Schools In Dangerous Locales


    In response to our previous article, What Would it Take?, ISR asked international educators to weigh-in on the topic of salary packages attractive enough to get you to overcome your resistance to work in a country previously on your ‘no-go, no-way, no-how’ list of places to work.

     Signing on to a school in a local that doesn’t meet your criteria for language, geographical location, political and social outlook is one thing. But when rampant crime and the potential to get hurt are a very real possibility, that’s an entirely new ball game

     Of course we all have a different tolerance for dangerous situations and some people seem to thrive on danger. One thing I’ve noticed for certain is that school directors seem to have the highest tolerance for such situations and can even make light of them, especially when they are trying to sell me on their school.

     Lets stay safe and help each other avoid unforeseen dangerous situations. We’ve started a list of Crime Ridden Locations and encourage you to add locations and personal experiences. International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is All About!

We’ve started off the conversation with excerpts from ISR  School Reviews, Forum and Blog posts from ISR members and site visitors:  We invite your comments:


It’s not safe to go out after dark, and during the day most people keep their phones hidden and carry “rob money” just in case. 

My friends have been robbed in so many different parts of the city at any hour of the day.

When I walk outside, or when I take the bus or even when I take a taxi, I am always alert. I know who is behind me at all times and constantly taking precautions no matter what I am doing.

A young college student in my guarded condo complex was robbed at gunpoint at the bus stop right outside our gate.

I was only robbed once and it was only for some small change. I consider myself lucky.

I worked there for years and left because I knew too many people who had been shot, kidnapped, or had their homes robbed at gunpoint. No one is safe there anywhere, especially not if you’re a Gringo!

My wife was mugged and I was nearly gunned down just outside of our flat. And we lived in a rather posh area.


I was robbed twice in 4 months! If you go there you will regret it.


I had two people pull a gun on me, and one was just outside a mall. So it is dangerous enough, and even more so if you were actually involved with drugs.

D. R. Congo

They broke in and tied up the teacher. Then they ram shackled the house and took everything of value. She wasn’t hurt and her maid found her still on the floor with her hands and feet bound with rope.


When my husband left the bank the teller must have had accomplices waiting outside because at the first traffic light he was approached by two men with guns. He had no choice but to let him in. They had him drive to a secluded area and tied him up in the back seat. Then they used the car to rob two houses. They left him tied up in the back seat of the car and fled. This sort of crime is not uncommon here.


About half the expats I know have been mugged/held up at gunpoint/pick-pocketed etc. But the number of ways in which your personal freedom is curtailed in societies like these gets old

When they can’t get ring off your finger they will cut off the finger. These robberies happened on the city busses. Don’t wear jewelry and if you do, make sure you can get it off.

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31 thoughts on “Schools In Dangerous Locales

  1. I’m in Salvador, Brazil – everyone gets mugged at least once. I was robbed a few months ago. And last year during the police strike, 2 men broke into our house. It also gets dark at 5:30 everyday, so it feels sketchy leaving your house and walking even very early in the evening.


  2. 14 years in China, 10 of that in Shanghai and I was pick pocketed once! It was not violent, I hardly knew it happened. Once in 14 years. I felt safer in Shanghai than I did living in a village of 2500 in Dorset, UK.


  3. I am in Panama City, Panama. I was mugged on the street. It is best to go in groups, and better still if you can afford your own car. Many cannot, and being on foot puts you in the position of being mugged, especially after dark – and it gets dark here year-round at 6:30 pm. Crime is not an exaggeration, and people are not making it up. I can tell the difference between a beggar and a thief, and I have the bruises to show for it. At least I was not harmed more severely. And yes, there are places in America it is also not safe to go into, either. Denigrating the experiences of others is not helpful.


  4. It would be very helpful if people included little details such as, say, the name of the city they were in. Calling an entire country dangerous is, for the most part, ridiculous. Having lived in seven different cities in the US alone I can report that every one of those cities had dangerous sections and less dangerous sections.
    So this is not helpful information, Philippines – “I had two people pull a gun on me, and one was just outside a mall. So it is dangerous enough, and even more so if you were actually involved with drugs.” Anecdotal scenario that happened somewhere in a country of 100 million people and finishing with the sage advice that you may want to look out when you’re scoring heroin.

    Phnom Penh, Cambodia – The post by Cambridge is pretty accurate although I would have begun by saying, “generally safe.”. I have had bicycles and a moto stolen, primarily because they were left in a place where they could be stolen – locked outside at night. Thieves will use sticks or stiff wire to reach through the bars on the windows and knick what they can. Friends of mine have had their things stolen by monkeys as well so that’s another thing to look out for.


