7 Discover Most Dangerous Countries in South America According to 2023 Peace Index

South America, a continent known for its vibrant cultures and breathtaking landscapes, also faces challenges with safety in certain areas. In 2023, the Global Peace Index (GPI) identified the seven most dangerous countries in South America, based on ongoing domestic and international conflicts, and crime rates. This blog delves into the unique safety concerns of each of these countries and offers practical tips for travelers seeking to explore South America safely.

1. Colombia – GPI Rank: 140

Colombia, despite its allure of beautiful beaches and rich culture, stands as the most dangerous country in South America. The nation faces high rates of armed robberies, with common crimes including mugging, assault, and credit card theft. Bogota, in particular, is known for its elevated crime risk. Criminals often employ knives and firearms, and resistance during robberies can lead to serious injuries or even murders.

Taxi-related crimes and financially motivated cyber threats are also prevalent. Robbers commonly use scopolamine, a drug rendering victims unconscious for extended periods. Nevertheless, Colombia remains a popular destination, and travelers can enjoy a safe experience by adhering to standard travel safety rules​​.

2. Venezuela – GPI Rank: 140

Venezuela ranks second due to political instability, high violence levels, and crime rates. Notably, it has one of the world’s highest per capita murder rates. Kidnappings, armed robberies, and pickpocketing are rampant, especially in Caracas.

Criminals often target residential areas, hotels, airports, and use unauthorized taxis for kidnappings. “Express kidnapping,” a phenomenon where victims are abducted for short periods for ransom, is increasingly common. Travelers are advised to be cautious, especially in low-income neighborhoods and crowded areas like bus and railway terminuses​​.

3. Brazil – GPI Rank: 132

Brazil is recognized for its festive atmosphere and stunning locales but struggles with street theft, muggings, and financial fraud. Tourist sites and cities like Rio, São Paulo, and Salvador witness high crime rates, particularly during holidays. Pickpocketing and ATM thefts are major concerns, with robbers employing various distraction techniques.

Travelers should avoid flashy attire and carry minimal cash and bank cards. Credit card fraud is also an issue, so using cash in high-risk areas is advisable. Despite these challenges, Brazil offers a rich travel experience when basic safety protocols are followed​​.

4. Guyana – GPI Rank: 106

Guyana stands out with English as its official language and is known for its friendly people. However, it faces challenges with petty and violent crimes. Drug trafficking is prevalent, and tourists should be cautious about carrying items they didn’t pack themselves. Counterfeit currency scams are common, and tourists are advised to use licensed exchange services. Identification documents should be carried at all times to avoid issues with law enforcement​​.

5. Peru – GPI Rank: 103

Peru is renowned for its historical sites but has significant issues with petty crime. Tourist areas and public transportation are common targets for theft and pickpocketing, often involving distractions like spillage or staged accidents. Travelers should be wary of distractions and deceptive practices, especially around ATMs and taxis​​.

6. Ecuador – GPI Rank: 97

Ecuador is relatively safer, with solo female travelers often feeling secure. However, pickpocketing and petty crime are concerns, particularly in larger cities like Quito and Guayaquil. Night buses and unlicensed cabs pose risks, and travelers are advised to use trusted transportation companies during the day​​.

7. Bolivia – GPI Rank: 97

Bolivia is known for its natural beauty but faces issues with crime and civil unrest. Property crimes, theft, and domestic violence are prevalent. Female travelers are often shocked by the extent of domestic abuse. La Paz experiences frequent political violence, and other cities like Santa Cruz and Cochabamba also witness protests and civil unrest. Travelers are cautioned to stay out of crowded areas and be aware of credit card theft, especially in restaurants​​.

Traveler Safety Tips

When exploring South America, it’s essential to remain vigilant and follow basic safety guidelines:

  1. Research Your Destination: Before traveling, research the safety conditions of your intended destinations.
  2. Stay Alert: Be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded or unfamiliar areas.
  3. Secure Your Belongings: Use anti-theft bags and keep valuables secured and out of sight.
  4. Avoid Flashy Displays: Minimize wearing expensive jewelry or carrying expensive gadgets openly.
  5. Use Trusted Transportation: Opt for reputable transportation services and avoid unlicensed taxis.
  6. Travel in Groups: Whenever possible, travel with companions or in groups.