The Safest South American Countries in 2023

What are the safest South American countries to travel to?

It is no secret to most that South America doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to safety. With everything from dangerous roads to scams and even violent drug cartels, this is a continent that requires travellers to be a bit savvy. 

We constantly get asked ‘is South America safe to travel?’ and generally our answer is yes. However, there is no disputing that some countries in South America are safer to travel than others. If you’re planning your trip and feeling a little nervous about where to go, we’ve put together this comprehensive list of the safest South American countries. 

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How Did We Decide the Safest South American Countries?

In order to compile this list, we’ve used the Global Peace Index rankings for 2023 (GPI). This index is compiled based on the degree of ongoing conflict, the extent of militarisation and the level of societal safety and security.

While the GPI is a good place to start, it’s worth being aware that as with any research, it has its flaws. Safety is a hard thing to measure empirically as so much of it is based on individual experiences and the overall vibe of a place. While the Global Peace Index is far from perfect, it is the best source that we have for now. 

Military vehicle in city
Militarisation is one determiner of the Global Peace Index.

To give you a bit of context before we dive into the safest countries in South America, as of 2023, the United Kingdom sits at 37 (score 1.693) on the Global Peace Index, the USA sits at 131 (score 2.448) and Australia comes in at number 22 (score 1.525). The most dangerous country according to the index, is Afghanistan which sits at position 163. 

To make it easy for you to compare, all the South American countries will have their Global Peace Index ranking and score explicitly listed. Interestingly, all the South American countries listed have a better Global Peace Index ranking than the United States!

Top 6 Safest Countries in South America

Disclaimer – Safety advice changes quickly across the world and all the countries listed below still fluctuate in terms of their overall stability. What is considered a safe country today, may not be so tomorrow. Therefore, we always advise travellers to do their own research before booking a trip.

1. Uruguay

  • Global Peace Index ranking: 50/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 1.798

The safest country in South America is Uruguay! Holding the accolade for another year running, Uruguay is also the second-safest country in Latin America as a whole, with only Costa Rica claiming a higher spot on the GPI. 

Whilst an enormously popular destination by those who visit, Uruguay is still under-visited compared to its neighbours. The country is one of the smallest in South America but this doesn’t mean there is nothing to see. 

A nighttime view of Monetvideo, Uruguay (South America's safest country) across the water
Uruguay is the safest country in South America in 2023!

Known for its friendly locals and beautiful beaches, Uruguay offers an authentic and safe destination without the crowds. There is also plentiful wildlife here which means it is a great choice for nature lovers. 

Due to the geography of Uruguay, there are no real threats of sudden natural disasters. Violent crime is uncommon too, however, travellers will need to be savvy in the main cities to avoid pickpockets. 

Uruguay is often touted as the ‘most chilled’ country in the whole of South America. This is, in part, thanks to the liberal laws regarding marijuana possession and gay marriage (both of which are legal). 

It is one of the wealthiest countries in the region and as 96% of Uruguayans vote in democratic elections, the citizens also seem to benefit from a positive relationship with their government – something which cannot be said for many countries full stop!

If you’re looking for a stress-free and safe country to visit in South America, Uruguay is definitely your best bet! You never know, you may fall in love with it so much that you never want to leave – Uruguay is one of the best places to live in South America after all!

Skyscrapers seen across the water, Punta Del Este, Uruguay
Uruguay is often said to be the most chilled country in South America!

Traveller Highlights in Uruguay:

  • If you’re brave enough, top up your tan on Playa Chihuahua, Uruguay’s nudist beach!
  • Wander down the cobbled streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Colonia del Sacramento.
  • Head to the ‘Mercado del Puerto’ in Montevideo for a chance to try ‘parrilla’, a delicious taste of Uruguayan barbecue. 
  • Hike Quebrada de Los Cuervos for the chance to see rare birds and other wildlife. 
  • Take a dip in one of the country’s many hot springs. You deserve it after a long day of exploring!

2. Argentina

  • Global Peace Index ranking: 54/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 1.837

Argentina is the second-largest country in South America and offers plenty for all kinds of travellers. From natural wonders to urban cityscapes, this is a country of contrast. It has a big digital nomad and expat population too, with many of the latter originally coming from the USA. 

Colourful houses in La Boca, Buenos Aires
The colourful houses of Buenos Aires.

The Patagonia region is home to some of Argentina’s best hikes and the scenery is out of this world. The cities of Argentina are vibrant and colourful but there are plenty of natural places to retreat for a dose of serenity. 

