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Not every travel destination means relaxing on white sand beaches or exploring ancient towns. Crime, weather, disease, and corruption make some countries riskier locations for tourists. These destinations remain popular tourist spots despite the dangers they present. (This travel information was gathered from the United States Department of State and applies mainly to US citizens.)
Millions visit Mexico safely every year to explore the vibrant culture and view some of the world’s best archeological sites, but violent organized crime makes the country one of the more dangerous for tourists. Resort areas are generally safe from the drug-related crimes like kidnappings, robberies, and carjackings, but traveling outside of those touristy areas can be risky. The most recent travel warning from the US Department of State outlines which specific areas to avoid. The Mexican government is working to combat organized crime through added federal police and military forces, but police corruption is another dangerous problem throughout the country.
The world’s largest country is a tempting place to visit, with its centuries of literary and artistic greats, vast and varying landscapes, and iconic architecture. Travel in the North Caucasus can be dangerous due to civil and political tension and criminal gangs, and although Moscow and St. Petersburg are becoming more established tourist destinations, they are experiencing a rise in violent hate crimes against racial and ethnic minority travelers. LGBTQ culture exists in the country, and though it isn’t illegal, ‘promotion‘ of LGBTQ lifestyles is.
North Korea is a wholly unique place and a shadowy mystery to most of the world. Traveling to the communist state is possible though it’s not easy or advised. There is a low threat of terrorism and crime, but travelers are at risk of arrest and long-term detention for breaking laws that would not be considered criminal outside of North Korea. ‘Unsanctioned religious or political activities, unauthorized travel, or unauthorized interaction with the local population’ are all crimes with harsh penalties, even for travelers who are part of organized tours. As there is no right to privacy in North Korea, tourists should assume all of their communications are monitored.
Egypt’s enticing draws are numerous: the Nile River, the endless deserts, the ancient pyramids, and the beautiful beaches and coral reefs of the Red Sea. Currently, travelers face threats of kidnapping and terrorism in the country and are advised not to leave the Cairo metropolitan area. Political instability could lead to protests and potentially violent clashes, which visitors should avoid. Be sure to check out the laws of the country before you visit—it is illegal to photograph police stations, military barracks, or other public buildings. Crime in Cairo is moderate, usually only manifesting in crimes of opportunity like pickpocketing.
Turkey is a popular tourist destination for its stunning beaches, bustling cities, and rich history as the cradle of civilization. Its positioning on both Europe and Asia make it a unique place to visit, but recent travel warnings are advising tourists to rethink visiting the country. As threats of terrorism have increased, with six bombings happening in the last eight months, tourism in Turkey has fallen by 50%. Some of those attacks have targeted popular tourist areas. Travelers still keen to visit should avoid large crowds and be aware of kidnappings occurring in the southeast near the Syrian border.
Although it is full of stunning beaches and views of volcanic mountains, non-essential travel to this tropical wonder is not recommended. The Sulu Archipelago and the island of Mindanao are specifically noted as dangerous due to terrorist and insurgent activities. Foreign travelers, Filipino-Americans in particular, have been targeted by gangs as victims of kidnappings in the past, and bombings and armed confrontation are also a threat. Opportunistic crimes, like cons, pickpocketing, and credit card fraud, are also commonly expereienced by tourists.
Brazil is the home of white sand beaches and striking rainforests, but crime, political tension, and the Zika virus make it a potentially dangerous place to visit. In the cities, demonstrations are common, and like anywhere in the world they have the potential to become violent as the police forces attempt to control or disperse the crowd. The Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that can spread from pregnant women to unborn babies and cause a birth defect called microcephaly. The US Centers for Disease Control have issued a travel alert for pregnant women because of the presence of the Zika virus in Brazil.
Kenya’s remarkable savannahs, iconic wildlife, and snowy mountain peaks grace many a traveler’s bucket list, but the US Department of State is currently advising against travel to the country. Thousands visit every year with no issues, but terrorist attacks threaten the Nairobi area, along the coast, and in the northeast by the border of Somalia. Shootings, grenades, and other explosives have killed hundreds of Kenyans since late 2013. Tourists are also at risk of kidnapping and armed carjacking.
After a devastating earthquake in 2010 left tens of thousands of Haitians dead and millions displaced, the country is still working to rebuild itself. Hundreds of thousands of travelers visit Haiti every year, mostly on humanitarian trips, and though most experience no problems, travel to the country is still not advised. Living conditions and emergency response infrastructure are not ideal, and travel within Port-au-Prince can be difficult to manage safely. The Haitian National Police is growing, but still understaffed and under-equipped, and some police officers are allegedly corrupt and complicit in crimes. Kidnapping and crimes of opportunity, however, are decreasing.
Travel in picturesque El Salvador is not suggested because of the critical threat of crime and political tension. Demonstrations and protests could happen anywhere, but they are typically centered around San Salvador, the capital city. Tourists should avoid these demonstrations because the law of the country says any foreigners who participate in internal political affairs could be forced out of the country. El Salvador is known for its great surfing beaches, and tourists should also note that the undertows and currents make swimming in the beaches along the Pacific coast extremely dangerous.
Visiting Venezuela is cheap and the incredible landscapes are touted by backpackers, but despite the idyllic Caribbean coastline and the backdrops of the Andes Mountains, violent crime has ravaged the capital city of Caracas and other places through the country. Venezuela has the second-highest murder rate in the world, and even tourist destinations in the country are victim to armed robberies. Travelers should avoid wearing expensive-looking jewelry or using electronic devices and should carry as little cash as possible. Taxis, unless called by a trusted company, are known to overcharge, rob, or even kidnap tourists, especially those traveling to or from the Maiquetía International Airport.
Honduras‘ fascinating Maya ruins, sparkling beaches, and vibrant culture make it a beautiful travel destination in Central America, but a high crime and poverty rate can make it a dangerous country to visit. Since 2010, Honduras has had one of the highest murder rates in the world, but although murders and kidnappings happen occasionally, most travelers only face opportunistic crime. Tourists should avoid carrying large amounts of money and avoid demonstrations, which break out frequently in the cities.