Least Friendly Countries In the World

Least Friendly Countries In The World

“I’m a stranger in a strange land.” Carson McCullers 

As any world traveler knows, not every country offers tourists a warm welcome. Everyone does not “like to practice their English” for you English-speaking tourists. Everyone does not like foreigners. Friendliness is rated by attitudes toward foreigners. Here are the least friendly countries in order.

10. Mongolia is not a nation of smiling quaint little Asian people. They come from warrior lineage and showing emotion to strangers is a sign of weakness. It is a cultural difference and that is the way it is. They often seem rude and unfriendly, especially in cities. Once you go out of the city, this is not the case. The challenging nature of nomadic life has shaped the need for the unique hospitality and genuine warmth extended to all travelers and pilgrims. Mongolians believe that the welcome offered a stranger today will be repaid in the future. This concept is at the very root of Mongolia’s centuries-old culture.

9. Bulgaria is about as East as Eastern Europe gets and Eastern Europeans are not friendly. They don’t smile and I don’t speak Bulgarian. I don’t know much about this country. It is not famous for gymnasts or shooting dictators.There is a lot of stuff on the internet about people being rude and ripping off tourists when possible. Least friendly does not mean unsafe. I guess I will go and see for myself and bring a book.

8. Slovaks are not friendly to people they do not know. I am not sure if this reserve is a Slavic trait or a product of the Socialist regime that they lived under for so long. Smiling customer service will not be part of your shopping or dining experience in Slovakia. They want tourism but they can’t figure out how to market themselves. If you need help in English “ask young,” The older people working in train stations and bus terminals do not speak English. There have been several racist incidents in this homogeneous white society that make people not want to return.

7. Latvia is a good place to not ask directions because no one is going to help you. I have been there. The locals are not friendly and if anyone is friendly to you they want something – so be careful. It is my least favorite of all the Eastern European countries that I have been to so far.

6. Pakistan is a country rife with crime and terrorists. Home to the Taliban and other extremist organizations, Pakistan is unsafe and unfriendly.

5. Iran is a tough one. I think it is on this list because it is ruled by savage mullahs who sponsor terrorism. But from everything I have heard, Iranians are welcoming to visitors and happy to see travelers in their country. The President leads chants that say Death To America. There are posters that say Death to Israel and We Have No Homosexuals. This definitely makes it unwelcoming, yet by all accounts, the people are kind and friendly.

4. Kuwait is incredibly hot which probably makes people irritable. Do not expect a warm welcome here. It is a conservative Muslim country and from being around conservative Muslims in my travels, I notice that they avoid eye contact with anyone in Western clothes. There is not a lot to do other than eating vast amounts of food, smoke shisha (hookah) and walk around luxurious shopping malls. Apparently, the locals don’t seem to want foreigners to do that.

3. I was in Russia a while ago. No one spoke English and at that time every sign was written in Cyrillic. It was hard to get around and I tried to learn temporary Cyrillic as fast I could. The no smiling, no small talk is standard Russian behavior. It was still early in the post-Communist era and people were adjusting. The life of a Russian person in Russia had always been hard and a constant struggle. When I was there, they had many issues between this new “free” life and the feeling that life under Communism was easier. It was what they knew. I found the people cold, rude and unfriendly but I never found that with the many Russian immigrants I have met in the States. I understand why it is listed as the third most unfriendly country in the world because that was my experience as well coming from a completely different culture. 

2. Venezuela is a country in crisis.  It is socially, economically, and politically in ruins. Venezuela is full of violent crime, inflation, and corruption. The local people spend half their lives waiting in line at empty supermarkets, bus, train and gas stations. Hospitals are empty because there is no medicine in this oil-rich country.  The black market is so much cheaper than inflated prices so everyone carries cash. Tourists are robbed by both criminals and police. Traffic accidents are common because cars don’t stop at street lights for fear of being robbed. Protests are daily and often turn violent. Venezuela is a dangerous country and not on most people’s list to travel to right now. Everyone is way too worried about their own safety and precarious future to be friendly to strangers. 

