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40 Least-Welcoming Countries in the World

Belarus

Belarus

The World Economic Forum doesn't include Belarus on its list of ranked countries because it failed to provide appropriate informational statistics about its travel industry. That, at least to us, shows us how little the country prioritizes travel and tourism, as well as shows that there is a lack of infrastructure to compile what data is available. In fact, only about 100,000 visitors come to the undiscovered nation annually.

Despite the lack of tourists, the country is filled with history and interesting places to visit. These include spots like Mir Castle, which is one of the few medieval castles remaining in the country and a UN world hertiage site. Unfortunately, this is a country that doesn't seem to care about bringing in tourists all that much. 

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Pakistan

Pakistan

There's no denying that Pakistan is awash in cultural history, but the political climate of the region doesn't inspire confidence in safe, successful travel, particularly from visitors of Western nations. If Pakistan is on your must-visit list, it's best to go via travel group instead of planning a trip on your own.

Even though there are definite risks in visiting this unsettled country, there's no denying that it has charm apart from the violence. It's home to several ancient cities and other sites of historical importance. And there's even a massive following for both cricket and polo, which keeps sports fans happy. 

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Venezuela

Venezuela

Part of Venezuela's problem is that it doesn't have a well-developed tourism industry geared toward international visitors. More recently, however, the widespread humanitarian crisis has the government (as well as neighboring governments and international organizations) focused on other issues than international leisure tourism.

Now is definitely not the time to plan a trip to Venezuela, but if the country ever comes into more peaceful times, it's a nature lover's paradise. There are so many beautiful spots to explore, including Angel Falls and Morrocoy National Park. It's a shame that these scenic places can't be enjoyed like they should be. 

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Vietnam

Vietnam

Vietnam ranks at a solid 73 out of 136 on the World Economic Forum's international openness component, so they definitely want and appreciate tourists! However, the country has poor rankings when it comes to infrastructure and governmental investment in that infrastructure to support international tourism. That drags down its overall score to land on this list, unfortunately.

However, there's no shortage of things to do in Vietnam. If you want an authentic Vietnam experience, you have to rent a motorbike--it's the most common form of transportation in the country. With one, you can see the sights like they were intended. And don't miss out on the authentic Vietnamese food if you ever have a chance to visit.

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Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan requires all visitors to have an entry visa in advance (unless you have a passport from certain neighboring countries). The only problem is that it's not uncommon for people to apply up to a handful of times before being approved. In addition, some countries' residents need letters of invitation before even applying for a visa. That often means scheduling somewhat expensive excursions through local tour operators.

If you can manage to get your way into the country, though, there are more than enough sights and sounds to keep you entertained on a trip. One must-see spot is the Door to Hell (aka the Darvaza gas crater)--this collapsed gas field has been burning since 1971 and has become an iconic spot, despite the fact that it's difficult to visit. 

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Somalia

Somalia

Unfortunately, Somalia is a country in conflict. That uncertainty doesn't lend itself well to international tourism, but there are still some tour operators who will set up excursions for you. They will provide you with a guide, a driver, and armed security. That's right...armed security.

While you definitely shouldn't be planning a trip to Somalia any time soon, it would make a beautiful vacation destination under different circumstances. There are lots of beautiful beaches in the country, as well as some breathtaking caves if you're in the mood for spelunking. 

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Libya

Libya

Currently, Libya requires every foreign visitor to obtain an entry visa. However, it is not issuing tourist visas at this time. Unless you go through the (very expensive) process of using a local travel company and procuring a business visa, tourism to Libya is effectively banned. That makes it THE least welcoming of all countries!

If you're a history lover, you should be heartbroken that you're not getting into Libya any time soon because it's home to several important historical sites. These include the ancient cities of Leptis Magna and Cyrene--both important hotspots in the Roman empire. It's a shame that they can't be appreciated by more people. 

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Bolivia

Bolivia

Bolivia actually ranks highly according to the World Economic Forums rankings on international openness and tourist infrastructure. The problem is that the government isn't interested in promoting the country as a tourist destination (114 out of 136). That's why it has the least amount of visitors of any Spanish-speaking South American country (save for Venezuela's humanitarian crisis).

