitors know about it.

Pucón is a destination that often finds itself on adventure-hunters’ itineraries in Chile because of its incredible hiking trails and volcano ascents, as well as skiing in the winter.

For a change of terrain altogether, the Atacama Desert is an otherworldly experience, home to huge volcanoes, salt lakes filled with flamingos, and geothermal springs that should not be missed when visiting Chile, although I prefer the region around Putre further north for a quieter and more off-the-beaten-path experience.

Easter Island (or Rapa Nui as it’s known to the local people) is another truly unique Chilean destination that’s home to remarkable stone statues known as moai dotted around the island. It truly wowed me and exceeded all of my expectations, so I highly recommend adding it to your trip.

4. Paraguay

Of the safest South American countries, Paraguay comes in fourth on the continent and 77th globally for 2023. Off the beaten tourist trail and bordered by Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina, Paraguay is a place unknown to most travelers, but the intrepid ones who do visit are in for a treat, as I found when I explored the country for The Rough Guide to South America a few years ago.

Full of geological wonders, an under-the-radar Latin American capital city, and well-preserved Jesuit buildings, Paraguay is a somewhat bizarre place (read John Gimlette’s fantastic At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig to understand its truly checkered history) but one I found fascinating.

Paraguay travel warnings

Safety precautions to take in Paraguay include making sure mobile phones and money are out of sight – muggings and street crime can occur if you’re flashing valuable items, particularly in Asuncion and Ciudad del Este on the Brazilian border. The capital, Asuncion, can also feel completely empty on Sundays, so it’s not wise to wander around otherwise empty streets.

It is also sensible to avoid walking alone at night in these cities. Taxis are a lot more convenient and safer to get around the cities, but buses between cities and towns are safe.

Destinations in Paraguay to visit safely

There are some amazing adventures to be had in Paraguay. Asunción, its capital, is a warm, welcoming city boasting 17th-century architecture, epic art galleries, and some fantastic restaurants.

A boat putters up a river in the Pantanal in Paraguay, the fourth safest country to visit in South America, according to the Global Peace Index
A trip into the Paraguayan Pantanal is a true adventure in South America’s fourth safest country.

On the border with Brazil and a stone’s throw from Iguazu Falls is the Itaipú Dam: a gigantic structure that generates most of Paraguay’s electricity and is one of the engineering wonders of the world. You can visit it as part of a day tour from Ciudad del Este.

For wildlife lovers, go on a guided tour of the Gran Chaco; a dry forest home to tropical birds, pumas, and armadillos. You can also take an intrepid adventure deep into the Pantanal for sightings of monkeys, caiman, and jaguars.

La Santisima Trinidad de Paraná tells an important story about Paraguayan history, and more specifically, the Jesuit Missions and how indigenous communities were impacted. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is full of fascinating ancient ruins from the colonial era and is one of the country’s most visited places. 

5. Ecuador

The 2023 Global Peace Index ranks Ecuador as the sixth safest country in South America, coming in at 79th worldwide. Travelers adore this small but wonderfully scenic country. Beaches, cities, jungles, and, across the ocean in the Galapagos Islands, underwater worlds full of amazing wildlife – you name it, Ecuador has it!

How to visit Ecuador safely

There are some safety precautions you should take when traveling through Ecuador. Pickpocketing and muggings are common, so all of the same advice above for previous countries applies.

A seal sits on a beach in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, one of the safest countries to visit in South America
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most diverse places on the planet – and a destination you can visit safely in South America.

Female travelers in particular should take care to book accommodation that has been well reviewed by other travelers and be aware of date rape drugs – serious sexual assaults have taken place.  Never accept cigarettes, perfume samples, food, or drink from a stranger, as these can contain drugs used to subdue you while you’re robbed.

Destinations to explore in Ecuador

Ecuador is abundantly blessed with experiences that are likely to be once-in-a-lifetime for visitors. The Galapagos Islands are unlike anywhere else on the planet thanks to its remarkable endemic wildlife.

