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Safety in South America in 2024: The 7 Safest Countries for Family Vacations + Advice


Staff member
Jan 13, 2024
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Last Updated on January 5, 2024 by Ariana Svenson

So you are wondering about safety in South America? If you’re planning a family trip to South America but are hesitant about security, you’ve come to the right place.

Based on U.S. travel advice and the global peace index, here is some great advice on the seven safest countries to visit in South America. And, for more South America information, read our South America Tips: 21 Essential Travel Tips [The Family Edition].

This post may contain affiliate links, from which we would earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. More info in my disclaimer.​

Safety in South America in 2023: The 7 Safest Countries for Family Vacations + Advice

Is South America Safe?

First, if you’re wondering, ‘Is travelling to South America safe?” South America is a vast continent and covers not only 12 countries but it encompasses the Andes, the Amazon jungle and the dry coasts of Peru.

South America includes some of the world’s biggest cities; Sao Paolo in Brazil, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Lima in Peru and Bogota, Colombia. In addition to those massive metropolises, there are many other cities; just like your home city, there are safe parts – and places you won’t want to walk after dark.

South America is an enormous region with much more diversity, people and places, and different types of weather. Yes, you might be exposed to situations you are not used to at home. That is ok as long as you are sensible.

South America is not more dangerous than most parts of the world. However, anywhere, you must use caution and good common sense.

South America is safe to travel with kids, as long as you use common sense and take some precautions. I have spent years in South America with my children and find that it’s a kid friendly destination because the people love children.

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My Experiences of Safety in South America

I arrived in Chile over 20 years ago; visited Rapa Nui and loved it. I then headed up to Ecuador, where my travels along the “Gringo Trail’ began. After spending a week in Quito studying Spanish, and I was considering flying directly to Asia as I just didn’t feel safe.

Thankfully 20 years later, I am still travelling in South America, planning and loving trips. I’ve spent much time in Peru, where I lived for ten years, but other favorites include Colombia and Bolivia. I also really adore Chile and Argentina for their more European feel.

I’ve been robbed, pickpocketed, lost in the mountains in bad weather, and suffered dreadfully from frostbite. That doesn’t make South America unsafe; it means I had some unlucky moments and made terrible decisions.

Safety in South America and Style of Travel

If you backpack around South America, you are more likely to encounter difficult or dangerous situations than if you have a fully escorted tour. If you stay in the downtowns or central cities these days, they are very safe and clean due to the concerted efforts of municipalities and governments.

Four and 5-star hotels tend to be in good neighborhoods, and if you have an accompanied holiday with guides and private drivers, you should be in very safe hands.

My main advice would be to exercise caution. Don’t wear expensive jewelry. Be sensible, research the travel advice for your destination beforehand and familiarize yourself with common scams and dangers such as natural disasters to be prepared.

Global peace index map

Measuring Safety in South America

As well as going off personal experiences in South America, this list is ordered based on where each South American country ranks on the global peace index and what the U.S. travel advisories are. There are so many safe countries in South America!

The Global Peace Index

The Global Peace Index ranks the safety of 163 countries for safety. It’s the world’s leading measure of global peace. The last index was done in 2022.

Historically, countries like Chile and Uruguay have had higher rankings, reflecting their relatively stable political environment and low crime levels. However, other countries in the continent have not fared as well. As of my last update, countries such as Venezuela and Colombia had lower rankings on the Global Peace Index due to factors such as political instability, high crime rates and ongoing internal conflicts,

As you can see from the image above, not all countries are green. However, if you compare the yellow countries, you can see that countries like the U.S. are orange, meaning the countries in this post are considered safer than the U.S. on the index.

The global peace index is a perfect thing to look at to measure the safety of countries you plan to visit. South America’s top 7 safest countries achieved rankings from 46-79.


U.S. Travel Advisories

If you’re an American citizen, the U.S. travel advisories should be the first place to look when deciding to visit a destination. The advisory grades countries on a scale from Level 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions) to Level 4 (Do Not Travel) based on various factors, including crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health risks, and more.

