List of Countries Americans Can’t Travel To

Traveling abroad offers the opportunity to experience new cultures, customs, cuisine, and sights. However, there are several countries around the world that Americans either cannot travel to at all or can only visit with great difficulty. Strict visa policies, strained diplomatic relationships, security risks, and travel bans impact Americans’ ability to access certain destinations. Table…

List of Countries Americans Can’t Travel To

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Traveling abroad offers the opportunity to experience new cultures, customs, cuisine, and sights. However, there are several countries around the world that Americans either cannot travel to at all or can only visit with great difficulty. Strict visa policies, strained diplomatic relationships, security risks, and travel bans impact Americans’ ability to access certain destinations.

North Korea

North Korea tops the list as the most difficult country for Americans to enter. Its isolationist Juche political ideology and ongoing tensions with the U.S. government have severely limited travel access over the years.

Things took a turn for the worse in 2017 after the tragic case of Otto Warmbier. Warmbier, a U.S. student, was detained in North Korea for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster. After 17 months imprisoned, he returned to the U.S. in a coma and passed away days later.

His death led to a U.S. ban on travel to North Korea for American citizens as of July 2017. The only way to visit now is to obtain special validation from the U.S. State Department, restricted to certain circumstances like journalism or aid work.

Surprising Facts

North Korea created its own time zone, Pyongyang Time, 30 minutes behind South Korea and Japan, to break from “imperialism.”


Iran boasts historical sites, hospitality, and natural beauty, but diplomatic roadblocks make visiting difficult for Americans. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, tensions arose over nuclear agreements and U.S. sanctions.

While not outright banned, U.S. travelers must join guided tours and undergo extensive visa processing with no guarantee of approval. Tours must adhere to strict government-dictated itineraries, allowing little freedom to explore independently.

Surprising Facts

Iran is home to an entire village carved into rocks. Called Kandovan, it features homes, hotels and more sculpted right into cliff walls.


The remote Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan has no political beef with the U.S. but does limit visitor numbers to protect its environment and culture.

All foreign tourists must pay a daily fee of $200-$250. This “High Value, Low Impact” policy funds sustainable tourism initiatives and nationwide services like healthcare and education. Bhutan quantifies success through “Gross National Happiness” rather than GDP.


Despite some warming of U.S.-Cuba relations, Americans cannot visit Cuba purely as tourists due to Cold War-era travel regulations.

However, U.S. citizens can travel there under 12 authorized categories, most commonly for “Support of the Cuban People.” This requires engaging with locals, patronizing private businesses, and learning about Cuban life and culture. Travelers must acquire a tourist card through an authorized third-party vendor before departure.


Deemed the “North Korea of Africa,” Eritrea has tense diplomatic relations with the U.S. and strict policies limiting visitor access. The visa process is opaque, costly, lengthy and unlikely to result in approval.


Tours & Things to do hand-picked by our insiders


Even with a visa, travel outside the capital requires hard-to-obtain government permits. Harsh penalties like detention or fines await those who venture off the beaten path without permission. Nonetheless, the country offers intrigue, Italian art-deco architecture, and stunning landscapes for the persevering tourist.

Saudi Arabia

Once nearly impossible for tourists to enter, Saudi Arabia launched an e-visa program in 2019 to attract visitors and diversify its oil-dependent economy. The new visa allows Americans to apply online quickly and easily.

While Saudi Arabia still imposes strict dress codes for women and restricts where non-Muslims can visit, the e-visa represents great progress. With ancient cultural sites like Mada’in Saleh and cutting-edge architecture in Riyadh, the country offers interesting fusions of old and new.

Surprising Facts

Saudi Arabia has no rivers, but does have a population of camels (around 500,000) that exceeds that of wild birds.


The isolated, authoritarian state of Turkmenistan poses visa struggles, requiring U.S. citizens to apply in person at its sole embassy in Washington D.C. Applicants need an official letter of invitation from a state-approved travel agency, beginning a lengthy, uncertain process with no guarantees.

Nearly all visitors travel on guided tours Their movements and access remain highly restricted through strict registration requirements and permits needed to leave the capital. For determined travelers, the surreal Karakum desert, lavish marble monuments, and ancient ruins provide exotic rewards.

Surprising Facts

The dictator of Turkmenistan once named a month after the book he wrote, forcing everyone to read it. He also built a huge gold statue that rotates to face the sun.


Ravaged by civil war since 2011, Syria is considered high-risk and unsafe for Americans. While technically possible to get a visa via a labyrinthine process through embassies in neighboring countries, visiting Syria could lead to issues entering other nations in the future.

The destruction of millennia-old treasures like Aleppo and Palmyra provides a stark reminder that Syria’s cultural gems may exist only in history books looking forward. With instability and violence still plaguing the nation, Syria remains strictly off-limits.

Surprising Facts

Syria boasts the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Damascus, with evidence of residence dating back over 11,000 years.


Similar to Syria, Libya has faced immense challenges with terrorism, kidnappings, and conflict since undergoing civil war in 2011.

The U.S. strongly warns against traveling there. Currently, only business visas are available due to ongoing instability, requiring proof of a Libyan sponsor.

Attractions like the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Leptis Magna and Ghadames must wait for more peaceful days to return. Registering all travel plans via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program provides an extra safeguard.


Once economic collapse, shortages, and political chaos now grip a rising star of South America, Venezuela.

The U.S. advises avoiding all travel there. While Venezuela was renowned for sights like Angel Falls and Los Roques Archipelago, obtaining a tourist visa now proves extremely difficult, if not impossible, with the breakdown in U.S.-Venezuela diplomatic ties.

Until stability and infrastructure can be re-established, Venezuela’s postcard-perfect destinations will remain largely off the radar for U.S. travelers.

Surprising Facts

Venezuela is home to one of the world’s largest waterfalls, Angel Falls, which is 19 times taller than Niagara Falls.


Yemen faces extreme instability and violence, with the U.S. State Department issuing an advisory to not travel there under any circumstances. The ongoing civil war and terrorist threats leave Americans dangerously vulnerable to getting caught in armed crossfires, kidnapped, or killed. Even before the current crisis erupted, Yemen struggled with high levels of crime and corruption. The airport is commonly used as a drug trafficking hub.

As the country now faces an even more alarming virus outbreak on top of its humanitarian emergency, health infrastructure has essentially collapsed. Rebels have also attacked ships transiting the critical Bab el Mandeb Strait. Given all these perils combined, Yemen will likely stay firmly closed off to Westerners unless the situation eventually stabilizes.


Wracked by civil war since 1991, Somalia has become renowned as a failed state plagued by terrorism and piracy. Clan warlords, Al-Shabaab militants and criminal gangs reign over various swathes of territory. Columbia Journalism School named it the deadliest nation for journalists to operate in during 2021 and 2022 due to recurrent kidnappings and killings.

Somalia’s Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism actually created a National Tourism Board to promote the nation’s image and attract tourists, but safety concerns vastly limit its potential. Somalis themselves, and especially the country’s youth, desire peace and economic opportunities rather than continued violence and chaos. Read more

But amid another major drought bringing famine, tackling Somalia’s numerous challenges will prove momentous for both Somalis and foreign partners trying to support them.

Final Word

While each country poses unique challenges for American tourists, they also represent rich cultures and compelling histories waiting to be explored by bold travelers once conditions improve. Respecting travel warnings while staying informed about global affairs can help navigate ever-changing international relations. With some patience—and a spirit for adventure—even the most isolated nations may someday reopen for visitors.

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