Now at first sight that's a subjective question. But I'll explain now that it's not. So please don't answer subjectively either!

Pamir Highway between Dushanbe and Khorog, Tajikistan

Pamir Highway between Dushanbe and Khorog, Tajikistan

When papers or publications release pieces about "the richest country" it's usually based on something - maybe GDP, or debt, for example.

Hitch Wiki gives each country a 'hitchability' rating, for example. But that's only one form of travel, and there's not much granularity in the rating system.

generic hitching picture

generic hitching picture

Is there a publication or source that through some moderately scientific calculation, publishes a list of the hardest (or easiest) countries to travel through?

Yungas Road or "Death Road" in Bolivia

Yungas Road or "Death Road" in Bolivia

I'm not sure myself how you would measure this - but similarly, I'm not sure how you'd compare crime stats between countries. Yet news outlets, universities etc have found a way, with many studies. I'm expecting someone's come up with a 'scientific' way to do it, and I'm looking for that.

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    The hardest country to travel is probably the collapsed state of Somalia.
    – Jacco
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 8:55
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    I think you should add more tags according to what factors you think count for your definition of "difficult". Health? Safety? Security? For me it's difficult to travel in expensive countries for instance d-: Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:13
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    I agree with hippietrail. Difficult with respect to what? Moreover, if you travel independently you will probably have to face more logistical difficulties than if you travel with a guide. Moreover, some countries are "difficult" if not impossible to travel on your own. However, if you are with a guide it is rather straightforward. Think e.g. about North Korea ...
    – user766
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 12:18
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    IMHO there is no "scientific" way to do this. People or more likely magazines, websites, TV shows, etc may well compile lists just like what you're asking for. I remember a book ten or twenty years ago on the worst places to travel. I can't remember it's name and have no idea if it's been updated. But scientific??? Not by a long shot! (Still IMHO perfectly good answers to this question otherwise though) Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 21:27
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    @gerrit - actually #3 is the Yungas road in Bolivia. I'll update.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 16:39

5 Answers 5


I'd stump up Saudi Arabia as number one for a simple reason: it's the only country I know of which does not offer tourist visas, full stop. (They used to, with tight controls and for groups only, but apparently do not any more.) And unlike eg. Russia, you can't just ring up a hotel and get them to "invite" you into the country. Even getting a legitimate business visa can be a pain: I was invited by a well-connected, major company and I'm informed that it still took cough facilitation payments cough on the order of 500 euros to get the necessary Chamber of Commerce approval in a reasonable amount of time.

Once you're in Saudi Arabia, though, getting around is pretty painless, although some sites require special permits and the entire area around Mecca is off-limits unless you're a Muslim. On the other hand, physically crossing the Empty Quarter off-road would be a pretty epic challenge!

Update: In regard to mouviciel's comment, Hajj/Umrah visas aren't a realistic option for traveling to Saudi Arabia for three reasons.

  1. They're only issued to Muslims, and converting to Islam is not that easy, especially if you prefer your dangly bits uncircumcised. (Women must, of course, be accompanied by a Muslim male guardian.)
  2. Even if you are Muslim, you have to apply for a visa in the Hajj lottery, and the odds are pretty steep. Egypt has 80 million people, and gets a quota of ~80,000 visas a year: that's 0.1%. Umrah visas, however, are handed out a little more generously.
  3. Last but not least, a Hajj/Umrah visa allows you to visit only Jeddah, Mecca and Medina, and that for a limited period of time; you're not allowed to leave and explore the rest of the country!
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    You find hard to get to Saudi Arabia but what about the millions people pilgrimming each year from all over the world? Saudi Arabia is as easy as converting to Islam.
    – mouviciel
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 10:24
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    Damn info that good deserves to be in the answer to a question of its own about SA! Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 20:14
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    As it says on the same page, the issuance of tourist visas was "suspended" in 2010. Commented Sep 3, 2012 at 1:33
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    how do they check if someone is a muslim?
    – Midhat
    Commented Oct 28, 2012 at 23:32
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    Unless you have a Muslim name in your passport, you will be required to present a certificate from your local mosque when applying for the visa. Commented Oct 28, 2012 at 23:43

For establishing such a list, one needs to identify the possible barriers that would make travel difficult. I can think of:

  • Natural barriers, like in Antartica or Sahara.
  • Political barriers, like in North Korea or Tibet.
  • Cultural/Religious barriers, like in Amish communities or in Mecca.
  • Financial barriers, like in Bhutan or Switzerland.