Whilst petty crime occurs, especially in major cities, Argentina is statistically one of the safest places in South America for visitors, including solo travellers. Hitchhiking is common, particularly in the areas around Patagonia, however, as Argentina is a Spanish-speaking country, it helps to have a basic command of the language. As with any kind of hitchhiking, always tell someone where you are going beforehand for safety reasons.

Dengue Fever is perhaps the biggest health threat to travellers in Argentina, however, this can be prevented through practising mosquito bite avoidance. For more about potential health risks and the necessary vaccines needed for South America, see this post. The plus side is that if you do get ill or injured in Argentina, the health system is of a good standard and free for everyone. 

Unfortunately, Argentina has been suffering from an economic decline in recent years which has amped up tensions over equality. This means that protests are becoming increasingly common. Whilst there is no guarantee that things will turn ugly in these situations, travellers are advised to avoid protests whenever possible. 

Argentina pesos
Economic decline in Argentina has caused the country’s safety rating to drop.

Traveller Highlights in Argentina: 

Read more about safety in Argentina in this post!

3. Chile

  • Global Peace Index ranking: 58/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 1.874

Chile is one of the most diverse countries on the continent which makes it an amazing destination for intrepid adventurers. Chile is (arguably*) the longest county in the world and covers 10 climatic zones! This means it really does have something for everybody.

 *Some claim Brazil is longer but there is only around 100 km in it!

Graffiti in Valparaíso, Chile (one of South America's safest places)
The colourful streets of Valparaíso, Chile.

Whilst Chile had been voted the safest country in South America for years, their Global Peace Index status took a big hit in the 2020 rankings and is yet to recover. Previously, the country was always graded within the top 30 safest countries in the world but owing to recent civil unrest and violent protests over the increased cost of living, inequality and privatisation, they’ve been hanging around closer to 50. 

Generally speaking though, Chile has a very low crime rate which makes it one of the safest South American countries to travel through. As with any kind of backpacking, common sense is advised. Don’t carry large amounts of cash on your person if you can help it and invest in a money belt or an alternative to keep your valuables out of sight. A theft-proof backpack is also a good idea and there are a bunch of gadgets to help make travel safe

Chile has one of the highest quality of life rankings in Latin America, largely due to its modern infrastructure and internet connectivity. It also has one of the strongest healthcare systems on the continent which should be reassuring for accident-prone tourists. This doesn’t mean you should skimp out on travel insurance though! 

Potentially the biggest risk factor when visiting Chile is the chance of earthquakes. This is because the country sits adjacent to the Nazca Plate, which is fast-moving and has a history of producing massive quakes. Travellers shouldn’t worry too much though as scientists are always keeping an eye on plate activity to provide warning for those in the country. 

Traveller Highlights in Chile: 

A snowy mountain seen over wooden houses and a forest, Pucón, Chile
Chile is a country of huge seismic activity.

Read more about staying safe in Chile.

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4. Paraguay

  • Global Peace Index ranking: =68/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 1.942

Paraguay is a country that hasn’t quite reached the mainstream in terms of its tourist numbers yet. This means it is a great place to travel as so much of the country is just waiting to be explored. The country is generally pretty safe and crime isn’t too much of an issue.

Boats at the shore in Asunción, Paraguay
Safe, colourful and relatively unexplored, Paraguay is a backpacker’s dream!

As you would expect, there is a risk of petty crime but this can usually be mitigated by taking the necessary precautions. Avoid flaunting your wealth with expensive clothes or jewellery to avoid pickpockets. 

Perhaps the biggest concern for travellers visiting Paraguay is the standard of driving. Traffic accidents (particularly those involving motorcycles) are common and many locals will engage in risky road practices such as riding without a helmet or driving at night without lights. Much like Vietnam, road signs are treated as guidelines rather than instructions that need to be obeyed. 

One huge bonus of visiting Paraguay is that it is not particularly expensive, especially when compared to its neighbours Brazil and Argentina. The accolade for the cheapest country in South America goes to Bolivia but Paraguay still provides a lot of bang for your buck!

Traveller Highlights of Paraguay:

  • Share a cup of Yerba maté with your friends. It’s not just a drink, it’s an institution! 
  • To get your blood pumping, head to Eco Reserva Mbatoví. Here you can zip-line, rappel down a cliff face and even swing from hanging bridges! 
  • Visit the Parque Nacional Ybycuí for a bit of wildlife spotting. This national park is home to a whole range of creatures including peccaries, capuchin monkeys and even one of South America’s most amazing animals, the coati. 
  • The Itaipú Dam is one of the seven engineering wonders of the world and it is easy to see why. This dam produces 75% of Paraguay’s electricity! 

