Philippines Moro

Countries Where You May Need a Bodyguard

Though travellers have become increasingly adventurous in recent years, many parts of the globe still pose a significant risk to your safety. Whether beset by war, crime, or instability, we look at a few global locations where you may need to think about hiring a bodyguard.


(Burundi peacekeepers preparing to enter Somalia image by US Army Africa on Flickr)

Since 1991 Somalia has been without a central government, leaving many parts of the nation ruled by brutal warlords and Islamic fundamentalists, while other regions have simply descended into anarchy. Due to this power vacuum Somalia has flourished as a haven for modern-day pirates, who have hijacked dozens of ships in the Indian Ocean over the past decade. The pirates typically take the ships hostage, along with all cargo and crew, and only leave the vessels once they receive ransom money. The situation on dry land is no better.

Large swathes of the war torn capital Mogadishu have been razed to the ground due to ongoing warfare. Believe it or not but Mogadishu was once a popular tourist destination. Most well known for the idyllic Gezira Beach, holidaymakers from the region, and as far away as Europe, would flock to Mogadishu for guaranteed sun, the purest white sands, and affordable prices.

The most happening spot in the city used to be the Anglo-American Beach Club, perched right above the waves of the Arabian Sea, where tourists would come to sip on ice cold martinis and cut into the finest steaks. Nowadays you are more likely to find soldiers wielding hand-held grenade launchers, streets strewn with rubble, and the distant rumble of constant gunfire.

Yet there are signs of encouraging stability here; a new university campus opened in 2008 and the fierce Al-Shabab rebels recently withdrew from key strongholds in and around Mogadishu itself. But next time you visit this war-stricken country, think about bringing some hefty backup.


(Sunset on Haiti beach image by M_WalzEriksson on Flickr)

Haiti just can’t catch a break. With earthquakes, hurricanes, a faltering economy, and repeated crime waves, this is just a downright dangerous place to be at the best of times. Foreign Policy magazine declared Haiti the 5th most unstable country on the planet, due to a mix of overpopulation and general insecurity. The crime rate in the capital city Port-au-Prince, meanwhile, was rated as “critical” by the US State department in January 2011 after the kidnapping and murder of American citizens. If you must travel to this Caribbean crime hotspot, make sure you take all necessary precautions.


Mexico Police
(Mexico police image by Javier Armas on Flickr)

Despite a previously positive reputation, Mexico’s security situation has deteriorated over the last decade as the country replaced Colombia as the de facto drugs capital of the world. In cities such as Ciudad Juarez, which has the highest murder rate on the planet, or Monterrey, drug cartels instill fear into local residents, and control vast areas of land.

In many of the worst neighbourhoods the police are too scared to patrol. Ciudad Juarez in particular is notorious for the high murder rate, particularly of women, with at least 400 females murdered since 1993 in this one city alone, though local estimates put the figure closer to 5000. Even though this city sits right on the border with Texan town El Paso, the two cities seem like worlds apart.


(Medellin image by Lucas Hoyos on Flickr)

Though Colombia has made great strides in combating the drug trade and separatist rebels in recent years, the country remains an incredibly dangerous and violent place to visit. In large parts of the south, such as Meta, Marxist FARC insurgents are still highly active, kidnapping politicians, prominent citizens and tourists, as well as launching frequent bombing raids and attacks on the army. Yet the big cities are no less dangerous; Bogota has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with almost 1000 people killed each year, while drug capital Medellin is known for car-jackings, random assaults, and deadly armed robberies.


Philippines Moro
(Mindanao, Philippines image by Keith Bacongco on Flickr)

While much of the Philippines is a tropical paradise, the archipelago nation of more than 1000 islands has some of the most insecure regions on the planet. The islands of Moro and Mindanao, for instance, are at the centre of Islamic separatist movements that launch frequent suicide attacks against the authorities and civilians alike.

Meanwhile, the capital city Manila has suffered spates of bag snatching, automobile theft, and daylight muggings. Perhaps more worrying is the increasing incidents of kidnapping by gangs intending to earn ransom money. The U.S. State Department advised to exercise “heightened caution in public gathering places” throughout the country. If you are intending on visiting this magical country, make sure you get some official advice.

South Africa

(Johannesburg Soccer City image by shanediaz120 on Flickr)

South Africa is one of the most divided nations in the world, with a massive gap between rich and poor, and racial strife continuing to blight many areas. Home to some of the most dangerous cities in the world, the most volatile and hazardous of all is Johannesburg. The financial capital of South Africa successfully hosted The World Cup in 2010, presenting a new, reformed veneer to the world.

Yet behind the glitz and glamour of the tournament, Johannesburg remained as threatening as ever. For instance, in 2010 over 8122 armed home invasions were reported in Guateng State, in which Johannesburg is located. Rates of sexual assault, meanwhile, have remained alarmingly high, with some studies suggesting women born in South Africa have a greater chance of being raped in their lifetime than of learning to read. So if you are holidaying in South Africa, perhaps visiting the wonderful landscapes and National Parks, make sure not to travel alone.


Brazil Favela
(Rio de Janeiro, Rocinha Favela image by anjci on Flickr)

Famous for soccer, samba and beautiful beaches, Brazil is a prime destination for people seeking good times and great memories. Yet the nation’s favelas, illegal shanty towns, represent this passionate country’s darker side. The largest such favela in the entire country is Rocinha. This ramshackle settlement is perched high above Rio De Janeiro on the steep slopes of Two Brothers Mountain, and is home to over 150,000 people. The favela is ruled by the notorious Amigos dos Amigos drug trafficking gang, who, for decades, have waged a bloody battle over territory with both other gangs and the police.

Residents of Roncinha also have to deal with violent police death squads as well as menacing vigilante gangs, who are often more brutal than the drug traffickers themselves. During particularly bad years Rocinha is said to have a higher murder rate than many active warzones.

These are destinations where only the truly intrepid would be brave or foolhardy enough to visit. But if you would like to take your life into your own hands and venture into these often lawless, but always dangerous, locales, make sure to bring some hired muscle.

Date posted: 29th August, 2011

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