The world's least liveable cities

All right Melbourne, you win this round. Again. The world's most liveable city, although given the company you're keeping up there – Vienna, Calgary, Adelaide – it's pretty clear that liveable doesn't necessarily translate to interesting.

You want to find an interesting city? You have to look down to the other end of the list, to the dark, unliveable depths of the world's great horror cities. Now things are livening up a bit.

The 10 least liveable cities, for your viewing pleasure, are: Damascus, Tehran, Douala, Tripoli, Karachi, Algiers, Harare, Lagos, Port Moresby and Dhaka.

Any reasonable person would probably consider that, given their abominable positions on the world liveability scale, these cities would also make appalling travel destinations. But that's not 100 per cent correct. Some of these are actually worth going to. (And some are not.)

First, of course, you can probably strike off any cities that are currently playing host to a war. So that's Damascus, Tripoli, and to a certain extent Karachi. Pakistan isn't at war, but the internal conflict there is significant.

So that leaves you trotting down to Flight Centre to book flights to Iran, Cameroon, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, PNG and Bangladesh. Is it worth your while?

I've been to four of the cities left on the list, with varying degrees of enjoyment. Tehran gets a hard time and no one would ever describe it as a pretty city. The traffic is ridiculous, the buildings unspectacular at best, and it's not exactly one of the world's best cities for dining out.

There are, however, attractions to be found if you take a little time. The Golestan Palace complex is well worth a few hours of wandering; Tehran's labyrinthine bazaar has something for everyone; and the Treasury of the National Jewels gives our own queen's horde a run for its money (and diamonds). Tehran also has a spanking new metro system to get you around, plus some amazingly good cafes (find one called Jeanne d'Arc, you won't regret it).

What about Harare? OK, Harare isn't great; it's not the sort of city you'd plan your entire holiday around. But it's not that bad. There are a few decent museums, and the huge botanic gardens. Plus some surprisingly good bars and restaurants to keep you going until you head out to visit the national parks Zimbabwe is more famous for.


Then you've got Dhaka, which is not a particularly dangerous place until you decide to get on a bus to take you out of town, a trip which will inevitably turn into the most frightening experience of your life. In the actual city itself, however, it's chaotic, but relatively safe. And there's never a dull moment.

What is there to do? You could start by jumping in a rickshaw and touring around Dhaka's myriad mosques, forts, palaces, museums and parks. And then you could go shopping in the bazaar. And then find something good to eat – you won't have to go far.

Interestingly, Dhaka is probably the world's largest city that doesn't have a McDonald's, so if you're a hater of the golden arches, this could be your ideal destination. (Conversely if you love a Big Mac, Bangladesh might not appeal.)

The last one I've visited is Port Moresby, although to say I've actually visited is a stretch. I've spent two nights staying at Airways, which is a hotel right next to the airport. You never even see Port Moresby proper, just a short section of road leading up to the hotel and back.

I was in the lift at Airways with another Australian and mentioned that the hotel seemed like a surprisingly nice place to hang out. He gave me a funny look: "It can feel like a prison after a while."

There aren't many people who would recommend Port Moresby as a tourist destination, it's more a stop-off point to some of the far more attractive destinations in PNG, but it serves its purpose just fine. And again, never a dull moment.

As for the rest, for Douala, Lagos and Algiers? I haven't been there myself, but who's to say? They might not be as liveable as Melbourne, but there's every chance that they will be just as interesting.

Have you visited cities that would be considered unliveable? Can you still have a good time in a city that's not very nice? Post your comments below.



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