As a solo female traveler in South America, I know how important it can be to research travel and safety before hitting the road. Especially if you’re headed to South America, you’re bound to hear many outdated and backward misconceptions about safety and security in the region; make sure to get the facts before you travel!
Using data from the most recent Global Peace Index (GPI) and local data on crime statistics in the countries that made our list, we’ve compiled a safety ranking of countries in South America for travelers. Read on to learn the safest countries in South America – they might surprise you!
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Safest Countries in South America – Ranking Methodology
We start by reminding travelers of these caveats and recognizing the challenge of identifying safe countries in South America, or anywhere for that matter. No matter where you travel, there will be areas you don’t want to visit for safety reasons, situations to avoid, and changing political realities that it’s essential to be aware of.
While it can be challenging to provide an accurate ranking for “safety,” an intangible quality composed of many factors, we’ve chosen the latest Global Peace Index (GPI) and local country-level crime statistics to paint a broad picture of safety in South America.
These statistics include data on all kinds of crimes, including robberies, violent crime, political repression and violence, and more, to create a complete picture of safety in each country.
We’ve weighted these statistics with factors most pertinent to travelers in mind, such as petty crime and robberies, rather than security factors that may weigh more on locals. Read on for these statistics and more, plus a healthy dose of recommendations for travelers and personal anecdotes from our experiences in cities in South America.
The Safest Countries in South America – Ranked!
The safest country in South America is the tiny, laidback country of Uruguay. Wedged between the South American giants Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has the highest score on the Global Peace Index of any country in South America – 50th out of 163 countries reviewed by the index.
Uruguay is well known for its stable democracy, inclusive social policies, and low crime rate, making it among the safest countries in South America year after year.
My experience as a solo female traveler, traveling to Montevideo and several beach towns throughout the country, was extremely positive. I felt nothing but complete safety the entire time, even when using public transportation, staying in hostels, and walking alone through Montevideo.
Highlights of Uruguay include the hippie beach town of Punta del Diablo, the luxe Punta del Este with its fabulous nightlife, and the tiny colonial city of Colonia del Sacramento, one of the best cities in South America for travelers and just a quick ferry from Buenos Aires.
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 1.80/5.0, Country Rank: 50/163
Ranked 58th out of 163 countries on the Global Peace Index, Chile is consistently one of the safest countries in South America. With a stable democracy, strong (though unequal) economic development, and low crime statistics, Chile is a very safe destination for travelers.
As you should wherever you travel, make sure to practice common-sense safety when traveling, especially in cities. However, don’t fear. Chile is quite safe overall, and other than occasional pickpocketing, travelers report very few issues.
My personal experience traveling to Chile confirmed everything you’ll read and hear about its safety. As I traveled through Chile with one female friend, we had a great time traveling easily and safely wherever we headed, even when walking around larger cities in the evening. Plenty of traveler friends, male and female alike, have shared similar experiences.
From bustling Santiago and quaint Valparaiso (easily some of the best cities in South America!) to stunning Chilean Patagonia in the south, there is a lot to explore in Chile for travelers. A clear highlight in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. It is home to some of Patagonia’s most beautiful landscapes with its jagged, snow-capped peaks and clear lakes.
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 1.87/5.0, Country Rank: 58/163
Consistently ranked among the safest countries to visit in South America, Argentina is a highlight for travelers and a great destination no matter what kind of travel appeals to you. Argentina is ranked 54th out of the world’s nations in safety and is considered a very safe travel destination.
Keep in mind that Argentina actually has a much higher incidence of petty crimes like pickpocketing and robberies than some of the countries that rank lower than it on this list. Data shows that Argentina has the highest rates of robberies in South America, which is why it comes in at number three on this list.
This isn’t to scare you out of coming to Argentina by any means. It is simply meant to inform, demonstrating how challenging it can be to actually rank entire countries based on their safety for travelers.
