Thursday, May 30, 2013

The World's 15 Hardest Countries to Visit

Hellow! Just don't expect any explanations if you are denied entry to certain countries.
This lovely and personal Post-it sticker note is from the Eritrean embassy in Stockholm. 

The world's least visited countries are not necessarily the most difficult to get to. I am using three criteria to determine which countries are the most inaccessible, as well as my own overall experience of getting to the countries.

Why you would like to know? There is a reason why you are reading garfors.com. And it isn't to find the cleanest pool at all-inclusive resort joints in the Bahamas or Gran Canaria. Which will be your bucket list; The hardest 15 below or the world's 25 least visited? 7 countries are on both lists. I have been to all 198 countries, and I know which list I would have chosen first if I were to start from scratch.

a) Visa availability 

The most important criteria. If you cannot get a visa, you can not legally visit the country. If you try to do so illegally you may face prosecution or worse. So, if you are not required to obtain a visa in advance to visit a country, it will not be on this list. Some countries issue visa on arrival, but to me that is as easy as not having to get one at all. Just bring cash and a couple of photographs. Do note that I am writing this as the holder of a Norwegian passport. This list will therefore be more relevant to people with western passports. Norway is however not a part of the EU, and EU members will in some cases not require visas where Norwegians do. Note that getting a visa to 'a difficult country' is usually easier and faster from one of their neighbouring countries than from embassies closer to home. 

b) The security situation 

Of course, most often you should refrain from entering if there is a high risk of danger in the country in question. Then again, even countries engaged in wars or civil unrest usually have areas that are less affected than others and therefore safer to visit. So if you really want in, there is usually a 'safe' spot. 

c) Transport. 

Most countries are fairly well covered with regards to planes, trains or automobiles, but some have a severe shortage of scheduled transport options. A little patience will go a long way, just keep in mind that sometimes the only available flight leaves from a specific airport which itself might be out of your way. Bring a book. And a pillow. 

The "worst" fifteen

If you are on a mission to visit all countries of the world, I'd recommend you to not save the following 15 for last. Unless you are fond of severe restlessness and stress ulcers while waiting to be allowed into them.

15. Bhutan

Tiger's Nest.
Why so inaccessible?
First of all, you will need to pay your trip in advance. I am not talking about the plane ticket, I am talking about the all-inclusive package inside Bhutan. It has to be paid to a Bhutanese travel agent. Via money transfer, which makes it more of a hassle than using your worn Am Ex card. The all-inclusive trips have given rise to the rumour that Bhutan is a very expensive country to visit. The 200-300 USD per day (depending on the season and whether you travel alone or not) will however cover "everything." As in accommodation, transport within the country, guides, meals and the tourist tax.

You only need to worry about drinks and souvenirs. Just don't mix the first with the latter or you will end up with a lot of wooden souvenir penises. Penises in such a religious country? Well, even strictly religious people need penises to impregnate each other. Besides, the symbols of erect penises are intended to drive away "the evil eye and malicious gossip," and it isn't a buddhist symbol, but one of Bön, an old and unorthodox religion. Do note, you won't see any penises painted on buildings in Thimphu or major towns, only in rural villages, so you can still travel to [certain parts of] the country together with your mother-in-law. Then again, who wants to travel with mother-in-laws anyway?

Why you should still bother to go
If huge erect penises aren't enough, throw in the fantastic mountains, the incredible Buddhist temples and Tiger's Nest, and you will be in awe. It doesn't hurt that people are very friendly too. Unless you start chatting up local girls. That may cause trouble and threats of brutal beating. Allegedly.

How I got in
I needed to produce a little patience and had to be willing to pay my trip in advance. I did, and I was picked up in the airport by my guides. Not difficult, just a little inconvenient.

Any loopholes? 
The guides will leave you to explore Thimphu on your own if you insist. If you do, find the karaoke bar in a cellar bar near the clock tower. It is the only place where I have seen karaoke with the option of having a live band play to your singing. Priceless!

14. Kiribati

Someone's gotta go there.
Why so inaccessible?
Kiribati (pronounced "Kiribas" - there are no letter "s" in their alphabet, so "ti" is pronounced "s") is in the middle of the Pacific. Literally. I mean, most Pacific countries are often said to be, but Kiribati really is. It stretches 3,500 kilometers from east to west. Both the capital Tarawa and Kiritimati (Christmas Island) are served by international flights, but only twice a week. The remoteness of the country isn't the only reason why it is the 4th least visited country in the world. Entering it isn't all that easy either, unless you are from one of 60 countries. I am not from any of those and had to apply for a visa from Kiribati's sole consulate in Europe, conveniently located in Llanddewi Rhydderch in Wales. That was relatively straightforward, once I actually found the embassy. The border police is more thorough than any other in the Pacific, with the possible exception of Australia, so do not attempt to go there without a visa. Then again, they probably won't even let you on the plane without one.

