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The Dark Side of Travel: What You Should Know About Drug Tourism

“In the U.S. you have to be a deviant or die of boredom.”

William S. Burroughs said that. He’s among the most famous American drug tourists. A trendsetter. He would routinely go to Tangier, a city in Morroco known for the availability of drugs, and get high and write.

Now drug tourism and the use of psychedelic drugs is a thriving industry in its own right. Loads of young Westerners and addicts with varying circumstances are traveling all over the world to places where drug laws are lax, more drugs are available, or different drugs are available.

But why?

And where is all this drug tourism happening? How dangerous is it?

drug tourism

Aren’t Our Drugs Good Enough?

No. And there’s not enough of them.

On one hand, drug tourism is only part of tourism; young people doing what the locals do. And even if they don’t do them, the locals know how to pretend they do.

The other drug tourist is someone who is a regular user. They aren’t necessarily looking for a new experience with drugs, but looking for quantity and quality instead.

Many countries have a different relationship with drugs than the West and many users don’t even know how to tell if they have a problem. If something isn’t available to them here, they travel to get it.

Let’s take a look at where drug tourism is most prevalent.

Where is Drug Tourism Happening?

The long and short of it is that it’s happening anywhere where drugs are available. However, there are some particular hot-spots that dominate the conversation.


Ayahuasca is a blended sludge drink made from a mixture of Amazonian plants that induce hallucination. Indigenous cultures have used ayahuasca as a spiritual healing drink for a long time. Now westerners have caught wind of its psychedelic properties and commercialized it.

If administered by a legit shaman, ayahuasca ceremonies are positive and can even treat addiction and depression. However, there have been cases of bogus shamans, sexual assaults, and even death.


Marijuana has been legal in Amsterdam since the 1970s and its safe to say tourism there has been thriving ever since.

If you walk into one of their many pot-selling coffee shops, you may see a 90/10 ratio of tourists to locals.

Since the legalization of weed in America, states like California are starting to experience surges in tourism as well. People love pot and its about as safe as drug tourism can get.


The cocaine industry has its origins in Medellin. Despite its murderous past, Medellin has actually become safe to visit (only 20 murders per 100,000 residents in 2015) while remaining a hub for cocaine.

Tourists who visit Medellin will find a relatively safe place to procure their drugs. Few people get arrested, but the locals don’t love the idea of Westerners milling around. Many of the locals have seen their relatives murdered in the same places Westerners now go for entertainment.

Southeast Asia

The prevalence of opiates, mushrooms (blue meanie)and ecstasy enhances Southeast Asia’s party culture.

This sounds fun, but death by overdose, drowning, and broken necks from falling are all possible.

What’s Stopping Me?

As outlined above, there are intense dangers in drug tourism.

You could end up in a foreign jail. Despite different drugs being more available in other countries, they are often still illegal.

If you end up in a situation where you’ve had too much, the healthcare situation in some of these countries can be quite dire.

It’s likely that you will come across some unsavory characters during these kinds of trips. Dangerous people. People that can get you in trouble or even killed, so maybe drug tourism isn’t always worth all the hype!

Check out our travel blog for tips on what to do when you’re in a new place and don’t feel like taking drugs.

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