Make sure you use basic travel safety measures when traveling in Argentina, and you’ll be fine. Try clipping the zippers on your bag shut, keeping your purse in front of you, sticking to safe areas of the cities and regions you’ll be visiting, and not flashing expensive jewelry or technology when possible.
No matter where you choose to travel in Argentina, you’ll love what this massive and diverse country has to offer. From red cliffs and canyons in the north to snow-capped peaks and glaciers in Patagonia, plenty of natural spots are worth checking out and unforgettable things to do in Argentina.
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 1.84/5.0, Country Rank: 54/163
The little-visited, landlocked country of Paraguay, in the heart of the continent, is one of the safest countries in South America for visitors. Coming in at number 68 on this year’s Global Peace Index, Paraguay is known for having relative stability and fewer crimes like robberies or assaults than you’ll find among some of its neighbors.
In addition to being one of the safest countries in South America for travelers, Paraguay is also quite an affordable travel destination. As one of the most affordable countries to visit in South America, you’ll save tons of money while experiencing incredible destinations that are totally off the beaten path. It’s a hidden gem if there ever was one.
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 1.94/5.0, Country Rank: 68/163
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Bolivia is yet another great destination for travel in South America, and is generally quite a safe country in South America for travelers. Ranked 78 out of 163 countries on the Global Peace Index, Bolivia shows improved scores in areas like peace, stability, and crimes that most commonly impact travelers.
Despite Bolivia being the poorest country in South America, it ranks lower than many other countries in the region, including Peru, Argentina, and Brazil, in regard to petty crimes like pickpocketing and robbery that could more frequently impact travelers. In my own experience as a backpacker in Bolivia, I felt quite safe.
While Bolivia is a large, diverse country with so much to offer travelers, the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flat is a stand-out favorite with visitors. This otherworldly destination is also known as the world’s largest mirror for how the water-flooded salt flat perfectly reflects the sky during the rainy season. It’s a must-visit destination.
Also home to sections of the Amazon Rainforest, Lake Titicaca, beautiful colonial architecture, and countless Incan ruins, Bolivia is a great, off-the-beaten-path destination for travelers.
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 2.00/5.0, Country Rank: 78/163
Ecuador comes in at number six on our list of the safest countries in South America. Ranked 97 of over 160 countries on the Global Peace Index, Ecuador has gotten safer in recent years in many aspects, though a few jarring instances of large protests and political upheaval in the past few years have had locals and some visitors a bit shaken.
Overall, Ecuador is quite a safe destination for travelers. Having lived in Ecuador for over two years and traveling to every corner of the country, I’m glad to report that I didn’t have a single unsafe incident while there; I felt quite safe throughout my time in Ecuador.
When traveling to Ecuador, travelers should take care to avoid pickpockets and petty theft. Keep in mind that Ecuador actually reports far fewer robberies and petty crimes than countries higher on this list (like Chile and Argentina!) report.
Highlights of traveling Ecuador include exploring Old Town Quito, hiking the Quilotoa Loop near this stunning volcanic crater lake, and visiting the Otavalo market. Of course, the Galapagos is a bucket list destination that draws many travelers to Ecuador, and it is a must!
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 2.09/5.0, Country Rank: 97/163
Ranked 103 out of 163 nations on the Global Peace Index, Peru’s Global Peace Index score deteriorated significantly in recent years. With a recent election causing allegations of voter fraud, the country’s political system has been more chaotic than it has been in many years. While this political uncertainty doesn’t have much impact on travelers, crime rates have been on the rise in recent years as well.
Peru might have a hard time stacking up to some of the leaders of this ranking of safest countries in South America, these issues have yet to play a significant role in limited international travel. In 2019, Peru welcomed nearly 5.5 million international visitors, with many headed to its most famous landmark, Machu Picchu.
I wholly recommend travel to Peru to those considering it, though under the condition they visit more of Peru than just Cusco and Machu Picchu. Though this area of the country is exceptional, so many other corners of the country are just as remarkable.