Why you should still bother to go
Did you ever see any cartoons about people on paradise islands? Kiribati is like that, just add facilities. Some facilities. There are in fact several good hotels in Tarawa alone. Diving is fantastic, and so is the available seafood. Some services do not see many competitors though. There is one coffee shop and one registered taxi driver in the country.

How I got in
I got my visa from the friendly consul in Wales. I flew in on Air Pacific (soon to be renamed Fiji Airways) from Nadi. Kiribati is also occasionally served by Our Airline from Nauru and Majuro, Marshall Islands.

Any loopholes?
Do not worry about getting a visa if you're from one of the 60 lucky countries. You will then get your essential visa stamp upon arrival.

13. Nauru

That's it. 
Why so inaccessible?
Only one airline, Our Airline, serves Nauru, and not every day. Do not expect to find it in your favourite flight ticket search engine either. A visa is needed to go there, and how many embassies or consulates of Nauru have you seen? To be fair, they are actually represented in four countries; Australia, Fiji, Taiwan and Thailand.

Why you should still bother to go
It is one of the few countries in the world you can actually run around. Just remember that the country is virtually on the Equator, so don't attempt to do so at noon. It is also THE least visited country in the world. Certainly a country for your bucket list!

How I got in
I had been a little lazy, not bothering to get my visa in advance. Our Airline is however well connected in Nauru, and the staff at the airport in Brisbane managed to talk customs into issuing me a visa on arrival after 10 minutes on the phone. I was very lucky! The customs officer in charge in Nauru greeted me with few words:

- Are you the tourist?

Everyone else on board were locals or in the country for business. Business in Nauru? In a country with less than 9,000 people? I was there at the time of an international fishing conference.

Any loopholes?
Having the Our Airline staff talk me into the country without a visa just before departure worked for me, but it is not a strategy I would recommend to others.

12. Russia

When in Russia, do as the Russians. Drive a Lada Niva.
Why so inaccessible?
The only country that stands between Norway and North Korea has a well-deserved reputation for what seems like meaningless bureaucracy. You will need an invitation to visit the country, although a letter from your hotel will in most cases suffice. Have you not filled in your visa application with extreme caution, you may have to reapply and again stand in line for hours at end.

Why you should still bother to go
I am sure that you will find something interesting to do in the world's largest country. And then there is vodka, second to none.

How I got in
Patience, my friend. I wouldn't show the consular staff that you get annoyed or mad, though. The Russian paper pushers would take personal pleasure in it.

Any loopholes?
Actually, yes. You can stay in St. Petersburg for up to 72 hours if you arrive by boat. All visa free. Just don't tell the bureaucrats.

11. Uzbekistan

My semi-preferred mode of transport in Uzbekistan.
Why so inaccessible?
You will have to go through the hassle of obtaining an invitation by someone. As with Russia, a hotel is usually OK. If your stay exceeds three days, you also have to register with the Local Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Not very unusual in former Soviet republics, but nevertheless.

Why you should still bother to go
Uzbekistan is the Silk Road in a nutshell. The old and ancient buildings of Samarkand and Bukhara are not to be missed. Nor is the nightlife in Tashkent. Just remember to bring an extra backpack for your money. 100USD worth will give you a high stack of Uzbekistani Som. It won't fit in your pocket.

How I got in
The process wasn't all that bad, really. It just took a while. As in so long that we almost had to cancel the trip. When we boarded our prehistoric plane from St. Petersburg to Samarkand, we wished we had.

Any loopholes?
No known legal ones.

10. Syria

The souk in Damascus before the civil war.
Why so inaccessible?
There is a civil war there. Chemical weapons may be used. Whereas accessing the country may be possible, leaving again in one piece is less certain.

Why you should still bother to go
Actually I'd say you wait a while until Damascus shows a little bit more of its well-known hospitality. And possibly change its government.

How I got in
The visa situation is a little uncertain at the moment due to the civil war. I travelled there a few years ago, and I then got my visa on the border in exchange for a couple of dollar notes. I travelled by shared taxi from Beirut.

Any loopholes?
Quite a few people actually travel to Syria and volunteer to fight for the "rebel" forces. I would not recommend that.

