In recognition that women tourists are nothing if not adventurous, we supply this list so that women can make an informed choice as to which countries they want to risk their necks. We also do this list because women make about 75% of all travel decisions so our travel decisions are powerful. Some countries are known for their warmth and hospitality while others are tolerated by women tourists because they are relatively safe and have notable things to see. Some countries, however, are hostile and hold an array of dangers for the unwary traveler. We think it’s worth thinking about whether we want to vote with our dollars to support countries that are hostile and dangerous to women.
For those of you unfamiliar with our yearly rankings, a word about what this article does and doesn’t cover. This article is for women travelers and the countries they are most likely to consider for travel. That means that we don’t rate or discuss countries at war or where there are humanitarian disasters, (these fall under our “Don’t Even Go There” list*.
This article concerns countries where there is a realistic reason to think a woman would go there as a tourist or for business travel. We find it useful to differentiate between dangerous vs. obnoxious since there is a difference between vexing laws, sexual harassment and the more extreme problems of kidnapping and murder. Also, we won’t do the standard warnings that any idiot should know, though we helpfully footnote a sampling of said warnings.** As to where we get the nerve to say such horrible things about countries that someone once went to in 2005 and had a great time, see the footnote at the end of the article.***
The big news when reviewing the 10 worst countries has been the steep increase in terrorism. One of our favorite sources, the Global Peace Index, notes there has been a 286% increase in deaths from terrorism from 2015 to 2016.
Turkey ranks #1 on the 2017 List of Most Dangerous Countries for Women Tourists due to nearly continual terrorist attacks, a coup that has led to a rather uncertain environment for everyone, and continuing harassment of women. For more information see 2017 Turkey.
Cover Photo Credit: Ozan Kose, Getty Images, via The Telegraph
- The Russian Federation
Cover Photo: Vladimir Gerdo/Tass via The Guardian
Venezuela’s violent crime rate, political instability due to a disintegrating economy and armed insurgent groups has caused this distressed country to bounce back up to #3. It’s so bad that professional women have turned to prostitution to provide for their families. For more information see 2017 Venezuela.
Cover Photo Credit: CNN
Regrettably, Egypt retains its #4 spot due to a dangerous combination of terrorism, a high rate of rape, kidnapping, and robbery. In 2017, sexual harassment and violence remain endemic. The government is helping by advising women to not talk or laugh loudly in public and to be careful how they dress. There is also the perennial problem of being followed and hounded because you are a woman. Unless you are with a good Egyptian tour guide or group, this is not the country to travel solo. For more information see 2017 Egypt.
Cover Photo: Mohamed el-Shahed, photographer, via Getty Images published by Huffington Post
India is deservedly famous for its culture, art, food, and the many ways a woman traveler can be badly hurt, traumatized for life, or killed. You think we’re kidding or perhaps being too harsh? It’s so bad that the Indian Tourism Minister advises female tourists to avoid wearing skirts in India. India’s ranking dropped from #1 to #5, not so much as a tribute to India’s improvement as it is the deterioration of other countries. For more information see 2017 India.
Cover Photo: EyesWideOpen/Getty Images via The Guardian
Mexico edged down in rankings to #6, not because it’s gotten safer but because other countries have gotten so much worse. Mexico continues to be a problem due to its high levels of crime including sexual assault, kidnapping (of which there are 3 kinds — traditional, express (a victim gets money from ATMs), and virtual (victim forced to provide contact numbers so that friends and relatives pay ransom)), carjacking (via roadblocks, running cars off the highway at high speed, etc), and highway robbery. Really. For more information see 2017 Mexico.
Cover Photo: Huffington Post
- Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is at #7 since an estimated 1.85 million women travel to the Kingdom for the Haj and even without any of the spectacular stampedes that kill pilgrims (2,177 in the 2015 stampede), terrorism has been increasing dramatically, and as usual, the problems with how women are treated continue as to guardianship, constant male supervision, prohibition on women driving cars, morality police checking women’s clothing, etc. For more information see 2017 Saudi Arabia.
Cover Photo Credit: via The Telegraph
Although tourists tend to think of wildlife when they think of Kenya, the most lethal predators are human who create danger in the form of terrorist activities, sexual assault, grenade attacks, and violent crime, resulting in Kenya ranking #8 on the 2017 List 10 of Most Dangerous Countries for Women Travelers. Terrorist targets have included Kenyan and foreign government sites, police stations and vehicles, hotels, public transportation, and other infrastructure targets, nightclubs and bars, religious and academic institutions, and shopping areas. Violent and sometimes fatal crimes, including armed carjackings, muggings, home invasions and burglaries, and kidnappings can occur at any time. For more information see 2017 Kenya.
