The world is a complex place. As I’ve made my way through it, now at a country count of 141, I’ve seen that media reports are often misleading, cities are not what they may seem to outsiders, and some of the most joyous moments of my travel have been in the places I have been warned to stay away from. That said, there is one place that I strongly hesitate to visit right now…and yet I wonder if I am guilty of the same fear-mongering.
I remember when I took my family to Israel a couple years ago many well-intentioned readers urged me not to go. I was told that it was too dangerous and that Jerusalem was bad enough, but if I took my family into the West Bank I was really showing a disregard for their safety and well-being.
While I did not simply dismiss such warnings, we went anyway and had a remarkable trip. We also felt quite safe in both Jerusalem and in Bethlehem.
Years earlier I decided to spend a weekend in…Iraq. The war was still waging, but things were calm in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq. I had a wonderful time and never felt like I was in danger. In fact, I even walked from the walled city to the airport at night by myself.
People warned me not to travel to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Afghanistan, and I did anyway. In Afghanistan, I even hired a security detail (driver, guide, and armed guard) that accompanied me everywhere, but in retrospect that probably was not necessary.
The last time I wrote about this topic (over a decade ago!), I said that I would not visit Venezuela. At the time, I felt that there was too much risk for U.S. citizens. Ten years later, the situation has not improved and there is still some angst that an airport agent would drop some drugs in my bag or something nefarious like that…but I would go to Venezuela in a heartbeat. My friend was in Caracas recently and had a lovely visit. Yes, times are tough in Venezuela, but you can enjoy a visit there and need not fear for your safety.
I’ve been hesitant to go to Somalia, but despite the elevated danger I am planning a trip there next year and want to have a coffee at Beydan in Mogadishu. I’m also ready to travel to Yemen, despite the never-ending civil war there. I am also open to Sudan.
But whether rational or not, there is one place I cannot seem to stomach even considering: Haiti. Last week I was talking to a pastor that used to do missions work there. It’s so dangerous right now. Of course I have been reading reports in the news as well about the armed gangs running Port au Prince. And then this morning this headline from the UK Daily Mail:
I don’t get (all) my news from a British tabloid, but this report merely confirms what I have been hearing over and over again.
And yet, American Airlines still flys to Haiti each day. Can it really be a total failed state if American Airlines is still sending crews there?
I want to visit every country in the world. Over time, some doors open and others close. Syria, for example, has returned to a degree of stability not seen in years and I would feel very comfortable going now and even taking my family with me. Haiti, on the hand, seems to me to be the definition of a failed state. But while it seems too dangerous to brave right now, I wonder if this (like Israel, Venezuela, Iraq, and others) is just media sensationalism rather than an accurate reflection of what is really going on.
Matthew is an avid traveler who calls Los Angeles home. Each year he travels more than 200,000 miles by air and has visited more than 135 countries. Working both in the aviation industry and as a travel consultant, Matthew has been featured in major media outlets around the world and uses his Live and Let’s Fly blog to share the latest news in the airline industry, commentary on frequent flyer programs, and detailed reports of his worldwide travel.
Your headline has county instead of country.
Yes. Foolish mistake.
I have thought of doing mission work there – as much as God forsakes no one, I know one might easily be mistaken in Haiti. I’m not certain I would last 48 hours, however,
Honduras is also pretty risky. My sister was robbed at gunpoint twice when doing work there.
Interestingly, I had a nice time in San Pedro Sula.
Looks pretty. She was in San Francisco de la Paz
Lucky you! One of the worst places on Earth. Had several people from my former company kidnapped there. Drug lords and gangs run the place.
Interesting…I was in Honduras (around the border with Guatemala and El Salvador) and I had a great time. But everybody, locals included, advised if I had to fly out of SPS, I needed to go straight to the hotel or airport and not leave.
Did you really put Haiti, Venezuela and Iraq on the same bucket as Israel in terms of danger? I know dozens of people that have travelled to Israel this year and they had absolutely no problem at all. Catholic, Jewish, atheists, etc… they all had a fantastic time. Yes, there are some crazy people there that sometimes will bomb something but Israel is in no way on the same level of danger than the other countries you named. Also, the level of poverty in those other countries is so much worse than what you will find in Israel and that adds to the level of violence.