All this is a shame, because Bolivia has a lot to offer the world of tourism. It's definitely a place to visit if you love the great outdoors, since large parts of the country remain undisturbed and undeveloped. It boasts everything from chilly mountaintops to steamy rainforests, so there's something to explore for everyone. 

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Angola

Angola

Angola only allows entry to those that have an invitation in Portuguese, which costs $450 on top of a $150 visa application. Before you apply for a visa, you’re required to buy plane tickets and non-refundable hotel reservations. You can do all this, and then find out that you’re not accepted. Talk about expensive.

Angola is definitely a country filled with lots of natural beauty--the scenery is probably the main reason anyone would want to visit. However, it might be worth a visit for the architecture too. You'll spot lots of art deco buildings in the city of Benguela. We weren't expecting that! 

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North Korea

North Korea

It shouldn’t be a surprise that North Korea is on this list. The world is aware of the extremist policies of North Korea, but being a tourist is even more difficult. As a tourist, you’re watched constantly, you cannot leave your hotel without a guide. Want to take some pictures? You better be sure to ask for permission first!

Why would anyone want to visit this country? Would it even be worth all the hassle? It may be if you're very interested in the history of North Korea, as a lot of the guided tours visit multiple war memorials and museums. For everyone else, this is one country that is probably not worth the hassle. 

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the second-lowest overall ranking on the World Economic Forum's welcoming list. And that's second only to war-torn Yemen that is currently experiencing a massive humanitarian crisis. The tourism infrastructure just doesn't exist here yet. Your best bet, if you wish to avoid conflict areas, is to visit the jungle-dense national parks with tour guides.

One of the most famous destinations in the country is the Congo river, which draws in the majority of the few tourists who do brave the trip there. However, it's also a surprisingly art heavy country, with the Academie des Beaux-Arts being a good destination for getting a feel for the art scene in the DRC. 

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Syria

Syria

Syria, obviously, doesn't really have the capabilities or infrastructure anymore to host large scale tourism due to the ongoing civil war in the country. In fact, some areas (depending upon who controls them) are antagonistic to visitors.

It's a shame that more people can't explore this fascinating country, because its home to some important sites of world history. These include places like Bosra, the Dead Cities, and Damascus--the capitol of the country, as well as the oldest inhabited city in the world. Now is definitely not the time to book a trip there, though! 

Mongolia

Mongolia

The country's low rating stems mostly from the fact that its private tourism industry is a mere 20 years old. As the least densely populated nation on earth (only 3 people per square mile), it's no surprise the local population would be wary of a large influx of tourists.

If you're an animal lover, Mongolia has got you covered. It's home to the Tsaatan community, who are famous as a tribe of reindeer herders. Just be prepared to ride one yourself! It's also a great place if you want to experience nature, as there's plenty of camping, hiking, and canoeing available. 

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Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

The majority of people who visit Burkina Faso come from France, which makes sense given that it was once a French colony. Unfortunately, due to internal political conflicts, tourists may not be safe in the country. In March 2018,  a terrorist attack occurred at the French Embassy, and in August 2017, a gunman attacked the restaurant of a hotel in the capital city.

Despite the near-constant threats of terrorism or kidnapping, Burkina Faso is very culturally advanced in other ways. It's home to several arts festivals, including one for jazz and another for cinema. There's also a thriving music scene, featuring both local, traditional music as well as genres from across the globe. 

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Yemen

Yemen

Like Syria, the ongoing civil war in Yemen has created large-scale humanitarian crises in Yemen. Therefore, the country has largely lost the ability to extensively host tourists, even though neighboring Oman continues to be a vacation destination.

Even in the best of times, Yemen was not the most tourist friendly country, but for those who were willing to go off the beaten path, it offered some unique treasures that you wouldn't find anywhere else. If nothing else, it would be nice to visit Yemen to purchase an authentic jambiya--the traditional curved dagger that's frequently carried in the country. 

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Due to the country's ongoing struggles of implementing and updating infrastructure, any large-scale tourist industry just simply doesn't exist in Afghanistan. The culture is also fairly conservative which makes the country a difficult destination for international tourism.

Despite the ongoing strife in the country, it has a rich past and heritage. Afghanistan is home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Minaret of Jam and the sculptures of Bamiyan, which were severely damaged by the Taliban. Additionally, most cities in the country are home to beautiful and historic mosques. 

