10 Countries Travelers Should Avoid

Travelers talk a lot about their must-see places; top-ten lists abound, often listing the same destinations over and over. Almost everyone has a bucket list. Less talked about, however, are the countries that travelers would do better to avoid—especially for the time being. Whether it’s political unrest, economic turmoil or concerns about disease outbreaks, you might want to take these 10 countries off your 2016 travel itinerary—and they should probably stay off your bucket list until further notice.

10. Sierra Leone

The countries of Africa’s west coast, including Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, were the epicenter of the 2014 Ebola epidemic. While Guinea and Liberia have been removed from some lists of travel advisories, Sierra Leone remains on the U.S. Department of State’s watch list. Although the agency has issued a general warning for parts of West Africa, which include Sierra Leone, the coastal country is the only one to have a separate travel warning of its own. A new cluster of Ebola cases broke out in August 2015 and, although authorities have been working to contain the outbreak, the continued presence of the virus makes travel to Sierra Leone dangerous. Ebola is highly contagious, so the U.S. advises against all non-essential travel to the country, as new infections may occur. Many medical services are either unavailable, temporarily suspended or provided at ill-equipped hospitals and clinics. Ambulances are generally unavailable.

Sierra Leone

9. Bangladesh

In early November 2015, a funeral in Bangladesh was bombed by a terrorist faction. The bombing occurred during a stretch of four days when violence seemed to uptick around the globe: Beirut and Paris were also under attack. While the U.S. Department of State’s current travel warning expires early in 2016, it seems unlikely that concerns about extremist violence in Bangladesh will dissipate any time soon. Since 2014, a string of attacks have seen both Bangladeshi nationals and foreign visitors killed by terrorist violence. Throughout 2015, writers, publishers and journalists were also threatened, and at least one American blogger was murdered in Bangladesh. The threat of violence against visitors appears to remain credible. Since the controversial 2014 elections, there has been ongoing political turmoil as well, with protests and violence occurring in the spring of 2015.

Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com
Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com

8. Kenya

On April 2, 2015, 147 people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a college in Nairobi. The terrorist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, and the attacks are part of a larger narrative of extremist violence that have plagued Kenya since 2011, with attacks becoming more prevalent from 2013 on. Kenya faces threats from insurgent groups originating in Somalia, the country’s next-door-neighbor, among others. Although many people visit Kenya without incident every year, there does seem to be growing violence, with many attacks directed against locations that tourists frequent, such as airports and resorts. Even nightclubs and shopping areas may be targeted, as well as public transportation and religious institutions, all of which may be used or visited by travelers. Kenyan security has managed to detect or stop other plots, but heightened security may cause disruptions for travelers, especially those of Somali descent.

Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com
Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com

7. Somalia

Somalia is a “failed” state and entered into a state of near-lawlessness in the 1990s. Although the country does have a democratic government, it is weak and not recognized as legitimate by many. As such, the Somali state is often ineffectual. Large areas are controlled by extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, which has planned and carried out many attacks, including a December 25, 2014, operation at Mogadishu International Airport. Many countries do not maintain embassies and so cannot help their citizens should they decide to visit Somalia. Due to the country’s weak government, many Somalis are suffering, particularly during an ongoing famine in 2015, which heightens risks of violence. Somali waters have become notorious as a refuge for pirates, who have been known to attack in international waters out to 1,000 nautical miles. Somalia remains incredibly dangerous today.

Free Wind 2014 / Shutterstock.com
Free Wind 2014 / Shutterstock.com

6. Venezuela

Tensions between supporters of the policies of Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, and opposition parties continue to cause civil unrest in Caracas and other areas of Venezuela. Chavista policies have led to chronic shortages of basic goods and high inflation rates. Both have contributed to violent crime in Venezuela; the country is the homicide capital of the world and “express kidnappings,” where victims are held for only a few hours while their loved ones gather funds to free them, are common. Demonstrations and riots continue as people protest the problematic policies that have caused living conditions to deteriorate and crime to soar. Armed robberies and other forms of street crime also occur frequently. Upscale neighborhoods and tourist areas are frequently targets for crime, so while many continue to visit and conduct business in Venezuela with little issue, visitors must be aware of the risks to their safety.

Caracas, Venezuela

5. Turkey

Although tourism to Istanbul, Turkey’s capital, has been increasing over recent years and interest in visiting Turkey in general has been rising, so too has the risk of violence been increasing over the past few months. While Turkey has yet to encounter the level of violence witnessed in many Middle Eastern and African countries, the country has been a target for terrorist organizations, especially due to its proximity to Iraq and war-torn Syria. An influx of refugees fleeing violence in these countries also has the potential to create unrest in the region. Turkey has initiated military operations in some of its bases near Adana, in the south of the country. Turkey has also experienced internal political unrest in recent years. Demonstrations are common and can turn violent; border areas are best avoided.

