The Most Dangerous Countries for Tourists, in Maps

The recent assaults in Brazil and India have raised questions about those countries' safety records. Here are the places where travelers should actually be wary.
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(Reuters)

It's been an alarming past few weeks for fans of international travel.

In March, a Swiss woman was gang-raped while she was camped out in a forest with her husband after a day of biking around the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. And on Monday, an American tourist was raped by three men over the course of six hours while aboard a public van near the seaside resort town of Copacabana .

The incidents have already taken their public-relations toll. The Brazil rape is the latest evidence that the country has a growing sexual assault problem -- reports of rapes there have risen 150 percent since 2009 -- and raises questions about Brazil's readiness for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

And in a new survey of 1,200 tour operations across India, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India found that the number of inbound tourists to the country has dropped 25 percent since December, while the influx of female travelers is down 35 percent.

That's not surprising, since research shows that violence and other upheaval tends to scare away tourists.

So, which countries should foreign travelers avoid, or at least be especially careful in?

Statistics for attacks on tourists are hard to come by, but one way to look at travel risks is through the travel warnings that governments issue for their citizens. Here's a map put together by the CBC, based on warnings from Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs (click here for the interactive version):

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Brazil is flagged with an "exercise extreme caution" warning, while visitors to India are advised to avoid areas that tend to have conflicts flaring:

Avoid non-essential travel to the regions of Manipur and the Arunachal Pradesh border area with Burma. Avoid all travel to Jammu and Kashmir, with the exception of Ladakh via Manali or by air to Leh. Avoid all travel in border areas in Manipur (border with Burma) and Nagaland (border with Burma). Avoid all travel to the immediate vicinity of the border areas with Pakistan in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab states. Avoid the border area between Assam and Bangladesh due to insurgency, and districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri due to inter-communal violence.

A danger of rape isn't mentioned -- perhaps because sexual assault, though sadly common for local women (as highlighted by an earlier gang-rape of an Indian woman on a Delhi bus), is actually a rarity for tourists in India.

The U.S. State Department also puts out travel warnings when there's a long-term, protracted condition that makes a country too dangerous for Americans to visit.

Here is a map of all of the travel warnings that are in effect since September of last year. It likely doesn't come as a shock to anyone who reads foreign news, consisting largely of hotspots in North Africa, the Middle East, and a few outlying Asian countries such as North Korea:

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Surprisingly, the U.S. list includes popular tourist destinations like Israel, where the U.S. government warns visitors to avoid the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and Mexico, where the State Department notes that, "the number of U.S. citizens...murdered under all circumstances in Mexico was 113 in 2011 and 32 in the first six months of 2012."

It's not entirely clear why Brazil isn't on the list. The country has one of the highest homicide rates per capita in the world, according to UNODC statistics. The State Department has published plenty of other warnings about vacationing there, including scary descriptions of "quicknappings" around banks and ATMs.

It could be just that crimes against tourists in Brazil tend to be muggings and theft, as opposed to violent assaults such as rape, so the country gets swept into the broad category of "have fun, but watch your bag" destinations. But in light of recent events, it will be interesting to see if there's a report showing a drop in Brazilian tourism a few months from now. But on thing both the Canadian and U.S. maps show is that sometimes, terrible things happen to innocent tourists -- no matter where they are.

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Olga Khazan is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

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