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27 Most Dangerous Cities in the World (2023)

While travelling is one of the greatest joys humans have, certain places need you to take extra precautions. With frequent news stories of violence, kidnappings and gang warfare, it’s hard to ignore the reality that there are dangerous places to travel to.

If you have no idea what the most dangerous cities in the world are, don’t worry — this guide’s got you covered. It’s been compiled using data from the Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice (MCPSCJ) and sources like The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Whether you’re looking at places to avoid when travelling or just want to stroke your curiosity, you’ll find some of the most dangerous cities in the world below.

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27 Most Dangerous Cities in the World

1. Zamora, Mexico

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zamora-church

Image by Bruno Emmanuella from Unsplash

An awfully violent place, this Mexican city has unfortunately been ranked as the most violent city in the world. In 2021, Zamora recorded 610 murders for a per capita murder rate of 196.6 per 100,000 residents. This is the second-highest-ever homicide rate recorded by the MCPSCJ since it started recording data in 2008.

Most of the danger here stems from reported gang violence where rival factions clash against each other, as well as police and citizens. In addition to murder, Zamora is commonly plagued by kidnappings, extortion, and petty theft, among others.

2. Ciudad Obregón, Mexico

Ciudad Obregon
Ciudad Obregon

Image from WikiCommons

Ciudad Obregon is found in the Mexican state of Sonora with a population of just over 300,000. In 2021, it was the second-most dangerous city in the world. It recorded a per capita murder of 155.77 per 100,000 inhabitants.

While a scenic city otherwise, Ciudad Obregon is a vital region in the world of crime. It’s been reported that the city plays a major role in the drug and human trafficking circle of crime. As a result, this has given rise to gang-related crime in a city that only first appeared on the list in 2014.

3. Zacatecas, Mexico

zacatecas
zacatecas

Image by Tania Gonzalez from Unsplash

In the world of travel, Zacatecas is best known for its adventure travel exploits and is one the best places to visit in Mexico. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous cities in the world. In 2021, it ranked third on the list of unsafe places with a per capita murder rate of 107.47 per 100,000 people.

Like the above cities, Zacatecas has seen a surge in crime due to the widespread presence of organized crime and gang-related violence. It’s not uncommon for public shootouts and kidnappings to happen. Due to a reported lack of resources and corruption, law enforcement struggles to curb crime.

4. Tijuana, Mexico

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tijuana

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 With a population of just over two million, Tijuana shares a border with the city of San Diego. It has previously been the most dangerous city in the world. Since then, it has slightly improved, slipping down to fourth in 2021.

This Mexican city recorded 2,124 homicides for the year, the country’s highest. However, its per capita murder rate of 103.19 per 100,000 inhabitants is fourth.

Tijuana is synonymous with poverty and thus violent crimes like kidnappings, rape, and the like. Crime is also fueled by gang violence between the Sinaloa and Tijuana cartels.

5. Celaya, Mexico

celaya
celaya

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Celaya is found in Mexico’s Guanajuato state and has a population of just over 740,000 people, many of whom are model citizens. However, the many bad apples here have turned this central Mexican city into a crime zone.

The city suffers from high levels of violence, which led to its homicide rate of 100.92 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Most of the surge in crime can be attributed to increased gang violence. Gangs such as the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel fight for control of the city’s illegal activity.

6. Caracas, Venezuela

caracas
caracas

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Venezuela is one of the most crime-infested countries in the world. Even worse, the majority of murders go unpunished due to a lack of resources and corruption in law enforcement.

So, it should come as no surprise that the country is home to one of the most dangerous cities in Caracas. The city saw 100 murders per 100,000 residents. The main cause of such violence is poverty and poor law enforcement in the city.

7. Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

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With a population of just over 1.5 million people, Ciudad Juarez is the most populous city in the state of Chihuahua. While it’s well known along the Texas border for its electric nightlife, it has a dark side rampant with crime and murder.

Juarez, as it’s prominently known, has a homicide rate of 95.79 per 100,000 inhabitants. It has seen an uptick in femicide rates and is thus one of the worst cities for women. The city’s also a playground for gangs, with turf wars a common thing.

In addition to homicide, you would have to worry about crime like carjacking, burglaries, and petty theft.

8. Ensenada, Mexico

ensenada
ensenada

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Ensenada sits in the state of Baja California and is the seventh-most dangerous city in the world. It has a homicide rate of 75.79 murders per 100,000 persons.

The city’s main driver behind the violent crime is due to turf battles between several cartels. This includes the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and the Arellano Felix Organisation.

In addition to homicide, human trafficking, burglaries, and carjacking are common.

9. Uruapan, Mexico

Uruapan
Uruapan

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Uruapan is another Mexican city that experiences violent crime that you won’t find in many other places. Situated in Michoacan, the city is a gang playground that sadly sees many clashes, most notably the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. These gangs mostly fight for control of the city’s drug trafficking routes.

