Safe travel NZ: 14 no-go zones when travelling overseas

Countries on Smart Traveller do not travel list

It’s no secret that New Zealaners love to travel, taking around 200,000 overseas trips each month. But for those of us that especially love travelling, it’s important to know that there are a handful of countries that are no-go zones, full stop. Whether it’s due to war, the threat of terrorism, civil unrest, or some other complication, the New Zealand Government’s SafeTravel website has a list of countries and regions marked as “Extreme Risk”.

At time of writing (October 2015) these are the main ones:


Afghanistan is a war-torn and impoverished country, listed as an LDC (least developed country) by the United Nations. Decades of civil war stretching from the 1970s to the present have seen the country reach huge levels of poverty and economic vulnerability, along with low levels of education and public health. While the country’s overall levels of education are improving, public health is still poor. A combination of government corruption and insurgency have ensured that the country still has high levels of crime, terrorist activity, and general danger.

Afghanistan is listed as a no-travel zone due to the hostile and unpredictable security situation, and a high and ongoing threat from terrorism and kidnapping of foreigners which presents a significant risk to New Zealanders in Afghanistan.


The North African country of Algeria 9formally known as the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria) has been plagued by civil war since the early 1990s. SafeTravel advises that there is  extreme risk to security in the border regions with Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Niger due to a heightened threat from terrorism and kidnapping. There is also extreme risk to security in the border region with Tunisia, south of the town of Souk Ahras, due to ongoing security operations and the presence of militants


Bordered by the better-known but equally dangerous countries of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi is a densely populated country located in Central Africa. Since the 1970s, the country has seen several instances of ethnic cleansings, two civil wars, two genocides, and 2015 has seen large-scale political strife triggered by the country’s President attempting to run for a third term in office.

Burundi is listed as a no-travel zone due to the unpredictable security situation, potential for violent civil unrest, threat from terrorism and violent crime.

The aforementioned political strife has created a huge amount of violence, including an attempted military coup and violent confrontations between police and citizens. Banditry and kidnapping are common in the areas bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, and unlike some of the countries on this list, Australia has no embassy or consulate in Burundi.

Central African Republic

As the name implies, the CAR is placed smack bang in the middle of Africa, bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the east, the Congo to the south, and Cameroon to the west. Originally established as a colony by France in the late 19th century, it became an independent country in 1960, and saw only small amounts of unrest and violence through to the early 2000s, which saw a failed military coup occur. In 2004 the Central African Republic Bush War was started, and despite peace treaties being drawn up in 2007 and 2011, conflicts between the Government and various religious factions saw large-scale ethnic and religious cleansing.

The Central African Republic is listed as a no-travel zone due to the dangerous security situation, activities of armed groups, and high levels of serious crime.


Described as “one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world”, the Central African country of Chad is another former French colony, which also gained its independence in 1960. However soon after, the autocratic rule of the government at the time indirectly sparked a civil war, which extended through to 1975, when the then-president was overthrown and killed. However this did not end the violence and unrest, and even though another president was appointed in 1982, this did little to bring peace to the country. Another civil war broke out in 2005, and didn’t end until 2010, and since then the country has remained a dangerous place, with coups being attempted and foiled on a regular basis.

SafeTravel advises that there is extreme risk to  security outside the capital N’Djamena due to the threat of terrorism and kidnapping, the presence of armed militants and the unpredictable security situation.


Iraq is a Middle-Eastern country which shares borders with Turkey, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932, and since then has been riddled by civil conflict and violence caused by military occupation and intervention on the part of several western countries.

Iraq is listed as a no-travel zone due to the extremely volatile and dangerous security situation. Military forces from countries such as the US and Australia are still active in the country, and carry out targeted operations such as air-strikes on a regular basis.


A North African country that was host of one of the most devastating civil wars in recent memory, Libya shares borders with Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria, and Tunisia. After gaining its independence from Italy in 1947, the country experienced increased prosperity due to the discovery of oil reserves; however the concentration of the wealth in the hands of the ruler at the time led to dissent among certain factions. One of these factions, led by Muammar Gaddafi, successfully overthrew the government, and established a new regime. In 1977 Libya had international conflicts with both Chad and Egypt. More recently, Libya saw a civil war erupt in 2011, which lasted eight months and resulted in the deaths of at least 30,000 Libyans. Libya is currently a country split between two different bodies claiming to be the country’s true government, along with various militias which govern areas of the country out of reach of either government

The unpredictable security situation and the threat from terrorism and kidnapping presents a significant risk to New Zealanders in Libya. New Zealanders currently in Libya are strongly advised by SafeTravel to depart immediately.

