The 10 most dangerous countries for American tourists

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The 10 most dangerous countries for American tourists

Summer vacation is a time to relax and unwind, or to hop on a plane and explore the world around you. But, popular destinations for Americans go to escape the daily grind can be more dangerous than they know. Crime, weather and even terrorism can make travel abroad risky.

Whether you are planning a last-minute trip, or have something already scheduled on the calendar, make sure to be prepared, so your vacation can be as stress-free as possible.

How to stay safe overseas

When it comes to traveling abroad, it’s all about planning ahead. Sheryl Hill, founder and executive director of Depart Smart, a travel safety nonprofit, says it's important to develop a plan before you hop on a plane. This includes the big things — knowing what the country’s emergency number is and where the nearest hospitals are — but also the little things, such as making sure you have cell service in case an emergency arises.

Hill is planning on traveling to Greece in a couple of weeks — and learned there had been a recent measles outbreak. She made sure to get vaccinated, something she may not have done had she not taken the time to do her research.

“Don’t let lightning strike twice,” Hill said, “Educate yourself. The travel industry may not be as upfront about potential dangers.”

You should also consider purchasing travel insurance. Megan Moncrief, sales and marketing director of Squaremouth, a travel insurance company, said it’s something many tourists don’t think about when booking their next getaway.

“Travelers insurance is the first thing to go on the chopping block when you are trying to save money on a trip,” she said. But, travel insurance can protect the value of your vacation, and also cover medical costs while you are on your trip.

While travelers insurance rates can change based on the age of the traveler and the cost of the trip, Moncrief said rates won’t change based on the destination — so it’s still cost-effective, and potentially life-saving, to get insurance when traveling to more dangerous countries.

We looked through State Department data on citizen deaths overseas to calculate which countries were the most dangerous for Americans last year. Last year, more than 800 U.S. citizens died overseas. We took into account both number of deaths and the number of tourists traveling to that country to calculate the death rates for U.S. citizens in each country.

While Mexico had the most tourist deaths in 2017, it also had the highest number of travelers — almost half of all Americans traveling out of the country go South of the border. Thailand had relatively few American visitors, but a relatively high number of deaths. The most common causes of death for visitors overseas was car accidents and homicide.

Make sure to check the State Department's travel advisory listings before booking your next trip. There are some countries they recommend U.S. travelers should absolutely not visit, including North Korea and Syria, but there are risks in more popular destinations as well.

Here are the 10 countries with the highest American citizen death rates, based on 2017 numbers.

10. Dominican Republic

Visitors: 2.7 million
17 deaths
Less than one death per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: The State Department recommends tourists use increased caution due to violent crime in the country.

9. Germany

Visitors (in 2017): 2.2 million
17 deaths
Less than one death per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: Due to terrorist threats, the State Department recommends using increased caution when traveling to the country.

8. Mexico

Visitors: 35 million
250 deaths
Less than one death per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: Due to widespread crime, the State Department recommends increased caution when traveling to Mexico.

7. Jamaica

Visitors: 1.6 million
19 deaths
1.26 deaths per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: Home invasions and armed robberies are common in Jamaica, prompting the State Department to recommend increased caution when traveling to the country.

6. Bahamas

Visitors: 997,000
15 deaths
1.5 deaths per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: The State Department asks tourists to use increased caution when traveling to the Bahamas, due to widespread crime.

5. Philippines

Visitors: 843,000
20 deaths
2.37 deaths per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: Widespread crime, terrorism, civil unrest and a measles outbreak has prompted the State Department to recommend increased caution for tourists traveling to the region.

4. South Korea

Visitors: 537,000
17 deaths
3.17 deaths per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: There is currently no travel warning in place.

3. Costa Rica

Visitors: 1 million
35 deaths
3.26 deaths per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: There is currently no travel warning in place.

2. Vietnam

Visitors: 345,000
13 deaths
3.77 deaths per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: There is currently no travel warning in place.

1. Thailand

Visitors: 575,000
33 deaths
5.74 deaths per 100,000 tourists
Travel warning: There is currently no travel warning in place, though some areas are experiencing civil unrest.

Curious about where tragedy strikes? Check out this map of the locations of U.S. deaths overseas.

Each dot represents the location of an American death abroad in 2017 - the size of the dot depends on the number of deaths that occured there.
Source: U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs

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Image: Wojciech Kozielczyk