With its street side tango, sublime food, and stunning landscape, Argentina is one of the most visit-worthy countries in South America. The fact that it’s one of the richest and safest countries in the region only adds to its appeal. But nowhere’s perfect. Years of institutionalized corruption and economic turmoil have left some parts of the county in ruin. In its less salubrious provinces and cities, poverty and crime are turning communities into shadows of their former selves. These are the 20 worst places to live in Argentina.
Visually, Corrientes is a joy, with wide, tree-lined avenues, gorgeous Spanish architecture, and charming plazas. Unfortunately, the city’s reputation as the key hub of Argentina’s drug trade dampens its appeal somewhat. Its highly profitable trade in human trafficking victims doesn’t exactly help either.
19. Salvador Mazza
Salvador Mazza is situated in the Salta province in northern Argentina on the border with Bolivia. Like many other northern communities, poverty is a growing concern. And like many other border towns, the increasing flow of drugs, weapons, and people being smuggled from Bolivia into Argentina is doing little to help.
As osac.gov highlights, some parts of Martínez are perfectly decent. The areas around Avenida del Libertador in particular are known for their affluence and safety. The problem starts when you leave those areas and start exploring some of the city’s less desirable parts. Violence, drug dealing, and other forms of criminal activity are all rife, with the result that anyone with a mind for safety would do well to steer clear.
17. San Isidro
San Isidro is one of the wealthiest places in Greater Buenos Aires. Its center is a delight, full of cobbled streets, sun-kissed plazas, and quaint buildings. There’s a charming antiques and crafts fair to enjoy, a very popular riverside park, and plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants to frequent. Sounds great, right? If you keep your wits about you and avoid walking the streets alone after dark, it probably is. If you don’t and you happen to wander down the wrong street, you’ll soon lose any appreciation of the city’s charms thanks to its diabolical crime rate.
16. Santiago del Estero
Santiago del Estero has a rich history. As the first city founded by the Spanish settlers in the country, it’s known as the “mother of cities and cradle of folklore.” Sounds lovely, right? But there’s more to a city than history and architecture. In 1993, it made the news when rioting broke out around the governor’s mansion, a situation forced by the extreme poverty that many residents were facing. Today, it’s no different, with the province ranking as one of the very poorest in Argentina.
15. Villa Zavaleta
In Argentina, shantytowns and slums go by the name ‘villa miseria’. Most are found on the borders of large urban areas, with some even nuzzling up against the wealthiest neighborhoods of a city. Since the 1950s, more and more villas have popped up around the country, with Villa Zavaleta being one of them. Like other villas, poverty is a huge problem, and one that’s only exasperated by the complicit actions of security forces and politicians. With dirty money greasing the wheels, the state turns a blind eye, leaving a space open for criminal gangs to assume de facto authority. Whatever else the result is, it isn’t pretty.
14. Puerto Iguazú
Puerto Iguazú is located at the confluence of the Paraná and Iguazú rivers in northwest Argentina. Like other cities in the Tri-Border Area, it’s a hotbed for drug and contraband smuggling. Human trafficking is also rife. So bad has the city and its surrounding area become, the local police are known to avoid entering certain parts. If even the police are too scared to go somewhere, there’s every reason you should be too.
13. Villa 31
For decades, the government has implemented various initiatives to reduce poverty in the country’s villas. So far, they’ve been unsuccessful. Some attempts, such as the enforced re-homing of people, have led to even bigger problems. One of the oldest and biggest villas in the Buenos Aires’ province is Villa 31. As vamospanish.com writes, the villa’s proximity to some of the city’s very wealthiest parts has put it firmly on the map. Whether that’s what inspired the government to invest $6 billion pesos into improving its infrastructure and buildings back in 2016, who knows? Either way, it’s done little to improve the place – crime is still big business, poverty is rife, and drugs are everywhere. If you can avoid it, it’s best you do.
12. La Quiaca
If you like hanging out with drug traffickers, if forced prostitution doesn’t faze you, and if you like the thought of being able to pick up an AK-47 along with your groceries, you’re going to love La Quiaca. If organized crime leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth, you’re really not.
Decades of economic chaos and political corruption have pushed the formerly affluent city of Concordia to breaking point. As rense.com writes, the city was once a major exporter of oranges, lumber and beef, boasting some of the richest farmland in the world. These days, it barely has enough food to feed itself, let alone to export. Almost 70 percent of Concordia’s 140,000 residents lack the money to keep themselves in food, clothing, and health care. To rub salt in the wound, a flood of guns and drugs into the city has led to a huge crime wave.
10. Villa 1-11-14
The Argentinian president may have taken a zero poverty pledge, but try telling that to the third of the country that still lives below the poverty line. In the shantytown of Villa 1-11-14, food is less of a basic necessity and more of a luxury. In an effort to survive, many of its residents are turning to crime, with drug dealing and prostitution often seen as the only viable means of putting bread on the table. As with most other villas in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area, police brutality is also a growing concern.
