All travel entails a degree of danger, discomfort, and risk. Some might even say that’s part of the fun. But some destinations present challenges that go above and beyond — so far above and beyond that it spoils the whole experience.
These world travelers recently went online to talk about the most dangerous places they’ve ever visited. These stories shouldn’t stop anyone from making their own way, but it never hurts to know what you’re getting into.
22. First Class Doesn’t Mean Much Sometimes
21. (Nearly) Taken
20. Happy Holidays
Yes, Bogota, Colombia.
I checked into my hotel and decided to go for a walk. Almost immediately I was “befriended” by a young guy who looked friendly enough.
We walked down the street for maybe half a kilometre with him explaining in reasonable English the sights Bogota had to offer. Suddenly he pointed upwards and announced “here is the Hilton Hotel, the city’s tallest building.” I naturally looked up and he snatched a gold chain from around my neck and ran off.
I gave chase and he ducked down a side street. But he wasn’t much of a runner and I caught up with him after another 100 yards. Suddenly he stopped, turned, smiled sheepishly and gave me back my chain.
It was only after he ran off after collecting a kick in the groin from me that I realized how deserted this side street was. I hurried back to the main road and made my way back to my hotel. Afterwards I realized that he was probably leading me into a trap where his gang was waiting to rob me further. But for some reason they weren’t there! I reckon my luck was in that day.
The next day I ventured out again, this time to the Zocalo (main square) where I figured I’d be safer. Suddenly a posse of armed police arrived and opened up with submachine guns at a fleeing figure on a nearby rooftop. Clearly a thief who had been spotted. I don’t think they plugged him and he rapidly disappeared from view.
Happy holidays in Bogota.
19. I Left My Heart
18. Why Won’t They Talk To Me?
I didn’t speak very good Korean, but I had a pretty awesome friend with me who was what the Japanese refer to as ‘Haifu’, part Japanese, part Korean. He was a pretty interesting guy.
We had just gotten out of Incheon Airport when we saw a taxi. My friend hailed it and the guy drove up to us. My buddy tells him where we are going and I think that everything is fine, right up until I try to get in the taxi with him. The taxi driver *refuses* to let me in his car, which sparks an argument that ultimately makes my friend red faced and quite upset. He steps out of the taxi the driver speeds off. I ask him what happened, and he shrugs and says that this guy is a jerk and we’ll just have to get another cab.
We’ve just walked into a bar around Yeoui-dong and sit down after a long day of walking around and my friend says that he’ll grab us a brew that we can only get at the bar. Well, he’s not gone for two seconds before I see a group of guys start talking with him. He’s looking at them and mumbling something in Korean, but his face is beginning to get red the way that it does when he’s angry. He comes back with the drinks and I ask him whats wrong, which he shrugs off and says that there’s nothing wrong. We stay for one beer before we skip out on his insistence.
Then we go to this nightclub, and they won’t let me in.
We talk to these girls, but they’re not giving me the time of day (which would have been fine if they had just ignored me, but they pointed and laughed, which was not cool).
We tried to get dinner but my food came out 45 minutes later than everyone else’s food.
People won’t sit next to me on the trains or busses.
They won’t look at me or will ignore me when taking orders.
I can’t take a taxi very easily.
And thinking back, I should have guessed why this was, but I didn’t then mainly because I didn’t speak the language. But my honest and true friend did. He tried to shield me from it for as long as he could. I finally pulled him aside and asked what was going on, because while we were in Japan he has spoken so highly of his father’s birthplace, but we’d been having a terrible time since the moment we got off the plane and we’d only been in this place for a week.
Racism. I’m black, and that’s the reason for all of this.
He apologized profusely, though he really shouldn’t have, because he had been amazing. He tried to explain to me that over here, it wasn’t viewed so much as racism because it was so normalized. White was right, and black was disgusting. Savage. Less. He was honestly disgusted by how terribly I had been treated since we landed, and he had honestly never realized that this was how things were here.
