When planning a trip abroad, safety is a primary concern for many -- especially with the terrorist attacks in Jakarta, Istanbul, and Paris making headlines of late. But while many travelers avoid exotic locales perceived as dangerous, sometimes they overlook potential safety issues in more familiar spots. The following nine countries are popular tourist destinations for a reason, but their murder rates may surprise you -- especially when compared to the U.S. murder rate of 5.4 people per 100,000. The murder statistics below are the most recent available published by the World Health Organization.
9. St. Lucia
Murder Rate: 15.3 people per 100,000
Tourism Popularity: 338, 158 visitors in 2014, including 142,746 from the U.S.
Why People Go: The unspoiled, exotic beauty, pristine beaches, and beautiful mountainous landscapes; luxury resorts such as Jade Mountain offer unparalleled views
The U.S. State Department Says: Crime, including armed robbery, does occur and is rising in St. Lucia. Violent crime, including gun violence and targeted homicides, is often connected to narcotics trafficking. Petty crime also occurs, with tourists being targeted often.
Murder Rate: 22 people per 100,000
Tourism Popularity: 25.8 million visitors in 2015, including over six million from the U.S.
Why People Go: Beautiful beaches, ancient ruins (including Tulum National Park), natural wonders (such as El Vizcaíno biosphere reserve), stunning all-inclusive resorts, and rich local culture
The U.S. State Department Says: Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes. Nevertheless, U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter organized criminal groups that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere, and U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery.
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7. Dominican Republic
Murder Rate: 25.4 people per 100,000
Tourism Popularity: 5.14 million visitors in 2014, including 1.78 million from the U.S.
Why People Go: Impressive luxury resorts, quality affordable resorts, gorgeous white-sand beaches (especially in Punta Cana), great weather, convenient flights, and largely warm and friendly locals
The U.S. State Department Says: While pickpocketing and mugging are the most common crimes against tourists, reports of violence against both foreigners and locals are growing. Crime levels tend to rise during the Christmas season. You should take extra precautions when visiting the Dominican Republic between November and January.
Murder Rate: 32.1 people per 100,000
Tourism Popularity: 6,320,188 visitors in 2014
Why People Go: Championship golf courses, flashy casinos, tasty conch and grouper dishes, terrific deep sea fishing, popular cruise ship hubs, familiar chains (including Burger King), and isolated beaches -- depending where you go on the approximately 30 inhabited islands
The U.S. State Department Says: The criminal threat level for New Providence Island is rated as critical by the Department of State. New Providence Island has experienced a spike in crime that has adversely affected the traveling public, with a spate of violent criminal activity between 2009 and 2015. Armed robbery remains a major criminal threat facing U.S. citizens in The Bahamas. The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports of tourists robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau, to include the cruise ship docks and the Cable Beach commerce areas; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours.
Murder Rate: 32.4 people per 100,000
Tourism Popularity: 5,813,000 visitors in 2013
Why People Go: Over 4,500 miles of coastline, sprawling cosmopolitan cities, charming colonial towns, scantily clad sunbathers, world-renowned parties, 275 individual waterfalls at Iguazu Falls, and incredible flora and fauna in the Amazon
The U.S. State Department Says: Brazilian police and media report that the crime rate remains high in most urban centers, including the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and is also growing in rural areas within those states. Brazil’s murder rate is more than four times higher than that of the United States, and rates for other crimes are similarly high. Street crime remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike. Foreign tourists, including U.S. citizens, are often targets, especially in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife.
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4. Trinidad and Tobago
Murder Rate: 35.3 people per 100,000
Tourism Popularity: 434,000 visitors in 2013
Why People Go: Pleasant tropical weather and rare hurricanes, nice beaches, and less development and tourism than other Caribbean islands
The U.S. State Department Says: Violent crime remains high on both islands and affects local and expatriate communities as well as tourists. You should exercise caution and good judgment. Be particularly cautious when traveling after dark from Trinidad’s Piarco Airport as incidents have been reported in the past involving armed robbers trailing arriving passengers from the airport and accosting them in remote areas of the airport parking lot, on the highway leading from the airport to downtown Port of Spain, and outside the gates of residences.
3. South Africa
Murder Rate: 35.7 people per 100,000
Tourism Popularity: 9,537,000 visitors in 2013
Why People Go: Adventure travel experiences such as safaris and shark cage diving, diverse natural beauty, from Table Mountain to Cape Point to the The Blyde River Canyon, the ancient fossils in the Cradle of Humankind, and relatively affordable prices
The U.S. State Department Says: Violent crimes, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles, are frequent and affect both visitors and residents alike.
Murder Rate: 44.7 people per 100,000
Tourism Popularity: 294,000 visitors in 2013
Why People Go: Lush rain forests, Mayan ruins, and its famous barrier reef, the second largest in the world after Australia's, offering amazing snorkeling and scuba diving
The U.S. State Department Says: Although the majority of reported criminal incidents occur in Belize City, particularly southern Belize City, crime may occur anywhere including tourist destinations such as San Pedro Town (Ambergris Caye), Caye Caulker, San Ignacio, Dangriga, Corozal, and Placencia.
Murder Rate: 45.1 people per 100,000
Tourism Popularity: 3.5 million visitors in 2014
Why People Go: Stunning white-sand beaches, rugged cliffs, reggae, jerk chicken, great parties, warm locals, and great resorts in both the luxury and value categories
The U.S. State Department Says: Crime, including violent crime, is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston and Montego Bay and other major tourist areas. While the vast majority of crimes occur in impoverished areas, random acts of violence, such as gunfire, may occur anywhere. The primary criminal concern for tourists is becoming a victim of theft. In several cases, armed robberies of U.S. citizens have turned violent when the victims resisted or were slow in handing over valuables.
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