Taking a boat tour of the Ecuadorian Amazon is also highly recommended because you can spot anacondas, piranhas, and pink dolphins.

Quito and Cuenca are also the perfect city trips for visitors to South America. Both places have well-preserved historic architecture and plenty of places for sampling delicious Ecuadorian food.  

The Cascada el Pailón is a magnificent giant waterfall that emits swirling mists and rainbows – take a suspension bridge over this awe-inspiring natural wonder for some epic views! Located on the edge of the Cloud Forest and along the Rio Verde River, this thunderous natural wonder is one of Ecuador’s largest single-drop waterfalls.

6. Bolivia

Bolivia saw the biggest increase between the 2021 and 2022 Global Peace Index, moving from 105 to 80 in just one year, where it has remained in 2023. It’s therefore the eighth safest country in South America.

With so many diverse and stunning landscapes, Bolivia may pose some challenges for travelers, but a visit here is guaranteed to be memorable. Between lively cities, salt flats, volcanic landscapes, and fascinating indigenous culture, Bolivia has a unique blend of attractions.

I spent a year living there and never ran out of things to see and do.

How to travel in Bolivia safely

Before you travel to Bolivia, it’s worth considering safety, as tourists can be a target for opportunistic thieves. There are specific factors to take into consideration – some of which require a little extra planning ahead – but all are surmountable.

Flamingos fly above Laguna Colorada near the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia with moody skies beyond
Flamingos fly over Laguna Colorada, a spectacular lake visited as part of a tour of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats.

Be sure to use official taxis only and wear a cross-body bag on your front as opposed to a backpack to keep valuables close and where you can see if anyone is trying to get their hands into your bag.

I highly recommend learning some basic Spanish phrases; these will go a long way in terms of the reception you receive from local people (who can sometimes be wary of foreign travelers), who will often also warn you if you’re in somewhere a little dangerous.

In big cities, I would recommend downloading your route on apps such as Google Maps in the event that you lose internet connection while exploring, just be careful when using your phone in crowded places or beside roads, as people have been known to snatch them from visitors’ hands.

I found bus travel to generally be safe, although you should never put your bag in the luggage rack above your seat as it could be stolen. Keep valuables on a cross-body bag or in a rucksack at your feet.

Destinations you can’t miss in Bolivia

Now, for the fun part! The Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world and one of Bolivia’s main tourist attractions. Visit during the wet season for incredible reflection shots or during the dry season for mind-blowing perspective shots. Whenever you go, your tour will encompass the region’s most thrilling natural landscapes, including Laguna Colorada, a vast lake home to rare flamingo species.

For history buffs, I highly recommend the UNESCO Jesuit Missions. These historic sites contain the missions (churches) that were set up by European colonizers in the 17th century with the aim of converting native peoples to Christianity and offering an intriguing mix of both native and European architectural influences.

The gateway to the Amazon jungle in Bolivia, Rurrenabaque is another destination you shouldn’t miss on a trip to Bolivia, where you can wander through the rainforest in search of jaguars, monkeys, and other remarkable wildlife.

Like to travel via your stomach? Cochabamba is known as Bolivia’s foodie capital and is a must if you’re looking to get a taste of authentic local cuisine (although, I have to say that Bolivian food isn’t the best…). 

7. Peru

In late 2022, protests in Peru saw Machu Picchu closed and many parts of the country inaccessible and Peru saw the biggest drop in safety in South America, moving to number 101 on the 2022 Global Peace Index from 86th and from the fifth safest country in the continent to the seventh. It has since remained at number 101 in 2023, although protests are now over. I expect it to increase back in the safety rankings in 2024 as the country returns to normal.

Peru remains one of the most popular destinations for people traveling through South America, and, between its breathtaking natural wonders, ancient ruins, and delicious cuisine, it’s easy to see why adventurers flock to this uniquely beautiful nation en masse.

How to travel in Peru safely

Things to be mindful of when it comes to safety are muggings in major cities and passport theft – it’s best to avoid carrying your passport around.

