Security in South America
Before I decided to do a semester abroad in Chile, I had some concerns about security there. Above all, I was able to reassure worried grandparents and friends that Santiago de Chile is the safest metropolis in South America and Chile in general is one of the safer countries on the continent. In the end I decided against Chile’s capital, but I always felt safe there when I visited it.
Nothing ever happened to me in Viña del Mar either, even at night I would sometimes walk home alone. As in any big city, you have to be careful in Viña del Mar and should, if you feel uncomfortable, take an Uber home for a few euros. In general, you have to take care of your belongings during the day. You shouldn’t leave your backpack unattended on the beach, as pickpockets can be up to mischief. Even in the micro, friends of mine became victims of pickpockets at night. In general, as in any big city, caution is advised.
In Valparaíso you shouldn’t be alone at night if possible and during the day you have already tried to snatch the cell phone out of my German roommate’s hand. I was generally more mindful and attentive when I was out and about, I didn’t wear any flashy jewelry or kept my cell phone in my hand all the time. Despite warnings from Chileans and other exchange students, I haven’t had a bad experience. I have always felt very safe, but I never let it depend on something happening to me.
Chile is more of a country of pickpockets. Unnoticed, they steal something from your pocket or maybe tear off your backpack and run away. In Argentina or Brazil, it is more dangerous in that armed attacks are mainly taking place there. A fellow student at my home university was robbed in Buenos Aires. Something like this can also happen in major German cities such as Berlin, Munich or Hamburg. Personally, I felt very safe during my visits to Buenos Aires.
The possible lack of security, which initially gave me pause, is in any case no reason for me not to do my semester abroad in South America. Certainly more caution is required in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil than in Viña del Mar, Chile. Chile and Argentina seemed the safest to me, but with my dark hair and light skin tone I didn’t attract attention there either as a foreigner. In Bolivia and Peru, on the other hand, you could tell immediately that I wasn’t a local. Since Bolivia is the second poorest country in South America (after Haiti) you should be a little more careful here. In La Paz you shouldn’t use Uber and always let taxi drivers show you your license. All in all, you don’t need to worry more than at home and if you really have very strong security concerns, I can recommend Vina del Mar definitely.
Chile is a perfect country for traveling. Good and cheap bus connections, the security, but also the breathtaking landscape from the driest desert in the world in the north to icy glaciers in the south of the country make Chile one of the most attractive travel destinations in South America. It is not for nothing that Chile was named the best travel destination in 2018 by Lonely Planet.
- For information about Chile and South America, please visit pharmacylib.
You can also travel well in the neighboring countries of Chile – for example a three- or four-day tour through Bolivia’s desert from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. A popular travel destination in Peru is of course Cusco, from where you can take tours to the Inca sites Machu Picchu. Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, or the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) are also easy to travel to, but you should find out about the vaccination regulations beforehand. At the moment you need a yellow fever vaccination to travel to the Amazon and Easter Island (Chile).
- Do not lose the visa of the PDI (Policía de Investigación) – a kind of receipt that you have to return when you leave Chile as a tourist.
- With the DKB credit card and some other credit cards you can withdraw money free of charge at Scotiabank (e.g. at Plaza Vergara, also called Plaza Viña).
- The Mercadito Organico delivers fruit and vegetables from regional organic cultivation, as well as organic milk and organic eggs from free-range farming to your home every week. You can contact them via the Facebook page and you will then receive weekly offers in the form of an Excel list. You send this filled in and then get your ordered goods delivered directly to your home on Fridays.
MicroEDU looked after me very well from start to finish, but I had to find out for myself that the orientation week for participants in the Spanish-language program starts a week earlier than for participants in the English-language course program. The UVM is to blame for this as it passed the wrong information on to MicroEDU. It was only by chance that I discovered the correct data in the semester schedule on the UVM website, which MicroEDU confirmed to me again after consulting with the UVM. So I was able to book the flight appropriately. The other German foreign students from CoCo, who also wanted to take part in the Spanish program, had unfortunately already booked their flights and could therefore not take part in the orientation week.
Viña del Mar and Valparaíso surprised me positively. Two cities that have a lot to offer! South America is a fascinating continent, in terms of landscape anyway, but also historically, politically and socially. Even without any knowledge of Spanish, you can easily spend a semester at the UVM. With an accompanying Spanish course and a little commitment, you can learn Spanish here – or Chilean! Before I had no ideas about South America, but after almost five months in Chile I now feel at home there.
I now understand the most difficult Spanish in the world and am proud of myself for having successfully mastered the courses in the foreign language. The lecturers are friendly, cooperative and understanding. The content of the courses is exciting. As for the university, I’m not 100% convinced. I really liked the courses, but the organization sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. On the other hand, the UVM was very flexible when it came to traveling during the semester and there was a family atmosphere.
A (longer) stay abroad makes you a different person. Thinking outside the box, getting to know a new language and a new culture, having positive and negative experiences, broadens your own horizons and thus your personal understanding of people and the world. I can only warmly recommend a semester abroad in Chile – or generally – it will be one of the best times of your life! So, what are you waiting for? Get out into the world, discover, learn, be inspired!