10 Safest Cities in South America

Updated On May 7, 2022
South America

Starting above the equator and stretching almost to Antarctica, South America is rooted in ancient mystery but alive with plenty to explore today.

Some of the highlights are the beautiful beaches, cultural variety, and architecture that stretches back for hundreds of years. 

There are places like Venezuela or Buenos Ares that you might want to avoid, at least for now, as a traveler. 

For example, Brazil has the seventh-highest crime rate in the world and Venezuela has the third-highest murder rate, 50 per 100k people. 

With that being said, there are a plethora of places across the continent that are very welcoming.

The three safest countries are Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.

That does not mean there are not plenty of cities in neighboring countries with just as much to offer. 

So get your notepad ready, we’re about to blow you away with the perfect places to get a feel for the lighter side of South America.

10 Safest Cities in South America

Montevideo, Uruguay
Montevideo, Uruguay

1. Montevideo, Uruguay

Uruguay is just behind Chile on the Global Peace Index, making it one of the safest South American destinations.

The reason for that is there is not an obvious inequality gap.

Poverty levels are also pretty low. 

Montevideo is at the very bottom of the country, the last stop on the Atlantic before hitting Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Capitals are often overrun with disparity, but not this one.

Montevideo is ranked as having the highest quality of life.

The very first FIFA World Cup was held here almost a century ago!

Established in 1724, there’s plenty more history about where that came from.

Punta Arenas, Chile
Punta Arenas, Chile

2. Punta Arenas, Chile

Ever heard someone say, “I’d go to the ends of the earth?”

That’s almost what you’ve got in Punta Arenas.

This is pretty much the last bit of civilization before you hit the tip of South America and are just a hop, skip, and jump from the South Pole.

To be that far south, there are actually 160,000 people who live here.

The population is an interesting mix of Spanish and Croatian.

Violent crime is almost unheard of, but there are the occasional petty crimes.

Having all the national parks around is probably good therapy.  

Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador

3. Cuenca, Ecuador

With a view of the expansive mountain range, Cuenca is like a smaller version of the country’s capital.

Located in the bottom half of Ecuador, Cuenca is the oldest city in all of the Americas.

There has been some sort of people establishing themselves here since the year 500. 

It dates back so far, many believe it was the actual El Dorado.

There is actually still gold mining to this day.

The first European settlers arrived in 1557 and began building.

If nothing else, come for the architecture.

The crime rate is very low, so you can have a worry-free visit.

Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru

4. Cusco, Peru

Nestled in the Andes, Cusco is more than the most sarcastic Disney character.

This city was once the capital of the Incan Empire.

That means that this Peruvian gem is an archeological gold mine.

In fact, it is the oldest city on the whole continent with people living there for more than three millennia.

All that ancient history is one of the reasons the crime rate is so low; tourism is their main source of revenue.

You cannot bite the hand that feeds, and Cusco wants the people to keep coming back so they are quite tough on crime. 

Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile

5. Santiago, Chile

Chile comes up number one on the Global Peace Index, so you’re already in safe hands.

This is also the capital city, so there are a ton of things to do.

The real fun might be at night, though.

People come from all over the world to stare up into the starry sky as Chile was voted the best place on the planet to look up.

Locals view tourists in a positive light and are very friendly towards them.

The main thing to look out for is pickpocketing.

Well, that and the volcano. 

Cordoba, Argentina
Cordoba, Argentina

6. Cordoba, Argentina

Almost smack dab in the middle of the country, Cordoba is home to the first university in Argentina and a still-active Jesuit campus from the 1600s.

The city has over 3,000,000 inhabitants now, but in the middle of the 900s, it was considered the most populated city on the globe with a count of 1,000,000.

Today, Cordoba has the amenities of the capital Buenos Aires but with less criminal activity.

As with other countries, it is the petty crime you will want to watch out for.

Otherwise, it’s a diverse place with peace between the three major religions of the city; Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. 

