Many times I receive this question, initially from my family, and now every now and then from my friends/colleagues.
One of them recently sent me an article that posts top dangerous countries regarding violent crime, via rather reputable site- Business Insider.
In case you would like to read it – here’s the link article
I started reading it. Off the list been personally for more than a month in Colombia now, and frankly speaking… The author has stopped at the decade of 80’s and 90’s – ie. the time of Pablo Escobar (he was shot in 1994, but the heritage and Guerilla remained active for few more years). While the country might not be the best shot in South America regarding the pleasure/cost ratio, one doesn’t see “prevalence of drug gangs”, not around Medellin, not in it, not anywhere else (capital – Bogota, the coast).. Nowhere. Minor crimes (like ordinary people trying to steal from you like pick-pocket or the famous forget-it pill), are somehow pretty common on the coast, but never had occured to me, nor heard, the armed robbery scheme.
My favorite country in South America has been, and still is – Brazil. Now, about that country I was asked literally hundred of times if it is safe, or not. Being there in total over 6 months, travelling all around (from the Florianopolis beaches in the south, through São Paulo and Rio de Janerio, minor towns in the north like João Pessoa, major cities like Salvador de Bahia, Recife, living and working in Fortaleza, to end with Manaus and its surroundings). One would say that doing that all by myself I should get robbed several times, assaulted with weapon, kidnapped etc.
Guess what? Never it was even close.
Some of it, yes. But more, common sense, listening to what people say, and speaking local language. Hell, I even did some favelas (Rio, Recife), been sleeping in the park in Salvador (black capital of Brazil). In latter case, I was told by some random guys that the phone is sticking out of my pocket. Later as speaking they asked me where I’m going to eat. Feeling what might be up, I told them that I don’t have money on me (bullshit), only banana (true) for lunch (bullshit again), and that they are welcome to share it with me. That eased the atmosphere, and the talk continued about the concert that night in Pelourinho, and that I should get there with them.
In the end I didn’t. But the point it, it was the most scary situation during my 6+ months in Brazil. Freaking half a year.
So once again, it is safe pretty much everywhere (unless there are bombs/extremist attacking, etc) in the world, just as a rule of thumb use common sense, and get to understand the local culture as much as you can.