Tragic tales of unsuspecting tourists who fall victim to scams or — worse — serious crimes, make for sensational headlines. It happens commonly enough to dampen the enthusiasm of even the most dedicated travelers. Thankfully, cruise lines and global tourism boards know it’s in their best interests financially to keep their guests safe and happy. Still, you might want to give extra care and consideration if you’re planning to make these following destinations your next port of call.
These are the 15 most dangerous places in the world to take a cruise.
1. El Salvador
El Salvador’s natural beauty is hard to resist, but its dubious distinction of having one of the world’s highest murder rates is hard to ignore. If you’re committed to exploring here, take caution and do your research. This piece gives a good balance of the risks and rewards of the country.
2. Roatan, Honduras
Cruise fans, beware. The Honduran judicial system lacks sufficient resources to cope with the country’s high rate of violent crime and offers little deterrent to criminals. As such, Honduras has a high rate of murder and other violent crimes such as armed robbery and sexual assault. Avoiding remote areas and traveling after dark, and always book shore excursions with long-established, trusted operators. These are the most sensible steps you can take to minimize danger.
3. Mindanao, Philippines
In Mindanao and the surrounding area of the Sulu Sea, garden-variety dangers such as armed robbery are the least of anyone’s worries. Instead, terrorist and criminal operatives are thriving on a deadly game of kidnapping for ransom. While the stunning shores may be calling your name, think long and hard before planning a cruise that includes Mindanao and take your government’s most recent advisories into account.
4. Tunis, Tunisia
The city of Tunis combines of gorgeous architecture, charming streets, lovely shops, and delicious food. Unfortunately, recent terrorist activity has left an ugly scar on the city, even more so since cruise ship tourists have been targeted. At the Bardo National Museum, the “Louvre of Africa” bullet holes from terrorist attacks mar the priceless exhibits. If this is a destination you can’t resist, take heed of your government’s latest security advisory, avoid nighttime travel, and choose well-respected, long-established tour operators.
5. Margarita Island, Venezuela
Margarita Island would be a strong contender for the title of “World’s Most Beautiful Island”. Unfortunately, it is equally qualified as one of the most dangerous. The volatile Venezuelan economy, armed robberies and kidnappings that occur in broad daylight, and a government that’s complicit in most crimes means that there are few resources dedicated to protecting tourists. Staying safe here means keeping a low profile, attracting no attention — and staying far away from illicit drugs. That’s smart advice for all destinations, but especially so in Venezuela, where drug-related offences carry very harsh penalties.
6. St. Kitts and Nevis
While many travelers report having a wonderful time on these lovely islands, there is a significant wealth gap between the local residents and the comparatively flush tourists who flood the ports of call. As such, robberies aren’t unheard of and crimes of financial opportunity are a concern. If you decide to go and indulge in some of their delectable cocktails, keep your wits about you.
7. Izmit, Turkey
With terrorist attacks in nearby Istanbul and its position in an active earthquake zone, Izmit isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s “the closest place to the ISIS wars that extremists can reach by cruise ship — an opportunity of which they’re definitely taking advantage, especially since cruise ports are more lax about security than airports.” Yikes!
8. St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
For a destination that purports to be family-friendly, there’s a high rate of drug use, robbery, and murder in St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands. Their nearby counterparts, the British Virgin Islands, boast an extremely low crime rate by comparison, but there’s another danger to consider. The roads are poor quality, rocky and steep, with no real lighting at night. You’re required to drive on the left hand side of the road, just like in Great Britain. Best to leave driving here to the experts.
9. The Ivory Coast
A gateway to western Africa, travelers love the Ivory Coast for its proximity to amazing game drives and exceptional birdlife. However, terrorism is a concern here, and in 2016 Islamist gunmen fired on a popular tourist resort. The capital city and port of call, Abidjan, had the dubious distinction of being ranked 23rd on a 2016 list of the worst places to live in the world.
10. Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Sometimes the concept of what is or is not dangerous is a matter of personal opinion. But Port Harcourt, on the Gulf of Guinea, isn’t a destination that’s up for debate. The region’s been called the most dangerous maritime area in the world and an epicentre of maritime crime. Constant threats of piracy and terrorism make this a no-go destination for even the most adventurous of travelers.
11. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is an intoxicating city — and a perilous one as well. Pickpockets thrive on the city’s famous beaches (as do pollution and bacteria from raw sewage) and more aggressive thieves operate at night. Health threats from the Zika virus remain problematic, and the legendary party scene is marred by drugs slipped into drinks. Guides like this one can help you navigate Carnival safely.
12. Dhaka, Bangladesh
Say what you will about the criminal gangs of Dhaka, but you can’t deny that they’re organized. They coordinate their efforts to extort ship captains into buying safe passage through the Bay of Bengal. But when the negotiations don’t go smoothly and the authorities intervene, ships are caught in the crossfire of shootouts between gangs and the Coast Guard. Hundreds of fishermen die every year at the hands of marine criminals and tourists aren’t immune to the violence either.
13. Jakarta, Indonesia
Piracy thrives around the Indonesian capital, and troublemakers are equally problematic onshore. Popular tourist hotspots like Starbucks coffee shops have been targeted by terrorist attacks, and more run-of-the-mill problems like petty crime are common. In Jakarta’s hot nightclubs, it’s not unusual to hear of drinks being spiked and for the waiting unofficial taxis to double as the scenes of robberies and assaults.
14. Aden, Yemen
Safety and security have sharply deteriorated in recent years as Yemen finds itself the victim of a civil war and a U.S.-backed Saudi intervention in that civil war. The death toll is catastrophic. Aden, a once beautiful port with a great coffee scene, is suffering. Somali pirates like to hang out here, and there was a terrorist attack at the airport in 2016. If your cruise itinerary includes a “Red Sea tour”, Aden may well be your stop and you might want to think twice.
15. Venice, Italy
Aside from the usual worries, like pickpockets and stumbling on a cobblestone, Venice is the furthest thing from a dangerous cruise destination. But it’s deserving of a spot in this list because there is danger here. Only this time it’s the destination that’s in danger, not the visitors! In recent years, tourism in Venice has exceeded the city’s capacity to sustain itself in a way that’s protective of its history, architecture, and Venetians themselves. And cruise day trippers are a significant part of the congestion. If you do visit — and it’s hard not to feel the call of this gorgeous city — choose a shore excursion provider that’s committed to sustainability. You’ll be helping to preserve the city for subsequent cruise passengers AND your choice will take you away from the hordes that line Rialto Bridge. That’s a winning combination!
Interested in reading more about the damage tourism is going to the floating city? Read Why Future Generations May Not See Venice.