Travellers share their most dangerous travel destinations and what they were really like
I just love Instagram. Nothing can send me off dreaming quicker than my one-minute fix of scrolling through my newsfeed. You can see the most amazing places on Instagram: the well-known touristy spots, the backpacker destinations, the off-the-beaten-path corners of this world.
Recently, a lot of pictures of places like Iran and Iraq popped up in my newsfeed and I couldn’t help but wonder how these gorgeous countries with their stunning architecture and beautiful people could be so off my radar? Oh right, because there is a war going on. Or maybe just a conflict. Or some form of local terrorism. Who knows these days?
Anyway, for me visiting places like the Middle East, South and Central America and even Africa are off-limits. I am afraid something bad might happen to me, either inflicted by people or by the forces of nature. Do you feel the same anxiety?
But then, is it really so dangerous to travel to these destinations? Maybe my perception from the outside, formed by news images and the mainstream media, might not even be close to the real thing? At least this is what my Instagram buddies from the Middle East were trying to tell me.
So I reached out to my fellow travellers, and I asked them: What was the most dangerous place you ever visited, and what was it really like? Read here their astonishing answers about places like El Salvador, Haiti and the Ukraine.
Have you been to any dangerous destination? Let me know in the comments!
The Roaming Renegrades: Ukraine
We have never been ones to be swayed by the media and when we got the opportunity to visit Ukraine in the middle of what was an intense period of fighting we never thought twice. According to the media the whole country was a no go war zone with bombs going off on every street corner and fire fights in every city.
However Ukraine is a large and diverse country with only a small portion of it engaged in conflict and much of it having pro-European leanings. The border crossing may have taken a tense 3 hours and our passports taken away at gunpoint but the reality past the border was a fascinating country most will never get to see. From the old fashioned shanty towns of the densely forested rural areas to the archaic grandeur of the city of Lviv with its mixture of soviet and Polish architecture.
We were met by a mixture of confusion and pride in our visit to this often misunderstood country, the lack of English spoken here did not deter the locals from showing us how much they support and independent and European Ukraine. Visiting a country like this is a breath of fresh air from the tourist filled cities of Western Europe, Ukraine is honest and authentic and insanely cheap. We plan on returning this year and heading over the Kiev too.
Two Scots Abroad: Glasgow
UK’s most violent city, the murder capital of Western Europe.
Don’t believe these headlines and reports, dig deeper and you’ll find that Scotland’s City of Style has now shaken loose from its shackles of this stereotype with homicide rates being reduced by two thirds as well as being nominated one of twenty topBest of the Worlddestinations (2016) by National Geographic.
Naturally, like every big city there is inequality in Glasgow and neighbourhoods I wouldn’t advise stumbling into a 1am on a Saturday morning! A smart teenager once pinched my bottom and retrieved a £10 I had just withdrawn from the bank and I was burgled whilst in my own home during my student days but that’s the risk you take living in the city.
Glasgow has now been awarded Rough Guide’s friendliest city in the world, so what are you waiting for? The city’s tagline is People Make Glasgow, want a local’s perspective? Click here!
The Traveller’s Guide by #ljojlo: Bali
Bali, that infamous island in Indonesia that is every parent’s nightmare. I kid you not it is the place my mother always hassles me about and continually asks me not to go to. I always value my mother’s opinion but that hasn’t stopped me visiting 6 times in just over two years. So I bet your asking why does my mum worry about Bali?
With its exquisite temples, sandy beaches, picturesque rice terraces and kind, friendly people, Bali is incredible! Unfortunately though it has a dark side. The 2002 Bali bombings saw one of Bali’s main tourist strips devastated. It hit Bali’s tourism hard because it scared Australians. Being an Australian myself Bali is an affordable dream destination for so many Aussies due to its close proximity but with its ever-increasing terrorist threats people are abandoning this tiny island. Not to mention the ethanol poisonings and drug culture, Bali can certainly be dangerous.
In saying that I have never felt unsafe in Bali, touch wood, and if you keep your wits about you it really is a beautiful place to visit.
