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Holiday in Uruguay - Safety in Montevideo?

edited February 2016 in South and Central America
Hi all, i'm heading to Uruguay and I'll be spending a few days in Montevideo.
I've heard it's quite dangerous? I've heard stories drom other travellers I've met while backpacking through South America that they have been mugged at knifepoint or been victims of other crimes. Is this something I should be aware of or what is the safety situation for a traveller backpacking alone in this city?

Will I be safe? Is Montevideo particularly bad or is this like any other city in the world?


  • edited January 2012

    I never had any bad experiences there, but yes, it is just like any other city in the world; problems do happen. However, it is certainly not known for its violence. See what other backpackers are saying on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree:

    Kumuka Worldwide
  • ZhuZhu
    edited 6:18PM
    I went there this winter and I found the city very quiet, by South American standards. It's a nice place, pretty small and compact and I wouldn't say it's dangerous. Normal precautions apply like anywhere else... but I can't say I was worried of being mugged at knifepoint while there!

    I would compare it to Buenos Aires, definitely safer than a lot of cities in Brazil too.
  • edited 6:18PM
    Hi Bruno,

    We live in Montevideo, and I've walked through most neighborhoods here from good to bad.

    I've had 2 incidents, both late at night and both in Pocitos (a very nice neighborhood). Once 2 guys wanted me to walk with them or something and another a base head tried to mug me. Nothing happened with the 1st incident; the 2 guys ran off. The 2nd incident with the base head lead to a mild physical altercation. But I didn't have anything taken off of my person.

    Even with the 2 above incidents... We're from San Diego California and I can say without a doubt that San Diego is much more unsafe than Montevideo. As with any city in the world, you need to use common sense... but all in all, this is one of the most peaceful cities I've ever experienced.

    You can check out our website, blog and forum for more information about Uruguay
  • edited 6:18PM
    Uruguay is known as being one of the safest countries in South America. You need to be cautious in Montevideo, as with any large city. However, we have been here for a couple of months and we walk around without feeling fearful. There are certainly areas of town that you want to stay out of, but you will find that anywhere too. If you are walking the tourist areas, keep you possessions close and keep in mind that pick pockets are around. I avoid large groups of children that congregate around the tourist areas. They can be very good at distracting you.

    Enjoy Montevideo, it is a lovely city and has a beautiful Riverfront with walking/biking path that extends for at least 15 miles.
  • edited 6:18PM
    I'd say its sufficiently dangerous. I spent barely 36 hours there and managed to be nearly mugged one night close to the touristy area of Ciudad Vieja. I had an old Lonely Planet form 2003 that warned against this area at night, but we figured that perhaps things had changed since then and also that two athletic-looking late-20s males would be less than ideal targets than the average tourist, say.

    We weren't doing anything dumb except walking back to our hostel around 11pm. Approached by a group of 4 teenage boys who started talking to us and then motioned as if they had guns under their shirts and yelling "money! money!". Fortunately for me and my travel buddy, the muggers brought fists to what they didn't realize would be a knife fight. They played scrappy by then grabbing some smashed bottles to make the threat real, but by then we had enough space to escape.

    There is an obvious problem with this area in particular that has been going on and well noted for YEARS and the municipality hasn't done anything about it. Which leads to the question: what other areas have been left to fester, or have new areas of particular danger that AREN'T yet noted in travel guides popped up since this one is still so vibrant and clearly not enforced?

    I'd say, SKIP IT! The architecture isn't anything better than BA and the beach is nice but lame. And my only guess is that as these kids are allowed to continue, their particular experience with me will have taught them to start bringing knives (or worse) to their engagements.
  • edited June 2012
    Montevideo is beautiful and has a wonderful atmosphere, great food and even greater people. I was there for a month, and I was mugged. On my first day. I went for a jet-lagged wander around the south of Plaza Independencia and ended up in a less-than-savoury street in Barrio Sur. I was accosted by 4 or 5 young guys and relieved of my backpack (though keeping hold on my wallet... they were pretty crappy thieves). Being jet-lagged and a bit dazed, I fought back, much to the amusement of the policeman who helped me out later.

    But do you see what the problem is here? Firstly, I was wandering around a city without a map, Secondly I was clearly dazed and jet-lagged and even though I look Latino, I still stuck out in that poor neighbourhood.

    I love Montevideo, it is my favourite city in the world. In fact being mugged just gave me more opportunity to discover how kind and helpful the people are who live there! I know that the first post on this forum is almost three years old, but if people are still reading this, don't let bad stories stop you from going to this wonderful city. You just need some caution, but even so, nowhere near as much as you would need in BA, Rio or even Los Angeles and Paris.

    Abridged version: Yes. Montevideo is safe.
  • edited October 2012
    I went for a jet lagged cast around the southward of Mall Independence and ended up in a less than savory street in Barrio Sur. I was accosted by 3 or 4 creature guys and relieved of my backpack though obligation fuddle on my pocketbook.
  • edited 6:18PM
    Me and my brother ended up on the wrong street within close proximity to the beach and got mugged, sort of. Three or for kids attacked us, I was punched twice in the face. They "money, money" as mentioned above. I yelled at the kid that hit me and raised my guard for protection, the picked up a piece of an old tire or something like that. I grabbed it from his hands and hit him a couple of times. He ran - I chased him - and all of a sudden he had an old bottle in one hand and a rock in the other(yes, it seemed planned to me). Anyway I pushed him and he fell to the ground. The way up ahead was clear and we left. All they got was my sunglasses.

    Lesson learned: Dont fight back, just run, even if its just kids(knifes and so on). Montevideo is a pretty nice city and overall peaceful but keep your eyes open for trouble.
  • I was robbed at gunpoint just now.

    I went to a neighborhood where there was going to be cultural dance performance. While waiting for the performance to start, an old lady came and spoke to me. She is a French teacher and the first local I met who is able to converse well in English. I was seated on the floor with my haversack in between my ankles and felt it was rude to speak to her while she's standing, so I stood up. She told me that this area is not so safe and her children weren't keen for her to come. Just as we were speaking, I felt my bag slipped off from behind. I turned and ran after the robber. Surprisingly, either I was running really fast or he was running really slow, I managed to catch up with the man who is in his 20s. I grabbed his t-shirt and wrestled with him and tore his shirt. To my surprise, he pointed a gun at me. Strangely, I didn't let go of him because back in my mind, I thought the gun wasn't real. During the struggle, I said to him "please" and yelled for help from the crowd who were standing some distance away. I saw their willingness to help me but yet they hesitated. The robber didn't pull the trigger but turn around to run. I continued to pursue him by grabbing my haversack because no one was coming to help me retrieve it and before I knew it, he let go. When I walked back to the crowd, the people yelled for him to get lost and threw a glass bottle at him. Later on, the old lady conversed with the local who live around the neighborhood. They said that "God saved me" and I asked if the gun was real, they said it was and I quivered when I heard it. Everything happened so fast. I told myself before, if someone robs me, I'll let them have my belongings but I don't know what came over me, there wasn't time to think, I just reacted instinctively. Really grateful for nice people who came along my way. It is weird that strangers came to hug me and hi five with me after the incident. The old lady said that it may not be safe to stay on as the sun was setting. She sent me back in a cab. I arrived at the hostel safe and sound. She mentioned that there was a 4 year old boy who was shot dead last week. The shooter meant to shoot another man out of vengeance but hit the wrong target. Thankfully I'm not lying in the hospital or dying on the street right now.
  • Holy crap.

  • Wowza @oneheart17! Thanks for sharing your story - it might help others researching safety in Uruguay. Would you mind telling us which neighbourhood this happened in?
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