8 Formerly “Dangerous” Places You Should Visit Now
When I was young, the sister of my Colombian nanny went missing as she tried to emigrate to the United States from Colombia. Kidnapping, drug-trafficking, and a number of other criminal activities were rampant in the country at the time, so we suspected grim news. Thankfully, she made it to her family in the U.S. safely, but the event was frightening to hear about at the time. The thought of visiting the country never crossed my mind. That is, until three years ago, when, inspired by a friend’s experiences there, I found myself in Cartagena and a number of other Colombian coastal cities. I spent nearly a month there and had the time of my life.
Colombia in general has greatly recovered from its sour reputation, and Americans have begun to flock south for vacations and extended stays. And it’s not alone. There are numerous cities and countries across the globe whose former P.R.-challenged images are on the mend, if not entirely rebounded. Better yet, many of them happen to be fantastic travel destinations thanks to scenic landscapes, inspiring architecture, incredible food, thriving culture, and lovely people.
Read on for eight formerly “dangerous” places you should plan a trip to now—before they become major tourist hotbeds.
Anyone who’s seen 2002 crime drama City of God knows about Rio De Janeiro’s rampant street crime and the long, tumultuous history of the city’s cliff-clinging favelas—10 years ago it wasn’t a place you’d venture boldly. But since 2009, the Brazilian government has made intrepid motions to clean up its notoriously dangerous favelas in anticipation of last summer’s World Cup and the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics. Crime rates have dropped significantly.
As with any developing city, you still have to use your judgment and not venture too far into unknown territory, especially at night. But with a vibrant nightlife, warm weather, and sensational cuisine, it’s definitely a destination worth crossing the equator for. Plus, it’s a beach city, so you get the best of both worlds if you love bronzing or surfing as well as exploring cultural spots, restaurants, and bars.
Climbing since the ‘50s, the incidences of cognizable crimes in India (which include rape, murder, theft, and general mischief) reached a fever pitch in the ‘90s and have slowly been in decline since then. Now a much safer place, with exceptional crafts and design, vibrant cultural event and festivals, beautiful sights, and a delightful cuisine, India is definitely a destination one should visit in their lifetime. However, crimes against women have been steadily increasing in recent years, so solo female travel is not advised.
The Dominican Republic does have a high crime rate overall, but tourist areas have improved significantly in recent years. The picture-perfect coasts of the Caribbean nation are a beach lover’s paradise, and the country’s old colonial architecture is a culture vulture’s dream. Plus, it has a great variance of terrain, including white beaches, rainforests, highlands, and a number of a golf courses and resorts, so there’s plenty to keep you busy.
One of the best, if not the best, destinations for safaris in the world, Kenya’s Nairobi National Park is a natural wonder, and a true adventure every nature lover should take. The State Department does have a travel warning for Kenya due to heightened threats from terrorism and a high rate of violent crime. However, security has been beefed up since the Westgate Mall terror attack, and crimes tend to be more prominent in northeastern and coastal areas, so if you felt safe enough to visit before 2013, you’re probably safer now. Be wise—don't carry a lot of cash, wear flashy jewelry, or walk alone at night or into unpopulated areas—and book a trip with a long-standing, reputable safari travel company.
Colombia has struggled with illegal drug trade for decades, but thanks to a decline in drug production and trafficking and a demobilization of terrorist organization FARC, drug-related violence has declined greatly and retreated to rural areas in recent years. As a result, several otherwise-attractive cities like Cartagena and Bogotá have emerged as destinations for North and South American travelers. With impressive colonial architecture, pristine beaches, lush rain forests, lively music, and affordable prices, Colombia is ripe to become a major tourist hotbed.
With a magnanimous history, a warm breeze, heaps of swaying palm trees, and, lest we forget the camels, Egypt is no doubt a postcard-perfect locale. But is it safe? Considering the recent Tahrir Square revolution of 2011, 2013 coup, and subsequent sporadic terrorist attacks, one might be bashful to visit. But tensions have eased significantly—and it’s not on the U.S. travel alerts and warnings list. So should you go? Signs point to yes, especially if you want to take advantage of lower prices while you can.
Political and social demonstrations do occur frequently in Morocco, but by and large, crime doesn’t pose a significant threat to Americans and others visiting. With thriving bazaars brimming with antiques, decorative accents, and spices; a distinct cuisine; and stunning architecture; it is certainly a pin you should add to your map. That said, it is advised to be mindful of pickpockets and the like in highly concentrated areas, and women traveling alone or in pairs can expect harassment.
Due to prevalent social unrest and poverty, Cape Town has had a high crime rate for quite some time. But its imposing natural beauty and proximity to safaris, wine country, and other attractions, as well as its status as an English-speaking region, has made it a destination for adventurous international travelers. That in turn has led to the development of a number of tourist-friendly areas, resorts, and businesses. Of course it's a long way away practically wherever you live, but it could be the trip of a lifetime.
Any recommendations to share for these destinations? Tell us in the comments! Shop some our favorite travel essentials below.
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