9. Turkmenistan

Door to Hell. Photo: Marius Arnesen.
Why so inaccessible?
You will only get a tourist visa to Turkmenistan by signing up for a guide. As with Bhutan, you will need to pay up front.

Why you should still bother to go
Parts of Ashgabat, the capital, is virtually empty despite very impressive and expensive looking buildings. Do also check out the 12 meter tall gold plated statue of the former president Saparmurat Niyazov. It stands on a 63 meter tall concrete structure called the tripod. The statue itself always looks at the sun. Come on, imagine you were a dictator with unlimited power and money; You would so have done the same!

You also need to go to "Door to Hell" in Karakum desert. It is the most underestimated tourist attraction ever. Except that there are no tourists. All the better!

How I got in
Four of us, all guys, had organized the trip through a local agency and drove in to the border by taxi from Mashad, Iran. After having walked across and sorted out formalities, we were met by our guide Oleg. He turned out to be quite a character.

- Welcome to Turkmenistan! Are you here for drinks or for girls?
- Hehe...I am sure we will have some drinks, but we have girlfriends at home.
- So?
- But Oleg, do you not believe in love?
- Love was invented by the French. They were too cheap to pay for prostitutes.

This mother of ultimate responses came without hesitation. Say no more. Oleg comes highly recommended. He is over two meters tall, and I challenge you to drink him under the table. I know someone who managed.

Any loopholes?
Your option is to get a transit visa. This is possible if you are driving or biking through the country. You will then be on your own and can explore more or less what you want along your predetermined route.

8. Somalia

Thank you for the tea!
Why so inaccessible?
There are big challenges when it comes to both government and infrastructure in Somalia, although the situation has improved greatly recently. Just finding an embassy might be a challenge, but I'd go for the Somali Embassy in Turkey. Turkish Airlines can take you directly to Mogadishu three times a week.

Why you should still bother to go
Piracy has plummeted and the government has regained control in Mogadishu. Your friends will love receiving a postcard from your holiday in Somalia and you will love hearing about how brave you were for having gone there in the first place. It is the second least visited country in the world. Possibly for a reason.

How I got in
I applied for a visa to Somaliland in the north from its consulate in London. The process only took an hour, but the staff there ensured me I was completelly mad for wanting to go there.

- Why do you want to go to Somaliland? Are you crazy? Do you want to die?

They still issued me the visa, strangely enough. I travelled straight there from London, only to discover that there were no hotels in the town of my choice. I ended up sleeping in the mayor's "house." In his guestroom. That left the vice mayor less than happy as he then had to sleep in the living room. You win some, you lose some.

Any loopholes?
A Canadian tourist just travelled to Mogadishu and managed to talk his way in. This was a few years ago, and the situation has improved, but do not expect many fellow travellers.

7. Libya

Clear speech on a house in Tobruk, Libya. 

Why so inaccessible?
Tourism was tightly controlled under Gadaffi and getting a visa was a little like betting on fruit machines. You will win sooner or later, but it might take you a lot of time and money. The current visa situation is still not transparent.

Why you should still bother to go
Go there to show support to the people who are trying to build a democracy after Gadaffi's 42-year "First of September Revolution." And why not pop by the ruins of Leptis Magna, an ancient city of the Roman empire? You can thank me for the tip later.

How I got in
I visited when Gadaffi was still alive, during the civil war in 2011. The opposition was very happy to see journalists in the country and let me in on a whim when I showed them my press card.

Any loopholes?
None known to me.

6. Pakistan

The only real pizza "hut" I have ever seen is on
the beach in Karachi. It is however a licenced franchise
and looks better from the other side.
Thanks for the info, @myrakhan!
Why so inaccessible?
Whether a tourist visa is issued or not depends on the time of year, the mood of the government and its assessed threat levels. You may get your visa one day, your friend not so the next. This uncertainty can make Pakistan a tricky country to visit as a tourist. Do however expect speedy service if the country is currently open.

Why you should still bother to go
Pakistan is a vast country with beautiful scenery and fantastic food. And Osama bin Laden lived there. For better or for worse.

How I got in
I wanted to visit at a time that was less than ideal from the government's point of view. There was no way I would get a tourist visa. My press card did yet again secure entry.

Any loopholes?
Does a press card count as a loophole?


5. Afghanistan

Why so inaccessible?
Common Afghan cargo transport.
I don't really think I have to answer this question.

Why you should still bother to go
The scenery in large parts of the country is breathtaking. Afghanistan was also one of the most modern countries in the world in the early 70s. The contrast to what it is like now is huge. Women who have lived to see both times must be really depressed.

