South America Travel Guide: Most Affordable and Safest South American Countries in 2024

  • Zoe Wallace
  • |
  • July 3, 2024
  • |
  • 7 minute read
  • |
South America Travel Guide: Most Affordable and Safest South American Countries in 2024

South America is a vibrant continent teeming with diverse cultures, rich histories, and breathtaking scenery. It’s a great spot for travelers and expats alike, offering both adventure and affordability.

If you’re seeking safe and affordable cities or countries to explore or call home, check out our top recommendations for your next adventure and safety tips for exploring these destinations.

Key Takeaways
  • Before traveling, always research your destination to understand its safety conditions and cultural norms.
  • Keep essential items like phones, wallets, and passports secure by using money belts or hidden pouches.
  • Regularly check in with family or friends by sharing your itinerary and updates about your location.

1. Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, stands out for its safety and quality of life. It’s an excellent place to live and visit, with a laid-back atmosphere, beautiful beaches, and a mild climate.

The city is known for its friendly locals and strong social institutions, making it a top choice for expats. The cost of living is moderate, with affordable housing and dining options available.

2. Santiago, Chile

Santiago, the capital of Chile, is another safe city with a European vibe and a diverse population.

This city offers a robust public transportation network, a mild climate, and numerous cultural attractions.

Santiago ranks high on the Global Peace Index, reflecting its safety and stability. While some neighborhoods have higher crime rates, central areas are generally safe for residents and tourists​​.

3. Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza is famous for its wine and picturesque scenery. This Argentine city is not only beautiful but also safe and affordable.

The cost of living is relatively low, making it an attractive option for retirees and expats.

Mendoza’s vibrant culture, friendly locals, and numerous outdoor activities — including wine tours and hiking — highlight the city’s appeal​.

4. Cusco, Peru

Cusco, nestled in the Andes, is rich in history as the former capital of the Incan Empire.

It’s a major tourist destination, which helps keep crime rates low because tourism is important to the local economy.

The cost of living in Cusco is affordable, especially outside the tourist hotspots, with the city known for offering a unique blend of ancient history and vibrant culture​.

5. Florianópolis, Brazil

Florianópolis, located in southern Brazil, is known for its beautiful beaches and outdoor activities.

Unlike some larger Brazilian cities, Florianópolis has a lower crime rate and offers a safer environment.

The cost of living is reasonable, and the city has a relaxed, resort-like feel. It’s an excellent spot for those who enjoy beach life and water sports.

6. Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca is a charming city in southern Ecuador that’s famous for its colonial architecture and pleasant climate.

It’s one of the safest cities in the country, with a strong sense of community and a low cost of living. Cuenca’s rich cultural scene and welcoming atmosphere make it a popular expat choice.

7. Medellín, Colombia

Medellín has transformed significantly over the past two decades and is now known for its innovation and friendly locals.

Often referred to as the “City of Eternal Spring” due to its perfect weather, it has a low cost of living and is popular among digital nomads and expats.

Safety has improved remarkably, making Medellín a vibrant and secure living spot.

8. Asunción, Paraguay

Asunción, Paraguay’s capital, combines traditional and modern elements. It’s one of the safest cities in the country and offers a low cost of living.

The city’s affordability, cultural richness, and welcoming locals make it an attractive destination for those looking to experience a different side of South America.

Tips for Staying Safe in South America

Traveling to South America can be a wonderful experience, as you’re able to explore rich cultures, beautiful landscapes, and exciting cities.

But, like any trip, it’s important to stay safe. Here are some easy tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable trip.

1. Research Your Destination

Before you travel, learn about the city or country you’re visiting.

Look up recent news and travel advisories. Some areas might have higher crime rates or political unrest. Knowing which places to avoid can keep you safe.

2. Keep Valuables Secure

Petty theft is common in many cities around the world, and South America is no exception.

Keep your valuables, like your phone, wallet, and passport, secure. Use a money belt or hidden pouch to keep important items close to your body.

You should also avoid displaying expensive jewelry or electronics in public.

3. Stay Alert in Crowded Places

Pickpocketing is more likely to happen in crowded areas like markets, public transport, and tourist attractions. Be extra aware of your surroundings in these places.

Keep your bag in front of you and avoid using your phone in busy areas.

4. Use Trusted Transport

When moving around the city, use reliable transportation. It’s better to avoid hailing taxis off the street in some places and instead use registered taxi services or ride-sharing apps like Uber. If you rent a car, be aware of local driving laws and conditions.

5. Avoid Walking Alone at Night

Try to avoid walking alone at night, especially in unfamiliar areas. If you need to go out, stick to well-lit and busy streets. Traveling in groups can also make you less of a target for crime.

6. Respect Local Customs and Laws

Understanding and respecting local customs and laws can help you avoid unwanted attention — dress modestly if required and be aware of cultural norms.

This shows respect for the local culture and can also help you blend in.

7. Save Emergency Numbers

Always have emergency contact numbers, such as local police, ambulance, and your country’s embassy, saved on your phone.

It’s also helpful to know the local emergency procedures and the location of the nearest hospital.

8. Stay Connected

Keep in touch with family or friends back home. Share your itinerary and check in regularly. This way, someone knows where you are and can help if anything goes wrong.

9. Drink Alcohol Responsibly

If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Being intoxicated can make you more vulnerable to crime. Always keep an eye on your drink to avoid it being spiked.

10. Be Cautious of Scams

Be aware of common scams that target tourists.

For example, someone might try to distract you while an accomplice steals your belongings. Trust your instincts, and if something feels off, walk away.

11. Learn Basic Spanish or Portuguese

Knowing some basic Spanish or Portuguese phrases can be very helpful. It shows respect and can make it easier to get help if you need it.

Phrases like “Where is the nearest police station?” or “I need help” can be crucial in an emergency.

12. Get Travel Insurance

If something goes wrong, travel insurance can provide peace of mind and financial protection. This can help you cover medical emergencies, theft, and cancellations. Make sure you understand what your policy covers.

Ready to Discover the Safest South American Destinations?

With its lively cultures, captivating histories, gorgeous scenery, and safe, affordable cities, South America is a fantastic continent for traveling and living abroad.

You can enjoy your travels without breaking the bank by choosing destinations like Montevideo, Santiago, Mendoza, and some of the other cities listed here.

Remember to make the most of your trip by following simple safety tips like keeping your valuables secure and staying alert in crowded places.

So pack your bags, plan your adventure, and get ready to discover the wonders of South America. Travel safely and enjoy every moment!

Zoe Wallace

Zoe Wallace

Zoe is a contributing Travel Author of Culture.org. Her passion for exploration and commitment to responsible and sustainable travel inspires many to embark on their own adventures and appreciate the world's wonders.

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