None of the seven safest countries below has level 3 or 4 advisories across the whole country. Some countries do have level 3 and 4 warnings in place, so do not travel to these areas.

However, each country is vast, and you should just exercise standard precautions when within the country. If the entire country were dangerous, there would be a level 3 or 4 warning in place for the whole of the country.

If you are not a U.S. citizen. The U.S. travel advisory is still one of the best places to look for information, but make sure you read your country’s travel advisory too, such as Gov.UK foreign travel advice for the U.K. or Smarttraveller for Australia.

Safe Countries in South America

If you’re looking for safe places to travel in South America, here’s an overview of the seven safest countries to visit. This will hopefully help you plan your next South American Family Vacation.

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1. Uruguay

Global Peace Index Ranking: 46/163

Read the Most Recent U.S. Government Advisory for Uruguay Here

Uruguay, a gem tucked away in the southeastern region of South America, stands as the safest country in South America, according to the Global Peace Index.

The beautiful coastline is scattered with pristine beaches such as Punta del Este and Piriapolis. Don’t miss out on a traditional Uruguayan barbecue at a local ‘parilla’, a must-do for food-loving families!

Another must-do is to see Colonia del Sacramento and explore the cobbled streets which are a UNESCO world heritage site.

Is Uruguay Safe in 2023?

Uruguay’s relatively low crime rates contribute massively to its position on the Peace Index. Aside from the urban centres, crime rates are meagre. The atmosphere is very peaceful and perfect for travel with kids.

However, while Uruguay enjoys overall low crime rates, the capital city of Montevideo does present some challenges. It has seen an uptick in petty crimes like pickpocketing, muggings, and car break-ins. These are more commonly encountered in urban centres, and increased caution is advised.

Though it’s crucial to note that these incidents don’t necessarily overshadow the country’s safety, they serve as a reminder to be vigilant. As of June 2023, the U.S. government has a Level 2 advisory for crime in urban areas.

Uruguay also has good economic stability. It stands as one of South America’s most economically developed countries, boasting a high standard of living and an impressively low level of corruption.

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2. Chile

Global Peace Index Ranking: 55/163

Read the Most Recent U.S. Government Advisory for Chile Here

Chile emerges as a reliable choice for experiencing the vibrant cultures of South America. The country’s landscapes are an alluring blend of extremes, from the Atacama Desert in the north to the labyrinthine fjords and glaciers in the Patagonia region in the south.

You can also visit vibrant cities such as Santiago with its captivating blend of traditional markets, colonial architecture, and contemporary arts set against a mountainous backdrop.

Here’s what you need to know about the safety of Chile

Is Chile Safe in 2023?

Chile has increased the Global Safety Index from 56 to 55 from 2021-2022. You’ll find an effective healthcare system, modern infrastructure, and a stable political environment when you visit. Graced with a modern infrastructure, an effective healthcare system, and a stable political environment.

Chile currently has a level 2 warning due to civil unrest and crime. The demonstrations that marked 2019-2020 have since simmered down, but it’s still advisable to be aware of any potential gatherings in major cities. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and carjacking, is prevalent, as is the presence of unofficial taxis, which tourists should avoid for their safety.

Chile also has a risk of natural disasters, especially earthquakes and volcano eruptions, so you should keep up with the latest info before you visit.

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3. Argentina

Global Peace Index Ranking: 69/163

Read the Most Recent U.S. Government Advisory for Argentina Here

Argentina is renowned for its delicious cuisine, exciting culture and breathtaking natural scenery like Iguazu Falls, Patagonia and the plains of the Pampas.

Its capital, Buenos Aires, is arguably one of the world’s most exciting capitals; think a vibrant cafe culture, great architecture and history, amazing tango dancing and a pulsating nightlife. It is also home so some passionate football teams and a tantalising food scene.

Is Argentina Safe to Travel in 2023?

Argentina has a generally peaceful feeling allowing you to enjoy your adventure without worrying. Although there are no travel advisories for Argentina, as with any country, taking certain precautions is essential to ensure your safety.

