The Top 10 Most, Crammed, Overcrowded Cities On The Planet

It just sucks to be in a crowd. From catching the subway, checking in at the airport, and randomly finding yourself in the middle of a mosh pit at a rock concert. I guess we’ve all been there. But while those moments are likely to be the least pleasant of our lives, at least there was somewhere we could escape to after.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. Some of our fellow humans are living in places that are like a 99% sale at Walmart, all year round.

We’re talking about the world’s most saturated cities. Some of these cities have so many humans crammed into them that it’s impossible to check your phone without accidentally brisking past your neighbours nicely cupped breasts.

To be more specific, we’r looking at the cities with the largest number of people per square kilometre in their wider metro area. The data gathered has been fetched from the UN Habitat date set.

Hold on tight, as we take a rummage through some of the most overcrowded places on the planet.

10. Jakarta, Indonesia – 9,600 people sq/km

Overcrowded, bezerk, sweaty, borderline insane..

Those are just a few words tourists often used when describing Indonesia’s bloated capital city.

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It’s home to almost 30.2 million people that have been crammed into a relatively small area.  Jakarta comes from the “Go big, or go home” philosophy of urban sprawl.

The city exists in a state of almost permanent gridlock, with cars congested during the mornings, noons, and nights.  It’s consistently ranked as one of the world’s worst cities for doing business as the infrastructure is hopelessly crowded too.

From simply getting to your afternoon meeting on time will incur you setting off at 4 AM. May be a few weeks earlier too.

As a matter of fact, Jakarta’s overcrowding has got so bad, that it’s actually causing the city to subside. Yep! That’s right.

The sheer weight of all these people, buildings and vehicles are causing some parts of the city to sink up to 25 cm every year. Which is faster than any city affected by climate change.

According to environmental scientists, saving Jakarta from a watery grave and slippery slope will cost in the regions of $40 billion.

But if you can stand the noise, pollution, the daily protests and the gridlocks, there’s a lot to say about Jakarta. Expats say wonderful things about the city’s “vibrant energy”, yet I think is fair to say that the whole concoction has a rugged charm.

9. Singapore, Singapore – 10,200 people sq/km

Around the corner, just a short leap away by plane from the chaos of Jakarta, Singapore feels like a city from another planet.

One of the world’s only city states other than tiny San Marino and Vatican City, Singapore is relatively clean, organised, and has a prosperous infrastructure.

Home of a world leading financial centre, a renowned vertical forest, and a government that primarily focuses on littering that it will publicly name and shame you and possibly batter you for littering.  Oh, and it manages all this whilst being one of the most densest cities on the face of the earth.

Singapore may have a population of 5.53 million that are all crammed onto an island that consists of only 518 square kilometres,  it somehow manages all these people with efficiency that borders on the beautiful.  For many years now, the housing has been closely monitored by the Housing Development Board, which has covered the city with ultra dense high-rises.

Unlike the projects that are alienated in the US, in Singapore they’re just a fact of life. Almost 80% of Singaporeans live in HDB apartments, with 90% of those owning the apartments themselves.

The result being, a city that’s ultra-dense, but also one of the most tidiest places on earth.  Surprisingly it’s also insanely expensive for expats and tourists, especially compared to everywhere else on this list.

8. Abuja, Nigeria – 10,500 people sq/km

Having been designed from scratch in the late 1970s, as a getaway from the overcrowded chaotic Lagos, the new Nigerian capital, had ultimately headed towards the direction of it’s predecessor.

Almost 6 million people had been sucked into a small troupe of land which was initially designed for far, far, far fewer residents.

The result? A westernised style city of skyscrapers, boulevards, and expensive mansions, circled by some of the most disastrous slums in Africa. Quite ironic don’t you think?

It’s the slums that have deserved its way on this list. Whilst the city is relatively prosperous and spacious, the capital’s surrounding areas are brutal and viciously smelly.

As a matter of fact people are forced to live right on top of each other in substandard housing. Expats have described the city as “the glossy veneer the nation has haphazardly tried to use to cover its wounds.”

