As long as civilization has existed, there’s been war. While the amount of war has ebbed and flowed over time, it’s existed on a near perpetual basis since the beginning of recorded history. As tempers flare between the United States and North Korea, we made a list of the top 15 most dangerous places in the world.
This list was compiled by the Foreign Office in the UK for its citizens in the hopes they’d either avoid these places entirely or at least plan accordingly.
Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past twenty years, it should come as no surprise that the Middle East isn’t the safest place to travel for Westerners — or really anyone. Like pretty much every place on this list, tourists are missing out on some beautiful sites. Like in this case Socotra — which has amazing plants and reptiles — or Sana’a — the capital that has been inhabited by people for 2,500 years.
But the political reality in Yemen makes the risk far too high for people to travel there. The nation is in the midst of war and while that would make it dangerous enough, it’s often hard to tell who is controlling which parts of the country — it’s hard to determine which areas are “safe” and which aren’t. The largest threats are terrorism and kidnapping for ransom. Meanwhile, most Western governments refuse to pay ransoms to avoid giving an incentive for further kidnappings. So, like every other location on this list, just don’t go.
Before the situation in North Korea dominated the headlines, the country on everyone’s minds was Syria. It would be bad enough if it were just a dictator in charge, but ever since ISIS began waging war against Bashar al-Assad’s government a few years ago there’s been non-stop fighting.
Assad’s government forces, ISIS, the Kurds to the north — fighting Assad and ISIS simultaneously — and rebels — who are loosely affiliated with any number of sides. Beyond that, Syria has become a proxy war for the United States and its allies — who support the non-ISIS rebels and Kurds — as well as Russia — who supports Assad’s regime.
It’s surprising this country didn’t end up higher on the list, considering Assad has reportedly used long-banned chemical weapons against ISIS and even his own people.
13. South Sudan
South Sudan is the newest country in the world, declaring its independence from the rest of Sudan in 2011. It’s been mired in fighting before and since, but things really picked up in 2013 when a civil war broke out between the supporters of president Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.
Speaking of proxy wars, that brought in troops from surrounding countries, all looking to establish themselves as partners with whichever group won that war. In spite of all that, South Sudan has beautiful wildlife. If only humans could stop fighting long enough for people to enjoy it…
Somalia has been in crisis for a long time. A war-torn country in the Horn of Africa, there has been a steady stream of refugees leaving for the West. Besides rampant terrorism, there’s also the threat of modern-day pirates plaguing international waters off its coast. That’s right, Somalia still has pirates.
This has gained a ton of negative publicity for the country — as chronicled in films like Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips. While pirates lead sad desperate lives, they will kill for money. Though international groups and militaries have cracked down on their territory, they’ve expanded their reach, skill set and weapons cache, making them ever more dangerous.
Niger is in the midst of a war with Boko Haram. While the Middle East deals a lot with groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, the dominant terrorist group in parts of Africa is called Boko Haram. While Boko Haram is now a part of ISIS, it was founded well before ISIS, a year after 9/11.
Almost stamped out in 2009, a massive prison break in 2010 freed many members; the group has been growing ever since. Boko Haram is now in the kidnapping business. Looking for hefty ransoms for the Westerners they kidnap, they torture, beat and even rape their victims.
Probably the least country on this list, Mauritania — known as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania — is an Arab country located in Western Africa. About 20% of its population live on less than $1.25 a day. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the country still relies on slavery to get things done.
It’s not just a minor occurrence either: about four per cent of its population is enslaved. Beside it’s terrible human rights record, there was a coup within the last decade — and that spells political instability. So, it’s definitely a place worth checking out… online.
Mali is the home of Timbuktu — well known to Westerners thanks to its funny name but also to those in the East thanks to its history as an intellectual and spiritual capital and a center for the propagation of Islam back in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Terrorism and kidnapping are now rampant in this important country. With attacks — especially kidnapping —happening in indiscriminate areas, this is a dangerous place to visit. People aren’t even safe in resorts.
Libya was never a super safe place to visit while it was under the thumb of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. During the Arab Spring, Gaddafi went into hiding but was caught by rebels who executed him in a horrifying and embarrassing fashion. After the revolt, a power vacuum sent the country into chaos.
