Some places in this world are much more dangerous to visit or live as an outsider if you visually stand out, such as some of those in our list below. We picked these cities for inclusion in our top 12 most dangerous cities in the World due to their extremely high crime rates, percentage of violent crimes and reputation of unreported crimes crime being the daily norm with no particular group as a target. In most of these dangerous cities, crime seems to find those who just may be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or otherwise present an opportunity too hard for criminals to resist.
Here’s our list of the 12 Most Dangerous Cities in the World.
Let us know in the comments if you think we skipped a particularly dangerous one, or wrongly accused a city.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa, suffers from high crime rates, partially due to separation of wealth and dangerous sections of the city. Though a major international tourist location, people who travel there should do research to be safe on their journey.
Cape Town is known to be one of the most beautifully located and culturally active cities of South Africa, but is also the least safe place to be. As it is a big city with many different parts, certain sections of it are safe, but others have high rates of all sorts of crimes, including kidnapping, murder and robbery. There are also staggering rates of rape and car hijacking in Cape Town and the rest of South Africa, and gangs and drug warfare are also a reality.
Part of the reason Cape Town is so dangerous is that South Africa has large social and economic disparities. This city still feels the residual effects of apartheid, which is still a factor in everyday life. While parts of the city are safe to walk around, this should be done in well-lit streets and while lots of people are out. Many of the outlying hills and suburbs surddounind the center of Cape Town are very poor, unsanitary and hostile. Some of the dangerous areas of this city are Greenpoint, Salt River, Seapoint, Cape Flats, Mowbray and Observatory. One of the most dangerous areas of Cape Town is Nyanga, where there is an unemployment rate of about 70%, as well as a huge breakout of HIV/AIDS amongst its residents.
As Cape Town remains a huge tourist destination, there is ample advice on how these visitors can avoid being a victim of dangerous factors. ATMs are common spots for con-artists and muggers, so they should be avoided at night. Taxis are often illegitimate, and mini bus taxis often drive uncontrollably and do not follow traffic laws. Though most murders happen between people who know each other, there have been attacks on tourists in this city, so people are encouraged to take precaution and travel in groups
Karachi, Pakistan, is one of the biggest cities and metropolitan areas in the world, and also one of the most dangerous international places. There are long-standing political, ethnic and religious tensions in sects of the population, as well as ongoing problems with human trafficking and widespread property damage.
Karachi is the largest city and financial capital of Pakistan, and also the most dangerous place in the country. All kinds of crimes take place in this very corrupt city.
Karachi suffers problems of underlying organized crime, themed around drug trafficking, gunrunning, poaching, human trafficking, murder for hire, money laundering and extortion. It is also plagued by many violent crimes, such as terrorism, political violence, religious-motivated violence and ethnic violence. There are long-standing differences between certain populations living around this city and Pakistan, which are likely to go unresolved any time soon.
There are sometimes violent bouts between political or religious sects, who commit crimes of drive-by shootings that aim at random pedestrians or motorists. The year 2009 saw some unfortunate ethnic clashes and car torching during riots, when the Urdu-speakers and ethnic Pashtuns fought. In 2010, there were a few weeks of bomb attacks against Shiite Muslims that resulted in riots and political shootings. During these violent episodes, parts of the city will shut down for a couple days, and even when it reopens, people still remain tense.
Apart from violence, property damage is a common occurrence in Karachi. Burglaries, arson, motor vehicle theft and armed robberies are all fairly common.
There are also about 600 known human traffickers around Pakistan, many of which are located in Karachi. A major route for human trafficking is from Karachi’s coastal belt to Balochistan. Many youngsters get smuggled out of the country via this route, and then taken into Iran.
Due to all of these factors, plus a widening separation of wealth, Karachi, Pakistan, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Guatemala has high crime rates all over the country, and they are highest in its capital. There are problems with drug dealers, gang warfare and high murder rates, and there is not an efficient system to solve these problems.
