In our commitment to making travel accessible to everyone, Budget Travel does not enjoy sounding the alarm bells. But a strong piece of reporting by Vocativ's Gordon Bottomley points up some popular 2014 travel destinations that have an unusually high rate of kidnapping. Vocativ is a new global social news network that is establishing a great reputation for mining internet data that most other news sources don't. For "The Places You're Most Likely to Get Kidnapped," Vocativ focused on popular travel destinations where the risk of kidnapping is surprisingly high. (You don't need a reporter to tell you, for instance, that Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are unsafe at the moment, right?)
How do you stay safe? If you're in one of the hotspots listed below, consider sticking to the popular tourist sites or resorts, traveling with a guide, not wandering alone, not showing off your money, and learning the specific risks that your vacation spot may hold. In some cases these days, the risk is of an "express" kidnapping, where a hostage is held only until his bank account is empty and credit cards maxed out. Here, some of Vocativ's kidnapping hotspots and the risks you may face if you travel there.
Mexico. Unfortunately, one of the world's most popular vacation destinations also has the most kidnappings, topping 1,500 last year. Mexico's crackdown on drug traffickers has caused kidnappings to rise. "Express" kidnappings are a risk here, as are "virtual" kidnappings—in which criminals fraudulently claim to have kidnapped someone in hopes of collecting a ransom. The paradox is, if you stick to secure resorts, you will be completely safe.
Brazil. Though the site of the 2014 World Cup has a modest "official" annual kidnapping total of around 300, its government does not count "express" kidnappings in that number. Vocativ's research suggests that the real annual number may be more like 6,000. Kidnapping in Brazil is often the work of organized criminals or gangs of poor young men looking for easy money. With the 2016 Summer Olympics not far off, the country is stepping up efforts to halt this and other crimes.
India. Another paradox for travelers: Popular Indian sites like the Taj Mahal are sometimes located in poorer regions where the risk of kidnapping by either organized criminals, rebel groups, or less-organized thugs is on the rise. Sticking to the well-traveled path and booking a package tour with a guide are good ways of avoiding the risk of kidnapping, violence against women, and other crimes.
Kenya. No, you shouldn't cancel your safari plans—or take them off your bucket list—but you might consider sticking only to the wildlife park with a package tour and experienced guides. Serious economic and social inequality, terrorist groups, and criminals from neighboring Somalia are bringing kidnapping to the resorts on Kenya's north coast.