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The 12 Most Dangerous Places in the World

Updated: May 22, 2024

There are plenty of desirable locations where traveling can be tricky—or downright deadly. Read through our list of the most dangerous countries in the world and our suggestions for where to go instead.

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Dangerous places to avoid when traveling

The world is a fascinating place, and you may want to see all of it! But before venturing out there, you should be aware of certain risks. While you’re probably not planning to take a trip to an active war zone, some appealing—and popular—tourist spots carry more risks than others and actually rank among the most dangerous countries in the world. Even some vacation hot spots you may think are perfectly safe may have hidden reasons for you to reconsider your plans.

So before you book that flight, see if your destination made our list of dangerous destinations, based on recent reports by the U.S. State Department, the Global Peace Index and International SOS’s Travel Risk Map. Read on to find out what the most dangerous places in the world are, how we calculated the risks and the best places to travel instead.

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About the experts

  • John Gobbels is the vice president and chief operating officer for international emergency service Medjet.
  • Tina Donvito is a culture and travel writer whose work has been published in numerous outlets, as well as in the book Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir, a New York Times bestseller for travel.

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What is the most dangerous country in the world?

It’s hard to quantify the most dangerous country in the world, because there are so many factors to consider. But these places generally include non-tourist destinations that even the most intrepid travelers would probably avoid right now. According to the Global Peace Index’s 2023 list of the 10 most dangerous countries in the world, starting from the most dangerous, they are: Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Congo, Russia, Ukraine, Somalia, Sudan and Iraq. This tracks with the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories, in which 19 countries, including the above, earned the highest risk of Level 4, with a “Do Not Travel” warning. (Others include North Korea, Iran, Somalia and Haiti.)

But there are other, more attractive countries that are still rated a Travel Advisory of Level 2, 3 or even 4, which we’ll get into below.

How we determined the most dangerous places in the world

We used several studies and research organizations to compile our list, including the Global Peace Index (GPI), which uses 23 metrics to come up with its numbers across three areas: societal safety and security, ongoing domestic and international conflict, and the degree of militarization. The U.S. Travel Advisories are likewise based on similar factors. In addition, we considered the Travel Risk Map from health and security firm International SOS, which measures medical and security risks separately for each country.

It’s also important to consider risks for certain groups, including LGBTQ people and solo female travelers, who might face more specific threats in countries that may be otherwise safe. In addition, American tourists might stand out more in non-Western countries and be more of a target. But keep the risks of really bad things happening in perspective, because the chances of being a victim are likely small. Although reliable research is lacking on firm statistics for the number of tourist deaths and crime reports from Americans abroad, the CDC says the cause of the most common international fatalities is the same as at home: traffic accidents.

With that in mind, here’s our list of the most dangerous places in the world.

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The land of the pyramids holds an incredible appeal for history and culture lovers—but unfortunately, at a Level 3, it’s one of the most dangerous countries in the world, due to threats of terrorism and a restrictive political atmosphere. Plus, according to Gobbels, sexual violence and cultural expectations for women make it extremely problematic, for both locals and visitors. If you’re traveling there anyway, go with a trusted tour operator. Gobbels also suggests knowing the emergency number—122—and learning how to say “stop” and “help” in Arabic. Carrying a whistle isn’t a bad idea either.

Where to go instead: Morocco

For an alternative North African adventure with less risk, consider Morocco. From snowy mountains to deserts and beaches, the country has a wide variety of natural landscapes and cultural treasures. Check out the medinas (old cities) of Marrakech, Tangier, Casablanca and the “blue city” of Chefchaouen, one of the most colorful cities in the world. Add in the sumptuous cuisine and delicious teas, and Morocco is a safer, but no less interesting, choice.

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Mexico’s travel safety came into question last year when a spate of incidents involving tourists, gang shootings, organized crime and kidnappings prompted the State Department to issue new warnings, dividing up levels by Mexican state. Now, tourists need to take into account their specific destination in the country—and the beach resort town of Acapulco on Mexico’s Pacific coast isn’t exactly the party destination it once was. With a Level 4 travel advisory for its state of Guerrero, it’s in the same category as places like Iran, Syria and North Korea. Why is it so dangerous? It’s deemed one of the most violent cities in Mexico, with dozens of gangs operating in the open.

Where to go instead: Merida, Mexico

Plenty of Mexico is still safe, including most of the Yucatán peninsula, with destinations like Cancún and the Riviera Maya at a Level 2. But the safest area of the country is the Gulf of Mexico side of the Yucatán. The lovely city of Merida, listed at No. 30 of the 300 safest cities in the world by business publication CEOWorld, is a top spot to see here, with gorgeous Spanish architecture, Mayan ruins, and nearby beaches and cenotes for swimming.

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Most of the Middle East

The Middle East, which comprises a multitude of countries often front and center in the news, has historically been a sacred place for many religions, a cultural and archaeological treasure, and a place of ongoing, centuries-old unrest. Considered among the holiest places in the world, the Middle East still attracts plenty of travelers, but the State Department warns against it. Many Middle Eastern countries are at a Level 3 (“Reconsider Travel”) or 4 because of the risks of violence for visitors. If you do decide to go, Gobbels suggests enrolling with Smart Traveler, which allows U.S. embassies and consulates to contact you and provide aid in case of a violent incident.

