I would gladly return to the majority of the cities I’ve had the pleasure of visiting over my 22 years of international travels. However, the following five are not among them.

Whether it’s because they’re dangerous, unpleasant or just… (yawn).. boring, you should not feel sorry for missing them out.

Consider this an “anti-top-picks” list if you will, in reverse order of horrible-ness.

Riobamba, Ecuador

Riobamba is not completely horrible, but there isn’t much for travellers here, besides a pretty church and a main square. Its dirty streets and ramshackle appearance are rather off-putting, and there are few decent restaurants. Riobamba’s idea of a latte is a cup of hot milk with a jar of instant coffee placed next to it!

Although it makes a convenient stopover on the route from Quito to Cuenca, the town of Baños is a much better choice.

Riobamba, Ecuador

Redeeming quality: Pretty illuminations on the square and main street during the Christmas holidays.

Dumaguete, The Philippines

Reading the following description in a popular guidebook, Dumaguete does sound promising: “It has attractive architecture, a laidback university town ambience, and a lovely seafront promenade shaded by acacia trees and coconut palms and lined with lively bars and restaurants“.

Don’t be fooled though. Staying here for two days is already a day and a half too many! The seafront promenade is indeed very nice and will provide a pleasant five-minute walk (despite the occasional sewer smells) but that’s about it. The rest of the town (with the additional exception of the university grounds) is noisy, smelly, and unattractive with overhanging electrical cables, too many tricycles (local rickshaws) and other vehicles, and almost unusable sidewalks cluttered with parked cars and other obstacles.

Of course it’s hot and very humid. And did I say smelly?

Dumaguete, Philippines

Redeeming quality: Lots of good cheap restaurants and coffee shops to pass the time.

Alexandria, Egypt

Alexandria has a pretty name, and conjures up an exotic past. But that’s about all it has. Some of the sites that made it famous in ancient times: the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Great Library and the Necropolis, are long gone. It is a totally modern and dull looking city. And of course, being in Egypt, you have to contend with the usual unpleasantness of that country (although I don’t remember the harassment being as bad as further south).

You may have to go through if you are headed to the Siwa oasis in the Western Desert. An overnight stop should be sufficient.

Redeeming quality: It’s on the Mediterranean.

Mandalay, Burma

I do not understand why Mandalay features so prominently on every 2-week itinerary through Burma. I would guess it’s because it has an airport and offers some mildly interesting side trips. The city itself is plagued by incessant honking traffic (the motorcycles are especially wanton), and no stop signs or traffic lights anywhere. There are open sewers, broken or obstructed sidewalks, and everywhere you look, charmless concrete buildings. This town is so dirty that the leaves on the trees look grey, covered in a layer of dust.

Mandalay has a few attractions, but nothing that seems worth getting down into the dusty noisy streets for. And the food is nothing to write home about: greasy noodles, cold rice, undercooked eggs.

Mandalay, Burma

Redeeming quality: Maybe the cheap draught beer?

Belize City, Belize

I was in Belize City shortly in 1996, as the starting point of a group tour through Belize and Northern Guatemala. Driving in, I was shocked to see a completely burnt out two-story building still standing in the middle of a busy city street. I took a couple of nervous walks near my hotel (it felt a little edgy) looking for something interesting, and don’t really remember finding it

Wondering if the city had improved since, I did a quick research online, and found this alarming post by another blogger written in 2010. Better stay away then!

Redeeming quality: No idea

There you go. With the thousands of wonderful locations the world has to offer, there really is no need to spend any time in those cities. And if you really must stop in one of them, make it a very quick stop.

Do you know of any unpleasant city that should be added to this list?

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