Choosing where to take your next vacation is not only a tough decision, but one that could cost you more than a plane ticket and hotel expenses. Some of the most beautiful and popular destinations in the world are also the most dangerous places for U.S. tourists to visit. Every time you flip on the TV or read the news, you are likely to hear about vicious crimes against U.S. citizens in popular travel spots. And does that stop us? No, because we take the “it will never happen to me” mentality. Sometimes it works and sometimes you don’t get so lucky. Do yourself a favor and check out the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs before planning a vacation at one of these beautiful but potentially dangerous travel destinations.
If you’re thinking of traveling to the West African country of Mali to see the magnificent marvels of Timbuktu, think again. Mali is currently embroiled in political strife and conflict that restricts U.S. citizens from traveling to certain regions of the landlocked country. There have been several kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreign tourists throughout the Sahel (including Mali, Mauritania, and Niger). Human, drug, and weapons trafficking is commonplace in the semi-desert zone. Even the less violent areas of Mali are prone to petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, theft, and muggings.
Acapulco has long been a favorite of celebrities and foreign tourists alike, but things are looking a lot less glamorous for the Mexican Pacific resort city these days. Drug-related crimes have claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people in Mexico since 2006, many of which have occurred in Acapulco. Gangs and drug cartels are to blame for the rise in grisly crimes, including several decapitations and dismemberments. Don’t fall for claims that crime is declining in Acapulco; check the headlines to see for yourself.
The West Indies island of Antigua might sound like a luxurious escape from the daily grind, but not if you don’t come back in one piece. In recent years, Antigua has been at the center of several high-profile murders, including the horrific killing of a British couple on their honeymoon. In addition to Antigua’s uncomfortably high murder rate, roughly tripling that of New York, the island has seen an increase in the number of violent crimes against tourists. It’s not uncommon for visitors to be targeted on isolated beaches and even attacked in hotels and busy tourist venues.
- Pattaya, Thailand:
Just 93 miles from Bangkok lies the ever-popular Pattaya, Thailand. Known for its wild nightlife and sex shows, Pattaya is more likely to cater to single males than families. If you dare visit this seaside destination, prepare to experience cramped beaches, infamous jet-ski scams, and countless sightings of overweight old men with young Thai women. Even if you’re not here to engage in sex tourism, it’s not unheard of for tourists to get robbed, assaulted, or be involved in drug-related crimes in nightclubs and bars.
- Trinidad and Tobago:
Don’t let the beautiful waters fool you. The Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago have their fair share of violent crimes and foreign visitors are often the targets. According to the U.S. Department of State, tourists are especially vulnerable to pickpocketing and armed assaults in areas of metro Port of Spain. Robbery, assault, kidnapping for ransom, and sexual assault against expatriates and tourists are common. Trinidad and Tobago criminals are also notorious for scamming tourists out of money and endangering their personal safety.
Aruba’s gorgeous beaches and pleasant year-round weather brings flocks of tourists from all over. But no matter how idyllic the climate is, Aruba is not immune to crime. Just take the highly publicized disappearance of Americans Natalee Holloway and Robyn Gardner in the resort town of Oranjestad, Aruba. The Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela has seen an increase in drug and human trafficking, and incidents of hotel and car theft are very common in resort areas. The legal drinking age of 18 is not always strongly enforced, and, in the case of Holloway, young travelers are prone to kidnappings and other violent crimes.
Known for its beautiful beaches and rich culture, Jamaica has been a popular tourist hotspot for many years. But Bob Marley’s home country is not exactly the place of peace he imagined. The Caribbean island has one of the highest murder rates in the world and the towns continue to face gang violence, drug trafficking, and robberies. Those who venture out of resort areas and travel into high-threat towns, such as Mountain View, Trench Town, and Tivoli Gardens may find themselves in a heap of danger. Unless guarding your belongings with your life and walking around in paranoia sounds like fun, you might want to cross Jamaica off your vacation list.
- Dominican Republic:
The Dominican Republic is known for its beautiful white sand beaches and bright blue waters, but this popular travel destination is also a hotbed for criminal activity. Foreign tourists are often targeted in violent crimes, petty theft, and police briberies. Traveling over land between the Dominican Republic and Haiti is strongly discouraged due to an increase in crime along the Haitian border after the earthquake in 2010. According to the U.S. Department of State, many public transportation vehicles in the Dominican Republic are unsafe and have been known to overcharge and pickpocket passengers.