When it comes to travel, not all destinations are created equal. Think about places like Southeast Asia, Western Europe and the United States. Geographically, they may be scattered around the globe, but they have one very important thing that connects them: The tourist trail is well groomed. Traveling to these places is, at least logistically, relatively easy. Have a passport, get a plane ticket, fill out the necessary paperwork mid-flight and just like that you're on your way.
But what if you're not satisfied with the places where travel is easy? What if you want to issue your inner independent traveler a challenge to visit a place that's a bit more exotic, a little more difficult logistically, and outside your comfort zone? Places like the Middle East, northern Africa, Russia, and China may seem daunting and not worth the trouble when planning that next trip, but if you're organized and determined enough to get to these sometimes hard-to-reach places, you will be rewarded with some amazing adventures the vast majority of travelers don't get to experience.
The ten countries listed in this article break down into four categories in regards to how difficult they are to enter.
1. Independent travel is permitted
Countries: Bolivia, Vietnam, and India
Let's start simple. You've been to places like England, Thailand, and Argentina. All are great places, but visas are unnecessary and you have to do little more than board a plane to get there. Bolivia, Vietnam, and India all require a bit more planning and work if you want to visit, but all are worth that extra bit of trouble and can be done independently if a tour isn't your thing.
2. Independent travel is permitted, but the visa process is complicated
Countries: Russia and China
You can travel independently in each country, but the visa process is long, always changing, and just generally a pain. Tour companies will do some of the legwork for you or at the very least help you out if you want to go this route.
3. Independent travel is not permitted
Countries: Libya and Iran
Now we're getting into some grey areas of travel. The above countries aren't for everyone, and some family members and friends may question your sanity when telling them of plans to travel to places like Libya or Iran. While certain areas of each country can be very dangerous, it is still possible to travel in any of these places as long as you do your homework and keep your wits about you. Independent travel is not permitted in either of these countries, therefore booking a tour is necessary, so instead of going through the visa processes, I will highlight certain tours that any adventurous traveler may find interesting.
4. The "Sneak In" countries
Countries: Cuba and Syria, Lebanon
While the countries in number 3 may be more dangerous and evoke more of a gasp from people, the countries in this category will ask travelers to be somewhat untruthful in order to get in, and a considerable amount of homework is necessary. While it may change soon, at this point Americans are still not technically allowed to go to Cuba. Citizens of the United States are allowed to visit countries like Syria and Lebanon, but what if you want to visit Israel as well? It gets a little dicey if that's the case, but like most things, there's a way around it.
Read more about travel to dangerous or difficult places: