Some countries launch extravagant, expensive campaigns to lure in tourists.
Others seem entirely uninterested in tourism dollars, making it extremely difficult for foreign visitors to enter.
We’ve found seven countries that make it incredibly difficult to obtain tourist visas.
Note that this list is not comprehensive: We’ve excluded countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia because the US has issued advisories against all travel to those countries, although you should note that Angola, Eritrea, Iran, and Saudi Arabia may also be dangerous for visiting Westerners.
This tiny Himalayan kingdom is hard enough to access physically (its only international airport sits 7,333 feet above sea level and only a handful of pilots are qualified to fly there), but just getting the visa is also tough.
Forget visiting as an independent traveller. You’ll need the help of a travel agent who must organise everything for you, and will have to pay for the whole thing — transport, visa fees, meals, housing — in advance. Basically, Bhutan is like an all-inclusive country, where you have to pay for everything in one go. Be prepared to spend between $US200 to $US300 a day depending on the season, which is the government-mandated minimum.
Russia is shockingly difficult to visit, especially for Americans, who often have to answer twice the amount of insanely specific questions (countries visited in the last 10 years, for example) than people from the rest of the world. Generally, needless paper pushing, busywork and bureaucracy make the wait for a Russian visa take weeks, if not months, and requires a Letter of Invitation, though often this can be provided by a hotel. Once you’ve gotten a visa, you can only stay for 30 days.
The Desert Kingdom is a wealthy country, so it’s not particularly concerned with tourism, and especially reluctant to let westerners in. Consequently, tourist visas are notoriously difficult to obtain, especially for non-Muslims. If you have Israeli stamps in your passports, you might be refused outright; unmarried couples need to travel in a group; and women must be accompanied by a male relative, or, should they be travelling alone, met by a male sponsor or relative. Anyone overstaying their visit will be fined almost $US3,000.
This former Italian colony in Africa ranks last on the press freedom index, even below North Korea. It’s not exactly interested in having foreigners around, and consequently doesn’t make getting a visa easy. Apparently, visas take around eight weeks to process, and can often be rejected willy nilly. Once there though, you’ll be stunned by incredible architectural gems, many of which were commissioned by Mussolini himself.
The world’s smallest republic is almost impossible to get to — there’s essentially one flight per week from Australia — but good luck finding a Nauru consulate or embassy at which to get a visa, as there are maybe 9 in the world.
Iran, which is full of rarely seen cultural treasures like the ruins of Persepolis, just might become the next tourism hotspot following the nuclear deal. Currently, visas are pretty tough to get though. Apparently, every single visa needs to be approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, which can take a while (some people suggest applying three months in advance). US citizens will get fingerprinted on entry, and must travel with a private guide or group tour. Having an Israeli stamp in your passport basically makes a visit to Iran a no-go. However,
President Hassan Rouhani’s government is now taking steps to ease or abolish visa requirements for most foreign visitors in order to make the country more tourism friendly.
Rich in oil and diamonds, the country makes it purposefully difficult to obtain visas in an effort to thwart job hunters. Allegedly, visas take around eight weeks to process, and require a small library of supporting documents, a Letter of Invitation from a local person or organisation, a certificate proving you’ve been vaccinated against Yellow Fever, and proof that you have sufficient funds to stay, requiring at least $US200 a day for the duration of your stay.
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