World’s worst places: Top 10 places you do not want to visit in 2012

Update: Check out the World’s Worst Places of 2013 here

What comes to mind when you think of the world’s worst place? While it is easy to complain about rural Wal-marts, La Guardia, Applebee’s, and any government office with motor vehicle in its title, none of those places escalate the game from nuisance to immediate danger. All of them can be horrible, yes, but a threatened existence they do not pose.

The places on this list are the bad places. Some have run out of hope. Others have fought war for so long it is the new normal. Most are exceptionally dangerous and heartbreaking. And while none of them are fighting for write-ups by travel bloggers or inspiring travel with the NetJet set, some of these locations may someday be on the travel map. After all, it was not long ago that current hot-spots like Cambodia and Croatia would have made such a list.


10. Harare, Zimbabwe
Recently voted by the Economist as the world’s worst city to live in, Harare is a unique study in failed fiscal policy. The once acceptable city fell into disrepair during Zimbabwe’s severe bouts with hyperinflation and corruption. The troubles began in the early 21st century when Zimbabwe’s inflation rate increased to 112.1%. Sounds terrible right? As it turns out, those were the sunny days. In 2008, the inflation rate peaked at 231,150,000% per annum. In U.S. terms, this means that if you deposited $10,000, it would be worth about 4 thousandths of a U.S. cent in one years time. That sucks. (For the record, 10,000USD = 46.720 quadrillion Zimbabwe dollars in 2009.)

This sort of economic arrangement allowed Harare to fail. There are not enough printers in Zimbabwe to print enough of its Z100 Billion notes, and when a loaf of bread costs trillions, doom is soon to follow. Unemployment grew to 80% and many services faltered. Today, foreign currencies have been adopted but the damage has been done. Much of Harare is in disrepair, and few foreign companies care to directly invest in the troubled city. That said, it is probably the safest place on this list to visit with flights direct from London on the national carrier – Air Zimbabwe.

9. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
The lone entry from Oceania is the ultra-diverse Port Moresby of Papua New Guinea. PNG is home to over 820 languages – more than any other country in the world. As such, its capital Port Moresby boasts a diverse crew of opportunists and island cultures. It was recently voted by the Economist as the 137th out of 140 places in the livable cities index, making it a tough place to get by.

Rapes, Murders, and HIV are just a few of the daily tragedies that befall this enclave at the edge of the map. Here, even riding in cars is a dangerous activity. Gangs called Raskols are known to rob vehicles transporting foreigners at gunpoint.

Port Moresby is best used as a temporary gateway to nearby dive sites and for flights to PNG’s jungle interior and its solitary treks. Reaching Port Moresby is easy from Australia on PNG’s national carrier Air Niugini.

8. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
37 years ago, Ali and Foreman traded blows in one of boxing’s most historic matches. The match took place in Kinshasa. At the time, the country was known as Zaire, and the future looked hopeful for the mineral-rich nation. But as is common in 20th century African history, corruption at the top derailed the future. The country became a model for African kleptocracy as President Mobutu matched Zaire’s national debt with deposits into his personal bank account in Switzerland – to a tune of 4 billion (1980) U.S. dollars. He was forced to flee in the late nineties.

By 1998, the Congo region was engaged in the Second Congo War – the most deadly military conflict since World War II. In the end, over 5 million perished, and to this day the mineral-rich country has a per capita (nominal) GDP of about $186.

Chinese foreign direct investment has allowed Kinshasa to grow into a more reasonable place over the last decade, though it is not yet ready for its tourist close-up. Violence and political instability still ravage the second most populated city in Africa. It has come a long way from the time of Mr. Kurtz, but the heart of Africa is still an exceptionally complicated place. Just a month ago during the presidential election, thousands fled Kinshasa in anticipation of violence, and tanks rolled in to police the streets.

Tens of thousands of orphaned street children call the slums of Kinshasa home and are also routinely accused of witchcraft by locals. Carjackings are one of the more common types of tourist robbery, especially outside of the city center. And one more thing, photography is illegal.

Reaching Kinshasa is easy from Paris on Air France.

7. Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rocinha is the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro. While its infrastructure exceeds that of lesser favelas and its view of Rio is truly breathtaking, it is also home to several hundred thousand Brazilians packed onto a steep hillside. It is a playground for modern day little Li’l Zes.

With one of the highest murder rates in the world, Brazil has been cracking down on violence in anticipation of hosting both the Olympics and World Cup. In fact, local authorities have effectively declared war on this slum in an effort to clean it up and push out the drug cartels, and just a few months ago, Rocinha was occupied by the military and police forces. Their aim is to restore government control in the sprawling favela. While progress has no doubt been made, when visiting Rio (which is generally safe), it is wise to avoid favelas unless accompanied by a local guide.

6. Sana’a, Yemen
“Just off the horn of Africa…” is a common statement that generally precedes a story about modern piracy. And just on the other side of the dangerous Gulf of Aden where such piracy goes down is treacherous Yemen – a land frozen in time.

It is a time machine to the modern edge of the Islamic dark ages. On one hand this brings old world Arabian architecture and cultures of antiquity, but on the other, it brings out Islamic fanaticism. It is a place of child brides and a training ground for Al Qaeda. Men walk around freely with weapons per their religious rights, and these weapons range from the ubiquitous Jambiya to battle-worn Kalashnikovs. Sana’a is old, dangerous, and has its share of political unrest. As a westerner, you can keep your travel plans safer by avoiding Yemen.

The tragic thing about Yemen is that it possesses such beautiful sights. It has unbelievable Red Sea beaches, Socotra Island (Similar to the Galapagos and on my own personal travel shortlist), and old forts amid craggy mountains.

Reaching Sana’a, Yemen is possible from Dubai, Doha, London, and Sharjah.

5. West Point, Monrovia, Liberia
Clean water, electricity, basic services – all things we take for granted in the West. In the West Point area of Monrovia, a city named for James Monroe, these are luxuries. West Point, a peninsular slum jutting out into the Atlantic, is home to a special breed of disgusting squalor. Home to 75,000 Monrovians, it is one of Africa’s most notorious and crowded slums. Cholera is at an epidemic level, drug use is rampant, teenage prostitution is a commonality, and toilets are scarce. In fact, since it costs money to use neighborhood toilets, many Monrovians in West Point just crap in the streets or on the beach.

Vice did a great series on Liberia a few years ago. In the series, they meet with with an ex-war leader known as General Butt Naked – the commander of a group of child soldiers called the Butt Naked Brigade. He earned this name by charging into battle wearing only sneakers and his AK-47. Aside from sacrificing humans and partaking in cannibalism, he also regularly communicated with the devil. Today, he is a minister.

Delta flies from Atlanta to Monrovia, Liberia.

4. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Just as turbulence occurs where hot and cold air meet, similarly a point of human turbulence occurs in this nasty city where Mexico meets the United States. Drug violence, government incompetence, and poverty mix to form what has been called the murder capital of the world (this dishonor has since been ceded to Honduras). As drug wars continue to rage, Juarez continues to be a dangerous place. The drug cartels continue to fight for one of the most valuable things in the world – access to the United States narcotics market.

Neighboring El Paso, oddly, has one of the lowest murder rates in the United States. In fact, among major cities, El Paso is tied with Lincoln, Nebraska for having the lowest murder rate in the United States. It is indeed strange to have such a dichotomy separated by a river.

Flying to Juarez from a number of cities is easy, but don’t do it. Go to Cancun and fist pump instead.

3. Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Take one of the most damned places on the planet, knock the hell out of it with an earthquake, and you get the worst of Haiti – Cite Soleil. Port-au-Prince is generally a place of ephemeral hope and naked truths, and at its most rotten corner is this heartbreaking slum.

Cite Soleil is one of the largest slums in the northern hemisphere. It is a place where what you see is what you get, and what you see is abject third world poverty. The slum is void of sewers, schools, electricity, or healthcare facilities. It is the kind of place where relief workers are swallowed whole by the earth. In 2007, UN peacekeepers attempted to access the neighborhood and were welcomed with gunfire.

