Traveling globally can be one of the most rewarding experiences. When you leave your home and head to a new country or city, you have the opportunity to enjoy new cultures, interesting sites, and unique foods. However, not all places in this world are safe for visitors.
Unfortunately, some of the most beautiful locations around the world are also some of the most dangerous. The danger in these places is usually the result of corrupt governments or high crime rates due to the presence of dangerous gangs, cartels or militant groups.
Before you start planning your trip, you should make sure that you are not heading to one of these dangerous cities. In this article, I will take a quick look at the 25 most dangerous cities in the world. You may be shocked at some of the locations as they may be popular travel destinations.
The Top 25 Most Dangerous Cities in The World
In this list, I will be revealing the 25 most dangerous cities in the world. While there may be safe areas or neighborhoods in many of these cities, they are locations that many government agencies recommend that you avoid altogether in your travels.
You will note that Mexico has a high number of cities on this list. In recent years, many parts of Mexico have become controlled by drug cartels. These groups are highly dangerous and indiscriminate in their violence against innocent people. It is best to avoid parts of Mexico that are not tourist locations, as the best way to remain safe.
To compile this list, we relied on the 50 Most Dangerous Cities as reported by the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, the Global Peace Index, and information from news reports and studies by universities.
1. Celaya, Mexico
Of all of the places on this list, this city in Mexico has the highest violent crime rate and murder rate globally. With just under 625,000 residents, Celaya, Mexico in 2022 experienced 109 murders per 100,000 people. The violence in this city is the result of two competing drug cartels. Unfortunately, their violence spills over to the community and many of the individuals killed in this drug-related violence are innocent citizens.
2. Tijuana, Mexico
American tourists to southern California often make the trek across the border to Tijuana. Once a fun place to party, this city in the last few years has unfortunately become one of the most dangerous cities in the world. With a homicide rate in 2022 of 105 murders per 100,000 people, along with drug cartel activity and an alarming rate of human trafficking and kidnapping, Tijuana is no longer a safe place for tourists to party for cheap.
3. Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
Located on the border between Texas and Mexico, just across from El Paso, Ciudad Juárez (or just Juarez) is one of the most populous cities in northern Mexico. It is also the third most dangerous city in the world. Like many Mexican cities on this list, violence in the city is largely attributed to turf wars between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels.
Juarez was once a favorite spot for El Paso residents due to many nightclubs, bars, and inexpensive souvenirs. With the violence, tourism has dropped off, exacerbating the crime issues that often accompany poverty. In 2022, the city saw a homicide rate of 103 murders per 100,000 residents.
4. Ciudad Obregón, Mexico
If you step into Ciudad Obregon, you may notice that it is a beautiful city, surrounded by beautiful views. However, below the surface, this city is considered to be one of the hubs for drug and human trafficking in Mexico.
In this moderately sized city of just over 300,000 people, there are 101 homicides per 100,000 people. Combine this with other violent crimes like kidnapping and carjacking, and this is not a place for tourists to visit.
5. Irapuato, Mexico
Located in the state of Guanajuato, Irapuato is a mid-sized city that is the hub of the Mexican automotive industry. With approximately 470,000 residents this industrial city experienced 95 homicides per 100,000 people in 2022. Most of the violence is attributed to conflicts between three drug cartels operating in the area.
One of the most alarming violent trends occurring in Irapuato is random, mass shootings. There have been numerous reports of groups of armed men shooting randomly at individuals in bars, restaurants, and other public places.
6. Ensenada, Mexico
As the third largest city in Baja California and a popular beach destination, it is surprising that this coastal city is on the list of the most dangerous places in the world. However, like most of the other Mexican cities on this list, Ensenada is plagued with violence. In 2022 the city experienced 90.5 homicides per 100,000 people.
Along with murder, the city also sees a high rate of burglary, carjacking, and kidnapping. Most crime in the city is attributed to three rival drug cartels that operate in the area.
7. St Louis, United States of America
We come to our first city on the list which is not in Mexico. Located almost directly in the center of the United States and near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, St. Louis is a popular travel location and a thriving industrial and commercial city. However, it also has one of the highest violent crime rates in the world. In 2022 the city saw 88 homicides per 100,000 people.
