Backpacking South America | Is South America Safe?
The world is not safe. It simply isn't. Did you know that hippos kill almost 3000 people a year in Africa?! Falling out of bed is the end to an average of 450 peoples lives a year!
Joking aside, if you are visiting South America, safety is a legitimate concern, to a certain extent. Many people who research the safety in South America are doing so the reaffirm their mislead beliefs that everywhere is a war zone down here because they realistically do not want to actually get up, and get out.
If you were to search the List of Top 50 Cities by Murder Rate per 100,000 only 9 in the top 50 are not latin American countries. Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia pop up repeatedly. Also, San Marino has the highest amount of automobiles per person in the world! So conclusions are South America is a death trap and San Marino is polluted.
When I was dead up Machu Picchu, Peru
Of course not.
When you are visiting a continent or specific country as a tourist, as much as you want to stray, you will inevitably follow some form of the tourist trail and this is one of the reasons that the aforementioned statistics should have little bearing on your hesitation to visit somewhere. Now that is not to say that there are not war zones within these countries, but these area's are dominated by cartels, gangs, drug trade and illegal activity. These area's are also generally out of the way and have no appeal or draw unless you are specifically looking for trouble.
This is not to say that I have never had any worry or apprehension travelling South America, this is also not to say that I didn't do my research and take caution when visiting these areas. In fact, my first trip to Latin America started in Costa Rica, and was ending in Ecuador. Of course, north of Ecuador, I would have to pass through the infamous country of Colombia. I often have a good sense of situations, how to avoid trouble and make correct decisions so my parents were not that worried about me entering Colombia, however, they had mentioned that the Canadian Government had it on a list of dangerous countries to avoid and that I should pass through it as quickly as possible. Telling them I would "play it by ear" was not enough for them, so I assured them I would pass through it quickly, however, knowing deep down that I was not going to change my plans unless necessary.
To say that Colombia surprised me would be an understatement. One of the most notorious "war zones" in South America, Medellin, burrowed a place in my heart and I ended up staying for almost 3 weeks and have returned twice since. Overnight busses, no problem. Walking through towns in the dark, no worries.
Why? Because of preparation. Dead in Machala, Ecuador
If arriving in a town at night, I would have a hostel booked and know its location. I would taxi. Travel in groups. Wear nothing of serious value. Exude confidence. All of these things that people generally do anyways,coupled with the fact that you are, or at least should be, visiting the safe areas is generally enough to keep you safe.
Its just like a lot of big cities in the United States, there are areas you wouldn't dare visit. Nothing changes here.
Dead in Mancora, Peru
Now what is the best country in South America? I dont know, I havent visit them all yet, and thats always a matter of opinion so go find out for yourself, and
the fact that you are researching the safety in South America, and asking if South America is safe, is a good thing and I hope this helps you understand, that yes, it is, if you travel right.
You also may be looking at these photos and wondering why I am face down or on my back everywhere. Well, as I passed over the border into the United States from Vancouver to fly out of Seattle, I encountered a US Border Guard who obviously had believed every bit of mainstream media he has every heard about South America. Being that my flight was one way into Cartagena, Colombia, sirens went off in his head. "Why are you going there? Where is Machu Picchu? Why do you want to do that? You could get killed" were just a few of the absurdities that came out of his mouth. We decided, in honour of that Border Guard, and those people who think you have to dodge bullets to visit these places, I present to you a spin-off Weekend At Bernies, with me, being dead across South America.
Dead in the bus in Lima, Peru
I really hope this honest entry and answer to the question "Is South America Safe?" simply excites you to go visit. Like I mentioned before, be prepared, do some research, travel smart, and you should have no problem, unless you fall out of your bed and die.