The 11 Most Dangerous Countries for Americans to Visit
Read on for our list of a handful of countries that carry an explicit warning from the US government because of civil unrest, crime, terrorism and armed conflict: "Do not travel."
In late December, 2018, horrifying reports began circulating from one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. Two Scandinavian women, Louisa Vesterager Jesperson, 24 and Maren Ueland, 28, had been killed by terrorists while backpacking through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Word of the atrocity traveled quickly, fueled not only by the horror of the murders, but also by the innocuous home countries of the two women—Denmark and Norway.
For reasons unfathomable to most, two innocent women had been killed in a seemingly safe country for no apparent reason. The Moroccan government condemned the attacks, but that hasn’t stopped the international travel community from reconsidering this African staple as a safe vacation destination.
Americans—already an infamously skittish group of international travelers—now find themselves asking questions not only about Morocco, but about an ever-changing map of the world at large. To help you sort through the chaos, we’ve tapped the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to detail the most dangerous countries for Americans to visit this year.
The State Department keeps an updated list of travel advisories, and ranks countries on a 1-4 scale from “exercise normal caution” to “do not travel.” In this list, we explore countries that are listed under the most extreme ranking. In other words, these are places where according to the U.S. government, you should not travel.
The U.S. has been embroiled in an international conflict in Afghanistan since 2001. It should come as no surprise that the nation makes the cut for the State Department’s “do not travel” list. Dangers include kidnappings, hostage taking, suicide bombings, widespread military combat operations, landmines and insurgent attacks. Transportation hubs, tourist locations, government buildings, and public spaces are all potential targets.
Venezuela was placed on the “do not travel” list on January 29, 2019. The most recent addition to the list cites crime, civil unrest, arbitrary arrest and poor health infrastructure as risks to American travelers. A standoff between the country’s military and a new, self-declared interim leader has taken tension in the South American country to a fever pitch.
Tensions flared between the U.S. and North Korea in 2016, when an American tourist was arrested and detained for over a year after reportedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel. Otto Warmbrier, 22, was eventually released back to the U.S. in a vegetative state and subsequently died from injuries sustained during his imprisonment.
Once a jewel of the Middle East, Syria’s historic capital of Damascus has been reduced to a shadow of its former self after eight years of civil war entangling nearly ever military power in the region, including the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Iran. The State Department currently advises American citizens not to travel to the country, due to terrorism, civil unrest and armed conflict.
While it is possible for American citizens to travel to Iran with a visa, the State Department advises against this. That’s a shame, because Tehran remains one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Still, the State Department warns that American citizens could be subject to arbitrary arrest and detention in the country.
Think twice before traveling to this cradle of civilization. American civilians traveling to Iraq risk kidnapping, injury and death in addition to arrests, fines and expulsion. According to the most recent report from the State Department, insurgent groups within the country still regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and citizens.
In 2016, a U.S. Navy destroyer sailing through the Red Sea was targeted by two missiles launched from Yemen. The USS Mason repelled the attack, but the saga marked the beginning of increased tensions between the U.S. and Yemen. In July of 2018, the State Department officially placed Yemen on its “do not travel” list, citing health issues, civil unrest and armed conflict.
In June of 2018, a Canadian judge sentenced a Somali national to 15 year in prison following conviction for the kidnapping of 27-year-old Canadian freelance journalist, Amanda Lindhout. Lindhout was on a four week tour of Africa with an Australian coworker in 2008 when the two were pulled from their vehicle by a group of armed men. Eleven years later, the U.S. government maintains advisories against travel to Somalia, where kidnapping and piracy are still rampant.
The world’s youngest country, South Sudan gained independence from the Republic of Sudan in 2011. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 4 million people have been forced to flee their homes in the country, as thousands die in an ongoing conflict that is still flaring up despite a peace deal in 2015. Ten United Nations aid workers were kidnapped there in the spring of 2018, and the U.S. State Department has placed a “do not travel” warning on the fledgling nation citing carjackings, ambushes, shootings, robberies and kidnappings.
Central African Republic
The U.S. government has a limited ability to help American citizens in distress in the Central African Republic. The State Department lists armed robbery, kidnapping, battery and homicide as threats to travelers visiting the country, and cautions that employees of the U.S. government must obtain special permission to even provide emergency services to its citizens outside of the embassy.
American travelers wanting to literally travel to Timbuktu should think again for now. Here, the State Department says terror groups are randomly targeting night clubs, hotels, restaurants and places of worship, and tourist destinations, as well as diplomatic missions from Western nations. The U.S. government is completely unable to provide emergency services to citizens in two-thirds of the country. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a special warning to pilots flying over the country due to civil unrest.
In addition to these 11 incredibly dangerous countries, enhanced warnings have been issued for several other nations, including: The Democratic Republic of Congo, Venezuela, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, The Dominican Republic, Turkey, and Pakistan.
Four Mexican states, Michoacan, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, currently carry “do not travel” warnings.
You can find out more about updates to the U.S. State Department's "do not travel" list as well as notices of additional countries where "reconsider travel" and "exercise increased caution" notices are in effect at the State Department's website of current travel advisories.