17. Oh Look: A Woman
Had a rough time in Marrakesh, Morocco. I wanted to love it and there were some interesting and fascinating parts, but most of my time there was a struggle punctuated by some terrible experiences. As a woman I was harassed pretty blatantly. We were also chased by an angry group of men who tried to intimidate us into buying over priced goods, got away but it was scary. Saw an angry mob follow and harass and abuse a local woman who I think was intoxicated, and a kid tried to steal my bag. After a while I was just exhausted by the negative experiences.
16. This Is What Poverty Does To People
Jamaica. Never again.
I went with a friend to an all inclusive resort. It was fine as long as we stayed on the resort. As soon as we stepped off the grounds the scamming started.
“Hey, man! You want some smoke?”
“You want a woman, man?”
“You want a good Jamaican meal? I bring you home and my mother will cook for you.”
“No thanks – I just want to be left alone.”
“Hey, man, Respect!”
Walk down the road. Two minutes later: “Hey, man! You want some smoke?” Exact same conversation. It was constant.
I went to an outside bar during the day with my friend. A bunch of guys come over to talk. We’re being polite and friendly. One guy says, “Can I sit and have a drink with you?” “Sure, sit.” Another guy shows up with a bag of aloe Vera (he saw my red skin). “Thanks,” I say. “Two dollars,” he says. Okay, two bucks for something I don’t want. Whatever. Just be friendly.
We get up to leave the “guard” says I have to pay for the guy’s drinks. I never said I was buying — just that he could sit. “You must pay,” says the guard with the night stick. Okay, let’s jus get out of here.
“Hey, man! I get you a taxi. He’s my good friend.” The “good friend” charges me $15 for a $10 ride , then asks me for a tip.
15. Don’t Tour The Favelas
14. Home Isn’t Home
I went to Somalia with my family because my parents wanted us to visit and to see the country and the culture they come from.
I hated being in that country.
People in Somalia would just stare at me all day because it was strange for them to see a Somali girl not wearing hijab. Women in Somalia would usually go outside covered practically head-to-toe.
Relatives of my father would pity my parents, because I was an unmarried 20 year-old woman. They would, of course, then blame it on the fact that I was born in a western country. Then they would go on and laugh at my parents, because they paid for my education; my relatives thought it was an absolute waste since I was just a girl.
People thought it was a disgrace that Female Genital Mutilation wasn’t performed on me, and they would wonder what kind of men would want an unclean girl like me.
There was not a day in Somalia where I didn’t face sexism. All of it just made me hate the country and the Somali culture.
I’m never going back to that country, even if it is where I came from.
13. The Hitchers
I’ve been to 50 countries, worked on three continents and hung about the seedier parts of numerous cities. The least welcoming city and the one I’d least like to revisit is Marseille.
Aged 21 I hitchhiked there with a friend. France is poor pickings for hitchhiking and it had taken 3 days to get from Belgium. And we actually wanted to go to Cannes. We were dropped off around midnight and were looking for somewhere to sleep.
This was a trip done on the cheap and a hotel was out of the question. Parks, motorway bridges and beaches across Europe had accommodated us.
As soon as we got out of the truck a gang of men accosted us and tried the “you owe us money” routine. It was scary with pushing and shoving but they weren’t quite brave enough to stab us. We eventually ditched them by seeing a cop, smoking on the steps of a police station.
Never had I been so happy to see one. With my 15 word French vocabulary I asked for directions to the road to Cannes. He took a big drag of his Galois, blew the smoke in my face and pushed me hard in the chest. I took that as instructions to go forth and multiply.
Lovely. We decided to forgo Marseille’s charms and hitch out. Three days we spent at a motorway junction. Occasionally people stopped 200 meters past us, only to roar off laughing as we ran up the slip road. Others threw water, or worse, from the cars as they passed.
12. Jungle Of Mine
11. Starting A Country From Scratch
10. Dead Men Don’t Run
9. Cold Welcome
8. Right Here At Home
Camden, New Jersey.
This town has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. It looks like a war zone.
My husband drives heavy haul tractor trailer and had to drive through Camden. There are NO POLICE, the city can not afford it. You are on your own.
