The more something is off-limits, the more we want it.
When it comes to travel, a “do Not Enter” sign is almost as a beacon, welcoming us in the garden of forbidden fruits. Of the almost 200 countries in the world today, some, such as Angola, North Korea, making it incredibly difficult for the Americans to visit.
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But today borders are actually more open than they were in the past 50 years. Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, and even the former Soviet Union. Today, they read like a millennial wish list. But back to our parents one day, they were not even considered as a holiday contenders.
If you want to visit a time capsule close to the united states, goes to Cuba. Between 1953 and 2014, a visit to this communist island nation 90 miles south of Florida as a tourist violated the U.S. embargo. It is the only time in the history has the US government prohibited Americans from a visit to another country.
Travel restrictions eased in 2014 when President Barack Obama promised to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba. Still, solo visits were not possible until March 2016, when people travel was one of the 12 categories of travel are recorded for legal travel to Cuba. Cubans, for the most part, are excited to host their northern neighbours. “The tension between the two governments, never from the people,” says Greg Geronemus, co-CEO of smarTours. “Not only millions of Cubans have an extensive family connections in the U.S., but we also share many passions, including baseball.”
If You Go: “The most important thing to remember with a visit to Cuba is that it is still very isolated,” says Jackie Caradonio, Senior Travel Editor at Robb Report. “The Internet is scarce, Atms are even scarcer.” Caradonio recommend booking with a tour operator with offices in the US and Cuba.
Former Soviet Union
Before the Iron Curtain fell in 1990, American travelers were scarce in the 8.5 million square miles of the former Soviet Union. The tensions between the USA and the USSR was high during the Cold War– and the Soviet Union requires most foreigners to follow tightly controlled routes designed by the communist government. For example, hotels and activities were assigned to the tourists and not revealed in advance. The americans who did manage to get a visa were subject to extreme propaganda and censorship, and often included, the interaction with the local population.
If You Go: “Russia used to be popular, but unfortunately that has fallen for the last time by sanctions and an unfriendly policy in the direction of gay travelers,” says Sophia Kulich, a Ukraine native who fled to the US. in 1983, to escape religious discrimination. Kulich now leads heritage tours to the countries of the former soviet Bloc. She advises currently Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan for the mountains and the ancient monasteries and Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia for their affordability and architecture. For a more extreme experience, check out Chernobyl. From May Explore will be offering guided tours of this radioactive site—a designated zone, since 1986, a nuclear disaster.
“The idea of Iran that is off limits for Americans is that a ‘feeling,'” says Annie Lucas, Vice-President of the MIR Corporation, a company with more than 15 years of experience in Iran. The us State Department has imposed economic sanctions against Iran since 1979, but unlike it did with Cuba, it is never prohibited Americans from visiting. “It has always been possible,” adds Luke, “It is just not felt well.”
But in January 2015, big international sanctions against Iran were lifted, when it is over nuclear weapons plans of tests. As a result of this infamous country is now on the radar of the Americans looking for a different kind of adventure in the Middle East. In 2015, Intrepid Travel saw a 120 percent increase in bookings on the Iran departure from the U.S. In 2017, the tour operator is offering a 37 departure.
If You Go: the patient. There is no Iranian embassy in the USA and obtaining the required visa through e-mail can take months. Luke mentions Isfahan beautiful and recommends a visit to the bazaar, one of the largest and oldest in the Middle East. She also says Persepolis is a must-see. Finally, keep in mind that the State Department issued a travel warning in August 2016 remind travelers that the U.S. does not have diplomatic or consular relations with Iran, so that services and protection in the country are not guaranteed.
Prior to 2012, Myanmar, the former Burma, is occupied with fewer than 1 million visitors per year. Meanwhile, neighboring Thailand, more than 25 million. Myanmar is an automatic no-go because of the oppressive military junta ruling from 1962-2011. After a half century of isolationism, Myanmar have a lot of catching up to do in terms of infrastructure, but on the other hand, it is extremely affordable and the beaches are some of the least busy in South-east Asia. Still, a Burmese Big Brother can watch.
“The american tourists have to assume that they—including e-mail and telephones—are under government observation,” warns Jim Hutton, Chief Security Officer at On Call International, and a former special agent of the Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. “Since Myanmar is still in the development of a military dictatorship, travelers should take care when discussing politics, if not avoid the politics at all.”
If You Go: “Money is needed for most transactions and ATMS are difficult to come by,” says Hutton. “If you plan on exchanging US dollars to make sure they are crisp, unmarked bills printed after 2006.” Do not take photos of the service members or military installations, and if you are worried about going alone, try a company want to Explore, avoid the use of junta-hotels and try to minimize customer contact with the government when possible.
Despite what you MAY see on Instagram , Angkor Wat was not always filled with tourists. Under the Khmer Rouge regime, almost 2 million people were murdered in Cambodia in the late 1970s, according to the BBC estimates. Even in the decades after the genocide, civil unrest was everywhere and the subject of tourism was taboo.
Thanks to the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991, the restoration of the monarchy in 1993 and the death of Pol Pot in 1998, attitude towards this new destination is more positive and curious. While there were just 118,000 of international visitors in 1993, there were more than 4.7 million in 2015. Cambodia has thousands of temples besides Angkor, the largest religious building in the world. The food is delicious and relatively cheap, the people are friendly and the landscape is very similar to Thailand.
If You Go: The wet season, from May to October, as Cambodia is the most attractive. While templing in Siem Reap, get tickets to the Phare Circus, where former street children, graduates of a free school run by an NGO, performing acrobatics and re-enactment of their country’s tumultuous history on the stage. Another way to give back to Cambodian communities is to travel with Journeys Within, one of the first American-owned boutique hotel owners and philanthropic tour operators in Cambodia. Travel is involved in community projects, including the improvement of access to health care, education and clean water.
Since the New York Times ranked Nicaragua third on the list of 46 places to visit in 2013, the people call it the new Costa Rica. But in contrast to the army-less neighbor, Nicaragua is still recovering from a revolutionary war, where thousands were killed. The years 1970 and 1980 were characterized by extreme political turmoil, and it was only in the 1990s that Nicaragua began investing in infrastructure for travelers.
A tourism board was established in 1992, and today, the country can boast Nicaragua has one of the lowest crime rates in Central America. Despite the well-rounded allure, Pacific beaches, Caribbean islands, volcanic mountains and colonial cities in Nicaragua is yet to be infiltrated by the mass market of tourism. Still, it is only a matter of time before more Americans realize how easy it is to land in the land of lakes and volcanoes. Direct flights from Miami, Houston with only two and three hours, respectively.
If You Go: After flying into Managua, eat your way through the culinary capital before moving on to the south of Granada, a preserved colonial city on the shore of the Lake of Nicaragua. Further to the south until you reach San Juan Del Sur is a growing surfing community in a number of the best Coast of the Pacific ocean real estate. Stay at an eco-lodge, such as Morgan’s Rock, or opt for Mukul, the country’s first luxury resort. Do not expect Nicaragua be the new Costa Rica. That it is not. Expect the unique experience of your parents probably never had.
Katie Jackson is a travel writer. When she’s not working, she is chasing after a Leonberger named Zeus.