The Most Dangerous Game: Traveling To These Places

Traveling for pleasure is almost always about adventure; visiting a new place is about exploring something unknown and discovering new cultures. But some vacations are more adventurous than others, and can be downright dangerous writes John Miller for the

Travel + Leisure recently came out with a piece that detailed the World’s Most Dangerous Countries – places that travelers had better think twice about before traveling to. But if you consider the article and slide show to be “travel advice” (not necessarily T+L’s intention) you’ll be disappointed; it’s pretty obvious that travelers are not flocking to places like Afghanistan and Yemen. But there are some places in the world (and on the T+L list) that are very popular with travelers that can also pose security threats.

Here are nine popular destinations that require extra vigilance should you choose to go:

  • Brazil. One of the most beautiful countries in the world, Brazil is a popular destination for travelers seeking exotic nightlife, jungle adventure and pristine beaches. But it’s also rife with violent crime. The murder rate in Brazil is roughly four times the murder rate in the U.S. There is also a high incidence of rape, robbery and so-called “quicknappings,” in which someone is abducted for a short period of time in exchange for a quick payoff.
  • Haiti. This Caribbean nation is still reeling from 2010’s earthquake, but that tragedy and the slow recovery from it means Haiti is a popular destination for people looking for a “volunteer vacation.” A noble cause, but just because Sean Penn does it doesn’t mean you should blindly follow. The State Department cautions American travelers about the “the crime level, the prevalence of cholera, lack of adequate infrastructure – particularly in medical facilities – seasonal severe inclement weather, and limited police protection.” Zoinks.
  • Israel. Obviously, Israel is a very popular destination, especially for American Jews. Israeli officials and the U.S. State Department warn that the threat of terrorist attacks is very real and that danger may exist around restaurants, businesses, and other places associated with American interests. Additionally, protests frequently spring up, causing disruption and sometimes turning violent.
  • Kenya. Kenya is a popular destination for travelers looking to for safari adventures. It’s one of the more stable countries in East Africa, but that isn’t necessarily saying a whole lot. Crime is rampant – from armed assailants and carjackers to scam artists. Most safaris are rather high-end affairs and insulated from crime, but smart travelers will be aware of putting themselves in bad situations.
  • Mexico. We’ve written about Mexico in the past. It remains a very popular destination, but parts of central and northern Mexico remain riddled with drug-related crime. The violence is very much confined to certain geographies. Travelers to Mexico need to check the State Department website before finalizing their plans.
  • Nepal. Specifically, hiking in the Himalayas. Climbing the highest peaks in the world is an obvious attraction for adventurers. However, despite the ubiquity of television shows about the heroes who mount Everest and K2, this is not something that should be attempted lightly. Extreme cold – we’re talking 70 or 80  degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) – make a trip to Nepal potentially deadly. And if the cold doesn’t get you, you could… ya know… fall 25,000 feet.
  • Pamplona, Spain. Pamplona is generally safe, although the ridiculously high unemployment in Spain has raised tensions. However, for eight days every July, you could be in very real danger of getting gored by a bull. The famous “running of the bulls” is part of the celebration of the Festival of San Fermin; six steers and six bulls are loosed in the narrow streets and chase Hemingway-admiring thrill-seekers. Each year, about 3500 take part in the event – about one-tenth of them get injured.
  • Philippines.  The Philippines are a spectacular set of more than 7,000 islands in Southeast  Asia. It’s a fascinating place to visit because of its long history of colonialism, making it a kind of European and Asian cultural mash-up. Last month, the State Department updated a travel warning for the Philippines alerting travelers to terrorists and insurgent activities, especially on the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelgo.
  • Zimbabwe.  Victoria Falls is one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the world, and there are several “big game” parks that are very popular with tourists. But getting there can be harrowing. The political turmoil that seems to be a constant has created food and fuel shortages that tend to spark violent crime. In particular, visitors need to be wary of carjackings and more typical tourist scams, often perpetrated by some shady cabbies.

All of these destinations are great places to visit and travelers should not automatically rule them up as places to go. But do your homework… and let’s be careful out there.