    1. I agree with Anon above. If you are dealing drugs anywhere, expect to find yourself in danger. Also a city name, rather than an entire country, would be useful. Some areas of Manila are dangerous; some areas of all cities are dangerous. But if the teacher were working in Cebu, he or she might find no problems. And Davao, in some international surveys, is ranked as the 4th safest city in the world.


  5. I’m an overseas teacher in the USA, and it’s really frightening. Ever since terrorists flew planes into towers in NYC (killing 3000+ people) the place has been alert to similar threats and it seems like only a matter of time before another big one kicks off. Muggings and verbal abuse seem common, and as for the police – why one cop gunned down a young man whose crime it seems was to be black. But the cops are under threat too. A couple of months back, an ax-wielding lunatic tried to kill four of them! As for the number of guns – everyone seems to own a gun. They even have special pink rifles you can buy for little girls. Then there’s this “Stand your ground” law that means you can shoot anyone who you think is threatening you. One self-appointed (white) vigilante followed a black teenager until the boy turned round. Words were spoken and the white man killed him. Of course the white guy got off. Another black kid was shot in his car because he was playing loud music and looked “threateningly” at the older (white) man. Worst of all is that because of this gun culture over here it seems like every month there is a story of some crazed kid going into his local school and shooting at his classmates and teachers. Can you imagine a country that allows its citizens to have free access to guns so that they can commit these crimes! And whenever there’s a move to limit gun ownership, the politicians, who are so corrupt and in the pockets of the NRA, say it is the inalienable right of a citizen to carry a gun. I’m really not safe here!


  6. I disagree with the poster who said that the crime situation overseas is similar to the statistics from developed countries.

    In many developing countries because you stand out as an expat and locals assume all expats are wealthy. Because of this you are seen as an opportunity for crime and targeted in a way you are not in your home country.

    In my home country if I follow safety rules I am not usually a victim of crime at least not in the 40 years I have been alive. I can use strategies like avoiding crime filled areas, being aware of who is around me, not flashing valuables, etc.

    Those tried and trusted rules offer no guarantees in my current country where even in your home, home invasions are frequent, and there are NO safe areas.

    In the country where I am currently living crime on expats is seen as a victimless crime since expats are “rich”. In the past month 2 teachers have had their bags snatched from moving cars and motorbikes. This results in terrible abrasions and bruising to their arm and the side of their body the bag was on. Another expat had his entire car stolen. I could go on and on and on describing the numerous incidents in the expat community as a whole.

    Additionally there are the crimes that happen when bribe money is demanded of expats for things such as driving on the road, getting government paperwork processed, gaining entrance to a governmental building like to process your working visa, etc. These are also crimes because it steals your money without your permission.

    No amount of precaution is ever enough when living in these sorts of places. The police are ineffective and not on the side of the expat EVER.


    1. Yes I agree. I teach in Malaysia and own/drive a car (the public transit system is non-existent and the streets are not safe to walk). I have been stopped by police several times for no reason and asked for a bribe. After the first two times I learned to stand up to them and demand a summons/ticket. They backed in cases, but twice I had to drive to a police station where I spent 2-3 hours explaining my situation. In Malaysia the police often are working with the criminals.


  7. BANGLADESH: So far, much safer than expected. Property crimes are a noteworthy exception. The tendency for expats is to shrug these off for the poverty and for the otherwise very friendly and hospitable culture, like “Well, it’s no surprise that some very desperate souls resort to theft and burglary. Good riddance”. This view is wrong on many levels, though. First, Bangladeshis themselves HATE thieves. If one gets caught, he is lucky to survive the severe beatings he can expect. Second, a crime is a crime, no matter how much sweet-talking is done to explain it. Third, it’s not like it would be right for us expatriates to go to the richest people in our cultures and steal from them. Fourth, the perpetrators tend to do it for cheap thrills and/or drug money.

    So beware of property crimes in Bangladesh. Note that there will be no productive help from the police! Your loss WILL be your loss unless you have reliable insurance.


  8. Thailand – One teacher at my school had her bag stolen while walking home (by some guy on a motorcycle). A male teacher got beat up by a group of Thais (then again being drunk and rude/agressive in a bar is inviting trouble). Oh, and the cops are useless for the most part.

    Russia – Cops constantly shook me down for bribes. Had difficulty entering my own Embassy.

    Japan – Never had a problem. I’ve forgotten umbrellas at train stations and the umbrella is still there (unmoved) when I get home.