There was never any doubt I would go to Israel and I personally don’t put it into the same category. I was just noting that others did and I found that quite telling concerning reality vs fiction.
There is a minor spelling error in the article title; county/country. And such a shame about Haiti considering the Haitians I know and have worked with are truly amazing people. So sad the people of Haiti never got the assistance they needed after the earthquake — certainly has to be one of the reasons they are a failed state. Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti? https://globalnews.ca/news/6421625/haiti-10-years-later-billions-pledged
Confidential Documents: Red Cross Itself May Not Know How Millions Donated for Haiti Were Spent https://www.propublica.org/article/confidential-documents-red-cross-millions-donated-haiti
How The Clintons Robbed and Destroyed Haiti https://www.africanexponent.com/post/7108-how-the-clintons-robbed-and-destroyed-haiti
Sorry folks about the spelling error in the title. Dumb move on my part.
but with a country count of 141.. jeez, you are blessed. #jealous
I wouldn’t go to any country that was run by blacks.
How stupid is that comment? Seriously? What’s wrong with you? Race, gender, religion has nothing to do with greed and corruption. The countries that are named here are simply run by corrupt disgraceful people that rip off the decent and gar working population to their own benefit.
You really don’t believe that race isn’t a factor in violent crime. You really don’t dispute violent crime rates and crime statistics about who has made Sweden, Paris, or Manhattan unsafe. You just will do mental gymnastics to validate what you’ve been groomed to believe as a child by every institution because you don’t want to admit you’ve been lied to.
Crime statistics don’t lie. It’s not politically correct to say but it’s fact that Blacks commit the highest amount of violent crime every single place they are on earth compared to any other race. This applies in Chicago, in Paris, in South Africa, or Haiti. Genetics is a factor in predisposition to violent crime just like genetics is why Pit Bulls commit the highest amount of unprovoked attacks. Nurture does not overcome nature. You think the way you do because schools have thought you to ignore what’s staring us in the face. We can’t tell the truth because it offends even if our safety and lives are on the line.
Don’t feed the troll.
Tell us how you really feel Mike, nobody wants you there. Be sure to let us know where you’re from so us “blacks” can be sure to never visit a place with racists like you.
I fly JFK-PAP-JFK all the time. I’ve never left the vicinity of the aircraft though 🙂
Matthew. Freedom of speech can be restricted on these forums right? I think someone can remove @Mike’s comment.
I’m surprised he could see through his white sheet to even post the comment. #ZeroToleranceForRacism
The US is the most violent and litigious non-war country; yet Americans always ask if it is safe to travel to certain countries. Afghanistan and Haiti are among many countries that the world cannot waste its resources to lift them up simply because they have no natural resources sand quality human resources and leadership to advance. As for why AA still flies to Haiti, we need to go back to the early days of Covid in January of 2020 when we watched the news in China where the government shut down the country, dragged its citizens to quarantine and lock the entrance doors to keep them indoors. And the famous Chinese doctor died of Covid after being ostracized by the government for exposing the deadly Covid virus while all airlines still landed in and departed from China until mid March. Less than a month later, CEOs of US carriers flew private jets to Washington pleading the federal government for a bail out. I read Fodors, bloggers and comments from readers to plan my overseas trips. I am glad that I visited Bhutan and HK in 2018 before the violent protests and Covid , after reading Lucky’s trip report.
How about we all pray for the people of Haiti . Those families of the oppressed , beaten , killed and raped ,the dear people of Haiti, only God knows how much suffering and turmoil these dear people have been put through and how much they can endure.. Pray for protection, peace and provision for the dear people.
I agree with you on Haiti. It’s a huge shame because it’s a lovely country in a lot of ways. My siblings and I spent a summer there when we were children, staying with our grandfather in Le Cap. I promised myself that I’d return but impressively enough things have managed to get consistently worse every decade.
As an aside, how did you manage to get into Iran? I’d love to go. At least at a more stable time. Theocracies tend to like scapegoats and tourists from The Great Satan would qualify handily.
I can tell you that while we fly in and out of PAP we have a strict policy about never leaving a crew there. If the airplane breaks they will send a rescue flight period.
I fully agree that Haiti simply isn’t safe.
So these are quick turns – no layover for the crew?
To be fair a lot of Haiti’s problems are due to the US and France forcing Haitians to pay reparations to their former slaveholders drowning the country in debt they could never repay from its very inception. This of course kept Haiti trapped in a cycle of corruption and poverty that persists today.
