1. MANILA, PHILIPPINES
“Manila, Philippines. It is like everything imagined in some dystopian novel in real life. Thick, acrid exhaust from Vietnam-era Jeeps idling in unimaginable traffic spews out and blankets every surface in a layer of filth. High above the concrete jungle, billboards in English advertise luxury goods to the sect of the populace that can afford them. Malls are the main attraction and places of gathering, promoting a consumerist culture that eclipses even that of America. The street food is, generally, awful. It’s the only major Asian city that I have spent time in that I felt concerned for my physical well-being in potential robbery scenarios. I absolutely love some rural parts of the Philippines, though, and stomach Manila to be able to return to those places.”
2. BEIJING, CHINA
“Beijing. What even is that place? So disgustingly dirty. Children urinate and defecate in the street. Their pants pull open at the crotch with snaps so they can do this. The public restrooms, if you can even call them that, are literal holes in the ground with piles of shit and bloody tampons in them with no toilet paper and no proper way to wash your hands. Their national monuments are so poorly cared for. The Forbidden City, for example, looks like you could blow it over. Their homeless are so horribly disfigured and uncared for it is shocking. The smog/pollution. Anyone who says China will take over the world one day has never been to China.”
3. KABUL, AFGHANISTAN
“Kabul, Afghanistan…place where I stayed was attacked by the Taliban. The security guard was killed and some of my colleagues were wounded. Not only that, most of us ended up with tapeworms after eating the food; seems the farmers used human waste to fertilize their farms and the fruits and veggies were not washed property by the kitchen staff. It was a common sight to see old abandoned Russian tanks on the side of the road, lots of the houses have bullet holes and winter can be brutally cold in Kabul as heater is not available in most places.”
4. JUAREZ, MEXICO
“Juarez. When I arrived, there was a news blurb on the radio about a guy freezing to death because his house only had three walls. The streets smelled like trash and urine. Pass.”
5. TIJUANA, MEXICO
“Tijuana, Mexico. Utter poverty, begging children, thieves, animal abuse, heavily armed paramilitary police in trucks and the worst part—expensive covers for every bar! Also, people forcing liquor into your mouth and then asking you to pay them. It’s like a war zone with overpriced, shitty bars.”
6. ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA
“Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia. Stinks like shit, smoke everywhere, coal mines and ore smelters next to the heart of the city. Terrible traffic. Urgh…”
7. AGRA, INDIA
“Agra, India. The Taj Mahal was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life…but the surrounding city is an absolute shithole. The fact that a horrible, grimy, incredibly poor entire city surrounds the pristine walls of the Taj made it a weird place to visit, too.”
8. JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
“Johannesburg, South Africa hands-down. Everyone told me to avoid it at all costs but I thought it would be fine to stay for just a night until my train left for Zimbabwe so I figured, what the hell?
When I got off the bus I was the only white person who exited and I was immediately bombarded by cabdrivers pulling my shirt almost literally trying to drag me into their cabs. I stood my ground as they tried to remove my backpack from me. A few of them started to fight with each other and while I don’t think any punches were thrown it started to get violent. I quickly hurried over to another cab driver who was patiently waiting a little further back. When we started to pull out of the bus lot, another cabdriver drove his cab into ours, blocking the exit. Definitely hit us hard enough for some exterior damage to the bumper, but nothing more. My driver just pushed the other car out of the way with his by putting the pedal to the floor. This all happened in about a span of two minutes from the time I stepped out of the bus.
My heart was racing, and I had heard horror stories about how bad the witch doctor stuff around the area is and at the time it really felt like I was going to be kidnapped and cut up into healing medicine. I was even considering trying to get out of the moving cab because I was afraid he wasn’t taking me where I asked.
