How many travel articles have you read that were all about great photos and pretended that virtually any country is fine to visit with a few commonsense precautions? It’s terrible advice since not all countries are the same and some are far more dangerous for women than others with unique hazards that need to be avoided. This article covers countries that women tourists are likely to consider visiting for pleasure, business, or other reasons. That means that we don’t rate or discuss places like Afghanistan, Somalia, or other war torn countries that fall under our “Don’t Even Go There” list*. Also, we won’t do the standard warnings that any idiot should know without referring to an article, though we helpfully footnote a sampling**.
In 2018, we decided against 10 countries because we have a new formula of data points that led us to eight and because some countries are now found in our Don’t Even Go There List. Our formula is based on putting together data from sources like the World Economic Forum, Global Peace Index, and other sources that accumulate data and rate countries. Additionally, we use a variety of other sources to keep our rankings as objective and fair as possible. For information about our methodology, click here.
Yes, we know there will be howls of outrage from those who are fans of these countries so let us hasten to say we know these countries have great culture, people, etc. and we look forward to traveling there when it’s safer. But for now, we strongly suggest either avoiding or taking precautions to reduce your risk while visiting:
1. Egypt –Unfortunately, Egypt has continued its slide since the Arab Spring, and has become less stable and more authoritarian. The state of women’s rights deteriorated ever since, making it unsafe for women travelers as well as native women. Additionally, there are terrorist attacks on tourists. We rank Egypt #1 on the 2018 List of Eight Worst Countries for Women Travelers due to high risk of terrorism, rape, and men harassing women. For more information about Egypt, click here.
2. Mexico – Once again, Mexico ranks near the top thanks to high levels of violent crime such as murder, armed robbery, sexual assault, kidnapping, and carjacking, as well as gang activity. Even tourists sites in Quintana Roo are being targeted. For more information about Mexico, click here.
3. Lebanon – Even though Lebanon is popular among people who like to visit religious places and history buffs, it has fallen to 148 (out of 163) on the Global Peace Index and the World Economic Forum lists it at 94 (out of 141). This is due to Lebanon’s unrest, instability, and economic problems caused by the war nearby in Syria, which makes it dangerous for any traveler, but particularly, women. For more information about Lebanon, click here.
4. Saudi Arabia – Although hardly a common tourist destination, 3.7 million pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, many of them women; this year it is scheduled for August 19-24 when the heat will be stifling. That means a high possibility of heat stroke, even with carrying umbrellas, hydrating, and being sprayed with cool water by the police. It’s worth noting that in some years, many people have been trampled to death simply due to the incredible size of the crowd that makes any error, deadly. For example, in 2015, an estimated 2177 pilgrims died during the Hajj in Mina. Keep in mind between 40% and 60% of pilgrims are women. On the bright side, in 2017, there weren’t mass casualties from trampling because there were physical changes to the route and more security police were added. However, there’s also the issue of contracting MERS and other diseases from being in close proximity to millions of other pilgrims. But wait – is that the only problem? For more information about Saudi Arabia, click here.
5. India – Once again we have to balance our desire to see the Taj Mahal or participate in a meditation retreat in northern India with India’s crime statistics, which show the rape rate is still sky high, harassment of women is a constant threat, and, according to The Wire, Suppressing crimes is an exalted art form practiced as a matter of reflex in our police stations and the police may not take you seriously if you report a crime. That’s not counting problems with disease, transportation, and terrorism. For more information about India, click here.
6. Turkey – This country has a nasty combination of terrorism, a dictator hostile to women and foreigners, and civil unrest. Turkey has gotten worse since its State of Emergency, which began after a failed coup in 2016; the fallout continues today. For more information about Turkey, click here.
7. Israel – A top pick for Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious travelers. However, travelers are likely to run into long-term political and religious warfare that shows no sign of getting better. Violence has escalated due to military operations regarding Syria, moving the US embassy, and the 70th Anniversary commemoration of the founding of Israel have increased tensions among the religious communities to a dangerous degree. Because of rocket fire, terrorism, and frequent military activity, travelers should use caution throughout all of Israel. For more information about Israel, click here.
8. Russian Federation – Although most tourists will not be subjected to the nerve gas attacks that Russia favors for political opponents, the adventurous woman traveler does need to be concerned about harassment, as well as terrorism, other crime (rape, mugging, pick-pocketing and scams) as well as, racism and general hostility to Westerners. It’s unfortunate for those of us who’d love to go see the Winter Palace, Hermitage Museum, etc., but with a Global Peace Index (GPI) ranking of 151 (out of 163) and World Economic Forum rating of 45 (out of 141), the data indicates there are far better places to go if you prefer a non-hazardous trip. Also of concern to female soccer fans is that the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia June 14, 2018 – July 15, 2018, which makes it a bit of a terrorist attraction for ISIS. For more information about Russia, click here.
Finally – if you find this article quite disheartening and are wondering where a woman can travel freely and safely, please refer 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
**Do not travel alone at night, keep your doors locked when driving, do not carry large amounts of cash or wear expensive jewelry or cameras, do not accept drinks from strangers, do not accept rides from strangers, etc. To summarize, anything that you couldn’t get away with in any city is a bad idea when traveling. Seriously, anyone who needs to be told this really ought not to be let out of their house unsupervised since it’s not even safe to do most of these things most places.
Cover photo credit: BBC