St. Louis also has the highest drug usage rate in the United States. It is important to note that it is not the entire city that is dangerous. Most of the violent crime in St. Louis occurs in a small section of the northern part of the city. Travelers who are mindful can safely enjoy St. Louis.
Suggested Reading: The 25 Most Dangerous Cities In America
8. Uruapan, Mexico
We come back again to Mexico for the eighth most dangerous city in the world. Uruapan is located in a lush, mountainous region of Mexico. Surrounding the city are beautiful mountains and green forests. However, this beautiful landscape is overshadowed by the violent crime rate in Uruapan.
This city saw 72.5 homicides per 100,000 people. Most of the violent crime in Uruapan is attributed to two drug cartels that are fighting for control over cocaine and fentanyl trafficking operations.
9. Feira de Santana, Brazil
We move into South America for our 9th most dangerous city in the world, and the most dangerous city in Brazil. Fiera de Santana is home to 619,606 residents. In 2022, 67.5 per 100,000 of Feira de Santana residents were victims of homicide. Homicide is not the only problem in Feira de Santana. This city also has very high rates of assault, robbery, and theft scams.
10. Cape Town, South Africa
We move to a new continent for the 10th most dangerous city in the world. Cape Town, South Africa has always had a reputation for being unsettled. The city was the center of the race riots that divided the country for many years.
While the violence associated with riots and civil rights has calmed, the city is now seeing an increase in violent crime due to gang activity. There are over 100 different gangs operating in the city, and by some estimates, more than 100,000 residents are gang members. Due to gang conflict in Cape Town, the city experienced 64 homicides per 100,000 people in 2022.
Cape Town, like St. Louis, only has pockets where violence is prevalent. There are some parts of Cape Town that are quite safe for visitors and potential residents.
11. Fortaleza, Brazil
Fortaleza, Brazil is a beautiful oceanside resort town. Like many cities in Brazil, Fortaleza has a striking disparity between the rich and the poor. This city of just under 4 million people has a high rate of poverty, police corruption and lots of gang activity.
Gang activity is the primary cause of the 62 homicides per 100,000 residents of this city. Visitors to Fortaleza can safely enjoy the city from the tourist areas along the beach. Most of the violent crime in the city occurs in the city’s slums.
12. Mossoró, Brazil
In 2022, Mossoro, Brazil ranked as the 11th most dangerous city in the world. This growing city with just over 300,000 residents experienced 62.2 homicides per 100,000 people. However, it is not just homicide that makes this city dangerous to visitors. The city has a high rate of poverty, gangs, and a less-than-effective police force. Crimes like assault and armed robbery are common in Mossoro, making this city particularly unsafe for visitors.
13. Zacatecas, Mexico
If you are into the adventure travel scene, Zacatecas, Mexico is probably a place you have heard a lot about. This city is popular with tourists looking for an untraditional vacation experience. However, the city also happens to be one of the most dangerous places in the world.
Like many other Mexican cities, the violent crime in Zacatecas is directly related to the presence of organized crime and drug cartels. Besides the 59 homicides per 100,000 people in Zacatecas, the city also has a high rate of kidnappings and mass shootings.
14. Baltimore, United States of America
We come back to the United States as the 14th most dangerous city in the world. Baltimore, Maryland is located on the east coast of the US, near Washington DC. This community has a longstanding conflict between the police and the poorer residents.
While there are safe parts of Baltimore, several neighborhoods have particularly high crime rates and should be avoided. In 2022, this city of a half million people had 56.5 homicides per 100,000 people.
15. Kingston, Jamaica
Kingston, Jamaica has a longstanding reputation as a city that is popular with tourists, but really is not a safe place to visit. Combine drug trafficking, gangs, and a high rate of poverty, and you have the ideal conditions for violence. In 2022, the violence and crime became so bad that the government declared a state of emergency in December of 2022. This city of 1.1 million people had 54.5 homicides per 100,000 people.
