The Eiffel Tower in Paris is one of the sites that is probably on every single person's bucket list, at least every single avid traveler's. It's an engineering marvel and an iconic tower, representing France and known by all around the world. Something people perhaps don't quite know however is the plague of pickpockets that have used The Eiffel Tower as their area of operations for years now. They're very aware of the amount of valuable tourists that flock to the modern marvel at all times of the year, they're aware of their valuables and they're aware of how to dispossess them of such valuables, in fact they have made a very wealthy living out of it, with some reports suggesting they earn around $4000 USD per DAY off of stolen goods.
Security forces have had exceptional difficulty in trying to control the situation and even CLOSED the tourist attraction to the public back in 2015 as the situation spiraled out of control and staff staged a walkout due to abuse from the pickpocket gangs. These organized gangs use sophisticated techniques to ensure their bounty continues, like dressing up as tourists themselves and buying tickets to enter the attraction, rather than waiting on the outside. They also employ tactics like taking selfies or asking tourists to take part in fake petitions and ever targeting the public transport routes on the way to the attraction. It's not just pickpocketing that is the problem too, violent crime has become a worrying symptom of these gangs having been able to operate for so long. After all, their thievery is worth hundreds of thousands of Euros per year, which is then sent out of the country, often to the gangs home countries of Romania or Bulgaria.
75% of visitors to the Eiffel Tower are foreign tourists, that's a staggering 7 million people per year, which makes it the most visited, paid monument in the world and its growing year on year. This recent TripAdvisor review comes from someone who suggests the problem of pickpockets is not abating, despite additional security measures and several big arrests.
Naturally we would never suggest that you don't visit one of the worlds most famous monuments due to some silly thieves, you absolutely must include it in your bucket list of things to do. But be wary of course, try to outsmart the pickpockets rather than the other way around. Be on your guard, if you're approached by someone you don't know, keep your hands on your valuables - or even better, pick up some Clever Travel Companion gear. Outsmarting the rabble of pickpockets was precisely what it was designed for!
Pickpockets are no laughing matter. At The Clever Travel Companion we stress the issue of traveler safety every single day, we even built a company around it purely based on personal experiences. We understand it may become slightly boring reading about the same negative experiences over and over again, especially when the chances of it happening to you are very slim and you are probably prepared or don't put yourself in vulnerable positions... Well I'm sure the young mother in the below CCTV footage taken in Stockholm, Sweden in January 2016 probably thought the same, she also did not put herself in any danger of being pickpocketed. She simply did what any moral human being would do in such a situation and in doing so, was subjected to a violent assault. We cannot stress enough that the safety of one's valuables does not only mean you get to keep your iPhone or you don't need to file an insurance claim, it means you avoid becoming a target and therefore, you remain safe.
Jan 2016: Stockholm, Sweden. A young mother with her children is violently assaulted and spat on whilst trying to prevent a pickpocket at Gamla Stan metro station, Central Stockholm.
Fortunately, the attacker was arrested the same afternoon and is now behind bars and the woman is unhurt, it's easy to see how this could have been much worse however. The YouTube video description states that the man involved in the attack was an immigrant to Sweden and whilst that cannot be confirmed, nor should it be suggested that non-natives are pickpockets, it should be noted that the massive influx of refugees hitting Europe has resulted in heightened tensions in built up areas and opportunities for people up to no good. You only have to look at the New Years Attacks in Cologne, Germany where over 1000 women were attacked at the Central Station in a single night, for evidence of this. The most alarming factor of today's climate is not the rise in pickpocket case's but the rise in pickpocket related violence. It seems thieves have become bolder and more brazen in their methods and they wont take failure lightly. This travelers account of an attempted theft in Pickpocket City: Barcelona a few years back, shows just how careless perpetrators have become of being outed in public places or of authorities. The below infographic offers some advice on how to stay safe and where remain vigilant. Of course the best solution to avoid being targeted is to not have any valuables to target... Or at least look like you don't.
