Thinking of our holiday next year, jan to feb for about 5 weeks; looked at South America, Brazil, Peru etc but how safe are these places? We're not backpackers but do like independent travel and have been advised not to go there. Any advice?
Advice? Yes, first of all, the people who said 'don't go'... tell them you're not friends anymore! Hard to generalise about ALL of South America (some places are safer than others), and it's a bit like asking is the USA safe? Bits are, other bits aren't.
Here's a good place to start, our safety tips for Brazil:
Other very general advice: Colombia is not as dangerous as you think it is (stop watching bad drug-cartel films), and is a hot adventure destination.
I'd give Venezuela a miss at the moment. It's the one South American nation that deserves its bad reputation. High levels of violent crime and murder and no-one is exempt.
Get out there, take reasonable steps to protect yourself, and have a ball!
Phil at the safety hub over 4 years ago