August 15, 2017

Five Ugly Truths about the Safest Countries in South America

Are you traveling to a South American country soon? There are lots of places to travel to in South America but maybe you’re looking for the safest South America travel destinations and that’s what you’ll find in this article, plus a few ugly truths you might not know about these safest countries. Be sure to take a look at the video companion to this article located at the end.

                   Safety Is Up To You

A lot of North Americans move to a Latin American country and don't realize they have to behave differently about crime and their personal safety than they did back home. Everyone has their own opinions about safest and best Latin American countries to live but quite honestly, even in the safest Latin country of Chile you have to watch yourself and behave in certain ways so as not to become a target.

The cliché is old and worn but gringos are "regarded as rich" in these undeveloped places and even if you are rich, why flaunt the fact. Be a good steward for yourself and for others around you. We don't think it matters where you live in Latin America, petty crime prevails and in some bigger cities so does violent crime. Don't become a victim by not becoming a target. We talk about how to not become a target of crime in any Latin American country in this article.

Chile: Safest Country in South America

Chile has been chosen the safest country in South America according to the Global Peace Index. Chile’s terrain is beautiful and diverse but there are some aspects about Chile that aren’t very well known because these five ugly truths aren’t talked about much.

1. Not budget friendly – From house rentals to hotels, Chile’s prices are on par with the U.S.  House rentals are substandard and small compared to what you get back home for the same price. Don’t expect to come to Chile and save money just because it is in South America. Chile is not cheap.

2. Bureaucracy issues – Bloggers and pumpers love to say that Chile is the first world of Latin America; it may be slightly better in some things such as Internet connectivity but Chile has the same bureaucracy issues you will find in Ecuador and Costa Rica: terrible customer service, no-shows, slow service, etc; there is no efficiency or organization; it’s definitely manana attitude in Chile.

3.  Chile & earthquakes – Chile has frequent earthquakes and holds the world’s record for the biggest earthquake in history. Chile is an earthquake zone along the “ring of fire” and much of the newer construction has been built to withstand a heavy jolt, however, no high-rise is ever actually earthquake proof and in 2010 there was quite a bit of devestation.

4. Inefficient Banking System – Foreigners will find getting any kind of banking done internationally in a developing Latin American country, a nightmare. Surprisingly, South American tellers are only taught how to process funds in a local way and with the local population. Money transfers, International check deposits and wiring money to the U.S are all unfamiliar transactions for local tellers and many banks across South America have completely stopped international processing for foreigners!

5. Is It the Safest Country? – As a whole, Chile may be safer compared to other South American destinations such as Ecuador or Peru, but the bigger cities such as Santiago and Antofagasta still have the regular petty crime like pick pocketing and thievery. Keep your wits about you.

             Uruguay: Second Safest Country
                            in South America


Next on the radar as the second safest country in South America we have Uruguay. Uruguay is a nice looking country on the Atlantic coast and is a great South American travel spot that borders with these two South American countries, Argentina and Brazil. But did you know these five things about Uruguay?

1. Not tropical– Uruguay enjoys four seasons and definitely has its cold season and some areas inland can get down into the 30’s at night. So if you’re thinking “spring-like” weather all year round like in Cuenca Ecuador, Uruguay is not it. But if you like having a short summer and long fall and winter, Uruguay may just fit that bill. In fact, Uruguay is the only country in Latin America that is totally outside of the tropics.  

2. Merchandise Expensive – Just like in most South American countries everything is expensive except for some food items and produce. Expect to pay twice as much for electronics, clothing, shoes, cars, furniture, appliances etc. Also add an extra value tax of 23% on virtually everything you buy.

3. Increasing crime rates – Ironically, Uruguay has been called the second safest country in South America and yet foreigners that reside in Uruguay are complaining about lack of security. Well, here’s our take on that. Of course crime is rising for foreign travelers and expat residents that live in Uruguay; that’s generally what happens in large expat communities that are nestled within the pumped cities and towns across South and Central America.

