Places I Am Afraid of Visiting

Last week, I booked and cancelled a flight to El Salvador a total of five times while I was deciding whether to go.  In the end, I cancelled on my husband’s request.  Although I honestly believe El Salvador is a safe place to visit if you take proper precautions, Mike’s nervousness got the best of me.  Not because those worries were contagious but because I didn’t want to cause him stress.

Someday, I’ll make it to El Salvador, but that conversation got me thinking where I actually wouldn’t be comfortable traveling.  The list is relatively short, in part because some dangerous places aren’t appealing to me anyway (sorry, Central African Republic) and in part because I think some warnings are overstated (like in the case of El Salvador).

where i'm afraid to travel

India

I really, really want to go to India.  I’m fascinated by how different it is and the people I’ve met have been wonderful.  Throw in breathtaking scenery, varied regions, and a million things to see, and it’s a shame I haven’t been.

The problem is I don’t think I’d relax enough to enjoy it solo and I don’t want to go with just anybody.  So, I guess I’m not scared of visiting, but I am scared of visiting India by myself.

Photo by Swaminarayan Sanstha via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Swaminarayan Sanstha via Wikimedia Commons

I know that traveling through India solo is possible, but if my guard is constantly up, I won’t relax enough to enjoy it.  If I’m frequently harassed, I’d be focused on taking care of myself instead of the interesting discoveries around me.  I know myself and I know I make poor choices when I’m overwhelmed.  Until I have someone I trust to travel with, I won’t be going to India.

Venezuela

Long ago, I learned about “Cataumbo Lightning”.  The most frequent lightning in the world occurs over Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela where it meets the Catatumbo River.  With optimum heat and humidity and wind coming from the Andes, the conditions are just right to have lighting up to 160 nights per year (and during storms, it can strike up to 280 times per hour, 10 hours per day).  As a sucker for storms, I want to be mesmerized there.  

CATATUMBO LIGHTNING VENEZUELA
Photo by Ruzhugo27 via Wikimedia Commons

This is a weird case where I believe this particular part of Venezuela would be safe to travel to, especially since I’d want a guide (for wildlife spotting) anyway.  However, there’s a lot of Venezuela that draws me in and a few regions of the country that still seem too precarious to visit.

When I go to Venezuela, I want to be able to explore more than just a lightning storm, so I’ll wait until things are settled enough to explore more of the country.

Tunisia

My heart breaks a little hearing about the recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia.  Clearly, this is one country where tourists are not safe and I can’t imagine the horrors of being attacked on the beach or at a museum while I’m traveling.

Irrationally, I went to Morocco a year after the Djemaa el-Fna bombing and am going to Cairo spring 2016, but Tunisia’s massacres make that destination too risky in my mind.

dougga tunisisa where i'm afraid to travel
Photo by Marinse via Wikimedia Commons

I feel for the families affected by this year’s attacks and I feel for the Tunisians whose livelihoods will suffer from a drop in tourism.  And selfishly, I’m disappointed that Tunisia is no longer a place I would feel safe visiting (for the time being) despite its wonderful assortment of UNESCO World Heritage sites and jaw-dropping desert scenes.

The good part about today’s world is that things are always changing and what is unsafe today may be perfectly safe in the future.  I’ll be holding off on these destinations…and thankfully, there are still many places to explore.

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The world is mostly safe for travelers, but I'm avoiding a few places. Find out where and share your own list.

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I know I’m not the only one.

Where are you afraid to travel?  Tell me in the comments, tweet me, or share your list on Facebook.

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35 thoughts on “Places I Am Afraid of Visiting”

  1. Somalia and Saudi Arabia are a couple. Would like to go to the Stans, but not alone. I’ve been to India and Tunisia each for over two weeks with my husband. My impressions leave me with the feeling that a lone female would need to be hyper-vigilant.

    1. @P T, I also would love to go the Stans…there are a few I would attempt on my own, and others I would prefer visiting with a partner or group.

      Love your perspective on being “hyper-vigilant” on India. That is a great way to put it, based on what I’ve heard. Absolutely I think it’s possible but that’s not how I want to spend all my time.

  2. Let’s go to India! I agree with most of your list. I really want to go to Venezuela as well. It looks like a beautiful country, but I think I would want to travel with someone else too. I’m heading to Brazil in November for a week solo. Out of all the countries that I have traveled to solo, it’s the one I’m most worried about. However, I think I’ll be fine. One of my good friends spent his summer in Tunis. He said the people are kind and welcoming. The recent attacks are heartbreaking.