It should be stressed that while pickpocketing is a serious matter and one you should always be aware of, it should not affect your travel plans. You are more likely to be targeted as a tourist, but only if you invite such behavior, here's a guide how NOT to. The likelihood however, is that you will have an unforgettable trip of a lifetime and come home safe and sound with all the possessions you left with (except what you ditched to make way for all the purchases!). You will certainly increase your chances of doing so with some Clever Travel Companion gear.
The below 10 destinations are ranked as the worlds most dangerous tourist hot spots. You'll probably find yourself thinking "no way", "that can't be right" or even "wow, I've been there" and probably also "of course it is". Some of us may disagree with a few of the locations that have made the list and others might think certain cities have been excluded when they shouldn't have been its worth remembering that this is an independent ranking made up of the populartourist regions that are most likely to see you run into trouble. Not necessarily fatal trouble, but some form of "ill fortune".
While this list should not be taken lightly, it should also be remembered that there are much more dangerous places on earth and this list is as much a guide of places to visit but also be vigilant. It certainly does not recommend labeling any of these incredible destinations OFF LIMITS.
Along with the reasons as to why these cities are considered dangerous, we'll also provide tips on how to give yourself the best possible chance of keeping safe. So, without further ado; prepare to be surprised!
When you think of Peru as a tourist destination, you think of the ancient civilizations, Macchu Pichu, the Andes mountains, the unique culture and the incredible landscape to be explored here. You probably don't immediately think that wandering off the tourist trail could be very detrimental to your safety. Terrorist groups and drug cartels have a heavy influence in Peru and you need to remember this at all times. Read up on some safety tips and some Do's and Do not's before jumping in and you will have the time of your life.
9. Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand has been South East Asia's tourist hub for years now and is truly one of the worlds most fascinating cities. In Bangkok you are guaranteed to have a memorable time although without watching your step, this could be for the wrong reasons. Thailand has problems with crime and is rife with corruption that has stunted its progression for as long as memory serves. Organized crime is prominent in Bangkok and authorities seem to do the opposite of prevention. In extreme cases, it is not uncommon for tourists to have fatal "accidents" that are followed by bungled, incomplete police investigations. That said, you're more likely to be targeted by a street scam, a police bribe or thief than violence. Keep your wits about you, your valuables safe and hidden and learn to recognize common scams
8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
You may not be surprised that Rio makes the list, although to consider it "too dangerous" to travel to would be wrong. It's not and if you have the opportunity, you should pay a visit. Authorities have successfully and dramatically stepped up efforts to make the city safer since the 90's when it was classed as a hazard across the board. It is now considered safe enough to host the worlds largest sporting event in the Olympics later this year but you shouldn't take that as an opportunity to let your guard down. Plenty of people are robbed in Rio every year and tourists are continually targeted by thieves and con artists, so make the effort to keep yourself safe. On top of that, there are the favelas. The bottom line when it comes to these are AVOID THEM. By venturing into the favelas, you are opening yourself up to all manner of criminal activity.
Israel is again perhaps not such a surprising addition to the list considering is current political and foreign policies. It is however one of those destinations that will change a traveler's life. The history both recent and ancient is as rich and fascinating as you will find anywhere in the world. The reason it makes it on to the list is perhaps unfortunately born out of that history. It is a region that is at continuous odds with its close neighbors and improvised explosive devices, bomb attacks and rockets targeting locals just as much as tourists have become part of daily life in the Holy Land making it particularly volatile part of the world. It's not quite on par with places like Mogadishu or Kabul in terms of violence, but it does see a high level of tourist activity and for that reason, its inclusion in this list is warranted.
6. Bogotá, Columbia
Granted, the capital of Columbia has become a much safer destination since the days of Pablo Escobar and the rule of the cartels. Efforts to increase safety and draw higher levels of tourism have been somewhat successful, the police provide a much higher level of leadership and the city and country is certainly a destination we would encourage to add to your bucket list. Despite this, the narcotics trade is still prevalent in rural areas and traveling outside of tourist areas is not advised. The cartels have an entrenched influence and this can occasionally find its way into larger cities, tourists have been known to be targeted for kidnappings so make sure you keep a low profile.
