As part of the Planet Deadly travel guide I’ve compiled a list of countries for the more adventurous amongst you. As virtually every country on this list is somewhere hot and sunny you can pack your trunks and a flowery shirt. You might also want to back a bullet proof vest as these countries all have a rich and varied culture of killing each other. In every one of these countries murder appears to be the national sport. Merely stepping off the plane is playing Russian roulette.
There is an abundance of sources for dangerous countries including the United Nations list of most murders per head and various government travel advisories. I’ve decided to mix these up and throw in a bit of anecdotal evidence to compile this list of countries you may not want to put on your bucket list.
I have to admit the idea of sipping a pina colada on the shores of some palm fringed beach in Acapulco has its appeals. And for many that is what Mexico is all about. But stray from the well beaten tourist track and a whole array of horrible fates await you! Violent crime organised by the infamous drug cartels is so serious in some areas of Mexico that they had to call the army in – and even that hasn’t helped. Most notorious of all the cartels is Los Zetas whose list of crimes is brutal beyond belief. Victims were often decapitated, hearts cut out and leader Miguel Treviño Morales reputedly had a penchant for cooking victims in oil drums.
If 100,000 drug related deaths wasn’t enough there is run of the mill violent crime too. Kidnapping, robbery and corrupt police are par for the course.
In case that hasn’t put you off there is also some risk from natural disasters. Devastating earthquakes are not unheard of and Mexico has a hurricane season. Oh and did I mention they have some active volcanoes too!
Yes, Greenland! Despite being one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth this North European country tops the international death rates list. These figures aren’t down to rogue polar bear attacks or the bitterly cold winters but are a weighted rank based on murder and suicide rates. Not only do those Greenlanders hate each other, they hate themselves. The murder rate in Greenland higher than most African nations and around 20 times that of most other European countries. The suicide rate is off the scale, nearly double that of its nearest rival. If these statistics are to believed then more than every thousandth Greenlander kills themselves. For a country with a population of just 65, 000 this must be a real worry.
With no travel advisories from any of the usual government agencies it may be that these alarming figures shouldn’t concern visitors. However, anyone wishing to stay long term should probably have a sunny disposition.
8. South Africa
South Africa is often held up as the shining example of an African country with a place at the international top table. Unfortunately nowhere in Africa is safe. Serious crime in South Africa is at epidemic levels. According to the various governmental travel advisories violent crime such as rape and murder are routine and foreigners are fair game. Muggings, armed assaults and theft are also commonplace and tourist areas are targeted.
However, rape aside, South Africa’s speciality is carjacking. This is the country where they made a flame thrower system you could fit to your car so at the push of a button anyone standing next to your car would get toasted.
In addition to the risks above there are the usual health risks associated with sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, so in official speak “exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection”. Other unpleasant diseases include cholera, malaria, typhoid, hepatitis, rabies and the ever popular Rift Valley Fever.
I know I need to get with the times and refer to both Sudan and South Sudan but frankly there isn’t much point. They are both pretty hairy places that most people probably shouldn’t and wouldn’t visit. The general consensus amongst government travel advisories is – If you are in either Sudan then leave. If you are not the do not go.
The fact that there are two Sudans now makes little difference; originally the united Sudan was full of christians and muslims who wanted to kill each other. Now there is a border between them so they can have a proper war.
On top of that there are plenty of other tribal and ethnic groups within both countries who are quite happy to kill each other. Whilst they may not hate you personally it probably isn’t the safest scenario.
As a foreigner you will also be a potential target for both terrorists and thieves, or if you are really unlucky both.
Consistently topping the murder rates for South America is Colombia, and that’s after the police have manipulated the figures so as not to affect the holiday trade. Renowned for coffee and cocaine it appears that much of the country’s troubles stem from the latter.
OK, so lots of countries have great murder rates. Where Colombia really excels is in kidnappings, it is the kidnap capital of the world. The practice has a rich heritage going back to the 1970s and is favoured by everyone from drugs cartels to guerrilla movements and even disgruntled coffee roasters (sorry, I made that one up). Back in 2000 kidnapping was all the rage and there were a reported 3,752 cases. Admittedly, things have improved slightly on this front, but hey, there’s still the homicide rate – you are 30 times more likely to get murdered in Colombia than in practically any Western country (well, except the USA).
In addition to the pointless violent crime there are also a number of armed guerrilla groups such as the FARC, ELN, EPL, MAQL and M-19. I don’t know what any of those letters stand for but they have waged a low level war throughout rural Colombia for over 40 years.