Uruguay is a safe country for foreigners.
The Global Peace Index consistently ranks Uruguay amongst the safest countries in Latin America—together with Chile and Costa Rica. Uruguayans are extremely friendly people and most foreigners, including women on their own, can feel comfortable when out and about.
However, you’d never know this if you talk to a Uruguayan who has never travelled or people from the interior. They’ll complain that the country, particularly the capital, Montevideo, is “dangerous” and wax nostalgic about a time when everyone left their front doors open.
As someone who has travelled the world and lived in Montevideo for over twenty years, my experience is that from the standpoint of personal safety, Uruguay is a safe place to live and visit.
Is Montevideo safe
While small and walkable, Montevideo is still a capital city and an unlucky traveller could encounter petty crime.
Let me give you an illustration. I ran a guesthouse for a decade in the Old City of Montevideo from 2010. Every year we hosted around three hundred guests mainly from North America and Europe. On average, just one couple a year experienced crime—typically a bag snatch which would take place in another neighbourhood.
Take the regular precautions that you would when you are new to a capital city and you should be just fine. This advice goes for any neighbourhood, the upscale ones too.
Read my recommendations for safety precautions to take in Montevideo.
Uruguay’s ranking fell in the Global Peace Index in 2021 for the first time since the index began in 2008. Despite that it still ranks #1 in South America. Half of the population of Uruguay lives in the capital and so, as you’d expect, serious crime is proportionally higher in Montevideo. While there has been a concerning increase in homicides in 2022, these occur in neighbourhoods and sites (e.g. prisons) where as a foreigner you would not be likely to go.
Is the Uruguay countryside safe
As I travelled around researching The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay I found myself in country towns where no one locked their cars. My host left his jacket and helmet on top of his motorbike while we went into a restaurant to eat. In wine country, the door of my vineyard cabin stayed unlocked the entire three days I was there. Of course be alert and take sensible precautions but you will marvel at how safe it is to travel around in the interior.
Is it safe at the beach in Uruguay
The scene at the beach is very safe—regardless of whether the beach is crowded or empty for miles. This is why Brazilians love to holiday in Uruguay.
As a single woman I have never felt worried about taking hours-long walks alone along deserted beaches.
There is one crime issue at the beach in Uruguay primarily around New Year and that is the robbery of holiday homes and rentals.
There’s no danger. The thieves are looking for money and electronic goods and they want to be in and out before you are even aware of them. They tend to target houses where the residents are distracted (maybe having a barbeque at the back of the house), asleep or out.
How do the locals protect their valuables at the beach? They close and lock windows and doors when they are not in the house or at night. If there is a safe or alarm, they use them. When there’s no safe, they will lock portable valuables (e.g. laptops) in their car out of sight.
Some people even take their valuables with them in a backpack to the beach (unheard of in Brazil where you are advised to take nothing with you but your towel/wrap). When going to swim or for a walk, they’ll ask a person nearby to keep an eye on their stuff.
Feel comfortable doing the same. Say: “¿Me lo puedes mirar?” (meh lo PWAY-des mee-RAH-r) and gesture to your stuff.
I don’t want to make you nervous, just aware. Off season it would be very bad luck to be burgled.