So maybe you’ve watched Narcos, the TV show that revolves around the life of Colombia’s former drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar, or watched a movie filmed in the favelas of Rio de Janerio. Or perhaps you’ve just watched an odd news report or two about the illegal animal trafficking in southeast Asian countries. But otherwise, when you hear about these countries, it’s almost never about the illegal activities. In fact, plenty of people probably imagine them to be great scenic locations, perfect for a vacation. But are they really?
Some of these places are safe enough to blow off some steam after a long and tiring spell of working at the office. What better place than a great tropical climate and more beaches than you can count? That doesn’t mean that they’re completely safe though. You’d be surprised at how dangerous some of these breathtaking locations actually are.
Today, we explore 25 such locations that are not only known for their illicit activities but are also popular travel destinations. We’ve put together this list in no particular order besides how well-known – or not – the places themselves are.
The Great Wall of China? The Forbidden Desert? China basically does not lack anything in terms of geography.
It is home to desert, lakes, grasslands, mountains and rivers and in contrast to those, the cultural and modern attraction of China adds to the appeal of the country. You can spend a lifetime before you see it all.
But China is also home to the Triads, a collection of many different criminal organizations that also operate in other southeast Asian countries.
They are famed for organized murder, drug trafficking, and counterfeiting, with some members scattered around major cities in the US.
The Russian Mafia is sometimes referred to as the most dangerous in the world, with their influence ranging far and wide around the world.
They are allies with the Serbian and Mexican mafias too, among others. Their list of activities includes money laundering, contract killing, gambling, and theft.
Despite that, Russia ranked in the top 10 most visited countries worldwide and is home to 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with many more in the process of being labelled as one.
Lake Baikal is probably the most well known natural formation in Russia, being the oldest and deepest lake in the world.
Colombia is the first Latin American nation on this list and for good reason! For quite a few decades now, Colombia has been home to many drug cartels that have settled themselves in every nook and corner of the country.
Even after the death of the drug lord Pablo Escobar, various drug cartels continue to operate to this day, with some smuggling well into the United States.
Colombia, though, is very popular for its natural beauty and splendor. Beaches, like along San Andrés and Tayrona National Natural Park are great if you want to run away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.
You could also choose one of these exotic places for you honeymoon, as Colombia is pretty much a dream come true for someone who loves a tropical environment mixed with beaches.
Kenya is home to many exotic wildlife creatures, including African elephants, buffaloes, cheetahs, giraffes and Masai ostriches. Naturally, this means that plenty of tourists flock to the National Parks and Sanctuaries in Kenya for Wildlife sightseeing every year.
What most people don’t know is that Kenya is also home to the Mungiki, who are a rather frightening group.
They are a part religious, part terrorist organization and have been banned for several years now. But despite that, they continue to operate.
They reject Western culture and take extreme measures to maintain their control in the slums of Kenya, where they operate out of.
Favelas are the what the slums in Brazil are called. They take up a surprisingly large amount of area, even in major cities like Rio De Janeiro.
The favelas are primarily responsible for the high crime rates in Brazil, with them responsible for everything illegal, from murder to huge drug and fraud rackets.
Most of these activities are either unnoticed by the Brazilian government or cannot be stopped. Many attempts have been made to get rid of the illegal activities that go on inside these favelas but they have all failed to an extent.
On the other hand, Brazil has some of the best natural landscapes in all of Latin America.
Not only does it have the privilege of white, sandy beaches, it also features the world’s largest tropical rainforest. The Amazon rainforest brings in several tourists around the year and is responsible a massive boost to the revenue that Brazil brings in through tourism.
Crime in Venezuela has been on the rise, with the reports of murder and kidnapping increasing almost every single year.
The region has the second highest murder rate in the world. Road bandits are also common in this country. They target expensive looking cars and pedestrians and either carjack or steal personal belongings.
This place isn’t exactly well-known for safety, so someone visiting would definitely be very brave to do so!
Venezuela is known for the richness of its flora and fauna and has everything from the snowy peak of Bolívar to the desert dunes of Médanos de Coro.
It is therefore very attractive for foreigners looking for a getaway but it is definitely not the safest place to be.
Italy is home to the Sicilian Mafia, that operate out of – you guessed it – Sicily in Italy. They routinely engage in drug trafficking, fencing, robbery and illegal gambling. They’ve been around since the 19th century and have spread far and wide around the world.
Fun fact: The word ‘mafia’ originated in Italy.