Petty theft, including pickpocketing and muggings, is a concern, particularly in crowded tourist areas. It’s recommended to be mindful of your belongings and adopt habits such as keeping handbags in your lap at restaurants, not leaving drinks unattended, and avoiding getting phones exposed on tables. This also applies to you when travelling. Places like the Retiro bus station in Buenos Aires and the Mendoza bus station are renowned for theft, especially when leaving luggage in the overhead compartment.

If you’re planning trips like hiking or trekking, it’s strongly advised not to venture alone. Joining larger groups or guided tours can ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience. In recent years, there have been unfortunate incidents involving solo hikers and climbers.

Lastly, while Argentina has seen its share of protests, these demonstrations are typically nonviolent. However, they often lead to blocked streets and highways, potentially affecting travel plans. For your safety, it’s best to stay informed about local news and avoid demonstrations if possible.

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4. Paraguay

Global Peace Index Ranking: 77/163

Read the Most Recent U.S. Government Advisory for Paraguay Here

Paraguay offers a unique blend of natural beauty and captivating cultural heritage. T he capital city, Asunción, is particularly famous for its vibrant energy, various family-friendly attractions, and hospitable locals, making it a must-visit spot on your itinerary.

Paraguay is not as commonly visited by foreign tourists as much as other countries on this list. As a result, the people are genuinely delighted to see you! There is also a rather sleepy backwater feel in much of the country. That makes it really special to me!


Lining up to cross the border into Paraguay in 2002, on the Chaco Road.

Is Paraguay Safe in 2023?

Paraguay has no travel warning in place (Level 1). As with any travel destination, some caution is necessary.

In certain areas, like Ciudad del Este on the Brazilian border and the Tri-Border Area of Paraguay, there have been instances of drug trafficking, so it’s wise to stay vigilant and informed about these regions. While not rampant, city street crimes occur and require the usual travel precautions.

Demonstrations occur in Paraguay, and while they’re primarily peaceful, it’s always safer to avoid large gatherings or events. As of June 2023, there are no travel advisories in place for Paraguay, which adds to the country’s appeal as a safe destination. Yet, it’s always a good idea to stay updated on current events and potential disruptions.

Moreover, be mindful of individuals posing as service people. These could be potential thieves trying to scam unsuspecting tourists. As a rule, verify credentials and don’t leave your personal belongings unattended.

Quito Ecuador, Safety in South America

5. Ecuador

Global Peace Index Ranking: 79/163

Read the Most Recent U.S. Government Advisory for Ecuador Here

With its diverse landscapes, including rainforests, mountains, beaches, and its famous Galapagos Islands, Ecuador offers a unique travel experience when travelling with kids.

Is Ecuador Safe in 2023?

Ecuador is the fifth safest country in South America. Ecuador currently has a U.S. Level 2 warning in place, suggesting that you exercise increased caution. There are many fantastic places for kids in Ecuador, but there are also places that are completely advised against visiting.

In Quito, be careful of neighborhoods such as La Marin, La Tola, La Michelina, San Roque, and others that have been noted for pickpocketing petty theft, and taxi robberies. Areas such as Carchi, Sucumbíos, and the northern part of Esmeraldas province, including Esmeraldas city, also have high crime rates.

Particular attention is advised in Guayaquil, where the whole area is marked as either reconsider travel or do not travel. The U.S. government restricts people from visiting these regions without prior permission from the Embassy’s security office. The U.S. is also limited in its ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the area.

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6. Bolivia

Global Peace Index Ranking: 80/163

Read the Most Recent U.S. Government Advisory for Bolivia Here

Bolivia is world renowned for its captivating landscapes like the Salar de Uyuni and the vibrant indigenous culture. As the 6th safest country in South America, here’s what you need to know.

Is it Safe to Visit Bolivia in 2023?

Bolivia is the sixth safest country in South America. However, it’s always wise to stay vigilant and heed local advice, especially in bigger cities, as the country is currently under a Level 2 Warning due to civil unrest. This does not mean you don’t travel, it just means being aware and researching the areas to be wary of.

Petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag thefts can be commonplace, particularly in tourist hotspots and on overnight buses. Certain areas in Bolivia are known to pose more risks. For example, Coroico and Carnavi in Yungas have reported incidents of carjackings and robberies committed by organized criminal groups. As a rule, never leave personal belongings unattended to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip to Bolivia.

Avoid Coronilla Hill in Cochabamba, adjacent to the main bus terminal. It is a place where you should exercise caution due to its high crime rate. If you’re travelling by bus to La Paz, arrive during daylight hours and get your tickets from the bus terminal. However, you can avoid this if you book an organized tour or reputable transfer,

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7. Peru

Having lived in Peru for over 10 years and had my first child in Cusco, I am obviously very comfortable travelling to Peru. In my experience, the Peruvian government recognizes the importance of tourism to the country and economy and has spent vast resources “cleaning up” previously undesirable areas. Peru’s ranking on this list as 7th is a sad reflection of the protests that occurred earlier this year, as I find it overall a very safe place to travel in.

Peru is an incredible family-orientated country. If you plan to travel to Peru with Kids, you’ve picked the perfect destination. There are many unique Peruvian Foods and ample Places to See in Peru on Your Family Vacation.

You can visit amazing cities like Cusco, explore the Sacred Valley, explore pristine beaches and even climb Machu Picchu with Kids. You can discover our best Peru Family Holiday Itineraries here.

Global Peace Index: 101/163

View the U.S. Travel Advisory for Peru Here

fun facts about peru for kids - machu picchu

Is Peru Safe in 2023?

There was significant unrest during December and January, and at that time, the U.S. government – among many others – issued warnings against travel. These warnings have since been removed. I am travelling to Peru with my three kids in June 2023, so I am backing my own advice!

On Feb 21, organizers officially announced an end to the road blockades frustrating the free movement of pound goods throughout the country. The Peruvian government also launched an initiative to restart the tourism industry, including a stimulus package to compensate affected workers, including guides and porters.

Check the U.S. Travel Advisory for Peru to verify what they are saying about safety in the country. They have downgraded the overall travel advisory to a Level 2 for the entire country, with three distinct areas considered “Level 4 – Do not travel”.

Among these levels, four areas are known as the VRAEM – the Valley of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers – an area that has been off-limits to travelers for decades. It is considered to house the remaining remnants of the Shining Path Terrorist Group active in the 80s and early 90s and continued to engage in drug trafficking. Luckily, while this region includes a tiny section in the north-west of the Cusco department (which is equivalent to a state), it is nowhere near Cusco city, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu or any other tourist area in the Cusco region.

This is the confusing part: the name “Cusco” refers to the name of the department (state), province (county) and city. It’s easy to confuse the three! But rest assured – the Cusco tourist area is not affected by the terrorist activity in the VRAEM, never has been, and is hundreds of miles away. For additional peace of mind, check out this map which shows the location of the VRAEM about Cusco City.

Safety in South America in 2023: The 7 Safest Countries for Family Vacations + Advice FUN Facts about the Amazon

The Verdict – Final Words on the Safest South American Countries

South America is safe to travel, but you should ensure you travel to safe countries within South America. Ensure you check U.S. travel advisories and advisories of the government where you are based.

These seven countries rank in the top 77 countries on the Global Peace Index in 2023, so if you’re planning a family trip to South America, these are the best options!

Safety in South America in 2023: The 7 Safest Countries for Family Vacations + Advice

The author at Cotopaxi Mountain in Ecuador in 2002.

Safety in South America FAQs

Which Country in South America is the Safest?

As of June 2023. according to the world peace index, the safest country is Uruguay, which ranks 46 out of 163 countries.

Where Not to Go in South America?

Do not go to any places with level 4 travel advisory warnings for the country as a whole by the U.S. government. If a small part of the country has a level 4 warning, you can still travel to that country, but NOT that specific area. You should reconsider travelling to that area if there is a level 3 warning.

What Should I be Careful of in South America?

South America covers a vast area, and you should check the U.S. travel advisory for specific areas to be careful of. However, common issues include theft, demonstrations and natural disaster risks. Not all areas and countries in South America have these dangers.

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