Travel is always one of life’s greatest pleasures. Besides searching and paying a visit to the safest destinations, it is essential to be aware of the risks and dangers in various parts of the world.
The following article highlights the most dangerous countries in the world, focusing on factors such as conflict, crime, and political instability. This information can help travellers make informed decisions about their international engagements.
According to the Global Peace Index, Afghanistan has long been considered the most dangerous country in the world. The nation’s tumultuous history, ongoing conflict, and high levels of violence have earned it this dubious distinction.
The most alarming factor is the prevalence of extremist groups in the country. The Taliban, for example, has been waging a brutal insurgency against the Afghan government for over two decades.
They have been responsible for countless deaths, both of civilians and soldiers. Other groups, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, have also established a presence in the country, further adding to the instability. Terrorist attacks often occur at airports and religious sites, particularly during religious festivals like the month of Ramadan.
Afghanistan's pronounced level of danger is further highlighted by its significant crime rate, which reached 76.32% in 2023. The proliferation of armed groups and criminal gangs is a crucial factor contributing to these alarming figures. These groups are known to engage in illicit activities, such as kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, targeting affluent Afghans and foreigners.
Furthermore, the drug trade has also played a significant role in driving up the country's crime rate. As the world's largest producer of opium, responsible for 85% of global opium production in 2020, drug trafficking has become a lucrative source of income for criminal organizations. This, in turn, has led to a surge in drug-related crimes, including addiction, drug trafficking, and associated violence.
A strong government presence in many areas is needed to combat these crimes effectively. Additionally, corruption and robust criminal networks make it even harder to maintain law and order.
Syria is a country that has been devastated by ongoing conflict, making it one of the most violent countries in the world. Since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, the country has become a hotspot for violence and instability, with numerous armed factions vying for control of territory and resources.
The latest catastrophic event to have occurred is the Turkey-Syria earthquake, which struck in February 2023. Sadly, the earthquake resulted in a devastating loss of life, with over 50,000 deaths reported. The disaster also caused significant damage to 116 health facilities, leaving many people without access to crucial medical care. As a result, an estimated 18 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
A staggering 90% of Syrians were living below the poverty line, while at least 12 million individuals out of a remaining population of approximately 16 million were experiencing food insecurity, as reported by the World Food Programme (WFP).
In addition to the conflict, the country is also grappling with a high risk of infectious disease, partly due to the breakdown of public health infrastructure. Nearly forty thousand deaths caused by diseases like cholera and measles have been reported in various parts of the country.
Limited access to healthcare facilities means that many people struggle to receive adequate medical care. Its citizens are more miserable by economic sanctions and political instability, which have made it hard to access essential goods and access international aid.
Moreover, those who venture into Syria, whether for humanitarian or journalistic purposes, face the constant threat of violence and kidnapping. Syria is among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. The lack of law and order, coupled with the absence of a functioning government, makes this war-torn nation a hazardous destination for visitors.
Located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous countries to visit in the world.
The country has been embroiled in a civil war since 2015, with various factions vying for government control. Hence, it resulted in widespread violence, displacement, and a humanitarian crisis that has left millions of people in dire need of aid.
In addition, Yemen has seen a surge in criminal activity, including kidnappings and armed robberies, further adding to the danger visitors face. Its crime rate is also the highest level compared to other countries, which is 68,93%.
The major tribes in Yemen have a reputation for engaging in criminal activities such as looting and kidnapping. They possess significant weaponry and have autonomy in their local territories. Unfortunately, tourists are at risk of being kidnapped and mistreated by these tribes and may need to pay a hefty ransom to secure their release.
The torrential rains and flooding that hit most cities have made travel here unsafe and difficult. The flooding has damaged roads and bridges, making travel by land challenging and risky. In some areas, roads have been thoroughly washed away, and bridges have collapsed, making it impossible to travel by vehicle.
According to UNICEF, over 11 million children here require humanitarian assistance, with millions facing food insecurity and lacking essential services. Over 540,000 children under five are currently experiencing severe acute malnutrition. Shockingly, one child loses their life every 10 minutes due to preventable causes.
Visitors to Yemen are at high risk of being caught in the crossfire of the long-standing war and targeted by extremist groups.
Somalia, a country plagued by lawlessness and anarchy for decades, has earned its reputation as one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Ravaged by civil war, famine, and piracy, it is a land where chaos reigns supreme.
The militant group Al-Shabaab, an offshoot of the notorious Al-Qaeda, continues to sow terror throughout the nation, launching deadly attacks on both civilians and government forces.
The absence of a stable government exacerbates the situation, with competing factions and clans vying for power. Rampant corruption and a lack of basic infrastructure only worsen the living conditions for the average Somali citizen. For those brave enough to venture into this treacherous territory, extreme caution is advised.
