The Safest Cities…and the Worst

By Robert McGarvey

Is Hong Kong safe? Seeing that headline in a travel publication I almost spit my coffee on the computer screen.

Understand, I would go to Hong Kong without hesitation.  There are places I would avoid – including the airport, on some days – but Hong Kong remains one of the safest cities I have spent time in.  

There are many very, very dangerous cities on this planet – many I would not want to go to – but in making such judgments I always remember that from 1973-1975 and again in 1977 I lived in Washington DC which at the time was a perennial contender for murder capital of the nation.  Was DC dangerous? Sure. Was I fearful? Nope.  I stuck in neighborhoods I believed to be safe and I was never a victim.

I also spent many nights in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the period 1989 to 2005 and were people murdered there? Personally, though, I again never felt frightened, never was a victim.  I was careful about where I went and I was very careful about my comportment (it would have been unwise to walk the Shankhill Road at night singing IRA songs). But with a modicum of prudence and discipline I found Belfast a pleasant place to spend time.

So I take sweeping characterizations of cities with a bit of suspicion.

But you want a crib sheet of cities to avoid? A starting point is this list of the most dangerous cities, according to the World Population Review.  

The worst 10:

Los Cabos





La Paz


Ciudad Victoria

Ciudad Guayana

How many have you been to?  Hell, I don’t even know where some are (Ciudad Victoria?).  I have been to Acapulco and Tijuana, and thought briefly about going to La Paz but never did.  The others hold no charm for me and probably not for many other travelers. 

The only city on the list that I have spent much time in is New Orleans and, you bet, it’s dangerous – but pick your places and I never felt frightened there, never was a victim, and I have walked a fair amount from the French Quarter through the Central Business District, at various hours of the night.

Pick your places, pick your routes, and for me that is a formula for safety. Guaranteed? Of course not.  But it’s gotten me through a half century of walking.

Along the way I also learned to disregard broadbrush labels. I use the same awareness in Phoenix as I did in Washington DC 40 years ago.  And I’d use the same awareness walking around Moscow…or Los Cabos…or Notting Hill.

As for the safest cities, the Economist offers up its list and, buckle up, here are the top five for personal security:



Hong Kong



Yes, you read right. Hong Kong claims the third slot (and of course this list was compiled before the recent protests). Sure, the protests and the government reactions have complicated the formulas and expectations. But I’d still bet heavily I could walk for hours in Hong Kong and would encounter no threats.

You want to know where else is safe? Across multiple safety parameters (including digital, infrastructure, personal security), here are the top five cities per The Economist:

1. Tokyo

2. Singapore

3. Osaka

4. Amsterdam

5. Sydney

But I still think most places are safe enough. Use your eyes, use your ears and probably you will be safe.  When I don’t like how a specific neighborhood looks, I make haste to exit in search of safer ground.  

Back to where we started: is Hong Kong safe? Definitely a person could go to Hong Kong and have a very high risk stay.  Head for wherever the nearest largescale demonstration is and that will be a wish granted.

Me, I’d head in the opposite direction.  And I’m pretty sure I’d stay safe.

Hong Kong is too dangerous? Rubbish. That’s hysterical thinking, rather like saying Paris is too dangerous or New York is. Keep your wits about you and cities like that are usually very safe.

At least that has been my experience.

1 thought on “The Safest Cities…and the Worst”

  1. Thanks for your practical advise. Eyes and ears open + common sense.= safe experience anywhere in the world

    I too have found Hong Kong to be an exceptionally safe place on over 30+ visits

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