How I got in
My press card was needed. Again. The Afghani embassy in Oslo only issues visas to the press and military personell. Neighbouring countries may be more lenient when it comes to tourist visas.

Any loopholes?
You can always join the army.

4. Saudi Arabia

No, it isn't a huge bottle opener. 
Why so inaccessible?
The country has so much oil that there is no reason for them to bother about additional revenues. Getting a tourism visa has long been a challenge, although it should technically be possible if you order an all-inclusive trip through a local travel agency. Of course, women cannot go unless they are accompanied by a husband, son or another male family member.

Why you should still bother to go
There is more than sand to see in Saudi Arabia. Sort of. Sand can be fun though. Try a desert barbeque, a desert safari or a desert rally.

Of course, if you are a Muslim you have to go to Mecca. If you are a non-Muslim you cannot go to Mecca.

How I got in
I managed to get a transit visa which allowed me to stay 72 hours in the country. I had  a ticket to Riyadh from Khartoum and onwards to London.

Any loopholes?
The transit visa trick mentioned above is as close as you will get to a loophole. It may or may not work. 

3. Equatorial Guinea

A relative safe photo to take. No police in sight.
Why so inaccessible?
The country is ruled by Dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, although he prefers President as his title. The distribution of the massive oil wealth is extremelly unequal,  it has one of the world's worst human rights track records and is allegedly very involved in human trafficking. Why would they let in tourists, or witnesses?

Why you should still bother to go
You will rarely experience a stricter control of people and places. That is the reason to go there? Well, the negative experiences there will make almost all future destinations seem like fun fairs in comparison. There is also a fair amount of wildlife there and some beautiful beaches. If you can stomach enjoying it there.

How I got in
I tried all my tricks at the consulate in Douala, Cameroon, but without any luck. In Libreville, Gabon I somehow managed to secure an interview with the ambassador. I proved to him that I had a fair amount of knowledge about the country and convinced him that I only wanted to go there as a tourist. In this country a press card will do you no favours. Rather the contrary.

Any loopholes?
Obtain a US passport. American citizens are unique in Equatorial Guinea. They are the only ones that do not need a visa to visit. Did anyone ask why?

2. Eritrea

Eritrea can be a nightmare to obtain access to. 
Why so inaccessible?
The country is a one party state. It is the only country that ranks below North Korea(!) on the press freedom index. Even if you fill out the application form very carefully, it may still returned with your passport. Also, expect the process to take 6-8 weeks. The biggest obstacle is that you never know whether you will be accepted or not. The uncertainty stops people from even applying.

Why you should still bother to go
Asmara is heaven for architects, photographers and beer drinkers.

How I got in
I applied and reapplied. The second time around I added a separate letter describing how much I had heard about the country and why I wanted to visit. I was eventually granted access.

Any loopholes?
It's one of the worst police states in the world with a heavily guarded border. Don't even think about sneaking in.

1. Angola

Soviet style residential buildings in Angola.
Why so inaccessible?
Angola has a lot of oil money these days. Europe does not. Things have certainly turned around, something the former Portugese colony has clearly noticed. The visa regime is quite harsh to prevent unemployed Europeans to go to jobhunting there.

Why you should still bother to go
There is a lot to see in the huge country, although do expect enormous differences when it comes to the distribution of wealth. Luanda, the traffic plagued capital, cannot in any way be compared to the country side. The border police will also relieve you of any local money you may have on you when you leave the country. It's a lumbago friendly practice and rather considerate.

How I got in
I tried getting a visa through Angola's embassies in both Stockholm and Johannesburg. The embassy in Sweden called me after I had sent them exactly what they asked for on their website.

- We need more supporting documents.
- I just sent you everything you asked for on your website.
- The website has not been updated since 2003.
- Well, that isn't my fault, is it?

They even refused to send my passport back, then finally reluctantly did so after five phone calls. We do not go to the same dinner parties.

In the end I booked a flight with a 13 hour stopover in Luanda and somehow managed to talk myself into the country. I referred to the following on the country's visa application form:

"The transit visa can be exceptionally granted at the border post to a foreign citizen who, in a continuous journey is forced to interrupt it to make a compulsory stop-over by the means of transport utilized."

They very exceptionally let me enter their country. I would not bet on them letting anyone doing so ever again.

Any loopholes?
I think I managed to take advantage of the loophole, although I suspect it won't be open much longer. The border to Angola's enclave Cabinda is possibly easier to cross, but it might be a long shot.