Infighting replaced the relative stability that Gaddafi had brought to the oil-rich nation. Terrorism and — you guessed it — a high risk of kidnapping have put Libya on this watchlist. Despite its beauty — with a several millennia of history — it’s safe to scratch it off of your bucket list.
Speaking of power vacuum, Iraq comes to mind. While Saddam Hussein was no saint, one could argue that Iraqis were a lot better off before the Allies invaded in 2003. The Middle East was already a volatile place, but Iraq brought balance to it. Iran, for instance, was a long-time enemy of Iraq and they sort of cancelled each other out by being so focused on one another.
The fall of Saddam brought the rise of ISIS. While Hussein ruined a precious natural resources in the southern marshlands — a gorgeous and gigantic wetlands that was home to many animals and cultures — there are still places like Samarra, once the capital of an empire that extended from Tunisia to Central Asia.
6. Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is, like many other nations on this list, a resource rich nation. Those resources, along with the relative instability that comes from a weak/greedy/corrupt government brings a ton of infighting over riches stemming from those resources.
Diamond-rich, the Congo has been the poster child of the “conflict-diamond” zone, where militias fight tooth, nail and bullet to control mines mostly staffed by slave labor. Because of its proximity to other nations with similar issues, the nation is overrun with refugees.
While that has brought outside help from charities — NGOs — that doesn’t make the area any safer. NGO workers get are routinely kidnapped. Tourists are missing out on amazing wildlife at the Garamba National Park — home to elephants, giraffes, hippos and the elusive white rhino.
The situation in Chad is interconnected to that of its neighbors, especially Mali. Because of their coordinated attacks on Boko Haram, there have been a ton of reprisal attacks in both nations. On top of that, kidnappings have become the sad norm there, in areas where tourists (used to) frequent as well as in villages, cities and towns.
For once, the United States isn’t the most hated country, though, as the French have a special place on the hate list of those fighting the West in Chad — thanks to their history in the region as well as their help fighting Boko Haram in Mali. Beside the beautiful wildlife, the Ennedi Massif section of the Sahara Desert is a sight to behold.
4. Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAF) deals with terrorism, militias and kidnappings that nearly every location on this list does. But it’s more intense and that’s what puts it this high on the list. For one, not only are citizens and tourists murdered and kidnapped for ransom but so are humanitarian workers, UN workers and even members of the government.
On top of that there is limited open movement or freedom in the country. Armed patrols everywhere set up road blocks to limit people’s ability to travel. Not to mention killings, rapes and lootings. This mess has amazing wildlife though; the Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park is home to rhinos, cheetahs, elephants, leopards and water buffaloes.
Since the president attempted to extend his term, violent incidences have been reported across the country — but mostly in the city of Bujumbura. Murders/assassinations have mainly targeted political and military members, yet still created an ambiance of uncertainty and danger in the nation.
While that doesn’t sound like it may cause issues for many tourists, it’s the armed clashes between rival groups that does. Because of that, armed robberies in tourist areas —including foreign exchange offices — have become common. Besides amazing fauna, Burundi also boasts cool cultures and music.
2. Burkina Faso
You may be surprised to see Burkina Faso so high up on this list, when countries like North Korea don’t even crack the top 15. That’s because of it’s proximity to both Chad and Mali and the fight against Boko Haram — and the lack of support from Western nations. While Boko Haram isn’t as large as ISIS, Western nations support/wage a war against ISIS.
Burkina Faso is dealing with the typical Boko Haram evil — including suicide bombers, other terrorist attacks and kidnappings. Considered wonders of the world, the massive ruins of Loropéni are over a thousand years old — and would be great to see if not for Boko Haram.
This is probably a pretty obvious number one to many of you. Elements in Afghanistan have waged war with Allied forces for over a decade. While the US has been attempting to draw its troops from the country — and has named the major operations as mostly over — the pesky quagmire keeps drawing the military back in.
Even if the war had never started, Afghanistan was always a pretty nasty place to visit. The Taliban believe in the subjugation of women and even the sexual enslavement of children. Despite the fact that it does have some amazing sights — like the Panjshir Valley — to hike, it’s not worth going until fundamentalist maniacs are rooted out.