On top of this, many dangerous gang members escaped prison during the earthquake of 2010 and have returned to this crumbling slum. Reach PAP, Haiti from Miami on Insel Air.

2. Kandahar, Afghanistan
Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, it is a tragedy that Kandahar is so awfully dangerous. A one time trading center and strategic foothold, Kandahar is a victim of its perfect location between the world’s of East and West. It has been a point of interest since Alexander the Great stumbled upon it in the 4th century BC. For centuries, traders passed through this city when traveling between Asia and Europe. As result, wars have also passed through and control has changed hands over its centuries of existence, from Mongols to Arabs to Brits and beyond.

Kidnappings, suicide bombings, and other criminal activities have turned it into an absolute monster of a destination. War has a way of creating this sort of general lawlessness. Having a 28% national literacy rate does not help matters.

As a weird footnote, Kandahar has an Armani Hotel, though it is not licensed by Giorgio. Its TGI Fridays, once a bastion of Americana and cheese sticks in Afghanistan, has allegedly been shut down. One can reach Kandahar from Dubai on Ariana Afghan Airlines. During Taliban rule, Osama bin Laden used this airline for Al Qaeda operations including the smuggling of guns, money, and opium. Today, sanctions have been lifted against the troubled national carrier.

1. Mogadishu, Somalia
Still crazy after all these years, “Mog” has perhaps the most terrifying disclaimer (ever) hovering above its entry on wikitravel. It states, “Mogadishu is regarded as the most lawless and dangerous city on Earth and is currently experiencing a major food and refugee crisis. It is not safe for leisure or tourism. If you are planning a visit for international aid work, etc, you will need expert advice and planning.”

Civil War has raged for decades, and the government controls only a few blocks of the city. It is a base for modern pirates, the backdrop for the true story surrounding Black Hawk Down, and it is said that machine guns are frequently used by drivers to negotiate through car traffic. It is a land without law, a soulless place at the edge of Africa. Much of it bears more resemblance to the last level in an especially difficult video game than to life on Earth. It is more modern warfare than modern world.

Oddly enough, several supermodels were born in Mogadishu including Iman and Yasmin Warsame – a footnote of beauty for an ugly place. Flights to Mog can be booked on Jubba Airways from Jeddah and Dubai. Good luck with that. Seriously though, if you decide to go, be sure to wear a bulletproof vest and hire a small army of Ethiopian soldiers.


Another adventure awaits me and so I must pack, but before running off to do so let me point you to some of this week’s fun-filled and informative posts touching on food, islands, business travel and one of the best Talking Travel interviews yet!

5. Haiti Part 6: A Few Last Words:
My quick weekend trip to the Caribbean land of Haiti in summary can be found by visiting the link above along with other links packed with pictures of Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, Haiti. Check out the lesser explored Carib nation.

4. Hey Americans! Take a Vacation:
It is so true – Americans vacation the least compared to the rest of the world. What gives? Read Gadling’s cry out for more Americans to start taking time off and start planning your own escape.

3. Combining Business and Pleasure and how to Write it Off:
As someone who does a lot of travel for work related purposes it can be both enjoyable and a pain. The painful part if the expense reporting and keeping track of every single receipt. For those that experience the same kind of write-off and tax issues check out this how-to Neil does a fine job pointing us all to. Hopefully, this will help decrease some of the headache.

2. Top Ten Restaurants You Can Take a Boat To:

Ready for a hot, but cool dinner date? Taking a boat to a restaurant might just be the spice or icing (whichever you prefer) your dinner date is in need of and with that we present you with some of the top ten restaurants to make it happen.

1. Talking Travel with Conor Grennan:
If you haven’t been acquainted with Conor Grennan yet – NOW is the time! In this amazing and touching Talking Travel piece we learn that Conor is doing more than just hanging out in Nepal. He has been trekking through the Himalayas, reuniting trafficked children with their parents… WOW. How is that for meaningful travel? Read the full scoop for yourself!