    Two of the countries I really want to go to, but probably not alone, are Iran and Pakistan.

    1. @Katelyn, It’s interesting how it’s possible to comfortable traveling some places 100% solo and others, we’re hesitant. I think Brazil solo will be fine — I’ve had several friends go and enjoy it! I’m sure you will too.

      Tunis, and many other places, are 99% great people. It’s just that 1% that becomes worrisome.

  3. I definitely won’t travel to a country that’s in active turmoil or war (Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, et al.) nor to those that are under regimes that are hostile to Americans (Iran, North Korea, etc). But that doesn’t mean that by the time I’m 60, that they’ll still be on my “do not travel” list. I guess underneath all my realism, I’m optimistic that some places will one day be free, democratic nations that are safe for citizens and tourists alike.

  4. My wife and I went to India a couple of years ago, even took the train. There was some culture shock, and I can completely understand why you wouldn’t necessarily want to travel there alone. Why not convince Mike?!

    As far as places where I’m afraid of visiting, regardless of the rationality of them: Israel, Jordan, and Turkey. Israel does have the Iron Dome, but, I feel like its such a target, despite all that. Jordan is so close to the action, especially with the Jordanian pilot last year (or was it earlier this year?), and Turkey, well, years ago, I had a distant colleague not make it back from there, apparently car accidents are common there (well, really everywhere).

    1. @Trevor, Mike has no interest in visiting India, no use convincing him when I’d probably have a more enjoyable time with someone else.

      It’s interesting that you would avoid Israel, Jordan, and Turkey. All are places I would go (even solo), with perhaps small pockets of regions I would avoid. Every traveler has a different comfort zone!

    2. Adding my comment way late. I visited southern Jordan last year (Petra and Wadi Rum, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, I believe) and was mesmerized by the gorgeous landscape and massively appreciative tourism industry. Both of these areas are far from the ISIS action and far from the Syrian refugee camps. Jordan has worked hard to keep their tourism industry going during these hard times. Part of the appeal of travel is to expose ourselves to new cultures and to dismantle incorrect preconceptions.

      My strategy for visiting places that are outside my comfort zone (due to language or safety concerns) is to hire the services of an in-country travel agency (TA) to book my hotels, tours, etc. This strategy has saved me on several occasions. One time we lost our credit cards on a jungle hike and were left with only a small amount of call. A call to the TA saved us – it was their suggestion that we authorize them to use on credit card on file to do a cash advance. They brought more cash to our lodge, 50 miles outside the capital city, enough cash to finish our trip. Another time/another country, our TA helped us recover money from an unscrupulous merchant who took advantage of our inability to convert currency in our heads. Each time, when we had problem we couldn’t handle, we called our TA unable to figure out what to do and they had the perfect solution.

      1. @HeavenlyJane, Sorry to hear about your card loss but it sounds like it all worked out perfectly! I love hearing success stories like that…your travel agent seems like a great company to work with.

      2. To clarify, these were different travel agents, different companies, each within their own country. Each time, we got referrals from the Thorntree Forum on LonelyPlanet.com.

  5. I honestly don’t think there is any place I am “afraid” to go…with a partner or group. Solo travel, on the other hand, is a different story. i feel as a woman, we have to be extra cautious in different countries, and, as you mentioned, I also agree that it takes away from what you should be experiencing there.

    I booked a trip to Israel for last November and then my family had me back out because they were worried for me. I learned my lesson to book travel insurance for some countries, though. 🙂

    1. @Mis PF, I feel you! I’m thankful to live in a country where being a woman doesn’t hinder me, but I’ve seen a full range of rights/attitudes in other countries.

  6. “In the end, I cancelled on my husband’s request. Although I honestly believe El Salvador is a safe place to visit if you take proper precautions, Mike’s nervousness got the best of me. Not because those worries were contagious but because I didn’t want to cause him stress.”

    I’m so glad to finally meet someone who admits they take into account loved ones’ feelings when planning a trip. As a (usually single) female traveler, my parents worry about me. On a couple occasions, I’ve decided not to take a trip after all because I knew it would stress them out too much. I’ve had friends tell me I should have gone anyway, but for me a trip isn’t nearly as enjoyable if I know my parents are constantly worrying. It doesn’t mean I won’t go if they’re just a little nervous, but truly stressing about it is different. There are too many other places in the world I still haven’t visited!

