Latin America is a vibrant region with a rich history, natural beauty, and a delicious food scene. While many cities in Latin America are quite safe for travelers, some are downright dangerous.
By the Numbers
A 2023 report released by the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice used average homicide rates per 100,000 inhabitants to rank the most violent cities in the world. WorldAtlas used this violent crime ranking to determine the most dangerous cities in Latin America.
The data presented in this report is based on estimated population counts for each city. Actual population count and average number of homicides per 100,000 residents may vary.
1: Celaya, Mexico
Situated in the south-central Mexican state of Guanajuato, Celaya is currently considered the world’s most dangerous city, according to data from the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice. Largely due to gang violence, Celaya’s crime rate includes a staggering 109.38 homicides per 100,000 residents, prompting would-be travelers to seek the city’s grand colonial architecture elsewhere.
2: Tijuana, Mexico
Latin America’s second most dangerous city just so happens to share a border with San Diego. Averaging 105.15 homicides per 100,000 residents, Tijuana is unfortunately known as much for gang-related violence as it is for its Baja beaches.
3: Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Coming in just behind Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez averages a frightening 103.61 homicides per 100,000 residents. This former tourist town just south of El Paso has seen a decline in visitors in recent years, partially due to gang violence, increased theft, and government corruption.
4: Ciudad Obregón, Mexico
At less than 100 years old, Ciudad Obregón is the youngest city on the list, though it’s already seen its fair share of trouble. The southern Sonora city weighs in at number four with an average of 101.13 homicides per 100,000 residents according to data from the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice.
5: Irapuato, Mexico
Latin America’s fifth most dangerous city sits almost smack-dab in the center of Mexico. With an average of 94.99 homicides per 100,000 residents, Irapuato has found itself the site of cartel turf wars more than once in recent years.
6: Ensenada, Mexico
Less than 65 miles south of Tijuana, Ensenada is Latin America’s sixth most dangerous city and the second Baja town to make an appearance on the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice’s rankings. In addition to beautiful beaches, Ensenada also boasts an average of 90.58 homicides per 100,000 residents.
7: Uruapan, Mexico
Perched on the western edge of the tropical Purépecha highlands, Uruapan is the deadliest city in its home state of Michoacan. It’s also the seventh most dangerous city in Latin America, with an average of 72.59 homicides per 100,000 residents.
8: Fiera de Santana, Brazil
With an average 67.46 homicides per 100,000 residents, Fiera de Santana is Latin America’s eighth-most dangerous city, with the highest homicide rate in Brazil. The former ranching town has fallen victim to a rash of criminal activity over the years including assaults, scams and thefts.
9: Cumana, Venezuela
With a beachfront location and rich history, Cumana may be a tempting Latin American destination for some. But with an average of 62.42 homicides per 100,000 residents, not to mention political unrest and a rash of kidnappings, this Venezuelan town is best left off the bucket list for now.
10: Fortaleza, Brazil
Coming in at number 10 with an average of 62.28 homicides per 100,000 residents, Fortaleza is a popular seaside resort with a dangerous streak. Violent crimes like assault and armed robbery, paired with vandalism and theft, put a damper on those ocean views.
11: Mossoro, Brazil
Perched on Brazil’s northeastern coast, Mossoro is almost neck-and-neck with Fortaleza, averaging 62.21 homicides per 100,000 residents. The high rate of violent crime can be attributed to a population boom in recent years, making for a less-than-ideal vacation destination.
12: Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela
Known for picturesque waterfalls just outside the city limits, Ciudad Guayana is a little less idyllic inside the metro area. Drug trafficking, vandalism, and government corruption are common. Ciudad Guayana has an average of 62.1 homicides per 100,000 residents, placing this Venezuelan city in the top 15 most dangerous cities in Latin America.
13: Zacatecas, Mexico
This former 16th-century silver mining hub has retained its wild west reputation, earning a spot as the thirteenth most dangerous city in Latin America. According to data from the Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, the city has an average of 59.22 homicides per 100,000 residents.
14: Acapulco, Mexico
A popular seaside escape for American glitterati in the 1950s and 60s, Acapulco’s once glimmering facade has cracked over the decades, with a current average of 54.13 homicides per 100,000 residents. As of October 2022, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) warns against travel to the Mexican state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located.
15: Caracas, Venezuela
Even the Venezuelan capital can’t keep off this list. With rampant government corruption and an average of 52.82 homicides per 100,000 residents, Caracas weighs in as the fifteenth most dangerous city in Latin America.
The US Isn’t in the Clear
Don’t let these top 15 Latin American cities fool you; St. Louis, Missouri, ranked as the seventh most dangerous city in the world in Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice’s data. Cape Town, South Africa, also made it on the list of the top ten most dangerous cities globally, ranking in tenth place.
Safer Cities in Latin America
Statistically speaking, Latin American cities like Valencia, Venezuela; Teresina, Brazil; and Leon, Mexico, are much safer vacation destinations, with 35 homicides or less per 100,000 residents compared to Celaya’s 109. However, the DOS has a “Do not travel” advisory for Venezuela, so Americans are better off not venturing to Valencia.
Book That Trip
Travel isn’t without risk, but that doesn’t mean you should skip vacationing in Latin America altogether. Simply do a little research to find safe cities in which to enjoy the region’s beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, amazing food, and friendly people. It’s worth it.
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