It’s no secret that Australians love to travel, taking 750,000 trips each month for an overseas destination. But for those of us that especially love travelling, it’s important to know that there are a handful of countries that are no-go zones, full stop. Whether it’s due to war, the threat of terrorism, civil unrest, or some other complication, the Australian Government’s Smart Traveler website has a list of countries marked as ‘do not travel”. At time of writing (October 2015) these are the main ones:
Afghanistan is a war-torn and impoverished country, listed as an LDC (least developed country) by the United Nations. Decades of civil war stretching from the 1970s to the present have seen the country reach huge levels of poverty and economic vulnerability, along with low levels of education and public health. While the country’s overall levels of education are improving, public health is still poor. A combination of government corruption and insurgency have ensured that the country still has high levels of crime, terrorist activity, and general danger.
Afghanistan is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the extremely dangerous security situation, and the very high threat of terrorist attack. Venues frequented by foreigners are terrorist targets, along with the major airport in Afghanistan, Kabul International Airport. Militants and terrorists (reportedly) continually plan to kidnap foreigners throughout the country, with many foreign nationals having been abducted and killed recently.
Bordered by the better-known but equally dangerous countries of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi is a densely populated country located in Central Africa. Since the 1970s, the country has seen several instances of ethnic cleansings, two civil wars, two genocides, and 2015 has seen large-scale political strife triggered by the country’s President attempting to run for a third term in office.
Burundi is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the volatile security situation, high levels of crime, civil unrest, and the threat of terrorist attack. The aforementioned political strife has created a huge amount of violence, including an attempted military coup and violent confrontations between police and citizens. Banditry and kidnapping are common in the areas bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, and unlike some of the countries on this list, Australia has no embassy or consulate in Burundi.
3. Central African Republic
As the name implies, the CAR is placed smack bang in the middle of Africa, bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the east, the Congo to the south, and Cameroon to the west. Originally established as a colony by France in the late 19th century, it became an independent country in 1960, and saw only small amounts of unrest and violence through to the early 2000s, which saw a failed military coup occur. In 2004 the Central African Republic Bush War was started, and despite peace treaties being drawn up in 2007 and 2011, conflicts between the Government and various religious factions saw large-scale ethnic and religious cleansing.
The Central African Republic is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the dangerous security situation, activities of armed groups, and high levels of serious crime. The overthrow of the government in 2013 has seen widespread violence and looting, along with sectarian violence, resulting in thousands of deaths according to the Smart Traveler website. The site also advises that parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for later in 2015 are likely to exacerbate the already high tensions and violence.
Described as “one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world”, the Central African country of Chad is another former French colony, which also gained its independence in 1960. However soon after, the autocratic rule of the government at the time indirectly sparked a civil war, which extended through to 1975, when the then-president was overthrown and killed. However this did not end the violence and unrest, and even though another president was appointed in 1982, this did little to bring peace to the country. Another civil war broke out in 2005, and didn’t end until 2010, and since then the country has remained a dangerous place, with coups being attempted and foiled on a regular basis.
Chad is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, and high levels of serious crime and lawlessness. Earlier in 2015, suicide bomb attacks killed 30 people and injured over 100 more. There is a general threat of terrorist attack in the country, especially against westerners and western interests. Political protests are frequent, and often turn violent. Australia doesn’t have an embassy or consulate in Chad, meaning that no help can be given to Australians who encounter trouble in Chad.
Iraq is a Middle-Eastern country which shares borders with Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932, and since then has been riddled by civil conflict and violence caused by military occupation and intervention on the part of several western countries.
Iraq is listed as a no-travel zone due to the extremely volatile and dangerous security situation. Military forces from countries such as the US and Australia are still active in the country, and carry out targeted operations such as air-strikes on a regular basis. Foreign nationals are particularly at risk, and according to the Smart Traveler website, journalists and humanitarian workers are particularly at risk. Australia has an embassy in the country; however the current situation has highly limited the extent to which the embassy can provide assistance.
A North African country that was host of one of the most devastating civil wars in recent memory, Libya shares borders with Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria, and Tunisia. After gaining its independence from Italy in 1947, the country experienced increased prosperity due to the discovery of oil reserves; however the concentration of the wealth in the hands of the ruler at the time led to dissent among certain factions. One of these factions, led by Muammar Gaddafi, successfully overthrew the government, and established a new regime. In 1977 Libya had international conflicts with both Chad and Egypt. More recently, Libya saw a civil war erupt in 2011, which lasted eight months and resulted in the deaths of at least 30,000 Libyans. Libya is currently a country split between two different bodies claiming to be the country’s true government, along with various militias which govern areas of the country out of reach of either government
Libya is listed as a no-travel zone due to the ongoing fighting and deteriorating security situation throughout the country. Acts of terrorism are frequent in Libya, targeting both governmental and foreign interests. “Well-armed militias” are prolific in the country, and the governmental bodies do little to nothing to stop these groups, which often cause serious incidents. Nearly all diplomatic missions have been withdrawn from Libya due to security concerns, including Australia’s. This means that Australian citizens cannot be given any help if they encounter trouble in Libya.
