Traveling is as easy as getting a passport, applying for a visa, and packing your bags, right? Well, we all wish it was more straightforward than that, but instead, it gets worse! You must plan where you will sleep, what you will eat, how you will gel with the natives, and, more importantly, how you will ensure your safety. While it’s true that every neighborhood has its own degree of security, some have more than others, and that’s a concern.
From unpredictable weather to harsh cultural/political practices and outright insecurity, we look at the 10 most dangerous cities for tourists. Not to be mistaken, though; these cities are vibrant, have amazing natural features, and are generally perfect for tourism. Their only letdown is you might have to fear for your overall safety a bit more. And if you think about it, perhaps it’s the adrenaline rush that makes them more worthwhile.
Related: 10 Macabre Tourist Attractions
10 Kingston, Jamaica
Kingston, Jamaica, is one of the places you can visit on a budget and still make the most of your trip. From the museums and tropical rain forests to fine natural harbors, you won’t run out of things to do. The city also boasts spawning famous reggae artists such as Buju Banton, Beenie Man, and the legendary Bob Marley. However, Kingston’s crime rate can have you singing to a different tune.
Statistics show that the country experiences about 49.4 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, with Kingston at its heart. Security concerns in this region range from petty theft to gang violence and drug trafficking. If you plan to visit Kingston, Jamaica, or learn about the region, it’s safe to say that safety is not guaranteed there.
To improve your chances of having uninterrupted fun, avoid walking at night, visit places with more people, and stay away from regions with known gang-related crimes. When headed to the beach, leave your valuables behind, or you will become a target for petty thieves.
9 Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya, is one of the few cities where you can find a national park in its heart. The city looks perfect for tourists, with museums, natural forests for trekking, and outdoor spaces for camping all within the vicinity. However, you are advised to be cautious with some of the natives; they can always “smell” foreigners and trap them to make a killing (sometimes literally).
Aside from that, the city has been subject to terrorist attacks targeting high-profile institutions and government facilities. Walking in public might not save you from this, as terrorists usually aim for public spaces.
At one moment, you might be at peace, enjoying your trip. Before you know it, you are running or fighting for your life. The biggest challenge for tourists touring Nairobi is that you can never tell when something will go down, and something always goes down!
8 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is your perfect option if you love partying and attending festivals. The city, popularly known for football (soccer to the Americans), is home to beautiful beaches, state-of-the-art architecture, and a carefree lifestyle. You can also enjoy dancing samba, and the Carnival—that is something else! Have you heard of the Christ the Redeemer statue? It’s a thing for most tourists and is worth exploring. You can also enjoy the city view from the top of Corcovado Hill.
We can go on and on, mentioning thousands of things you can do in Rio. However, we must also mention that the city has one of the leading crime rates in the region, and you should approach it cautiously. It has high mugging risks, medium natural disasters risk, and pickpockets are always on high alert to steal from unsuspecting visitors. Only 43% of Rio is considered safe, meaning the city is generally too risky to visit. You’d rather stay away and watch the soccer on television than visit the home of samba and get robbed or mugged.
7 Tijuana, Mexico
You will love Tijuana, Mexico, if you visit on a short trip. The destination is also perfect for a day trip from San Diego. Here, you can take pictures at the city’s Monumental Arch, learn about the natives’ culture at Centro Cultural Tijuana, visit Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, or watch Lucha Libre. Unfortunately, Tijuana would be a perfect tourist destination, but for its security issues. More than 138 murders per 100,000 people were reported here in 2022 alone!
The city is filled with con artists, with neighborhoods harboring gangs and cartels. Authorities have also identified the region as a hub for smuggling drugs into the United States. Visiting Tijuana means you can end up in the crossfire, either from the cartels or the authorities. Cases of human trafficking have also been reported in this region; you don’t want to be kidnapped while on a trip that was supposed to let you nap like a kid. The trick here is to avoid hotspots and minimize walking at night or in areas with little population.
