Safe travel. It's something we get asked about a lot, particularly since we started traveling in Uruguay. Unfortunately, it seems that South America has been tarred for many as a place where travel dangers are everywhere and vacationing in this part of the world is a risk.
With only a little travel information available about Uruguay it was hard to know what to expect. When we first arrived we'd heard so many different stories. From there's nothing to worry about just use your head, to you need to be careful and make sure you don't go out in the evenings on the streets.
We really didn't know what to believe at this point. But, as with most countries around the world, if you're going to experience travel dangers and potential difficulties, they're likely to be found in the capital city and other densely populated areas.
In the case of Uruguay, the capital city is Montevideo. Our first stop on our South America outdoor adventure vacation.
We'd arrived in high season and found, to our surprise, that the majority of accommodation was fully booked. At least that was the case for all the accommodation in our budget range. We had a decision to make. Break the budget on day 1 and pay more to stay in a high end hotel. Or stick to the budget and stay in an area we'd heard was 'dodgy' at night.
We decided this was a good opportunity to find out just how dodgy is dodgy, and booked a hotel in the Ciudad Vieja area of the city. We'd be lying if we didn't admit to being a little apprehensive.
Well there's definitely a slightly rough feeling to this part of town, although it isn't in evidence during the day. In fact, by day it's really popular with loads of great street cafes and market stalls where people chill and pass the times of day.
One strange characteristic of the Ciudad Vieja area of Montevideo which we didn't expect, was that it turned into a ghost town on Sundays. Literally, there was no-one around. Although we didn't feel threatened in any way as we headed out during the day, it did feel a little spooky. If you want to see the streets stalls and local life in this district, don't visit on a Sunday.
By night, however, there was a clear change in character in the district as the nightlife kicked into gear. In our case, the hotel we were staying at was right next to the Shsnnon Irish pub, with other drinking havens lining the street. Sleep was hard to come by as the music was loud, often still going strong at 7 or 8 in the morning. And then there were the arguments that inevitably broke out when too much alcohol was consumed. In truth, we didn't like this area very much at night.
Was it dodgy though? Well, if you were to go out flashing your cash and wearing lots of jewelry and other finery then you would certainly be noticed. And potentially you'd become a target for pickpocketing or, worst case, mugging. For the sake of safe travel, don't go out flashing off a load of expensive gear unless you're ready to lose it. However, if you use your street smarts then you shouldn't have a problem. It's more a case of whether you want to deal with that when you're on vacation. Given the choice we'd rather not, although we'd definitely recommend a day trip to visit Ciudad Vieja by day.
Our experience to date has proven to be a really lovely surprise. The Uruguayan people are incredibly friendly and any worries about safe travel soon went out of the window. That doesn't mean that we forgot our common sense. Or course not. But we really haven't felt threatened in any way as we've traveled to different places. We've taken all our usual precautions such as making sure we're not openly carrying valuables. But beyond this, Uruguay has proved to be a safe travel destination for us.============================
If you have experience of safe travel in Uruguay or of any travel dangers you've faced while you've been here, we'd love to hear from you. The more we share our experiences the more we can learn from each other and help someone else avoid a bad situation. Tell us your story and we'll add it to the site.