Why is North Korea not on the list? 

A 'very normal' North Korean family posing with me. 
North Korea is actually an easy and safe place to visit, given that you are not South Korean. The process of obtaining a visa takes a week or two. Once inside the country, you are required to have two guides with you at all times though. Flying into North Korea can be quite an experience, especially if you chose to do so by Air Koryo.

Your list may vary

I should also add that this list has been written based exclusively on my own experiences. Other people may have no problems at all with any of these countries, or they may experience huge problems entering countries not even on this list. That is the beauty of travelling for you; You never know what you're going to get, see, taste or experience. I love it!

Disclaimer
P.S. I refuse to be held responsible should you follow any of the above advice and still find yourself not admitted to any of the countries mentioned, the disappointment experienced should you be let in without any problems and hence lack of related stories to tell or the inconvenience caused for your relatives should you be killed or injured trying. Country situations do change frequently and usually without any notice.  



61 comments:

  1. I am shocked to see North Korea not on the list! And surprised to see Russia on it. The rest are so well deserved to be there!

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    1. No, it is fairly easy to obtain a tourist visa to North Korea. Even US citizens can enter as tourists during certain times of the year. Yes, severe restrictions apply, both for applicants and during your stay, but compared to the other countries on this list it is reasonably straight-forward to gain entry. Check out Koryo tours in Beijing, North Korea is well worth a visit while it's still there.. Rgds, Willy

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  2. You publish the coolest lists on the internet.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot! I might quote you on that ;)

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    2. I endorse Global Goebel's comment! Good job Gunnar. As a future idea, maybe you could start a trip around the world in these or other "most difficult" countries to travel to, with people from the internet, from all around the world. You ask them to join and you can have a contest for it. Maybe a big newspaper can sponsor the trip, or a tv channel. That would be really fun. Seeing how people of different nationalities can be treated by these countries.

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  3. Really enjoyed your article and look forward to keeping up with your publishings.

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  4. Welcome to the Polish ... Beautiful country, wonderful people and the best regional food ...

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  5. Great article! Would love to see the list of 15 countries you would definitely go back to.

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  6. Somalia update: you'll get a visa for Mogadishu upon arrival at the airport for 50 USD. For all other areas in South Central, no visa is needed (at least not when coming across land). For Puntland you'll have to apply in advance, takes 1-2 days, 10 USD at application, 23 upon arrival. For Somaliland you'll get visa upon arrival (have to fill in forms, and provide passport photo).

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  7. I entered Kiribati via sea from Tuvalu, and I didn't have a visa upon arrival. The customs officers boarded our 60 foot boat with 8 people aboard, searched it thoroughly, had a Coke, and issued us visas upon arrival - no hassel at all - fortunately for us :-)

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    Replies
    1. A Coke can do wonders... ;) As a Norwegian I could have been worse off, then again I hope they would have given me a visa on arrival too if I was with 7 others from countries with Kiribati visa arrangements.

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  8. Online travel services also are the foremost most popular methodology to book tickets. These days travel sites square measure in abundance and supply low cost deals in booking Cheap Airfare, low cost international transportation.

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  9. I would like to point put that depending on your passport you may not need a visa, you may get o visa easier than others or you may not get a visa at all. Of course, loopholes exist, but for the average tourist some countries may just be a no go.
    Let's take Russia for example. Did you know that Moldavian citizens do not need a visa?
    Or Turkmenistan: last year some people I know got there by signing up for Mongol Rally. Let me point out that Mongol Rally is a free rally so you chose your own road. Well... the guys went to the embassy and they got the visa the same week. They only needed to explain they included Turkmenistan on their list. The same worked for Russia. So yeah... being part of Mongol Rally or Silk Way Rally may be a good way to get in a country without an invitation.

    Happy traveling!

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  10. I was waiting for Iran to show up, but I guess it depends where you are from. US citizes definitely run into problems when they want to visit, and they wont be allowed without a guide and a pre-arranged tour. But even here in Czech republic, it is not easy to get the visa. The same goes for Algeria.

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  11. Should add that the Turkmenistan transit visa does not require you to be on a bicycle or have a vehicle. Using public transport is fine, at least when applying for the visa in Mashad.

    It also does not prohibit you leaving the most direct route between the entry and exit points on your visa. I ended up backtracking the whole country.


    Uzbekistan is pretty easy, just takes time. I wouldn't say its any harder than Iran.

