View of Makati in Manila and the Pasig River
Africa,  Asia,  Central & South America,  India,  Philippines,  Travel Lifestyle

Unsafe Travel Destinations – Perception Vs Reality

When I heard this month’s travel link up topic was travel fears and scares, the first thoughts that popped into my head were about destinations I worry about visiting.

Having heard Mexico City horror stories of muggings at gunpoint and tourist kidnappings, I’ve always been scared to go there, and after my own uncomfortable experience of lecherous Egyptian men in Cairo, I’ve been put off returning to any North African destinations, for fear of being cat called or leered at by locals.

Then, as I was musing over this post idea, I heard that had released a list of its ten most unsafe destinations for female travellers, which includes countries such as Turkey, Colombia, India, Morocco and even The Bahamas.

All of us hear terrible stories about locations around the world, but it made me think, do all of these destinations really deserve the reputation they’ve been given?

Sure, some do, and you can’t deny that heading into war zones or areas of political unrest or high crime is never a good idea, but sometimes stories get blown out of proportion and we end up missing out on discovering an amazing destination, friendly local communities, and all they have to offer.

So I had a look at five destinations many people class as unsafe, and with some help from other female travellers, discuss why they might have been given an unfair rep…



Jamaica | Ladies What Travel

Jamaica is known for its music, food, palm trees and smiling faces, but sadly also its gun crime and drug cartels, which has given it one of the world’s highest murder rates.

It continues to be a popular tourist destination for some, whereas others choose, for the above reasons, to avoid it entirely. Petty theft is one of the biggest reported issues facing tourists and there are also stories of police corruption, and cartels using unsuspecting tourists to smuggle drugs out of the country.

There are also many areas, including in and around tourist destinations, that visitors are told to avoid, including inner Kingston itself and Montego Bay, especially at night.

Doesn’t sound like a relaxing destination for your big summer holiday, right?

Jamaica | Ladies What Travel

A friend of mine, Isabella, recently went to Jamaica on holiday, also taking the time to visit some of her husband’s family while there. She found her visit the total opposite from the bad press she’d seen and says that people shouldn’t be put off.

“The reality was warm and hospitable people, good vibes and amazing food – and yes, this was all outside of the ‘safe’ confines of a tourist’s all inclusive haven,” she notes.

Yes, Jamaica clearly does have problems, and there are areas tourists should definitely avoid, however, it sounds like these bad factors are in the minority and stopping many people from discovering the beauty of not just the island, but also it’s people.


Panama | Ladies What Travel

Before and after Noelle from Noelle Across the Pond went to Panama, quite a few people asked her if it was safe, assumed it wasn’t, or asked if she had only stayed at her resort (she didn’t stay in a resort at all)!

In reality, Noelle reports that the majority of Panama is safe.

“I walked around alone with my (at the time) 8-year-old son during the day and night in Panama City and didn’t encounter any issues,” she says. “I never got a bad vibe or felt worried. There’s also a decent size expat community, particularly in Boquete and Bocas del Toro.

“The only exception to this was that I was told not to visit Darien National Park, which is on the border of Panama and Colombia. Because of rebel groups and drug trafficking, it is advised not to visit this area – and there isn’t much of reason to, anyways.

“I found people I interacted with to be friendly, and quite a few Panamanians speak English which also made it a bit more convenient for me, although brushing up on some basic Spanish words does help.

Panama | Ladies What Travel

“I would say that next to/similar to Costa Rica, Panama is actually one of the most safe places in Central America. The only ‘safety’ advice I’d offer is just be generally alert and precautious – as you would in most destinations. People assume that because it is Central America, and some countries in this region are not necessarily as safe (El Salvador, Honduras, etc), that Panama is not as well, but that’s just not true.”

For travellers interested in visiting Panama, Noelle has a few recommendations.

“I visited Panama City and Chagres National Park, which I highly recommend. I have also heard Boquete, in the mountains, and Bocos del Toro, on the Caribbean coast, are well worth a visit as well.”



Mexico | Ladies What Travel

Mexico has a long history of violence and crime, but despite travel warnings, holidaymakers continue to flock there – in 2016, it received a record breaking 35 million visitors!

But as I mentioned, I’ve got some preconceptions of my own about Mexico, and stories about several shootings in nightclubs and even tourist destinations like Cancun – happening this year ­– don’t particularly put my mind at ease.

In response to this, however, there’s now an increased presence in Cancun, especially around the hotel area and the region is still classed as one of the safest for tourists in the Caribbean.

Mexico | Ladies What Travel

Researching safety in Mexico it appears that although crime is still an issue, rates are lower here than many other Caribbean countries, and that actually you’re more likely to be a victim of crime in the US than Mexico. Has it potentially been given an unfair rep?

This stat’s a bit old, but keep in mind that in 2010 Disney World’s Orlando saw 7.5 murders per 100,000 residents – higher than tourist destinations like Cancun (1.83) and Puerto Vallarta (5.9). Food for thought!


