There’s more to staying safe while travelling than wearing a money belt and avoiding dark alleys at night. While many round-the-world travellers manage to avoid serious danger, there are some countries and regions that are just best avoided. Seeking life-threatening thrills? Enter the world’s most dangerous countries at your own risk.
Not scared by the presence of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda? Then maybe this will help. Afghanistan is scattered with approximately 5-7 million land-mines in the countryside. Food shortages are frequent, there is little to no infrastructure and bombings around major international embassies are frequent. This country was once known for its spectacular mountain ranges and hospital people. If you plan to go, Kabul is the first stop. Mazar-e Sharif is home to many sacred sights and while it’s a travesty that the Buddha statues in Bamiya were destroyed, their ruins will take your breathe away.
Foreign offices around the world advise against all travel to Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan because of the lack of security available to Western travellers in the Northern Caucasus. Kidnappings by local gangs is common, there are still open cases of foreigners disappearing and remaining unaccounted for. There is a high level of threat from terrorism. Attacks are always a possibility, especially in places frequented by foreigners as much in Moscow as in the North Caucasus. If you MUST visit the breathe-taking Caspian Sea, approach it from Iran.
Currently all British nationals are asked to leave Yemen by any commercial means possible. The Foreign Office advices against all travel to the whole of Yemen due to the recent rise in political instability and the rapid deterioration of security. Yemen has been torn apart by civil wars for years. The most common crimes against travellers are the change of kidnapping and car-jacking. Getting your wallet pinched is the least of your worries. Yemen, although extremely dangerous, is beautiful. In Biblical times it was Noah’s land of milk and honey. The capital, San’a is ancient, its architecture poetic.
There are only travel bans out for some regions of Colombia right now, generally to the more rural areas along the border with Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador. Places no tourist should show their face include: Buenaventura, San José del Guaviare and the Parque Nacional Natural de La Macarena in Meta. Most crime is connected with the cocaine and coca cultivating industry. Apart from this, it’s a backpackers playground. The diversity of the people, entertainment, sights and sounds will overwhelm. Bogotá, Villa de Leyva which is great for hiking and cycling and Cuidad Perdida which looks like something straight out of an Indiana Jones’ movie, should be at the top of your list.
Travellers should avoid the Pool region at all costs due to a rise in sporadic rebel activity. This includes the Brazzaville-Pointe Noire road. As well, the Likouala province in the Republic of Congo. Travel at night in the whole country should be avoided. As for the Democratic Republic of Congo, travel to the northern and eastern parts is not recommended. Travellers should not enter or leave the country by land, only by flights to/from Pointe Noire or Brazzaville. Those brave enough to enter this heart of darkness will be surprised in the best way possible. The Congo is home to 5 UNESCO biospheres, entire ecosystems to the brim with wildlife found nowhere else in the world.
With widespread kidnappings and violence, it’s safe to say that travel to Iraq is highly NOT recommended. It is not recommended at all to go to Baghdad or the area surrounding it as well as numerous other cities and provinces. While crime and violence has decreased crimes remain to target foreign nationals. If you visit, make sure you seek professional security arrangements. Iraq was the centre of the ancient world. It is home to the first cultivated lands and the first form of writing. The country’s rich history is overshadowed by its place in the headlines in the media. You can be sure though that when the politics are ironed out, Iraq will be a much sought-after travel destination.
The age-old rival between Palestine and Israel doesn’t make either country too safe to visit right now, specifically the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. At present travellers are requested to avoid all travel to Gaza, including the waters off Gaza as the security situation is uncertain. The Gaza Strip and south-west Israel and the border with Lebanon are also out of the question. While wrought with conflict, these two countries are two of the oldest in the world. With holy histories, today millions flock to experience the laid-back city of Tel-Aviv, float effortlessly in the Dead Sea. When travelling to Israel, leave your political opinions at home. The locals love nothing more than to argue.
With a totalitarian government, a starving populous, nuclear crisis on the horizon and the lowest-rated hotels in the world… you wonder why people want to penetrate the border into North Korea. It’s one of the few countries left in the world left totally untouched by tourism. Fewer than 2000 Westerners are allowed in a year! While there are no travel restrictions in place for North Korea, it is very difficult to enter. Advise before departing: take out very comprehensive travel and medical insurance. Travel within the country is severely restricted and those looking for an independent jaunt are out of luck. All tours are controlled and escorted by the government to a world unknown by many, a world where no mobile phones or internet exist, where the Cold War hasn’t ended yet.
Terrorism is the biggest threat in Tajikistan these days and while there are no travel warnings issued for the whole country, travellers are asked not to make any trip in or near the Kamarob Gorge and the Rasht region. The heath and transportation infrastructures are poor and border crossings can close without any notice. The good news is that today the country is much safer than it was ten years ago, making it a very unique travel destination, and a scenic one at that! The Pamir Highway is the ultimate road trip and the Wakhan Valley will take your breath away. Those travelling to Tajikistan should have comprehensive travel insurance which covers air ambulance evacuation services.
Papua New Guinea
The real threat to visitors in this secluded and mysterious place in the south Pacific is from local gangs. There is a huge lack of law enforcement which gives way to common carjackings, assaults, robberies and serious sexual offences. While travelling here has its challenges and risks, the rewards are indescribable. The lack of tourism makes this place a perfect destination to conquer on your own terms, designing your own trip and your own adventures. The capital, Port Moresby, should be visited with caution, as crime is high here. Head instead to the coasts, exploring the D’Entrecasteaux islands and the country’s extremely diverse forests and rich tribal culture.
Do you agree with these choices? Have you ever travelled to any of these places? How would you rate their “danger-level?”