“As a single woman traveling alone for years,” writes Correspondent from Uruguay Sol Maria Klug, “I understand the reservations women can have about relocating outside their home countries for retirement.
“For a woman on her own, safety becomes the top concern. That’s why I chose the most crime-free city in South America for my relocation abroad–Punte Del Este, Uruguay.
“I considered Costa Rica, Ecuador, Italy, and even the place of my birth, the Dominican Republic. But Uruguay’s safety statistics won me over.
“Not only is this country beautiful (especially its beaches) and very affordable (with one of the lowest costs of living you’ll find anywhere), but it also boasts the lowest crime rate in all South America.
“Uruguayans are proud to report that the only formal declaration of war in their history was against the Nazis during World War II. (Hitler, in response, ignored the little country at the end of the South American continent.)
“I believe that this peaceful approach to living is the reason Uruguay is such a safe haven, especially for women.
“Uruguay takes a zero-tolerance view toward crime, particularly here in Punte Del Este. It is a refreshing contrast to any other major city I have ever visited or lived in. The residents here are genuinely concerned for everyone’s safety, fellow residents and tourists alike.
“Add to this the natural kindness and friendly attitude of most Uruguayans, and the result is the perfect choice for female retirees of all ages. Having lived in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Atlanta, I have been impressed in Punte Del Este to find all the benefits of big city life plus the safety of a small family suburb.
“I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. It’s not that there is never an incident. In fact, I was the victim of a crime a few weeks ago. Part of what makes Punta Del Este so special is how the people and the police deal with crime when it is committed.
“It’s the height of summer season here, a time when more than 500,000 people from all over the world come to visit this exciting and beautiful city. The sun rises about 7 a.m. and does not set until after 9 p.m., making for long and beautiful sun-filled days cooled by constant winds from the oceans on both sides of the peninsula.
“Dinner is enjoyed between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. Then the party begins and continues until breakfast by the sea the following morning. The streets are full of people and activity–music and dancing, open-air art galleries, casinos, midnight sailing, long walks under the moon and along the Rambla–all night long.
“One night recently, I was walking the Rambla, which is a short distance from my apartment, and I slipped. I fell on the wooden boardwalk, and my camera case and night wrap went flying.
“Two young men rushed to my assistance, retrieving my things and offering to escort me the short distance home. By the time we arrived at my apartment, the camera had mysteriously disappeared. My rescuers promptly scampered back to the boardwalk to ‘look’ for it.
“When I realized they would not return, I felt silly for being so naïve, and I started to cry. Within minutes, passers-by, security guards, and a police car were surrounding me, and a search was launched for the two boys.
“The next day, the police captain called me personally to assure me they would continue their search and that they fully intended to find and to return my belongings. It seemed a little dramatic to me, for such a minor incident, but I learned later that, if I had been injured, the entire area would have been closed down, every working cop would have been called in to help throw a security net over the neighborhood, and the culprits would have been dealt with severely and to the full extent of the law.
“Now I know why the crime rate is lower here than anywhere else in South America. Even very minor crime like the theft of my camera is taken very seriously.
“Stories like mine are few and far between–so rare, in fact, that, when I relayed my experience to a gentleman at my local bank, he went next-door and returned a few minutes later with two Uruguayan flags. He presented the mementos to me as though I were royalty, saying that he wanted to apologize on behalf of the two boys and that he wanted me to replace that sad memory with the memory of this gift he hoped I would accept.