9. Chaco Eco
As profor.info points out, many of the communities in the Chaco Eco region of northern Argentina are dependent on the rainforest to survive. Unfortunately, the region suffers from the highest rates of deforestation in the country, with conversion to agriculture and uncontrolled forest exploitation resulting in deforestation at a rate of 1.2 percent per year. With increased carbon emissions, degraded water resources, and a loss of biodiversity threatening the region’s way of life, many communities are falling into extreme poverty.
The desert town of Mendoza is a gorgeous, laid-back city filled with charming plazas, trendy cafes, and bustling streets. Its nightlife is exuberant, its infrastructure is excellent, and the surrounding scenery is breathtaking. As Lonely Planet rightly says, anyone who visits the city is likely to be captivated by it. So, what’s the problem? In a word, crime. With so many tourists to take advantage of, Mendoza is a hot destination for gangs of pickpocketers, petty thieves, and other nefarious characters. If you’d rather not live in the kind of place criminals go to make their living, it’s best avoided.
7. Buenos Aires
In comparison to many other cities of a similar size in South America, Buenos Aires is safe, affluent, and very livable. Does that mean life in the capital is all sunshine and rainbows? Not at all. While the city’s more affluent residents are probably having a whale of a time, the poor and the disenfranchised are having anything but. Around 15,000 people are homeless in the city, with 30 percent of that number comprising of children and 13 percent of elderly. For every wealthy neighborhood, there’s a shantytown, often no more than a stone’s throw apart. Violent crime is relatively low in most parts of the city, but it’s becoming an increasing problem in the neighborhoods that make up the Greater Buenos Aires area. If all that wasn’t enough, WondersList.com ranks it as having the worst traffic in the country, with one of the highest rates of traffic-related deaths in the world.
If you’ve heard of Itatí’s gorgeous architecture, tree-lined streets, and vibrant festivals, you’ll probably think it’s a great place to live. In some ways, it may be. In other ways, it’s anything but. Like many border towns, it’s become a hub for drug and weapons trafficking. So popular has the practice become, even the people that are meant to be policing the trade have decided to get in on the action instead: in 2019, a local police inspector was accused of running a marijuana smuggling ring while former mayor, Natividad “Roger” Terán, is said to have used drug money to fund his campaigns.
The northeastern province of Misiones is one of the key entry points for drugs, weapons and other forms of contraband trafficked from Paraguay and Brazil. According to reports, around 60 percent of the marijuana seizures in the country are made in the province. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s also got a reputation as a hub for money laundering and human trafficking. As you’d expect, the crime rate is far from lovely, with the general advice being that unless you have a very specific, very important reason to go there, it’s best avoided.
4. Villa Itatí
Drive just a few minutes from Buenos Aires’ most affluent neighborhoods and you’ll find Villa Itatí, a slum in which poverty and crime are pushing the community to despair. Over the past couple of decades, the situation in the villa has worsened significantly, largely as a result of the growing use of paco, a highly addictive, highly toxic mixture of cocaine cut with rat poison, crushed glass, and chemicals. Credited as the birthplace of the drug, Villa Itatí has been under siege from traffickers since 2005. According to reports, around 50 percent of the villa’s 60,000 residents have or do use the drug, with many turning to crime and prostitution to feed their addiction.
3. Villa 21
Villa 21 is the largest shantytown in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. Located on the south side of the city, its problems run from the environmental (the Riachuelo river that it straddles has been described as an “open sewer”) to the social. Despite being just 30 minutes from the center of the capital, Villa 21’s 50,000+ residents live in extreme poverty, with an absence of basic services and necessities. As in other villas, police brutality is a growing concern – according to residents, it’s not uncommon to see police officers walking the narrow alleyways with semi-automatic weapons at the ready.
Argentina might be safer than many of its neighbors, but its underworld is still a frightening place to spend any time in. In Salta, the Castedo Clan has taken over, exploiting its estates on either side of the province’s land border with Bolivia to control the flow and storage of drugs. With drug trafficking, comes violence. While most of the most crime is inter-gang related, innocent people are often drawn into the crossfire. If you’re looking for a place with family-friendly credentials, keep looking.
Over the past few, Rosario, the third most populated city in Argentina, has suffered a growing escalation in crime, driven largely by local criminal gangs. A staggering 1,737 murders were reported between 2013 and early 2021. 437 of them involved young men under the age of 21, who are more likely to get caught up in gang activity. The dominant gang, Los Monos, established de facto rule over a decade ago, conscripting young people (or ‘little soldiers,’ as they’re known) to sell drugs on its behalf. Although most of the violence in the city is experienced as a result of rival gangs competing for dominance with Los Monos, innocent bystanders are often drawn in. The city, which is renowned for its neoclassical, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco architecture, has its attractions, for sure. It’s just not the kind of place anyone with a keen sense of safety would willingly choose to live.