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Algeria

Algeria

Algeria ranks near the bottom on all 3 of the components that the World Economic Forum uses to rank how welcoming countries are to international tourism. The nation has an underdeveloped tourist service infrastructure (131 of 136), very low international openness due to a conservative culture (134 of 136), and low government prioritization of travel and tourism (131 of 136). In some senses, the government just has other foci.

Algeria is definitely a country for people who are fans of ancient ruins--they've got plenty! These include historical sites from the Romans and the Phoenicians. Additionally, the country is the place to be if you're looking to explore the Sahara desert. All in all, it might be worth a visit even if it's not the most inviting place on earth. 

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Benin

Benin

Benin's best-performing component is in the Tourist Service Infrastructure rankings, but even that isn't saying much. The World Economic Forum ranks it a lowly 121 out of 136 for tourist infrastructure. Its low rankings in the other two components pull it down lower to the bottom 40.

Benin's biggest claim to fame is as the birthplace of voodoo, so if you're interested in the religion at all, it might be worth a visit. However, it's also home to several historical sites that played a role in the slave trade. There are also several large, developed cities if you're looking for urban adventures as well. 

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Brunei

Brunei

Brunei's tourism is growing, but it still lags behind other countries in the region. Part of low tourism numbers may be due to certain quirks of the country. Many areas practice "knock to buy," which is basically asking to buy something at someone's front door.

It's unique and fun the first few times, but also seems to be a hindrance to tourist infrastructure. Most places also close by 9 p.m. That's not a bad thing but also explains why many tourists may say they don't find many things to do. It's definitely not the most exciting place on the planet. 

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Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar is a tricky case for international tourists. The country is slowly becoming unentangled from its military dictatorship; however, they still wield a large degree of power. Because of that, much of the money tourism develops may not actually positively impact local "every day" Burmese. Instead, the money may enrich crony businesses and the government, with its poor human rights record.

Despite the violent history of the country, it's also highly spiritual. There are numerous Buddhist temples and pagodas throughout the country, including the Golden Pagoda in Yangon. Surprisingly, the country is also famous for its many dive spots, so if you're looking to take a dip while you're there -- you won't be disappointed. 

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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's tourism sector largely centers on religious pilgrimages rather than leisure tourism. That's a downside for any non-muslims wishing to enter the country. They won't be allowed to visit Mecca, for example. That's why the World Economic Forum ranks it really well on infrastructure (the hotels are there!) but very poorly on international openness (restrictive internal travel).

All in all, this may just be a country to steer clear of entirely. There are some important historical sites in Saudi Arabia, but they might not be worth the trouble. It's clear the country doesn't particularly want outsiders there, so why push the issue? There are other sights to see! 

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Burundi

Burundi

Burundi ranks dead last when it comes to the World Economic Forum's rankings of Tourist Service Infrastructure. That means its options for adequate accommodations and, particularly, transportation are limited for non-native visitors. The need for yellow fever vaccinations and anti-malarial medication before visiting also presents a large hurdle for tourists.

However, if you can make peace with all the negatives that come with visiting Burundi, there are actually some pretty interesting things to do in the country. There's lots of swimming to be had, and it's a great place to visit if you want to see lots of smaller, traditional villages. 

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Central African Republic

Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is a difficult place for travelers. Not only does the ongoing internal conflict create safety issues for visitors and residents alike, but the infrastructure is also lacking. Many roads become impassable in the rainy season, so river ferries are more common and practical. The only international airport is also currently simultaneously serving as a UN refugee camp, constraining large-scale international travel.

So, even if you want to brave the dangers of the Central African Republic, you're going to have to clear some pretty obnoxious hurdles--and pay a pretty penny for the privilege. For those that do make it in, the Chutes De Boali waterfalls and the Dzanga-Sangha National Park are must visit spots. 

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Chad

Chad

According to the World Economic Forum's study, Chad's worst-performing component is its underdeveloped tourism infrastructure (132 of 136), but it didn't receive high marks for international openness or prioritization of tourism and travel either. Both of those rankings were a 130 out of 136. Visas are expensive and to travel outside of the capital, you will need written permission from the government and be traveling with a locally recognized entity.