Haiti Part 2: Kreyól Cuisine

One might imagine that food and its preparation between each Caribbean island couldn’t possibly vary drastically in taste, but then one would be wrong. I’ve learned now through an odd handful of islands visited; St. Lucia, Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago and now Haiti, that the art and science of cooking and eating a good meal on each is an experience of its own. No where else have I been able to feast upon conch salad the way I had in the Bahamas or the doubles and roti found in T&T and in Haiti, Creole cabrit, picklise, and lambi. The islands are without a doubt full of flavors. I’m sure I did not come close to taste-testing every Haitian delight on the menu or even the grilled corn on the cob which I longed for from one of the street vendors, but what I have here is only a glance of what savory, mouth-watering dishes await the visitor hoping to dig into Kreyól Cuisine during a weekend, week or months stay in the country.

Pasta Nostra was not the first sit down restaurant I dined at, but it easily became my favorite. It possibly was the story behind the place alone that won my affection. As the story goes the breath-taking, beautiful mademoiselle pictured above had once been involved with an Italian man who taught her the art of cooking pasta and other Italian dishes. While the man in the story is somewhat of a ghost now, the beautiful chef can still be found preparing fresh seafood and pasta dishes across from the quiet beach of Ti Mouillage.

The establishment is cool, casual and comfortable like most situated next to the beach. Wooden chairs and tables sit atop of a small deck and small, bright, colorful artwork hangs from the wooden pools along the restaurant. Come before you feel you will absolutely faint of hunger because it is a one-woman operation in the kitchen and so it will be a moment before the food arrives. If you’ve come all the way to Haiti only to sample items typical to the country and wish not to have what I call ‘Italian fare remixed’ there is enough delicious fresh seafood to fill you right on up and if you weren’t aware – seafood is pretty typical for most islands.

On my plate: Grilled red snapper with plantains covered in a spicy red leafy sauce. The fish was cooked wonderfully and the sauce (I cannot remember the name – pictured below) had the right amount of kick. My companions all had the same with the exception of one who sampled the lobster and noted it was delicious. To wash it all down I sipped on cold cherry juice which I expressed some initial skepticism over as I’m not wild about cherry flavored foods/beverages in the States, yet the taste of cherry in Haiti is much different. The gelato featured on the desert menu was not available, so I skipped on having sweets afterwards. The rest of the bunch ordered crepes, which I took only a bite of found tasty as well. After you’ve refueled head across to the beach for a snooze underneath the island sun. ($$)

Pasta Nostra is located in Ti Mouillage, up the road from Jacmel. Ph. 509.453.3413

The restaurant at Hotel Cyvadier was the first I ate at and found the food appetizing. It wasn’t until we’d made the long three hour drive from Port-au-Prince and got all checked in did I finally rest my limbs and gobble down my first real meal. The restaurant as best described on the hotel website ‘seats up to 70 people and specializes in a diverse variety of fish, crawfish and lobster delivered daily from the local fishermen.’ The atmosphere is casual for breakfast and lunch which were the only two times I actually dined at the Cyvadier. Views of the hotel, swimming pool and the alluring Cyadier Plage (beach) can all be seen from the restaurant.

On my breakfast plate: I usually went the light way for breakfast having fruits (mango, banana, pineapple and/or melon) and bread with confiture (jelly or peanut butter). Simple and yummy! On the lunch plate: Spaghetti with ham and onions. If my memory serves me correctly I believe it may have been called Creole spaghetti, but I could also be wrong. For the first meal it wasn’t too bad. It was not mind-blowing, but highly satisfying. I would have liked to have explored other dishes on the menu, but didn’t want to stick exclusively to the hotel restaurant. ($$$)

Hotel Cyvadier Restaurant Plage is located in Jacmel off of Avenue Baranquilla in the direction towards Marigot. Ph. 509.288.3323

Ambiance was the dinner stop right before heading out to the second night of Festival Mizik Jakmel. It sits on the second floor above a business which I did not bother taking notice of and has a nice view of the activity taking place on the streets below. There isn’t a ton of ‘ambiance’ with the speeding motor ‘taxi’ bikes passing along, but once your meal is served you forget about all that is surrounding you including the screeching tires. The dishes took a while to prepare and by the time my Cabrit Creole (Creole goat) arrived I had lost the sense to take a photo of it and instead dug right in.

