Turkmenistan – strictly by invitation

Not everyone thinks of Turkmenistan as a tourist destination as this small country tends to dominate news headlines thanks to its patchy political history and eccentric ruling family. Due to wide spread reports in the media regarding human rights abuses it’s not surprising that the government strictly controls who is allowed in.

If you’re dead set on visiting this Central Asian state, you’ll need to get what is called an official letter of invitation. This you will only be to get through a government approved local tour guide. Not strict enough for you? You’ll be met by this self-same tour guide at the airport who will then escort you from there to your hotel. From this point on you are allowed to see what else is on offer – without a tour guide looking over your shoulder.

Beautiful (government sanctioned) Bhutan

Along with other Asian destinations like Myanmar, Bhutan is experiencing a slow rise in popularity as a tourist destination. As such, the government has not made it impossible to get a tourist visa. It’s just very, very strict.

If you’re an Australian citizen, you will have to purchase what is called a “Minimum Daily Package”. This package includes board and lodging, meals and a few guided tours. Sounds ok? The problem is the price: Packages range from USD240 per day all the way up to USD320, depending on whether you are travelling solo, in a group or as a married couple.

Also worth noting, if you want anything more than the 3-star(ish) accommodation provided in the government packages, you will have to spend significantly more.

The not-so Democratic Republic of Korea

Like 90% of countries with the word “democratic” in their name, South Korea’s angry brother is by no means a place that prizes freedom of movement or expression. North Korea’s leadership does, however, recognise the importance of tourism funds.

This recognition means that while it is not so hard to secure a visa, you will be subjected to several, frankly, bizarre requirements once in the country. Your stay will be carefully directed by official government tour guides who will take you on carefully planned tours through hand-picked and curated parts of the city. 

Cameras are often disallowed and visitors speak of having to pay tribute to statues of former North Korean leaders. You’ll also have to handover your passport to the authorities upon arrival. You’ll get it back at the end, but it’s hard not to feel slightly ill at ease when this happens. Whatever you do, don’t steal any posters while you’re there.

If you think you can live with these minor inconveniences and you’d like to apply for an Australian passport, send our team of Registered Migration Agents an email or give us a call on +61 1800 039 300 (AUS).