AA sends crews there but they return with the airplane. They do not overnight. As far as general safety, a good friend of mine was in the foreign service posted in
Port Au Prince about 10 years ago. She loved it then. Now she’s stateside working on the Caribbean desk and says absolutely under no circumstances to go there. She gets all the intelligence reports, knows people posted there at the embassy, and says it’s different and seriously dangerous. Don’t go.
I have visited 103 countries – including Yemen and Nicaragua. 2023 will see me visit Lebanon (Beirut) and Kosovo. Both countries currently are having flashpoints. By the end of 2023 I hope to increase my country total to 110…
Following government guidelines is important whatever country you are visiting. Don’t flash the cash, wear expensive or expensive looking jewellery, or behave loudly or with disrespect that would bring the wrong attention. Simple.
The old adage…when In Rome..
Matthew. I have been to Haiti twice and would love to go back however it IS way too dangerous now. My church has a contact there at HOM (Haiti Outreach Ministries) which is where we stay when there. We stay in a walled compound with razor wire. We’ve built houses in PAP for some lovely people. I wish I could see them again. They are a kind, generous beautiful people who are caught in a death spiral of which a large part is USAs fault compounded by natural disasters. Yes it is out of bounds now but I wish it wasn’t.
I was in Haiti earlier this week – Laberdee, Haiti. Royal Caribbean has a resort complex at Leberdee, which is entirely secured and guarded from the unrest in the capital. The village of Laberdee is a short ways away, and in speaking with many of the workers at the resort, they assured me that the village of Lebredee sees none of the political unrest or violence plaguing the capital. Laberdee in on the north side of the island, 209 km from Port-au-Prince.
It is called Labadee. I have been there many yeas ago also on a Royal Caribbean cruise. That is not real Haiti. That is “artificial” place that Royal Caribbean has for all its cruise ships and of course nothing will happen there.
@Matthew – I’m curious as to what you count toward that 141. Many lists count territories as countries, and of course these come in different forms (Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Aruba and Tahiti are all unique cases that often appear on country lists but are in various ways not genuinely independent). What is the standard for you to count a country toward your total?
You are correct I have a further problem where I have been to countries that no longer exist. I lived in the Soviet Union for three years and visited the GDR (East Germany) both when they were going concerns. The way I count is I count the USSR but not Russia (even though visited Russia after the fall of the USSR) but I do count the other former Soviet states I visited after their independence from the USSR. For Germany I count the GDR as one country and West/unified Germany as one country.
I visited Haiti back in the 1990s it was a beautiful country but even back then it was a little risky. I knew a foreign service officer back then who had been posted to Haiti in the 1980s. Even back then she had a “rape gate” on her bedroom door. Basically it as metal gate on her bedroom door she could lock at night so even if somebody got into her house they’d have a hard time getting at her in her bedroom. I am glad I have visited the country but feel no need to return.
If you’re going to write an article like this at least me more thoughtful and detailed in your commentary.
Israel does not concern me safety wise because you are more likely to be pushed onto subway tracks by a mentally ill person in NYC or attacked with fists or knives by looters. War violence does pop up but statistically you are safer in Israel than NYC because of demographics. The people who are in danger in the region are Palestinians who are frequent victims of violence at the hands of the government.
This is a true statement about Haiti. Many other places are dangerous but there tend to be tourist enclaves where tourists are reasonably protected. Mexico is dangerous, the Bahamas are dangerous, South Africa is dangerous, and etc but you can plan ahead and stick to tourist areas where there is safety in numbers, birds of the same feather, and policing protocols for tourist safety. There are no tourist enclaves in Haiti. I know a couple of Haitians who live in the U.S. but return to see family in Haiti and rocks are thrown into the “nicer” tourist hotels.
It is nice to see Syria improving after Assad beat back the globalists with the help of the Russians, although, I think it is wise for any tourist to stay away for the time being.
I look forward to the Egypt and other MENA trip reports.
Just because you felt safe going to these countries by yourself or with your family, does not mean a solo woman traveler, minorities, LGBTQ+ traveler or someone with a disability would feel safe traveling in these countries. As a woman I would not feel comfortable going to country with a high rape/ gang rape rate. You appear to be a white male so you are probably less of a target.
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