Some of the worst cities around the world are impoverished beyond belief, making them difficult to visit. You see the gut-wrenching conditions and want to do something, but you aren’t sure what. These Reddit users shared their stories about the worst places they’ve visited. Of course, they aren’t all impoverished. The wealthy can be in need of some change, too.
However, some of the worst cities have both issues. The combination of extreme wealth and extreme poverty seems to make for terrible conditions for both those who live there and those who visit. Crime, rude citizens, and pollution run rampant in these 35 cities. They are the worst places you’ll ever visit, but maybe we need to visit them so we can be inspired to change the world.
35. City Of The Living Robbers
I once got lost driving around Camden [New Jersey]. It was the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week (~1pm on a Tuesday, if I remember correctly?) and there were people loitering on either side of a large street. As I stopped at a light, they just started casually shambling towards my car. I mean, not trying to sneak up out of my line or sight or even sprint forward to catch me off guard. This was a decent sized group of people (a handful from either side) just casually stumbling towards my car. It was like a zombie movie- I felt like I was in a scary movie. I ended up running the red light before they reached me.
34. The Fallout City
You know how your parents always told you to finish your dinner because there’s starving children in Africa? My grandad is from Newcastle and he was told the same thing except it was starving children in Gateshead.
33. Curiosity Scared The Cat
We were traveling [to East St. Louis] with our kitten the first thing our kitten did was start sniffing around, then he went under the bed and came out with a pair of men’s briefs, well I took them to the front desk and all the girl said was “Ewee” and just dropped them well if that wasn’t bad enough my husband then found some kind of substances, then all of a sudden being curious like kittens can be our kitten had something in his mouth, we were devastated to find that it was a broken pipe.
32. Getting Dumped On
What is REALLY bad, though, is Tondo, Philippines. It’s Manila’s dump site. I think 3 countries send their trash there. It is so bad, there is what looks like a giant mountain called “old’ Smokie” that is a giant freaking mound of trash. It’s been there so long that it’s covered in plants and if you didn’t know any better, you would think its a large long hill.
In the new dump site, there are children living in there along with many families. They will sort through the trash and make charcoal for the equivalent of 1-3 bucks a day. When it floods, which it does a lot, they have to stand all night or else they will drown.
When my team and I went, we had to wear knee-high boots because the streets are literally covered, many inches thick, in sewage. The people there don’t have boots and have to walk barefoot/in flip-flops.
31. Low Visibility And High Disregards
Dehli, India: I’ve lived in Los Angeles most of my life and was totally unprepared for the amount of pollution in Dehli. I was there for 10 days and visibility at best was about 2 miles, after which everything disappears into the brown mist. People litter everywhere, and don’t think twice about it, I was dumbfounded to see empty trash cans surrounded by trash!?!? It’s not the kind of city a foreigner can blend in, and you’re constantly hounded by sketchy people, and almost everyone tries charging you 3 – 20 times normal rates. Cutting in line is the norm, you can literally be speaking with a cashier, and someone will squeeze their head between your face and the hole in the window through which you were speaking to the cashier without a second thought. Traveling in cars there is torturous, the worst traffic I have ever seen, people signal ONLY with their horn. Making a left, honk your horn, going through an intersection, honk, someone in the way, honk, you’re surrounded by hundreds of cars (mostly rickshaws actually), almost all of which are honking. People drive both ways on both sides of the roads (scary as heck). The smell, nothing seems to ever be finished there, and when it is, all the refuse/ leftover material is right next to the site. The Police/ Military (not sure which) all have weapons, and they will also extort you for whatever they can. Open sewage troughs, sickening disparity of wealth living side by side, opulent, luxurious hotels, butt up against poorer districts (guards & walls surround the hotels) crowded, long lines, no beef, street food looks delicious but will make you viciously sick. Did I miss anything? I enjoyed my visit though, granted me a perspective I didn’t have before.