Guatemala City has a problem of ongoing crime, partially due to lack of efficient law enforcement. The majority of officials are inexperienced and underpaid, so do not have the resources to begin with to handle the high volume of crime. Apart from the police, the justice system is also inefficient, overworked and not effective. Police officers usually work on bribes, leading to corruption. These factors have contributed to the surge in murder and other crime that has been going on for the past decade.
Apart from law enforcement, Guatemala City is subject to its social problems, like street gangs and rival drug dealers, which often affect the lives of everyday people. The country of Guatemala has a wide separation of wealth as well, leading to unrest. There are also issues of kidnapping and organ harvesting around the country, and this city is not necessarily safe from these incidents.
Different parts of the city are more dangerous than others. Zona 1 is noted to be very dangerous, full of drug deals, gangs and other illicit activities, so it is advised to not be there at night. Zonas 2, 6, 18 and 21 should also be avoided; Zona 10 is known to be a safer district.
People who visit Guatemala City are warned to not walk around alone at night, especially not through dangerous areas. Even during the day, they should not draw attention to themselves, and not wear flashy clothing or jewelery, nor look like they are lost. Though most of the crime committed has to do with Guatemalans, tourists are also victims of armed robbery, rape and murder.
It is recommended to avoid taking buses inside Guatemala City, as there are incidents of people getting robbed by gangs on buses, and sometimes the driver gets murdered. People who take taxis should also make sure that they are registered.
Bogota, Colombia, is a very vast, cosmopolitan city that is unfortunately affected by the drug crimes and political upheaval around its premises and the rest of the country. Though some areas of the city are fine, there are others where one should be extremely cautious.
Bogota, Colombia, is one of the biggest and most vast cities in the Americas. Though there are very nice areas of Bogota, it still remains one of the most dangerous cities in South America. Though things have gotten better since the 1990s, it still remains a violent place. As Colombia has many problems with drug trade and political warfare, Bogota and its outskirts are affected by these factors.
Bogota is a huge city that is gridded, and divided into the north and south sections. The north section is definitely more safe. The south section of the city becomes more dangerous around 19th street, and then gradually turns into slums. There are lots of firearms around Colombia, and many people in Bogota possess weapons. Some of the areas of town that people should be cautious about include Bosa, Kennedy, Suba and Barrios Unidos. Even in the city center and historic districts, there are many scam artists and pickpockets. It is advised not to go out exploring at night, especially while alone. It is also recommended to call up taxi companies for rides rather than finding one on the streets.
For additional safety, it is also advised not go wander outside of Bogota’s city limits. People who do risk being attacked by political groups that rebel against Colombia’s government, as well as people involved in drug trading and terrorism. There are a couple known political faction groups, as well as other individuals, that will kidnap people and hold them for ransom. Some of these kidnappers will blockade highways and capture people, and although some highways are patrolled, there is little for authorities to do once people are kidnapped.
Though Bogota is a major tourist destination with lots to see and explore, it is definitely advised for people to remain within the safer areas of town in the north side, and not go into the rural areas around the city. But since Bogota is much less dangerous than it used to be, hopefully things will continue improving.
Grozny, Chechnya, Russia
Grozny is the capital of Chechnya, and also a very dangerous location in this ruined country. Grozny, Chechnya, has undergone very destructive warfare since the mid-1990s, when the Russian army demolished much of the city. Some of the population has fled, but those who have remained mostly live in shells of their old homes and risk dangers from the local gangs and mafia, along with remaining mines.
Grozny was named the “most destroyed city on earth” by the United Nations in 2003. This was due to the First Chechen War with Russia from 1994-96, and the Second Chechen War from 1999-2000, both of which caused thousands of fatalities and the explosion of many buildings and other structures. Russians fired five huge ballistic missiles all over the city, then a wide range of shelling, dynamite exploding and mining caused many parts of the city to go to shambles. This also left the infrastructure very battered. The city of Grozny was empty for some time, and even when people started returning, most people’s homes were ruined, and demolition went on.
