The safest places in South America for digital nomads
Many digital nomads overlook South America when they first start because of safety concerns. However, many parts of the continent are just as, if not safer than, North America and Europe. Our team at Citizen Remote put together a list of South America’s safest countries and cities for digital nomads to visit or live in.
How we made this list:
To make sure we had as comprehensive a list as possible, we looked at several factors, including:
- The Global Peace Index: The GPI is produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace and measures each country relative to each other in terms of global peacefulness. Countries high on this list are generally considered safer for tourism and relocation than countries low on the list.
- The Gay Travel Index: The Gay Travel Index is similar to the Global Peace Index but measures the safety of LGBTQ travelers based on many factors. These include legislation, crime against members of the community, and different restrictions or laws put forth.
- Safest Cities Index: This index is a report from the Economic Intelligence Unit and ranks each major city in the world in terms of safety, updated annually.
- Research on the safest countries for solo women travelers and travelers of color.
We understand that minority groups have unique safety concerns, so we wanted to incorporate all the information we could find while compiling this list. For an added layer of protection, you should consider digital nomad insurance to protect you if an issue arises. These insurance plans can cover trip cancellation or interruption, lost baggage, and medical coverage if you get hurt or sick while on the road.
Digital nomad insurance is critical when traveling through South America, as anything can happen at a moment’s notice.
- GPI Ranking: 46
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 5
First up on our list is Uruguay, a country known for its beautiful beaches, laid-back lifestyle, and friendly locals. It is a small country with a population of around 3.5 million. You can reach Montevideo’s capital by plane or ferry from Buenos Aires, Argentina, which takes approximately four hours. They use the Uruguayan Peso and speak Spanish as their language. Safety is not a concern for travelers going to Uruguay. The GPI and Gay Travel Index rankings are significantly higher than in the United States, so there is little to worry about.
Montevideo is a great city no matter how long you decide to visit. You can see most of the major tourist sites in a couple of days, but it is also a great place to put down a home base. It is a little bit more expensive than Buenos Aires. It is a beautiful city for digital nomads that want a more relaxed and quiet vibe. If you have dealt with the hustle and bustle of other major cities, it might be a pleasant change of pace to settle into Montevideo for a few weeks.
As seen in the GPI and Gay Travel Index rankings, Montevideo is one of the safest places you can visit in all of South America. However, you still need to be careful when walking around at night, but you do not have to worry about violent crime in the capital city. It is incredibly safe for solo women travelers. If you are nervous about setting off on your trip to South America, Montevideo could be a great beginner spot to explore before visiting other parts of the continent.
The vast majority of the population that lives in Uruguay lives in Montevideo.
- GPI Ranking: 55
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 40
Chile is a long, thin country that runs up the west side of South America. There is a lot to see throughout the country. Santiago is one of the biggest airports on the continent, so it is convenient to travel internationally. Safety in Chile is much like other big cities, with petty theft being your primary concern.
Santiago is Chile’s capital and a fantastic city for digital nomads to visit. Santiago was very strict throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and still has some restrictions, so make sure to do your homework before arriving. It was voted the 33rd safest city in the world in 2021. Stay in Providencia, which is generally the safest area in the city. Like any city, some neighborhoods are safer than others, so always be aware of where you end up if you wander around.
This is a capital city, so you can expect prices more similar to European capitals than what you typically think of as South American prices. Accommodation and dining are much more expensive than in other parts of the country, so you might consider splitting your time with other cities.
Although not a city and more of a region, the Chilean side of Patagonia should not be missed by digital nomads. Not only is it safe, but it will likely be one of the prettiest things you have ever laid eyes on. The Andes Mountains are what separate Chilean Patagonia from Argentinian Patagonia. Down south, you can find mountains, volcanoes, and plenty of small towns that welcome foreigners with open arms. Spend a few weeks traveling through Patagonia and hiking; you will not regret it.
- GPI Ranking: 69
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 22
Argentina is one of the best countries for digital nomads because there are endless things to do throughout the year. There are plenty of big cities and towns to visit, including Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Salta, Puerto Iguazu, Rosario, Cordoba, and Bariloche. It is the eighth largest country in the world, so you can spend years in the country and still not run out of places to visit.
The digital nomad scene in Buenos Aires is unlike anywhere else. There are digital nomad meetups that happen every Thursday throughout the year that often bring hundreds of locals and nomads together. On top of that, there are specialized groups by interest, like foodie dinners, LGBTQ get-togethers, and hikes, to name a few. It was voted the 34th safest city in the world, a significant feat.