There have also been a few rare incidents where tourists have been robbed at gunpoint outside luxury hotels and lodges. In this situation, do not resist and report the incident to the police.

Additionally, be careful when flagging taxis down in the street. In Cusco, Lima, and other cities, I recommend using Uber instead.

A few cases of sexual assault involving lone female travelers have also been reported in Cusco and Arequipa – so never leave drinks unattended and avoid using unofficial tour agents. Yes, you can get tours much cheaper at the multitude of tour agencies around Cusco, but there’s no guarantee of quality or safety.

I recommend companies such as Alpaca Expeditions and Amazonas Explorer if you want to travel with local experts who invest in communities and offer the highest quality tours.

All in all, remember that the serious incidents above are rare, but being aware of them is key to a safe trip.

Destinations in Peru to visit safely 

There is an abundance of culture and beauty to explore in Peru. The utterly majestic Inca City of Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the most famed Peruvian destinations.

Gocta Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the world as seen from Cocachimba and one of the unmissable places to visit in Peru
Gocta Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the world, is a destination in Peru visited by few foreign tourists.

Iquitos is another incredible place to visit in Peru; this spectacular Amazonian city is reachable by boat or plane and is one of the main gateways into the jungle.

The White City, Arequipa, is full of charm and arguably Peru’s most beautiful thanks to its striking architecture. It’s also a great stopping-off point on a trip to the Colca Canyon

The north of Peru boasts one of the world’s highest waterfalls in the Gocta and Yumbilla Falls – the views are jaw-dropping and the surrounding jungle landscapes are packed full of flora and fauna. There are also some brilliant archaeological sites for Pre-Inca civilizations such as the Moche and Chachapoyas, which I highly recommend – so few people visit them!

With snow-capped mountains and turquoise waters, Huaraz is also a hiker and climber’s paradise, particularly for those looking to bag their first 5,000+ mountain ascent.

8. Guyana

Guyana sits at 106th in the Global Peace Index as of 2023 and is South America’s seventh safest country. This spectacular gem often falls off the radar for many travelers, even though it’s South America’s only English-speaking country, which makes it easier to navigate for those who don’t speak Spanish.

After discovering oil off its coast, Guyana is set to increase in wealth over the coming years, which should increase its levels of safety and make it a compelling destination for travelers. It’s already one I recommend to those seeking out incredible wildlife – although you do need deep pockets to visit, as much of the country is only accessible by light aircraft or motorized canoe!

Ecotourists have the chance to see a rare giant anteater on the grasslands of Guyana.
The Rupununi in Guyana is home to giant anteaters, jaguars, and giant otters.

Home to a huge tract of untouched and highly biodiverse jungle and small-scale tourism outfits that enable you to meet and learn from the local people, Guyana is a life-changing destination for adventurous travelers and one of my absolute favorite parts of South America.

Travel warnings for visiting Guyana

Safety concerns in Guyana mainly center on the targeting of tourists who are perceived as wealthy and are generally only something to be aware of in the capital, Georgetown.

Avoid wearing jewelry or expensive clothes; don’t carry more cash than you need, and always follow government travel advice for specific areas that are best avoided by foreign travelers. 

Destinations not to miss in Guyana

Guyana is 80% rainforest, most of which is practically inaccessible and thus a haven for wildlife and dramatic natural attractions. Kaieteur Falls is one of them: the highest waterfall in the country, it’s a dazzling display of nature’s might. The surrounding national park is also home to key wildlife species such as the dazzlingly orange Guianan cock-of-the-rock.  

A trip around Guyana wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Rupununi, a savanna plain in the southwest of Guyana where you can encounter some of the country’s most thrilling wildlife, such as giant anteater, jaguar, and giant otter.

Guyana also lays claim to producing the best rum in the world – you can test this out for yourself at Demerara Distillers in Georgetown. 

For a truly authentic experience, visit Surama, an indigenous community turned eco-lodge where the community will teach you traditional dances and about cassava production.