A Luxury Travel Blog: Greenland
It’s not a war zone, nor an area of high crime, and about as far from a terrorist target as you can get, but my time in Greenland was possibly my most dangerous travel experience to date.
I was working on a glacier about 20 kilometres from the town of Kangerlussuaq in West Greenland, just above the Arctic Circle, and much of my work was done in a meltwater channel beneath the glacier or at the glacier margin. The speck you see in the top right of the photograph is me waving from the top of the glacier.
With the sun beating down on the ice for much of the day, the glacier was far from stable and this was brought home to me on just my first day of working on the glacier. We were sitting at our camp, a few hundred metres from the ice, when suddenly we heard some loud creaking and a huge crash. Blocks of ice the sizes of buses lay strewn across the ground where we had been walking just hours earlier.
Where is Sharon Family Travel Blog: Haiti
At the start 2014 I contemplated going to Haiti. Back then the 2010 and 2012 earthquakes were still relatively recent events. Travel advisories depicted a country of rubble slowly rebuilding, with roaming gangs of desperate criminals stealing whatever wasn’t nailed down. Even today Haiti is still the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and travel advisories carry lots of warnings and recommend a “high degree of caution”.
We were staying in the Dominican Republic and with Haiti so close I weighed up the risks. Although there wasn’t a lot of traveler reports on the internet virtually all people who visited reported no problems beyond the typical issues of travelling in a developing country. Most issues seemed to be in Port au Prince but I didn’t want to go there anyway. I decided that the risks had been blown out of proportion so I went.
I travelled to Cap Hatien in the north of Haiti and everything was fine. The north had escaped the effects of the big earthquakes. There was no signs of out of control criminal activities although there was a large, armed, UN presence all around.
No one tried to pick my pockets or run any sort of old-school travel scam or do anything to rip me off at all. Indeed, people went to lengths to make sure I understood prices and received the right change. People were friendly but reserved and just curious and I left Haiti very glad I went and wondering what all the fuss was about.
Jon is Travelling: El Salvador
El Salvador always seems to pop up on those “most dangerous countries in the world” lists, but unless you’re an aspiring gangster or intent on buying drugs on dodgy street corners, you’re probably unlikely to encounter the menacing side of the country.
I travelled on local transport throughout the country and met so many genuinely friendly and helpful locals and zero gun toting hit men. I did take precautions though — everyone said not to walk the streets after dark and I took that advice seriously. I also had a couple of police escorts to tourist attractions — the first was to the top of a volcano and the second was to a (waterless) waterfall.
There is enough information around these days about dangerous areas, and locals will give you their tips for staying safe if you ask them, which makes El Salvador a lot less scary than it may seem at first. If you’re travelling through Central America I’d highly recommend stopping off in El Salvador – you’ll be surprised by the country’s natural beauty and the warmth of the locals (unless of course, you get murdered, which is a possibility wherever you travel!).
Made all the Difference: Kenya
It never crossed my mind that going to Kenya might be dangerous. I booked my trip based on the cheap flight and last minute safari. It wasn’t until I was talking to a friend who mentioned the 2013 Westgate Mall terror attack that I even considered it. I just shrugged off the concerns. It’s Kenya not the somewhere in the Middle East. Isolated attacks can occur anywhere. It wasn’t until I after Paris attacks did I really discover how much terrorism affects Kenya. Kenya shares a border with Somali. Most American have heard of Somali due to a certain captain ignoring warnings and getting kidnapped by some pirates. The pirates a just a small issue facing this region of east Africa. The bigger and more active threat is Al-Shabaab branch of Al-Qaeda. I barely remember any news coverage of it. It wasn’t until after the 2015 Paris attack did I learn that in April 2015 One hundred and forty-seven people were killed in a single Al-Shabaab attack. 147 deaths in Kenya barely made the mainstream media in the United States. I compared my new knowledge with the country I experienced.
I spent two days in Nairobi visiting several tourist attractions and wandering around the city. At no point did I feel threaten or unsafe. The people were friendly and happy to give directions. The other Kenyans I meet on my safari were the same. I never felt like I need to by on my guard for a terrorist threat.