Photo credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic via Quartz Africa
Despite a landmark peace deal with FARC, Colombia remains at #9 on the 2017 List of 10 Most Dangerous Countries for Women Travelers due to an unholy combination of homicide, femicide, rape, and sexual assaults. Columbia has the worst homicide rate in South America. Law enforcement is not helpful in prosecuting attackers. Women who are sexually attacked have difficulty getting adequate medical treatment due to lack of medical facilities and interest in appropriate care after such an attack. For more information see 2017 Colombia.
Cover Photo: INSIDE EDITION via AOL News
The good news is that Brazil survived the 2016 Olympics. The bad news is that the economy is still terrible so tourists continue to deal with epic crime including sexual assault, armed robbery, armed assault, burglary, theft, political unrest, Zika virus and that doesn’t count the other infectious diseases, and pollution. To put Brazil in perspective, its daily death toll from crime is higher than Syria’s death rate from war. For more information see 2017 Brazil.
Cover Photo Credit: The Guardian
Jamaica – Aussies say: Exercise a high degree of caution due to high levels of violent crime, particularly in Kingston, Spanish, and Montego Bay.
Photo Credit: Jamaica Observer (JIS)
Thailand – US doesn’t have a warning or alert for Thailand and to be fair, it’s GPI score rose nine places because of improving relations with other countries, reduced violent demonstrations and violent crimes. However, there are a surprisingly consistent amount of terrorist incidents occurring. According to the ESRI database, there were 6 incidents with six fatalities in November 2016. KIWIS say: “There is an extreme risk to your security in the southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, and Songkhla due to ongoing politically-motivated and criminal violence, which occurs on an almost daily basis. We advise against all travel.”
Photo Credit: ABC
China – China is on the list due to particular regions that are problematic and violent. The Canadian government advises its citizens that it’s wise to exercise a high degree of caution in China due to bombings and protests. Specifically, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is subject to sporadic violence that is expected to continue. Terrorism threatens tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, busy railway stations, shopping centers, markets, hotels, etc.
While violent crime is relatively rare, foreigners have been attacked, robbed, and killed. Petty crime and sexual harassment can occur on buses and overnight trains. To avoid scams, negotiate fares in advance when using taxi, motorcycle and pedicab drivers. Also, ask the driver to use the meter and give you a receipt. Foreigners should beware of unsolicited invitations to go for a drink or get a massage or other services since this tends to lead to an exorbitant bill (sometimes hundreds of dollars) and forced to pay under threat of injury. Be cautious of unsolicited requests from strangers to “practice English” or invitations from strangers to go to an “art gallery” or unknown location.
Photo Credit: BBC
Conclusion: Perhaps you are thinking it would be better to go where a woman can travel freely and safely, if so, please refer to our 10 Safest Countries for Women Travelers, Best Countries in Africa, Best Places in Oceania, Best Countries in South America, and Best and Worst of North America.
* Only Professional Journalists or Humanitarian Aid Workers should go to the following Don’t Even Go There List:
- North Korea
- South Sudan
** Avoid careening around drunk, particularly in dark streets at night. Waving wads of cash, flashing expensive jewelry and cameras is only advisable if you want to share your wealth or forcibly donate all of it. Keep your car and hotel doors locked and don’t let strangers in unless they have proper id and there is a reason they would be in your personal space (room service, yes, kidnappers no). Accepting free drinks, rides, or proposals of marriage from admiring strangers is only flattering at first, after that it usually becomes criminal in nature. Sure, it could be exhilarating and romantic and lead to a brilliant new life but most of the time it’s usually just a con game at best or a homicidal rapist at worst. Flouting local customs and insulting others deeply held religious beliefs, even when done casually, can result in everything from hurt feelings to lengthy jail sentences and occasionally, execution. Seriously, if any of these warnings surprise you, don’t leave your residence unsupervised, much less travel; read a nice travel article instead.
*** No one is collecting statistics that affect women travelers and international organization data is often dated or no longer being collected. There is a strong correlation between how local women are treated and how women tourists are treated, so we look hard at indicators that provide information about women who live in country. We also understand that violence and instability disproportionately affect women so we look at information about these issues. We also search databases that document terrorism incidents or keep track of dead tourists, and we look at travel warnings and advisories issued by different countries and a variety of other sources to get our data and draw conclusions. Until women’s safety is viewed with the same enthusiasm as football/soccer, this is as good as it gets. Here are our sources.