    1. @Leigh, I won’t say I’m always 100% catering to family needs, but they are people I love and trust. Mike and the rest of my family do things on my behalf so only fair to return the favor 🙂 That said, a few times a simple conversation can ease stress/worry…sometimes people just don’t know/understand the situation and other times simple actions can do the trick (like buying a local sim card for your phone so you have a way to stay in contact).

  7. Hi Becky! I feel the absolute same about India. I desperately want to go but I feel I just could not go by myself and fully enjoy it. I’ve been egging myself on for a couple of years now to go and do it but admittedly, if a guy stepped up and said he would go with me, I’d be very happy about that!

  8. Last year, I cancelled a trip to Egypt at my parents’ beckoning. But, I can assure you as that for a solo female traveler, India is safe as long as you keep your common sense and avoid venturing out at night. These are guidelines I give would give my sister, wife or any loved one. India gets a lot of bad press; but they are inflated out of proportion.

    1. @Asar, Hopefully you will get another chance to visit Egypt someday.

      As some of the other commenters have pointed out, it is probably safe to visit India as a solo female traveler but I don’t think I’d be able to quiet the worries in my head down enough to enjoy it.

  9. A (female) friend of mine DID travel to India… Alone(!) …she’s about your age. She wore a sari so as to better “blend in” which she said did indeed help significantly. However, in one city, she was propositioned by one of her hired guides in such a subtle but aggressive manner that it did freak her out. She came thru it all OK, happy to report.

    1. @Edward, Glad to hear it all worked out in the end, though I can absolutely identify with the uncomfortable moments leading up to that. Love hearing a happy ending at the very least!

  10. Hi! Interesting topic. Everybody has different levels of personal safety, but Ive been to Iran and India, and both are remarkable. As with anything, its a question of knowing how things work. I would URGE you, if you have any interest in India, to go. It’s a feast for the senses and fascinating all round. NOT relaxing, that’s true, but a real adventure destination. Here’s the solution. Go with an established tour company, on a private tour. You design the itin and you’ll have wonderful guides and drivers, all hassle free. This lets you see the place while having somebody cover your back as you learn how to navigate India. ON a second or third visit, you can travel without the agency. Its more expensive but not hugely so. I recommend Odyssey India. They are a Chinese outfit, but the guides are local and the service is superb. You won’t regret it. Same with Iran…absolutly wonderful destination, very welcoming to americans…in fact its the most hospitable place Ive ever been and the history! What a treasure store of a nation…art, literature, architecture, food….its wonderful and wonderfully exotic. I can recommend an agency there too if interested. Happy travels! 🙂 Sean

    1. @Sean, Thanks for all the feedback! That solution would be perfect for Iran (if I could afford the private tour, most of the reputable ones seem a little pricey). For India, I’m waiting to find the perfect travel companion because that feast for the senses seems like something I’d like to talk through as I go!

      1. If you go for an in-coutry travel agency, sometimes private tours are a bargain, especially in a country that is eager for tourists. We had a private tour in Jordan that was the same price as self-travel, plus we have the protection of being considered Bedouin guests.

    1. In this time of daily messages from the US State Department telling me not to travel abroad, it’s important to stay engaged with the world, which is composed of so many well-meaning people trying to make an honest living in the hospitality industry. Before doing a blanket rule-out of a country that interested me, I’d try to think creatively about how to visit safely. Visiting Iran is a provocative idea and I could imagine finding a way to feeling comfortable there.

  11. I’m afraid to travel pretty much anywhere outside of the US by myself (unless it’s a press trip where I’m meeting people). I hope to get over my fear soon though because I want to go to blog conferences in Africa and Ireland solo!

    1. @Alicia, I’m going to a blog conference in Ireland this year (solo). If it’s TBEX, you won’t be solo for long — lots of great people to meet up with and share tours/meals etc.

  12. I always think it is good to know our own limits and what we are comfortable with. It’s not that I am scared of some of the places I would list, it’s that I am more intimidated by them and would feel like I could not relax. Depends on the point in my life and who I would travel with though.

  13. We have always wanted to go to Egypt. But with the current political climate and anti-American sentiment, it looks like we may never get the opportunity.

    1. @Scott, Based on my visit there, anti-American sentiment isn’t widespread except in some extremist groups…so don’t lose hope! A lot of Egyptians love Americans and want tourism to expand.

  14. I would love to visit Egypt and Jerusalem but I wouldn’t feel safe in either. It’s too bad it’s not safe to travel everywhere. We should be able to visit the world.

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