However, what Chad may lack in infrastructure, it more than makes up for in scenic beauty--it's definitely a place where you'll want to spend plenty of time outside. The country is home to unusual stone arches and sandstone formations that you can't see anywhere else in the world. However, getting to some of these natural destinations is easier said than done! 

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Comoros

Comoros

Even though Comoros is a picturesque island nation, it does not have as large of a tourist infrastructure compared to its neighbors of Seychelles and Mauritius. Because it is an island nation, travel between the islands via plane is a bit difficult. Domestic flights are often unreliable, delayed, or even canceled. There is much the government can still due to encourage future international tourism.

Despite all the downsides, Comoros is definitely a camper's paradise. There's lots of hiking, cycling, and diving available on the island, and you can even witness sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach here. If you're not into the great outdoors that much, this might be a place to steer clear of. 

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Djibouti

Djibouti

Djibouti only has around 60,000 tourist arrivals, which is much lower than the majority of the countries on this list. That shows just how underdeveloped (and appreciated) the tourism opportunities are in this coastal nation. Recently, Air Djibouti passenger flights began again, and a new railway to Ethiopia has opened which means there is future potential.

If visiting the country, taking a trip to Djibouti City is a must. This is one of the more developed areas in the country, and it's also home to several museums exploring the history and culture of Djibouti. And even though the country definitely has a desert vibe to it, there are actually some beautiful scuba diving destinations just off the coast. 

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Eritrea

Eritrea

Eritrea's one-party, effectively police state, is perhaps what makes the country unattractive to foreign visitors. International travelers must request approval documents to travel outside the capital city. The few taxis and hired cars that exist are very expensive.

It's a shame that it's so difficult and dangerous to get into the country, because it's home to some truly wonderful sites of cultural interest. Asmara is the country's capitol, and it houses several historical churches, a mosque, and even a futurism-inspired building meant to look like an airplane. 

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Iran

Iran

Similar to its neighbor Pakistan, the political atmosphere of Iran is not positive for Western visitors. Indeed, multiple governments actively advise against all non-essential travel to the country. This is a particular shame because the well-educated and welcoming people of Iran seem at odds with the firebrand governmental officials.

While this is one place that is definitely not safe to visit, Iran is home to some important cultural and historical sites. There are ruins from numerous ancient cities within its borders, as well as museums, palaces, and famous tombs. While there's plenty of desert in Iran, there are surprisingly also several places to go skiing! 

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Guinea

Guinea

International travel to Guinea was hindered during 2013-2016 due to a large Ebola outbreak. Infrastructure, such as city-connecting roads, are underdeveloped. Additionally, frequent civil unrest complicates visits by foreigners.

Since the WHO has declared the outbreak of Ebola over in Guinea, it's not quite as risky to take a visit anymore. There's a thriving traditional music scene in the country, as well as other forms of art. However, be prepared for a lack of tourist infrastructure in the country--and that includes a lack of basics, like hotels. 

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Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau has had frequent political unrest since its independence. With a weakened government, the few international travelers who do visit may find frequent criminality.

This is another place where it's probably smart to just avoid it entirely unless you already have connections to the country. There's not much for tourists to do here, and with the threat of violent crime still around, it's unlikely that this will become a tourist hotspot anytime soon. 

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Lesotho

Lesotho

Lesotho is a high-altitude, mountainous country. As such, the roads tend to be slow-going. While tourism hasn't been a focus in the past, the government is now prioritizing it, noted by a recent jump to 60 out of 136 according to the World Economic Forum's component ranking. Overall, however, it still has a ways to go.

If you plan on visiting Lesotho, be prepared for some beautiful scenery and some important historical sites. If you know where to look, you can actually see well-preserved footprints from dinosaurs. If dinosaurs aren't your thing, there's also plenty of hiking, skiing, and spelunking going on in the country as well. 

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Mali

Mali

The good news for Mali is that the government has recognized the potential the country has for tourism and has put more of a priority towards the travel and tourism industry. That's why the World Economic Forum ranks it as high as 109 on its component ranking. The bad news, for Mali, is that it comes in 109 out of 136. It also performs poorly when it comes to tourism infrastructure and governmental openness to international travel.

One of the most stunning sites in all of Mali is the Great Mosque. The building, constructed in 1906, is made completely out of mud, and locals replaster the walls every year. Unfortunately, this site is prohibited to Muslims only, which will make it difficult to visit. The craft scene is also big in Mali, with plenty of traditional items being sold. 