Copacabana, Bolivia
Copacabana, Bolivia

7. Copacabana, Bolivia

If you read the name of this city in Barry Manilow’s voice, you’re not alone.

With views looking out at Lake Titicaca, it would make anyone want to sing.

While the majority of Bolivia would not be considered super safe, Copacabana has the lowest crime rate in the country.

Just off the coast are two heavily studied islands that offer a glimpse into the Incan past.

Another tradition rooted in Incan history has to do with pouring beer into new cars.

The belief is you must travel to Copacabana to have it blessed for future travels.

Beer is used to quench Mother Earth.

Medellin, Colombia
Medellin, Colombia

8. Medellin, Colombia

Colombia, unfortunately, has a reputation for drug cartels.

Naturally, that has steered many would-be tourists in the opposite direction.

But do not judge a book by its cover.

Over the past two decades, the city has worked hard to create a new image for itself. 

Due to the year-round perfect temperatures, Medellin is referred to as the “City of the Eternal Spring.”

That might be why tourists come here and these days they feel comfortable doing so.

Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza, Argentina

9. Mendoza, Argentina

Scenic views here are so picturesque they are featured in Hollywood.

The wines are so good the province is famous for its Malbec.

The city is so calm, cool, and collected that it attracts people from all around.

Crime is so low that visitors do not want to leave.

The police are very visible and in large numbers.

That might have a lot to do with why Mendoza is so chill and inviting.

Downtown, there is plenty of local restaurants, modern technology, and plenty of activities to keep night owls living it up.

Florianópolis, Brazil
Florianópolis, Brazil

10. Florianópolis, Brazil

If you have avoided Rio de Janeiro because of the high crime rate, especially after the criminal activity reported during the 2016 Olympics, we’ve found the place for you.

Along the coast, but further south, lies a little island removed enough from the mainland to feel like you’re elsewhere but close enough that you don’t feel lost.

There is a lot cram-packed into the 54km strip. 

Florianópolis prides itself on outdoor activities, of which there is a wide variety.

It is basically a livable luxury resort.

5 Safety Tips for Traveling to South America

  1. Research. Whatever city in South America you are planning to spend time in, it is important to go in with a heads up. Even areas with very little criminal activity tend to have more of one type of crime than the other. Learn more about what goes on in the city before you get there.
  2. Take only what you need. You may love your grandmother’s diamond necklace or your grandfather’s Rolex, but you can love them from afar when traveling.
  3. Don’t dangle. Fashion changes but your need to keep things tight to your body does not. Do not have a handbag or wallet flowing loosely around your person.
  4. Keep observant. No matter how much fun you’re having, or how alone you believe your group to be, take a solid moment to look around. Be aware of your surroundings, always.
  5. Be self-aware. It may be tempting to venture out on your own without intimate knowledge of the local area but do not. Much of the continent is teeming with opportunities to get outside, but it can be quite dangerous to get off the beaten path.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get travel insurance to spend time in South America?


It may not be mandatory to book your airfare, but literally, anything could go wrong, as it could with any trip.

However, it might be more dangerous here due to safety standards not being quite what you may be used to.

From outside excursions to unsavory characters, you will want protection.

Do I need to know the national language to visit a particular country?

You do not need to be fluent in an entire language to get the most out of your visit abroad.

But, it would be wise and perhaps even viewed as respectful to be familiar with keywords and phrases you may need while there.

What is the most dangerous city in South America?

Caracas, Venezuela.

It does not just top South America’s list, it is the most dangerous in the world.

Unfortunately, Venezuela is in the middle of a nationwide crisis.

Inflation is out of hand, there is not enough food even if people could pay for it.

So, murder, kidnapping, and theft are running rampant in a city that has almost 2,000,000 inhabitants.

1 Comment on 10 Safest Cities in South America

  1. J
    John Doering says:

    I want to live in South America. What is the safest most affordable country for old people. I am 77 and White.

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