This, along with robberies, carjackings, and kidnappings, has led to a homicide rate of 73.40 per 100,000 inhabitants.

10. St. Louis, United States of America

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st-louis

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St. Louis is a bustling industrial city in the United States with an incredible atmosphere and a long list of attractions. It’s also home to several billion-dollar corporations, but it’s still one of the most dangerous cities in the United States and the world, especially outside the tourist zones.

With a population of just over 300,000, the city sees 65.32 get murdered for every 100,000 citizens in St. Louis. This is the highest figure in the US, and you’ll also find it rife in petty theft, armed robberies, and more.

The main causes of St. Louis’ crime rate are extreme poverty and unemployment.

11. Kingston, Jamaica

kingston
kingston

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The Caribbean is one of the most peaceful and safest regions in the world, therefore making it a prime tourist destination. However, there are a few exceptions, including Kingston, which is among the most dangerous cities in the world.

A mixture of organised crime, social inequality, and undermanned law enforcement have contributed to Kingston’s dangerous atmosphere. According to the MCPSCJ, the city had a murder rate of 64.17 murders per 100,000 people.

Aside from homicide, you’d have to keep your eyes open for petty theft like pickpocketing, robberies, and the like as small-time criminals mostly target tourists.

12. Cape Town, South Africa

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Cape Town is the embodiment of “two worlds in one area”. One side is a tourist haven full of attractions, while the other is a warzone filled with violence.

As a result, Cape Town is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It leads the way with the most murders, coming in at 2,911 homicides. However, due to the population of over four million, it has per capita murder rate of 62.22 per 100,000 citizens.

Most crime results from the presence of over 100 gangs in the city, many of which are involved in the drug trade, armed robberies, and more.

13. Feira de Santana, Brazil

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Feira de Santana is a Brazilian city known for its vibrant culture. However, it has recently been attracting attention for another reason — its high crime rates. 

This city has reported some of the highest rates of murder and street crime in Brazil in recent years. But, how has this once-prominent travel destination declined so much?

The city’s fallen prey to organised gangs operating unchecked and a lax effort from law enforcement due to a lack of resources. As a result, Feira de Santana had a murder rate of 61.21 per 100,000 people.

14. Buenaventura, Colombia

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Buenaventura

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Buenaventura has a long and horrific history of drug trafficking, violence, and murders due to the existence of rival cartels. Unfortunately, this seems like it will only continue as it’s still listed among the most dangerous cities in the world.

Being a port city, rival gangs have been engaged in decades-long wars to seize control of this strong position for drug trading. It has a homicide rate of 59.33 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Most of the city’s 300 000-some citizens live in poverty and have been swallowed by crime, with corruption letting crime run rampant. Other than murders, Buenaventura has high rates of sexual violence and violent protests.

15. Baltimore, United States of America

baltimore
baltimore

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Baltimore is an amazing city with a lovely culture, stunning architecture, and electric nightlife. However, this splendor alone isn’t enough to paper over its dangerous atmosphere.

The city has a long-standing reputation for being sketchy, and it’s one of the unsafest cities in the world. Also a port city, a large portion of its crime is related to drug trafficking and petty thieves from poverty-stricken areas. Nearly 25% of residents live below the poverty line.

These conditions have led to the city’s homicide rate of 57.54 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

16. Colima, Mexico

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colima

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Colima is a city in the state it shares a name with, which has long been one of the most violent states in Mexico. Found here is the Port of Manzanillo, a coveted asset for drug trafficking that is the leading cause of gang activity. Cartels like the Jalisco New Generation and Sinaloa Cartels are the major parties involved in turf wars.

The rampant crime has led to a murder rate of 59.11 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

17. Acapulco, Mexico

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acapulco

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Acapulco, a Mexican resort town, is one of Mexico’s most visited tourist destinations. This is thanks to sandy beaches, luxurious hotels, and unending entertainment. Sadly it is also one of the most dangerous cities in the world outside of tourist-heavy areas, and even those places aren’t entirely safe.

According to the MCPSCJ, Acapulco recorded 445 murders in 2021, leading to a 56.84 per capita murder rate. The leading cause for such figures is the drug war happening between rival gangs, alongside crimes like extortion, hijackings, and the like.

18. New Orleans, United States of America

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new-orleans-city

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New Orleans is globally renowned for lively music, colorful parades, and mouthwatering food. But there’s a dark side to The Big Easy, which sees around 56.77 people die for every 100,000 inhabitants.

The American city has parts rife with poverty, drug abuse, and violence that you’d do best to avoid. This includes Desire, Central City (in the evenings), and Saint Roch, among others.

Pickpocketing, carjackings, armed robberies, and break-ins are the leading causes of crime here.