Iraq has faced numerous challenges over the years due to war and conflict, highly being a dangerous country to visit. The remnants of ISIS continue to pose a significant threat to Iraqi forces and civilians, despite being significantly weakened.
Suicide bombings, assassinations, and sectarian violence are still prevalent in many parts of the country. The sense of danger is constant for those living and visiting there.
The conflict between the central government and the autonomous Kurdish region adds further complexity. It has caused tensions to rise and has resulted in violence, making the situation even more precarious.
The infrastructure in Iraq has been severely damaged due to years of war and conflict. It has also affected the economy, with many businesses struggling to survive.
As a result, unemployment rates are high, and poverty is prevalent in many areas of the country. In addition, corruption remains a significant issue, further exacerbating the problems facing Iraq.
Libya is known as one of the most violent countries in the world, having struggled with political instability and civil war since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
It is currently divided between two rival governments: the GNA in the capital city of Tripoli; and the LNA in the eastern city of Tobruk. Both parties signed a ceasefire in 2020, but occasional clashes still happen.
The conflict has been fueled by many factors, from the struggle for power to control the country's vast oil reserves. Various armed groups and militias have taken advantage of the power vacuum created by the fall of Gaddafi to control different regions of the country.
The presence of extremist groups, including ISIS, has added to the volatility and danger in Libya. These groups carried out terrorist attacks and targeted killings. They are further destabilising the country and making it difficult for any government to establish control.
Of course, the ongoing violence has had a devastating impact on Libya's population. Displacement, violence, and lack of access to essential services have left many Libyans struggling to survive. Many hospitals, schools, and other essential services are in disrepair.
The United Nations and other international organisations have been working to broker a peace deal between the rival factions, but progress has needed to be faster.
7. South Sudan
South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9, 2011, after a referendum was held in January. Despite the initial optimism and hopes for a bright future, the country has struggled to maintain stability. Since then, ethnic tensions and political power struggles have exacerbated the situation.
President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar, have been at odds since South Sudan's independence. In December 2013, their power struggle escalated into a civil war, displacing millions of people and claiming thousands of lives.
The conflict has been marked by brutal atrocities on both sides, including rape, murder, and the use of child soldiers. Hence, the country is in the top place on a list of the most dangerous countries in the world.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is dire, with famine and disease rampant throughout the country. The United Nations has declared a famine in some parts of the country, and more than 7 million people need humanitarian assistance. Armed groups have also targeted aid workers and journalists.
South Sudan is rich in natural resources, including oil, gold, and fertile land, but these resources have yet to bring prosperity to the country. Instead, they have fueled further conflict and corruption, with different groups vying to control these resources. The government has been accused of mismanaging these resources with little benefit to the population.
Russia, the world's largest country, is no stranger to danger. Its foreign policy is often characterised by aggression and power plays. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which sparked international condemnation and sanctions against Russia. Russia has also been accused of meddling in foreign elections, including the 2016 US presidential election. These actions have earned Russia a reputation as the most violent country in the world.
Domestically, Russia faces several challenges as well. Political dissent is often met with harsh repression, and the government has been accused of human rights abuses. Corruption is rampant, with bribery and embezzlement being significant issues in both the public and private sectors.
The North Caucasus region of Russia is particularly volatile, with an Islamist insurgency and separatist movements posing significant security threats.
Chechnya, in particular, has been the site of multiple wars and ongoing conflicts, with human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings being reported. The region is also known for its high levels of organised crime and corruption.
Ukraine, located in Eastern Europe, is a nation caught in a geopolitical tug-of-war between the East and the West. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014, has increased tensions between Ukraine and Russia.
With support from Moscow, Pro-Russian separatists have seized control of parts of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions, leading to a war that has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced millions more. Since then, Ukraine is considered the least safe country in the world for travellers.
Despite efforts to improve the situation, Ukraine remains politically unstable and corrupt, with a struggling economy. The economy has struggled to recover from the conflict, with high inflation levels, unemployment, and poverty. Ukraine relies heavily on foreign aid and loans from the IMF to maintain its economy.
Mali has been marked by a history of coups, conflicts, and social unrest, leading to a fragile political situation. All these factors make it one of the most violent countries in the world for travellers.
Terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) have a significant presence in Mali, particularly in the northern and central regions. They have attacked civilians and security forces, resulting in high violence and instability.
Mali also has a high crime rate, particularly in the capital city of Bamako, with incidents such as armed robbery, theft, and carjacking. Moreover, the country has significant landmines and unexploded ordnance, especially in the northern regions.
Moreover, the country has experienced periodic outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, meningitis, and Ebola, which have claimed the lives of numerous children.
