Some cities sound challenging or even dangerous. Fortunately, many of them do but just only before you go. Some others, indeed, can be very dangerous for real. We have skipped those last ones in this list. Instead, we have made a selection with some very interesting places that seem to be only for tough people. The best cities for badasses. Just keep the secret. Don’t tell anybody that everybody can visit them safely and enjoy them a lot!
- 1 Tirana, Albania
- 2 Nouakchott, Mauritania
- 3 La Paz, Bolivia
- 4 Hanoi, Vietnam
- 5 Dajla, Western Sahara
- 6 Belgrade, Serbia
- 7 Belfast, Northern Ireland
- 8 Bangkok, Thailand
- 9 Mexico City, Mexico
- 10 Marseille, France
- 11 Cape Town, South Africa
- 12 Jerusalem, Israel
- 13 Naples, Italy
- 14 Tangier, Morocco
- 15 Saint Louis, Senegal
- 16 Qom, Iran
First time I made it to Tirana I could park just in the Central Square in front of the monument of Skanderbeg. I drove a rented car from Dubrovnik and crossed the border getting on a wooden bridge just after the Muriqan – Sukobin Border Crossing. The family owning a working class old restaurant there got impressed when I tried to order beer with some basic travel book guide Albanian vocabulary. When I managed to ask if by any chance I could be fined for parking in such a place they looked at me as if I have just come from Mars.
My second time, they were building colorful modern apartments at the outskirts of the capital. The roads were still terrible and on purpose very narrow close to the border crossings. I saw some bridges work in progress and a half done cool highway and I got the guess that the last wild country in Europe was getting fast as domestic as the rest. Travelers, just go now!
Due to the Western Sahara conflict the international relationships between Morocco and Mauritania are not the best. Therefore, they didn’t recognise each other’s borders and they had a ten kilometers mined nomansland in between their territories. In order to cross it alive you needed to join someone who knew where the mines were. If you go by plane you won’t have any problem.
Nouakchott is a calm city. Well, more than a calm capital is a widened fishermen village where you can find amazing street scenes of local lifestyle, some Dakar imitation fast food restaurants, and an amazing fish market on the beach. Besides that, don’t expect more (neither less) than in any other Islamic republic. Maybe this is not the funniest town in the world but it can be awesome for human culture lovers.
La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz is a geometric cone. On the top they live the poorest and progressively descending to the bottom of the valley, the neighborhoods, the houses and the people are less and less poor. When I was doing my check in at the humble hotel I chose at the richest downtown of the capital, the receptionist showed a town map to me and said: “Look sir, this is the security area, don’t get out of these few streets.” I asked back if getting out of that small neighborhood was really that dangerous and he just said: “Well, for you… yes.”
Obviously, I made my visit to La Paz and I didn’t follow the advice with no consequences. La Paz probably is not the most interesting city in South America but it is a very singular city and very interesting to discover because of its colonial and modern history.
When you arrive in Hanoi, the world turns upside down. The young taxi driver who took me to the center from the airport after fighting with the other one hundred insisting fellows smiled once in the car and said “Welcome to the jungle, my friend”. It was just my second trip to Asia and it already sounded a cliché to me but I never forgot.
Chaos, but a nice chaos. That is Hanoi. People around, all on the street, sellers who sell everything, from rats or dog filets to eat to modern chinese stuff. Hitchhiking motorbikes, permanent traffic jam of bicycles, plastic chair terraces with homemade beer and a never ending all over food court. You cannot be bored!
Dajla, Western Sahara
Certainly this will be a surprise. Dajla is a forgotten town in the South of the Western Sahara, currently ruled by Morocco. It was Villa Cisneros during the Spanish period, and probably because of that it is a bit tough if your passport is Spanish. It was my case.
I needed to face uncountable interrogations and some unnecessary hassles by the police to reach the town. Since its own particular local culture and its never ending windy beaches are perfect for surfing, it could be a super spoiled resort area. Fortunately, it remains untouched for explorers.
They just got off from the war when I arrived with a Croatian rented car. Currently, I have this in mind every time they perform a drama for me when I ask to cross a border in a rental car company office. The city was destroyed. The tourism in town was almost non-existent and the people were extremely friendly. Indeed very far from the Western Europe propaganda we watched at that time on the daily news.
