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The 20 Worst Places to Live in Central America in 2023

Los Cabos, Mexico

Expatriates looking for the best places to live in Central America need to be aware of the worst places to take them off their list of possibilities. There are some cities in certain parts of Central American countries that are particularly dangerous if you move to the wrong part of town. We examine the neighborhoods and cities that are the most dangerous or economically depressed to weigh the livability factors for identifying those with the lowest scores. Central America is comprised of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. Although there are some wonderful places to live in these countries, here are the 20 worst places to live.

Reynosa, Mexico

20. Reynosa, Mexico

Big Think includes Reynosa among the most dangerous cities to live in Central America. While there are worse ones, the city of 701,525 residents saw 294 violent crimes for an overall statistic of almost 42 violent crimes per 100,000 persons. There are better places to live in South America.

Ciudad Obregón, México

19. Ciudad Obregón, México

Cuidad Obregon, Mexico may offer a comfortable climate for those who like the heat, but it's not reason enough to live there. According to, this area is not among the safest places to live in Central America. While it's not the worst, it does meet the criteria for inclusion on our list. The violent crime rate is 40.95 out of 100,000 persons. When you combine this with petty thefts and other disadvantages, there are better places to make your home.

Chihuahua, México

18. Chihuahua, México

Chihuahua is another Mexican city that is similar to Cuidad Obregon, only a little worse. While there are a few plusses to living there, the high crime rate is a deterrent. It's higher than Cuidad Obregon with a rate of 42.02 out of 100,000 residents.

Mazatlán, México

17. Mazatlán, México

Mazatlan, Mexico is a premier travel destination with numerous classy resorts, white sandy beaches, and all of the options one would expect for fun and recreation. These are the good points that might make it sound like the ideal place to live. There is another side to Mazatlan though. the violent crime rate in Mazatlan is 48.75 per 100,000 people. The longer you expose yourself to this constant threat, the more likely it is to happen. It's better to just pass through this vacation city and keep on moving.

Culiacán, México

16. Culiacán, México

Culiacan, Mexico is one of the most dangerous cities in Central America. While there are some benefits to living in this area, including an excellent climate, especially if you suffer from arthritis, it's not the ideal place to retire or to live. Culiacan has a crime rate of 51.81 per 100,000 that makes it a problem if you're there for any length of time. There are better places to live that are far safer.

The Darien Gap, Panama

15. The Darien Gap, Panama

World Citizen reports on a few of the worst places to visit or live in Central America because of the combination of dangerous political unrest and violent crime. He lists The Darien Gap in Panama as a place to avoid. The area is frequently occupied by FARC, an active Colombian paramilitary group that is now for perpetrating violence. Other issues in this area include drug trafficking and other violent criminal activity. This is an undeveloped area that connects Central America with South America. Using this crossing can result in your being kidnapped and then killed.

Guatemala City, Guatemala

14. Guatemala City, Guatemala

Guatemala City is a dangerous place for anyone to visit who is not familiar with the area. The entire city is a violent place to visit or live. Your odds of becoming the victim of some kind of crime. While many of Guatemala's rural areas are even more dangerous than the cities, you can take this one as an exception to the rule. Danger lurks around every corner. It's one of the most dangerous places in the country currently.

Managua, Nicaragua

13. Managua, Nicaragua

Managua is the capital city of Nicaragua. It's much different than other Central American cities. You won't find many attractions that would make it worth visiting. There isn't much to see there. City life is so fraught with danger and blandness that there is very little reason to even want to visit the place let alone live there. If you're looking for a place to settle, this should definitely be crossed off your list of maybes. Compared to Central American standards, it's expensive to live in Managua, and it's also chaotic with a dense population.

Soyapango, El Salvador

12. Soyapango, El Salvador

Soypango is a city that has earned a reputation for explosive violent crimes. It's one of the most dangerous places in the country to be. First of all, there isn't much to see in the city. There are no beaches or breathtaking views. If you think that knife-wielding criminals are scary then you'll never leave the house in this city. Weapons of choice for criminals in Soyapango are fully automatic machine guns and grenade launchers. Some call it Central America's most dangerous city.

Belize City, Belize

11. Belize City, Belize

Belize City is the capital city of Belize. While there are some attractions in the city, it's honestly not worth the risk to set up housekeeping in this town. It's a city of 60,000 residents, which is smaller than many of the other cities on our list, but the crime rate is sky-high. Many of the residents live in fear for their lives and safety. In addition to the high crime rate, it's fairly unremarkable offering little to attract new residents. There are a lot better places to choose to live.

