The political and economic situations of a country influence its peacefulness. Countries with political stability tend to attract more tourists and foreign investments. We listed the most dangerous countries in South America and some documentaries that you can watch to understand better the situation.
The Global Peace Index measures the peacefulness of different nations and regions. It is released annually and ranks 172 independent countries.
The index was developed by the Institute for Economics & Peace and has been used for more than a decade now. To evaluate the level of peacefulness, GPI conducts investigations to determine the extent to which a country is involved in ongoing domestic and international conflicts. In 2017, 23 indicators were used to determine the index.
Most Dangerous Countries in South America
7. Bolivia – 2.001
Bolivia is known for its beautiful country houses and Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake on earth. With subtropical valleys that host a wide variety of plants, the magic plant of the Incas can be found in the eastern part of the Andes Range.
Property crimes in markets and houses are not uncommon. Neither is theft. Pick-pocketing, purse grabbing, and stolen cell phones have all been reported by tourists and visitors. When visiting Bolivia, staying out of crowded areas is crucial.
Domestic violence is also common in Bolivia. Female travelers from countries such as the United States are often shocked at the prevalence of this type of abuse. Occasional druggings at bars and clubs have also been reported when money, jewelry and purses were stolen. Travelers from wealthier countries should also be aware of credit card theft at restaurants.
Although most of Bolivia’s theft is petty, burglaries, where the residents are home, have been known to occur. Unsecured doors or windows provide easy access to both apartments and houses. Even houses that have secured doors and windows may be at risk if domestic employees allow burglars to enter. Employees may be tricked or bribed depending on the perpetrator.
The location with the highest threat level is La Paz. This is because political violence occurs frequently and is dangerous. Demonstrations, protests and other civil unrest is likely to happen in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba as well. While some of these protests are contained, widespread national protests have occurred for several weeks. Electoral offices were burned in several regions throughout Bolivia.
Political tension continues to be high in Bolivia and is not likely to slow at any point soon. The Overseas Security Advisory Council cautions travelers about protest activity in foreign countries. Bolivia is no exception. Even what may begin as a peaceful protest can quickly turn violent.
6. Ecuador – 2.095
The nation was ranked at position 97 on the GPI.
Ecuador is a relatively safe country, and solo female visitors frequently report feeling safe enough to travel throughout the country.
However, due to criminal activity, the U.S. State Department advises against visiting Carchi, Sucumbos, and Esmereldas in the north.
Pickpocketing and other petty crime are a problem in Ecuador, as in many other countries, especially in large cities such as Quito and Guayaquil. Keep your cash and phone in your front pockets and carry your pouch on your front. Robberies do occur on night busses and in unlicensed cabs. Therefore, travel during the day and only with trusted transportation companies.
5. Peru – 2.130
The nation was ranked at position 103 on the GPI. It dropped almost 2 positions since the previous year and it will most likely be dropping more due to civil unrest happening across the country in the last few months.
Petty crime in Peru is a major problem that makes the country relatively dangerous, although the situation has improved significantly.
Tourist areas and public transportation are the most common targets for theft and pickpocketing, but violent crimes are also seen on the streets.
The main strategy of pickpockets is to distract visitors, for example, by having an elderly woman pour something over you, fall in front of you, or drop something at your feet.
Then someone will rip open your bag with a razor or just rush in and take your entire bag.
In Peru, there is a considerable risk of being deceived. Avoid anyone who hangs around ATMs or tries to distract you. Cab drivers may try to trick you into paying more for the fare.
4. Guyana – 2.134
The country was placed at position 106 in the GPI and is located in the northern mainland of South America. One of the things that makes it stand out among other South American nations is that English is the official language. Although Guyana is known for its welcoming people, there are many dangers that you should be aware of.
Other than a high number of petty theft cases in the nation, there are many cases of violent crimes. Ensure you have your identification documents with you at all times to avoid arrests and questioning by law enforcement authorities.
Drug trafficking is also prevalent in Guyana. To stay safe, avoid carrying items you did not purchase or pack personally as law enforcers deal with any violations strictly. Additionally, ensure that you take your prescriptions for medication with you to prove that they are not illegal drugs.
There are many types of scams in Guyana. One of the most common issues is counterfeit currency. Usually, criminals offer to exchange foreign currency using favorable rates, but the money received is worthless.
Tourists are recommended to depend on licensed exchange services in Guyana, such as banks and hotels. Although you may pay a higher rate, you’ll not lose your hard-earned money. Just like most countries with many tourist attractions, you’ll find many pickpockets in the country.