    Afghanistan is considered an EASY visa at most embassys. In fact there are only a few Afghan embassys/consulates that do no issue. Oslo, Delhi, Mumbai, Quetta, Peshawar are all that I know that won't entertain the idea. Tashkent and Dushanbe are hit and miss. Islamabad is no questions asked, same with Khorog and Canberra.

    Pakistan visa is not too bad. It requires a LOI and must be in your home country. If you are Australian (like me), the Australian embassy are notoriously easy to get it. That said, I know Italians who have had trouble getting a Pakistani visa as the Embassys in Italy are not so easy.

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  12. Pretty fantastic post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your weblog posts ..

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  13. I'm surprised with Russia on the list. If you're Brazilian like me, you don't even need a visa!

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  14. Awesome post - and I live in your #1 most difficult country to visit! It turns out the only ways to get a visa here are if you work for an oil company, or for a non-profit FUNDED by an oil company. But even then, it's iffy.

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  15. Rusia on the list and north korea not.... Great post anyway

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  16. Getting North Korean visa is easy (so I agree it should not be on the list). Basically you only book a (all inclusive) tour and that's it. Of course the tours are expensive, but getting a visa is easy (just expensive because of the tour). Same goes for Bhutan. Travel agent does everything and done. Very easy, but expensive. So I don't think either one should be on the list.

    Turkmenistan is a bit similar, but even with transit visa option it is in the end a bit more difficult (you don't get the visa on arrival like Bhutan or from the tour guide before jumping on the plane/train to North Korea). So let's keep Turkmenistan on the list.

    Russia. Yes it is annoying and stupid to have to put so much effort to get the visa there, but in the end quite straightforward. I would say Kazakhstan is more painful. But both visas you get in the end. Uzbekistan is a bit similar also. So not to the list.

    Syria, I don't get why it is on the list. At least when I went there it was the easiest thing (maybe now with the war everything has temporarily changed). Also Afghanistan should be surprisingly easy. Maybe not in your home country, but all the neighboring countries give it easily. And Somalia is very easy. Especially Somaliland, not sure about Mogadishu nowadays, but apparently it should be possible on VOA also.

    So in the end I would keep 1-4. Eritrea was news to me, but I believe it. 6,7,9 also included (although not sure about Pakistan). Not sure about Pacific Islands, but maybe if you include the limited options where to apply then maybe yes.

    And then one country, which I could add is Algeria. They don't issue tourist visas. I had to use my contact to get it. Not maybe as difficult as 1-4, but surely more difficult than Afghanistan, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Russia or Bhutan

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  17. Thank you for the article.However all depends of Nationality... for example some latin americans can go to russia or iran withoit visas (venezuelans) however some africans asians or latinos will never get a visa for USA... not in your list, even when millions get it! all is relative. My most difficult visa was A transit visa in saudi arabia... pakistan was very easy. I beleive saudi arabia is the worst unless you a re a muslim on peregrinationl thereafter north korea and buthan because you need to pay everything on advanve... independently of your origin. Some of the countries in your list are not that difficult... finaly transportation is a problem, have you tried to go to cristan da cunha or pitcairn? OMG!!!! I suffer!!!! however the worst of the worst difficulty place in the world are the north sentinel island in india... nobody of the two people landing there and still alve! look in internet that!

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  18. Completely agree that North Korea is not on the list, you don't even need to visit an embassy - just send off a copy (yes copy) of your passport and a few supporting docs and your agency sorts it out for you. Note that you don't get a stamp in your passport though, probably a good thing

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  19. Hi.
    Perhaps, I can speak with more experience than many of the other posters. I've visited pushing on 140 countries (am also mid-thirties and do so as a hobby). However I have visited many of the above (nothing in the Americas or Asia is problem), but the 'new' countries I now find hard to get to are somewhat different to you list and are almost all small islands (with poor/expensive flight connects or small/poor African nations with visa nightmares).

    To define 'difficult' let say in terms of time/effort/money require (from Europe, visa problems for a European and dangers caused by conflict (of cause these change, a few years back Syria was a breeze to enter).

    Bhutan is easy, just expensive
    Russia and Uzbekistan you can get a LOI for $50 online and the visa is easy with regular flights. Can't see why you include these.
    Syria - easy, but not now.
    Pakistan - easy and have been many times. Only parts are difficult.
    Conflict countries such as Somalia, Afghanistan a problem (but Somaliland is quite easy from Ethiopia).
    North Korea - as you say easy
    Turkmenistan, not too bad at least it has some organised tourism and companies that can sponsor the visa.
    Saudi - you said it all. Only visa (I even has a LOI) I was ever rejected.

