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40 Least-Welcoming Countries in the World

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 is THE least welcoming of all countries!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar is a tricky case for international tourists. The country is slowly becoming unentangled from its military dictatorship; however, they still weld 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.

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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 accomodations 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. That makes traveling around the country that much more difficult and dings it on the infrastructure component of the ranking.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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