4. Developing country – All across the board, people remark about how Uruguay is the most European in every way, however just like any country in South America it is still up and coming in a lot of ways. Slow and disorganized business services, inadequate postal service, mediocre administration services, manana attitude, etc.  These things still exist in the country that everyone says is the most first world and European.

5. Expensive – In Uruguay if you want to rent a foreigner must pay five months of rent down for a deposit. And almost everything is fixed price so there is no negotiating and bargaining for anything much. Some people might like that aspect of life but Uruguay is expensive and so negotiating is seen as a way to save money. Most of the locals in other South American countries still employ the use of negotiation to get the best or real price for something. There’s no “going local” in Uruguay.

            Argentina: Third Safest Country
                      in  South America


Next, we take a look at our third safest country in South America, according to the Global Peace Index, which is Argentina. Argentina is lovely. It is a country with wonderful people, great food and beautiful diverse countryside; however, did you know these five ugly truths about Argentina.

1. Buenos Aries Is Not SAFE – Sure,  listen to the vested interests and pumpers and they’ll tell you quite the opposite. In fact they’ll compare B.A to Chicago or Detroit; isn’t that nice of them? With more and more foreigners visiting and moving to B.A petty theft and home invasions of expats are increasing by the day.

2. Inflation crisis – Consumer prices are going up on everything according to residents who live there.  A huge electricity rate increase of 60% to 90% percent just took effect in the beginning of 2017 which is causing the housing market and basic services to climb by 8.4%. Argentina is not cheap and B.A is not that safe.

3.  Real Estate Expensive – The real estate market is high and doesn’t look like it is going to come down anytime soon. If you’re looking to rent a home or apartment, long or short term, rentals are just as expensive as in North America; expect to pay several months in advance on rental monies for a guarantee. BTW, the safer neighborhoods are really expensive.

4. Driving is erratic – Just like any other developing country, the locals forget about the fact that pedestrians have the right away at cross walks. Be careful of those drivers who come spinning around the corner behind you right when you’re getting ready to walk across. You will find lots of seemingly disorganized traffic and horns knocking in the bigger to medium cities in Argentina. “It’s just the way it is here”, they’ll tell you.

5. Work Visa Needs Sponsored – that means to be able to work legally in Argentina like a lot of the expats do, whether its teaching English or selling cotton candy, you will need to find a company that will sponsor you and you will need to commit to that work relationship for a full year or no work visa.

            Ecuador: Fourth Safest Country
                         in South America

Our fourth safest South American Country on our list is Ecuador. We live in Ecuador and have visited many beautiful places in Ecuador and met a lot of nice people but did you know these  things about Ecuador?

1. Mandatory Health Insurance TAX- The new mandatory health insurance tax reflects only on the foreign residents and travelers, not its local citizens. So in that sense, it’s a tax on the traveler and foreign resident. All travelers visiting Ecuador by November 8, 2017 must show they have and carry health insurance before they will be allowed into the country. It must be accepted by immigration upon entering so make sure you have an insurance that Ecuador will accept. 

2. Cuenca Ecuador Smoggy and Moldy – Yes, the city of Cuenca, the most popular expat destination in Ecuador is a nice city but it is full of buses with bad diesel and moldy buildings and housing.  Make sure you rent a newer apartment or house or you might find yourself with a moldy situation. The altitude paired with the smog and mold can cause upper respiratory illness in some people. This is just a warning.

3. Gringo gouging – Gringo gouging is a problem in most Latin American countries, even Chile and Argentina where foreigners are seen as money machines. But because we live here we are personal to this issue and have to say, unless you negotiate for most things you will pay much more for everything (gringo price) and you will also be participating in the rising of prices in these developing countries. When just one foreigner pays the asking price that sets a precedent for the next foreigner.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works: If the next foreigner tries to negotiate, the vendor is less likely to give them the real rate since the foreigner before them just paid the gringo price. 

Cuenca Ecuador rentals have gone up 50% in just five short years!