A landlocked country in West Africa, Mali is the third-largest producer of gold in the African continent. It was a French colony until 1960, at which point it became the independent Republic of Mali. 1968 through to 1991 saw a period of extended political strife, including multiple coups, protests, riots, and extensive murdering of citizens by soldiers. In 1991 the country’s first democratic, multi-party presidential election was held, and during the period stretching from 1991 to 2002 Mali was regarded as one of the most politically and socially stable countries in Africa. However 2012 saw another coup, which led to clashes between Islamist and Tuareg groups, leading the French Armed Forces to intervene in order to settle the situation.
Mali is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the extremely unpredictable security situation, and the high threat of kidnapping, terrorism, and banditry. 2015 has seen a “sharp increase” in terrorist attacks in Mali, especially in southern and central parts of the country. Demonstrations, political rallies, and protests are common, and can easily turn violent. There is a constant and ongoing threat of foreigners being kidnapped, and the risk of armed banditry is high. Mali has no Australian embassy or consulate; however the Canadian Embassy in Bamako can provide consular assistance to Australians in Mali.
The largest country in West Africa, the Republic of Niger was named after the Niger River, and is almost entirely covered by the Sahara Desert. Currently ranked last in the UN’s Human Development Index, Niger is a developing country ridden by low education, poverty, lack of infrastructure, and poor health care. It gained independence from France in 1960, and since then a number of coups have seen Niger go through five constitutions and three separate periods of military rule.
Niger is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, crime, and the unpredictable political and security environment. Since early 2015, the militant group Boko Haram has terrorized the country, especially in the Diffa region. There is a high threat to westerners in regards to being kidnapped, as well as a high threat of terrorist attack on places frequented by foreigners. There is no Australian embassy or consulate in Niger, however Australians can attain consular assistance from the Australian High Commission in Nigeria.
Located in the intriguingly named “Horn of Africa”, Somalia is an African country bordered by Ethiopia, Djibouti, the Gulf of Aden, and Kenya. Somalia was actually relatively peaceful up until 1991, when the government of the time collapsed, which subsequently led to the Somali Civil War. This led to a power struggle between several armed factions, and Somalia hasn’t seen any sort of peace since then. Political and social instability have been a constant since the Civil War, with power shifting several times of the course of the last few decades. Somalia topped the Failed States Index between 2008 and 2013, however in 2014 Somalia dropped to second places, and since then analysts have begun to refer to Somalia as a “fragile” state, rather than a failed one.
Somalia is listed as a no-travel zone due to: armed conflict, the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping, and dangerous levels of violent crime. Westerners and those working with western/foreign individuals or organisations are often targeted by terrorists, and killed in attacks. Foreigners (including aid workers, journalists, and religious representatives) are popular targets for kidnapping, and there is no effective police force in Somalia to help Australians if they run into trouble. There is also no Australian embassy or consulate in Somalia; the nearest Australian institution is in neighboring Kenya, but the extent to which this High Commission can help Australians in Somalia is extremely limited.
10. South Sudan
Originally part of Sudan but now its own independent country, the Republic of South Sudan is a country in Northeast Africa which gained independence in 2011. It is bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Congo, and the Central African Republic. The country has been damaged by internal conflicts since it gained independence, and it is the highest-scoring country on the Fragile States Index. The country is warring with “at least seven armed groups” in 9 of its 10 states, and inter-ethnic warfare is widespread. A civil war broke out at the end of 2013, which has been estimated to have claimed the lives of 100,000 people; in August 2015 a peace agreement was signed.
South Sudan is listed as a no-travel zone due to: instability and ongoing conflict. The country remains volatile, and the situation is at risk of worsening at any point. Australia has no diplomatic presence in South Sudan, and the border areas between South Sudan and Sudan often see a direct military confrontation between the two forces.
The third-largest country in Africa, Sudan is a North-African country bordered by Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya. Sudan has long suffered from tensions between various ethnic groups, and has seen two civil wars. Sudan also has a poor human rights record.
Sudan is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the possibility of armed conflict, the threat of terrorist attack, the incidence of violent crime, and the threat of kidnapping. Foreigners are prime targets for kidnapping, including non-government workers. Violent military activity is common in the country, including clashes with rebel groups, protestors, and the Sudanese Armed Forces. Demonstrations, protests, and large crowds often turn violent rapidly, with little warning.
Officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, Syria is a Middle-Eastern country bordered by Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. The modern Syrian state was established post-WWI as a French colony; however it gained independence in 1945 when it became a founding member of the United Nations. The period post-independence was incredibly unstable, with a large number of military and non-military coups attempted between 1949 and 1971. The ongoing Syrian Civil War began in 2011, and the United Nations estimates that up to 100,000 people have been killed.
Syria is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the extremely dangerous security situation, ongoing military conflict including aerial bombardment, kidnappings, and terrorist attacks. There is no Australian embassy or consulate in Syria, and Australian consular assistance can no longer be provided within Syria. It is illegal for Australians to enter or remain in the Syrian province of al Raqqa. Since 2014, there has been an increase in the number of NGO workers and journalists being kidnapped, and those kidnapped are often killed.
The second-largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is an Arab country located in Southwest Asia. Yemen is a developing country, and is ranked 164 out of 182 on the International Corruption Perception Index.
The Smart Traveller site advises Yemen as a “do not travel” country due to the widening civil and international conflict and extreme political instability. There is a very high threat of kidnapping and terrorist attack.
Don’t let the list above put you off travel though – there are a vast number of fantastic and (comparatively) safe destinations for you to visit. Just ensure that you check the current Smart traveller advisories before you go.