South America is known for its vibrant culture, beautiful landscapes, and rich history. And if you’ve been around Green Mochila, you already know how much we love this continent! Yet it’s not high on many travellers’ bucket lists, as it’s often considered a tad risky. True enough, it knows its share of political and social issues, sometimes affecting the safety of citizens and visitors alike. But many parts of South America are perfectly safe to roam, even outside of the beaten path. In this article, based on the Global Peace Index ranking of 2022, we’ll introduce the top 3 safest countries in South America.

What is the Global Peace Index (GPI)?

The Global Peace Index is an annual ranking of countries around the world, based on their levels of peace and safety. It’s published annually since 2008 by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), an international think tank based in Sydney, Australia.

The index uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative data to rank countries on a range of factors, including the level of violent crime, the number of conflicts and the availability of weapons.

The 3 Safest Countries in South America

1. Uruguay

Uruguay is a small but prosperous country located on the east coast of South America, tucked between Southern Brazil and Argentina. It has a long tradition of political stability and social equality, and therefore relatively low crime rates. The country also has a strong emphasis on education and healthcare, which has helped to create a strong sense of community and social cohesion.

It shows its commitment to social welfare that the country was the first in South America to legalise abortion in 2012. Uruguay is the safest country in South America according to the GPI, and it takes the 46th rank worldwide.

As travellers, we met smiling and very friendly locals, keeping their mate and thermos at hand wherever they went. The capital Montevideo felt safe at night in general, except maybe around the harbour. Smaller cities like Colonia are even safer.

Teatro Solis Montevideo Uruguay
Teatro Solis in downtown Montevideo, Uruguay’s rather safe capital city

2. Chile

Chile is a long, narrow country bordering the Pacific ocean, along the western coast of South America. It’s one of the most economically-developed countries in the region, with a strong emphasis on education and social welfare.

The country has managed to reduce poverty in the last decades. This has helped to create a low crime rate and a stable political environment, making it the 2nd safest country in South America. Overall, it’s on the 55th place of the ranking.

Travellers need to take precautions in the biggest cities, mainly in the capital Santiago. Pickpockets do roam the tourist quarters and crowded areas, so keep your belongings close to you at all times.

Start planning: Our tips and favourite destinations to backpack in Chile

The area of Catedral Metropolitana in Santiago is popular with tourists

3. Argentina

According to the Global Peace Index, Argentina is the 3rd safest country in South America, and the 69th worldwide. While being lively and culturally exciting, it’s a great destination for travellers looking for a safe trip.

The country has a relatively low crime rate, although petty crime such as pickpocketing can be an issue in crowded areas, especially in the capital Buenos Aires. Argentina also has strong law enforcement and a stable government, despite the returning economical crisis.

While it’s important to always take precautions and be aware of your surroundings, travellers to Argentina can rest assured that they are visiting a country that values peace and safety. Moreover, locals are amazingly friendly and helpful, and are eager to give their beloved country a good name.

Keep reading: Backpacking advice and best places to discover in Argentina

La Boca Buenos Aires Argentina
La Boca neighbourhood, Buenos Aires, is a busy touristy area during the daytime which turns slightly dodgy at night

Wherever you go in the world, please keep these safety tips in mind:

Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded places. Don’t walk around showing off your valuables. What we always do when we arrive in a new town, is ask at our accommodation if there are neighbourhoods we should avoid.

South America overall keeps improving its GPI score year after year. Of course, like any other region in the world, it faces challenges when it comes to safety. But the 3 nations we presented here are the safest on the continent. That doesn’t mean that you should be completely carefree when visiting them though; or that you couldn’t feel safe crossing the border. If you feel uneasy when travelling, these 3 countries are a great place to start exploring the wonders of South America.


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Who am I?

Anna is a world citizen, an avid traveller, a passionate environmentalist and a digital nomad. Writing about her year backpacking through South America, she tries to encourage everyone to discover this beautiful continent as a traveller or a digital nomad and pass on her love for responsible travel.

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