Montevideo is a safe city. in fact, it’s one of the safest cities in Latin America but it is still a capital city and an unlucky traveller could encounter small-scale crime.
One thing that may surprise you is that Montevideans will look out for you, sometimes literally stopping you in the street and telling you to be careful. This tends to worry travellers initially but once you have spent a few days in Montevideo you’ll realise that, especially if you are a seasoned traveller, you can take this advice with a pinch of salt.
I include these tips below which are relevant to being safe in most major cities – well, taxis aren’t cheap everywhere.. .
Wondering if Montevideo is safe? Take a look at these tips for staying safe
- Don’t carry your passport, no-one will ask you for it (or a photocopy will be fine)
- You’ll be more comfortable if you blend in. Don’t walk around flashing money, expensive equipment or talking at the top of your voice in English
- Feel confident about stopping a taxi in the street – they are very secure and cheap. It’s normal to ask your restaurant hosts to call you a cab at the end of evening
- Going out at night if you don’t need to carry a bag, don’t carry one – put the money you need and a credit card in your pocket and voilá!
- Keep a twenty-peso bill in your pocket separate from your wallet in case you decide to respond to a pan-handler. You don’t want to be rifling through your wallet.
- Use your seatbelt when seated in a cab. You don’t want to hit your head on the glass divider between you and the driver.
- Avoid withdrawing money from ATMs after dark and those on the street
- Stick to well-lit areas at night
- If you hire a car, don’t leave anything of value in view. Even a jacket might be temptation in an unattended car.
- Don’t feel nervous when Montevideans insist on telling you to take care when you are on the street. They are just looking out for you
Take the regular precautions that you would when you are in a capital city (in Latin America) and you should be just fine. That advice goes for any neighbourhood, the up-scale ones too.
Tips with specific neighbourhoods in mind
See the Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo
Better safety in the Ciudad Vieja
At the end of 2013 the Montevideo government cracked down on street crime in the centre of Montevideo and the Ciudad Vieja (or Old City as it is known in English). The muggings were being carried out by a mere handful of people but they had become increasingly brazen.
Unfortunately because this small gang targeted the Old City, a classic stop on any travellers’ itinerary, a lot got written online when really the overall level of crime did not warrant the focus of attention. Shortly after 300 (!) security cameras were installed in the Old City and incidents plummeted.
So take the regular precautions in Montevideo that you would in any capital city and you’ll be fine. Enjoy!
My lived experience in Montevideo for twenty years tells me this comes from good old-fashioned nostalgia and TV news focusing on crime stories over other types of news (they have been criticised for this).
[Article published 22 October 2015 and last updated at the date above]
Cover photo by Jimmy Baikovicius
my husband and i will be in uruguay for a month in january and plan to travel around the country. any suggestions for how to get from city to city? should we rent a car, uber, taxi ?
Hi Jean, that’s fantastic! Renting a car is the way to go. Uber and taxi will be very expensive. Driving long distance in Uruguay is easy. All the best, Karen PS Make sure you have the Guru’Guay guidebook to beaches, ranches and wine country to plan your time outside Montevideo! You’re going to LOVE it.
Hello from Greece!
We are planing to come to Montevideo for 1-2 nights and we would like to stay somewhere in the center (Ciudad VIeja) of Montevideo because we want to visit a milonga (joventango) which is located near the City Hall.We found some good rated hotels on 18 de Julio and parallel streets of it like San Jose, just 3-4 blocks away from milonga place, but after reading too many terrifying comments on internet about the center of Montevideo that is unsafe at night and too risky for a walk etc. we are wondering if we have to stay in another area. Any advice?
Hi Lazaros, you should not be concerned about being in the city centre. It is not dangerous though in my opinion it is not the most attractive neighbourhood to stay as a visitor. Of course it is important to take sensible precautions that you would in any city that is new to you. At night it’s advisable to walk on the main street 18 de julio as it is very well lit and there are lots of people there until late at night. However Montevideo is small so you can easily stay in another neighbourhood and get to Joventango easily by bus or taxi/uber in minutes. Best, Karen
Precautions like you’re in a European city and you’ll be fine. Although I am aware of incidents I have lived here six years without incident.
I’m a small, petite female from the U.S. who traveled solo through Montevideo for more than a week (and the rest of Uruguay for two additional weeks). I loved it and had absolutely NO safety concerns in Montevideo. The cab drivers were very helpful (even when I accidentally paid one in Argentinian pesos), restaurants called me cabs, and I felt safe at night in Ciudad Vieja. Don’t be stupid, of course, and have a great time!
I’m glad to hear it. I’ve read a couple of comments in random websites about people being robbed in the city, especially in the Old Town. I’m going to Montevideo in June with my boyfriend and it is nice to know that a solo female traveller felt safe there! 🙂