Ease of travel has increased significantly in the last 50 years with new technology in the manufacturing of raw materials. Airplanes and cruise ships are much more numerous, larger and faster. Even the media has highlighted the lower cost of flying, making a foreign vacation seem like such an easy undertaking. In turn, people with a bad case of wanderlust are always seeking new destinations. The world has become smaller to them. The only problem is the places not yet on the tourism radar are often dangerous – especially for foreigners. Let’s take a look.
Libya is an ancient country with thousands of years of history to discover. The secrets hidden in the second century Greek and Roman ruins would make any travel nut foam at the mouth. The country also has hundreds of miles of Mediterranean coastline, which of course means incredible beaches. But keep in mind Libya is also home to some the worlds most notorious training grounds for international terrorists. Currently the Italians like to make Libya their summer vacation destination, so tourism is not unheard of there. But Americans are not exactly popular in Libya, and violence is common.
Ghardaia, Algeria in particular is listed as the gateway to the Sahara Desert. The town is 300 miles south of Algiers and is as ancient as the pyramids. An oasis in the M’Zab Valley, it is now listed as a World Heritage Site and offers a quaint marketplace and traditional cafe’s. Desert adventure tours are popular with foreigners, but only 15% of the tourist traffic is from outside of Algeria. This is an extremely dangerous place for one reason: the ongoing battle between the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and the autocratic National Liberation Front (FLN). Between 1992 and 1999 alone, 80,000 people died in the conflict. 120 were foreigners. This is not a conflict that can be avoided and is unlikely to go away.
Aside from being home to Pablo Escabar and the international cocaine trade, Colombia is also noted for its beautiful heritage sites. The old city of Cartagena and the famous statues in San Agustin are a site to see, but not safe. The dangers of visiting Colombia begin with frequent domestic airline hijackings, kidnapping, robbery and murder. Even the wealthy locals go to the grocery store in bullet-proof vehicles and an army of armed body guards. According to the US State Department, there is a greater risk of being kidnapped in Colombia than any other country in the world.
Afghanistan and Iraq
These two countries have such a high risk for many of the same reasons that it seemed prudent to list them together. The presence of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda should be enough to deter even the most dedicated traveler, but if not then consider the presence of millions of landmines scattered all over the countryside. There are crippling food shortages, almost no infrastructure and corruption among the authorities means no protection for both foreigners and locals.
North Korea (or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
Do not confuse North Korea with South Korea. South Korea allows tourists into the country and a minimum of free thought. North Korea hates South Korea and is ruled by a totalitarian government. Tourism in North Korea is run by the Korea International Travel Company, owned by the state. Every group of travelers to enter the country must be permanently accompanied by a ‘guide’. The appeal of North Korea as a destination is the low prices and warm climate. There is no opportunity given for free travel in the country. The simmering nuclear crisis between the North and South makes this region a dangerous place to visit. US travelers should be especially cautious as there is no US Consulate and local laws are very, very strict. Speaking against North Korea’s rulers, both former and current can get you arrested. Even shopping at a ‘non-tourist’ store can land you in a Korean jail.
There are many, many more places in the world that are not yet safe enough for tourism. Places like Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Congo, Rwanda, Haiti and many more, seem like such exotic places to visit. That is until you get kidnapped, robbed or jailed for little or no reason. In time, these countries will no doubt become safer destinations but until then be satisfied with Greenland or Fiji.
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