On a brighter note, why spend this entry slating Nigeria’s capital.  The city is remarkably crime free, which is something of an achievement in a country that been scrutinised for radical religious insurgencies.

While squinting to see them through the smog it’s also got some stunning landmarks.

7. Kota, India – 12,100 people sq/km

Kota, not far from the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur, is India’s second most crowded city (yes we’ve at least one more to go). Kota, way off the tourist hit list, and for good reason too. It’s an industrial city that stretches along the river Chambal,  with the population that is surprisingly small even by Indian standards.

Merely 1 million souls acknowledge this city as their home, yet the sheer amount of space given over to the industrial architecture, leads to people living in a saturated area where people are tightly crammed together like the stuffing in a turkey on Christmas day.

There may be a reason why you’ve never heard about the overcrowding in Kota. As those being crowded are generally students.

The city is full to overflowing with stressed-out students pulling 18 hour revisions shifts, to pass India’s ultra-competitive engineering and medical exams.

It’s believed that studying has been a byword to suicide here in Kota. Instead of advertisements, the majority of street billboards are images of successful students beaming down and almost laughing at the masses below them. Creepy or what?

6. Lagos, Nigeria – 13,300 people sq/km

Meanwhile back in Nigeria, with 182 million citizens,  the West African nation is far the most overcrowded place on the entire continent. But we’re focusing on the insane megalopolis of Lagos.

A groaning, creaking, sprawling, moaning, whirling hurdle of people, vehicles, slums, shops, markets, skyscrapers, madnenss and garbage, Lagos is like a city on steroids and ecstasy. 

Both the road and sidewalks are gridlocked almost 24/7.  There are constant intentional engineered electrical power shutdowns where the electricity delivery is stopped for non-overlapping which last for days at a time.

Some apartment blocks are so overcrowded that up to 50 people have no option but to share a single toilet and sink.

We certainly don’t want to pass a judgement here, but you know you’ve got some serious overcrowding problems if you’ve got 50 people fighting take their morning dump. Jeez!

Not forgetting the crime rate. Lagos is so crime ridden, that it makes Brooklyn look like the winner of “Switzerlands safest suburb”.

5. Casablanca, Morocco – 14,200 people sq/km

More commonly known as ‘The White City’,  Casablanca is quite opposite from it’s made out to be.  nearly 7 million people reside in Casablanca, the edges of Morocco’s craziest port, where the mess of traffic congestion and pollution is that bad,  it’s earned its spot as the sixth most polluted city on the planet.

After being overlooked for decades,  as the “dirty, ugly sister” of Morocco’s big cities,  it has reinvented itself as a 21st-century Cinderella, as it’s now a booming tech capital.

The city has even advanced so much so that it has introduced a new ‘smart traffic’  system which tackles the mind numbing congestion that has occupied the streets for such a while. Whether it does it’s job, remains questionable.

Despite these improvements, it is unlikely that the overcrowding in Casablanca will get any better. just like Abuja,  the cities or population problem stems from the rundown, grim slums making its way through its heart, where calls urban poor live in ridiculous conditions.

4. Manila, Philippines – 14,800 people sq/km

Manila is one the most overcrowded cities on the earth and is certainly a ‘thriller in the Manila’ but we’re not talking about boxing here.

Regardless if your doing what we’re doing and measuring the whole mess, it still comes in at a glorifying fourth position.  It’s believed to have 12.49 million people that have been squeezed and rammed into this super high rise, super saturated city; with a further 8 million surrounding it.

A substantial amount of poverty exists along with unfeasible wealth.

The tales of overcrowding in Manila can sound like something from a 1970s sci-fi novel.  People with relatively decent middle-class jobs are residing in tiny box-like shacks under bridges, yards away from railway lines, or even in unused crypts. The maternity hospitals can stack mothers and newborn babies up to 4 per bed, just to ensure there is enough room. Blimey!

It’s not seen as unusual or surprising for a family of 8 to live in a 3 m x 3 m shack,  like they’re playing the longest, dullest game of crosswords.