Of course these barriers are different for different people, most of the time they are interleaved, and they change with time.

A definitive list seems an unreachable goal.

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    I think the same as you, which to me shows this question is subjective no matter how you slice it. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:14
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    Another factor would be how difficult it is to get a visa/invitation/permit. This of course varies depending on where the applicant is from, which also makes it subjective. Then because the question asks about "countries" some countries like India are easy to travel to but many of the western and especially the north-western states are very difficult to get permits for. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:16
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    @mouviciel - could you please explain why you think Bhutan is difficult to travel in because of financial barriers?
    – rlab
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:54
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    you could argue the same for 'what's the most expensive country', or 'most crime-ridden', but do you measure by GDP, murders, graffiti, crime-per-person or what? Yet there are official 'measures' of this all the time, where they claim a valid scientific reason for using those measurements. That's all I'm after, and if it's scientific, it's not just a 'gut feel'.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:54
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    @rlesko - Because Bhutan Authorities charge around $200 per night per traveller.
    – mouviciel
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 10:17

I think there is a (maybe too) simple index of countries to rank the "ease" of travelling. It's not very scientific but for what it's worth : Countries ranked by number of tourists

Its main problem is that it gives a very vague overview. I mean the fact that a lot of people go to one country doesn't mean every tourist can, see @jpatokal answer stating that a basic condition to travel as a tourist to Saudi Arabia is to be Muslim. So this index shows how accessible a country is based on a very vague overview. It is maybe too synthetic.

Another problem is about distinguishing the passive and active ease. This ranking actually mostly represents the active efforts of a country to attract people : if facilities are made for tourism, people speak English, it is affordable, ... But it doesn't mean the fifth will be way harder to visit than the first.

On the other hand, in countries at the top of the index, everything is made for tourists not to be lost (well at least speaking English and a lot of signs, information, documentation about the most random monument).

And overall, all the criteria @mouviciel listed are totally represented in this index. For example, when Tunisia was politically unstable, the tourists stopped going, it was a pretty big deal in a country that needs tourism for its economy. And if you take the top 10, all the countries are politically stable (not for parts of China but I suppose few tourists go there), and all other barriers are not a big deal in these top countries.

What could be interesting is the bottom of the index, but unfortunately they did not compute it.

  • Re: Saudi Arabia, you only need to be Muslim for a Hajj visa. Business visitors can be of any religion, including atheist or Jewish. Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 11:39
  • I updated the post
    – Vince
    Commented Oct 13, 2012 at 14:47

Well of course the question is Difficult with respect to what? Having said that, the source I personally use is the website of the french diplomaty.

The French embassy provides very detailed information for travellers on every country (in the French version only). It is updated daily and contains information about security, transportation, leaving/entering the country, Healthcare and even cultural issues - See their website.

Of course it does not "rank" countries, but usually provides, on the first page, a general description of few lines describing the important facts and difficulties you can get to.

Your country probably provide something similar. I encourage you to take a look at your Diplomaty/Embassy/Foreign minister website.

  • Aren't there a lot of other embassies that do exactly the same? Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 6:24
  • @RoflcoptrException Yes I suppose. Did you read the last sentence?
    – Ugo
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 9:08
  • Yes I did. I was just wondering why your embassy is the best one. But never mind. Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 9:21
  • @RoflcoptrException I never said that. I said that it is the best source of information I know.
    – Ugo
    Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 9:56
  • it's actually not a site from an embassy but the French foreign ministery :) Checking the site, I find no travel related information, only rough outlines of the levels of diplomatic relations between countries and France.
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 6:13

I'd just like to add from personal experience that regarding countries in South East Asia, Myanmar (Burma) can be a very difficult country to travel in due to the fact that English just isn't that widely spoken. Regardless, the people are generally very kind so you're never without help, but the communication breakdown can make it frustrating at times.

  • I traveled in Burma for a week and many people spoke English that I met...
    – Clayton
    Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 21:21
  • Spent two weeks travelling around Burma, without much difficulty (except for restricted Shan area). Language is rarely a barrier for me in most countries (I only speak English)
    – Ken
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 17:25

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