Places Not to Visit in 2012

By Joel Fineman, Staff WriterJan. 5, 2012
By Joel Fineman, Staff WriterJan. 5, 2012, at 4:35 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

Places Not to Visit in 2012

Like flowers, cities blossom at different times. But unlike flora, urban centers can take years, decades even, to fruit. And while it might be helpful to enumerate which metropolises will ripen in 2012, that list has already been published several times over. U.S. News Travel can assist you in a different way—by pointing out vacation spots that won't spoil you, because they have already spoiled.

It's not our intention to be cruel. We just want to make sure unsuspecting travelers bypass hazardous locales. Trips to these places may be harmful to your budget, photo album, or even your safety. Cities on this list have many redeeming qualities that attract tourists, but now may not be the time to visit. Here are spots to reconsider visiting in 2012.

We could not be happier to reflect on the democratic results of the Arab Spring. Parliamentary elections have already begun and will continue through March 2012. But unfortunately, political harmony is crucial when it comes to tourist destinations. And as the U.S. Department of State warns, "Political rallies and demonstrations are likely to occur in the period leading up to and following the elections. In the past nine months, demonstrations have degenerated on occasion into violent clashes." As Egypt's political epicenter, Cairo will undoubtedly be the hub of activity. So put your pyramid tour on hold for a while longer. Egypt aims for a swift government transition in 2012, which will allow the country to rebuild its tourism industry. If you'd like to visit, 2013 might be a better year.

Visitors will feel worlds away from any political turmoil in Cairo. Sharm el-Sheikh is also known as the "City of Peace" for the large number of peace conferences held in the area. Located at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm el-Sheikh hosts gorgeous luxury resorts, including the Four Seasons, along its smooth shores. Plus, weak tourism in 2011 means hotels are now offering alluring rates.

As the self-titled "Greatest Manufacturing City in the World," Birmingham has long stood in the majestic shadow of London. The United Kingdom's second most-populous city is a bustling machine, but the inner workings of this engine aren't so pretty. The plethora of historical monuments found in London, York, Edinburgh, and even Manchester are absent in Birmingham. Although The Independent reports that Birmingham is one of the U.K.'s most visited cities, we are still trying to figure out why people are in a hurry to get there. The city contains some impressive contemporary architecture, but it holds little appeal as a vacation destination. Hopefully, with all of its residents, Birmingham will step up its game in the years to come.

With the Summer Olympics, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and Charles Dickens' 200th birthday to celebrate, this city is on everyone's list to visit in 2012. The high volume of visitors will raise room rates and airfare to a premium. But if you can afford it, you should definitely jump on the bandwagon.

You might be tempted to skip across the border from El Paso, Texas, into Mexico, but you shouldn't. The state of Chihuahua, particularly its capital Cuidad Juarez, is one of the most notoriously dangerous places in Mexico. In 2010 alone, more than 3,100 murders occurred (2011's total has yet to be tabulated). The State Department recommends that U.S. citizens "defer non-essential travel to Ciudad Juarez and to the Guadalupe Bravo area southeast of Ciudad Juarez." Cheap prescriptions and electronics are not worth the risk. The Mexican government is still trying to get a handle on the drug cartels and widespread violence that plagues the country and frequently erupts in Cuidad Juarez.

The Mayan Riviera has largely avoided the horrific crimes that have plagued other regions of Mexico. Tulum, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel are majestic seaside locales with Mayan ruins in their backyards. And if the world is going to end in 2012 (as the Mayan calendar predicts), we suggest spending your last days in this paradise.

Visitors shiver at Oslo's freezing temps and gawk at its exorbitant price tags. Sure, Oslo's historic downtown and Vigeland Park are scenic. But there are better places to spend your hard-earned savings. Occupying the top spot on UBS's list of most expensive places for several years, Oslo has staved off the euro zone drama, posting staggeringly high hotel rates. Our suggestion: Leave this cold capital to those who can afford it.

You'll have to flee Scandinavia entirely to reach reasonable prices. Russia's Baltic metropolis offers more history and beauty than Oslo, and for less money. Fortunately for cold-weather fans, St. Petersburg has a similarly frigid climate to what you'd find in Norway. Plus, this city's gorgeous architecture will make you forget about pricey Oslo.

After the whispers—and now official news—of its impending bankruptcy, Detroit garners a spot on our list. With the American auto industry still not generating the big bucks, things can't get much worse for this former Midwest titan. The city hopes that dollars, be it from tourism or elsewhere, are sent its way, but we don't recommend visiting in 2012. With the threat of public transportation (and garbage collection) shutting down, a trip to Motor City might turn unpleasant in a hurry. Mayor Dave Bing's new budget plan cuts funding for important city services, including police patrols. According to the Chicago Tribune, Detroit's police stations will now close between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. every day, meaning "residents could have a harder time immediately finding face-to-face help from the police during key hours of the day." Bankruptcy or anarchy? Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

Just outside of Detroit, the clean, cozy college town of Ann Arbor is the antithesis to its floundering big brother. Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor hosts a collective of smart, promising students that also know how to have a good time. Just peek into one of the local watering holes or the "Big House" to see what we mean. Aside from reveling in the college spirit, visitors can enjoy the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

We hate to pinpoint an entire country, but, in this case, our reason for caution is not confined to a particularly city. The only thing worse than getting taken in a bad timeshare scheme is literally "getting taken." In October 2011, tourists were kidnapped in Kenya's resort town of Lamu and then brought into troubled Somalia. Later that month, a hand grenade exploded in a crowded nightclub in Nairobi, killing 14 patrons. MSNBC reports that Kenyan tourism has been devastated by the subsequent reactions of visitors. And the recent reassuring words of tourism officials along with increased security precautions have done little to ease the fears of travelers. If you do visit, the State Department warns, "U.S. citizens in Kenya should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security." But, then again, when has "extreme vigilance" made for a relaxing vacation?

Head to Africa's opposite coast and you'll find pleasant, peaceful Ghana. The beaches of Accra, Ghana's capital city, and the verdant terrain have yet to be seriously marred by tourism.

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