16. Acapulco, Mexico
In the 1970s and 1980s Acapulco was the hottest vacation spot in Mexico. It boasted luxury resorts, high-end restaurants, and world-famous cliff divers. Today, however, it is a shadow of what it once was. Over the last 10 years or so, Acapulco has become a very dangerous place. In 2022, the city noted 54 homicides per 100,000 people.
Most of these deaths were the result of conflicts between the numerous rival drug cartels that operate in the city. In addition to homicide, the city is known to be a hub for human trafficking. The resort areas are still relatively safe, but venturing out of your resort can be an unwise decision.
17. Caracas, Venezuela
Often, capital cities of countries are plagued with crime. But the most dangerous capital city in the World is Caracas, Venezuela. Many years of political and economic unrest have created unstable and violent conditions in Caracas.
With corrupt law enforcement gangs and organized crime groups are able to control many areas in the city, and fighting between these groups is the primary source of violent crimes in the city. During 2022 there were 1,414 homicides in Caracas for a rating of 52.8 per 100,000 people.
18. Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil
Located in the southwestern portion of Bahai, Vitoria da Conquista, is known as one of the most culturally diverse cities in Brazil. The city is home to immigrants from all around the world, local indigenous groups, a variety of religions and cultural groups.
However, this cultural diversity does not make it a safe place to visit. In fact, this city is the 18th most dangerous in the world. The city, in 2022, had 52.5 homicides per 100,000 people. Most of the crime in Vitoria da Conquista is due to conflicts between police and the numerous organized crime groups operating in the city.
19. New Orleans, United States of America
Though New Orleans is one of the most popular and well-known tourist destinations in the United States, it has a dark side. Most tourists don’t see the neighborhoods outside of the French Quarter and the Garden District, but the city has plenty of places that are quite unsafe. In this city of just under 400,000 people, the homicide rate in 2022 was 52 per 100,000 people.
20. Mandela Bay, South Africa
Having been named after one of the most outspoken individuals for living in peace, one would assume that Mandela Bay is a safe place. However, that isn’t the case. This South African city is full of amazing tourist attractions, but smart tourists know to stay in the tourist areas. The city has very high rates of armed robbery, carjacking, and assault. Add to that the homicide rate of 51 per 100,000 people, and you have a city that does not live up to the man it was named after.
21. Memphis, United States
If you are looking for great music and even better barbeque food, Memphis, Tennessee is one of the hot spots for both. Tourists come from all over the world to experience the cultural and culinary gifts that abound in Memphis. However, not all of Memphis is welcoming to visitors or even its own residents. The city has a long-running issue with violence.
Most of the violent crime that occurs in Memphis happens in lower-income communities where gangs are prevalent and law enforcement has limited resources. In 2022 this city of approximately 650,000 people had a homicide rate of 51 per 100,000 people.
22. Cuernavaca, Mexico
We return to Mexico, one last time on our list. And, like all of the other cities in Mexico that we have listed, Cuernavaca is dangerous because of drug and human trafficking. This city sees violent shoot-outs between rival cartels in public places. In 2022 Cuernavaca had a violent crime rate of 48.62 homicides per 100,000 people.
23. Detroit, United States of America
Detroit, Michigan in the United States was once the center of world automobile production. It also once had an amazing music scene. However, as automobile production was moved to other countries and factories shut down, poverty and violence moved to Detroit. Most violent crimes in Detroit occur in some of the lower-income neighborhoods where gangs and poverty control the streets. Besides homicide, Detroit has high rates of robbery and larceny.
24. Maceio, Brazil
This northeastern city in Brazil is the capital of the country’s largest state. The city is plagued by poverty, organized crime, and corrupt law enforcement. In this city of just over a million people, the homicide rate in 2022 was 39 per 100,000 people. Since 2011, when the crime rate was at its worst in Maceio, the city has seen a decent reduction in violent crime. However, it still remains one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
25. Cali, Colombia
We end our list with a different Central American country. Cali is one of the most vibrant cities in Colombia. However, in 2022 it had 37 homicides per 100,000 people. Like Mexico, Colombia and cities like Cali are struggling with drug traffickers and drug cartels. Cali also has a high rate of kidnapping and human trafficking activities as well.