Uruguay: "One of the safest countries...."  -  The BBC News

BBC News - UK Edition
Thursday, 21 April, 2005

Wish you were here?

This week, a top insurance company charted the world's most dangerous places to do business. Unsurprisingly, regions like Iraq, India and Russia were shaded brown on the "risk map", marking them as at severe risk from terrorism.

But while most countries were classified as "guarded" risk or above, by Aon, the world's second-largest insurance broker, it also highlighted, in a calming sage-green, a handful of states dotted round the globe which remain unaffected by the seemingly ever-present terror threat. So where could you go for a relatively risk-free holiday?

UruguayBilled as the "charming birthplace of tango" - though that's debatable, as Argentina also likes to claim the dance as its own - this small South American nation is supposed to be the next travel hotspot and it's also touted as the safest republic in the area.

Uruguay boasts a UN World Heritage Site in the town of Colonia del Sacramento and the charms of the capital, Montevideo, are described as being contemplative, dusty, and with an "air of decay" by Conde Nast Traveller; the beach resorts are touted as a cross of Miami and Ibiza.

But author Ben Box, who penned Footprint Travel Guide's South America guidebook, says Uruguay is an example of the continent's quiet side.

"It wouldn't be my first choice, but that would depend if it was my first visit to South America," Mr Box says. "Most people would head to Brazil for Carnival and the beaches, or to the Andes, for snow or to Peru for architecture.

"Uruguay does tend to figure quite low on the scale, but I think it's one of those places that, once people have been to South America and are comfortable there, to see quiet Latin America."

Like its less-safe neighbours to the north in Brazil (risk level: Guarded), Uruguay boasts a carnival just after Ash Wednesday. It can, apparently, be very raucous. As Lonely Planet says: "Montevideo's staid reputation takes a battering during this time as a brace of drummers and costumed revellers advance along its streets."

But as Mr Box says, "you can't really compare it with Brazil, because Brazil is a continent to itself. The feel of the country is different. The country itself is not busy, and outside the city is quite relaxed. I hesitate to use the word sleepy, but it is very different from the rest of South America."

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