Visiting the city I got shocked by the bombed buildings. Someone told me they have kept them that way to show that it was NATO who did that. I understood then that the Balkans war had more than a unique point of view of being understood. And I felt guilty for my naiveness.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
I expected a nice multicultural city where the conflict was buried in the past. I was wrong. The city of Belfast, in Northern Ireland, meaning still UK, is a safe city where the memory of the conflict is still very present.
The Republican Falls Road is still very far from the Unionist Shankill. Still on the Peace Line Wall it is difficult to find a gate to cross from one site to another. But Besides the conflict in Belfast there is a beautiful historic center, some iconic pubs, lots of random conversation, good beers and the Titanic still sinking. Indeed, one of the most convenient and best cities for badasses.
“No money, no honey” says everybody to tourists after one more offering in Bangkok. My first time in Bangkok was as a backpacker, like many other millions at Khao San Road. There, you think that Bangkok is only about drinking, drugs, prostitutes and some temples in the morning. Out the neighborhood, maybe you find some decent restaurants to escape from the street made Pad Thai. And once you are back from a Muay Thai combat after dealing with all kind of cheaters and losing your patience with tuk tuk drivers, you enjoy a new party with your western backpacker new band of friends.
No worries, you will grow up and you will discover that Bangkok is much more than that. Probably the greatest and most interesting city in Asia. But it needs time and the best of yourself to perform its best.
Mexico City, Mexico
Ciudad de Mexico is known for being one of the most dangerous capitals in the world. We have visited almost every neighborhood recently and we have not got any problem (neither with the corrupt policemen as we have had in other cities of Mexico). It is also famous for its chaotic traffic, but we have done 70 kilometers biking in town in a day without any hassle.
Since it is a very huge city it is very diverse. You can find many different quartiers and with a bit of information you can have a great time in town as a visitor.
Some neighborhoods of Marseille seem apocalyptically destroyed as a Mad Max movie. It is quite known for being very much touched by crime and the dirt. And indeed I got this impression the first time I visited it.
Fortunately, I had to spend a full week there for work. Thanks to some locals I could enjoy this awesome city. I had some free time to discover the history and understand its multicultural background. I recommend visiting all the quartiers and much more than the beautiful port. It will be probably one of the nicests surprises of the best cities for badasses.
Cape Town, South Africa
This city is the most vibrant city in a diverse (maybe still divided) country. It has all the assets to be an outstanding beautiful city but when you scratch the surface you find some uncomfortable facts.
It is quite not recommended to move around freely. When you go for work you always have security personnel scourting you everywhere. Even when eating out or having fun. You can find kids begging just for a gulp of water and many many fences everywhere.
Probably, the most visited city in permanent conflict of the world. There are military, weapons, check points and controls everywhere. Even though thousands of tourists visit the old town of Jerusalem every day.
Obviously, and without any debate, Jerusalem is one of the most interesting places on earth to visit. That is because of its history and the multicultural background that makes the city, besides the conflict, one of the most amazing cities in the world.
You will hear “be careful with the mafia!”. There are many stories that proper italians and also some foreigners can tell to you about kids stealing wallets and grown up showing knifes under the sun in the old downtown of Naples.
Well, I went with my ten years old nephew and we went everywhere day and night and nothing bad happened to us. It is true that they are very creative parking and even more driving. You can find three people on an old Vespa or a grown up combing his hair while biking. Anyhow, just wear a Napoli futbol team jersey and you will see how many friends you would get.
It could be one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco. So close and so well communicated with Spain. It has an interesting past as an international city with a tradition of spies. The city of Tangier has an awesome Medina and amazing seafront.
Nevertheless, I felt quite exhausted there compared with other Moroccan cities. Many people try to take advantage of the tourist and many of them have the very stupid habbit of trying to convince the tourist he is going on the wrong direction, the street is close or some any other nonsense bullshit. I hope one day I will understand why.
Saint Louis, Senegal
If you arrive there by road, you will have the chance of enjoying one of the worst borders for tourists in the world. Because the cheaters there are also quite physically aggressive and some police officers are part of the crew and friends of the cheaters.
Once you make it you will arrive in a very interesting colorful city. There are very good local restaurants (don’t expect luxuries but food is excellent), music clubs and friends everywhere.
Yes. Qom is the quintessential religious city of Iran. That means a lot in one of the most ortodox of the Islamic republics. As it was classified in the black list of the United States, it sounded challenging to go. Far away from that.
I went with my father who was almost seventy years old and we had no problems at all. The other way around, we found a lot of friendly people. Then nobody tried to take any advantage of us tourists and the public transport was more than enough to make our trip possible and enjoyable.
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