Want to learn more about the world’s safest countries? Check out the following posts:

5. Bolivia

  • Global Peace Index ranking: 78/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 2.001

Over recent years, Bolivia has continued to rise in the GPI safety rankings, first entering our shortlist in 2022 and gaining a few places in the 2023 edition.

Backpackers jumping at salt flats
Bolivia is home to a wealth of natural wonders.

Every year, travellers flock to Bolivia, not only because it is arguably the cheapest country in the whole of South America but also because of its incredible natural beauty. Home to the breathtaking salt flats, no trip to Bolivia is complete without a few fun photos snapped at this otherworldly destination! 

Much of Bolivia is located in the Andes Mountain range which means that the trekking opportunities are great. This does come with risk though, as many cities are located far above sea level. Altitude sickness can be a problem for travellers so to stay safe, make sure you have allowed yourself the necessary time to acclimatise. Whilst some travellers say that altitude sickness pills help, these can have nasty side effects. 

El Alto, close to La Paz, has a very bad reputation and travellers are encouraged to be vigilant if they visit. As with most other big cities, the majority of pickpocketing and petty crime occurs in large population centres. 

When you’re in the country, don’t miss the exhilarating opportunity to cycle down Death Road. The name might be intimidating but it is honestly much safer now and it’s a must-do for backpackers. Still, make sure that your travel insurance covers you for this kind of activity – just in case! 

Like many countries in South America, it is not possible to drink tap water in Bolivia and you will sometimes struggle to find free water refills. To save the planet and save yourself some dollar, invest in a filtered water bottle to remove all the nasties from your agua! 

21 Interesting Facts About Bolivia
Bolivia is becoming an increasingly popular destination for travellers.

Traveller Highlights of Bolivia:

  • Feast on freshly caught seafood at Copacabana. These lakeside stalls offer mouthwatering dishes at bargain prices!
  • Hire a car and explore Salar de Uyuni independently… or save yourself the effort and jump on a tour. 
  • Go sloth spotting on a day trip to Lomas de Arena. The whole of the Santa Cruz de la Sierra area is fabulous for seeing animals in the wild. 
  • Career down Death Road on a mountain bike. (This is only for the cycle confident and very brave!)
  • Head to Rurrenabaque and embark on a jungle adventure. Always do your research to ensure that the tour company follows sustainable practices and has a good safety record. We all know what happened to Daniel Radcliffe in Jungle when he put his faith in the wrong person!

6. Ecuador

  • Global Peace Index ranking: 97/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 2.095

For such a small country, Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Home to a section of the Amazon Rainforest, the Andes and the incredible Galápagos Islands, Ecuador has a stunning coastline and plays host to some of the planet’s most rare and exotic wildlife. 

Marine Iguana Galapagos Islands
A marine iguana, just one of the weird and wonderful animals of the Galápagos Islands.

Situated along the ‘ring of fire,’ Ecuador is an area of huge seismic activity. This means that volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes are all possible. You should familiarise yourself with the relevant evacuation and safety procedures in event of an emergency. Whilst this may sound alarming, advance warning of a natural disaster is usually available and most visitors will have no issues. 

Whilst petty crime is common, especially in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador is generally very safe. Pickpocketing can be an issue in the major cities but keep your valuables out of sight and you shouldn’t have too much issue. 

The Galápagos are undoubtedly the safest place to travel to in Ecuador. There is a virtually non-existent crime rate owing to the tiny population on the islands. However, these islands do have their fair share of active volcanoes – just something to bear in mind! 

In recent years, there have been nationwide protests across Ecuador. Some of these became violent and there were several fatalities. To be on the safe side, avoid protests of any kind.  It is worth mentioning that despite this, Ecuador’s ranking in the GPI rose by 9 places in 2022! There has never been a better time to visit this amazing country. 

Guayaquil, Ecuador
The neighbourhoods of Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Traveller Highlights of Ecuador:

  • Snorkel with Hammerhead Sharks in the Galápagos Islands. Or you could go see the taxidermy of Lonesome George, trek an active volcano, hang with some of the rarest wildlife in the world, you know, all that normal stuff you do every day. 
  • Camp in the otherworldly Cajas National Park just outside Cuenca. 
  • Take a day trip from Quito to ‘Mitad del Mundo’, a.k.a. ‘The Middle of the World!’
  • Get your adrenaline flowing with a whitewater rafting trip through the jungle. Keep your eyes peeled for monkeys, butterflies and a whole manner of other critters! 
  • Climb a volcano! Ecuador is home to one of South America’s best treks, Cotopaxi Volcano. Head out on a Cotopaxi day trip to hike to the glacier or arrange an overnight adventure if you want to reach the summit!

