This passes on a warning I received from fishermen out on the very long pier that extends out to the entrance to the Montevideo harbour. They warned that the kids hanging out at the end of the pier who seemed so friendly and innocent were glue sniffers and known to rob innocent travelers. This did not seem to be much of a danger during the day when the fishermen were present as there was little chance the kids could escape the pier and I got the definite impression that the fishermen would have intervened, but if you are tempted to visit for a sunrise or sunset picture, beware.
I walked pretty much everywhere in Montevideo and I will admit that there were times when I was a little bit scared. As I was walking from Pocitos to downtown I noticed that sketchy looking areas have a way of just kind of popping up from nowhere. Still nothing bad happened to me. On my way down Constituyente I passed by a man and a women (they must have been lovers) arguing and it turned into a full fledged brawl (with fists) smack in the middle of the sidewalk. I also remember walking under a bridge somewhere and all of the sudden I was in the middle of the homeless shantytown. My advice would be to dress down, keep quiet, and definately leave your valuables and your wallet at home if you want to be adventurous. On the otherhand I felt pretty safe and comfortable walking around Pocitos even at night and well-dressed. Also when you are walking through La Ciudad Vieja be careful and alert if walking South towards the water front around Rambla Francia and Rambla Gran Bretana. I got adventurous and found myself surrounded by housing projects right out of the South Side of Chicago. The one interesting aspect of this little side trip was that I saw this lonely little cannon turret facing the ocean that was still surviving from Colonial times. I'm sure it wasn't on the tourist trail as it was riddled with graffiti but I stopped there a minute and allowed myself to imagine a large group of warships looming on the horizon and the colonial Uruguayans bunkering down for a battle. It was really a special moment.
Montevideo is, if not the safest, one of the safest cities in South America. However you should avoid certain places specially at night. The neighbourhood known as "Cerro" shouldn't be visited during the night and when you visit it try to go with someone who is familiared with the place.
Also try not to carry big amounts of cash in the downtown and Ciudad Vieja area. If you rent a car park it on well lit areas. If you follow this easy tips you will be fine. In case you have any problem the police can be reached dialing 911.
You will also find the "Tourist Police" specially in the downtown area, if you have any doubt don't hesitate on asking them, they can be very helpfull and speak several languages.
Montevidean Carnival is pretty famous in the whole country and abroad, and it is the longest carnival in the world, because it lasts all February; the opening parade usually takes place the first Friday of the month, and the llamadas parade, next Friday, and different shows take place every night. But during the "real" Carnival days, practically you will not find any activities in the city, because during those holidays, everybody goes out to the beaches or to camp... so if you want to enjoy the Montevidean Carnival, do not come during Carnival!
El Carnaval Montevideano es bastante famoso en todo el país y fuera de fronteras, y es el Carnaval más largo del mundo, dado que dura todo el mes de febrero; el desfile inaugural tiene lugar habitualmente el primer viernes del mes, y el desfile de llamadas, el viernes siguiente, y diferentes espectáculos tienen lugar todas las noches. Pero durante los "verdaderos" días de Carnaval, prácticamente no encontrarán actividades en la ciudad, porque durante este feriado todo el mundo se va a las playas o a acampar... así que si quieren disfrutar del Carnaval Montevideano, no vengan en Carnaval!
Montevideo is a quite safe city, especially if we compare it with another Southamerican cities; anyways, the economical crisis of these last years, brought a crime increase (particularly robberies), so be careful with your belongings (camera, purse) and avoid the surrounding areas and marginal districts.
Montevideo es una ciudad bastante segura, especialmente si la comparamos con otras ciudades sudamericanas; de todos modos, la crisis económica de estos últimos años trajo un incremento de la delincuencia (particularmente robos), por lo que tnegan cuidado con sus pertenencias (cámara, cartera) y eviten las zonas de los alrededores y los barrios marginales.
La zona del puerto, el muelle Sarandí y la Ciudad Vieja en general, suelen estar poco concurridas los fines de semana y no son del todo seguras. Conviene tener cuidado y no llevar cámaras no otros objetos de valor a la vista.
The line up at entry moved fairly quickly but several people were sent back as they ddin't fill out their customs forms....We received the forms on the plane.
I found Montevideo very safe. You can walk with no problems in almost every part of the city. I specially enjoyed the walk through La Rambla.
I had no problems of any kind in Montevideo. I would note that in commercial areas there are a lot of well armed police to keep security.