For many people, 2023 will be the year they embark on a big trip that might have been postponed during the pandemic era. There are many weird and wonderful regions of the world to visit, but there are also plenty to avoid. Below, we’ll take a look at ten of the most dangerous countries to visit.
10 of the Most Dangerous Countries to Visit in 2023
War-torn Yemen is perhaps the most dangerous country in the world in 2023. While spared the kind of media coverage that better known conflicts attract, the war in Yemen has been raging on since 2014 and if anything is getting more violent. One in seven Yemenis have been displaced by the war and according to the UN, it is the site of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
While it was never a major travel destination in any case, this small nation located in the Gulf of Aden does have some beautiful towns, but sadly it is unlikely to be on any travel itineraries any time soon.
For obvious reasons, Ukraine is also a country that is among the riskiest places to travel to in 2023. While it is true that the most brutal fighting is concentrated in the East of Ukraine, with life largely going on as normal in Western cities, the capital Kyiv and other major towns have regularly been targeted by Russian bombs with civilian buildings often hit.
As such it certainly ranks as the most dangerous country in Europe with hundreds of thousands of casualties already in a conflict which has been ongoing for close to a decade, but only truly broke out into all-out war following Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
As of April 2023, Sudan can be added to the list of active conflict zones with an armed conflict taking place between rival factions of the military government. Heavy gunfire and blasts have been widely reported across the capital Khartoum and foreigners have largely been advised to leave the country.
While it’s too early to know whether this will all quickly blow over (Sudan wouldn’t ordinarily be considered this dangerous), or whether this is potentially the beginning of a larger civil war, right now heading to Sudan is certainly not a particularly bright idea!
4. South Sudan
Previous trouble in Sudan led to the creation of a new country in 2011. The birth of South Sudan did little to ease the tension though with the world’s youngest internationally recognised country having endured a troubled start.
US travel advice cites the risk of “crime, kidnapping, and armed conflict” as the main reasons for advising their citizens not to visit. Meanwhile according to Amnesty International, government forces and armed groups have been guilty of serious human rights abuses including killings, acts of sexual violence and torture.
Syria is another of the most dangerous countries in Asia. Officially the country’s civil war is still ongoing, although a ceasefire has been in place for more than three years now after a bloody conflict which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, as well as the displacement of millions. Bashar al-Assad’s government forces ultimately regained large areas of the country, although there are still numerous rebel held areas and sporadic clashes.
The war destroyed much of Syria’s infrastructure with once grand cities largely reduced to rubble so it remains a very difficult country to travel or live in. Sadly, the 2023 Syria-Turkey earthquake has only added to the devastation.
It may come as a surprise to many to know that Afghanistan was considered a popular tourist destination in the 1960’s and 70’s. A Lonely Planet edition around the time described it as a “vastly appealing country” and it was a popular stop on the Asian “hippy trail”.
It’s safe to say that times have sadly changed. The past 40+ years have largely been defined by long periods of foreign intervention, either side of brutal Afghan-led regimes. August 2021 saw the Taliban sweep back into power and while that has at least eased most of the fighting and some of the security issues, most western governments advise against visiting a country where basic rights and freedoms are denied to women and girls, and where economic instability is rife.
Somalia is widely regarded as one of the most difficult countries to travel in. It’s perhaps best known internationally for the pirate activities off its coastline and although those issues aren’t as great as they once were, there are plenty of potential dangers for travellers on dry land in Somalia.
The risks of crime, terrorism and civil unrest remain high with the UK government currently advising against all travel to the country with the exception of three western regions of Somaliland: Awdal (including Boorama), Maroodijeh (including Hargeisa) and Sahil (including Berbera).
Russia is one of the hardest countries to visit in 2023 with sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine, meaning there are now very limited direct flights to the country from Europe. You may also have big problems inside the country due to restrictions on financial transactions.
The risk of visiting may depend on where you’re from with some Western nationals at greater risk of detention by Russian security officials for example. On a day-to-day basis, it’s certainly safer than the other countries outlined here, but the unpredictable nature of the Ukraine War and the country’s extremely strained relations with the international community, means travelling around Russia as a foreigner in 2023 may not be the smartest move.
9. Burkina Faso
There are a number of African countries with complicated security situations and internal conflicts and one of those is Burkina Faso. Many governments currently advise against all travel to the landlocked West African nation, with the possible exception of the capital Ouagadougou.
The situation elsewhere has been unstable since a military coup in September 2022. Terrorist activity has risen and foreigners have been the target of kidnappings and killings.
10. North Korea
It’s fair to say that North Korea isn’t really suited to independent travel. This altogether rather odd country is only possible to visit by organised tours and you will be accompanied by government-appointed officials at all times who will do all they can to show you the best face of North Korea.
If you follow their rules and don’t do anything stupid, North Korea is not actually considered a particularly dangerous country to visit. However you can never be too sure how things may turn in this secretive state and there have been tragic cases such as that of young American traveller Otto Warmbier who was arrested after reportedly stealing a hotel sign on a guided tour, and later died after falling into a comatose state in a North Korean prison.
There were plenty of other candidates for this rundown of the most dangerous countries to visit in 2023. Many governments also advise against all, or all but essential travel to Iraq, Libya, Mali, Niger, Chad, Haiti and the Central African Republic. Those are among the countries where the security system remains fragile and where travellers will be at greater risk of being the target of a crime or getting caught up in an ongoing armed conflict.
While some government travel warnings may seem excessive, they are important to consider, as often ignoring your government’s travel advice can impact on the amount of cover that is available to you should something go wrong. When it comes to the best travel insurance for backpackers, many packages are invalid in the event of you travelling to a country or region that your government advises you not to visit.
Even in some seemingly more tranquil destinations, there can be small regions that are considered unsafe for a variety of reasons. These are often border areas if the country is adjacent to another with greater security issues.
This look at the most dangerous countries to visit was published in April 2023.