The world’s most closed countries. How to get visas there?
Would not it be great to be able to travel freely anywhere? That isn't always the case. If you have a travel bucket list, then some countries might be harder to check off than others. Some countries don't have the same attitude when it comes to tourism, and many governments across the world put intense visa requirements. Even the ones that we are able to get a visa to, may not have an easy route to get there, such as the absence of flights there. Besides, certain closed countries might be current high-risk zones that refrain travelers from visiting at all. All these reasons put such places down on our bucket list, only because of how much of a hassle they are to visit.
Whilst geographical impracticalities and drawn-out visa applications might be a reason not to book that trip, this does not stop some of the riskiest travelers out there. If you are one of them, this article is for you!
How to get visas to the most closed countries? How to travel freely there?
Be it due to their remoteness, strictest entry, or hard travel conditions, below is the list of our top picks for the list of closed countries in the world to visit and their visa requirements.
There simply is no other place in the world like North Korea. The only closed country today that is still purely Communist, North Korea accepts tourists from other nations other than South Korea and the United States. In North Korea, everything is controlled by the administration, starting from TV, radio, and print; news content and broadcast are censored. Internet access is only granted to the ruling elite and even their online activities are strictly monitored.
As for North Koreans, their movements are very limited. They are not allowed to loiter in parks and all their movements and activities must be supported by a valid reason. North Korea also has a strict fashion code, for example, women are not allowed to wear pants and men should cut their hair every 15 days. Violations are punishable by forced labor for a certain period of time.
Why to visit North Korea?
A notoriously secretive and shut-off society, tourism to North Korea is ever so slightly on the rise. Experience firsthand the deranged personality cult around the Kim family, and with your presence help to expose the population to just a taste of the outside world. Tourists are told what is expected of them and what is a definite no-no. If you are not willing to bow to pictures of the great leader (which are everywhere), stay out.
You can’t expect to travel independently while you’re there. Tourists are assigned personal escorts called minders. These escorts accompany tourists from the day they come into the day they fly out to ensure they are not breaking any rules, such as speaking against the North Korean government. The guides will be sure only to show you what you’re meant to see, with most interactions carefully orchestrated, but you may still get insight into one of the world’s most isolated and unsettling places.
The cost of hiring a private tour guide during your stay can add up, which is a price not everyone is willing to pay. If you've got the cash, and the time, then, by all means, go! The experience of flying into North Korea is said to be quite an experience.
What are the Visa Requirements to visit North Korea?
Many have their preconceived notions of this closed country, however, North Korea has made their process of entering the country much easier over time. Access to the country is very much possible, as long as you aren't South Korean.
The only way to visit North Korea, one of the most closed-off countries in the world, is with a tour. A visit to North Korea requires you to obtain a visa that is processed within a week or two. It is not that difficult to secure a visa once your tour and guides have been booked as long as you’re not a journalist. There are several companies that take care of the whole process, so you can use them to arrange your trip to North Korea.
Having been closed off to the outside world for decades, Turkmenistan is the least explored and yet one of the most intriguing of the “Stan” countries in Central Asia. The land is over 80% desert, and the traditional Turkmen life is nomadic.
Saparmyrat Niyazov ruled the little-known nation until 2006 and spent the time covering the country with golden statues of himself, which are still littered throughout the country. His iron-fisted rule has an impact even a decade later, and politics is still a topic that should be avoided in discussion with local Turkmens.
Why to visit Turkmenistan?
Turkmenistan is a must-see! With countless archeological ruins, monuments, and views of the Caspian Sea, it makes for quite a beautiful country. The capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat is an interesting and obscure place to visit, lavished with golden statues and white marble buildings. You can also go horse trekking with Akhal Teke horses and camel trekking in the desert. The country’s most famous sight is probably the Darvaza gas craters, a flaming pit in the desert that never stops burning. In addition to the Karakum Desert, and the history of ancient trade, the country also has some rules before entering.
What are the Visa Requirements to visit Turkmenistan?
This country remains one of the most closed countries in the world, and all foreigners require a visa to enter Turkmenistan. The application process to obtain a tourist visa to Turkmenistan is known to be quite standard, but as for the trip itself, you must go through an agency and have a hired guide with you throughout the entire trip. Turkmenistan requires you to pay for your trip in advance prior to visiting.
To get visa tourists need a tour agency or guide from a local tour company to arrange a Letter of Invitation with the immigration authorities in Turkmenistan. This takes 2-3 weeks and isn't guaranteed. After that, if your visa application isn't rejected, you can expect your visa application to take another two weeks. You may also apply for a 5-day transit visa which works only for travel on land.
