After my previous posting "Ecuador or Bust" I took some of the replies to heart and examined Ecuador a little closer. Generally, you can be safe in smaller towns where expats are congregating, like Cotacachi or Banos. But amenities Americans take for granted, like malls, movie theaters, etc are in the bigger cities where safety can be pretty dicey. I like the beach too but temps on Ecuador's coast are boiling hot with high crime rates. So I started looking at the 3 countries at the south end of South America. You want to be safe? Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile are on average safer than the U.S., although Argentina's crime has increased some with it's ongoing economic crisis. Chile's police force is it's country's most respected institution. Uruguay has a laid back lifestyle that reminds posters on UruguayLiving. com of the U.S. in the 50's. And although Chile is the most expensive country in South America, it's costs are coming down due to the world economic crisis which has caused the price of copper, Chile's main export, to crash.. On the Uruguay forum Arica, Chile was mentioned as a great beach town with a mild climate and low cost living. I found this web page on living there created by a resident who's an electric engineer.
I like that Arica is close to Bolivia and Peru for roadtrips. However since Chile is becoming more affordable there are some very beautiful areas further south I'd consider too.