Gorgeous as it may be, with its rich biodiversity, centuries-old colonial towns, and delectable cuisine, South America is not exactly well-reputed for being the safest continent compared to Europe, Asia, and even its northern counterpart.

As it is plagued by higher levels of underdevelopment, regional instability, with the occasional military coup to go with it, and staggering levels of urban violence, it’s not uncommon for cautious travelers to be put off visiting when they tune into the news.

While we won’t be the ones to downplay the risks associated with traveling in South America, particularly if it’s your first time down there and you haven’t got the knack for perceiving immediate threats yet, we feel it’s important to say not all South American countries are dangerous.

It’s true you shouldn’t let your guard down in Medellin, Colombia, and you definitely could get yourself into some big trouble verging off the touristy path in favela-hemmed Rio, but you shouldn’t be overly worried about safety if you’re a tourist in four particular destinations.

Based on the U.S. State Department travel advisories, these are currently the safest countries for American tourists in South America:

Tourist woman in rainbow hat and brown poncho holding man by hand and going to the lake in the mountains in peru


We have terrific news for all you culture buffs out there: Peru, the homeland of the Incas, the birthplace of ceviche, and boasting diverse landscapes from the towering Andes to the rugged Pacific coast, is one of the safest countries in the northern half of the Americas.

It may have gone through a rough patch recently, especially in early 2023, when a wave of protests erupted, leading to the temporary grounding of flights, and more staggeringly even, the closure of the world-renowned Machu Picchu to tourists.

Machu Picchu, Incan Heritage Site Near Cusco, Peru, South America

The situation has since normalized, and lucky for Machu Picchu hikers, Peru has taken back the reins to reclaim its status as a safe tourism hub, one it’s held for decades now as a rather peaceful state in a continent that seems to be in a forever state of turmoil.

Pickpocketing and social unrest are now two of your primary concerns when vacationing in Peru, as opposed to violence.

Washington has officially reinstituted Peru’s historic Level 2 status, which denotes moderate safety levels.

UNESCO world heritage site of historic city center in Lima, Peru


The one with the unusually long, narrow shape fencing off access to the Pacific to most of its neighbors, and the most developed country down South, Chile is a safety haven when stacked up with Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and the like, despite not being on everyone’s radar.

Economic inequality remains higher than it should be, a common problem shared by its South American partners, but it has great economic freedom, a low perception of corruption – this clearly makes Chile the odd one out – and a higher income per capita.

Chile Patagonia Solo Travel

Boring as they might sound, these are factors that have certainly contributed to Chile’s significantly-lower levels of violence in recent years: when walking the vibrant streets of Santiago de Chile, the national capital, or vacationing in a coastal resort like Valparaiso, it’s petty theft you should watch out for.

There are no areas in Chile where travel is discouraged, a pretty rare feat for a South American destination, and travel stress mainly arises from occasional politically-charged demonstrations, despite these not having occurred in over three years now.

Colorful Houses In Valparaiso, A Coastal City Straddling The Atlantic Ocean In Chile, South America


The lesser-known gem out of the quartet, Uruguay is a tiny nation sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina, with a shorter coastline on the Atlantic, and a long-standing reputation for being a low-risk destination where reports of violent crime are sporadic at best.

Similarly to the two other entries above, bag-snatching and mugging are the most typical offenses, though it’s far from being a majority of tourists who are affected.

Either way, exercising general safety advice greatly reduces your chances of becoming a victim.

Punta del Este Uruguay

When exploring Montevideo, the architecturally-ecletic Uruguayan capital, combing modern high-rises and colonial mansions, or strolling the luxurious resort zone in Punta del Este, a.k.a Monaco of the South, make sure you’re not sporting visibly valuable items, or leaving items unattended.

Most of the incidents are centered in Montevideo, but as the U.S. State Department reiterates, U.S. citizens should always be vigilant when drawing money from ATMs, avoid displaying signs of wealth, and stick to well-lit, frequented areas after sundown: you know, the usual stuff you do at home.

Old Car Parked In A Cobblestone Street In Colonia Del Sacramento, Colonia Department, Uruguay, South America


Not only is it where tango originated, the global capital of soccer, and home to what’s arguably the prettiest city in the Global South, Buenos Aires, a European-inspired metropolis traversed by leafy boulevards and flanked by palatial buildings, but Argentina is remarkably safe.

It is a mandatory stop on any comprehensive South American itinerary, and you’ll be relieved to learn the most tender steak you’ll ever try, and marveling at the grandiose monuments evocative of the French Belle époque do not come at a personal cost:

Main Square in Cordoba Argentina

Argentina is the safest country in South America by a mile, with moderate to low levels of violent crime across all major conurbations, including Buenos Aires, where cutpursing and scamming practices are your biggest worries as opposed to armed robbery and violent encounters.

As the U.S. State Department has ruled, Argentina is a Level 1 destination, the safest country in the world.

It is one of a handful of destinations currently awarded this status, joining Canada, Iceland, Finland, Japan, and other traditionally low-risk countries.

woman taking photo of floralis generica in buenos aires argentina


Once again, the fact that these countries are safer does not mean they are crime-free.

Steve, we see you scrolling down to the comment section to furiously type down how inaccurate these advisories are, and Karen, don’t even think about bringing up that one freak incident in Buenos Aires when you had your bag snatched because you placed it on the table while dining alfresco.

Traditional Architecture Of Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America

Crime can and will occur, but it will be on a much smaller scale and typically not affect foreign visitors as much as it would in other violence-ridden South American countries, but it would help if you made sure you don’t stand out like a gringo estupido, or at least follow local safety protocols.

When traveling anywhere, make sure you take the usual precautions you would at home, as no place is perfectly safe, including these four countries listed above: keep an eye on personal belongings, share your location with friends, and be aware of your surroundings.

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