The Philippines

Philippines from the sky.
The Philippines from the sky – my favourite ever view from an airplane window!

The Philippines is becoming an ever more popular tourist destination and I can understand why. Visiting Bohol and Palawan, I discovered a tropical paradise and I’d recommend a trip to the Philippines in an instant.

Even so, many people still believe the Philippines is unsafe for travellers. The reality? There are some issues going on across the country, with fighting increasing between the government and militants, and there have been stories of tourists being kidnapped by terrorists.

However, the majority of its islands are safe for travellers – the main area to avoid is the southern Philippines, which is currently under marshal law.

The Chocolate Hills, Bohol.
The Chocolate Hills, Bohol.

I’ve only experienced a whirlwind tour of the Philippines, but during my stay I felt entirely safe and found the people to be some of the most welcoming I’ve ever come across.

With so much natural beauty to see, from the Chocolate Hills through to underground rivers – and of course not forgetting those amazing beaches, the Philippines is a worthy destination choice.



Turkey | Ladies What Travel
A typical sea view in Kalkan, a holiday haven on the south west coast. Credit Sue Flynn.

Turkey’s had a bad time of it recently – with political instability, bombings and terrorist attacks that included at Istanbul airport, it’s easy to see why tourists might feel unsafe. However, Sue from Kalkan Magic continues to be a big fan of the country, and as someone who has a house on the Turkish coast, can vouch for the feeling of safety felt in both Istanbul and the Turkish coastal resort in recent months.

“The image of Turkey has been so misrepresented when really the Foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO) only advises against all but essential travel to small pockets including danger zones like the Syrian borders including places like Gaziantep and Diyabakir,” she highlights.

“The coastal resorts are a vast distance from any troubled areas on the Syrian border – the FCO advice is the same as it is for the UK!

Turkey | Ladies What Travel
The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Credit Sue Flynn.

“I would recommend travellers visit cities anywhere in the country other than those places mentioned in the FCO advice. Turkey has so much to offer and is unlike any other country for its culture, diversity, the welcome of the people, the fascinating history and the overall energy that it emanates.

“However, as with London and other English and European cities, one must be vigilant and avoid large crowds. This is advice I would take myself. In the case of coastal Turkey, tourists can enjoy the place freely but take any personal safety measures they would do anywhere in the world and at home.

“People can be guilty of ‘holiday brain’ and leave common sense at the airport. Still keep doors in hotels or private villas and apartments locked and use a safe for personal effects. No one wants to be without their passport or credit cards when they are on holiday – your holiday time is far too precious to spend it obtaining crime numbers!

“The biggest danger in coastal Turkey? People not using a high factor sunscreen!”

Turkey | Ladies What Travel
Patara beach – 18km of white sand just 20 mins from Kalkan. Credit Sue Flynn.

Is travel safe at all?

In reality, no destination is 100 per cent safe. Yes, some places are more unsafe than others, and at any one time there will be places you simply should not visit. The best way to discover what these are is by visiting official sites like the UK’s FCO foreign travel advice.

It’s important to remember than even in countries with particular issues, you’re not always going to come across violence. In my opinion, the best thing to do is thoroughly research your destination, be aware of any risks and respond accordingly.

The main thing is to always be careful and use your common sense, whether you’re at home or away. Be aware, be respectful and be safe!

Are there destinations you feel have received an unfair rep for being unsafe? Or perhaps there are places you believe deserve their bad reputation? Maybe you disagree with everything I’ve said above?! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic and you own experiences, so please do feel free to comment below!

Unsafe travel destinations - Perception vs reality

Two Traveling Texans

By day Co-Editor Keri is a freelance journalist and copywriter, but spends most of her free time either travelling or planning her next trip!  A complete travel fanatic, she has a love of tropical climates, wildlife and afternoon tea (hence the creation of her Global Afternoon Tea Challenge!)


  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    Quite a few of these are places I really want to go and I can relate to the worries as I’ve had some of them myself though I wouldn’t let it stop me seeing these places. You’ve chosen a really interesting topic Keri because I think a lot of us often harbour these apprehensions, even if it might not always be something we want to admit to, knowing it’s sometimes a sweeping generalisation.

    • Keri

      I think it’s only human Shikha, there’s certain places I just don’t know if I’d feel safe visiting, but I’d definitely do my research before I ruled anywhere out now for sure!

  • Anisa

    I have been to Panama and I’m surprised that some people think it is unsafe. I really enjoyed it there and never felt unsafe. I agree no place is 100% safe. I mean something could happen anytime anywhere, even in your home town. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Keri

      So true Anisa, I think when people are visitors fears get amplified, right? Its easy to forget the risks at home because everything’s so ‘normal’ to us!

  • Anda

    I’ve seen some of these places very long time ago and I’m glad I did. Things changed a lot lately and while I wouldn’t consider any of the places you listed here as really “dangerous”, I don’t think I would like to return to a couple of them. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • Priscilla | ShesCookin

    I really wish I had travelled to Istanbul years ago, and I still plan on doing so. When I visited Belize this year with my sister, we had people expressing concern. But if you are not out roaming the streets at night, wearing expensive jewelry, or oblivious to your surroundings, I think you’re relatively safe in most so of these countries.