    For me the biggest nightmares are not too different than you 15 least visited countries. They are all small African states like Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea that have a small number of international flights require an LOI you can't buy and few embassies in Europe, and can't be visited on a 'regional tour' - i.e. CAR, Guinea, Guinea-B, Liberia, AND the tiny pacific countries you mention. Sitting here in Central Europe with a reasonable (but not to be wasted) amount of time/money these pacific island are clearly the most difficult. (The same goes for some Caribbean and Indian Ocean islands)

    I'd also add a whole list of countries such Burundi, CAR, Liberia, in Africa where you can technically visit (the capital), but travel restrictions and safety make it largely pointless unless you just want that stamp for the sake of a stamp. Which is another debate. I'd rather spend my time and money revisiting somewhere like Ethiopia with an easy flight, visa on arrival and so much to see and do.

    I looking forward to your advice as to how is best to go about getting that LOI for Guinea, Sudan, etc. Unfortunately my days of getting more than 2 weeks away are over and despite being much richer than when I started to travel at 20 am not too fussed now about spending $1000s on a visit to one small island.

    BTW I am on travelindependent.info and will add a link to here for you.

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  20. As a swedish citizen, entering Iran was no issue, not leaving either. I arrived without visa, paid $50 for a visa application and got a 14 day visa after an hour on Teheran airport.

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  21. What about Cuba? Easy to enter there?

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  22. what a great informative article! tour desert safari i loving

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  23. woww this article was really nice and i would surely visit a few of those countries in the near future :) sosme facts are too hard to digest but some of these facts are just so beautiful and heavenly, thanx for sharing all those lovely pictures.

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  24. Great site.... yes depends where you are from and what is going on when you travel... Just back from Iran.. depends whether you are the flavour of the week or not. Some french folk got sent back at the Tehran airport ...there was a political upset that week... funny as the French are the only country that sell them the only 'imported' (parts, panels etc for assembly of Peugot) cars..all others are local made with their limited resources due to extensive international sanctions. Quite an insight to spend extensive time in the small towns around this country that borders on seven others as well as the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea.

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  25. Most of these countries are in the middle east, maybe they're strict due to the situation of their politics.

    brazil tourist visa

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  26. Yes, I agree with you, It is hard to visit this counties, I already applied visa for Bhutan last year but is is not get approved and then we travel Spain. Is there any way to get approval of Visa as after reading your useful stuff about these paces i want to visit these countries. Please suggest.

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  27. Enjoying your site. I love reading about out of the way places. Maybe someday I will get to go to some of them. I have a suggestion for an Afghanistan loophole. I have not done this yet, but I have a friend in Khorog Tajikistan and hope to do it someday. First you have to get a double entry tourist visa for Tajikistan with a GBAO permit and go to the Afghan Consulate in Khorog up in the Pamirs. From there you can get a visa to visit the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan (the safest part of the country). The crossing is at Iskashim.

    Also at Iskashim there seems that once per week a bazaar sets up on an island in the river on the border, so you can leave Tajikistan and go to the bazaar in Afghanistan without a visa since you never get to the border control point on the other side. This certainly out of the way and not easy, but it probably counts as a loophole.

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  28. Nice travel experiences mentioned in ur article.....u are one lucky traveler....

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  29. Very nice!! there is so much information on this blog keep posting good information like this so that I can come back every day for some new info... Online Travel Agencies

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  30. I liked your blog very much. I had trouble getting into Uzbekistan myself even though I had a LOI. This was more to do with me not being able to read Uzbeki. I've linked the blog I wrote about the experience below.

    http://www.travbuddy.com/travel-blogs/70321/Hello-Stan-29

    Well worth the effort getting to Uzbekistan though. It is one of my top five countries to visit.

    As for getting into Iran, I did the land crossing from Turkmenistan and I was travelling with an American. He received special treatment at the border, but they were very apologetic about the whole thing saying this is because they have to reciprocate what happens to Iranians when they arrive in America. While in the country he was treated like a rockstar. Another place definitely worth a visit. Another one of my top five :)

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  31. Oh, gimme a break 1...and i have no Press card

    #1 Angola, etc west side of Africa ... got all the visa's (from top to bottom, Morocco to South Africa) while traveling (away from home country) ... Angola was easy, just waiting for their printer but took 5 business days

    #2 Afghanistan ... come on, this is readily available in Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan ... and very easy ... next day service

    #3 Uzbekistan ... what's the big deal ??? do Transit Visa of 72 hours and 3 or 4 of them were cheaper than the full length 30 day Visa (excluding cost of that Invitation) ... you did it the harder way ... travel smarter not harder

