Applying for a visa can be the killjoy of every potential holiday. Thankfully being a British passport holder can be quite a powerful thing, it is ranked as the third best in the world to have due to the visa-free or visa on arrival access that’s available.
Although British citizens can easily step foot into 175 different countries there’s another 41 that make life a little bit more difficult. This list is a bit like my nemesis, my aim is to visit all of them but sadly some are far more complicated than others. Let’s take a look at where they are and how you can visit these entry restricted places.
*This list does not include the easy e-visa or visa on arrival countries
Band-e Haibat lake, Afghanistan. Photo source: Wikipedia
Tourist visas for Afghanistan can be a bit of a faff, thankfully they can now be purchased for 90 days, however you must attend an appointment at the Embassy in London with all the required elements including an invitation letter, completed application form, photo, evidence of employment, proof of address and a personal statement that confirms you are aware of the risks involved and take full responsibility.
Algeria. Photo source: Telegraph
Unlike neighbouring Morocco, Algeria requires British citizens to apply for a visa in advance. This can take up to 4 weeks and be aware that if your visa is refused or cancelled the fee is non-refundable!
Miradouro da Lua, Angola. Photo source: Wikipedia
Although visa requirements most certainly discourage tourism, Angola has some incredibly beautiful beaches just waiting to be discovered. If the country relaxes the Soviet-style rules I foresee a very bright tourist future for Angola. When applying for your visa you have 12 things that you must complete to be granted a visa!
Baku skyline at night. Azerbaijan. Photo source: Wikipedia
Although neighbouring Georgia and Armenia have relaxed their entry requirements for British citizens, sadly Azerbaijan still require you to apply for a visa. Personally I’d really like to visit the country and an option that I explored was to gain an eVisa via a travel company, however these were mostly Azeri and not ATOL protected.
Belarus Victory Parade, Minsk. Photo source: BBC
You cannot enter Belarus without having a visa, this is strictly enforced and is inclusive of anyone simply transiting via train. As the last Dictatorship of Europe it is no surprise that the visa process is rather long and complicated, to enter as a tourist you must have a hotel booking confirmation, this can’t be from a Western website like booking.com. You must also have a letter of invitation from a Belarusian tourist agency.
I’d love to watch the Voodoo ceremony in Benin. Photo source: Reuters
A tiny West African nation that is little-known outside the adventure tourist market, home to tribal cultures, ancient voodoo traditions and amazing colonial architecture. I’ve never previously considered visiting Benin, however the visa process appears really simple so who am I to complain?!
Tigers Nest, Bhutan. Photo source: unknown.
Often described as the “last Shangri-La” due to its pristine environment and strict entry rules. You’ll need to have a substantial budget to visit Bhutan due to its enforced request of having a daily spend, this is approximately £190 ($250) per day depending on the season, although this fee does include your accommodation, food, transport and a guide.
One of the largest volcanoes in Africa – Mount Cameroon. Photo source: Shutterstock
Can you point Cameroon out on a map? Most likely not, I had to do a quick search so I could confirm I was in the right place…I wasn’t! Cameroon is surrounded by conflict zones and many parts are off-limits. The visa process appears relatively straight forward apart from the letter of invitation with the Cameroonian Police from your host, partner or contact in the country!
Central African Republic
As the Central African Republic descends into chaos, sadly it’s not only the people that suffer. Photo source: USFWS
The FCO currently advise against all travel to the Central African Republic due to the ongoing civil war. There’s no embassy in the UK, however you can apply for a visa via the French Consulate-General in London who accepts applications.
Camels in the Mountains, Chad. Photo source: Thinkstock
I really want to visit Chad, but they certainly don’t make it very easy! There is no Embassy in London, therefore your nearest place to visit will either be Paris or Brussels, however if you don’t speak French it will virtually be impossible to secure a visa. Sadly very few people could tell you exactly where Chad is, let alone why you should visit!
Great Wall of China. Photo source: Telegraph
Although I’ve previously visited Hong Kong, I never ventured to the mainland and I greatly regret this as China has rapidly developed in the last 10 years. For UK citizens you must apply via one of the three application centres in London, Manchester or Edinburgh, be aware that there’s a variety of visa options and prices but the process thankfully isn’t complicated.
Congo (Republic of the)
Congo Basin Gorilla. Photo source: World Wildlife
Definitely don’t get the two Congo’s mixed up, the Republic of is also referred to as Congo-Brazzaville highlighting the capital city. You must be granted a visa before arrival, similar to several other countries on this list you must obtain an invitation letter and already have your flight and hotel confirmations ready. According to the website it says the visa will be ready the next day, I’d love to test and see if this is true!