9. Brazil

The home of samba and soccer comes in at 132nd on the Global Peace Index, ranking as the ninth safest country in South America in 2023. For all of its documented problems, Brazil has a rich culture, locals who love to party, and some of the world’s most superlative natural and man-made wonders.

How to stay safe on a trip to Brazil

To remain safe while traveling through this enormous country, be aware of muggers, some of whom may be armed. Never try to resist if you’re being mugged, as crime is often violent, and resisting robbery can be fatal.

Parts of Rio de Janeiro are particularly unsafe, with pickpocketers taking advantage of tourists around the historical downtown area. Armed robberies have also been reported on the trail to the Christ the Redeemer statue, so I recommend taking a tour to visit this monument instead.

Avoid city beaches after dark and keep possessions close to you whilst on the beach during the day. It is generally recommended to avoid the favelas in any city.

An aerial view of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue is one of South America’s most iconic man-made landmarks.

The metro system is generally safer for transport, as taxis use GPS, which can take you through favelas and certain areas where cars containing obvious tourists could be targeted.

Where to visit in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is the most visited city in South America and for good reason: its impressive beaches, mountains, world-famous Carnival festival, and vivacious atmosphere are magnetic. Not to mention the fact that it’s home to Christ the Redeemer statue!

The beautiful Chapada Diamantina National Park in eastern Brazil was created to preserve its diverse ecosystems. With an array of mountain ranges, valleys, waterfalls, and flora and fauna on show, this is one for outdoor enthusiasts.

Likewise, the gorgeous Bonito is a hub of sustainable ecotourism; with dramatic jagged caves, tropical flora and fauna, and turquoise waters to snorkel in.

The city of Sao Paulo is another destination you can’t miss. This sprawling metropolis is a gastronomic paradise, with food markets galore, football stadiums, and an array of beautiful green spaces and parks. The state it belongs to is fast becoming a trendy escape for city dwellers and tourists.

There are tons of activities to get involved in – from jeep tours through its jungles to river rafting and beach visits along its sublime coastlines.

10. Colombia

Of the safest South American countries, Colombia is placed tenth on the continent and 140th on the 2023 Global Peace Index, having dropped four places since 2022. A nation that was once off-limits for tourists, Colombia is rapidly becoming one of South America’s most appealing countries, particularly to backpackers and adventure seekers.

With its incredibly diverse terrain, buena onda (good vibes), and untouched archaeological sites, Colombia is guaranteed to leave a mark and is a place I’ve been returning to over and again in the past few years.

How to travel to Colombia safely

The crime rate is still high in Colombia, so make sure you follow government travel advice to minimize the risk of encountering problems. When you’re traveling, keep all valuables out of sight and be cautious when using your phone out and about – this can easily be snatched by opportunistic theives.

Always use official taxis or Uber, and be mindful of Colombia’s political climate, which can sometimes lead to demonstrations and protests breaking out quickly and unexpectedly, particularly in cities such as Bogota, Medellin, and Cali.

Colombia is home to stunning colonial buildings constructed using slave labor under the Spanish conquest.

Medellin doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to safety, having been dubbed the most dangerous city in the world by Time Magazine in the early 90s. However, it is becoming a lot safer (as I found when I researched this article about Medellin’s transformation). Public transport is clean, efficient, and very safe, and Ubers are the best way to get between neighborhoods such as Poblado and Laureles, for example.

Tourists do get mugged quite frequently in places such as Poblado, but this is often after they’ve drunk a lot of alcohol (or taken lots of drugs); avoid wandering the street after a night out and you should be fine.

Across Colombia, bus travel is generally safe, although opting to take one of the inexpensive domestic flights can save you a lot of time.

Destinations you can’t miss in Colombia

Adventurers are truly spoilt for choice in Colombia. Its glorious Caribbean coastline boasts Cartagena, a colonial city that looks beautiful but has a dark history. Read my guide to my favorite Cartagena boutique hotels and guesthouses for more inspiration.