He ran every red light. You just don’t stop; it could cost you your car and or your life. (He’s heard stories about crazies and thugs jumping onto the trucks at red lights.) A working girl saw him slow down and ran after his truck in the middle of the street in broad daylight yelling, “Hey baby, stop!” Very young pregnant girls walking the streets, gangs. You can literally buy a “house” for under $15,000
Don’t go here.
7. Being A Female Traveler Can Be Tough
I’d have to say Indonesia. I started in Jakarta, where staff at my hotel broke into my room while I was sleeping and stole my money, credit cards, camera, and phone from my purse. I had to stay at that hotel for another night until I could get a wire transfer from my parents as I had no other source of money. That evening, a male hotel employee kept pestering me, calling my room, being way too friendly, etc. I had no way to lock the room from inside and was fairly concerned, but luckily I met a nice big Canadian guy at the hotel restaurant who agreed to make sure the hotel employee in question saw him going into my room that night. Luckily, it worked.
Travelling down Java was really one long string of touts and ripoffs. Yogyakarta was supposed to be nice, but coming out of the train station, my first impression of the city, was like playing American football with waves of horse drivers, taxi drivers, and motorbike drivers trying to intercept me from all sides.
I finally reached Bali and discovered that Ubud is nice and all, but SO touristy and so packed with souvenir sellers and still more touts. I spent my last night in Indonesia in Kuta, which is best not even mentioned…
Throughout all this, I was groped twice by men I didn’t know and generally had to fend off a lot of sexist jerks. Pretty much nothing about the country left a positive impression on me, although I would like to believe there are nicer parts of it that I just didn’t see since I was mostly on the main tourist trail.
6. At Least There Was Toilet Paper
5. The Problem Is When The Crime Becomes Organized
4. It’s Almost Impossible To Visit Anyway
3. Going Nuclear
I lived in Russia for a year in college.
On a long weekend, a buddy and I decided to take a train up to Murmansk to check out the Cold War nuclear submarine pens. We heard they were abandoned subs and these huge concrete caverns caved into the arctic hillside.
So we load up with drinks and snacks and jump on a train headed north from St. Petersburg where we lived. It’s about a 12 hour ride. We drink, shoot the breeze with some locals, and pass out.
At about 5am, we heard a guard banging on our compartment door asking for documents. Not abnormal as doc checks are pretty routine when pulling into a new city on Russian rail. Upon producing U.S. passports, the guard gets bug -eyed and starts yelling at us in Russian. This was fairly early in my stay, so I only picked up “you cant be here” and that “we had to wait with him when the train stopped.” So my buddy and I are a bit spooked at this point. I tried asking why and the guard had no answer.
We pull into Murmansk and after everyone disembarked, we climbed out of the train, escorted by this guard. Awaiting us on the train platform were 4-5 more soldiers and an officer of some sort. At this point we figure we’re in deep trouble and that they think we’re spies or something. Well, we weren’t far off…
The officer – bless his heart – spoke some English as he later told us he had studied in Moscow. He basically said that Murmansk was a ‘closed city’ and off limits to foreigners – especially those belonging to NATO countries – because Murmansk is still the home port of the Northern Fleet of the Russian Navy where they house multiple nuclear submarines to this day. He tells us we have to wait at the police station for questioning which, I figured, in the arctic circle about 500 miles from the nearest US embassy was not going to go well.
On our way to the police station I asked if we could stop at the store to pick up some food and such since we were going to be a while. They actually agreed – so at this point I figured they weren’t going to whack our balls Daniel Craig James Bond style. My buddy and I bought a bunch of drinks just because and shared with the soldiers as we sat in this 12×12 cell.
Basically we ended up getting hammered all day (in the middle of the day, mind you) with these dudes. Retrospectively we figured it’s not every day that they get prisoners who aren’t the town troublemakers, and even rarer that they have Americans.
Playing to his Russian patriotism a little bit, I eventually asked the officer if we could go see the sub pens that were abandoned cuz that’s why the heck we came all this way anyways. He reluctantly agreed, and took us in a cool Russian military jeep around town. They booted us out of town and threw us on the next train back to civilization. Could have been way worse, undoubtedly.