The colosseum in Rome and the canals in Venice are what Italy is known for. The culture, cuisine, and architecture are only some of the marvels that this place has to offer. It is the fifth most visited country in the world, after all.
18. Japan (Kyushu Islands and Tokyo)
Japan is home to some of the most beautiful royal palaces, national parks and volcanoes and draws a lot of tourists from around the world every single year.
Anybody who has watched the movie Kill Bill will immediately recognize the Yakuza. They’re one the largest syndicates in the world and have been around in Japan since the 17th century.
They are known for human trafficking, arms and drug trafficking among other things.
Since the Yakuza don’t believe in theft, they generally go after things that don’t affect the local people and keep their activities separate.
They’re even known to offer aid in times of national distress, such as trucks filled with supplies after 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
France has always been called a romantic destination, in movies as well as in real life.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the stunning seaside resorts are only some of the most beautiful places. Paris is often called the ‘city of love’ and France regularly gets called a ‘love destination’.
Petty crime and theft are among the biggest threats to foreigners in the country. Pickpockets are generally children under the age of 16 because they can get away with it easily. Violent crimes are pretty much non-existent here but the constant thievery is a growing concern.
As with any country in the Caribbean, one would expect a cruise to a place with pristine beaches and excellent nightlife. Jamaica doesn’t disappoint one bit in either of those.
Jamaica is also the birthplace of Reggae Music and has a rich history. The museum of the legendary singer, Bob Marley, also brings in plenty of visitors and admirers by itself.
Jamaica isn’t exactly the safest of places to visit though. It has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world and petty theft is common. Gang violence is also kind of a problem in some areas.
It definitely doesn’t help that the local police are largely unprepared and cannot prevent these things from happening altogether. Plenty of areas in Montego Bay and Kingston are not safe for a foreigner to venture into.
The crime rate in Ukraine has increased in recent times, especially because of the war and economic decline.
This has led to a rise in the arms trafficking into the country. Because of this unregulated supply of illegal weapons into the country, obtaining one is easier which means you should stay safe if you’re visiting!
Soviet memorials and Orthodox churches are the main selling points that drive tourists to Ukraine in droves. You can find monasteries, tomb relics, pilgrimage sites and a whole lot more cultural attractions. It also has a booming festival culture and nightlife.
Sweden is particularly known for its medieval style old towns and canals. Most people visit this place for its historical and cultural significance.
The countryside is quaint and the art, literature and music are popular tourist attractions. The country attracts people from other European countries such as Denmark, Finland and Germany
Sweden has the highest number of reported rapes in the world and is often called the “rape capital of the world.”
Because of this, the crime rate of the country has skyrocketed. Assault and sex-related crimes are surprisingly large in number.
Argentina suffers from rampant corruption, murder and domestic violence. According to a New York Times article, “payoffs, kickbacks and government corruption are considered part of everyday life.”
Because of this, the economy of the nation has suffered immensely. Drug trafficking is another problem that the country has to deal with on a fairly routine basis.
Argentina has a rich and diverse culture, including the traditional tango dance and music. You can also find some of the most beautiful landscapes in the natural attractions here. The city of Buenos Aires is also very popular, especially for its unique cuisine and great nightlife.
12. South Africa
A very high rate of murders and sexual assault can be found in this country. While the murder rate has gone down since the early 1990s, it is still prominent. Kidnapping and car hijackings are also very common.
Violence is so common, in fact, that it has become kind of normal in the eyes of the natives. Naturally, this means that the rate of violence does not decrease.
The Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill are by far the most popular locations in the country. You can also enjoy the wildlife safaris and the unique geography that this region is famous for.
Iran is another country that has it all, from hiking and skiing to enjoying some sun on the beach by the Persian Gulf. It is also visited by pilgrims, who come to pay homage to the several holy sites scattered across throughout the area.
The nation, however, has a huge drug problem. Smuggling of drugs through the Iranian borders have been a major nightmare for the authorities. A large number of people are addicted to Opium, which is smuggled from Afghanistan through the borders.
The government combats this with the death penalty, which has led to the country having the second highest execution rate in the world!
Turkey has been in the news over the past few years for various things, including the 2016 Turkish coup attempt. The crime rate in Turkey since 2014 has gone up by a whopping 400%, a change that is definitely somewhat difficult to digest.
Honor killing, murder, drug smuggling and other outbreaks of violence are only some of the many dangerous activities that go on in the country. There has been a decline in the number of visitors because of the increase in internal unrest and political tension.
Most of the tourism in this country is focused on a few different areas. Istanbul, famous worldwide for its mosques, attracts the most number of tourists. The Ölüdeniz Beach is also a popular attraction.