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Tropical Papua New Guinea is covered in mountainous terrain. Indeed, the capital of Port Moresby is not connected to any other major city by road and that makes traveling around the country that much more difficult and dings it on the infrastructure component of the ranking.

Additionally, there is not much infrastructure in place currently to support the tourism industry. There is one UNESCO World Heritage site to visit in New Guinea, but there's not much in terms of tourist specific places and events. However, rugby fans will be delighted to know that the sport is a major attraction there. 

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Republic of the Congo

Republic of the Congo

The Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are two different but neighboring countries. The country is sparsely populated, and thick jungle covers most of the country. Getting between the few populated areas can sometimes be problematic. Frequent political and civil unrest also creates instability for international tourism.

If there's one reason to brave the dangerous conditions of the Republic of Congo, it's this--gorillas. There are multiple national parks within the country that are home to the majestic western lowland gorilla. You'll probably want to keep a safe distance from them, but they're a once-in-a-lifetime sight! 

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Iraq

Iraq

Due to the political unrest in Iraq, international visitors are generally discouraged from visiting. Obtaining a visa is also difficult. It's a shame that a country abounding with rich cultural resources cannot yet adequately sustain a tourist infrastructure.

Things weren't always like this, and Iraq once had a booming tourism industry. Iraq is one of the modern-day countries where the ancient Mesopotamian civilization was located, and as such, the country is rich with historical significance. Certain areas of Iraq are also considered especially holy within Shia Islam. 

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South Sudan

South Sudan

South Sudan is one of the least-touristed countries in the world, and the country's ongoing civil war has created a large humanitarian crisis. It should come as no surprise, then, that the government has other foci rather than trying to promote and invest in international tourism.

Visiting South Sudan is still extremely dangerous, and not just because of the threat of violence there. The country also experiences a long rainy season from May to November. During this time, roads are frequently inaccessible, making travel outside of major cities (where roads are paved) very difficult and risky. 

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Kuwait

Kuwait

Kuwaiti people are warm and welcoming, but the country's government has actually moved in recent years to make the nation's laws more restrictive for expatriates. Otherwise, there is good infrastructure and uniquely beautiful architecture for visitors to see.

Even though you might not think of it as a major tourist destination, Kuwait has many of the amenities we would normally associate with major hubs for travel. This includes plenty of spas, museums, sports, boating, and even shopping malls. It can be a unique and fun place assuming that you can actually get into the country! 

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Sudan

Sudan

The tourism infrastructure is underdeveloped in Sudan. For travelers hoping to get a tourist visa, the bureaucratic process can be rather slow. Expect a little over a month to get something back, but that doesn't inspire a lot of travelers to apply. Once you get in, however, the country is fairly safe if you avoid areas of ethnic conflic (typically the southwestern part of the nation).

Because of the risk for violence in the country, you may want to reconsider a visit. Thankfully, there's one nearby place that is much more amenable to tourists--Egypt. Sudan shares a border with Egypt, and you're much more likely to have a safe time there with more to do as well. 

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East Timor (Timor-Leste)

East Timor (Timor-Leste)

One of the world's newest nations is also one of the least visited for pleasure. The majority of the foreigners there are on humanitarian missions. East Timor is investing money in infrastructure, and road construction is common. However, many would-be tourists are scared off by the uncertain outburst of security clashes that sometimes occur.

Despite the downsides, the country seems like it's trying to actively make itself more appealing to visitors. In 2010, the East Timor Ministry of Tourism instituted the Carnival de Timor--an annual celebration in April with lots of music and other cultural art forms. Additionally, most locals seem to be more amused by than suspicious of tourists. 

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Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

With its historic location along the famed Silk Road, Uzbekistan is just now starting to ramp up its potential offerings as an international tourist destination. The country has amazing architecture, but its underdeveloped infrastructure hinders large numbers of visitors from appreciating it. Traveling between major cities is best done by train.

If it's architecture you're after, Uzbekistan has plenty of it and then some. However, there are also several national parks and reserves for those who want to experience the natural beauty of the country as well. There are also plenty of traditional bazaars where you can find lots of authentic souvenirs for your trip. 

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