5. Mumbai, India
Mumbai comes with the expected tourists threats faced in a developing country where extreme poverty and vast wealth meet everyday. Pick-pocketing is an art from in Mumbai and leaving your possessions unattended even for a second is not a wise move so get some Clever Travel Companion gear and be creative with it if you're planning on a trip, scammers also ply their trade on a far too often basis although if you do run into trouble, its unlikely to leave anything but your wallet hurt. Mumbai is considered one of the worlds wonders and checking it out is a must for anyone considering themselves a traveler, just keep your belongings close and you will have an awesome time.
4. Haiti and the Dominican Republic
The Caribbean perhaps isn't a place you'd immediately think of when it comes to dangerous tourist destinations, probably more along the lines of paradise. Well, it certainly is paradise if you stay in the resort but we all know that isn't always the best spent vacation. Unfortunately, straying from the resort in Haiti or the Dominican Republic can land you in a heap of trouble; credit card fraud is rampant and bank machines aren't very reliable either. Kidnapping, muggings and even assault are known to happen and while numbers of deadly crimes are dropping, robberies and violence are not. Even resort grounds have a high level of reported criminality. Much of this can be blamed on the immense poverty affecting mainly the Haiti side of the island (which is by far the worst of the two countries) but common sense should also be practiced at all times in both regions, especially when it comes to flashing your wealth around, so keep it hidden and you'll be fine.
3. Kingston, Jamaica
Another Caribbean island makes an appearance, although this one perhaps not so surprisingly. Famous for Bob Marley and a chilled out vibe among other things, Jamaica offers fantastically beautiful scenery and a break from it all inside the luxury beach resorts. Outside of them however it's a different story; the drugs trade is rampant despite police and military efforts (sometimes violent) to curb it and robbery and assault targeting tourists is commonplace. Whilst some cities like Spanish Town and Montego are slightly safer than Kingston, Jamaica is a place one should exercise the highest level of caution
2. Cape Town, South Africa
Perhaps another unsurprising entry however Cape Town and Africa in general should certainly not be written off. For some experienced travelers Africa is the only true land of self discovery and the final destination for all those who want to understand the planet. That said, it's not a place for the meek or unprepared. Cape Town is a wonderful example of Africa. It's difficult history and recent political developments have lead to a level of instability that makes the city a dangerous place for locals and tourists. Anyone considering a trip to Cape Town or Africa in general (and you should be) needs to check out Backpacking Africa for Beginners its full of tips and videos from a solo female traveler and the best advice on traveling Africa. This fantastic blog article also outlines how to stay safe in Africa from someone who lives it everyday.
1. Acapulco, Mexico
Mexico was sure to make the list at some stage right? Although these days it's hard to judge whether Acapulco or many Mexican cities for that matter can still be considered tourist destinations. Beautiful beaches, a perfect climate and cuisine that's hard to beat doesn't outweigh being named the 3rd most violent city in the world. It used to be one of Mexico's most prosperous cities and is still one of the countries most popular tourist hubs but the high levels of crime mean that tourists and locals are under constant threat of danger. The narcotics industry naturally plays a huge role in the city's crime but the tourist population also plays a big role in the narcotics trade. People do still travel to Acapulco and enjoy themselves, leaving with positive memories - so not all is bad! Take care of yourself, don't make yourself and obvious target and you're likely to get on fine.
So that concludes our run down of the 10 most dangerous tourist destinations in the world. I'm sure some would come as a surprise and others not so much and while the theme of most of our newsletters is travel safety, we certainly don't want to deter anyone from the trip of a lifetime. The above destinations may be considered more dangerous for tourists than say London, Florida or Sydney but some may say they're also more adventurous. Everywhere has its ugly side and you're only likely to meet it if you're behaving ugly. Practice travel safety and you will remain safe forever more.