Mexico shares a border with the United States. Drug trafficking is probably the nation’s biggest problem, as almost all major narcotics flow in and out of the country’s border every single day.
Mexico has the reputation of being the most unsafe country for journalists, according to the Global Criminality Index. Drug smuggling, corruption and violence are some of the issues that the country faces.
The tourism sector is not very affected by these activities though. It continues to be a major source of income for the nation. It is among the most visited countries, especially from the US and Canada.
Historical ruins and monuments and natural reserves make this country a popular destination for tourists.
The revenue earned by smuggling cannabis is the highest in Spain as compared to any other country.
Chinese crime syndicates are also known to live here, investing in the real estate market to sell counterfeit products. The government has attempted to seize their properties in the past, however the practice continues to this day.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Spanish tourism industry flourishes. Barcelona and Madrid alone draw several international visitors with their unique architecture and art museums. Fans from all around Europe and the world visit the country to watch the Spanish football league every year.
Almost anyone with an email account knows of the Nigerian scams that have plagued the internet for close to two decades now.
Usually, they offer to transfer a huge amount of money. But you have to send a small amount of money to them first. Naturally, they never respond after receiving the money.
People visit the country to get a feel of the ethnic diversity of the region as well as visit the several national parks that shelter a wide variety of wildlife unique to the region. The infrastructure of this nation is lacking though, without any guarantee for proper roads, water or electricity.
6. The Netherlands
While no large mafia occupies the Netherlands, smaller criminal groups do. They routinely engage in human trafficking, money laundering, tax evasion and financial scams. Mafias from around the world also operate in this country, ensuring the transport of their smuggled goods through the ports.
The Netherlands is most famous for its modern architecture and country life. The canals of Amsterdam, the flat landscapes of tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes make this one of the most popular European locations.
Anne Frank, who famously wrote her diary during World War II lived here. Her house was converted into a museum, which you can visit.
Libya was hit by The Libyan Civil War of 2011, which went on for just over 8 months. The effects of the aftermath of this event still exist to this day.
The Libyan government stopped issuing tourist visas a few years ago and all Western countries discourage their citizens from travelling to the country.
A large number of Greek and Roman architectural marvels can be found here and Tripoli houses several world famous mosques. Because of this, the main attraction for visitors and tourists to the country is the culture. With the state of the country though, it is one of the riskiest places on this list.
India has as much of a varied geography as its history. From the peaks of the Himalayas to the desert plains of the Rajasthan desert, no other country matches India’s diversity.
The Indian tourism department offers a special train for tourists, called the Palace on Wheels, that has become very popular in recent times. It’s an 8 day tour in a luxurious train that captures this culture in a unique experience.
India’s capital, New Delhi, has the highest reports of sexual assault in the country. Because of this, a lot of people question a woman’s safety and tend to stay away. Illegal drug trade, corruption and cyber related crimes are also huge issues that India suffers from.
You should also be careful of taxi scams and pickpocketing. They tend to be most common in areas with a lot of foreigners.
Indonesia, being another group of islands on this list, has beaches that are famous for surfing and diving and volcanoes that reveal some breathtaking geography. You can also find Hindu temples, colonial architecture and other cultural landmarks here.
Chain snatching, petty theft, taxi scams and piracy are only a few of the rackets that happen in Indonesia. Tourists and foreigners are the primary victims of these crimes.
The authorities in the country have not been successful in eliminating these security risks. The police force is known to be excessively brutal at times, which has led to even more violence and unrest among the criminal factions of society.
Honduras is another country in Latin America and is often called the murder capital of the world. With over a 100 homicides per 100,000 people, it is definitely the most dangerous country on this list. Gang wars are usually the root cause for the violence and no attempts to stop this has been successful yet.
You can find coral reefs and thousands of flora and fauna in this country. There are also thousands of plant species and hundreds of bird and mammal species in the many national parks that you can visit.
Guatemala is the country with the greatest number of murders every year. A powerful criminal cartel is said to be responsible for this and is the result of several activities such as drug and human trafficking, arms smuggling and kidnapping for ransom.
Tourism is one of the main drivers of the economy. The Ipala Volcano and Atitlán Lake are some of the most popular destinations and the views are simply breathtaking.
All the countries on this list are greatly popular holiday destinations. Millions of people visit them every single year.
What we’re saying is that now that you’re armed with this knowledge, if you are visiting any of these locations, you should be careful! Nobody wants to be robbed, much less harmed.
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