It was accompanied by a small field salad and a plate of red beans and rice far to large for me to tackle alone. The goat itself was very tasty and the meat was falling off the bone. Considering how different the taste was from the curry goat I’d had in T&T so many times and how easy it was to rip right into the meal I questioned whether I was truly having goat, but only for a short few seconds. I cannot recall what was on everyone else’s plate, but the overall reaction to the food was a good one. ($$)

Ambiance is located at Avenue Baranquilla, Jacmel, Haiti. Ph. 509.288.3067

There were a few things on my wish list that I still hadn’t eaten and I didn’t want to wait anymore. I had been told about how delicious the picklese and Creole lambi was in Haiti and I didn’t want to miss either and in the process I still managed to miss one. The last sit-down spot where I had the opportunity and sadly failed was at Le Lambi Beach Hotel near Carrefour.

Le Lambi is HUGE! It was by far the biggest place we’d been to and during the time of our visit one of the quietest. It was obvious the restaurant had been there for ages as it was decorated from every inch of the ceiling in colorful baskets and every inch of the walls in conch shells. When you walk in your attention is split between the dance floor to the right and the open floor in the center where one can look down into the sea beneath. Old kompa tunes hum from the stereo system calling music lovers to the dance floor on a packed night I’m sure, but for lunch every patron in the restaurant was either far too hungry or too relaxed. I was so thrilled that they had picklese (a chopped cabbage in an extra delectable vinegar dressing) that I made the mistake of ordering my lambi grille
d and not the typical way which is served in Creole sauces.

When my meal arrived I looked down at what seemed like an appetizer. My companions then confessed that they’d never eaten the lambi (conch) grilled before and always order it in Creole sauce. I thought to myself why they hadn’t shared that valuable information before I ordered and let it slide as they were probably only trying to provide me with a reason to come back. In the end the grilled lambi was ‘OK’ and the picklese amazing! In fact I had everyone else’s picklese too. They were more than happy to share. And yes, I must finish what I started and return to sample more. ($$)

Le Lambi Beach Hotel is located in/near Carrefour at Mariani Mer Frayyte, Haiti. Ph. 509.234.0272

Dollar Guide: ($) Under U.S. $10 ($$) Under U.S. $20 ($$$) Over U.S. $20. While some restaurants are pricey and there is much street food to devour there are cheap tasty items on most if not all menus. Menu prices are noted in Haitian dollars (which do not actually exist) and can be paid for in Gourdes or U.S. dollars. To get the price in Gourdes multiply the Haitian dollar amount by five. For the price in U.S. dollars divide the amount of Gourdes by the going exchange rate approx 35-37. After you’ve done all the math treat yourself to a cocktail.

Want to go cheaper and hit the streets! Go for it! Among most busy town roadsides you can find chicken, plantains, sugarcane, juices, you name it! Just be careful to always have bottled water.

Yesterday: A Country with a VERY Bad Reputation
Tomorrow: Hotel Cyvadier & Other Jacmel Hotels

Spirit Airlines to Offer Flights to Port-au-Prince

In today’s competitive airline industry carriers have to think outside of the box, be sharper than a razor’s edge and fly to destinations where many dare not to go. As of recent, the low-cost carrier, Spirit Airlines, has filed an application with the federal government to fly out of Ft. Lauderdale, FL and into Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Me, personally, I think the news is great and will be all the merrier if things go in favor for Spirit Airlines. First off, it would make the carrier the only big U.S. low-cost airline to offer regularly scheduled service to Haiti. Secondly, I live only a few hours drive from Ft. Lauderdale and I wouldn’t mind checking out Haiti for a weekend or so.

However, this short news update from USA Today’s blog gets mixed reviews and heated in the comments. If the news sounds good to you keep your fingers crossed or just go check out what some of the other people seem to think about traveling to Haiti.