30. The 1% Over The 99%
Juarez, Mexico was a godawful place. The houses on the outskirts of town are built from trash and debris, in what is essentially a functional landfill with people living in it. The gut-wrenching effect of such extreme poverty was compounded by the staggeringly opulent mansions that sit only a few miles away. I have never seen such extreme economic highs and lows in such close proximity.
29. Loss Leaves A Mark
Birmingham Alabama- USA
For those that don’t know, good ol’ Birmingham was at one point the Crime Capital of the USA, and still is within the top 10 (maybe 20).
I grew up there, I lost six of my best friends there, I lost my daughter there.
28. So Blue
You know it’s bad when its only attraction is a blue bridge.
27. Blah, Blah, Blah
I was in Hungary visiting Budapest, which is gorgeous and in my top 10 world cities, but then we left Budapest and went into some of the surrounding towns and villages. Just what you describe – boxes and rows of industrialized communist-era bloc homes, gray skies, dirty streets, etc. It may have just been the area; the countryside is beautiful and Budapest really was absolutely amazing, but there are parts of those former eastern bloc countries that just depress you just by looking at them. The saddest thing is they try to perk them up by painting all the former block homes bright colors. Its jarring.
26. A Claustrophobic’s Nightmare
Kowloon, Hong Kong. One of the cities with the highest population densities in the world, Hong Kong freaked out. I’m from Texas, where we have a seemingly never ending amount of space. If you feel cramped, just drive out ten minutes to an empty field. At this point in this trip, I had been through Kyoto, Beijing, and Shenzhen, finally landing in Kowloon. I had an absolute meltdown coming from the airport. I was tired, and just wanted some space to breathe, but I was being jostled and whatnot from the sheer amount of people in the streets. Don’t get me wrong, Hong Kong is an amazing place, and after a good night’s sleep I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I still felt really really claustrophobic the entire time. I’m just not meant for big cities.
25. One Giant Environmental Catastrophe
New Delhi is by far the most depressing city I have ever been to. Dirty and chaotic, street animals just skin and bones, no traffic control whatsoever. It is so bad that I’ve seen ordinary citizens have to get out of their car and start directing traffic during hour-long traffic jams (literally your car not moving for an hour). Not to mention the numerous accidents you’ll witness the aftermath of. The streets are littered purposefully – quite the opposite of Singapore. There are no public bins and pretty much the norm is to tip rubbish on the ground. It wasn’t limited to New Delhi though. So many places in India felt like one giant environmental catastrophe. It is disheartening to drive on roads that are surrounded by wild jungles (the kind of roads where they have signs warning you of Elephants) and see trash trailing along either side of the road with no end in sight. People aren’t treated much better, unfortunately.
24. No Visitors Allowed
Oslo, Norway was terrible. The vibe you get from this place is that only Norwegians should be in Norway. It was [too] expensive, the food isn’t that great, the night life doesn’t exist unless you’re from Norway and the city is segregated worse than you’d believe.
23. The Worst Of Both Worlds
Fort McMurray, Alberta. Everything that sucks about a big city and everything that sucks about a small town rolled into one.
22. A Sad Reality
I’m in Managua, Nicaragua right now. It’s a mess. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1972 and large swaths of the city were never rebuilt, so there are ruins everywhere, and it doesn’t follow a logical layout. Rich neighborhoods lie beside some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the country, it makes no sense. It’s overwhelmingly sad.
That said, the rest of the country is beautiful. It’s a shame the [capital] city is in such disorder, too, because it’s in a beautiful location. Stupid earthquake.
21. Save The Children
I saw sick children wandering a field of garbage, eating whatever was edible from the multi-acre pile of waste.
I saw all manner of crippled children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly begging for the equivalent of $.20 on the streets to stay away from starvation. More than one cried when I gave them money.
I heard of my aunt’s friend whose life savings were stolen from her as she walked out of the bank (she was making a deposit on a flat). She was robbed at gunpoint, then chased the thieves for a mile down busy streets screaming and crying for someone to help her, as people made room for them to pass.