  9. I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi for years, and I keep considering moving on… but when I read posts like this I realise I’m in the safest place in the world. The biggest issue anyone I know has had (in almost 8 years) was being blamed in a car accident that clearly wasn’t his fault. The insurance company paid out and so all it meant was he had some forms to fill in. That’s how bad crime gets here!

    No muggings, no robberies, no bag snatching, no pickpocketing… nothing! And we get some of the highest salaries in the world. 5000GBP per month (tax free) along with everything else paid for. Why would would any teacher with kids work anywhere else.

    I had a job offer for Malaysia, but after reading the post above I’m not going to bother with it.


    1. Lived in Thailand for five years, showed no wealth, never had a problem. Lived in Venezuela for seven, always a problem, I finally left after a daylight robbery at the school while in session Escuela Anaco.Lived in Bali, had a Balinese driver, a guard, and a Javanese pimbantu, she was a constant watch dog.No problems. I now reside in Saudi Arabia, there is very little crime here, if any at all. J.L.Hart


    2. How is it for single females working in Saudi? Specifically, is their abilities to shop, move around, get services super restricted without a male chaperone? And what is the actual sexual assault risk (prompted by the recent hotel employee’s sexual assault and subsequent incarceration in the UAE thanks to Sharia law)?


  10. Bag snatches both men and women occur daily in broad daylight in all parts of the city in Phnom Penh. Phone theft is particularly bad especially at night. Break ins when people are away or sometimes at night are also very common. Most teachers experience one or the other while living in Cambodia although bodily harm is fairly rare unless you are into bad things and out in the early hours of the morning.


  11. Egypt. Threats recently against Foreign teachers, Embassies warning schools to have extra security measures. The government has given more power to the army to protect, but in the major cities, trouble is looming.


    1. The State Department and the UK Foreign Office said the threat was non credible. A 60 year old teacher living in Alexandria has been arrested for the threat.


    2. Sorry we are talking Cairo, not Alexandria, worlds apart, however that said, Alexandria seems to be the staging post for illegal immigrants to Europe now.


  12. Malaysia: Thieves travel around on motorcycles with long swords (parang) or machetes. I have been robbed on the street and other teachers as well. Students have been attacked and lost their laptops and phones.


  13. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    I have taught there & saw bag snatching, gold chain snatching, robbing at gun point specially in the evenings. Its not safe after dark.


  14. There is a universal code of conduct in dangerous locations any educator definitely SHOULD follow, including but not restricted to:

    1)Avoiding taking taxis off the street (in Mexico particularly) but rather calling in advance for a reputable service.

    2)Avoiding wearing flashy jewelry and other accouterments in public is definitely not recommended.

    3) Avoiding known haunts of criminals or dilapidated sections of the town/city you live in. The police can usually tell you what to avoid.

    4) Registering with your US embassy if there is one there or a Canadian/UK one if not,or vice-versa. they can also advise you about dangerous spots where you are living and what to do in the event of an emergency.

    5) Avoiding going out alone, especially at night. 3 or more is a crowd and can discourage potential criminals.

    6) Always driving with your windows up and your doors locked. 99.9% of cars have air conditioning so there is no excuse for driving with your windows down.

    7) Avoid hitchhiking alone and if possible at all. This is a very high risk activity in many foreign countries other than in Europe.

    8) Drinking alone or with strangers in bars you don’t know and in less frequented areas. Date rape drugs are now universally available and used in these places by unscrupulous characters.

    There are many more common sense precautions one should take to avoid being victimized in high risk countries or regions. Listening to the locals when they advise you about certain activities or areas is also highly recommended…..they know their locale.


    1. I have lived in the Philippines for years and never had a problem. You just need to be aware of your surroundings, and don’t be stupid. Examples of being stupid: talking about how much money you have, carrying a lot of cash around with you, hanging around in seedy areas, taking unmarked taxis, and flashing a lot of gold or jewelry. Still though I know people who have been robbed. A teacher friend of mine was robbed on the jeepney, but again he was being stupid carrying a lot of cash, and he wasn’t aware of his surroundings.


    2. “Being aware of your surroundings” and “not being stupid” may indeed mitigate the risk, but won’t eliminate it, and I think it’s fair to say that in developing countries where state infrastructure (such as police, the legal system, courts, etc) is underfunded, poorly developed and malfunctioning the risks to your personal safety are far greater than in developed countries.

      Just because nothing bad has ever happened to you in the Philippines doesn’t mean the risks don’t exist. Sometimes you are forced to deal with circumstances that are beyond your control.


    3. All these things apply in Nairobi too. I left – after 8 fantastic years, because I was the only person I knew (!) who hadn’t been robbed either at gun or knife point. NOT ACCEPTABLE statistics – its only a matter of time.


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