There are so many exotic destinations around the world calling to the adventurous travellers among us. The promise of new experiences on foreign shores is enough to have us packing our bags, writing our itineraries and preparing our visas.
But in some countries, even the most seasoned travellers can hit a roadblock when it comes to visa requirements.
Below are 6 of the most frustrating, confusing and simply difficult countries for Aussies to enter.
Aussie travellers adore Thailand for its stunning beaches, colourful local culture and affordable prices. Exploring the lively markets of Bangkok and the scenic hills of Chiang Mai, it’s easy to understand why tourists start planning their return as soon as they leave.
Thailand may be renowned for its natural beauty, but it’s also a place where unwary international tourists land themselves in serious trouble with the law. Even defacing a banknote bearing the King’s image can mean 15 years imprisonment.
The further threat of scams, drink spiking, counterfeit currency and political violence make Thailand a place where travellers must stay on their guard.
Entry into the country is fairly simple, however things get complicated if you plan to enter and exit Thailand more than once during your south-east Asian adventure. You’ll need to display your itinerary information, bank statements and even letters of employment before granted multiple entry.
Thankfully, Australian travellers can enter Thailand at no charge. However, we always urge travellers to stay up to date with visa requirements on smartraveller.gov.au as laws and regulations are subject to change.
Russia offers a lot to adventurous travellers looking for natural beauty and delicate architecture alike. The relics of the Soviet Union are fascinating, and outside the cities, the tranquil landscapes are eerily quiet (and cold).
However, entering Russia became a headache from the 10th of December, 2014. President Vladimir Putin introduced new visa regulations, which require international visitors to have their fingerprints scanned at a Russian embassy before arrival.
This security measure, called biometric processing, is being conducted at Russian embassies in the UK, Denmark, Myanmar and Namibia, and available only at some local airports. Australian travellers who refuse to provide biometric information can have their visa application refused.
Those who do enter the country aren’t out of the woods, with the ever-present danger posed by Russia’s roads. There are 35,000 road deaths in Russia each year, and local authorities do little to enforce confusing road rules.
Daily life in China can seem a world away from what we’re used to in Australia. Even the list of banned websites (Google, Facebook and Youtube, to name a few) paints a compelling picture.
But the impressive Forbidden City, the futuristic skyline of Shanghai, and of course, the Great Wall make China an intriguing destination that is hard to resist.
Unfortunately for Australian travellers, China can also be hard to enter.
The list of visa types is extensive, and the supporting documents to gain entry can be demanding. There are also forms, payments and fees that can complicate the process. Furthermore, different visa requirements are in place for Hong Kong and Macau, so we urge travellers to stay up to date with changes on smartraveller.gov.au.
4. North Korea
Surprisingly, it’s entirely achievable for international tourists to visit North Korea (unless you’re from South Korea).
However, travel to North Korea is endlessly difficult without the services of a registered travel agency. Visas are taken care of as part of a tour package, and are issued to travellers before departure from Beijing, China.
North Korea has a rightful place on this list not only because of extensive and strict visa requirements, but also because of the stringent demands of tourists once they arrive. All visits will be conducted by North Korean guides, who are notoriously lacking humour.
So why visit North Korea? Touring the country’s capital, Pyongyang, is in fact a popular adventure for the curious and daring. The country, bordering Russia to the north, also boasts impressive landscapes (and even surfing).
Remember to check the smart traveller website before you decide to travel here. There’s no cover under the TravelCare policy if you’re travelling to any country that has a travel advisory risk rating of ‘Do not travel’ or ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ issued by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Iran’s colourful and far-reaching past puts it high on the bucket list of history buffs. However, Iran also boasts a thriving modern culture, which revolves around the country’s capital, Tehran. Massive shopping districts, sweeping palaces, and the largest collection of precious jewels in the world, make Tehran a must-see modern city.
However, tourists must grapple with a frustrating visa process before they’re granted entry to Iran.
All international visitors to the country need to be issued a visa, which can be easier said than done. Visa applicants have to be approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, who are notoriously slow and unpredictable in processing requests. During the Nowruz New Year celebrations in March, the processing of visa applicants stops altogether.
There are 15-day tourist visas that can be obtained on arrival to Iran, however it’s recommended that Western travellers begin arranging their visas well in advance of their visit, as being turned away at the airport is common.
There are very few bucket lists that don’t include a visit to India’s Taj Mahal. However, travellers who do venture into one of Asia’s finest treasures are often lost among the countless other attractions the country has to offer.
Simply put, no visit to India is ever long enough.
The sweeping Himalayan Mountains, the mysterious monasteries, thriving cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, and the touching religious celebrations along the Ganges make India a culture overload that entrances all visitors.
Yet like the other destinations on this list, entering India isn’t always a walk in the park.
Aussie travellers are granted a 30-day single-entry visa on arrival at certain airports, including Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai. To be eligible, however, travellers must apply for an Electronic Travel Authority online and pay a fee of US$60, upload a photograph and copy of their passport.
While it’s a welcome scheme for Australian travellers, it doesn’t always run like clockwork. The application website has been prone to outages, like one week-long period in January 2016, where no applications were processed. Also, the application forms don’t work consistently across all internet browsers, so if you encounter problems try to change to another.