1. Bolivia took the dubious honor of being the most unfriendly country in the world. I know you probably thought it would be the French. I’m not sure I get this one. The only Bolivians I have met were in Northern Argentina selling hand-made souvenirs and coca leaves for altitude sickness in the Altiplano. It is the most extensive high altitude plateau outside of Tibet -4000 meters high. Chewing coca leaves and drinking coca tea is very helpful for avoiding altitude sickness. The legality of coca leaves in Buenos Aires is questionable but it is medicinal in the Altiplano and they bring it in from Bolivia. Some Bolivians were friendlier than others but no one was rude. I’ve always found South Americans to be kind and helpful and I can’t find any information on why it is number one. It is an odd choice for a poor, beautiful country that needs tourism. I’m definitely going anyway.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Ten Of The Most Corrupt Countries In The World

Ten Of The Most Corrupt Countries In The World

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. “Friedrich Nietzsche  

Transparency International, an anticorruption agency monitors the relationship between politics and money around the world. Measuring corruption is difficult and subjective, but  the group compiled a Corruption Perceptions Index. The lowest ranked nations were all plagued by “conflict and war, poor governance, weak public institutions like police and the judiciary and a lack of independence in the media.”

Fair  and just government rule is an important  step in pulling a country out of the cycle of poverty. When the government is corrupt, natural resources are destroyed. The death toll rises when people have to bribe for inadequate health care,clean water or food.  The first step to putting an end to poverty is putting an end to government corruption.

Unfortunately, there are way more than ten countries – many being in Africa. I compiled the ten from a few different lists. 

1.Somalia in Eastern Africa heads almost all the lists as the world’s most corrupt country. It has been there for the last ten years. Corruption in Somalia takes the form of mass murder.  Three decades of war and droughts forced half of the population to be dependent on foreign food aid shipments which are controlled by the local warlords. Desperation turns ordinary citizens into pirates on the many Somalian pirate ships to feed their families. Bribery, voter intimidation and no way of keeping track of the number of voters, makes change in government difficult.

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2. Corruption in North Korea is a widespread and  a growing problem. It is hard to get the facts because it is the most totalitarian Communist regime left in the world.  North Koreans assume that any official in a position to take bribes will. Corruption is part of the fabric of daily life. Strict rules and serious punishments imposed by the regime, for example, against accessing foreign media  are commonly evaded by offering bribes to the police.

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3. Afghanistan is always in the top four as one of the most corrupt countries. The casual disregard of legality is noticeable. Most of the money from international aid never filters down to the people who need it. There is no punishment for corruption.  The interior minister was also made a drug czar which was too much for the international community to handle. Britain pulled their funding. Drug trafficking and vote rigging  are  very visible.

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4. Sudan is one of the worst nation’s in the world for human rights violations. Corruption exists in every section of the economy and every level of government. There is no freedom of the media so it is hard for the average person to get any information. Bribery is necessary for any  public services and in dealing with police. The UN is ineffective  in this country because of government intervention.

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5. Corruption is at the root of the power struggle in South Sudan causing the continued violence. Government officials have built personal fortunes while their country suffers and starves. Both sides have been blamed for mass rape, massacres, denial of aid, sexual slavery, burning of food supplies and villages, killing civilians and the use of child soldiers.  Both sides, have been looting the country’s natural resources and using international aid to fund their militias to fight each other.  There is no accountability for the atrocities and looting of state resources, or for the famine that has resulted.South Sudan is the world’s newest country (2011) and the hope they had five years ago is dwindling.

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6. Angola is a country rich in diamonds, oil and serious corruption. The president is a billionaire. Government workers are rich. Villagers live without health care, education and adequate food. Angola has the  highest child mortality rate in the world which is mostly preventable.   Corruption kills. The US and western oIl companies have a great relationship with Angola. If we do not condemn it, then we have a part in it.

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7. Not much has changed since the revolution in Libya in terms of corruption and financial mismanagement. The systemic corruption is not limited to a few institutions but becoming normal in people’s lives. The bribe culture still flourishes. The oil based economy is a huge source of corruption with  very little filtering down to the people who need it.

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8.In post war Iraq a corrupt political class has pillaged the country’s money, forcing corruption at every level. The senior political leaders have taken most of it. Organized corruption syndicates run the country and militia. Plunging oil prices and the War against the Islamic State are putting Iraq’s dwindling finances in major jeopardy. Corruption exists because it is allowed to exist. Having being governed by a dictator for so long, the people don’t understand self governance.

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9. The Myanmar government has acknowledged the problem of widespread corruption. it will take time to have an impact on all the private sector and government corruption. Land ownership and the jade business are still run by military.  Multiple exchange rates and corruption are serious barriers to trade and investment in Myanmar. Nepotism, personal connections and bribery are more important than qualifications.  Myanmar is one of four major producers for opium and heroin. Money intended to help the  public is more often used for personal gain.

