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 careful1. 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 be 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
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!
1 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]
Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius
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