Once I got to my hostel, there were armed guards surrounding the perimeter, which is pretty typical in heavily populated areas of South Africa, but there were definitely more at this hostel than others I had been to. The place was a total shithole. Literally rats in the fridge. I had a little food to cook but I couldn’t bring myself to cook in that kitchen. After taking a few hours to calm down and collect myself I convinced myself that I was overreacting and that it’s all fine. I got the courage to walk the 1.5 miles to the nearest grocery store, the guy at the desk said it would be fine. It was not. I was such an idiot.
On my walk, I saw a house burning and it seemed like no one even noticed. People were just walking by it like it wasn’t even happening. I felt like I was in a post-apocalyptic movie. I got harassed by six or seven 14-year-old school kids dressed in uniform. They went out of their way to follow me and shout the ‘N’ word at me. Some of the kids were bigger than I was so I just looked straight and kept walking. They lingered behind me for a few hundred feet or so and were thrusting themselves at me with their fists up and laughing. It was really hard to not turn around but I could tell they were looking for a reaction out of me and wanting an excuse for it to get physical. It was terrible. I was expecting to get a fist to the back of the head, but they eventually lost interest one at a time. Almost pissed myself.
After I made it to the grocery store I got a cab back to the hostel because I was sure the walk back would be worse as it was starting to get dark. I set up my tent in the tent area, which is right next to the four-foot-tall wall. The wall was covered in glass but it was kind of pointless because anyone could relatively effortlessly jump it. Around midnight I was Skyping with one of my friends back home when a gunfight started outside the wall. The shots were so loud it felt like it was happening just on the other side of the wall. I’m sure it wasn’t that close but it sure felt like I was in the middle of it. Panicked, I ran into the kitchen to find one of the staff ‘cleaning” and I’ll never forget our conversation.
Me: Did you hear those gun shots?
Me: ……… Should I be concerned???
Him: Were they shooting at you?
Him: Then go back to bed.
I don’t think I slept very much that night. I spent less than 24 hours there in total and that was way too much for me. Never again.”
9. KINGSTON, JAMAICA
“Kingston, Jamaica 3rd world poverty. Just a dirty, crime-filled area. Kids begging in the streets in the middle of the day; people urinating out in the open; homeless everywhere.
Jamaica in general. Definitely stay in a group, on a guided tour. You do not explore the island on your own. You will be robbed. The island resorts paint a very different picture.”
10. DELHI, INDIA
“Delhi. Hands down a complete fucking hellhole. I explored the whole of Rajasthan, headed to Mumbai and then down through Goa. Out of all those cities, towns and villages (including Agra which is notoriously hellish) Delhi is by far the worst place I have been on the planet. Unfortunately, I was forced to return in order to fly home. (I did try to change our flights so we could head home from Mumbai rather than return, but it wasn’t possible.)”
11. MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND
“Middlesbrough, UK. I’ve witnessed two burglaries, one mugging, rampant prostitution, and the neighbor threw his wife out of their front living room window. We called the police and they said it was an all-out call (?) and they were aware of an incident at that address. Also, I used to smoke and would go outside to do it as I was hypocritical smoker and didn’t like the smell all over my things. There was a nasty rubbery burning smell which is normal for Middlesbrough as it’s an industrial dump but it was stronger than normal. Next day on the news they reported that a man murdered his wife with a knife, jammed her in the boot of his car, and set it on fire the next road over from mine. I was smelling dead lady. To conclude, never under any circumstances go to Middlesbrough. Also, H heads everywhere. And ‘re-homed’ Gypos who were as every bit as pleasant as you might expect.”
12. CHENNAI, INDIA
“I’ve been to a lot of places. China, Thailand, South Africa, several island nations scattered across the world, most of Europe, Brazil, and a handful of other places.
