You might think that you’ve seen some dangerous places, like the apartment of your drunken hook-up the morning after, but the reality is that most of the places we think of as dangerous really aren’t that bad. They can be, but for the most part, people living in Chicago or Detroit live pretty comfortably compared to many parts of the world. I know it sounds hard to believe, especially if you’ve ever been to the parts of Detroit that look like Chernobyl after the meltdown, but it’s true, our “dangerous” places have nothing on these, which are truly seven of the most dangerous places in the world.
7 Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
How dangerous is Ciudad Juarez? Well, the murder rate has actually fallen dramatically in the past few years – from about 300 murders a month to less than 50 – and it’s still dangerous enough to make this list. The city’s insane violence was caused by what amounted to a civil war between rival drug cartels. This infamous drug war was all over the news a few years ago, especially since the city is right across the border. Basically dudes were murdering each other over the right to get us high. Eventually, though, one side won and that’s the real reason why the city’s murder rates have gone down. It’s not like they’ve gotten safer or cleaned up the streets. Nope. It’s just that one side is dead. I don’t know, that still sounds pretty damn dangerous to me. Of course, there is always the threat of the drug wars erupting anew (the murder rate has actually been creeping up again lately), as is the case for all of Northern Mexico, which has basically become the darkest part of a Cormac McCarthy novel.
6 Siberia, Russia
Really, all of Siberia is a pretty nasty place to try to live. It’s cold, poor, and there is basically no infrastructure beyond decaying Soviet cities and the remnants of subjugated tribes trying to eke out a living. There are hardly any roads, and the ones that do exist are mostly huge mud-traps, and if you breakdown on one you’ll probably end up dying there of exposure before anyone comes along to save you. The northernmost cities and villages of Siberia are like something out of a twisted nightmare of a Viking saga, with snow covering everything for nine months out of the year, three months of total darkness in the winter, and three months in the summer when the sun never sets. That’s the kind of shit that drives people mad. Verkhoyansk, reputed to be the coldest place in the entire world, is so horrible that the Russian rulers used to send all their political prisoners there because it was gnarlier than the gnarliest of prisons. This is not a relaxing place to live.
5 South Africa
South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world, but getting clipped by some hooligan is actually probably the least of your worries. You can’t bang anyone without worrying about AIDS because it’s so prevalent that it’s practically in the water, and even if you exercise self-control, it might not matter since South Africa has also been dubbed the “rape capital of the world.” I’m sure they put that in all the brochures, and have signs proclaiming it proudly all over the capital. Look, just keep your head down, wear a chastity belt or keep a knife tucked somewhere… unpleasant, and you might be okay. Then again, maybe not, since you’ll probably just get carjacked and then stuffed into the trunk. So it’s either murder, rape AIDS or kidnapping, but at least it won’t be too predictable for those of you with adventurous spirits.
4 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If you stick by the beaches of Rio, you’ll probably be just fine. Venture into the infamous favelas, though, and there’s a good chance nobody will ever hear from you again. Then again, you might get lucky and get picked up by an enterprising gang of 14 year-olds, who will then force you to write a ransom letter to your family back home before killing you. Rio is particularly dangerous because it’s a tourist trap and a party city, and so it lulls you into a false sense of security. And so you get these naïve Midwesterners who fly down there, see some poor kid with big, pleading eyes begging and think “Awww…” almost like he’s a lost puppy, and then then next thing you know he’s leading them back to a shack filled with 9 year-olds with guns and machetes. Have fun at the World Cup, everybody!
3 Cangkringan District, Indonesia
Look, it’s one thing to have to worry about being shot by a desperate youth, it’s quite another to have to spend all day worrying because you live right next door to Mount Merapi, literally translated as “Fire Mountain,” which basically makes it Mordor. Merapi is perhaps the most active volcano in the entire world, and smoke can be seen billowing out of it 300 days out of the year. That means that almost 85% of the time people are in imminent danger of being killed by an erupting volcano. And yet, people choose to live there! The district is home to numerous villages, which, naturally, have been obliterated many times over. The Indonesian government finally had enough of that insanity and in 2010 prohibited any permanent dwellings in nine different villages. But people are stubborn, and it’s still inhabited. I guess they won’t take the hint until they see a couple of hobbits trudging through town on their way to destroy a ring.
2 San Pedro Sula, Honduras
San Pedro Sula might not get the headlines of Ciudad Juarez or any of the rest of the ultra-violent cities of Latin America (40 of the 50 cities with the highest murder rates in the world are located in Latin American countries, which is just… wow.) but San Pedro Sula is actually the most dangerous of them all, with 169 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. That works out to over 1,000 murders a year. For comparison’s sake, Detroit sees about 300 a year. That means San Pedro Sula is over three times as violent and dangerous as Detroit. Just read that sentence again and then think about how crazy you think Detroit is. Yeah, you don’t want to get caught taking an evening stroll in San Pedro Sula.
Things change. Sometimes places just go through some wild shit, and then come out the other side looking okay. A year ago, Mogadishu, Somalia would have landed here. It was a country without a government, ruled by violent warlords. But they finally got their shit together (well, sort of anyway) and the past year has seen an intense reconstruction of that country. It’s still dangerous, but not so dangerous that you’ll get shot by a little girl riding a goat down the street like Clint Eastwood. The point is that things will eventually get better for Syria. Unfortunately, this is a snapshot of the world at this moment, and right now, Syria is a goddamn war zone. That’s not exactly news, but it’s hard to imagine a more hostile environment on the planet at the moment. People are just getting wiped off the map every day, society is degenerating, and you’d be completely and totally insane to book a relaxing weekend getaway there. I mean, the country’s refugees are seeking solace and relief in Lebanon. Lebanon! It doesn’t get any crazier – or more dangerous – than that.