Congo (Democratic Republic of the)
Mount Nyiragongo lava lake, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo source: Martin Rietze
When people ask where would you like to visit next, I’ve never ever heard anyone say the DRC. Tourism is very much in its infancy in the DRC, with red tape and unofficial bribes often needed this instantly puts many people off. You can apply for your visa via the Embassy in London, but expect a delay of 2-3 weeks so plan ahead.
- Visa fee: £60 for a single entry visa, plus $50 as an International departure tax upon leaving the DRC
- DRC Embassy in London (in French)
I *heart* Cuba! Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)
Although you only require a Tourist Card for Cuba I have included it on this list as you still have to apply for it from the Embassy in London or via your travel agency if you are travelling with a group. It is probably the easiest visa to get on this list!
Lovers’ Beach, Annobón island, in Equatorial Guinea. Photo source: Guardian
Equatorial Guinea is a small but rather unusual country, divided in two with the largest part being on the mainland whilst the capital city sits on Bloko island. Getting a visa for Equatorial Guinea isn’t easy, there are plenty of hoops to jump through, especially considering the fact that tourists must prove that they have at least £2,000 in their bank account or risk having their visa rejected.
Dahlak Archipelago in the Red Sea, Eritrea. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)
Eritrea is one of my favourite countries that I’ve been lucky enough to visit, I travelled with a group on a recce tour around Eritrea which made things much easier. To get a visa for Eritrea you will need to be booked on a tour with a local company, they will issue you with an application number which needs to be used when you submit your visa request. You may be required to have an interview whilst visiting the Embassy although the visa takes 2-4 weeks to process as it gets sent straight to Asmara (the capital city) for authorisation.
Wish you were here? Beautiful Ghana. Photo source: Wikipedia
Often described as the first place you must visit in Africa to ease you in, Ghana is a safe, secure and stable country with an incredible history. The visa process is relatively straight forward although you must be immunised for yellow-fever and provide proof. It can take up to 15 working days to receive your visa so plan in advance.
Conakry Mosque, Guinea. Photo source: Lonely Planet
Sadly I haven’t been able to find that much information about obtaining a visa for Guinea, the Embassy in London doesn’t appear to have a website and their office has recently moved from Kilburn to Kensington.
Royal Square, Esfahan, Iran. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)
If you aren’t British, American or Canadian then an Iranian visa will be simple to get on arrival. Sadly for our three nations we must apply in advance, for Brits we must apply via the newly reopened Embassy in London, you will need an application number but this can be sought via the Embassy directly.
Red Prison in Kurdistan, Iraq. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)
Why on earth would you want to visit Iraq? WELL… avoiding the pre-conceptions, the people are incredibly friendly, welcoming and the food is delicious. I visited the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq in 2014 and absolutely loved it. Thankfully you don’t need to apply for a visa in advance for Kurdistan, however for the rest of Iraq you will need to apply at the Embassy.
Liberian smiles. Photo source: PSI
Similar to Guinea, I’ve been unable to find much information about applying for a Liberian visa. There doesn’t appear to be an Embassy website, however you can apply using various agencies who will charge you more. Tourism is very much in its infancy in Liberia, very few people visit due to a lack of infrastructure, which was recently made worse by the ebola outbreak in 2014.
Leptis Magna and the Mediterranean, Libya. Photo source: UNESCO
Currently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Libya. During calmer times the most famous tourist attraction was Leptis Magna, one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres, although unfortunately at present its status is unknown due to the ongoing conflict.
Timbuktu, Mali. Photo source: ABC
Where did it all go wrong for Mali? Tourists used to flock here to see Timbuktu and then unfortunately the insurgency started and it was pretty much all over for the tourist industry of Mali. If, however that still doesn’t put you off, you can apply for a visa at the Honorary Malian Consulate in London.
Nomadic life in Mongolia. Photo source: Wikimedia
Mongolia is a huge landlocked country that is still traditional and unique in its values, it is one of the last places on earth you can experience nomadic life. When applying for your visa you’ll need a completed application form, visa fee and also a letter of invitation which can be done through a local tour company.
Beautiful Mozambique. Photo source: Unknown
Mozambique – a country that’s very high on my list of “must-sees”, sadly it is also one of the 41 who still require you to apply for a visa before you arrive. It’s a painless process however, you’ll need your completed application form, two passport sized photos, return flight confirmation documents, hostel/hotel confirmation documents, 1 recent bank statement and also a copy of the first page of your passport (containing your photograph).
Before the London Olympics 2012, the Queens Baton arrived in Nauru for a tour. Photo source: Visit Scotland
Nauru – officially the least-visited country in the world and the world’s smallest independent nation. Nestled deep in the South Pacific, this place won’t come up on your travel list unless you’re visiting Australia or New Zealand as it’s incredibly remote. There’s no UK embassy, however recent changes were brought in and almost everyone needs to apply before arriving, from what I can tell it is free.