Even though the fighting supposedly ended around 2006, this city is still loaded with ongoing problems. Currently, Grozny is going under a state of reconstruction and restoration, but things are not the same. Some apartments are being rebuilt, but many continue to live without water or electricity. Many Chechens have fled to places like Georgia, Dagestan or Azerbaijan, as their native country is not safe.
Though the government is centered in Grozny, the power lies more in the hands of the mafia and gangsters. Political and criminal murder, as well as rape rates, are very high, and people who just walk down the street risk getting pick-pocketed or mugged. Kidnappings are a serious issue; gangsters will abduct Western foreigners and hold them for ransom. People who walk into certain areas also risk exploding a mine that was left there.
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Detroit, Michigan, consistently ranks as the most dangerous city of the United States, with consistent high violent and property crime rates every year. Though some parts of this Midwest city are safe, others are in a state of abandonment and decay.
Detroit was originally an industrial boom town up through the 1950s, when its population went from 250,000 in 1900 to 1.8 million in 1950. Since its peak of population and prosperity, about half of that number has fled from the urban area in Detroit proper. Economic outsourcing occurred, so factories were shut down and jobs became scarce. Thousands of people moved out into the suburbs, or to entirely different places. This ongoing white flight effect has resulted in leaving back entire sections of the once-bustling city into depressed blocks of abandoned buildings undergoing urban decay. While some districts of Detroit, like downtown, are safe, other parts are full of falling-apart houses, stray animals running around and garbage thrown around the streets. In the past ten years, the city government has made efforts to demolish some of the abandoned buildings from federal funds, as renovations do not appear likely.
Though it used to be much worse in the 1970s, Detroit is still plagued by the acts of various crimes. About 1 in 16 people are likely to be victims of a property crime, ranging from theft, burglary or arson. Detroit is also a notorious violent city, with murder rates that are always within the top ten for American cities each year. In 2009, there were 379 counted homicides, and 364 of these were determined as criminal homicides. The year 2008 had a high volume of violent crimes, with rates of 40.6 homicides, 36.4 forcible rapes, 675.1 robberies and 1,178.8 cases of aggravated assault per 100,000 people in Detroit. Many of these unfortunate incidents are due to gangs and drug-related incidents.
The police force of Detroit also factors in as a problem to the greater picture. Not enough resources have been invested into public safety, and when budget cuts occur, crime enforcement takes a toll.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is a huge urban area in Brazil, but people there must go around with caution. There are many dangerous slums located around the city, ongoing drug warfare, corruption and criminals who target visitors in tourist areas.
Rio de Janeiro is a major city in Brazil with a huge tourism industry, but it also is plagued by astounding crime rates. There are many incidents of homicide, particularly in poor areas that are controlled by the city’s drug dealers. About 30 victims are murdered in Rio de Janeiro per week. Many of these incidents have to do with stray bullets, muggings and narcoterrorism. There is ongoing urban warfare in this city between police and drug traffickers, and over 1,000 people are killed this way each year.
Many of the problems of Rio de Janeiro have to do with the widening gap between the rich and the poor segments of society. There is a huge impoverished part of the city, and about 20% of Rio’s population live in its sprawling shanty towns and slums, known as favelas. Many of the hillsides are crowded with these favelas, and these are dangerous areas to navigate without proper guidance.
The police in Rio de Janeiro are known to be corrupt, part of the reason being they are not paid very well. It is recommended not to interact with officers, as they are known to threaten for bribery. Sometimes innocent people are framed for being involved with the drug economy, so they have to bribe the police to get out of it.
Though the city has beautiful and famous beaches, it is recommended to avoid them at night, as they are infested with drug dealers, and this could lead to more dangerous situations. Many of the drug trafficking is tied in with Rio’s powerful mafia, and this is not something anyone should be involved with; police also use zero tolerance with drugs, and will use brutal and violent tactics if they catch anyone.