The worst place I’ve ever experienced is Chennai, India. If there’s a worse place on earth, I don’t want to see it. I spent three weeks there volunteering at a local clinic in one of the poorer parts of town. For reference, I also spent about a week doing volunteer work in the townships around Cape Town. The townships are thought of as some of the most dangerous places on earth, comparable to the favelas in Rio or the worst inner cities in the US. Chennai was not nearly as dangerous as the townships. But somehow, it was MUCH worse. The stink alone was enough for me. The whole city smelled strongly of human excrement and animal stench. It wasn’t that people were poor (although they certainly were), it was that nobody gave a shit. The folks in the townships might have wished for a better life and would have made one for themselves if it were possible. The poor in Chennai have given up on the very idea of a good life. Many just live, waiting to die.
Some of the things I saw included:
• Not a single honest taxi or motorbike. All of them tried charging more than the agreed-upon price after we arrived and would make a big scene trying to shame us into paying them. Or they’d take us to their ‘brother’s’ shop and wouldn’t leave unless we bought something or threatened to walk without paying him.
• A human baby floating face-down in a puddle of human excrement.
• A dead human body with goats eating it as people passively sat and watched.
• Various dead bodies of many species floating in rivers.
• Naked, starving children burning trash for heat outside the walled, armed gates of Fortune 500 companies, hotels, & government buildings.
A group of men wielding metal pipes approaching me from the other side of an alleyway while their friends blocked the entrance we came in. Luckily my traveling companion had a knife and there happened to be a large piece of wood near me; otherwise we would have been robbed for sure, or maybe much worse.
A leper clawing at the arm of my traveling companion and refusing to stop or leave unless we gave her money. I booted her in the chest and have not regretted it once.
Chennai is the worst.”
13. ALIGARH, INDIA
“Aligarh, India. There is literally garbage everywhere, you can barely walk on foot without having to cover your nose, it smells horrible. If you’re a girl and wear anything that shows a little skin (like a tank top or capri pants) be prepared for catcalls. Can’t go for a morning walk without running into some idiot taking a sh*t on the street. Worst. Place. Ever.”
14. MUMBAI, INDIA
“Mumbai, India…was then I learned Slumdog Millionaire was more or less a true story. My soul still hurts after the things I saw.”
15. MARRAKESH, MOROCCO
“Marrakesh—fuck the hassle, they (street vendors) were totally OK with putting their hands on me to slow me down and buy some shit, only to retaliate with ‘no touch me’ when I would swat their hands out the way. The rest of Morocco is pretty damn beautiful, tho.”
16. LIMERICK, IRELAND
“Limerick, Ireland. Everywhere I went in Ireland on holiday was beautiful, had lovely people, and felt like a place I’d want to live…except Limerick. Dirty streets, rude locals, and a dark and creepy atmosphere made me realize why everyone told my sister (who we were dropping off to study abroad) that Limerick is nicknamed ‘Stab City.’”
17. IRKUTSK, RUSSIA
“Irkutsk, Russia (Siberia). Basically any place in Siberia is a racist cesspool. The whole city was covered in swastika graffiti. I was told I was ‘unpure’ since I was an American traveling with an Asian. Lake Baikal is gorgeous, but Irkutsk and Siberia is a terrible, terrible place.”
18. RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
“Rio de Janeiro. Hot and humid, crime-ridden, the tourist spots are expensive, their museums are tiny, buses are places where you get robbed the fastest, the food’s not even as good as most other locations. Lastly, a special spot is reserved for the Tourist Police, which served more as a deterrent to foreigners committing crimes than the locals. Saw them bust a guy for smoking a joint, but not the dude that sold it to him right in the open.”
19. LOURDES, FRANCE
“Lourdes, France. Heartbreaking to see communities raise money to have someone ‘cured’ of their disease or ailment. Paying for a plane ticket and lodging for an entire church group. Seeing them giddy while being pushed in a wheelchair up the side of a hill to go get holy water. Then, unfailingly, seeing them rolling back down the hill still in a wheelchair. They always look so sad and disappointed. On your way to and back, as you pass through the little village, you get a sense of being at a shitty fair. Light-up LED crucifixes and Virgin Mary lighters in every shop.”
