Are you a travel enthusiast who is passionate about exploring new cultures and countries every now and then? You should be keen to know what to expect when you land in a foreign country and what it takes to earn a visa. There are 195 countries in the world. Visa regulation and immigration policies differ from country to country. While some countries have comparatively lenient policies and laws, some others make it harder to obtain a visa.
The reasons can vary from political unrest to geographical positioning. Countries with an authoritarian regime can be out of bounds for international tourists. Governments across the world have strict laws for border control. They invest heavily in securing their borders and always keep a watch on who is visiting the country with what intention. Not everyone can freely enter a foreign country as border movements are strictly monitored.
When you land in a foreign airport and again when you return, you will have to go through customs and immigration checkpoints. Read on to find out about countries with the toughest entry policies before zeroing in on your next travel destination.
An exotic land boasting of rich heritage, Iran is a country with tough visa policies. Before you start applying for an Iranian visa, you need to get an authorization code from the country’s ministry of foreign affairs. For this, you will need to approach an Iranian travel agency approved by Tehran. Keep in mind, the code is valid only for a month.
Even if you hold one of the strongest passports in the world, you will need to go to an Iranian Embassy in person to submit the application form along with biometric data after receiving the authorization code. With some countries shutting down Iranian consulates, it is quite a challenge.
The hurdles are not over, you are also required to hire a ministry-approved guide for the trip and provide their details while applying for your visa. However, Iran is working towards simplifying the process at least for travelers from nations like Malaysia, Georgia, Turkey, and Venezuela. Passengers from these countries are now eligible for free visas on arrival.
Russia does not offer visa-free travel to anybody, even if you are a holder of the world’s most powerful passport. You need a visa to cross the country’s borders for which you have to apply in person in a Russian embassy.
The process itself is incredibly complicated and time-consuming. And before you start it, you must receive a formal invitation from a travel agency registered with the Russian ministry of foreign affairs. Once you get it, be ready with all the documents including your travel history of the past few years. The application form is very detailed and is extremely careful while filing in the information. The slightest error may cause rejection.
All visa applications have to be done in person since Russia has a biometric system. You have to be present and get your fingerprints scanned and photographs were taken. Because of obvious reasons, you cannot avail of the services of an agency in this regard. The nation is known to have one of the strictest customs and immigration rules. Be extremely diligent while declaring your possessions and valuables. This will save you from unnecessary paperwork and scrutiny.
Despite its robust international diplomatic relationships and glorious travel experiences, Saudi Arabia has exceptionally strict visa and immigration laws. With the recently introduced e-visa process, the application is comparably less cumbersome.
However, the country has one of the hardest customs rules.
Alcoholic beverages, pornographic content, and certain animal products are strictly forbidden. Expect to go through a stringent baggage check and if you are found to be carrying the forbidden items, you may need to pay heavy fines or in some cases will be denied entry. Traveling couples are expected to be married. Also, if you are a woman entering solo, you need to have a sponsor and must be properly dressed.
Everyone except those holding diplomatic passports of certain countries must have a visa to enter North Korea. The process is incredibly long and will take months to complete. So, plan well in advance. Being one of the most authoritarian countries in the world, it is a no-brainer that North Korea’s border control is exceptionally strict, especially with regard to electronic gadgets.
Customs officers will inspect the content and photographs in your cell phone, laptop and camera. They may ask you to delete some of them, especially when you are leaving the country. Materials thought to be anti-North Korea is a strict no-no.
Securing an Australian tourist visa is comparatively easy and fast. The country allows citizens from countries like the US, an ETA (visa waiver). They also have a robust online visa processing system.
Since it is an island, Australia has extremely strict biosecurity laws. The country has inflexible requirements with respect to the import and export of food, plant material, and animal produce. Customs may not allow unclean shoes and other personal items and may ask you to clean it. This is to prevent the introduction of unknown and harmful pathogens into the island nation’s ecosystem which is known for its rich flora and fauna.
The central Asian nation is one of the most sparsely populated and closed countries in the world. Like Iran and Russia, you will need to get a letter of invitation from Turkmenistan foreign affairs ministry before you apply for a tourist visa. You also have to hire a tour operator with official permission from its foreign affairs ministry and opt for a pre-paid tour package that covers all your expenses including your hotel bookings.
Armed security personnel welcomes you in Israeli airports. They are well aware of who is visiting their country before the passengers even board a flight. At the moment, Israel offers a visa-free system upon arrival for American and Canadian citizens that allows a 3-month stay.
However, you have to go through rigorous immigration and customs inspection by highly trained officials who use scientific methods and sophisticated surveillance systems like X-rays to ensure that they do not miss anything. This can be a nerve-racking experience for many.
You don’t need to plan much to visit the Himalayan nation as your trip will be an all-inclusive packaged tour pre-booked by a travel agency approved by the government. While you can apply for the visa online, getting your application accepted may not be as easy.
Bhutan promotes sustainable tourism and strict customs laws are in place to check what you take in and out while crossing its borders. Failure to comply with them can end up in deportation.
Be prepared. Do your research well in advance. Never start your visa process just weeks before the travel date. Make a checklist of what you can carry and what you cannot, to the destination country. Failure to follow the rules may put an end to your plans.
Know the customs and Immigration laws. These laws vary from country to country. And it is important to avoid banned or restricted items in your baggage. Be honest with your customs declaration. If the customs officials happen to seize illegal items from your possession, you may be put to further intense scrutiny and inspection. Read more on Customs and Immigration here.
Always keep your visa and supporting documents in order. Print them out. At times, they can come in handy. Ensure that you are carrying a valid passport. Exploring a new country, its people, and its culture is always a soul-stirring experience. Now, you have the list of countries with the toughest entry process and tips to navigate them. It’s time to set sail.