Los Nevados National Park is another destination not to miss. It boasts an active volcano, jaw-dropping scenery, natural hot springs, and a thriving coffee region with farm tours available.

To get a true feel of the beautiful diversity of Colombian culture, head to its vibrant capital, Bogotá. many dismiss the capital (the near-constant drizzle certainly doesn’t help), but after a number of weeks spent there, I can confidently say that there’s plenty to keep you occupied thanks to its increasingly ample range of inventive restaurants, fascinating museums, and outstanding street art culture.

Medellín is another remarkable city with tons to see and do. Its museums document its triumph over the drugs wars of the 80s and 90s and its streets are brimming with art, tasty food, and cable cars with fantastic views.

For more inspiration, read our guide to the best destinations to visit in Colombia and this guide to where to stay in Medellín for recommendations for the best accommodation in the safest parts of the city.

Can I travel to South America right now? 

All countries are open to travelers, with no COVID-19 requirements.

Find out what you should pack for a trip to South America

FAQs about safety in South America

Is Chile or Argentina safer?

According to the 2023 Global Peace Index, which ranks countries according to security and safety, Argentina is now safer than Chile, coming in at position 54 out of 163, while Chile sits at position 58. Argentina has climbed significantly in the rankings, despite turmoil in the country due to economic turmoil, which has seen inflation reach 143% in October 2023. The election of populist president, Javier Milei, could threaten safety across the country, however.

In Chile, safety has been undermined by the arrival of criminal gangs from the north of the continent. Much of the country remains incredibly safe – you won’t have any issues in Patagonia or Rapa Nui, for example – but you should take extreme caution when traveling in cities such as Santiago, Valparaíso, Iquique, and Antofagasta.

In both Chile and Argentina, it’s crucial to take a common sense approach to safety. When in cities in either country, avoid showing off expensive jewelry or electronics and consider taking a taxi at night time rather than walking. The further south of both countries you get, the safer it is, with Patagonia widely considered one of the safest places to visit in South America.

What is the safest country in Central and South America?

According to the 2023 Global Peace Index, which ranks countries according to security and safety, the safest country in Central and South America is Costa Rica, which sits at position 39 out of 163 and is ranked “high” for the country’s state of peace. Discover the best places to visit in Costa Rica here.

Uruguay is the second safest country in Central and South America with a ranking of 46, followed by Chile at 55. 

Is South America safe to visit in 2023?

Yes, South America is safe to visit in 2023! The political instability in countries such as Peru and Ecuador that was seen in early 2023 has since died down and most of the continent is a truly safe and incredible place to visit.

When it comes to traveling here it’s always important to take precautions when traveling – i.e. don’t flash your expensive jewelry or electronics and take a taxi at night time when in big cities – however, most visitors to the region will have a safe trip.

Glenn McNamara

Thursday 22nd of February 2024

What about Nicaragua? I spent a lot of time there, and as long as you have no political agenda, its super safe, inexpensive, I have met many friends there, the country has great agricultural and mining potential... not to speak of tourism: the beaches, volcanoes, great hostels, intriging Spanish environment, nacatamales, I can go on and on... I am happy to spend time and money there, and help where I can. So many good experiences! The people in this country love life and LOVE visitors. A must-see for any North Americans that dares to get out of their lay-z-boys for a few months.....

Steph Dyson

Friday 23rd of February 2024

Hi Glenn, I've heard great things about Nicaragua but as it's not in South America, it's not on this list! Steph

Latitude Adjustment

Thursday 7th of December 2023

Great post and fairly accurate. We have been expats here in Colombia for over 5 years and feel much safer here than in the United States. Saludos!

Steph Dyson

Sunday 14th of January 2024

Thanks! Steph

The just

Wednesday 9th of November 2022

So Venezuela doesn't even appear in this map... Wonder why... Lol

T.A. Johnson

Sunday 16th of April 2023

@The just, you can thank the Maduro govt. for that.