KolumneDie fünf unzugänglichsten Länder

Weltenbummler Gunnar Garfors
Weltenbummler Gunnar Garfors
© Gunnar Garfors

Der Norweger ist Profi-Reisender, mit einem besonderen Auge für die wirtschaftlichen Facetten seiner Touren. Auf capital.de öffnet er künftig als Gastkolumnist sein Reisetagebuch in Originalsprache. Im zweiten Teil geht es um die Plätze zehn bis sechs der am schwersten zugänglichen Länder. Platz 15 bis elf gibt es hier: https://www.capital.de/meinungen-newsbeitrag/Die-unzugaenglichsten-Laender-der-Welt.html Und die nächsten fünf hier: https://www.capital.de/meinungen-newsbeitrag/noch-mehr-unzugaengliche-laender.html

The world’s least visited countries are not necessarily the most difficult to get to. I am using three criteria to determine which 15 countries in the world are the most inaccessible, as well as my own overall experience of getting there. Why you would like to know? There is a reason why you are reading my column at capital.de or  garfors.com. And it isn’t to find the cleanest pool at all-inclusive resort joints in the Bahamas or Gran Canaria. 

Which will be added to your bucket list? The hardest 15 or the world’s 25 least visited (http://www.garfors.com/2013/01/the-25-least-visited-countries-in-world.html)? 7 countries are on both lists. I have been to all 198 countries of the world, and I know which list I would have chosen first if I were to start from scratch.

5. Afghanistan

Typisch afghanisches Gütertransportmittel
Typisch afghanisches Gütertransportmittel
© Gunnar Garfors

Why so inaccessible?

I don’t really think I have to answer this question.

Why you should still bother to go

The scenery in large parts of the country is breathtaking. Afghanistan was also one of the most modern countries in the world in the early 70s. The contrast to what it is like now is huge. Women who have lived to see both times must be really depressed. (http://www.garfors.com/2013/04/there-are-no-tourists-in-afghanistan.html)

How I got in

My press card was needed. Again. The Afghani embassy in Oslo only issues visas to the press and military personell. Neighbouring countries may be more lenient when it comes to tourist visas.

Any loopholes?

You can always join the army.

4. Saudi Arabia

Nein, das ist kein Flaschenöffner, schreibt Garfors
Nein, das ist kein Flaschenöffner, schreibt Garfors
© Gunnar Garfors

Why so inaccessible?

The country has so much oil that there is no reason for them to bother about additional revenues. Getting a tourism visa has long been a challenge, although it should technically be possible if you order an all-inclusive trip through a local travel agency. Of course, women cannot go unless they are accompanied by a husband, son or another male family member. 

Why you should still bother to go

There is more than sand to see in Saudi Arabia. Sort of. Sand can be fun though. Try a desert barbeque, a desert safari or a desert rally.

Of course, if you are a Muslim you have to go to Mecca. If you are a non-Muslim you cannot go to Mecca.

How I got in

I managed to get a transit visa which allowed me to stay 72 hours in the country. I had  a ticket to Riyadh from Khartoum and onwards to London.

Any loopholes?

The transit visa trick mentioned above is as close as you will get to a loophole. It may or may not work. 

3. Equatorial Guinea

Ein sicheres Foto, die Polizei war nicht in der Nähe
Ein sicheres Foto, die Polizei war nicht in der Nähe
© Gunnar Garfors

Why so inaccessible?

The country is ruled by Dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, although he prefers President as his title. The distribution of the massive oil wealth is extremelly unequal,  it has one of the world’s worst human rights track records and is allegedly very involved in human trafficking. Why would they let in tourists, or witnesses?

Why you should still bother to go

You will rarely experience a stricter control of people and places. That is the reason to go there? Well, the negative experiences there will make almost all future destinations seem like fun fairs in comparison. There is also a fair amount of wildlife there and some beautiful beaches. If you can stomach enjoying it there.

How I got in

I tried all my tricks at the consulate in Douala, Cameroon, but without any luck. In Libreville, Gabon I somehow managed to secure an interview with the ambassador. I proved to him that I had a fair amount of knowledge about the country and convinced him that I only wanted to go there as a tourist. In this country a press card will do you no favours. Rather the contrary.

Any loopholes?

Obtain a US passport. American citizens are unique in Equatorial Guinea. They are the only ones that do not need a visa to visit. Did anyone ask why? 

2. Eritrea

So werden Visa in Eritrea abgelehnt
So werden Visa in Eritrea abgelehnt
© Gunnar Garfors

Why so inaccessible?

The country is a one party state. It is the only country that ranks below North Korea(!) on the press freedom index. Even if you fill out the application form very carefully, it may still returned with your passport. Also, expect the process to take 6-8 weeks. The biggest obstacle is that you never know whether you will be accepted or not. The uncertainty stops people from even applying.

Why you should still bother to go

Asmara is heaven for architects, photographers and beer drinkers. (http://www.capitaleritrea.com/a-tourist-destination-unheard-of/)

How I got in

I applied and reapplied. The second time around I added a separate letter describing how much I had heard about the country and why I wanted to visit. I was eventually granted access.

Any loopholes?

It’s one of the worst police states in the world with a heavily guarded border. Don’t even think about sneaking in.

1. Angola

Die Architektur erinnert an die Sowjetunion
Die Architektur erinnert an die Sowjetunion
© Gunnar Garfors

Why so inaccessible?

Angola has a lot of oil money these days. Europe does not. Things have certainly turned around, something the former Portugese colony has clearly noticed. The visa regime is quite harsh to prevent unemployed Europeans to go to jobhunting there.

Why you should still bother to go

There is a lot to see in the huge country, although do expect enormous differences when it comes to the distribution of wealth. Luanda, the traffic plagued capital, cannot in any way be compared to the country side. The border police will also relieve you of any local money you may have on you when you leave the country. It’s a lumbago friendly practice and rather considerate. 

How I got in

I tried getting a visa through Angola’s embassies in both Stockholm and Johannesburg. The embassy in Sweden called me after I had sent them exactly what they asked for on their website.

– We need more supporting documents.

– I just sent you everything you asked for on your website.

– The website has not been updated since 2003.

– Well, that isn’t my fault, is it?

They even refused to send my passport back, then finally reluctantly did so after five phone calls. We do not go to the same dinner parties.

In the end I booked a flight with a 13 hour stopover in Luanda and managed to talk myself into the country. I referred to the following on the country’s visa application form:

„The transit visa can be exceptionally granted at the border post to a foreign citizen who, in a continuous journey is forced to interrupt it to make a compulsory stop-over by the means of transport utilized.“

They very exceptionally let me enter their country. I would not bet on they doing so again.

Any loopholes?

I think I managed to take advantage of the loophole, although I suspect it won’t be open much longer. The border to Angola’s enclave Cabinda is possibly easier to cross, but it might be a long shot.

 

Why is North Korea not on the list?

North Korea is actually an easy and safe place to visit, given that you are not South Korean. The process of obtaining a visa takes a week or two. Once inside the country, you are required to have two guides with you at all times though. )

P.S. I refuse to be held responsible should you follow any of the above advice and still find yourself not admitted to any of the countries mentioned, the disappointment experienced should you be let in without any problems and related stories to tell or the inconvenience caused for your relatives should you be killed trying. Country situations do change frequently and usually without any notice. 

Alle Fotos: © Gunnar Garfors