Next on the list, Iran! Unlike most countries governed by philosophical tenets, Iran’s governance is based on religion and that is the Sharia Law. Actions and propaganda against the government are prohibited in Iran. A slight statement in the negative about how bad the Iranian government is enough to get you in trouble. Logging on to social media websites like Facebook, Google +, and YouTube also means trouble.
What are the rules inside the country? Men cannot sport certain hairstyles other than what is prescribed in Islam. Women are not allowed to go out in public unless they adhere to certain dress codes, such as covering their heads in hijab and avoiding skinny jeans. Western music such as jazz, rock, and rap are strictly prohibited. Alcoholic beverages for both men and women are highly discouraged.
Why visit Iran?
Perhaps less difficult to visit than places like Saudi Arabia, Iran is a country of rare natural beauty that remains to-date relatively unexplored. Reasons for this range from the negative publicity Iran receives in the Western media to the often tricky process of obtaining a visa. Despite this, Iran is worth visiting for its tasty Persian cuisine, hospitable locals, stunning nature, and historic sights.
What are the Visa Requirements to visit Iran?
Iran visas have never been straightforward, but the process is now harder than ever. Visa applications to Iran take notoriously long to be processed, so make sure to start preparations long before traveling.
Before you start thinking about your visa application, you'll need to get an authorization code. This is a pre-approval of your visa by Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which can take up to a month to get – and has to be applied for by an official Iranian travel agency in Tehran. Once you have your authorization code, Iran now requires all visa applicants to apply at an Iranian Embassy in person and submit biometric data.
Entry restrictions may apply to American, Canadian, and British citizens. So if you are from the UK, Canada, or the US, you'll need to hire an MFA-approved guide for your trip and provide their details when you apply for your visa.
Entry is denied to Israeli citizens and travelers whose passports contain any indication of connection/travel to the state of Israel.
Though the 17th largest nation in the world, Libya has had more than its fair share of problems. Civil war has plagued the nation, and clashes are frequent throughout the country, with attacks by armed groups occurring almost anywhere and affecting even hotels hosting tourists.
The climate of Libya can be as forbidding as the violent threats, with 90% of the land covered by extremely dry desert. Only the northern regions on the Mediterranean Sea enjoy a milder climate.
Why to visit Libya?
For those tourists that dare to brave the environmental and political conditions, they will be rewarded with amazing historic heritage.
Libya, situated in North Africa, is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, which alone, is a reason to visit. Libya is the neighboring country to Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Algeria, and Tunisia, and it is deeply immersed in the Middle Eastern culture with its music, food, and rich history.
Leptis Magna, east of Tripoli, was a major city of the Roman Empire, and to this day holds some of the most outstanding and preserved Roman Ruins. Similarly, Cyrene was founded by the Greeks in 630 BC and is still an archeological site near the Libyan city of Shahhat.
What are the Visa Requirements to visit Libya?
Visas are required by all nationals. The Libyan visa is known to be one of the hardest to get. Tourism itself was tightly controlled under the Gaddafi regime, and getting a visa was nearly impossible at the time. Many say that chances of getting a visa were a little like "betting on fruit machines", which obviously doesn't play out well for anyone.
To apply for a visa at the embassy a letter of invitation is required. Although there is still a chance of having a visa application accepted, it will take not only time but a lot of money. In addition, the current visa situation is by no means transparent, so buckle up if you want to head to Libya because it won't be easy.
What are the safety measures to take when visiting these countries?
Remote travel involves a degree of risk above that of a normal trip. If you’re planning to travel to any of these destinations, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Follow the news to keep yourself updated on the political situation from time to time. Check the latest blogs, websites, and forums to find out if it’s safe to visit.
Consult your country’s foreign office for advice on conditions at your travel destination. If traveling in an area with political instability or disorder notify your embassy when you go.
Always get travel insurance before you go. In the event of serious illness, it could be hours or days before you can be evacuated. Check with your insurance provider if the place you’re visiting is covered in your plan.
Find out what vaccination may be required. The CDC provides a country-by-country interactive map of health conditions, including current outbreaks of disease.
Find out what kind of telecommunications device will work in your destination. Will cell phones work and how will you get online access?
Keep your family informed of where you’ll be visiting and your hotel info. Leave instructions on who to contact if they don’t hear from you after a certain period of time.
Overall, if you are eager to visit the world`s most closed countries, keep your plans flexible and be open to any last-minute changes.
Nargiz was born in Russia where she grew up until the age of 12 before moving to Baku, Azerbaijan. At different life stages she lived in Turkey and Serbia. As of 2020, she has been to 38 cities in 11 countries. AIESEC Azerbaijan Alumna. She is fond of participating at youth projects and making friends with people from all around the world. Her biggest dream is to visit all the continents and as many countries as possible. Following her passion to travel, she joined the team of a “Trawell Group” company.