So for our honeymoon, we're thinking about heading to South America for about 6 weeks.

We're outdoorsy people and we're active but as I'm travelling with my wife, I don't really want to go anywhere that's dangerous or unsafe.

I know you can get robbed or killed anywhere, but from what I've heard from travellers I've met, South America just seems to be a place where that kind of thing is much more common. So if we were to go, what are some of the safer countries or places that we could visit?

Also, compared to a place like India, would you say South America is more or less dangerous? I've been to India and I'd heard some horror stories beforehand but once I got there, whilst it was an intense place, if you just keep your wits about you, you're generally okay.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Mark Mayo, uncovery, Dirty-flow, choster, Rory Alsop Nov 28 '13 at 20:27

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    are you only concerned about crime or even car accidents etc? – Geeo Nov 27 '13 at 10:59
  • I added some tags related to what you lay out in the body of your question. Note though that list questions are generally frowned upon so the more you make it specific the better. Do you just want a list of the countries in order of safest to least safe by some statistics? Or are you also asking about places within countries, etc? Also are you only talking about Argentina up to Colombia and not the countries further north that some people call South America but are technically Central America / Latin America? – hippietrail Nov 27 '13 at 11:02
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    Kidnappings or murders are relatively rare, even in places where they are common enough to be a concern. Not everybody will be killed or kidnapped as soon as they set foot in a high risk country. Conversely, your being OK on one trip (or even a few trips) doesn't mean the risk is not significant or perhaps even very high in some region or neighborhood you didn't explore. All that to say that I am not convinced that stories or personal impressions are a good basis to evaluate this type of risks. – Relaxed Nov 27 '13 at 11:05
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    How much "outdoorsy" are you planning to do in this trip? Like camp outside, stay in a hotel but spend the whole day where you can only see green, or want to go somewhere where there is nobody nearby ? – woliveirajr Nov 27 '13 at 11:37
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    Costa Rica would be the Singapore of Central America. I got warnings from expats there pretty regularly but it's definitely safer than all the other countries there, and I visited them all, including their sketchy capitals. I haven't been to South America yet but I would expect Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay at least to be safer than Costa Rica. But I most desire to go to Colombia based on what I've heard from people who travelled there. – hippietrail Nov 27 '13 at 14:14

South America is a vast continent and it would be easier to enumerate the places that are dangerous than those that are safe. It is true that violent crimes are more common than elsewhere but the majority of the continent is safe.

Crime rarely occurs in rural areas and so, even in a country like Ecuador where violence is rampant in many areas of Quito and Guayaquil, you can be completely comfortable elsewhere. A great example is the Galapagos islands which live off tourism but also trails in the Andes and coastal towns. Anything at the border of Colombia should be avoided though because there are armed militants and people do get caught in the cross-fire.

Peru is extremely touristy and, while there are some parts of Lima to avoid, nearly every place of interest is safe and patrolled by a dedicated and friendly tourist police, at least from morning to sundown. You do have to keep your wits about because crime does occur and pick-pockets are common in tourist areas.

Bolivia in general is also very safe for tourists. People are friendly and even La Paz is safe at night and the rest of the country even more so. As always, it is best to avoid dark and desolate places and if you keep in major roads, transportation and near places of interests, your chances for encountering crime are low.

Really, if you intend to visit historic centers and do outdoors type activities such as hiking, rafting, etc, I would expect you to need no more precautions than anywhere else. Argentina and Chile are even safer.

While I have not been to the rest of South America, I would still avoid Columbia for now, possibly with the exception of Cartegena in the north. Kidnappings, of foreigners in particular, is much higher there than elsewhere.


Added Brazil last year (2017). It is a huge country so I only covered the central part, just south of Rio de Janeiro at Ilha Grande to Recife in the north, plus Fernando de Noronha. The crime rate in Brazil is quite high but - as with other South American countries - is very unevenly distributed.

Rio is a big city with a lot of tourism. The areas near the main beaches, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leme is packed with people all day and easily until 11 PM. There is no problem walking there with camera in hand. It is a famed area for pickpockets though, so do keep an eye. Central Rio feels more dicey and gets barren at night, so it does not feel safe. Avoid the favelas which are known to be very dangerous.

Ilha Grande is relatively small island and pretty much only tourists go there. It felt safe day and night. A good number of beach towns line the coastal road from Conceicao de Abraao to Salvador de Bahia. Most of these are busy during the day and so feel safe. There is a decent presence of police, so just stay where people are to be safe.

Salvador is ranked at the 14th most violent city in the world! It really has a high rate of violent crime. However, it is possible to still see the touristy area. The historic Pelourinho is walkable until past 10 PM and there is a strong police presence inside but also at every read entrance to the zone. Do not walk past 11 PM I was advised. During the day, I covered the area several times. The other area of interest is the lighthouse and you basically take a bus to a zone of a dozen blocks surrounded by armed police. Once in, it feels safe with thousands of people bathing at the beach and staying until sunset.

Beach towns from Salvador to Recife are similar to those in the south. The small towns feel safe during the day and crime does not appear to be a major problem but the trick again is to remain in places where there are other people. Brazi is very hot, so many people go out late and stay late, so you won't feel forced to turn in too early.

Recife does not feel so safe but points of interest are in busy areas which provide relative safety. Olinda to the north has a restricted area around its world-heritage center and I was told you are more safe there than in a bank! Seemed like it, but it is not safe even just outside the area.

In contrast to all this, Fernando de Noronha could easily be one of the safest places on Earth. The entire archipelago is small and most of it is located within a marine reserve, so it costs to enter and stay there which gives the entire area a small-town feel. Everyone talk to everyone and I was given free rides by people who just want to help and chat with visitors.


I've taken a shot by using the intentional homicide rate (insert Wikipedia disclaimer here) as a proxy and sanity checked it to make sure it aligned with what generally people would assume to be the case. It serves as a pretty good guide:

High murder rate (> 20 per 100,000 inhabitents):

  • Belize
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Brazil
  • Panama
  • Colombia
  • Venezuala

Ecuador and Guyana are borderline.

Low murder rate (United States is 4.7 by comparison):

  • Chile (3.7)
  • Suriname (4.6)
  • Argentina (5.5)
  • Uruguay (5.9)

Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru are all below 12.

I'd have no concerns travelling to any of the latter while a few of the former would give me pause so it seems an ok starting point.

I was trying to do the same with general violent crime statistics but was unable to find a single repository for those numbers.


If you do not mind that it must be an the South American continent, I would recommend Martinique, Montserrat and Bonaire.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martinique (French)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montserrat (British)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonaire (Netherlands)

They are by experience the safest islands in the West Indies. While homicide rates are normally higher as in the US, as tourists you are much more likely to experience property crime. Especially Bonaire is famous for its wonderful scuba diving terrain.

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