6 Baghdad, Iraq
When you hear Baghdad or Iraq, you immediately know something has gone down or is about to. Contrary to what you might have been told, the city has many places you can visit while on your trip. For instance, you can visit the Baghdad Museum, Al-Shaheed Monument, the Ottoman Castle, or the Al-Rashid Street Market for shopping.
Unfortunately, the city is prone to kidnappings, armed conflict, terrorism, and civil unrest. You might be enjoying your shopping at Al-Rashid Street Market, and before you know it, you are in the middle of a protest or altercation. Baghdad, and the larger Iraqi country, has tough rules that foreigners might struggle to comply with. If you are planning to visit, it might be wise to stick to the generally safer regions of Baghdad, such as the Kurdish.
5 Cali, Colombia
If you are looking for one of the best nightlife locations, Cali, Colombia, has to be among the top. It’s one of the few cities where nightclubs stay open until 7 am! If you factor in the weather and the fact that it is generally more affordable than other cities such as Medellin and Bogota, you have every reason to visit Cali—or not. Endless nightlife comes with many challenges, chief among them being a potential lack of security. Cali is home to drug cartels (remember the Cali Cartel?), gangs, and thieves—people who are not afraid to kill.
It’s okay to overlook the unsafe aspect and enjoy the city’s beauty and serenity as long as you take enough precautions. For instance, you can avoid club-hopping if you go out at night. You can also visit alternative tourist attractions such as Zoologico de Cali, El Gato del Rio, and Iglesia Ermita. Any destination that you can visit during the day is welcome.
4 Pripyat, Ukraine
At one point, the Chernobyl Power Plant and Pripyat were Ukraine’s most visited tourist destinations. Surprisingly, the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia has nothing to do with why this city was abandoned (okay, maybe a little); Pripyat is now filled with radioactive waves that can be fatal. The area is contaminated, and people exposed to the conditions may be digging their graves.
Pripyat’s inhabitability was caused by a catastrophic explosive meltdown from an extreme power spike. Since then, close to 400,000 people have been evacuated from the region. Today, only the brave souls reside in Pripyat, given its high-level contamination and extensive levels of radiation. If you love to visit ghost towns with plenty to see and do, Pripyat might be your perfect option. You have been warned, though!
3 Caracas, Venezuela
The National Pantheon, Avila National Park, and Parque Los Caobos are lovely places you can visit in Caracas, Venezuela. It is also famous for its food and entertainment, restaurants with local cuisines, museums, theaters, shopping centers, etc. You will find anything you can think of… apart from security. Don’t let the sky-high buildings fool you; things can get messy quickly in Caracas. The city has one of the highest crime rates in the world, and the situation doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.
Natives attribute the diminished security in Caracas to the country’s dilapidated economy. Venezuela’s political stability is also nothing to write about; demonstrations are a norm. So, if someone is not trying to rob you to fend for their family or buy drugs, you might be caught up in a political demonstration. The city is a nice tourist destination; the same cannot be said about its security.
2 Islamabad, Pakistan
Islamabad, Pakistan, is home to world-renowned tourist attraction centers and places of worship such as Shah Faisal Masjid, Daman-e-Koh, and Lok Virsa Heritage Museum. The city also hosts several parks and forests, and the Shakarparian and Margalla Hills National Parks are the most popular. Traditional cuisines such as halwa poori, chapli kebab, and daal are worth trying. But then there is one big problem; security!
A report in 2022 showed that the attacks in Islamabad were on the rise, with hotels and recreational areas among the top targets. The measures to curb these cases of poor security are not friendly, either. The authorities in the region have heightened security checks, which include brutal force, countless checkpoints, and utmost dehumanization. You don’t want to encounter any of these while on vacation, do you?
1 Kabul, Afghanistan
Over the years, places like the Darul Aman Palace, Babur Garden, and the National Museum of Afghanistan have been major tourist attractions for people worldwide. However, Kabul is constantly threatened by terrorist attacks, and the authorities are usually brutal with their searches and peace-keeping missions.
Traveling in Kabul is not considered safe, especially because attacks are usually abrupt and deadly. As much as the city is beautiful and perfect for sightseeing, you must be an incredibly brave soul to consider visiting the place.