30 Most Dangerous Cities in the World
We see trees of green, red roses, too, and have to agree with Louis Armstrong that this is a wonderful world. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that it's always a safe one.
Safety is always a top priority for any traveler. And while we don't think you should necessarily avoid a city with a high crime rate, it's essential to be aware of the statistics to plan your trip with extra precautions. That could mean avoiding traveling alone, researching the best neighborhoods to stay in, not staying out until late or booking with a local tour company.
We'll leave the planning up to you but wanted to help out by providing you with a list of the 30 most dangerous cities in the world, based on murder rates.
What Makes a City Dangerous
Before we get to the list, let's talk for a second about what exactly makes a city dangerous — it's more complex than you'd think.
Our list of the 30 most dangerous cities bases the ranking on homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. And while that provides some key information to keep in mind while planning a trip, it also doesn't tell the whole story.
A city, for instance, is not a reflection of an entire country, and one dangerous city doesn't mean you should shun a whole nation as a worthy destination. Besides, cities themselves are microcosms where crime is unequally spread. Certain areas of a city may be safe, while others may be more dangerous.
Consider, for instance, that two U.S. cities have one of the highest homicide rates in the world. They are both cities that you've heard of and have probably visited. It would be ludicrous to think the entire United States is dangerous or that every cosmopolis has the same issue with violent crime. You probably wouldn't avoid visiting any city in the country but would simply exercise caution in specific areas.
As you read the dangerous cities list, keep this in mind to avoid missing out on some fantastic destinations.
What Countries Have Several Dangerous Cities?
That said, three countries, in particular, have multiple cities with high levels of crime reported: Mexico (eight cities), Brazil (10 cities) and Venezuela (four cities). In fact, all the top 10 most dangerous cities in the world are in these three countries.
For Mexico, drug trafficking has created an internal conflict riddled with gang violence. Most of the Mexican cities on the list exist within the Narcozone, areas of the country that are controlled by different cartels and where cartel-related violence can be rampant. While many of these locations are probably not on your travel radar, you’ll be highly surprised by the most dangerous Mexican city, which has some of the most famous tourist attractions in the country.
Does this mean you should avoid Mexico? Absolutely not! There are plenty of places in the country that are safe for tourists and residents. Even some of the places on the list are well worth a visit as long as you’re careful.
Brazil's Crime Problem
Though Brazil doesn’t have the same drug-trafficking problems Mexico faces, its violent crime rate is partially due to extreme social inequality. There are plenty of very wealthy Brazilians, but much of the country lives off of the informal economy, which provides no social protections like health insurance.
Millions of people in Brazil live hand-to-mouth, leading to spikes in gang violence, robberies and murders. As with Mexico, however, missing out on going to Brazil would be a pretty big mistake.
Political Instability in Venezuela
Venezuela’s case is a bit different. Even though it was once one of the most affluent countries in Latin America, for the past two decades, the country has been wrapped up in political instability that has caused a near-total collapse of the economy.
With gorgeous islands, the majestic Andes, the Amazon and the tallest waterfall in the world, Venezuela is filled with beauty. Sadly, this is one country that we would advise you to avoid, at least until the situation improves.
Which Cities Have the Highest Murder Rate?
Now, here's our list of the 30 most dangerous cities, with murder-rate statistics sourced from Statista. As we've stated, the top 10 cities are all in Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil. Cities in the United States, Jamaica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and South Africa also appear in the top 30. Each country only has one city listed, except the United States, which has two.
- Los Cabos, Mexico: 111.3 (murders per 100,000 people)
- Caracas, Venezuela: 111.2
- Acapulco, Mexico: 107
- Natal, Brazil: 102.6
- Tijuana, Mexico: 84.8 (tie)
- La Paz, Mexico: 84.8 (tie)
- Fortaleza, Brazil: 83.5
- Ciudad Victoria, Mexico: 83.3
- Ciudad Guyana, Venezuela: 80.3
- Belem, Brazil: 71.4
- Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil: 70.3
- Culiacan, Mexico: 70.1
- St. Louis, Missouri: 65.8
- Maceio, Brazil: 63.9
- Capetown, South Africa: 62.3
- Kingston, Jamaica: 59.7
- San Salvador, El Salvador: 59.1
- Aracaju, Brazil: 58.9
- Feira de Santana, Brazil: 58.8
- Ciudad Juarez, Mexico: 56.2
- Baltimore, Maryland: 55.5
- Recife, Brazil: 55
- Maturin, Venezuela: 54.4
- Guatemala City, Guatemala: 53.5
- Salvador, Brazil: 51.6
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras: 51.2
- Valencia, Venezuela: 49.7
- Cali, Colombia: 49.6
- Chihuahua, Mexico: 49.5
- Joao Pessoa, Brazil: 49.2
How to Stay Safe While Traveling to Dangerous Cities
Now that you know the grim statistics, you can still plan a trip to these dangerous cities to enjoy all the good things they offer. Precautions vary city by city, but there are some general things you can do to make sure you have a safe trip.
Research is the most important one. Spend time looking up the safest neighborhoods, common scams and places to avoid. Try to look for blogs or articles written by locals or people who've spent a significant amount of time in the city and actually know its ins and outs.
Plan Your Budget Wisely
You'll also need to be willing to shell out a bit more money. We love budget travel as much as anyone, but nothing is more important than being safe. Get the more expensive flight if it means arriving in the city during the daytime rather than at night, book the pricier accommodation if it's in a more stable part of the city, take an Uber rather than walking or taking the bus when you go out at night — don't take unnecessary risks just to save a few bucks.
Similarly, while we absolutely champion solo travel, some places are better with friends. There can be safety in numbers, so if you're feeling apprehensive about visiting a city, try to get at least one person to go with you.
As with anywhere in the world, keep your guard up, but also have an open heart and mind!