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

10. San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan Del Sur is another city in Nicaragua that made our worst places to live list. Even though this city is popular among tourists, a lot of people go through the traumatic experience of getting a knife pulled on them and publically mugged. It's no fun to get robbed at knifepoint. On top of that, when the late afternoon rolls around, the beaches become more dangerous. It's not a place you can safely party because criminals target people who have been drinking for a late-night mugging as they're walking home. This is one of the dangers of living in a popular party and surfing town. It draws in plenty of people with money who just want to have a good time. The criminal element is capitalizing on these dynamics and they're making bank at the expense of the partiers. It's much safer in the early morning hours, but who wants to stay in all afternoon and evening because of the threat of crime? It's better to move to a place that doesn't have such a huge issue with these kinds of violent crimes.

Juarez, Mexico

9. Juarez, Mexico

Statistica contributes to the list with its research on the most dangerous places to live in South America for inclusion. Juarez, Mexico ranks high on their list with a high rate of violent crimes. While some tourists still go to Juarez, it isn't recommended. There are definitely better places to live in Mexico. The rate of violent crimes is at 85.56 per 100,000 people. The longer you stay in this city, the more likely you are to become the victim of a violent crime. It's just not worth the stress of keeping your guard up when the sun goes down in this town.

Tijuana, Mexico

8. Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana is a city in Mexico that is not without its merits. It's a popular tourist destination that offers some great fun and beautiful views with a climate that makes outdoor excursions simply wonderful. While you might initially view this as a paradise, try sticking around for a while and learning about the seamy side of the city and surrounding area. This is a haven for criminals. While theft and petty crimes are an issue, they're nothing compared to the violent crime rates of 138.26 per 100,000 people.

San Salvador, El Salvador

7. San Salvador, El Salvador

According to World Atlas, San Salvador is one of the more dangerous places to live in the country. It is the largest city in the country as well as El Salvador's capital city. The rate of violent crimes committed is high at 83.39 per 100,000 persons. Remarkably, the city of 1.7 people in the metro area is beleaguered with some of the most extreme gang violence in the world. This is the primary reason for its inclusion in this list. San Salvador does have some things going for it, such as employment opportunities and the amenities that larger cities have to offer for shopping, dining, and entertainment. These, however, do not offset the fact that it's a dangerous place to live.

Victoria, Mexico

6. Victoria, Mexico

Victoria is a Mexican city that is situated in the state of Tamaulipas on Mexico's eastern side. At last count, more than 300,000 people call the city their home. It's a place that is also tainted with extreme gang violence. It's a known middle ground in between smuggling routes between the US border and the Gulf of Mexico. Violent crime rates are at just under 65 per 100,000 persons which makes it a place that is not safe for anyone let alone families with young children. There are far safer places to live in Mexico or other Central American countries.

Distrito Central, Honduras

5. Distrito Central, Honduras

Distrito Central is located in the Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela regions. These are two large twin cities in the country of Honduras with a population base that is more than a million. The population base is dense, but that's not the biggest problem. Distrito Central is known for its developing network of organized crime activity. This unlawful group of factions is getting stronger each year. Tegucigalpa's violent crime statistics show that 91% of the crimes involve male victims. The overall crime rate for the area is 85.09 for every 100,000 people.

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

4. San Pedro Sula, Honduras

San Pedro Sula, Honduras is the second biggest city in the country with a population of 719,063 residents calling the city home. Like many other cities in Honduras, San Pedro Sula is experiencing a big problem with organized crime This has led to a murder rate of 112.09 per 100,000 people. Part of the problem has stemmed from damage to the banana production decreases and the damage that was done in a hurricane that hit the area. The economy has experienced an extreme difficulty which is another factor in addition to the high rate of murders committed in the city. This is a place that you wouldn't want to call home if you value your continued good health and well-being. One of the biggest problems in San Pedro Sula is organized gang warfare and violence.

Acapulco, Mexico

3. Acapulco, Mexico

Acapulco has its merits as a popular destination for vacationers looking for pristine resorts. Although the city of 700,000 is popular with tourists, the rate of crime has been growing at an alarming rate. There has been a decline in tourism revenue along with the rise of dangerous drug cartels gaining more power and presence in the area. the violent crime/murder rate has increased to a disturbing 11.324 per 100,000 persons. A crime explosion has taken place and tourists are warned that they are taking a big risk by visiting the city for any amount of time, let alone living there.

La Paz, Mexico

2. La Paz, Mexico

According to Big Think, La Paz is one of the worst places to live in Central America because of the high rate of violent crimes committed there. Why would anyone want to move to a place that isn't safe to walk down the street after dark? The annual crime rate for La Paz is 84.79 per 100,000 persons. There isn't much incentive to live there, aside from the warm dry climate, but it's not the worst, just one of them.

Los Cabos, Mexico

1. Los Cabos, Mexico

Los Cabos may have quite a bit going for it, but there is more to discourage anyone from wanting to move there to live. It's one of the most dangerous places in all of Central America. The annual crime rate shows that during the past year 111.33 people per 100,000 became victims of violent crimes in the city and surrounding area. It's one of the worst places to live, let alone to visit. It's best to avoid this town or keep passing through if you can't go around it.

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Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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