Most of us have a desire to explore and experience the world beyond our own home countries, and if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity, the world truly is your oyster. However, before you book those flights and pack your bags, a bit of research is a must to ensure that you’re not heading into a dangerous location. From war-torn nations to places with high crime rates and rampant corruption, these 12 countries are at high risk for all travelers, even for the most intrepid.
Need I say any more? The dire conflict between Ukraine and Russia still dominates news headlines globally. Who would have thought that Ukraine, co-host of the FIFA European Cup 2012, would now be maimed for life by war? Ukraine will be one of the most dangerous countries in the world to visit for the foreseeable future.
Libya fell very quickly after the U.S. Military ousted long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s murderous regime. However, his presence was a backstop between militant Islamic groups and civilized society. Now, Libya is a failed state with a market selling humans for forced labor.
The Yemeni government, Saudi Arabia, and other nations — including U.S. forces — are still in conflict with rebel insurgents. In 2015, Houthi rebels took over the southern city of Sana’a, demanding lower fuel prices and regime change. Now, this beautiful coastal nation is scarred by violence and is one of the most dangerous countries to visit.
The disastrous withdrawal from Kabul last year saw dozens of allied contractors, their families, and their local contacts stranded in a country that has suffered two decades of war. Since then, the Taliban have regained control of the land, clamping down on women’s rights and human freedoms.
As if Syria’s recovery from civil war wasn’t enough, the nation also sits on the edge of notorious fault lines, making it vulnerable to devastating earthquakes. I met people from Syria while living in Cairo 15 years ago; they are generous, humble people, and I hope they one day have a safe land.
Iran is always in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Whether it is for locking up its comedians, imprisoning kids for dancing to Pharell Williams, or merely beating demonstrators protesting for women’s rights, Iran is better avoided right now.
7. DR Congo
Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness in 1899 about entering the deepest Congo jungle in search of an ivory trader, Kurtz. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the red list of high-risk nations. With armed rebel soldiers, a violent colonial past, and economic hardships shaping society, the DRC is still a dangerous place.
This landlocked African republic has all the usual signs of danger: economic turmoil, terrorism, and government corruption. Moreover, terrorist groups destroyed the ancient Timbuktu and Shrines during their siege in 2012, while kidnapping is always a threat. Mali is currently one of the most dangerous places to travel.
Having visited there in 2010, I attest that Nepalese people are warm, spirited, and funny hosts. However, the country is still unsafe in certain parts. There is danger in the Maoist rebels hiding in the mountain passes, the daily power blackouts, or the weather. The guide on my trip lost his life in the 2015 earthquake.
Egypt sits on a gold mine of historical artifacts, mineral wealth, and a huge land mass. It has seas to the north and east, with some of the best scuba diving in the world. However, it is a volatile country if you venture into the wrong parts, especially during times of political upheaval.
Ironically, Africa’s largest economy is still a dangerous place to visit. Nigerians are gracious hosts with a great sense of humor. There are problems with poverty in the north, however. The resource curse of oil means some parts of the Nigerian delta are polluted, and the Islamic insurgent network Boko Haram is infamous in northern regions.
In a heartbreaking tale (with a dash of naivety), an American couple went on a cycle tour of the world. Their mission was to prove hatred doesn’t exist: that love is a universal force transcending national borders. Sadly, they lost their lives in Tajikistan when someone mowed them down in a truck. One place to avoid.
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