4. NA – nothing else to add on this blog

5. NA – we have nothing else to add

          Paraguay: Fifth Safest Country
                        in South America

Finally we come to the fifth safest country in South America and that is Paraguay. Paraguay is a landlocked country that borders Brazil and Argentina.  And just like anywhere else in the world, there are some not so pretty truths about Paraguay.

1. Poor infrastructure – It may be one of the least developed countries in South America and poor infrastructure comes with that.

2. Small expat community – Most foreigners appreciate a larger expat community because they usually do not speak Spanish and therefore they need a community of English speakers to help them get settled in; from renting a home to paying utility bills, which by the way are not mailed to the utility companies in these developeding countries, you just have to remember when they need paid and you go somewhere and pay it.

3. Stray dog problem– It has been said that Paraguay has seven dogs for every person, so then if that’s even somewhat true, there’s a lot of loose dogs roaming the streets in Paraguay. How sad!

4. Few English Speaking Locals – Not very many of the locals speak English in Paraguay; that means you will need to know some basic Spanish just to get by. Btw, the first language in Paraguay is called Guarani, followed by Spanish.

We hope you enjoyed reading about the five safest countries in South America. If you’re traveling to Latin America remember we’re the guest of their country and we should respect how things are done. The worse thing that has ever happened to these undeveloped areas is foreigners moving in and complaining and changing the culture of how things are done and that changes the entire landscape…and then these places just become another dime a dozen Little America” tourist destination abroad.

Top Ten Safest Latin American Countries

Institute for Global Peace


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August 13, 2017

Chipipe Beach THEN & NOW - Salinas Ecuador VLOG

This is what Chipipe Beach looked like in 2012, same time of year as this video in 2017. One thing is for certain, change is inevitable.
Hello Friends! For 6 years now we have posted great information about crucial insights that provide the other side of living abroad. From us, you'll get REALITY. We are now making exclusive videos for those people who want a deeper understanding of life in a developing country; to find out more about visit us on Patreon.

August 11, 2017

Top Ten Safest Latin American Countries for Travelers- UPDATE 2017

Note: This article was first published on March 12, 2016. We like to keep our popular articles updated and this one has been updated August 2017. All new updates will be in red text.  

Latin America refers to territories in the Americas where the Spanish or Portuguese languages prevail: Mexico, most of Central and South America, and in the Caribbean, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Latin America is, therefore, defined as all those parts of the Americas that were once part of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires.   Source: Wiki Latin America

 If we were to go by this definition then both Spain and Portugal would be considered Latin America, however, since they are in the European nation we decided to keep them out of the list. Had we put them in the list, it would have pushed Ecuador out of the top ten, from number 8 to number 11. Below the video is the article with more details.

 Safest Latin American Countries

FYI: Of the 162 countries worldwide, no Latin American country made the top ten list of most peaceful, nor did a Latin American country come in the top 20, however Chile did make it on the list at 29 out of 162 as the most peaceful/safest Latin American country. Does it surprise anyone that Chile is the safest country in Latin America?

The index gauges ‘global peace’ using three broad themes: 1) the level of safety and security in society, (including crime rates), 2) the extent of domestic and international conflict and 3) the degree of militarization.

So how does the rest of Latin America measure up on the world Global Peace Index?   Let’s take a look. Btw, to see the entire list from safest to least safe, according to the Institute for Economics and Global Peace, click the source link below.

Source: Institute for Economics and Global Peace

1. Chile ranks - 29 out of 162
2. Costa Rica – ranks 34 out of 162 (The US State Travel Website Statistics says Costa Rica has more (reported) homicides against US Citizens than Ecuador. Costa Rica does have a much larger US Citizen population which accounts for the higher rates of crime. Costa Rica does not have a military.)
3. Uruguay – ranks 44 out of 162
4. Argentina – ranks 60 out of 162
5. Panama – ranks 64 out of 162 Panama does not have a military.)
6. Nicaragua – ranks 74 out of 162
7. Cuba – ranks 82 out of 162
8. Ecuador – ranks 84 out of 162
9. Paraguay – ranks 89 out of 162
10. Bolivia – ranks 90 out of 162

       Best Latin American Country to Live?