    #4 Turkmenistan ... so, do a 5 day or 7 day Transit visa ... i walked through the desert 45 km to get to Kazakhstan (planned idea) ... again Transit Visa, none of that garbage of a guide being with you

    #5 Somalia ... very easy to get visa at embassy in neighbouring Africa countries

    #6 Russia ... what's the big deal , again??? very easy, get the "Visa Support" (online) submit application, Visa Support, and pay the fee .... and you can get it whilst traveling ... despite what people say about you must get it in your home country

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mike,
      I have a question, how did you apply the Uzbeki and Turkmen transit visa? did it require to show the fix inbound and outbound ticket thru that country so it make sense to apply the transit one? Because I am thinking to apply myself this transit visa (true that cost half cheaper for same duration days than single entry!)
      And one more, in Turkmenistan even you got transit visa, is it ok not to join the local tour?
      I hope I will hear it from you soon.. Thanks! :D

      Delete
  32. I am sorry but you really have it easy coming from a country where you hardly require a visa for most countries! try having wanderlust and coming from a country like mine, Bangladesh where you need to apply for visas EVERYWHERE except Nepal, Sri Lanka and maybe Bhutan which are neighboring SAARC countries and also, as a single woman, European countries and some Arab ones will simply not give you a tourist visa for reasons of their own, regardless of how good a job u have, are financially independant or dont look like the sort who wud not return to yuor own country! :/

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  33. One of the hardest countries to get in is USA. United States of America.
    You need to prove them you have a clean criminal record...

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  34. Please add Iran in this. I want to go there to visit some Holly Islamic places. I applied 3 time for visit visa but they reject my visit request. So that is why i think Iran is also a hardest country to get visa.

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  35. Really useful information to read and i love all your blog post. thanks for sharing such an awesome valuable post. thanks for sharing this one.

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  37. Marc Affolter25 March 2014 21:02

    Russia? Belarus is more complicate with less embassies, additional requirements and the invitation letter not so much offered online.... Loophole: go there during the Ice Hockey Championship, where a match ticket gives you entry

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  38. I would never go to North Korea. It's a miserable place.

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  39. add egypt ,tunisia , seria ,irak, soudiarabia

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  40. I have been seeking information on this topic for the past few hours and found your post to be well written and has solid information. Thanks for sharing it...

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  41. Great read. It is quite unfortunate how hard it is to visit some of these locations. The architect and construction it has to offer is quite a site.

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  44. Hello There!
    I have been planning to visit Russia this summer. Are you sure about "You can stay in St. Petersburg for up to 72 hours if you arrive by boat. All visa free. Just don't tell the bureaucrats."

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  45. As mentioned elsewhere in the comments list, this is all relative to the passport you hold. Europeans are blessed with visa free travel to most countries. Now suppose you are a Colombian citizen, and make it even worse by assuming you are a single female student, you could pretty much forget getting a visa to the US or the Schengen space - at least until recently when the rules seem to have been somewhat relaxed.

    I'm ashamed to admit that the Schengen visa is probably the hardest to secure for some nationalities: 1 to 6 weeks processing time, extensive form to be filled, 3 months worth of bank account statements proving 50 Euros per day travel budget, letter from your employer stating salary, time with the company, position and purpose of the trip to Europe, copy of your airline tickets, copy of your hotel reservations, detailed travel itinerary, proof of insurance for 35,000 Euros or more, etc.

    Compared to that the Russian visa is a piece of cake. Getting a US visa is almost equally difficult, with the added insult of being treated like cattle if you apply at the consulate in Mexico City. At least the American visa application process is supremely efficient and well documented. Europe, the US, Canada, Australia - all these countries are Hell-bent on keeping illegal immigrants out of their privileged territories and as a result treat innocent well-meaning travelers like criminals. I find this most depressing and not at all congruent with the spirit of a continent with such a legacy of promoting freedom and exporting a democratic system to the rest of the planet.

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  46. Saudi Arabia <3

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  47. It depends on your nationality.Thai citizens can enter Russia without a visa.Thai's can enter Laos and Mongolia without a Visa but citizens of most other countries need a visa to enter Laos and Mongolia.But a Thai person cannot enter certain countries such as Australia and America without a visa but Australians and Americans can enter Thailand without a visa but Australians and Americans need a visa to enter Russia.Being a dual citizen of Thailand and Australia I can enter America using my Australian passport and get a visa on arrival and same goes for many other wealthy European countries and I can enter Russia without a visa using my Thai passport.

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