20. The Water Runs Black
Raxaul, Bihar, north-east India. Been there for more than a month working in a hospital. Electricity around 6 hours a day, rivers are black and contain more plastic than water, you weren’t allowed to visit anything on your own (including the surrounding villages) because they would kidnap or rob you with home-made weapons. Almost everybody lived in filth. Involuntary electrocutions coming into the hospital every day because everybody would just try to steal electricity with live wires hanging around everywhere. Every rain would flood the streets and the filth would come out of the rivers (there were no sewers). Nice people though. Except those that would threaten to attack our midwives or doctors because they claimed that their wife gave birth to a son, not a daughter, which happened several times in 5 weeks. You go over the border to Nepal, just 1 mile away, voilà, paradise (not compared to anything else, but Raxaul). Concrete streets, cars, nice shops (only replica though of course), GARBAGE DISPOSAL!
19. Breathing In Glass
Riverside, CA , little desert town with nothing to do, no future, and average temps of 100 plus, and so much pollution it’s like breathing in glass. Though I have been convinced that it is really a conspiracy to make global warming worse in order to make the town beach front property.
18. The True Gotham City
Ever read Batman comics? [Forget] New York, Hull is where Gotham is based on. Gothic churches everywhere, gargoyles and dark stone seemingly all around you, even in places you were sure looked completely different during the day. A graveyard not outside the city, but near is center. Turn from the main streets towards one of the alleyways and you’ll find yourself in claustrophobia. Insufficient street lighting, with imposing yellow color that lit a sickly, noir monochrome over cars, houses, the pavement and suspiciously frequent night passers by for a city which supposedly shuts down after 23:00.
When you returned to the day world, if you passed through certain streets, you’d see mug shots stamped on wooden poles, of girls who disappeared way too young, and of Eastern Balkan night clubs for “gentlemen” which you could never find if you tried.
17. Poor And Kind > Rich And Rude
Montenegro is a yacht car park for the rich and famous populated by the worlds best dressed sketchy people and ladies of the night. If you are not willing to pretend to be a millionaire stay out of this place, back packers will feel like vermin regardless of your personal wealth. I imagine if you are extremely wealthy and willing to give money to every person you meet you are able to have a good time and that is what I mean when I call them “ladies of the night”. They are only interested in your money not your well being.
16. Where Dreams Go To Die
Coatesville, PA. I was there about 10 years ago. It was the most depressing place I have ever been. There are a ton of abandoned row houses built to house workers in the factories during WWII. The city of Philadelphia, at some time in the past, sent a large population of welfare recipients to live there. When I was there, industry and economy were nowhere to be seen.
15. Outback Robbery
Just looking at cities from my country, I’d have to say Perth (AUS) is by far the worst. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is about 20% more expensive than the rest of Australia. Every second person you encounter is going to be rude and obnoxious, every other person is a miner in their ‘rest’ period so they’re going to be inebriated. The city looks like a war zone because it’s constantly being re-developed, and it’s also one of the most feral cities I’ve ever been in at night.
14. Be The Change You Want To See
Reading, PA: I can’t believe no one has said it yet. Highest poverty rate for a city in the US; it’s quite depressing to live there. I lived there for 4 years while attending college. You couldn’t pay me to move back…although there are people who are trying to change it, people I have met and known that I believe can make a difference. It just might take a while.
5 minutes in: BAM! Brick through the car window.
12. Impatience And Ignorance
El Paso. [Texas]
I saw an ambulance with lights on and siren blaring at an intersection. It had to wait until the light changed because traffic wouldn’t stop for it.
I’ve never seen anything like that happen anywhere else. (granted, small sample size, but still…)
11. Scam School
Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Everyone honks constantly with giant air horns while driving like madmen. It is hot, humid, and you’re body will be coated with filth by the end of a few hours.