Istanbul turkey

4. Ukraine

While some of the Ukraine may be safe to travel to, including western regions and the capital city of Kiev, ongoing tensions in Crimea and the Donetsk region have made traveling through Ukraine’s eastern reaches much more dangerous. In late 2013, civil unrest broke out, affecting the capital and other areas. While the government responded, rebels in Crimea allegedly broke with the state and requested Russian support. Crimea was occupied and annexed by Russia in early 2014. Fighting continued in the rebel-controlled Donetsk region throughout 2014. A ceasefire agreement between the Ukrainian government and the rebels created a dividing line between territories controlled by either group, but clashes continue in Donetsk and Luhansk. Airspace has been restricted since mid-2014, when a Malaysian Air flight was downed over the region, killing everyone on board. Ukraine remains in a state of unrest.

MagSpace / Shutterstock.com
MagSpace / Shutterstock.com

3. Yemen

Located on the Arab Peninsula, the country of Yemen has been teetering on the edge of civil war for years. The country experienced an Arab Spring revolution in 2011. Unrest and violence continued through 2014, and the government resigned en masse in January 2015. The country has been in a state of civil war since March 2015 as two governments attempt to claim supreme power. The U.S. Department of State closed their embassy and have warned Americans living in Yemen to depart as soon as they can. Airports have been closed, limiting travel to and from the country. Yemen, like much of the Arab Peninsula, has been plagued by terrorist operations that threaten the safety of civilians and travelers alike. Piracy in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean pose additional threats, with many pirate operations taking shelter in Somali waters.

Claudiovidri / Shutterstock.com
Claudiovidri / Shutterstock.com

2. Syria

Most people are more than well aware of the situation in Syria right now; the outflow of people from the country has been headline news for months. If so many citizens are trying to escape the conditions of their country, it’s probably not a place you want to be traveling to. The situation in Syria has deteriorated since the outbreak of the civil war and the ongoing conflict has made living in the region dangerous. While some people may want to travel here to offer humanitarian aid or to connect with relatives and ensure they are safe, most will be better served by finding other ways to help, rather than traveling into an active conflict zone. The U.S. Department of State advises that communication is difficult and kidnappings, as well as security check-points operated by extremist groups, pose serious threats for travel.

Aleppo, Syria

1. Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a turbulent and troubled history, stretching back decades. Although the DRC is currently in a period of relative peace, instability has long plagued the country and its grasp on security is indeed tenuous. In 2015, major protests demanded the resignation of President Joseph Kabila. Elections are scheduled for 2016, which could bring more civil unrest. The country was ravaged by the Congolese Civil Wars, which began in 1996 and are ongoing today. Armed groups continue to roam the countryside, committing violent crimes against civilians and foreign nationals. Travelers are often stopped at both official and unofficial roadblocks. Bribes are common and if a traveler refuses to pay a bribe, they may be attacked or even killed. Infrastructure in the DRC is minimal, with few highways or railways. Boat transport is common, but often unsafe. Diseases, including Ebola, malaria and yellow fever are common.

LMspencer / Shutterstock.com
LMspencer / Shutterstock.com

The 15 Worst Airports For a Layover

While the increase of people flying means more flights, it also means more stops and connecting flights, which can be a good or bad thing depending where you stop. Having a layover is most people’s worst nightmare. There are often long lines to clear customs and security and scarce food choices along with overpriced Wi-Fi and uncomfortable seating. The following 15 airports are the absolute worst for layovers in the world. Next time you are booking a flight you may want to avoid flying through any of these airports even if it means spending a few extra dollars. Trust us, you’ve been warned.

15. Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport, France

This airport is mainly used by budget airlines and is often found at the top of the list of airports to avoid at any cost. This is in due part to a number of different factors. To start with the airport is located a long and slow 88 km away from Paris, therefore count on not leaving during your layover. The airport looks more like a bus station rather than an airport and the building is run-down and dirty. It is often cramped and crowded with passengers who are unloading and trying to leave as quickly as possible. The airport also closes at night so you will want to avoid an overnight layover here, as you will be asked to leave. In saying all of this, the airports in Paris are not known for being first-class so if you are looking to save a few dollars, flying in here may be worth your while.

Paris airport

14. Dulles International Airport, Washington, D.C

If you were expecting to enjoy your layover at the Dulles International Airport, think again. With one of the worst on time performances in the US, this airport often keeps passengers waiting far longer than necessary. If you think your layover was long already, expect to tack on even more time. What really irks passengers who are on a layover here is the lack of amenities and shops that can keep you entertained. If you were looking for options when it comes to dining, think again and realistically your best bet may be to slide up to the airport bar and have a beer. The good news is that the Dulles International Airport at least offers WiFi throughout the terminals; the only problem will be finding an available plug.

Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

13. Miami Airport, Florida

The biggest thing about having a layover in Miami is making sure it isn’t a long one. The reason being is that this airport moves at a ridiculously slow pace and if you need to rush to make your connection, you aren’t going to make it. Expect security lines, baggage claim lines and a frustrating lack of amenities. Shops and restaurants are limited and highly overpriced and don’t let the “free WiFi” signs fool you, it isn’t actually free to browse the net. If you are planning on spending the night here, one will be hard pressed to find a floor that is carpeted, a place where the lights are dimmed and the announcements stop. Instead sleepers are privy to noisy cleaners, brightly lit areas and chairs that have armrests, thus ensuring you have to lie on the floor. The only saving grace this airport offers is that South Beach is just 15 minutes away, therefore if you can store your bags and leave the airport, we highly suggest hitting the beach.

Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com
Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com

12. Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France

It is one of the world’s busiest airports and although it is improving it is still one of the worst airports to have a layover in the world. If you want to use the internet while you are here, plan on paying big bucks to connect to WiFi. One can also plan on disorganization, chaos and rude staff who absolutely refuse to speak to you in English. You won’t find first class shopping, nice lounges or attractive dining options here either. Many complain about the size of the restrooms quoting they are ‘dirty and too small’ while others have frustrations in the all too often terminal corrections. Food here is also quite pricey and if you are planning on eating, we suggest bringing as many snacks with you as possible from outside the airport.

pio3 / Shutterstock.com
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

11. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi

It is not surprising that Africa has some of the worst airports in the world, due to the impoverishment of the country, the overwhelming heat and questionably effective security processes. Having a layover in any of these airports can often be long, tiring and downright boring. Passengers seem to expect more from this International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, but instead are faced with long lines that have been referred to as ‘cattle markets’, overcrowded lounges, dirty and run down restrooms, shabby stores and overpriced food. It is currently undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation which hopes to be open in 2017 and capable of handling 20 million passengers. For now though, when you have a layover here expect to pay loads for the WiFi, food and drinks. Expect the bare amenities and cross your fingers you are not there during a threat as that is when things really go downhill.

Photo by: Arthurbuliva via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Arthurbuliva via Wikimedia Commons

10. London Luton International Airport, England

You are most likely flying into this airport if you have booked on a budget airline but expect to spend even more money once you get here. If you stuck here on a layover everything will cost you more. If you want access to WiFi, expect to pay. If you need a plastic baggie to put your liquids in to go through security again, you will have to pay for one of those too. If you want to buy something to eat, expect to pay higher than normal airport prices. Because of the slew of budget travelers that are flying into here seating can be limited, as well as sleeping space. The carpet is hard and cold, the announcements boom day and night every 10 minutes and it’s freezing cold, all the time. Do we need to say anything more about the layover life here at Luton?

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

9. Chicago Midway Airport, Chicago, USA

If you get stuck on a layover here and it’s unexpected it is most likely due to weather. Both Chicago airports are notorious for cancelling and delaying flights because of weather and unlike O’Hare, the Midway Airport lacks in pretty much all amenities to keep you occupied while you wait. If you do have to have a layover here we suggest doing it overnight. In Concourse C this airport actually sets up cots, military style for a few hours, until 4am when they wake you up and tear down the cots as the airport is opening. It is actually your only option here as the concourses close from midnight until 4am. If you are stuck here during the day it is good to know that WiFi isn’t free, the food is bearable and you may have to fight someone for an electrical outlet.

Photo by: Chicago Midway International Airport
Photo by: Chicago Midway International Airport

8. Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii USA

A layover at this airport is almost always inevitable if you are visiting one of the Hawaiian Islands but it’s not exactly the greatest welcome to Hawaii. If you are planning to sleep there overnight it is important to note there is no real good sleeping area other than the floor. As well, many layover passengers complain about the constant Hawaiian music that plays on repeat all night loud, except for when one of the many announcements comes on. There are a few dining choices at the airport, but everything closes by 10 pm. A lot of boarding gates do not open until right before flight time which leaves many passengers roaming aimlessly around the halls as the seating is very limited. WiFi will cost you, plugs are a hot commodity and it can get quite hot in this open air airport.

cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com
cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com

7. Frankfurt Hahn International Airport, Frankfurt, Germany

First off let’s be clear in saying that this airport is not in Frankfurt, despite the official name. Don’t depend on leaving the airport and spending a few hours in the city during your layover because the city is actually located over 120 km’s away. The best way to describe this airport is downright depressing. The low ceilings, the plastic chairs, the lack of artwork or anything of color and the overall feel. The floors are dusty and dirty and if you plan on sleeping here we suggest laying some newspapers down on it. Nighttime layovers tend to be loud with lots of young people who are flying on budget airlines and if you can muster up a quiet space, the good news is security won’t bother you. Dining options are nil after about 10 pm and expect loud cleaners and announcements all night long.

