One of the most annoying things that is thrown around by various publications and especially the State Department of the USA is that nearly every affordable country, IE every developing nation, is dictated as being "dangerous" for people to travel to. I believe that this is a big pile of garbage information and that it is largely up to you how dangerous anywhere is.
Deciding on a whim to go backpacking to poorer countries over 20 years ago changed my life for the better and really opened my eyes to how wonderful travel can be once you abandon the USA traditional "two week vacation" on some sort of tour where everything is pre-planned and "safe."
When I landed in Asia all that time ago, I didn't really even have a plan. I had a book with maps in it and a general trajectory, but honestly, I didn't know where exactly I was going to go nor did I know where I was going to stay in most of the places that I traveled to. I simply decided along the way or piggybacked with people I met in hostels and operated off of their advice that they had received from someone else. Keep in mind that this was before we had all the technological advancements that exist today so in that regard we were truly "flying blind" a lot of the time. These days, it is probably even easier to get the sort of experience that you are looking for if you simply get a new sim card in every country that you visit and travel with a power bank.
This idea that you are going to be in imminent danger in any less developed country is pure nonsense and I speak from 20 years of experience of doing exactly that. In fact, I would say that the countries that are considered "safe" are likely far more dangerous than the ones that the officials and the publications say are dangerous. Of all the "dangerous" countries that I have visited in Asia and south of the US border, I have only ever been ripped off once in 2 decades. This con was so elaborate and for such a small amount of money that by the time it was over I actually applauded the con artist after he disappeared. It took the guy several hours to cheat me out of something like $75 and this included drinks as well as dinner, not to mention some really great conversation. In my mind, it was worth the cost simply for the experience.
I have been lost and wandering in dozens of countries, sometimes on my own, and the people were generally really helpful and kind despite the fact that most of the time we didn't speak the same language. I don't think that because a country is poor that it is going to be a warzone of theft and chaos the way that various publications try to warn you.
It's largely up to you how dangerous somewhere is
The above statement applies not just to backpacking, but to life in general. If you put yourself in a dangerous situation, you shouldn't be surprised when it turns out to be that way. Places that are riddled with gang violence or are crime-prone areas are very well-known to be that way and if you go to those places, especially at night, you kind of deserve what ends up happening to you.
In my 20 years of backpacking I have never been robbed at gun or knife-point. I have never had my card skimmed by an ATM, I have never been pick-pocketed, I have never had something stolen from my room in my guesthouse, and I have never gotten the crap kicked out of me for being a foreigner.... ever. I'm not trying to say these things never happen to anyone but this idea that all countries outside of North America and Western Europe are just riddled with danger (which is what the State Department basically says) isn't true at all. In fact, I think you are more likely to be a victim of a crime in the USA than you are abroad by a long shot.
Here are some simple tips to making sure that bad things don't happen to you when traveling and this applies to basically everywhere in the world that I have been.
- Don't carry a ton of money with you and don't flash your cash or show off. Also use one of those wallets that go under your shirt and around your neck
- There's no reason to wear expensive jewelry: You are a backpacker, who are you trying to impress?
- Be friendly! Most of the people in the world are also friendly
- Use the safe deposit boxes at hostels and guesthouses for valuables
- Travel with the group of friends that you should be making if you are backpacking. Thieves are mostly cowards and are not going to approach groups of people who are looking out for one another
That's basically all there is to it!
Don't let the nay-sayers convince you that your only options for a "safe" vacation is to go to Florida or on some all inclusive resort in Cancun or on a cruise ship. If you limit yourself to what the system says is "safe" you are severely limiting yourself to what the world has to offer!