For many travelers, the world is a magnificent place full of wonder at every turn. With every adventure to international cities, we learn something new about ourselves, the human condition, and how we see ourselves through the lens of other cultures. However, for all of the great places we experience, there are also very dangerous destinations that may not be safe for foreign travelers.
The dangers go beyond petty taxi cab scams and pickpocket theft. In some international cities, armed gangs are brazen in their attacks, specifically targeting western travelers. As a result, tourists and business travelers may be assaulted, attacked, and injured in the name of terrorism, robbery, or other motives.
Some locations are more dangerous than others—especially for travelers who like to go alone. Those who are planning a solo trip to these five cities should consider their plans carefully.
With political unrest and violence becoming an unfortunate way of life, the U.S. State Department is warning American travelers to avoid travel to the country of Venezuela, including the capital of Caracas. The situation has gotten so bad, several airlines have stopped flying to Venezuela. Do not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, kidnapping, and the arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens.
According to the State Department travel advisory (Level 4: Do Not Travel), political unrest and protests often lead to escalating violence between protesters and police, resulting in deaths and arrests. The warning cautions: "Demonstrations typically elicit a strong police and security force response that includes the use of tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons and rubber bullets against participants, and occasionally devolve into looting and vandalism." Additionally, gangs have been known to incite violence against individuals, ranging from muggings to murder.
On January 24, 2019, the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members due to ongoing political instability and therefore, the U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Venezuela. In addition, consular access to detained U.S. citizens who also have Venezuelan nationality is severely restricted by the Venezuelan government and the U.S. Embassy may not receive access in these cases.
Violent crime, such as homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking, is common. Political rallies and demonstrations occur, often with little notice. There are shortages of food, electricity, water, medicine, and medical supplies throughout much of Venezuela. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Level 3 (Avoid Nonessential Travel) notice in 2018 due to inadequate healthcare in Venezuela.
Before planning a trip to Venezuela, travelers are cautioned to consider their plans and travels very carefully to avoid escalating violence.
The vibrant and historic capital of Colombia, Bogota is an industrial international city located in the heart of the nation. Known for producing some of the world's finest coffee and beautiful flowers, thousands of Americans visit Bogota and rural Colombia every year for cultural studies, volunteer work, and tourism. However, many who make plans to see this destination may not understand that it is also one of the most dangerous destinations for western travelers.
Terrorist organizations, drug cartels, and armed street gangs all have a significant and visible presence across Colombia. According to the State Department travel advisory (Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution) updated April 2019: "Violent crime, such as homicide, assault, and armed robbery, is common. Organized criminal activities, such as extortion, robbery, and kidnapping for ransom, are widespread. While the Colombian government signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group, some dissident groups refuse to demobilize."
U.S. Government employees are not allowed to use buses and must travel by air during the day, while visitors are cautioned to pay attention to their surroundings and keep a personal safety plan.
While traveling to Bogota can be a rewarding experience, it also comes with a high level of risk. Those planning to visit should make sure they have a safety plan in place, consider traveling with others, and make sure they keep a contingency kit in the event of an emergency.
Mexico City, Mexico
Every day, over 150,000 people legally cross the border between the United States and Mexico to visit a coastal resort, see family and friends, or do business. Mexico is a popular and easily accessible destination for many travelers, and the capital, Mexico City is no exception.
While the media focuses on violence in cities that border the United States, Mexico City is also known for violence against solo travelers, including mugging, assault, and even kidnapping. Women traveling alone are advised not to utilize public transportation at night, due to the risks from gangs.
The U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution) advisory for Mexico City because "statistics indicate criminal incidents in the capital city occur at a significantly higher rate than much of the rest of Mexico."
While many travel to Mexico City without any problems every year, it pays dividends to stay vigilant while abroad. Those with plans to visit this city should make a safety plan ahead of their travels and avoid traveling solo.
New Delhi, India
A budding commerce center of India, New Delhi is an international city that attracts business travelers from around the world. However, New Delhi is discovering not only their identity in the global community but also the dangers that come with expansive growth. One of those dangers is the threat of sexual assault, especially toward women travelers.
Both the British Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Department of State warned that sexual assaults of female visitors remain a concern for solo travelers. The alleged assaults have not been isolated to American travelers: travelers from Denmark, Germany, and Japan claim they have been sexually harassed or assaulted while traveling in New Delhi. Women with solo travel plans to New Delhi are encouraged to create a safety plan prior to their travels and are strongly encouraged to travel in groups.
A popular layover destination for tourists seeking a tropical vacation, the international city of Jakarta offers travelers a healthy dose of adventure in a truly unique culture. However, what lurks just under the surface is a number of threats that can turn a dream holiday into a nightmare.
According to the British Foreign Ministry, threats of terrorism and kidnapping of foreigners are the two main safety concerns that visitors need to be aware of. In addition, Jakarta is situated on the "Ring of Fire," where the majority of the earth's volcanic eruptions and earthquakes take place leaving the region susceptible to earthquakes and tsunamis without warning.
The United States Department of State has issued a Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution) travel advisory for Indonesia indicating "increased caution in Indonesia due to terrorism and natural disasters" both of which are dangerous and can disrupt services, healthcare, and transportation.
Be Aware and Prepare
While exploring the world is a worthy adventure, travelers need to be aware that, in many places, danger is always just around the corner. By understanding the different types of threats and which international cities are most susceptible, modern adventurers can make sure their travels go without danger as they boldly traverse the globe.
The State Department advises:
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Read current information in the news media about the city and country you are going to visit to ensure you are aware of any impending strikes or civil unrest.