10 taboo tourist destinations (and how to visit them)
North Korea (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)
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Of course, before you go, check with the U.S. Department of State for the most up-to-date travel information and warnings.
Why it's Taboo: The militaristic single-party state is highly insular
and largely closed off to the rest of the world. If you attempt to enter
North Korea without the proper visa and passport, you risk arrest,
long-term imprisonment, heavy fines, and forced labor. The United States
does not maintain diplomatic relations with the country, and thus there
is no U.S. embassy in North Korea. However, the Swedish Embassy in
Pyongyang is available to help U.S. citizens traveling in the country.
Tourists in the country must stay with government minders at all times,
and there are strict rules about what they can photograph and see.
Why it's Still Worth Going: Nick Bonner of Koryo Group (which has been
running North Korea tours for almost 20 years) says, "By visiting North
Korea and interacting as much as you can, you have a positive impact on
engagement. You are bringing civilians into contact with Westerners and
providing job opportunities."
How to Visit: Apply for a visa through the Embassy of the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea in Beijing. The best way to get to North
Korea is via train from Beijing; however, American citizens are not
allowed to leave North Korea on the train and must take an exit flight.
Be aware that the State Department warns, "If you travel unescorted
inside North Korea without explicit official authorization, North Korean
security personnel may view your actions as espionage. Security
personnel may also view any unauthorized attempt you make to talk to a
North Korean citizen as espionage. North Korean authorities may fine or
arrest you for unauthorized currency transactions, for taking
unauthorized photographs, or for shopping at stores not designated for
foreigners. It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to
the country's current and former leaders, [Kim Jong-un], Kim Jong-il,
and Kim Il-sung. Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be
monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. …
Persons violating the laws of North Korea, even unknowingly, may be
expelled, arrested, or imprisoned."
Myanmar (Photo: Thinkstock/Photodisc)
Why it's Taboo: Steve Harbert, from Mountain Kingdoms tour operator, explains, saying "Under the long-term rule of the military, Myanmar [also called Burma] was guilty of serial human-rights abuses, including displacement of ethnic villagers and forced labor. These actions led to the introduction of economic sanctions by both the U.S. and the E.U." The National League for Democracy (NDL) party called for a tourism boycott in 1995 that was widely upheld until it recently revised its stance and encouraged people to visit responsibly. (Visit the Burma Campaign UK for more information on the political situation.)