19. Cuernavaca, Mexico

Cuernavaca
Cuernavaca

Image by IlianaLo from Pixabay

Cuernavaca is another of Mexico’s most dangerous cities, and it’s found in the state of Morelos. It has a murder rate of 55.83 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

The large presence of organised crime is mostly responsible for the violence here. Drug trafficking is rampant in the city, meaning gangs fight and kill while vying for territory. Furthermore, poverty is widespread in Cuernavaca, which leads to everyday people, including children, turning to crime out of desperation.

20. Memphis, United States of America

memphis
memphis

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Memphis has an image of a beautiful city set along the Mississippi River and full of splendor. But behind this image lies a long history of violence and crime aided by an insufficient education system and few economic opportunities.

This is due to widespread poverty, drug abuse, gang activity, and a lack of resources being afforded to law enforcement. As a result, Memphis has a 54.65 murder rate per 100,000 residents.

21. Mossoró, Brazil

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mossoro

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Mossoró is a rapidly-growing city that has its share of dangers. Unfortunately, the city can be quite dangerous due to its high crime rate and poor socio-economic conditions. 

The area has a reputation for drug trafficking and other gang-related crimes like robbery and assault. Combine that with ill-equipped law enforcement, and you get a murder rate of 54.64 per 100,000 inhabitants.

However, crime isn’t the only reason behind Mossoró being unsafe. The city also has a lackluster health care system despite frequent outbreaks of illnesses like the Zika virus.

22. Irapuato, Mexico

irapuato
irapuato

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Irapuato is renowned for its natural beauty, which attracts thousands to the city. It is home to over 850,000 people, but it also happens to be an incredibly dangerous city.

It has a per capita homicide rate of 53.79 per 100,000 inhabitants. Like other Mexican cities, the increased crime is a result of turf wars between gangs like the Santa Rosa de Lima and Jalisco New Generation Cartels.

The most prominent crime, apart from murder, includes kidnappings, extortion, and mass shootings. Local law enforcement have struggled to deal with the crime and turned to the federal government for help, but crime still continues to rip through the city.

23. Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa

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Image by WikiCommons

Despite being named after one of the most peaceful leaders of the past 100 years, the Bay area named for Nelson Mandela is anything but peaceful. Sure, it’s home to plenty of incredible attractions but It is an incredibly dangerous place to be. The city has some of the highest violent crime rates in the world.

Nelson Mandela Bay has high rates of theft, vehicle hijacking, and violent crimes like robbery and assault. While many don’t lead to deaths, the city still has an alarming homicide rate. According to the MCPSCJ, about 52.30 people die for every 100,000 inhabitants.

24. Cali, Colombia

cali
cali

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In spite of its lively atmosphere, Cali is a city with widespread poverty and limited resources. This leads to many citizens turning to crime, creating an unsafe environment.

Additionally, Cali’s location 100 kilometres from the Pacific Coast has opened the city up to drug traffickers. These cartels are not only involved in the drug trade, but they also do kidnappings and killings. This, combined with a weak rule of law, led to a 52.24 homicide rate.

25. Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil

Vitoria-da-Conquista most dangerous cities in the world
Vitoria-da-Conquista

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Vitoria da Conquista in southeast Brazil has seen its fair share of crime in recent years, enough to be called one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Like many Brazilian cities, the city has to combat gang activity and high poverty levels for its safety.

Drug and weapons trafficking by gangs, car thefts, home break-ins, and petty theft are rampant. This has led to a 50.34 murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants. Police are also ill-equipped to help locals, and visitors like yourself should you fall victim to crime.

26. Detroit, United States of America

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detroit

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Despite being known for its manufacturing industry, Detroit is considered a dangerous city. According to the MCPSCJ, the American city saw 48.35 murders for every 100,000 residents.

Crimes like murder, robbery, and larceny theft are the driving forces behind this city being so unsafe. It doesn’t help that the city has seen increased inequality between its prominent neighbourhoods and those that are struggling. Those who don’t have the proper resources then turn to crime for sustenance, making for a dangerous environment.

27. Fortaleza, Brazil

fortaleza
fortaleza

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Fortaleza has a population of just over four million great people and features a number of popular attractions. Unfortunately, these are overshadowed by the city’s high levels of crime.

Despite declining murder rates, Fortaleza remains one of the most dangerous places in the world. The homicide rate dropped from 83.5 murders to 69 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020, which was still an alarming figure. In 2021, this further dropped to 44.71 homicides per 100,000 people.

There are areas with limited and corrupt police services, high levels of poverty, gang activity that are the leading causes for this crime rate.

Final Thoughts on the Most Dangerous Cities in the World

Now that you know the most dangerous cities in the world, what will you do with this information? Will you take extra precautions if you find yourself in one of these places? Or maybe you’re now more curious about these areas and want to learn more. 

Either way, we hope this article provided some helpful or interesting information. Let me know in the comments below what you think about the most dangerous cities in the world.

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Most Dangerous Countries in the World

Most Dangerous Places in the World

Most Dangerous Roads in the World

Most Dangerous Airports in the World

Most Dangerous Cities in the United States

Most Dangerous Cities in Europe

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