Apart from drug-related violence, there are also many incidents of robbery. It is dangerous to go to ATMs at night, as people risk being abducted and robbed. Beatings and rape occasionally occur in these situations as well. Though less serious, pickpocketing is also an issue in Rio de Janiero, especially in the airport or in tourist-frequented areas.
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Ciudad Juarez is an insanely dangerous border town in Mexico, with recent arising problems of drug cartels, gang warfare, as well as many dangers for female factory workers.
Ciudad Juarez is a border town between the United States and Mexico that has grown especially dangerous in recent years. It is plagued by poverty and common violence, and is a site for drug smuggling and gang warfare.
Juarez became more dangerous after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented in 1994, when thousands of new people flocked to this location for jobs that were established. Many women started working in factories, but at a cost. Hundreds of these factory worker women have since been murdered in Juarez, and over 3,000 have gone missing. Over the past ten years, there have been over 400 known cases of sexual homicide of women, some of their bodies later being discovered in ditches around this city.
In the past few years, Juarez has become a main site of narcotic-related warfare. About 1,600 people were murdered in drug-related incidents in 2008, and then this increased to about 2,600 in 2009. It does not look like these rates will lower any time soon.
There are also problems with the local authorities, because Juarez is a very difficult city to maintain an effective police force. Many officers have been assassinated, and the department is known to be corrupt. Many of the business groups in Juarez are seeking UN intervention to help solve these problems.
Juarez has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with about 130 per 100,000 inhabitants. Since the recent escalation in violence, the vast majority of Juarez residents have had to change their daily routines. Most people try to refrain from going out at night; even during daytime, people risk being kidnapped or hit by bullets just by walking down the streets. There have also been recent incidents of car bombings, so no one is safe in such unpredictable situations.
Mogadishu, Somalia, is plagued with the effects of civil warfare and violence, and much of this city has gone in shambles. Much of the infrastructure has been destroyed, and many of the residents have fled or live in refugee buildings.
Somalia is a very dangerous country in general, full of constant clan and ethnic warfare. There is strife between the Ethiopian and Somali government troops, as well as with the Islamic guerrillas. All over, residents and visitors are also not safe from random kidnappings and coastal pirates, nor the high volume of terrorists.
Mogadishu is the capital of Somalia, and acts as a central location in all of such happenings. The northern section of the city is known to be much more dangerous than the southern, and very few vehicles are allowed to even cross the checkpoints between the two sections. Because of the ongoing civil war that has been active for over 20 years, about half of the city’s population has fled. Bombings, gunshots, guerrilla attacks, lootings and riots are a daily occurrence in Mogadishu. Dozens of people are injured daily, and hospitals are overcrowded with the casualties. Many of those who choose to remain in Mogadishu have ended up in the city’s sprawling refugee camps. Some of the refugee camps are former ministries buildings, universities, schools and other campuses.
Though there have been efforts on several different levels to protect and provide aid to Mogadishu, bouts of violence always occur. In 2008, more than half of the population abandoned the city, and many of the streets had turned into rows of bombed-out buildings. In 2009, there was a rise of violence and suicide bombings, which had been a rare occurrence in the past. The roads of Mogadishu are extremely battered with potholes, and flood horrifically when it rains.
Though there is no certain collected statistical data related to what goes on in Mogadishu, it is certainly an extremely dangerous city.
Though American troops have occupied Baghdad since 2003, problems have since escalated. Suicide bombers and car bombs from the sectarian strife are a constant threat to anyone who is there, and the city’s infrastructure has since been torn apart.
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, a torn nation with constant strife. Though an ancient city that has seen times of prosperity, it has taken a turn for danger within the past few decades. The headline and reports about Baghdad through the media constantly give the unfortunate insight of one of the world’s least safe spots.