3. Brazil – 2.134
The nation was ranked at position 132 on the GPI. One of the easiest to stay safe in the country is to maintain a low profile. Avoid putting on diamond-encrusted or shiny outfits. Most robbers target people who are fond of luxurious items.
Only carry a small amount of money and minimal bank cards with you when moving around. After shopping, take your goods to your apartment before going out for dinner or entertainment joints.
Brazilian authorities have pointed out that the theft of tech gadgets has been increasing over the last decade. Therefore, avoid using your top-of-the-line phone or tech devices when in public places, as this may increase the chances of theft.
Some parts of the country should be avoided as much as possible. There are high crime rates in cities such as Rio, São Paulo, and Salvador during different times of the year. The number of reported crimes goes up during various holidays.
Check how it looks inside Rio’s favelas (quick ducumentary by Vox)
Keeping on the beaten path isn’t always safe for you. Some of the common crimes in the country include street theft and muggings, especially in various tourist attractions sites. Some juveniles may use guns to rob or organize a robbery with older adults.
Pickpocketing is also a major concern in Brazil. The criminals use a myriad of tricks and creative tactics to distract their victims. Some of the tricks used to distract victims include smearing them with mustard, daubing them with paint, and some robbers masquerading as beggars on the streets. Once you have been distracted, they’ll rob you in nanoseconds.
Another reason that makes Brazil one of the most dangerous countries in South America is the high incidences of financial fraud and ATM theft. In the past decade, criminals have developed sophisticated techniques to rob people in ATMs.
You may also be a victim of credit card fraud if you fail to use it in reputable accommodation facilities and shops. If there are many cases of credit card theft in an area, consider using cash for payment of goods and services.
Nevertheless, Brazil is an amazing country and worth visiting, just apply basic safety rules and you will be fine. Check our article on Things to know before youtravel to Brazil!
2. Venezuela – 2.693
Venezuela is ranked as the second most dangerous country in South America in 2023 because of its political instability, high levels of violence, and increased crime rates.
It’s ranked at position 140 in the GPI. Violence is prevalent both in the country’s capital and some interior regions. According to statistics, Venezuela has one of the top five highest per capita murder rates globally.
Reports of kidnapping have increased significantly over the years, and armed robberies are also common. Some of the areas where there are high rates of kidnappings include residential apartments, hotels, airports, and unauthorized taxis.
Some attraction sites in the country are also crime hot spots. Therefore, research widely before choosing your travel destination. Low-income neighborhoods covering the hills around the capital city are dangerous.
Pickpocketing is also another major insecurity issue in Venezuela. Criminals concentrate in and around bus and railway terminus in Caracas. Most pickpockets in the area are well-dressed to avoid suspicion, especially during the rush hour.
To understand better watch this quick video, “The collapse of Venezuela, explained”
In the past decade, a phenomenon called “express kidnapping” has been on the rise. Criminals abduct people for a short period and demand money from the victims. Usually, the victims are selected randomly.
1. Colombia – 2.693
Colombia is considered the most dangerous country in South America in 2023. The country of beautiful beaches, amazing food, mountains, and salsa dancing was ranked at position 140 on the index. One of the things that makes it one of the most dangerous in the world is the high number of armed robberies.
In Bogota, the risk of crime is considerably high. Some of the common crimes in the country include mugging, assault, and credit card theft. Some of the weapons that criminals use are knives and firearms.
There have been reports of serious injuries and murders due to resistance by victims during robberies. Cases of burning of buses by criminals, terrorists, and demonstrators are also common in Colombia in rural areas far away from tourist spots.
Check out this interesting video, how Murder Capital of the World changed into peaceful neighborhood
Taxi-related crimes usually occur when cabs are hailed from the streets by lone passengers. Once the driver stops, the passengers and criminals enter. The victims are taken to several ATMs until the robbers have extracted the maximum amount of money.
Cyber threats are also major security problems in Colombia. Some of the cyber threats are politically motivated. For example, the country’s president’s email account was breached a few years ago. In the last decade, cases of financially motivated cyber crimes have also been on the rise.
Some criminals use drugs when robbing their victims. Local authorities have reported that scopolamine is the most common drug used by robbers. After the administration of the drugs, a victim can be unconscious for a minimum of 24 hours.
Despite all the above mentioned, Colombia is one of the most visited places in South America. There are many amazing places and safe destinations where you can have an amazing time. Just apply South American safety travel rules!