If you’ve got an adventurous spirit, you probably want vacations that are off the beaten path. Being crowded into tourist traps with a thousand other people, buying up cheap souvenirs, and eating fast food for a week just isn’t your style. Luckily, there are many exotic locations available to people like you. However, there are also places that are just too dangerous to risk a visit. We recommend thinking twice about vacationing in any of the following troubled countries.
1. Democratic Republic of the Congo
Located in Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo only gained its independence from Belgium in 1960. Embroiled in a bloody civil war for decades, the conflict “officially” ended in 2003. However, it is estimated that at least 70 militant groups are still terrorizing residents. Police have cracked down on political protesters, as well, killing over 80 in the past few years. Partially fueled by cultural clashes, there is also an epic struggle for control of up to $24 trillion in untapped mineral resources.
Guatemala continues to be plagued by violence, especially along the border with Mexico, where drug crimes and human trafficking are a real problem. Violent crime is linked to persistent poverty, a heavily armed population, a legacy of societal violence, organized criminal gangs, and relative impunity of the people who commit crimes. Tourists may be considered easy targets as they are assumed to be affluent and unaware of the risk.
The country of Chad is embroiled in violence, largely between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south. The country also struggles with the effects of inadequate infrastructure and rampant poverty. Add in the financial interests of a $4 billion oil pipeline, and political unrest is frequent. Health and social conditions are poor, and Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIS all have a presence here. If none of that dissuades you, look out for the minefields around the borders with Libya and Sudan.
Bangladesh has a history of terrorist activity, targeted assassinations, politically motivated attacks, and violent religious rivalry. Tourists may find themselves in danger if they get tangled up in a labor strike, which happens frequently. But though violence is a concern, the real worry here is natural disasters. Cyclones, floods, fires, and earthquakes are common. The country’s geography, land characteristics, many rivers, and the monsoon climate all contribute to the frequency of devastating natural events. If you plan to go anyway, be sure to keep an eye on the weather report.
Violent crime is very common in Mali, including kidnapping and armed robbery, especially in the northern and central regions. Terrorism spikes around holidays and seasonal events, but attacks that target night clubs, hotels, restaurants, churches, and other areas frequented by tourists can happen with no warning. You will also come upon many police checkpoints and roadblocks that slow movement and cause anxiety.
6. The Philippines
The overall danger for tourists in the Philippines is high. Robbery and scams happen frequently, as do spiked beverages, so never accept a drink from a stranger. Carjacking and hostage taking are also concerns for visitors. Violent confrontations between Muslims and government agencies occur regularly. As if that weren’t enough, rabies is very common in street animals and tuberculosis spreads like wildfire through the human population.
Ukraine is prone to conflict between Russian-supported separatists and the armed forces of Ukraine. Civilians and tourists can find themselves in the crossfire quite easily. Petty crime, including spiked drinks, is also a pretty common, if manageable, nuisance. If you do travel to the Ukraine, avoid Crimea and the Donbass region entirely to minimize your chances of experiencing the danger of political unrest.
There is a high level of violent crime in Honduras, and unfortunately the government lacks the resources to properly deal with it. As a result, the country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Drug trafficking, organized crime, and street gangs pose significant risks to visitors. Other concerns are kidnapping, carjacking, extortion, home invasion, robbery, and sexual assault, which are carried out by criminals acting alone or in a group. Know that a large percentage of the population in Honduras is armed. If you do go, avoid in particular the areas of San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and Tegucigalpa.
Many regions of Kenya are dangerous and crime-ridden, especially major cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu. Tourists may be targeted at coastal beach resorts, in vehicles, or out and about. Carjacking, home invasions, and kidnappings occur during daylight hours and no neighborhood is totally safe. Terrorism based on political disputes also occurs and can involve visitors. Crime tends to increase in the weeks before Christmas, but Kenya is not the safest place to visit at any time.
In Yemen tourists are at a high risk of kidnapping, and some hostages have been killed. In addition, Houthi rebels and other armed groups in Yemen, the Yemeni military included, are involved in violent clashes throughout the country. In response, a coalition of other countries is launching airstrikes into Yemen which can happen anywhere, at any time. Terrorist groups target churches, government buildings, restaurants, and other public areas. Demonstrations occur frequently and visitors may get swept up in the violence if they wander too close.
It’s probably no surprise that Afghanistan is not a safe country for visitors. Terrorism is a huge problem, with suicide bombers and detonation of explosive devices a common occurrence. Kidnappings and hostage situations are also a risk for tourists. Other reported violence includes military combat operations, militant attacks, landmines, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, direct and indirect fire, and insurgent attacks. That said, there are places in Afghanistan that are largely safe, including Bamiyan or Herat.
If you have to go to any of these countries, it’s important to do plenty of research beforehand in order to stay safe. Different areas and activities are more dangerous than others, and there is a lot that can be done to minimize your risk. If you are simply looking for a vacation, we suspect that you will have more fun if you don’t need to look over your shoulder all the time. Scratch these destinations off your list for now, but keep paying attention to the politics. Countries change all the time and there may be a point where it’s safer to venture there.