Times have been turned in a hostile direction since the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. More damage to Baghdad occurred during the Gulf War in 1991 and then the US invasion in 2003. This has caused dramatic effects on the city’s power, transportation and infrastructure.
Since the invasion in 2003, Baghdad has been suffering the worst of its ongoing problems of violence, crime, corruption and lack of internal stability. There are problems from the Al-Qaeda attacks and Kurdish rebels, as well as sectarian suicide bombers who attack all parts of city. The streets of Baghdad are also lined with unpredictable mines and explosives, along with random attacks from gunfire and mortars. There are common car bombs that set off at places like police checkpoints, water treatment plants, police headquarters, hospitals, commercial zones, mosques, buses, markets and basically anywhere. Areas of the city that had once housed useful residential, administrative, religious and commercial activities now get torn to rubble that buries men, women and children.
Ever since the invasion of 2003, thousands of Iraqis have fled their country for other places, like Syria, and many more have been killed, injured or displaced. Even if they choose to return home, their former lives are now almost impossible to relive. Many parts of the city have no garbage collection, and even if water or electricity works, it is usually only during certain hours of the day. Though food is available, many merchants have shut down their stores due to the danger and violence.
Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, is full of several safe areas, but there are many other sections that should definitely be avoided. Armed robberies are a common occurrence, and this city has some of the highest murder rates in the world.
Caracas is the capital and largest city in Venezuela, and is also the most dangerous place to be. Violent crime is a serious problem, as Caracas has one of the highest murder per capita rates in the world (between 130-160 per 100,000). Most of these murders remain unsolved mysteries. Kidnappings, robberies and assaults are also a daily occurrence. Many of the locals refrain from going out at night, and warn visitors to do the same.
Because of the separation of wealth, there are parts of the city that are safe and others that should be avoided. Anyone who visits Caracas should steer clear of violent areas, like in the impoverished areas up in the hills. These parts of the city are lined with armed criminal gangs, and police refrain from patrolling the area.
Crimes are committed during the daytime and nighttime hours in Caracas. Though there are some safe tourist areas of the city, it is advised to not wear flashy jewelery or carry huge amounts of accessible cash, as armed group robbery is common. Even locked rooms, safes and cars are commonly stolen from; people should not walk alone through dark areas or parking garages, as they may be robbed at gunpoint. Demonstrations, riots and protests are not an uncommon occurrence, and gunshots are commonly fired.
Even the areas outside of Caracas are reported to be dangerous. There have been a few reports of kidnappings and ransom holdings on the road between the Maiquetia Airport and the city of Caracas, where travelers have been captured and held captive by people in roadside huts who hide along the highway. There are also incidents of taxi drivers robbing their clients from the airport, and it is difficult to determine if a taxi driver is legitimate.
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, has issues with rebel soldiers from elsewhere in the country, as well as internal problems like gang warfare, rape, property damage, poor sanitation and disease.
Kinshasa is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Though the Democratic Republic of Congo is a large country that is full of natural resources, its population suffers from ever-lasting lawlessness and recklessness. Ever since the Second Congo War, this city has undergone much damage. Its slums are plagued with lots of gangs who commit many violent and unpredictable crimes on the rest of the population.
There are also problems due to ethnic conflicts, where rebel soldiers are fighting to control the diamond mines. There are many different factions at war in the eastern part of the country, and sometimes this conflict enters the city.
Kinshasa also has problems with common muggings, robberies and kidnappings. It is not recommended to try to visit Kinshasa by car, as it is very dangerous outside of the city and people risk abductions. Travel via public transit is also not reliable, as the roads are very muddy and get very dangerous when it rains. Kinshasa and the rest of the DRC is considered a very dangerous place for women, as rape and other acts of sexual assault are common.
The streets of Kinshasa are also not the safest place to be, outside of the downtown area and the suburban Gombe district. In addition to random acts of violence, there are dangerous sanitation issues, as sewage and garbage are also scattered everywhere. There are also risks of disease in this city, including polio, pox and malaria.