Photo by: Tadekptaku via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Tadekptaku via Wikimedia Commons

6. Los Angeles International Airport, California, USA

It is safe to say that most people hate flying through this airport. It is a stark contrast to the many Asian airports it connects with and needs serious updating to compete with them. An overall lack of signage and unfriendly staff is what people complain about most. Being the fourth busiest airport in the world, this airport gets crowded quickly and not knowing where you are going becomes quite frustrating. An overall lack of cleanliness is also a major complaint and it is best to avoid staying here overnight. The food options are scarce and overpriced, the chairs are uncomfortable with armrests on all of them and the charging stations throughout are placed in areas where there are no seats. Combine all these things with the fact that some terminals close at midnight and the security lines are atrocious and you’ll understand why people hate this airport.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

5. Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport, Italy

This airport although cheaper than the others that service Milan can be a big pain if you have a layover here. A lack of electrical outlets is a major source of irritation amongst tech savvy travelers, as well as a lack of seating. Due to the number of backpackers and other budget travelers who fly in here, there are many people trying to sleep and waste hours upon hours on layovers. It means there is not enough space for everyone. The security staff and cleaners can often be short tempered and if you were hoping for a restful sleep think again. Sleeping passengers are often woken up to move for cleaners and otherwise. The lack of WiFi is annoying and there is often loud, drunken travelers spending the night alongside with you.

Photo by: Luigi Chiesa via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Luigi Chiesa via Wikimedia Commons

4. LaGuardia International Airport, New York, USA

This worn out airport is at the top of the list for the worst airports in the US, layover or not, year after year. Even Vice-President Joe Biden compared LaGuardia to the likes of a ‘third world country’. So what makes this airport so awful for a layover? To start, the ridiculous long lines you have to wait in, to clear security, to recheck your bags, to even get a coffee. Speaking of coffee, the restaurant choices are mediocre and unfriendly at best. The décor doesn’t help out matters as it is downright depressing, as are the metal and plastic seats that don’t have any cushions. This airport isn’t overly clean either. The amount of delays this airport faces is almost embarrassing so one can expect a long layover here, even if it wasn’t scheduled to be. Spending hours in this airport is a total mind numbing experience that will have you avoiding it like the plague for the rest of your flying life.

Photo by: La Guardia Airport
Photo by: La Guardia Airport

3. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan (ISB)

This airport has been referred to being more like a prison than an airport and having a layover here is definitely not recommended. If you do happen to be stuck here, it is recommended you don’t leave the airport as taxi drivers and touts like to loot the unknowing customers. This airport is often overcrowded and there is seemingly no crowd control throughout the entire place. Complaints range from corruption to aggressive security checks to an overall lack of cleanliness to non-existent technology. Officers will outright ask for bribes and this is generally just not the place to be stuck on any type of layover. Filthy, crowded, and hot are all words used to describe this awful airport. The good news, apparently they are building a new airport that will be finished in 2016, let’s hope it’s not as corrupt as this one.

Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com
Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com

2. Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, USA

Passengers can’t say enough bad things about the Newark airport. It is awful being stuck here on a layover, whether it was scheduled or a result of weather delays. The biggest complaints are about the unfriendly staff who work at this airport, from security that kicks you out of the terminal at ungodly hours to the service staff at the restaurants. Using the WiFi here will cost you, although it probably won’t work or be too slow for your liking. We also suggest bringing along a heavy sweater as even during the summer it seems this airport is freezing. Chairs with solid armrests force travelers to sleep on the floor and make sure you watch out for cockroaches as they constantly roam the terminals. And don’t even think about trying to make it into NYC to waste some time, it’s at least an hour and half by public transit, and that’s on a good day.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

1. Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila

This is by far the worst airport in Asia and has been continuously at the top of that list for years. Luckily they are doing things to improve conditions but clearly not fast enough. First off passengers will want to fly into terminal three and only terminal three, but if you have the problem of being stuck in any other terminal on a layover than this is what you can expect. Dirty, filthy, cramped toilets that smells awful. This is one of the most widely-known complaints about this airport. Metal seats, spotty WiFi and a lack of dining and shops are some of what passengers can experience. Plan on waiting in lengthy lines and be sure to grab any seat available as they don’t come up often. Don’t plan on sleeping on this layover as the announcements every 10 to 15 minutes will keep going all night long, along with the three beeps before and after, just to make sure you are listening.

Photo by: Mithril Cloud via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Mithril Cloud via Wikimedia Commons