I was lost, and had a man offer to show me to the museum, claiming that as a Buddhist, this would help him in the afterlife. Limping down the street, he said that it would be nice to take a cab. He told me a whole load of garbage about his daughter who collects stamps, and if I could only send her 1 it would be payment for this favor, yada yada. After 10 minutes, I felt suspicious and asked to stop the cab, and he put on a pathetic show of arguing with the driver, and then proceeded to ask me for 20$, when the fare couldn’t have been more than 1$. The most despicable part was the “argument” with the driver; it was obviously and badly staged. It took me days to work out the exact details of the scam. At the time I simply couldn’t believe it.
10. Penguins For Friends
Antarctica, man. The locals don’t know a word of English. All they do is swim and eat raw fish like savages.
Well I guess that makes sense, considering they’re penguins.
9. Paradise Lost
Rome, Italy, circa 1988. In the span of 15 minutes, I was robbed twice. After the second robbery, I decided “[Forget] Italy” and went back in the train station to hop whatever next train was going anywhere else. Was robbed one more time in the 15 minutes it took me to leave the city.
8. A Cold Island Of Isolation
Juneau, AK. This city isn’t scary in the normal way, it’s more sad. You can only leave by boat or airplane, as there are no roads out of town. If you’re poor in Juneau, you are literally stuck there forever. The Walmart they opened there has no drug testing policy because they couldn’t find a single person who could pass, because seriously, what else are you going to do there? I climbed this really tall staircase between two buildings and met an old man taking out his garbage. He spoke to me sadly about how nobody cares about exploring anything anymore. Half of the town is owned by cruise companies, who direct passengers to their stores specifically. The number one employer by far is the state government. I left town feeling like I had glimpsed something terrible, as if this was what it looked like when something wanted, needed to die but was forced to keep going by an arbitrary external force, in this case, the state government.
7. The Third World Truth
My worst experience was Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Violence, poverty, extreme crime, filth and an overall poor and sad city, because of foreign miners, and the people lack of ability to adapt. Disheartening to say the least!
6. First World Problems
I live near Houston, about an hour out, and I never, ever go there. I didn’t think it’s bad enough to make this list, though, because yeah it is in America and has all the basic infrastructure a lot of cities in Asia or the middle east probably lack. I mean, there are parts of it that are okay (Herman Park and the Museum area downtown, for example), but the rest of it is just concrete and poverty and crime. It’s ugly, hot (sooo hot), sticky humid, and dangerous. That’s all I have to say about it really.
Oh and also there’s all the refineries, chemical plants, and carcinogenic air, forgot to add that part.
5. The City Of Cliches
I lived in Basildon for about 9 months several years ago (I didn’t know what I was getting into; I’m from New Zealand and had just got a job with Ford and needed a place to live urgently) and saw basically every Essex stereotype confirmed.
The most accurate description I’ve heard of Basildon was “It’s England’s biggest council estate with a shopping center in the middle.”
4. Statistics Don’t Lie
Stocktonian here. I can confirm its crap. There’s been so much crime this year and it’s not even September. Recreational areas have gone out of business–the lots are now shopping/fast food areas. We have extremely cold, snowless winters, and 100+ F summers.
But we do have little oases here and there. You just have to really search for them.
3. Beauty And The Beast
Currently living and working in Mogadishu as a humanitarian worker. When I saw this thread, I thought “Well that’s an easy answer!” but thought it’d kinda be cheating to suggest it. That being said, I don’t know what to write that would be at all surprising to anyone. Main reasons to be listed #1 worst city: the city is in complete ruins, most neighbourhoods are controlled by militia, crimes are commonplace, multiple IED attacks a week, rampant police/military corruption, kidnappings of foreigners, sharia law, etc. Overall good times.
On the plus side, I’m pretty big fan of war history and some parts of the city are interesting…proof this place had once been quite beautiful!
2. The Cycle Continues
Nikel [Russia] [is] the place that has so much pollution that they wanted to start mining the soil for minerals that came down from the pollution
1. Same Old Same Old
I visited Kiev (Ukraine) earlier this year, and on the drive out from the airport you literally drive past miles of the exact same style buildings in the second photo, only much much taller. It was sort of scary and a bit disheartening to see that the majority of the population lives in these super cheap Soviet-era apartment buildings, especially in the capital city.