The Niger in Niamey, Niger. Photo source: Wikimedia
I can sadly confirm that I know nothing about Niger, other than it’s in Africa and the Sahara desert occupies a large part of the country. Sadly there’s no UK embassy or honorary consulate anymore, therefore you’ll need to head to Paris to apply with a completed application form, 2 passport photos, a certificate of yellow fever vaccination and a copy of your onward travel.
Fish vendor in Nigeria. Photo source: BBC
Due to the insurgency taking over Northern Nigeria it is currently advised against all travel to this part of the country. Nigeria has recently outsourced all of its visa applications to OIS, you’ll now need to apply and pay their huge service fee when submitting all documents.
One of the most isolated countries in the world – North Korea. Photo source: Lupine Travel.
This country certainly needs no introduction, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is a fascinating place that was completely cut off until 1953. I’m lucky enough to have visited the North Korean embassy in London, a very unique place that’s situated in West London, far away from any other Embassy. A random experience, but the Koreans that I met were very warm and welcoming. To get a visa for North Korea you’ll need to book onto a tour, I recommend Lupine Travel.
Nanga Parbat, Pakistan. Photo source: Wikipedia
Pakistan can be a rather difficult country to explain to people why you want to visit, however it has a lot to offer and hopefully with the power of Social Media this will become more obvious in the near-future. There are six visa application centres in the UK including Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham, Glasgow (opening soon) and also two in London.
So it’s cold in Russia in winter… Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)
The biggest country in the world, often misunderstood but a unique place to venture to. If like me, you’ve visited lots of countries you’ll have a panic attack just writing the visa application form by trying to remember all the countries you’ve been to in the last 10 years. Thankfully after attending the processing centre in London you’ll have your visa within a few days.
Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia. Photo source: unknown.
Saudi Arabia represents one of the last frontiers in tourism, there are so many rules and very few opportunities to visit for tourism. The best chance of gaining a tourist visa is if you travel with a Saudi-specific agency but these are notoriously difficult to find and acquire.
Banana Islands, Sierra Leone. Photo source: Out of Bounds tours
After sadly being flawed by the ebola outbreak in 2014, Sierra Leone has struggled to get back on its feet. I don’t believe the expensive visa fee is helping to attract tourists as this has so far definitely put me off. The application process is straight forward and you can apply in person or by post, expect to receive your visa within one week.
South Sudan Cattle herder. Photo source: BBC
The newest country in the world, South Sudan thought it would ease all of their problems to become independent, sadly it seems to have created new ones. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to South Sudan due to the ongoing civil war although the visa application process appears relatively simple I’d probably advise to wait a few years to see how the conflict unfolds.
Meroe Pyramids, Sudan. Photo source: BBC
It is said that the number of pyramids in Sudan far outweigh the number in Egypt, sadly this fact isn’t quite as well known by tourists yet. To apply for a Sudanese visa you’ll need to apply directly at the Embassy, however your request will be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Khartoum and this can take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to be approved.
The historic caravan city of Palmyra in Syria has to be one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to, especially when I arrived at 5am on a camel just as the sun was rising. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)
As of 2012 it is not possible to apply for a tourist visa for Syria due to the ongoing conflict affecting the country. I was lucky enough to visit in 2010 and was required to apply/collect my visa from the Embassy in London.
I loved my time visiting Darvaza, aka The Door to Hell! Turkmenistan. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)
Almost everyone needs a visa to enter Turkmenistan, the London embassy operates a rather strict calendar for applying/collecting your visa. When I purchased my visa from the embassy in 2015 I was charged £33, however this can fluctuate due to exchange rates.
Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo source: VJV
A country that I’d love to visit but as yet haven’t had the opportunity; Uzbekistan I will get to you soon! The visa process can be done in a number of ways, if you’re applying in person at the Embassy then my best advice is make sure you have everything completed and accurately. They state very clearly on the website if your visa application is rejected they will not reveal the reason why!
Socotra island, Yemen. Photo source: National Geographic
Sadly now described as one of the most dangerous countries in the world, Yemen was previously accessible although often with Government warnings. It’s currently impossible to get a visa for Yemen, the FCO advise against all travel to the country (including Socotra archipelago). I found one website selling visas for £135, however the Yemeni London embassy website no longer appears to be functioning and has been taken offline.
- Last updated: 20th August 2016
- This list does not include countries that have e-visa facilities
- It also doesn’t include any dependent, disputed or restricted territories
- The advice listed only refers to British citizens visa requirements
- It is possible to gain some visas from neighbouring countries, but not guaranteed
If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from any of my trips please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.