  • Ruth | Tanama Tales

    This is a topic I can discuss forever. You talked about certain destinations in here but, a couple of months ago, people asked me if I weren’t scared to visit Europe. So, nowadays, there is a worry about no only the “usual” travel destinations but it goes beyond that. On the other hand, I have been to several counties in Central America, the Caribbean and South America. Most of them can be considered :dangerous.” However, there are areas you can visit without worry (mostly) . But, I understand certain places are safer when you know somebody or travel with a group. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Keri

      Interesting to hear Ruth. I can imagine with the growing attacks we’ve been seeing in Europe it isn’t considered as safe an part of the world as it used to be. So sad.

  • Michelle | michwanderlust

    Great post! Safety is always one of the topmost concerns of travellers, isn’t it? I’m surprised Panama is in this list – I’d always thought it was one of the safest countries in Central America (as you say).

    I think in general, when you look at these lists you should bear in mind that countries are often much bigger than the “trouble” areas, and often the tourist areas are far away from those areas. E.g. the Philippines is so big, it’s a pity to write off an entire country just because of one self-contained region. Even in cities which have a reputation for being dangerous, it’s often a matter of keeping away from the dodgy areas and staying indoors at night.

    And also often cities’ reputations take time to catch up with reality: when I went to Colombia alone, many people asked if it was safe. In reality, it’s a world away from the Colombia of the 80’s. Just stay away from the guerrilla areas.

    • Keri

      Thanks for your comment Michelle, and I totally agree with you, we can’t write off a whole destination just because of one area. Still, the key thing is to do thorough research beforehand so you know exactly where is and isn’t ok!

  • Victoria

    Thank you for writing this! I too feel that a lot of places get a bad rep for singular one off incidents and we take it that the whole country is bad when in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have been to a handful of places on this list and I can say I have never once even felt the slightest bit uncomfortable. I think it’s all about your personality, common sense, and just generally paying attention to your surroundings. The truth of the matter is that if you excercise the same level of caution you would at home then you will be fine in the destinations you choose to visit (military and political unrest aside). #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • Laryssa Gobets

    What a great post. I have a lot of people ask me if I’m ever afraid when I travel, especially with the attacks going on in Europe. I typically tell them I’d rather die doing something I enjoy than sitting home. I have a friend that goes to Panama every year and has never had a problem. Thanks for the post and the reminder of all these beautiful places. #theweeklypostcard

  • Upeksha

    Such a great post. I grew up in Sri Lanka, whilst the civil war was ongoing, but it only affected a small part of the country. But the tourism for the whole country declined so I have a lot of sympathy fr country that get a bad press due to problems in small pockets. #theweeklypostcard

  • Kat

    My sister had travelled to Panama before and she didn’t mention anything about being unsafe. I was in Philippines last year and will be travelling there again next year – it never occurred to me that the country was dangerous. Similarly for India (I had travelled there 9 times and will be making my 10th trip this year) and Iran – both countries have received bad rep lately but I had a great time travelling in those countries. True, we should not be so carefree and throw caution to the wind but we should continue to stay alert and practise common sense when we travel, be it abroad or at home. Thanks for sharing this post, it’s a great reminder to us all! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Keri

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Kat! Wow 10th trip to India – I’ve never been sure about visiting myself, what do you love about it?

  • Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net)

    We debate amongst ourselves about safety in different areas before any trip. In general, we don’t find most places to be any more (or less) dangerous than the big city we call home. That is, crime happens everywhere, and terrorism can happen anywhere. I think what’s most important – home or away – is that sense of awareness, and learning how to NOT look like a target for thieves. That said, we do take more precaution in some areas simply because we don’t know the language or culture. We could be committing a crime as easily as being the victim of one! So we read up and try to stick with groups or well known areas. Always a worthwhile conversation! Thanks for bringing it to #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • Keri

      So true guys, especially the comment about committing a crime! I think many of us have been more at risk of this than being victims!

  • Lolo

    Very interesting to read! I remember visiting Ocho Rios, Jamaica as part of a cruise and of all the destinations we visited, they only allowed us 6 hours there because they said that it was unsafe. I was really sad because it was the most beautiful and the people were incredibly fun and friendly! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  • fionajk42

    Pretty much any country will have crime hot spots as well as other areas that are very safe. It really does pay to do some research. We’ve vacationed in Jamaica 3 times, once in Ocho Rios, another time in Sandy Bay and once in Negril. We were pestered at Montego Bay airport by men trying to sell us weed, but that was the only criminal activity we encountered. And in case you’re tempted by the weed, do not buy it at the airport! It’s a well known scam, the guys sell weed to tourists, who are then stopped by police officers who try to elicit a bribe in order to avoid arrest. #XmasComp

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