For these reasons, the US Department of State has issued a Level 4 "Do Not Travel" advisory for Mali, recommending US citizens avoid all travel to the country. Other countries have also issued similar travel warnings and advisories, emphasising the dangers and risks involved in travelling to Mali.
11. Central African Republic
In the heart of Africa, the Central African Republic (CAR) has vast natural resources, cultural diversity, and significant difficulties. The nation is one of the worst countries in the world to visit despite its mineral richness and natural resources.
With a GDP per capita of $372, CAR is one of the world's poorest countries. Its inequality and lack of economic progress are caused by over 70% of its population living below the poverty line.
With low literacy rates and inadequate schooling, the country's education system is likewise in bad shape. 25% of pupils complete elementary education, while only 2% enter high school. Lack of education hinders the country's social and economic development, preventing social mobility and economic progress.
CAR residents struggle to move and live due to a lack of essential infrastructure. Because of the country's violence and instability, international groups struggle to give relief.
12. Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been labelled as one of the most dangerous countries in the world due to a number of factors. One of the main reasons is the presence of armed groups and militias, many of which have been involved in ongoing conflicts in the country for decades.
There are over 130 of them in eastern DRC. These armed groups operate in remote areas of the country and engage in rape, murder, and robbery. Civilians are often caught in the crossfire of these conflicts and can become victims of violence or forced displacement.
Furthermore, DRC's infrastructure and transportation systems often need to be improved or maintained, leading to hazardous conditions for travellers. Roads can be treacherous and often become impassable during the rainy season, while air travel can be risky due to the poor maintenance of aircraft and limited safety regulations.
Finally, corruption is rampant in many areas of DRC's government and society, exacerbating the already precarious situation. It can result in the mismanagement of funds intended for public services, leading to inadequate healthcare, education, and essential services for the population.
Venezuela has been known as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for several years. There are multiple reasons for this. Firstly, the country is currently facing an economic crisis that has led to a rise in crime rates, particularly in urban areas. The high levels of poverty and unemployment have resulted in a surge in petty crime, including theft and pickpocketing.
Secondly, political instability is rampant in Venezuela, with frequent protests and unrest. The breakdown of law and order has made it difficult for the authorities to maintain public safety, exacerbating the situation.
The country's significant involvement in the drug trade is also a major contributor to its dangerous reputation. Venezuela is a crucial transit point for smuggling drugs from South America to the United States and Europe. The involvement of organised crime groups in the drug trade has led to an escalation in violence and corruption, further fueling the dangerous situation.
Lastly, the Venezuelan government has been accused of human rights abuses, including excessive force against protesters and political opponents. These allegations have further eroded public trust in the government and have contributed to the country's overall instability and dangerous reputation.
Mexico, a land of ancient civilisations, stunning beaches, and vibrant culture, has captured the hearts of millions of people over the years. However, despite its numerous attractions, the country has also gained notoriety for its high levels of violence and insecurity as being among the least safe country in the world.
Mexico has been grappling with rising levels of violence in recent years, with over 30,000 homicides in 2022 alone. The country's homicide rate is among the highest in the world, with crime and drug trafficking being the primary drivers of violence.
Kidnapping, extortion, and robbery are also significant security concerns in Mexico, with tourists often targeted due to their perceived wealth. The government's efforts to combat organised crime have been met with mixed success, leaving travellers to navigate a complex security landscape.
Environmental challenges also pose a significant threat to Mexico's natural beauty and biodiversity. The country's coral reefs and wildlife habitats are threatened by human activity, deforestation, and climate change. Air pollution and water scarcity are also significant environmental issues facing the country.
Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with much of the violence related to drug trafficking, gang activity, and political unrest. Several governments consider it is a dangerous country to visit in Central America, if not the most dangerous.
Gang violence is a significant problem in Honduras, with two main rival gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18, fighting to control territory and resources. They have been blamed for criminal activities, including extortion, drug trafficking, and murder.
As a result, many areas of the country are considered unsafe. Children can’t even go out to play in the daytime without the presence of armed forces and polices.
Additionally, Honduras has a history of political instability, with corruption and violence being significant issues. The country has experienced several coups and periods of military rule, which have led to ongoing tensions and unrest. Political demonstrations and protests are not uncommon, and visitors are advised to avoid such events as they can quickly turn violent.
Poverty is another contributing factor to the country's high levels of crime and violence. Many Hondurans struggle to make ends meet, leading to a high incidence of theft, robbery, and other forms of property crime.
Rest assured, there are plenty of safe and friendly places to call home. However, many adventurous travellers are drawn to explore some of the most dangerous countries in the world despite the potential risks of crime, terrorism, and natural disasters.
Whether for work, adventure or to give back to local communities, intrepid souls are always willing to take the plunge. While keeping in mind to be cautious and prepared, don't let fear stop you from seeing the world.