Unfortunately, it is true that many Central American countries do suffer from very high levels of crime. Parts of the region suffer from very high crime rates driven partly by poverty, corruption, and an inability of the state to control the situation.
But this doesn't have to dissuade people from visiting these electric and rewarding countries. It means one should be smart and exercise precautions - these are more common sense than rocket science. One should be familiar with tips at keeping safe - no matter the trip type.
Crime In Latin America And Caution About Comparing International Data
Crime and violence are persistent problems in much of the world. This can be a vicious circle where crime imposes significant social costs and makes economic and social development much more difficult, which keeps the region impoverished for longer, and keeps the crime rate higher.
One should always be careful when comparing statistics from around the world. How different countries classify crime can vary significantly. Also, it is possible that the (actual) most dangerous countries in the world do not even make it to the top of the list.
This is because to record incidents and crimes, they must be reported. In countries that have become a failed state or if people don't even report a crime to the police, then homicide and crime will be drastically underreported.
- Underreported: The Most Dangerous Countries Are Likely To Have Crime Go Unreported
One should be aware of how events are classified, as they vary in definition from country to country.
Comparison Of Crime In Central America
But no matter what one does with the stats, Central America seems to be a very violent region. But it's not just Central America - it's also the Caribbean. It should be noted that out of the top four highest crime rates, (according to the statistics) the U.S. Virgin Islands is included with a rate of 49.3 and 49.26 in 2017 in 2012.
According to the Virgin Islands Daily News, the Virgin Islands were the fourth highest in the world for 2017. It makes it similar to U.S. cities like Baltimore, St. Louis, and New Orleans (some American cities are extremely dangerous by Western Standards).
Many Americans are perfectly happy to go on vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands but are afraid to go to Central America even though only El Salvador has a higher rate.
By intentional homicide, the most dangerous country in the region is El Salvador with a homicide rate of around 52 per 100,000 in 2018 (that also makes it the most dangerous not only in the region but also in the whole world).
The next in the region is the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica with a homicide rate of 43.9 in 2018.
Homicide Rates Per 100,000 according to the United Nations:
- El Salvador: 52 in 2018
- Honduras: 38.9 In 2018
- Belize: 37.8 In 2017
- Guatemala: 22.5 in 2018
- Costa Rica: 11.3 In 2018
- Panama: 9.4 In 2018
- Nicaragua: 7.2 In 2016
These are very high rates compared to 5 per 100,000 for the United States and just 0.7 for New Zealand in 2017 and 0.3 for Japan in 2018. By Western standards (as well as East Asia) the United States itself is comparatively dangerous with a rate often around 5x higher than countries like the United Kingdom and Australia.
Puerto Rico is similar to the Central American states at 21.1 in 2018. The safest countries in Central America appear to be Panama and Nicaragua.
Keeping Safe While Traveling
Keeping safe while traveling is all about exercising sensible precautions. One should listen to local advice - if the locals advise one not to do something, one probably shouldn't do it. If they say don't go to a part of the city, just don't go there.
Many of the violent crimes happen at night when one is under the influence of alcohol. If one is in a dangerous city, never walk home at night - especially when drunk and double especially don't walk alone. Take a taxi and make sure the taxi is parked directly out front before exiting the building. Even the most dangerous of places can be safe if one is clever.
Some Dos and Don'ts:
Don't: Carry Around Lots of Cash (Only What Is Needed)
Do: Take A Taxi
Don't: Walk Around Alone At Night
Do: Listen To Advice From Locals (They Are The One's Who Have To Live In That Environment)
Don't: Walk Around Drunk
Do: Split Up The Credit Cards - Don't Have Them All In One Place
Don't: Take One's Expensive Smart Phone On A Night Out (Pickpockets and More)
Do: Leave The Passport and Other Valuables At The Hotel
Even traveling alone can be safe - one just needs to be smart and be aware of one's surroundings and the risks.