Read more about safety in Ecuador in this post!

Most Dangerous Countries in South America

It is important to note that while not all of the most tourist-friendly countries in South America made the above shortlist, they still wouldn’t be categorised as ‘no-go’ areas. 

For example, Peru has dropped in the GPI rankings over the last couple of years, largely due to protests at the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023 which resulted in the closure of Machu Picchu. However, tourists have returned to the country in droves and the majority have a trouble-free trip.

According to the GPI, the most dangerous countries in South America are as follows:


  • Global Peace Index ranking: 132/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 2.462


  • Global Peace Index ranking: =140/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 2.693


  • Global Peace Index ranking: =140/163
  • Global Peace Index score: 2.693

While these stats certainly offer food for thought, there is far more to what constitutes a safe country than the numbers provided by the GPI. For example, thousands of travellers flock to Colombia and although personal safety precautions are required, most people don’t encounter any issues. 

Read more about staying safe in Colombia and the safest cities in Colombia here.

Safest South American Countries FAQ

What is the safest country in South America?

Uruguay has been continuously ranked the safest country in South America by the GPI. 

What is the most dangerous country in South America? 

According to the 2023 index, Colombia and Venezuela tie for the least safe country in South America. 

What are the safest cities in South America? 

Montevideo, Santiago and Mendoza are a few cities known for their high safety levels. Check out more of South America’s safest cities in this post

Is South America safe to travel?

Yes! South America is a vast and varied continent, with breathtaking landscapes, wildlife and friendly people. While you will need to have your guard up in some areas, most people will have a trouble-free visit to the continent if they take the usual personal safety precautions. 

While we wouldn’t discourage visiting any country based on the Global Peace Index rankings alone, if you are visiting South America for the first time, you may feel better choosing somewhere on our list.

Although being ranked as one of the safest countries in South America doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free visit, the low levels of ongoing conflict and high ratings of societal safety and security should offer some peace of mind.

While we wouldn’t discourage visiting any country based on the Global Peace Index rankings alone, if you are visiting South America for the first time, you may feel better choosing somewhere on our list.

Although being ranked as one of the safest countries in South America doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free visit, the low levels of ongoing conflict and high ratings of societal safety and security should offer some peace of mind.

Sheree Hooker Bio Pic
Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South America Backpacker + Winging The World

Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind, a travel blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks.

Find her on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

10 thoughts on “The Safest South American Countries in 2023”

  1. The results are different if you look at homicide rates. Uruguay, for example, has more than twice the homicide rate of the US whereas Bolivia is only slightly higher. In my opinion ‘peace index’ is a subjective statistic.

  2. If you have Ecuador on your “safe” list, then, it is difficult to believe your info. regarding safety anywhere that you recommend.
    All a person has to do is follow Facebook pages to hear from residents, & expats to know what is “truly” happening on the ground. These people live there and know first hand. Not trying to be a “downer”, however, one must do their homework.

    1. Hi Mich! Thanks for the comment. The rankings in this article are based on the latest Global Peace Index Report which was released in June. As it takes Vision of Humanity a year to collate this data, I think it would be fair to say they have done their homework… 😉

      As someone who has visited Ecuador myself, I can say that I felt very safe during my visit, even when I was in Guayaquil. However, I agree that is always important to pay attention to the voices of people on the ground. As we note in the disclaimer within the article, safety advice can change quickly across South America and this article shouldn’t be used as your only source of information.

  3. What is the safest country near Venezuela? I want to go there to see my friends but don’t want to risk it due to the travel warnings.

    1. Hi Tim!

      Any of Venezuela’s neighbours: Guyana, Colombia and Brazil are safe to travel to. Colombia has the biggest infrastructure for backpackers but Brazil isn’t far behind. Guyana has less of a tourist scene.

    1. Do not think there is anywhere you can travel to that doesn’t want proof of double Vax and some will want booster proof as well. If the country going to doesn’t the country coming back to certainly will. Most airlines want that before going on the plane anyway.

      1. Hi Cynthia.
        Thanks for the comment!
        There are a number of countries that don’t require proof of vaccination. Some don’t even require a negative COVID-19 test!
        It all depends on where you’re from and the region you’re heading to. It’s worth checking with official government sources for the most up to date information 🙂

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