11 Cities You May Want to Avoid: Are They No-Go Zones?


While traveling is one of the greatest joys humans have, certain places need you to take extra precautions. With frequent news stories of violence, kidnappings and gang warfare, it’s hard to ignore the reality that there are dangerous places to travel to.

If you have no idea what the most dangerous cities in the world are, don’t worry — this guide’s got you covered. It’s been compiled using data from the Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice (MCPSCJ) and sources like The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Whether you’re looking for places to avoid when traveling or just want to satisfy your curiosity, the list below includes some of the world’s most dangerous cities.

1. Zamora, Mexico

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Image by Bruno Emmanuella from Unsplash

An awfully violent place, this Mexican city has unfortunately been ranked as the most violent city in the world. In 2021, Zamora recorded 610 murders for a per capita murder rate of 196.6 per 100,000 residents. This is the second-highest-ever homicide rate recorded by the MCPSCJ since it started recording data in 2008.

Most of the danger here stems from reported gang violence where rival factions clash against each other, as well as police and citizens. In addition to murder, Zamora is commonly plagued by kidnappings, extortion, and petty theft, among others.

2. Zacatecas, Mexico

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Image by Tania Gonzalez from Unsplash

In the world of travel, Zacatecas is best known for its adventure travel exploits and is one the best places to visit in Mexico. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous cities in the world. In 2021, it ranked third on the list of unsafe places with a per capita murder rate of 107.47 per 100,000 people.

Like the above cities, Zacatecas has seen a surge in crime due to the widespread presence of organized crime and gang-related violence. It’s not uncommon for public shootouts and kidnappings to happen. Due to a reported lack of resources and corruption, law enforcement struggles to curb crime.

3. Tijuana, Mexico

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Image by Gautam Krishnan from Unsplash

With a population of just over two million, Tijuana shares a border with San Diego. It was previously the most dangerous city in the world. Since then, it has slightly improved, slipping down to fourth in 2021.

This Mexican city recorded 2,124 homicides for the year, the country’s highest. However, its per capita murder rate of 103.19 per 100,000 inhabitants is fourth.

Tijuana is synonymous with poverty and, thus, violent crimes like kidnappings, rape, and the like. Crime is also fueled by gang violence between the Sinaloa and Tijuana cartels.

4. Celaya, Mexico

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Image by Vibe Adventures from Unsplash

Celaya is located in Mexico’s Guanajuato state and has a population of just over 740,000. Many of its residents are model citizens. However, the many bad apples have turned this central Mexican city into a crime zone.

The city suffers from high levels of violence, which led to its homicide rate of 100.92 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Most of the surge in crime can be attributed to increased gang violence. Gangs such as the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel fight for control of the city’s illegal activity.

5. Caracas, Venezuela

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Image by Matthias Mullie from Unsplash

Venezuela is one of the most crime-infested countries in the world. Even worse, the majority of murders go unpunished due to a lack of resources and corruption in law enforcement.

So, it should come as no surprise that the country is home to one of the most dangerous cities in Caracas. The city saw 100 murders per 100,000 residents. The main cause of such violence is poverty and poor law enforcement in the city.

6. Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

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Image by Alejandro Cartagena from Unsplash

With a population of just over 1.5 million people, Ciudad Juarez is the most populous city in the state of Chihuahua. While it’s well known along the Texas border for its electric nightlife, it has a dark side rampant with crime and murder.

Juarez, as it’s prominently known, has a homicide rate of 95.79 per 100,000 inhabitants. It has seen an uptick in femicide rates and is thus one of the worst cities for women. The city’s also a playground for gangs, with turf wars a common thing.

In addition to homicide, you would have to worry about crimes like carjacking, burglaries, and petty theft.

7. Ensenada, Mexico

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Image by Roman Lopez from Unsplash

Ensenada sits in the state of Baja, California, and is the seventh-most dangerous city in the world. It has a homicide rate of 75.79 murders per 100,000 persons.

The city’s main driver behind the violent crime is due to turf battles between several cartels. This includes the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and the Arellano Felix Organisation.

In addition to homicide, human trafficking, burglaries, and carjacking are common.

8. Uruapan, Mexico

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Image by Emmanuel Ibarra from Unsplash

Uruapan is another Mexican city that experiences violent crime that you won’t find in many other places. Situated in Michoacan, the city is a gang playground that sadly sees many clashes, most notably the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. These gangs mostly fight for control of the city’s drug trafficking routes.

This, along with robberies, carjackings, and kidnappings, has led to a homicide rate of 73.40 per 100,000 inhabitants.

9. St. Louis, United States of America

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Image by Kawshar Ahmed from Unsplash

St. Louis is a bustling industrial city in the United States with an incredible atmosphere and many attractions. It’s also home to several billion-dollar corporations, but it’s still one of the most dangerous cities in the United States and the world, especially outside the tourist zones.

With a population of just over 300,000, the city sees 65.32 get murdered for every 100,000 citizens in St. Louis. This is the highest figure in the US, and you’ll also find it rife in petty theft, armed robberies, and more.

The main causes of St. Louis’ crime rate are extreme poverty and unemployment.

10. Kingston, Jamaica

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Image by Caidrro from Unsplash

The Caribbean is one of the most peaceful and safest regions in the world, therefore making it a prime tourist destination. However, there are a few exceptions, including Kingston, which is among the most dangerous cities in the world.

A mixture of organized crime, social inequality, and undermanned law enforcement have contributed to Kingston’s dangerous atmosphere. According to the MCPSCJ, the city had a murder rate of 64.17 murders per 100,000 people. It is known as the murder capital of the world.

Aside from homicide, you’d have to keep your eyes open for petty theft like pickpocketing, robberies, and the like as small-time criminals mostly target tourists.

11. Cape Town, South Africa

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Image by Tobias Reich from Unsplash

Cape Town is the embodiment of “two worlds in one area”. One side is a tourist haven full of attractions, while the other is a warzone filled with violence.

As a result, Cape Town is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It leads the way with the most murders, coming in at 2,911 homicides. However, due to its population of over four million, it has a per capita murder rate of 62.22 per 100,000 citizens.

Most crime results from the presence of over 100 gangs in the city, many of which are involved in the drug trade, armed robberies, and more.

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Amanda O’Brien is the creator and editor of The Boutique Adventurer. She has visited 80 countries and is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers as well as the IFTWTA. She is passionate about wine had has just completed Level 3 of the WSET. Born in Australia, she lives in London.