Most ex-pats stay in Palermo, subdivided into Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Soho, and Palermo Chico. Palermo Hollywood has the best restaurants, while Palermo Soho has the best shopping. Both are great places to put down roots. Public transportation is easily accessible, and the cost of living is cheaper than anywhere else on this list. Buenos Aires would be a safe, affordable, and lively place for nomads who want to stay for an extended time.
Mendoza is the Napa Valley of Argentina. If you like Malbec, you need to see where the best Malbec in the world is made. It is a safe city for groups and solo travelers alike. Keep your eyes out for scams, as wine tours should not cost exorbitant amounts of money. Overall, Mendoza is an easy place to stay for a few weeks. It doesn’t get much better than relaxing with a cheap glass of world-class wine.
- GPI Ranking: 144
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 14
Many people might not think of Colombia when they hear the word “safe,” but it has changed quite a bit over the last few years. Gone are the days of drug lords and violent crime. Colombians are undoubtedly some of the kindest and most welcoming people our team has ever met. Medellín is arguably the biggest hotspot for digital nomads in all of South America and for a good reason. You can find coworking spaces on just about any corner in major cities, wifi is fast and reliable, the cost of living is reasonable, and the weather could not be any better.
Medellín is a breathtaking city that you will never want to leave. There are only two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. During both seasons, you enjoy the most temperate climate, with temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Overall, Medellín is a fantastic city and is relatively safe. However, you will want to take a few precautions to ensure you are not the victim of any petty theft.
First, stay in the neighborhoods of Poblado or Laureles until you get acclimated to the city. Both areas have many ex-pats, so you are unlikely to find any trouble here. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or smartwatches, and keep your phone in your pocket while walking around. If you are going out at night, take a taxi unless you are in a large group. Always be aware of your surroundings, and you will have an excellent experience.
Medellín is not only one of the most popular destinations for digital nomads on the continent but is also a massive hotspot for LGBTQ travelers. The country and city welcome the community, with multiple gay bars in Poblado alone.
If you prefer to spend time at the beach rather than in the mountains of Medellín, head to Cartagena. The city is considered extremely safe for tourism, with plenty to do. The city is beautiful, with many colorful buildings and white sand beaches. You can also find coral reefs in Islas del Rosario, which make a great spot to snorkel or scuba dive.
Police regularly monitor the streets, and violent crime against ex-pats is almost unheard of. You will be fine if you use common sense and stick to the more touristy areas.
- GPI Ranking: 79
- Gay Travel Index Ranking: 31
Ecuador continuously improves its safety measures to make it an excellent place for foreign travelers. However, crime can still occur here. The smaller villages will likely be the safest places to visit, but the larger cities with digital nomad communities are still safe, as long as you know what you are doing. We generally do not recommend Ecuador as the first country for someone to visit in South America, but it is worthwhile once you have some experience.
The safest city in Ecuador is Cuenca, located in the southern part of the country in the Andes mountains. It is the third largest city in Ecuador and sits around 2,500 meters above sea level, so you will have to acclimate to the altitude in your first few days. Violent crime rates in Cuenca are low, but petty theft is common. There is a beautiful mix between modern construction and rich cultural history. Many people consider Cuenca a terrific place for ex-pats to retire, as there is a lot to do, but the cost of living remains low. Cuenca is only about an hour’s drive to the beach, so you get a mix of high altitudes while still having easy access to an ocean.
Although crime does occur in Quito, it still made this list because of the thriving digital nomad community. Plenty of resources on the ground make Quito an excellent place for digital nomads and a community that supports new arrivals. Many ex-pats choose to live in La Floresta, La Carolina, and La Paz. A healthy work-life balance comes naturally when living in Quito. Try to avoid walking after dark and opt for a car service instead. If you do find yourself in a bad situation, make sure to cooperate and do not resist.
It might sound scary, but Ecuador is generally safer than places in Mexico, so you do not need to panic. You just need to keep your eyes open and have safety plans in place.
If you haven’t already been, you need to add these South American countries to your bucket list. If you have been, you likely understand why we rave about them so strongly. Once you experience all that South America offers, you will keep coming back. Contact us if you want to stay in your favorite city for an extended period and need help with your visa. Having digital nomad insurance is a must when traveling around South America, just in case you get hurt and need to see a medical professional.
Enjoy your time in these beautiful countries!