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Uruguay sits on the southeastern coast of South America and shares borders with Argentina and Brazil. The capital city and major port, Montevideo, is a popular place to start, or an easy day-trip destination from Buenos Aires.
Before you travel, find out how to stay safe in Uruguay with these tips.
In the 2020 Global Peace Index, Uruguay ranks 35 out of 163 countries when it comes to safety and peace in the country. According to the report, in South America overall Uruguay is the number one most peaceful country out of 11 in the region.
With a good record of stable democracy, a strong tradition of consensus-building and prudent economic policies, Uruguay was the only country in the Americas that did not go into recession as a result of the recent global financial crisis. It was the first nation in the world to provide every school child with a free laptop and wireless internet.
Given these conditions, it's no surprise that Uruguay is one of the safest countries to visit in South America.
Uruguay has a population of 3.4 million, and approximately 1.2 million live in the capital Montevideo. Like all large urban centres, Montevideo has its fair share of criminals. But, in general, they rarely resort to violence in the absence of resistance.
Criminals in Uruguay have conducted "express kidnappings", a method of abduction where a small ransom, that a company or family can pay is requested. This is not a common issue in Uruguay, but does happen throughout South America. This crime is usually conducted by youths accosting their victims when they are in a parked car or about to get into a car alone.
A popular tourist attraction is the Ciudad Vieja (Old City), the oldest and historically most interesting part of Montevideo. Unfortunately, the only sections continually patrolled by the police are Plaza Independencia (Independence Square), the pedestrian street Sarandi, and the Mercado del Puerto (the Harbour Market). Walking alone or in couples at night is an open invitation to enterprising muggers. Travel at night is safest by a pre-booked taxi.
Before taking a road trip around Uruguay, there are a few things travelers should keep in mind. While driving, always keep your wallets, backpacks and valuables out of sight, either on the floor beneath your seat or in the boot where nobody can see them. When drivers stop at busy intersections, especially on La Rambla on Montevideos riverfront road, people can try to reach into your car and grab items through open windows. Always keep your windows up and car doors locked while driving to be safe.
Theft from parked cars is common, particularly in the Carrasco neighborhood of Montevideo. Try to avoid keeping anything valuable in your car, and if you must, keep it totally out of sight.
In the summer months (December to March), Uruguayans and travelers flock to the beaches along the Atlantic coastline from the border with Brazil in the north to the Rio de la Plata (the Silver River) in the south. The town of Maldonado, originally built in 1755 as a provisioning outpost, has grown as a less expensive resort than the famed peninsula of Punta del Este.
The seasonal increase in crowds leads to a spike in petty crime. Unsuspecting visitors who aren't keeping a close eye on their belongings are most the most common targets. Exercise increased awareness of your belongings, and try to be suspicious of any overly friendly locals who may be trying to distract you. Travel in numbers is safe, and avoid walking alone at night.
The Pocitos neighborhood of Montevideo continues to experience armed robberies at crowded restaurants. Since most of these crimes take place very late at night, Restaurant patrons who prefer to keep their possessions and avoid indigestion are well advised to avoid late-night dining.
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Listen to this episode of the World Nomads Podcast on Uruguay and discover why it's a well-kept secret with unspoiled coastlines.