Where to go instead: Jordan

That said, there are a few countries in the Middle East that have been stable and safe places to visit in recent years, including Jordan. This country contains some very cool natural and historical sites, including the Dead Sea and the ancient site of Petra, one of the world’s greatest lost cities. There are a few off-limits areas, such as the borders with Iraq and Syria, as well as the Syrian refugee camps, but on the whole, the country is safe, open to tourism and well worth visiting.

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Violent crime continues to be a major problem in Brazil’s cities, with armed robbery and assault—particularly during big celebrations like Carnival—in addition to gang activity and organized crime. If you go, it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings and diligent with your safety, warns Gobbels. “Crime is rampant in the cities, and you need to be especially careful if you travel anywhere outside the main tourist areas,” he says. In addition, your health could be in danger: If you’re heading to the beach, even the famed sands of Ipanema, water pollution is a definite concern, although recent cleanup efforts have reduced the chances of exposure to a viral or bacterial infection.

Where to go instead: Argentina

At a Level 1 (except the city of Rosario, which is a Level 2 due to crime), Argentina ranks well on the Global Peace Index and International SOS’s security-risk map. In addition to stunning natural landscapes, including Patagonia, Argentina boasts one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Buenos Aires, a sophisticated cultural metropolis with amazing architecture and a great food scene. Although there are no beaches within the city, there are gorgeous stretches of sand a few hours down the coast.

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Compared to some other African countries, Madagascar has a considerably lower crime rate—but it’s also one of the poorest countries, despite its wealth of natural beauty, beaches and endemic animal species. Robberies and muggings are common in crowded areas, like airports and street markets. Elections often result in political protests, which can turn violent. And there’s a growing trend of violent highway robberies, including car theft, on major national roads in the south and west. Because of this, the State Department advises not traveling between cities after dark, and to be aware when stuck in traffic.

Where to go instead: Mauritius

This tiny island 700 miles east of Madagascar in the middle of the Indian Ocean is also gorgeous, but with a much stronger tourism industry and lesser safety concerns as a Level 1 country. Although both countries are at risk of cyclones, Mauritius has a much better infrastructure to handle them. With white-sand beaches, spectacular snorkeling and diving, mountainous rainforests and waterfalls to explore, as well as lots of wildlife to spot, the country makes for an exciting, yet safer, adventure vacation.

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The Philippines

With more than 7,000 islands, most of the Philippines is fairly safe, with stunning beaches, crystal-clear water and palm-tree-fringed shorelines. But it’s best to avoid the southern part of the country, mostly due to the increased number of kidnappings, according to Gobbels. On the island of Mindanao (Level 3, with Marawi City at Level 4) and the Sulu Archipelago (Level 4), you might come in contact with Islamic terrorist groups known for kidnap-for-ransom, bombings and other violent activities. Even far away in the capital city of Manila, pickpocketing and violent crime are on the rise.

Gobbels adds that it’s often better to walk than drive, since accidents are common in the country and emergency response services are limited. He suggests spending extra on hotels in safer areas: “Yes, you might try to score the best resort deal, but the more expensive hotels usually have better security as well, so in this case, go for the nicer properties.”

Where to go instead: Malaysia

This destination in Southeast Asia offers pristine beaches, a rich rainforest and amazing wildlife, from leopards to orangutans. At a Level 1 (except for the northeast section of the island of Borneo, which is a Level 2), the country is safer and has a lower crime rate, while still offering unbelievable scenery and rich, multicultural heritage and historical sites. In addition, the bustling capital city of Kuala Lumpur offers everything from skyscrapers to savory street food.

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Currently, this Central American country just south of Mexico gets a Level 3 travel advisory, with some areas at a Level 4. Criminal activity, drug trafficking, carjacking and armed robbery are just a few of the reasons Guatemala landed on our list of the most dangerous countries in the world. Violent crime—including murder—is also common, thanks in part to the numerous gangs in cities and along the borders. If you do decide to go, make sure to invest in a hotel that not only has a doorman but a dedicated professional security staff. And when you explore, always go with a security member from the Guatemalan Tourism Institute. It’s also best to avoid walking or driving at night, using public ATMs and displaying any signs of wealth, such as wearing watches or jewelry.

In addition, you’ll want to avoid swimming along the Pacific coast due to strong currents and undertows, and because the country lacks sufficient emergency response if you need help.

Where to go instead: Costa Rica

With an established tourism industry, stable political climate, adequate medical facilities and infrastructure, and the most peaceful GPI rating in Central America, Costa Rica has long been a good choice for tourists. See protected, lush rainforests, diverse wildlife including monkeys and jaguars, volcanoes and waterfalls, and visit top snorkeling and surfing sites in this adventure lover’s paradise.