It’s got that bad, that the local journalists are surrounding the alarm and calling the levels of overcrowding dangerous.  

And we’ve still got three more cities to go through. Hmmm.

3. Medellin, Colombia -19,700 people sq/km

Medellin, the only entry here that’s neither in Africa or Asia, it’s the second largest city in Colombia. Oh, and is the home of the notorious drug trafficker Pablo Escobar.

But Medellin’s 3.7 million of residents still fall way short of the capital, Bogota, with a whopping 9.8 million citizens. It’s in fact much more compact. Where Begota sprawls for miles and miles in every direction, Medellin likes to keep its residents close by.

Surprisingly, if you did visit both, you would agree that Medellin actually feels less crowded Bogota. While any trip to Bogota is likely to leave you with memories of constant traffic jams, streets compiled with bodies,  and a transport system that refuses to work,  a trip to Medellin will probably leave you overwhelmed at how normal and organised it is when compared.  Unlike its big bro, the city has a functioning metro system, It’s relatively clean and tidy, and it ticks over and ‘plods along’ as they say in the UK.

Irrelevant to our topic of overcrowding, it has great weather.

Even the city’s slums are better down anywhere you’ll find within the region.  fighting in the slums once made this city the world’s murder capital, today lies the focus of a massive regeneration project that his making it safer to live, driving the economy and becoming more connected.

2. Mumbai, India – 31,700 people sq/km

So if you feel that those above weren’t crowded enough, we’ll be getting onto the really, really crowded cities.

Mumbai’s larger metro area has a population of 20.7 million, much greater then Manila and greater than Detroit combined.  the ironic thing is,  it’s in a much, much smaller area. No surprises for guessing how that turned out.

Mumbai is so rammed packed with human traffic that it makes altered thence Manila feeling like a remote island on the North Pole.

To give you a little taste of the human flesh at hand, the recent figures released in 2014 found that nearly 800 people die each year after falling from Mumbai’s trains

These are not results from suicide, the carriages are soo full that they’re physically flung out the open doors.

The state government decided to ease the overcrowding by building a whole new city, Navi Mumbai, where ‘Navi’ translates to ‘New Mumbai’ to accommodate new arrivals.  the new city had filled up so fast that within 20 years, the government was forced once again to start building a second city to cope with it all.

There’s also crippling traffic jams, even a short drive from the centre to the airport routinely takes upwards of two hours.

The government is worried that if things continue they soon will be able to provide sanitation, employment, even food for everyone within the city.

The problem is that Mumbai was built on a series of small islands, and for it to expand requires a hugely costly and time-consuming ordeal. But leaving things as they are clearly isn’t an option either.

1. Dhaka, Bangladesh – 44,500 people sq/km

Oh yeah, and there was Dhaka.

The capital of Bangladesh is unbelievably crammed, with 17 million misguided souls situated in its metropolitan urban area.  The operated word used there was “crammed’. This is clearly an understatement,  as Dhaka’s overcrowding is so intense that it frequently finishes itself as the second last in the Quality Of Life indexes.

It doesn’t help when Bangladesh is abysmally poor. The entire country is massively underfunded, while even the simplest things like a loaf of bread, cost way beyond market rates due to rampant corruption.

In Dhaka, where there are no means of public transport, no infrastructure projects, little ways to monitor and overlook this insane overcrowding, and in a nutshell, there’s not much you can do about it.

The traffic jams in Dhaka are constant and more or less eternal. An exception is made during major strikes, the streets are always, always gridlocked.  This city never sleeps, neither does it move.  

And there was us thinking that traffic and poverty were bad in India, in Dhaka it’s a different ballgame. There are so many people living in miserable conditions, marinated together, that you can only feel saddened by their fortune.

There’s also an influx of migrants from around Bangladesh, looking to make their living in the most overcrowded city in the world only to add more flesh to its total.

Maybe next time, before we have road rage, we can think of those poor souls in Dhaka’s jams and put our first world attitudes into perspective.

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