Friday, April 17, 2009

The Country with the Highest Murder Rate in the World

Most first time visitors don’t want to arrive in San Salvador late at night. It has a very bad reputation, especially after dark. “The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised, to avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark, and to avoid travel on unpaved roads at all times because of random banditry, carjackings, kidnappings, criminal assaults and lack of police. Most fatal traffic accidents or robberies and assaults occur during the evening or early morning hours. Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable.

The U.S. Embassy considers El Salvador a critical crime threat country. Violent and petty crime are prevalent throughout El Salvador and U.S. citizens are often victims. Travelers should avoid carrying valuables in public places. Armed assaults and carjackings take place both in San Salvador and in the interior of the country. Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the international airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot.”

The Australian Government advises its citizens,“Violent crime including armed robbery, banditry, assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, and carjacking is common, including in the capital, San Salvador. Downtown San Salvador is dangerous, particularly at night. Criminals are known to target the road between San Salvador and the international airport.”

The violence is the legacy of a 12-year-long civil war, poverty and the deportation of thousands of Salavadoran gang members from Los Angeles back to San Salvador. There are now 25,000 gang members active in El Salvador, many of whom belong to MS-13, considered by the FBI to be the most dangerous gang in America.

The UK Government's Foreign & Commonwealth Office warns, "You should take great care travelling anywhere in El Salvador at night. You should take particular care if you need to travel to downtown San Salvador."

So, as I looked out from the plane window at the sparse lights of El Salvador, the country with the highest murder rate in the world, I gave more than a passing thought to how I was going to get from the airport to downtown San Salvador along the infamous dark road targeted by carjackers and armed gangs. One of the things you notice on arrival in a poor country is the darkness.

The plane touched down just before 9pm. All of my fellow passengers appeared to be Salvadorans. The airport was poorly lit and surrounded by a black night. This was where my journey began.

The top 20 countries listed by annual murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants. I was about to visit half of them:

Country ↓ 2000 ↓ 2001 ↓ 2002 ↓ 2003 ↓ 2004 ↓ 2005 ↓ 2006 ↓ 2007 ↓ Most
recent ↓
Flag of El Salvador El Salvador 37.3 34.6 31.1 32.7 41.0 54.9 55.3
Flag of Venezuela Venezuela 37 40 49 59 45 42 49
Flag of Jamaica Jamaica 34 44 40 36 54 64 49
Flag of Guatemala Guatemala 25.8 25.2 30.7 35.0 36.3 42.0 45.2
Flag of Honduras Honduras 49.92 53.72 55.89 33.57 31.89 35.06 42.91
Flag of South Africa South Africa 49.6 47.8 47.4 42.7 40.3 39.6 40.5 38.6 40.5
Flag of Colombia Colombia 62.7 64.6 65.8 51.8 44.6 39.3 37.3
Flag of Belize Belize

30.8 30.8
Flag of Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago 10.0 12.58 14.33 20.69 20.07 29.69 28.53 30.38 30.38
Flag of Brazil Brazil 26.7 27.8 28.4 28.9 27

Flag of Ecuador Ecuador

15.07 18.33

Flag of Russia Russia 19.80

18.0 16.5
Flag of Swaziland Swaziland 88.61

13.05 13.63

Flag of Mexico Mexico 14.11 13.94 13.04

Flag of Mongolia Mongolia

13.51 12.81

Flag of Paraguay Paraguay 12.05

Flag of Haiti Haiti

11.5 11.5
Flag of Suriname Suriname

15.10 10.30

Flag of Panama Panama
10.56 9.56

Flag of Argentina Argentina

To be contd.


  1. Really? You are going to leave us hanging again! So not fair...

  2. Wow, wow, wow, what makes you want to travel to such a dangerous place... Okay, don't answer that, I know, it was a dumb questions. I know we've only just met and I find your blog very interesting so please could you try to stay off any death lists and report back to us about all these wonderful and interesting place so I don't have to put my neck on the line by visiting them.

    Best wishes and stay

    Keep safe and keep writing,Ian.

  3. i haven't read it yet - i'll be back, but just had to say - you crack me up...yes, it's perfect!

  4. You are BRAVE. I can't wait to hear what happens!

  5. You really are brave. Waiting to know what happens ..

    By the way, I am stopping here for the first time. Great articles you have posted.

    Have a safe journey, and happy blogging


  6. Hi!Thanks ofr your visit in my blog! What an interesting life you live-it seems like truly LIVING life! It's so true what you say about pooor countires and how dark it seem there with hardly any lights in the streets at all. Did you ever go to Cuba? We went there a few years ago, unfortunately friends of ours were robbed and attacked in the midst of nowhere. Do take good care of yourself down there!Will have to check in here later! Maja

  7. Okay - I hope you make it back for part two and I am never going to El Salvador. Good luck.

  8. yikes, ian, be careful! it's ok to leave us hanging with fiction, but not so with true stuff!
    sorry i left that comment earlier without reading the post - i just couldn't stop laughing at the comment you left on mine
    take care!

  9. p.s. crossing san salvador off my list of "where to go this summer"

  10. p.s. i hope you don't mind if i link you up to my blog (

  11. Peter, you can gladly link to my blog.

  12. Gewezz. That's quite a story that presceds this country. So...I'm now interested to know what happened (and also marking it off of my lists of places to visit).

  13. This is an added info. I never though El Salvador is the country with the highest murder rate.

    you have a very informative blog. I saw your site actually at blogcatalog

  14. Good grief! Best of luck to you...stay safe!


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