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While plenty of people dream of setting their sights on the churches and castles of St. Petersburg, the State Department advises giving the entire country a hard pass. Right now, it may be the most dangerous place in the world for Americans. War with Ukraine, arbitrary enforcement of laws, limited ability of the U.S. Embassy to assist you, and the potential for government security officials to target American citizens for wrongful detainment, harassment and extortion have earned Russia a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” warning. U.S. citizens are instructed to depart “immediately,” and even U.S. credit and debit cards won’t work in the country. Unfortunately, the colorful onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral will have to wait.

Where to go instead: Bulgaria

This fellow Slavic nation shares some cultural similarities with Russia, while enjoying a much safer Level 1 and more peaceful GPI rating. The Eastern European country may be a little bit under the radar as a tourist destination, but that just means it’s also cheaper. In addition to churches and castles, you’ll find outdoor adventure in the mountains and countryside, and calm beaches on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coastline. Visit in March for Baba Marta Day, one of the best spring celebrations around the world.

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You may be surprised to see Iceland here, as the country is generally one of the safest on earth when it comes to violent crime. So why is it on our list? In December 2023, volcanic eruptions began in Fagradalsfjall, on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the southwest, about 20 miles from the capital of Reykjavik. In March 2024, the fourth eruption in as many months began. Although official word from this land of ice and fire is that the majority of the country is operating normally, it should give tourists some pause—especially as one of the biggest attractions of the country, the famed Blue Lagoon, has been closed due to the volcanic activity. If you go, get travel insurance, and don’t take any chances as a “volcano tourist.” That could definitely kill you.

Where to go instead: Finland

Equally safe when it comes to crime, this fellow Nordic country doesn’t currently have any natural dangers to consider. Viewing the northern lights in Lapland is an experience high on any traveler’s bucket list, especially from a glass-domed igloo that lets you spend the night under the magical sky. Plus, you can view the traditional architecture of old wooden churches and villages, take in a sauna, see real reindeer and enjoy the landscape of forests, lakes and snow.

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Here’s another bucket-list trip many travelers dream of: going on an African safari. Besides the general risk of getting eaten by a lion (very small, by the way), Kenya may be the country with the most amount of risk, due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest and kidnapping, with some parts of the country at a Level 4. You definitely should not travel to areas near the border with Somalia and some parts of Turkana county in the northwest; and be cautious in some parts of central Kenya and certain neighborhoods of the capital, Nairobi. Violent crime, including armed carjacking, home invasion and kidnapping, can occur, with local police and emergency medical services often unable to respond effectively.

Where to go instead: Zambia

With a fairly stable government, Zambia is one of the only safari destinations currently at a Level 1, which makes it the safest. This country also flies a bit under the radar when it comes to tourism, which means its beauty is unspoiled. In addition, for the really adventurous, the country is known for walking safaris (with highly experienced guides, of course). Plus, Zambia offers the added opportunity to visit Victoria Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the world.

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The laid-back, welcoming culture of this popular Caribbean destination seems to be at odds with its high crime rate, so its status as a Level 3 country recently caused a stir among travelers. Common violent crimes in Jamaica include sexual assault, which the State Department notes occurs even at all-inclusive resorts, as well as armed robbery and murder—and local authorities don’t always respond effectively. Certain parts of the island, including in the capital of Kingston and areas of the popular resort town of Montego Bay, have even earned a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” warning. Plus, hospitals and medical care are often not up to par, so travelers insurance, including medical evacuation insurance, is encouraged.

Where to go instead: St. Lucia

The Caribbean is full of spectacular islands that rate a Level 1, but our pick is St. Lucia for incredible mountain scenery and lush tropical forests that’s similar to Jamaica’s. Both islands also offer all-inclusive resorts, if you like to make things easy on your trip, and smaller boutique properties as well. In addition to beautiful beaches, St. Lucia rates as one of the best Caribbean islands for great hiking—if you’re ambitious, you could even tackle Gros Piton, the climbable peak of the iconic twin Pitons mountains.

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China has amazing food, history, sites and culture, and little violent crime—but right now, it’s unfortunately at a Level 3. Why? Due to its authoritarian government, the risks of being wrongfully detained, or even not allowed to leave the country (called an “exit ban”), and the arbitrary enforcement of laws have been increasing. Americans, including those of Chinese descent, should think twice before embarking on a trip to China, including the “special administrative regions” of Hong Kong and Macau. In addition, the ongoing air-pollution issue, specifically in Beijing, has prompted recent air-quality alerts.

Where to go instead: South Korea

South Korean culture is definitely enjoying an uptick in popularity. Think: K-Pop, Netflix’s Squid Game, Korean cinema Oscar faves Parasite and Past Lives—and who can resist Korean barbecue? Visit the Level 1 land where it all came from with a trip to this Asian country. In addition to enjoying its high-tech, modern culture, you can visit traditional temples and historic palaces, hike jaw-dropping mountains and relax under cherry trees. Safe, stable, welcoming of tourists and easy to get around thanks to a top-notch public transportation system, South Korea is well worth visiting.

Additional reporting by Lindsay Tigar.

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