Get off the beaten path and visit historic cities in Peru like Arequipa, fascinating pre-Incan ruins like Chan Chan, and the snowy mountain peaks in Huaraz. You’ll be astonished by just how much Peru has to offer.
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 2.13/5.0, Country Rank: 103/163
Colombia’s recent past might lead you to believe that Colombia is one of the more dangerous countries to visit in South America, but a lot has changed in just a short time. While Colombia still faces many challenges, it is now significantly safer and more peaceful, and its crime rate has plummeted by 75% since its peak in 1991. That is almost unheard of.
The Colombia of the 1980s and 1990 has been radically transformed and is moving forward full steam ahead. However, due to a small number of armed insurgents still operating in the country and the insecurity involved with trafficking, Colombia is still considered among the three least safe countries in South America.
As a traveler, it’s important to be aware of these issues while keeping this in mind: despite pockets of insecurity and violence in Colombia, travel and tourism have boomed in recent years, and Colombia is a more popular destination than ever before.
Colombia is an incredibly popular destination for backpackers, digital nomads in Latin America, and its port of Cartagena brings cruise ship travelers almost daily during high season. You’ll find affordable island vacation destinations off the Caribbean coast, impressive trekking spots through desert and jungle, and, of course, the world’s best coffee.
My experience traveling in Colombia and living in Medellin for two months was excellent. I felt safe the entire time as I took easy travel safety measures like using marked taxis, keeping my belongings close, and not wearing flashy clothes or jewelry. I wholeheartedly recommend Colombia as a destination for travelers!
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 2.69/5.0, Country Rank: 140/163
Coming in at number 132 out of 163 countries on the Global Peace Index, Brazil faces some challenges regarding security and crime, as it has slid backward in GPI rankings, primarily due to crime rates.
While Brazil technically ranks higher on the Global Peace Index than Colombia, Colombia has lower crime stats than Brazil in some important areas that are more likely to impact travelers. Therefore, we’ve dropped Brazil down a spot on this list.
Safety in Brazil can vary drastically from area to area and city to city, so make sure to look for up-to-date, local advice while planning your trip. This is especially true while navigating Brazil’s larger cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, which tend to be more unsafe for travelers in certain areas.
Anecdotally, you’ll find travelers sharing all kinds of stories about travel to Brazil, some saying they felt totally safe and others saying they experienced pickpocketing or insecurity in another way. This is a reminder to take each story with a grain of salt and remember that there are some easy ways to stay safe when traveling, whether you’re in the world’s safest country or one with more insecurity.
Don’t let Brazil’s lower ranking on this guide dissuade you from a visit. Latin America’s giant has countless beautiful and unique cities, stunning beaches, the giant and diverse sections of the Amazon, and more. It’s all well worth traveling to experience.
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 2.46/5.0, Country Rank: 132/163
Last on our ranked list of safest countries in South America for travelers is Venezuela, which has been last on the Global Peace Index’s ranking of South American nations for several years now. With its challenging combination of political uncertainty, inflation, demonstrations, and violent crime, Venezuela faces many issues that make traveling here much more complicated.
The good news is that Venezuela has improved in a few key ways in recent years, and this is reflected in an improved Global Peace Index rating from previous years. However, travelers mostly aren’t traveling here right now due to all the country is going through.
While Venezuela faces many problems, it has a lot to offer travelers, including great beaches, stunning rainforest retreats, and the stunning Angel Falls that make Niagara Falls and Iguazú look tiny in comparison. Hopefully, in the near future, travel to Venezuela will get safer and easier.
Global Peace Index | Overall Score: 2.69/5.0, Country Rank: 140/163
Travel in South America
While statistics point to countries like Uruguay and Chile being among the safest countries in South America, there is much more that goes into travel safety than just statistics.
No matter where you travel – whether in South America or even closer to home! – practicing smart yet simple travel safety can be the difference between having a perfectly uneventful trip and one you might prefer to forget.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.