20. CAIRO, EGYPT
“Come to Egypt, it’s beautiful. But don’t stay in Cairo, just don’t. I know they’re cool, but I’d say don’t even go see the pyramids (which are in Giza, ‘part’ of Cairo). The place is a shit hole. Thirty million people crammed in one city, not as dense as some popular ones but one of the biggest cities in the world. The weather patterns have changed due to the layer of smog over the city, making every day seem cloudy, and you never see the blue sky. You can feel the pollution and dust on your skin as you walk in average 30+ degree weather. And the driving, oh the driving. Not just a pain, actually dangerous. It has some of the most accidents in the world. The Nile in Cairo, being the last stop of the longest river in the world before entering the sea, is polluted and not nearly as nice as the rest of it. Crime here is high, the people are either extremely poor or part of a very limited group of the extremely rich (who live in gated communities and go to parks that are some of the only nice places inside those gated communities). The police are corrupt (more than run-of-the-mill corruption). It’s what you think of when you think of dangerous Third World country.”
21. JERUSALEM, EGYPT
“Jerusalem. Dirty, broken-down, and too much underlying tension about what ‘religious team’ you belong to built into every interaction you have with locals. The whole place takes way too much effort to be worth a visit back.”
22. SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR
“San Salvador, El Salvador. Arrived in the middle of the night and tried to find a place to stay. Every second person was either carrying a machete, a handgun, or a shotgun. When I finally found a room in my price range they asked if I wanted it by the hour or for the night. Never again.”
23. KARACHI, PAKISTAN
“In 2010, I was part of a humanitarian mission to Pakistan after the worst monsoon in 20ish years. We flew off of a naval ship and stopped in Karachi to refuel. This place smelled just the absolute fucking worst. There is a slaughterhouse in the city, and apparently no dumping ordinances as they just dumped it right outside the gates. Buildings with more than one floor usually have a balcony of sorts, but routinely were piled up to the roof with trash and more bags of trash. Also, the whole detachment got the shits. And I mean, squat and burn for 30 minutes praying to the Virgin that something would smite the evil in your bowels, usually 3 or 4 times a day. The corpsman had to request a supply of meds be flown in from good old USA to put it down. Took about two weeks to burn through all of us.”
24. CASABLANCA, MOROCCO
“Casablanca, Morocco. Yes, there are some pretty areas and omg the movie Casablanca, but the city is overwhelmingly the opposite of that. We stayed in a ‘five-star hotel’ and were told not to walk around at night. The hotel also told us to never hail a taxi on our own, always have the hotel do it for us—because they only use the reputable companies and we would not be safe if we did it on our own. Some females in our group were yelled at on the street, followed and called whores because they did not have their heads covered: the country’s heritage is part Muslim and part French, and it is by no means required to wear a head covering—we did extensive research on that before we went and were also far from sticking out as women without head coverings, I would say it was about 60/40 split between women who wore head coverings vs. those who did not. We were harassed on the streets, and overall the city was just dirty, smelly, unwelcoming, and the overwhelming poverty and things that come with that (panhandlers, homeless, aggressive hustlers for everything) just made us really uncomfortable. I’ve traveled to many different countries, some of them solo as a mid-20’s female, and have never felt as uncomfortable and unsafe as I did in Casablanca.”
25. STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
“Stockholm. Visited it once, and honestly I have problems saying ‘I don’t hate Sweden’ after that. City itself is beautiful, but people there are either completely sad and depressed, drugged to death, or Muslim immigrants behaving like animals. I haven’t met anyone with a smile; there was considerable fear in the air, and the city felt like it was in a state of war.”
26. SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA
“San José, Costa Rica. Everything ultra-ugly and dirty. On a crossroads some drunk guy with a machete sticking out of his pants crossed the road in front of us.”
27. NAPLES, ITALY
“Naples, Italy during the 07-08 sanitation crisis. It’s not a beautiful city to begin with, but wading through garbage made it way, way, way worse.
