In our previous shows, we’ve looked at dangerous places to visit mostly in terms of crime, but today we’ll branch out a little and look at more than just crime. We won’t state the obvious in terms of danger, i.e. getting dropped off in the middle of the Antarctic, deep inside the Amazon jungle, or trying to survive half way up Mount Everest, but look at places around the world which most governments agree would not be safe for you to visit.
Think of this not as a survivalist-type show, but a show focused on places you could get to by air travel and find a hotel. We’ll use government warnings as one resource, but also try and find out what people have said who have travelled there. So, welcome to this episode of the Infographics Show, Most Dangerous Places in The World.
We’ll start with Afghanistan. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (or FCO) advises its citizens not to travel to Afghanistan right now and lists the specific no-go areas, but there are too many to mention. The FCO states that if things should turn awry, you won’t get much help from consular services, so you’re basically taking your life into your own hands. Terrorist attack is the major threat, we are told, with the capital Kabul being as dangerous as some outlying areas. The U.S. Department of State says this at the top of its Afghanistan page: “Do not travel to Afghanistan due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and armed conflict.”
But what if you really wanted to go? In 2016, an Afghan journalist told the BBC that indeed there are lots of areas you should definitely not visit, but added, “There are places in Afghanistan that are totally safe for tourists. If you fly into Kabul, then fly to Bamiyan or Herat, that’s the safe way.” A BBC correspondent said the same, that parts of Afghanistan are beautiful and safe, but you should do your homework regarding where to visit.
A blogger writing in 2016 who wrote a guide to Kabul said she found it safe and didn’t try to blend in by wearing local dress. “I personally never felt that my life was in danger at any time, though I have to admit that sometimes I felt uncomfortable passing armed security in the street,” she said, adding, “I was never harassed and most of the time I wasn’t actually noticed.” She said that you can travel overland to get there, or fly from somewhere like Dubai or Istanbul.
When you arrive, you’ll have to register yourself as a visitor. She even cites a 2014 Vice article that discusses Kabul’s vibrant nightlife. One thing we must remember about dangerous places, is that for locals, life generally goes on as normal. As consumers of news, we can sometimes focus only on the negative, but who knows if you’ll be the unlucky one.
But what about Syria? Surely this war-torn nation must be dangerous to visit? Again, the Brits and the American governments firmly state DO NOT GO. The FCO writes that in many areas, “Full scale military operations involving the use of small arms, tanks, artillery and aircraft are ongoing.” The U.S. tells us, “No part of Syria is safe from violence. Kidnappings, the use of chemical warfare, shelling, and aerial bombardment have significantly raised the risk of death or serious injury.”
One blogger calling himself “the Unusual Traveller” went in 2017 after getting a tourist visa and booking a flight to Beirut, as you can’t fly directly into Syria. He visited Damascus, Aleppo, and the countryside over 10 days and said in general the streets are lively and people get on with life, that there is little sign of war, but you’ll have to go through military checkpoints now and again. He saw all the sites, ate in cafés, drank beer, and had a good time. “In the afternoon, the bars and pubs are filled with locals that enjoy a few beers and drinks together with watching European football on big screens,” he wrote. Still, a lot can happen in a year, so if you plan on going, maybe you should do your homework.
If you are wondering about Iraq, the FCO is more lenient, saying there a few areas you should probably give a miss and try not to get involved with political demonstrations. The U.S strongly advises you not to go. Nonetheless, if you visit the Lonely Planet forum right now regarding visiting Iraq, you’ll find many people are going there, with most visitors choosing Kurdistan. One UK national writes, “I’ve just returned from a 10 days tour in Southern Iraq, Basra to Baghdad. It was a fabulous experience to see historical places, like Babylon, Ur, Ctesiphon, and the marshlands of Mesopotamia.”
So, moving away from nations ravaged by conflict, what place is the most dangerous in terms of crime? Syrians might be welcoming for the most part, but are there places just too sketchy to walk the streets? You’ll know from our “Is It Safe in Mexico” episode that there is a lot of gang violence around the country, but you’ll also know that expats and locals will tell you the chance of you being a victim is very unlikely.
We’ll leave Mexico alone and look at one of the world’s most murderous cities in the world, Caracas, Venezuela. Again, the U.S. government says don’t go, due to political violence, violent crime, poverty and corruption. Travel sites do say you should know the lay of the land, and you might be better off having a friend to help you get around lest you wander into a no-go area. On Tripadvisor, one person said in 2017 that he goes twice a year to see family, but indeed he said it keeps getting worse. “Take precautions,” said the poster, and added that it’s better you have a friend that lives there. It’s hard to find anything positive on Tripadvisor, but we found this post, “I went in July. LOVED it, but was nervous the whole time. I took a MILLION precautions.”
Another blogger said the same, you can’t just land there and expect to improvise. You’ll need to come to grips with the currency, and hire guides to show you around. The website World Nomads writes, “Violent crime is rife in both the capital Caracas and the interior, and as a foreigner you are a prime target.” It states that kidnappings from hotels happen, and wandering the streets can be bad for your health. Wander into a barrio (or slum) and you may not wander out. In fact, the site talks about the beauty of the city but more or less says just about every part of your journey will be fraught with danger from airport to beach bar.
Now we turn to Africa. It’s hard to say what is the most dangerous place to visit in this continent, with Johannesburg in South Africa being mentioned for street crime, and the countries of Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia also getting a mention for high crime rates. We thought we’d turn to two Africa-based websites to find the most dangerous city in the continent. Both sites said Rustenburg City in the North West Province of South Africa, but only because they were going on crime statistics. You’ll also find serious travel warnings about many other countries, such as the Central African Republic, where it’s said roaming armed gangs might rob, assault, or worse, kill. Mali, South Sudan and Libya also get top level travel warnings due to political unrest and armed gangs.
At the same time, you’ll find that Rustenberg is a tourist haven, and according to some sources, not as dangerous as Johannesburg or Cape Town. A South African website tells us, “Don’t be fooled by the easy-going atmosphere. Keep your wits about you and remember that South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world.” It states that you should know where you are going, and don’t wander into a slum where you might just stand out.
As for the Central African Republic, WikiTravel states in bold red letters that it “is possibly the most dangerous country in the world for locals and tourists alike.” It says you can expect to pay bribes to police, see violence in broad daylight, and that armed robberies are common. In fact, most western governments warn people not to go there. One blogger summed up his trip like this, “Central African Republic is not a nice place to visit at the current time and likely won’t be for the foreseeable future.”
Not too many tourists visit the places we have mentioned, but the next place is continually packed with tourists from the West and all around the world. Over recent years, its been said, statistically, to be the most dangerous tourist destination for Australian and British tourists. The country is Thailand, and the main reason for so many deaths is accidents. You name it, drowning drunk in the ocean, overdosing on party pills, or more commonly, crashing a rented scooter. A recent article in the British press also discussed an usual number of Brits being murdered there with a shady police investigation following.
There are also many accidents that the media calls suspicious. If you check out Thailand expat forums, there’s a common saying, which states visitors often leave their brains on the plane, but who could blame them in a country that seems so laid back. In fact, it seems similar in the surrounding nations of Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. According to most sources, if visiting this beautiful part of the world, be sensible when you drive, beware of going overboard with the partying, and try not to make locals lose face. We should add that of course the number of accidents and deaths is very high partly due to the fact that so many tourists visit these places.