As there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in Libya, the ability of the government to assist New Zealand citizens is severely limited.  The British Embassy, which has previously provided emergency assistance to New Zealanders in Libya, has closed due to the security situation.


A landlocked country in West Africa, Mali is the third-largest producer of gold in the African continent.  It was a French colony until 1960, at which point it became the independent Republic of Mali. 1968 through to 1991 saw a period of extended political strife, including multiple coups, protests, riots, and extensive murdering of citizens by soldiers. In 1991 the country’s first democratic, multi-party presidential election was held, and during the period stretching from 1991 to 2002 Mali was regarded as one of the most politically and socially stable countries in Africa. However 2012 saw another coup, which led to clashes between Islamist and Tuareg groups, leading the French Armed Forces to intervene in order to settle the situation.

Many regions of Mali (in the provinces of Gao, Kayes, Kidal, Mopti, Tombouctou and areas of Koulikoro and Segou provinces north of the Niger River) are designated extreme risk.


The largest country in West Africa, the Republic of Niger was named after the Niger River, and is almost entirely covered by the Sahara Desert. Currently ranked last in the UN’s Human Development Index, Niger is a developing country ridden by low education, poverty, lack of infrastructure, and poor health care. It gained independence from France in 1960, and since then a number of coups have seen Niger go through five constitutions and three separate periods of military rule.

Niger is listed as a no-travel zone outside the capital of Niamey due to: the high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, crime, and the unpredictable political and security environment. Since early 2015, the militant group Boko Haram has terrorized the country, especially in the Diffa region. There is a high threat to westerners in regards to being kidnapped, as well as a high threat of terrorist attack on places frequented by foreigners.


Located in the intriguingly named “Horn of Africa”, Somalia is an African country bordered by Ethiopia, Djibouti, the Gulf of Aden, and Kenya. Somalia was actually relatively peaceful up until 1991, when the government of the time collapsed, which subsequently led to the Somali Civil War. This led to a power struggle between several armed factions, and Somalia hasn’t seen any sort of peace since then. Political and social instability have been a constant since the Civil War, with power shifting several times of the course of the last few decades. Somalia topped the Failed States Index between 2008 and 2013, however in 2014 Somalia dropped to second places, and since then analysts have begun to refer to Somalia as a “fragile” state, rather than a failed one.

Somalia is listed as a no-travel zone due to a significant threat from terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict and a high level of violent crime throughout the country.

South Sudan

Originally part of Sudan but now its own independent country, the Republic of South Sudan is a country in Northeast Africa which gained independence in 2011. It is bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Congo, and the Central African Republic. The country has been damaged by internal conflicts since it gained independence, and it is the highest-scoring country on the Fragile States Index. The country is warring with “at least seven armed groups” in 9 of its 10 states, and inter-ethnic warfare is widespread. A civil war broke out at the end of 2013, which has been estimated to have claimed the lives of 100,000 people; in August 2015 a peace agreement was signed.

South Sudan is listed as a no-travel zone due to: instability and ongoing conflict. The country remains volatile, and the situation is at risk of worsening at any point.


The third-largest country in Africa, Sudan is a North-African country bordered by Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya. Sudan has long suffered from tensions between various ethnic groups, and has seen two civil wars. Sudan also has a poor human rights record.

Sudan is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the possibility of armed conflict, the threat of terrorist attack, the incidence of violent crime, and threat of kidnapping. Foreigners are prime targets for kidnapping, including non-government workers. Violent military activity is common in the country, including clashes with rebel groups, protestors, and the Sudanese Armed Forces. Demonstrations, protests, and large crowds often turn violent rapidly, with little warning.


Officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, Syria is a Middle-Eastern country bordered by Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel. The modern Syrian state was established post-WWI as a French colony; however it gained independence in 1945 when it became a founding member of the United Nations. The period post-independence was incredibly unstable, with a large number of military and non-military coups attempted between 1949 and 1971. The ongoing Syrian Civil War began in 2011, and the United Nations estimates that up to 100,000 people have been killed.

Syria is listed as a no-travel zone due to: the extremely dangerous security situation, ongoing military conflict including aerial bombardment, kidnappings, and terrorist attacks. As there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in Syria, the ability of the government to assist New Zealand citizens requiring consular assistance is severely limited.


The second-largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is an Arab country located in Southwest Asia. Yemen is a developing country, and is ranked 164 out of 182 on the International Corruption Perception Index.

The Safetravel site advises Yemen as “extreme risk” due to the widening civil and international conflict and extreme political instability. There is a very high threat of kidnapping and terrorist attack.

There are many other countries listed on the SafeTravel website that advise extreme risk in certain areas; you can check the full current list of countries here.

Don’t let the list above put you off travel though – there are a vast number of fantastic and (comparatively) safe destinations for you to visit!

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