It was also the only city in Italy in which the locals were openly hostile to me as a foreigner—in other cities, responses ranged from amusement to irritation to ambivalence, but there were never any overt threats. In Naples I was repeatedly threatened with violence and had to fight off a bag-snatcher (which, in retrospect, was probably a terrible idea, but he had come upon me while I was dozing off and my sense of self-preservation hadn’t woken up yet).
It was also the town with the highest number of blatantly underage prostitutes, who were just as aggressive.
I also happened across a man beating the shit out of his lady friend outside a well-peopled bar. I regret tremendously walking away, but I was in no position to help.
There was one cafe that opened very early, had great coffee and a very very cute barista who seemed to think my broken Italian was charming. She served me on the house and wrote down what I’m pretty sure was her number (I didn’t tell her I had no phone). For her and the coffee, Naples gets two angry mountains of garbage out of 10.”
28. ATHENS, GREECE
“Athens. The historical sites were beautiful and well-kept, but other than that the city was a shithole. There was not a single brick clean in the city. Every place was spray painted full with anarchy or hammer-and-sickle signs. Streets smelled very bad because garbage was rotting in the sun.
To top this all we went to dine in the evening like 10 PM and I almost tackled two guys with syringes in their veins. And it was dead center of the city in a medium-size street! Also, homeless people sleeping in mattresses everywhere. That was the first and last time we went out in the dark.
Also, every taxi driver tries to fool you to pay extra and no receipts ever if you don’t ask for them.
Sober people were mostly nice and had maybe best service ever in a restaurant near the Acropolis. Also, our motel staff and owner were really nice.
I’m still glad we got to see the historical places before those are ruined, too, but also glad we didn’t invest our whole holiday for Athens. After this we flew to Izmir, Turkey which was to our relief a much, much better experience.
Athens, never again.”
29. VARANASI, INDIA
“Varanasi, India. I say this for two reasons. Both literally relating to shit.
First because I shit more in the five days I was there than any man should in any five-day stretch. I’ve been to the Third World plenty of times in my life. I have had the runs. The normal runs you get most places you get for a day or two and then you get over them. This was water out of my ass for a week straight. I don’t want to go into the medical details of what it was. It was the worst I’ve ever experienced. I didn’t have hemorrhoids before that trip. I did after.
Second, the streets were the shittiest. Cow poop, dog poop, human poop. I got the sense while I was there that they don’t really have sewers, or at least most people and creatures don’t really know they exist. Most of the toilets are those holes in the floor of the bathroom (a lot of the world is like that, actually). You can imagine how that turns out. But this means many people there also don’t really know how to use Western toilets, so when you did manage to find one it was always in the worst possible condition. The first person to use it didn’t flush, nor the second, nor the third. You can tell that someone might have tried flushing, but it just clogged up and then every person after either passed on using the toilet or didn’t have a choice. Then of course nobody wants to clean it, so there it sits, a tower of shit on the one Western toilet in the southern half of Varanasi. I was one of the ones who didn’t have a choice.
So, I’m never going back.
A third reason also related to shit exists. The sewers that do exist all run out into the river. Where people swim among the half-burned corpses, industrial runoff, and the several dozen shits I took on Monday because I ate something with parasites in it. The city is shitty.”
30. CHEB, CZECH REPUBLIC
“Cheb, Czech Republic. In general, the problem with border cities of Czechia is that Germans come over for the cheap prostitution and it’s plagued with whorehouses, but this one might be the worst as on top of this is full of gypsies, in one particular occasion what happened to me is that I needed to change trains to continue to Prague, the switch happened at around 11:30PM but the next train would not come until 5 in the morning…so I am waiting in the train station and the police decide to close it and kick everyone in there to avoid having Gypsies sleeping in the station, so there was nothing open in the freezing winter except a smoky bar, with more Gypsies and prostitutes doing meth.”