Although they say it’s getting smaller, the world is an extremely big place. You’ve probably visited less than ten percent of it, even if you’re an avid and regular traveler. But what do you do if you’ve been to all the popular tourist spots and are looking to go to places few travelers from the developed world have visited?
Maybe you want to experience something off the beaten path or just want to earn some bragging rights. If you’re a risk taker, an adventurer or just plain foolhardy, you’ll want to take a look at some of the most dangerous and difficult places to travel, and the requirements for travelers to get into such countries – if you are allowed in at all. These places don’t just hand out travel visas to citizens of most countries, and even if they do let you in they’ll keep a watchful eye on you.
These places can be dangerous and many are war-torn or in political turmoil, so you may want to put off visiting these places if they’re on your travel bucket list. However, a lot of these destinations feature breathtaking natural scenery and beautiful historical architecture, which would make them worth a trip if things were to calm down. Things may change in the future for some of these countries and one day travel to these places might be a lot easier, but for now getting into most of these places is likely going to be extremely difficult or almost impossible. Travel while you’re there may be dangerous but even getting out may be a risky experience. Even places like Ukraine and Thailand have become less easy to visit recently because of civil unrest. If you still feel the need to visit one of the places on this list, be prepared. You have been warned.
Travel requirements have recently changed making this central Asian country easier to visit for nationals of certain countries like the UK, but Americans and Canadians still require letters of invitation before being eligible for a visa. Only citizens of countries within the Russian Commonwealth are allowed entry without a visa. If you plan to visit the mountainous regions near Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, a travel permit is required. Uzbekistan, as is the case for most central Asian countries, has one of the poorest human rights records in the world.
The high risk of piracy makes traveling to this area ill-advised, and much of the country is an unstable war zone. The safest part of Somalia – and safest is a relative term – is Somaliland; this northwestern region of the country acts as an autonomous region of Somalia. You need a Somaliland visa to enter Somaliland and a Somalia visa for the rest of the country. If you do end up going to Somalia you should note that if you are Israeli or your passport is stamped from Israel you will not be allowed in. Somaliland has no foreign consulate, so if you run into trouble there’s no easy escape route.
With the exception of the sunny shopper’s paradise of Kish Island, which doesn’t require a visa for anyone, entering Iran will require a visa for most nationalities. However, getting a visa can be surprisingly less problematic than you would think, as long as you’re not American. Approval times are reported to be one to two weeks for most nationalities, while Americans can expect to wait as long as 45 days. Iran is also a country with a notoriously negative approach to members of the LGBT community, and homosexual couples traveling in the region are advised to avoid any public displays of affection. Americans are required to book tours through licensed Iranian travel agencies and must be accompanied by a tour guide at all times.
Traveling to the Congo will mean you absolutely need a visa; there are no exceptions for any nationality. If you encounter corruption and requests for bribes during this process don’t be surprised, as immigration officials have been known to employ this dirty tactic to line their own pockets. Not only does the Democratic Republic of Congo have extremely limited tourism and healthcare facilities, but it’s also one of the most dangerous places in Africa due to active conflicts.
6. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia only recently (late last year) started a tourist visa program. Even though travelers can now visit the country, the standards for entering are very strict. Previously, only citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council nations were allowed to enter the country. Israelis or those having recently visited Israel will be denied entry and women under 30 cannot enter the country unaccompanied. Women and men can only travel together if they are married or as individuals that form part of a group.
Most foreigners will require a visa to enter Angola and a letter of invitation is also required. Without an international vaccination certificate stating you have received a yellow fever inoculation in the last ten years you won’t be getting in, either. Traveling without an experienced guide is certainly not recommended and unexploded land mines are prevalent in some war-torn regions of the country. If you do manage to get in don’t take a photo of a police officer, as this could result in a heavy fine or much, much worse.
Most foreigners will require a visa and a tourist invitation to enter Russia. The process can be long and arduous with plenty of paperwork. Some will have an easier time than others. The fees for a visa invitation and application fee can add up as well. Overstaying your visa won’t be a simple as paying a fine and you won’t be allowed to leave until you can get a valid exit visa.
3. North Korea
North Korea is actually a lot easier to visit than you might think, but the lack of freedom you will experience on a visit is something most travelers would like to do without. If you plan on exploring the capital of Pyongyang by yourself that is absolutely out of the question as you must be accompanied by a government designated tour guide at all times. However, if you are South Korean you most certainly won’t be allowed in the country.
Like North Korea, travel visas for Afghanistan are not as difficult to obtain as you may think. All foreigners need a visa to travel to Afghanistan and visas are not issued upon arrival by plane or at borders if arriving by land. Even though obtaining a visa to visit Afghanistan in advance is possible, that doesn’t mean you’d want to go there. It is extremely dangerous to visit Afghanistan for obvious reasons. The country is a war zone and armed conflicts between the current ruling government and Taliban insurgents continue to this day. If you do go, traveling alone and not part of a tour group is extremely ill advised.
The current civil war in Syria makes visiting the country at this time incredibly dangerous. Even people that have reason to be there such as humanitarian workers and journalists are playing a dangerous game; they also require special authorization to get into the country. If you are there you will need armed guides. Even if it was safe to travel to Syria now it would still be a challenge, and normal requirements for a travel visa are confusing and expensive.