Sam Fitzgibbons

10 Countries That Are Problematic for Americans to Visit (You Should Probably Avoid)

Exploring our wide and wonderful world can be a thrilling adventure. There’s so much to do, so much to see, and lots to experience and discover. But some destinations present genuine challenges and risks for American travelers.

The following 10 countries are problematic for Americans to visit, and for different reasons. They may be unsafe, experiencing ongoing unrest, or there might be strained diplomatic relations. Factors such as civil conflicts, political instability and high crime rates make these countries difficult or unsafe for Americans.

Yemen

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Chandler Bing might have visited, but the reality today is no laughing matter. In February 2015, the US embassy in Sana’a suspended its operations, and the US government is at time of writing unable to provide emergency services to US citizens in Yemen.

Because of ongoing civil unrest and terrorism, Yemen is facing serious security challenges. Terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are active, and they often carry out attacks on public places, transportation hubs, markets and shopping malls, as well as government facilities.

Kidnappings by terrorists or criminal gangs are also a frightening possibility, with foreigners and employees of international organizations especially vulnerable. The civil war has resulted in widespread destruction, limited access to basic services like healthcare and clean water, and increased the risk of infectious diseases like cholera.

South Sudan

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We are not talking about the southern parts of Sudan here; South Sudan is a totally different country (although it’s not safe to travel to Sudan either).  South Sudan faces extraordinary levels of violence and lawlessness, including carjackings, shootings, robberies, and kidnappings, especially in places like Juba. The ongoing armed conflict between political and ethnic groups has resulted in widespread availability of weapons.

US government employees have to follow strict safety measures, including traveling in armored vehicles, restricted movements, and curfews. Family members are not permitted to travel.

South Sudan has 14 national parks and the world’s second largest animal migration, an epic migration of antelope, making it a compelling tourist destination… if it wasn’t for the rape, murders and armed robberies of foreigners.

Burma (Myanmar)

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In February 2021, the Burmese military detained elected government officials in a coup, and continues to crack down on protests. The result is arbitrary arrests and shady law enforcement, with the use of indiscriminate deadly force against protestors and bystanders.

The ongoing street violence and civil unrest makes Burma unsafe to travel. The US Department of State confirmed there is a risk of wrongful detentions of US nationals by the military regime.

The conflict has also seen the use of improvised explosive devices and land mines, and there is a limited healthcare system and a lack of medical resources.

Haiti

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Kidnapping is a big problem in Haiti, especially for Americans. Kidnappers use clever ploys, or grab chances when they pop up, like attacking convoys. Ransoms are often demanded, and victims have been hurt and killed during these incidents. Victims’ families have paid thousands of dollars to get their loved ones back.

Haiti also has serious violent crime, like armed robberies, carjackings, and kidnappings, especially involving Americans. Travelers are sometimes followed on leaving Port-au-Prince international airport and violently attacked and robbed. Carjackers attack cars stuck in heavy traffic and often target lone drivers, particularly women. Because of this, the US Embassy requires its personnel to use official transport to and from the airport.

Protests in Haiti are common and can get dangerous fast, and local police struggle to handle serious crimes. Shortages of fuel, power, and medical supplies make things even more challenging.

Belarus

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Belarus isn’t safe to visit because of its involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The area is tense, and Americans might face trouble or harassment. As of February 28, 2022, the US Embassy in Minsk suspended its operations, and US government workers had to leave Belarus. This means all embassy services, including urgent help, are on hold. Americans in Belarus have been advised to leave the country.

Public protests can get ugly, and borders with neighboring countries can close suddenly. Belarusian authorities have detained lots of people, including Americans, for political reasons. In May 2021, they even forced a Ryanair passenger plane flying from Athens to Lithuania to land in Minsk, where they arrested dissenting journalist Roman Protasevich.

North Korea

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North Korea is one of the most secretive and authoritarian countries on the planet. The government is led by Kim Jong Un, a dictator who many North Koreans believe is literally a god (his father, Kim Jong Il, was the previous leader, and also a god, and one of the stars of the 2004 satirical puppet film Team America: World Police).

Citizens are under strict government control and have limited freedoms. Any criticism of the government is punished by imprisonment or worse. North Korea’s nuclear program causes tensions with other countries, and has led to it being one of the most sanctioned countries in the world.

US passports aren’t valid for travel to North Korea unless specially approved by the secretary of state, which happens very rarely.

Venezuela

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Venezuela has breathtaking sights, including Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall. But, it also has high crime rates, civil unrest, kidnapping risks, and inconsistent law enforcement.

The United Nations documents human rights abuses attributed to the government, including torture, killings, forced disappearances, and detentions without due process or fair trial.

Violent crime is common, political demonstrations often turn violent, and there are chronic shortages of gasoline, food, electricity, water and medicine throughout much of Venezuela.

Syria

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Syria has been in an ongoing conflict since 2011, and no area is safe from violence. The risks include kidnappings, chemical attacks, shelling, and bombings, and Syria’s infrastructure and medical facilities have suffered extensive damage. The government’s aggressive response to protests and the presence of terrorist groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda make the risks even greater for US citizens.

Kidnappings and detentions, whether by armed groups or the Syrian government, are ongoing threats. There have been documented cases of mistreatment and torture in detention centers.

Ukraine

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Before the 2014 annexation and occupation of Crimea by Russia, Ukraine was the eighth most popular European destination for travelers. The country was known for its beautiful landscapes, ranging from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to the Black Sea coastline to the south, and its fertile farmlands (it’s known as the “breadbasket of Europe”). The country had a rich cultural heritage, with vibrant, historic cities like Kyiv, Lviv, and Odesa.

After 2014, its tourism numbers halved. And then, in February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale ground invasion, and Ukraine has not been safe since. Citizens have to be cautious of military attacks, crime, and civil unrest. The situation is unpredictable and ongoing. Alarmingly, there are continued reports of Russian forces targeting US citizens in occupied areas of Ukraine for harassment or even detention and interrogation because of their nationality.

Russia

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Travel to Russia is strongly discouraged due to the complicated and volatile political situation following the Russian invasion of Ukraine (there are limited flights both into and out of the country anyway). Laws are enforced arbitrarily, and Americans face harassment and detention by police and government officials. The US Embassy in Moscow has limited capacity to help due to imposed restrictions.

The security situation in Russia has become increasingly concerning, according to the US Bureau of Consular Affairs, especially in areas near the Russian-Ukrainian border, as well as in major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. Reports of drone attacks, explosions, and fires have been noted in western and southern Russia. Caution is required by both residents and travelers.

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