There is always an inherent amount of risk that tourists take when travelling. Even in the safest destinations, seasoned travellers know how to protect themselves against petty theft and common tourist scams. However, visiting certain areas around the world will ratchet the tourist threat index to an uncomfortable level for most. That being said, a select adventurous few revel in exploring the places that others dare not venture. There are plenty of dangerous places around the world that still remain open to visitors, but the following countries have made it into the top 5 list:
Straddling the Horn of Africa, Somalia is home to a stunning coastline and unspoilt beaches. Unfortunately, nearly a dozen warring factions have made the country a practical blackout zone to tourism. The government itself is involved in a fair amount of fighting, and safety is in no way guaranteed for tourists in Somalia.
Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has long been considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Independent tourism in this region in strongly discouraged due to the high risk of kidnapping and assault. Major hotels in Somalia recommend visitors to travel with hired armed guards. The major attraction near Mogadishu is the stunning Somali Beach. For tourists that do wish to brave a trip to coastline, keep in mind that under local laws women must swim fully clothed and avoid loitering with men.
Though Syria has always been a country where tourists were advised to exercise a high degree of caution, the recent outbreak of civil war has made this alluring destination practically off-limits to visitors. This is unfortunate as the nation is full of ancient treasures and sights of major historical interest. Damascus, its capital city, is the oldest capital in the world and home to the stunning Umayyad Mosque, Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani castle, and Azm Palace.
Up until the country’s recent unrest, Syria welcomed tourists, and possessed a tourist-friendly infrastructure. It is still possible to visit Syria, though widespread violence throughout the country has made things so unsafe that EU and US citizens still within Syria have been asked to contact their embassies in order to arrange safe transfer home. For those still wishing to make the trip, visas can be obtained upon arrival into the country. There are several routes of entry into Syria from neighbouring Turkey. Due to tensions with Israel, visitors with entrance or exit stamps from Israel on their passport will not be allowed into Syria.
Much of Mesopotamia, widely considered the cradle of civilisation, is confined within the borders of Iraq. With remnants and ruins from the ancient Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Babylonian empires, Iraq is a veritable treasure chest of historic gems. Given the country’s history, it’s understandable that despite what Iraq has to offer, a vast majority of tourists would not consider travelling there. In truth, these travel fears are largely warranted. Though the war in Iraq may be officially over, the threat of violence and kidnapping in the centre of the country remains especially high. Travellers intent on seeing the ancient ruins of Babylon, Ashur, and Hatra may do so at their own risk. Visas must be secured before entering the country, and armed guards will be essential in some areas.
Yemen is a fascinating country with perfectly preserved historic towns and stunning Red Sea beaches. However, all travel to this country on the Arabian Peninsula is strongly discouraged by most Western governments. Instability, terrorist attacks, and a high prevalence of kidnappings make this a largely unsuitable environment for tourists. Yemen also suffers from a relatively poor infrastructure. As a foreigner, solo car travel is difficult for numerous reasons, and trains are non-existent. In addition, the political situation in the country is very unstable and visa requirements change often.
Those who wish to venture into Yemen despite the risks can do so by flying into Sana’a from Dubai. Along with Old Sana’a, Yemen’s major attractions include the magnificent ancient towns in Hadhramaut, and the beach city of Al Hudaydah.
Once one of the richest nations in Africa, Zimbabwe has struggled against both economic and political collapse over the past 10 years or so. This instability has unfortunately put this former tourism hot spot on this list. Home to Victoria Falls, and Zambezi National Park, Zimbabwe is a beautiful country full of native wildlife and stunning natural scenery.
Outside its national parks, the country’s major cities are considered unsafe for tourists. In addition to armed robbery and assault, disease is a major threat to tourists staying in the landlocked African country. Visitors are encouraged to get hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria, and rabies vaccines before arriving in Zimbabwe.
Travellers insistent on seeing Victoria Falls and Zambezi National Park can stay in stable Botswana or South Africa. Day trips operate regularly from these nearby countries and are considered relatively safe.