It looks like from the statistics above Costa Rica and Panama come out on top for the safest Central American countries but are they the best Latin American Country? Now that's a matter of personal opinion, don't you think?

There you have it folks, the top Latin American countries with the best scores for safest place to live in Latin America.  As you can see, many are barely above half way point out of all the countries listed.   Here’s the rest of Latin America, well below the half way point.

~The Rest~
Safest Countries in South America
and Central America and Caribbean Nations

11. Peru – ranks 92 out of 162 (The source below says that Peru has less homicides (per 100,000 people) than Ecuador)
12. Trinidad and Tobago – ranks 97 out of 162
13. Haiti – ranks 98 out of 162
14. Dominican Republic - ranks 100 out of 162
15. Brazil – ranks 103 out of 162
16.  Jamaica – ranks 109 out of 162
17. Honduras – ranks 116 out of 162
18. Guatemala – ranks 118 out of 162
19. El Salvador – ranks 123 out of 162
20. Philippines – ranks 141 out of 162 (Philippines is considered a Latin America/Asian Country)
21. Venezuela – ranks 142 out of 162
22. Mexico – ranks 142 out of 162
23. Colombia – ranks 146 out of 162

                   Moving to Ecuador?

Many folks are moving and traveling to Latin American countries right now and a popular destination is Ecuador. If you are moving to Ecuador to live in Ecuador permanently, you might want to know that with a large expat community comes more petty theft. Ecuador does not have a lot of violent crimes against foreigners but if you want to keep you valuables safe, stay on the lookout and have fun in Ecuador! 

 Safest Latin American Cities!

More than likely the safest cities in Latin America are going to have the smallest populations and for expat safety the smallest amount of expats. Petty crime rises where many expats live, which is what's happening in both Panama and Ecuador. So if you want to move to a safe Latin American city your best bet is to choose one that is not that large in population but still has amenities and services but that has a smaller expat population. 

Loja, Ambato and Riobamba all fit that bill pretty well. But remember, living out in the country without any neighbors close by can be even more dangerous for foreigners, so you'll want to live inside or very close to a town or city.

Safety Is Up To You! 

A lot of North Americans move to a Latin American country and don't realize they have to behave differently about crime and their personal safety than they did back home. Everyone has their own opinions on safest and best Latin American countries to live but quite honestly, even in the safest Latin country of Chile you have to watch yourself and behave certain ways so as not to become a target. 

The cliche is old but gringos are "regarded as rich" and even if you are rich, why flaunt the fact. Be a good steward for yourself and for others around you. The worse thing that has ever happened to these undeveloped areas is foreigners moving in and changing the culture of how things are done and then that changes the whole darn landscape.

We just don't think it matters where you live in Latin America petty crime prevails and is some bigger cities so does violent crime. Don't become a victim by not becoming a target. We talk about how to not become a target of crime in any Latin American country here.

And now to give our readers something more to think about we share with you what the US State Travel website says about crime rates of US Citizens living in Latin American countries.  

Click here to see REPORTED deaths in last 6 years of U.S Citizens living in different parts of Latin America dated from January 2010 to January 2015 

Source: US State Travel

Murder Facts in Latin America and the Caribbean

Source – The Guardian International
  • The safest country in Latin America and the Caribbean measured is Chile, with just 2.74 murders per 100,000 people in 2013. 
  • Only 10 countries in the region have homicide rates below 10 per 100,000 people. These include Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Suriname, Peru, Barbados, Uruguay, Dominica, Costa Rica and Paraguay.  
  • When measured by homicide rate, 14 of the 20 most dangerous countries in the world are located in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • The most dangerous cities in Latin America and the Caribbean are located in Honduras, Mexico, Belize, Brazil and Colombia.
Until next time, we leave you with a couple of related articles about crime and safety in Latin America. 
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!  Visit our exclusive videos!

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