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10. Corruption seems to go hand and hand with human rights violations and Venezuela is no exception. Government funds meant to serve the people are mismanaged, stolen or spent. Medicine and food meant for the poor are sold to other countries.Venezuela is an oil rich country and the fact that so many live in poverty without government aid is shameful. There is so much corruption and mismanagement from the government to the private sector that food and medicine are rotting in warehouses instead of being distributed. Journalists who try to report anything are jailed.

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Other very highly corrupt countries are Haiti, Guinea Bissau,  Eritrea. Syria, Turkmenistan, Yemen, Uzbekistan,Burundi, Cambodia, Zimbabwe,Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Most Dangerous Countries Not To Visit Right Now

Ten Most Dangerous Countries Not To Visit Right Now

“Hitler didn’t travel. Stalin didn’t travel. Saddam Hussein never traveled. They didn’t want to have their orthodoxy challenged.” — Howard Gardner

I was thinking about the countries I would be most afraid to travel to. I decided to look on the internet at other people’s lists. Many  countries were the same – the usual suspects, unstable governments, high crime rates, drug cartels, terrorists, kidnappings – all things that could ruin a vacation. There were a couple of surprises. Russia and the United States were on a few top ten lists. The reason is that we have enemies. We invaded countries and had a major terrorist attack. We have gangs, crime, drug problems and random, crazy shootings. There are people from peaceful countries that are afraid to come here.

The list of dangerous countries changes with economic and political stability.  I’m not sure of what the time limit is but when a certain amount of time passes and nothing terrible happens, people start traveling to a country on the danger list again. They are not in order because the order changes  based on acts of violence.  Some of these countries have been on this list for a very long time.

1. Syria If you are in Syria, you should leave immediately. Kidnapping  of foreign nationals, terrorism, polio and ongoing military clashes make it an extremely dangerous place to be at the moment. Thousands of people have already been injured or killed. If you insist on going, travel with an armed guard. If you are stopped, they will assume you have picked a side and you could be executed.

2. Afghanistan  It is probably not a good idea to travel to Afghanistan especially if you are from a country in the NATO Alliance. The Taliban  has issued a threat against every citizen of these countries. The American government has pretty much issued the same travel advisory about Afghanistan.  There are a few tourists but keeping them safe is difficult.  Some of them have not come back. Afghanistan has spectacular scenery. There are snow-capped mountains in the Hindu Kush and Pamir ranges, Buddhist monuments and Islāmic temples,. No one knows  if it will ever be safe for tourism because it is ten years after the international community has come in and it is still unsafe.

3. Iraq  As the cradle of civilization, Iraq  has always been a pilgrimage site. The lack of security, daily bombings, shootings, and unstable infrastructure make it very difficult to even get a tourist visa. The few western tourists that come to Iraq,  travel with an armed guard in an unmarked vehicle. They try to blend in and not call attention to themselves, and are stopped at many checkpoints. The violence seems to be getting worse so the small tourism that they do have will soon decrease.

4.Venezuela   There is no travel advisory for Venezuela other than avoiding the Colombian border. There are violent street demonstrations, kidnappings and armed robbery. It doesn’t help that Venezuela has one of the top five murder rates in the world.  (Jamaica’s is higher and they have plenty of tourists)  A  friend of mine who travels with the World Athletic Organization  said that he never felt fearful except after landing in Venezuela. It felt like anything could happen in that country. Chavez shut off the internet the weekend he was there.  Whatever improvements the Chavez government brought to Venezuela, tourism wasn’t one of them. The situation has improved since his death, but due to crazy monetary policies, it is hard to attract foreign investments and even tourists. Venezuela has the Andes, the Amazon rainforest, the world’s tallest waterfalls and an amazing Caribbean coastline but they have a lot of damage to undo before there is even pre Chavez tourism.

5. Somalia The situation in Somalia is getting better after a twenty year conflict. A traveler still has to travel with armed guards. The first tourist came to Somalia a couple of years ago. He was retired and visiting all the countries in the world and wanted to check Somalia off his list.  At first, no one believed that he was a tourist. The story made all the newspapers. It is a beautiful country with fantastic beaches and the hope is that there will be peace, tourism and economic stability with this new election.

6. Pakistan Tourism in Pakistan has definitely been declining over the last twelve years. But the mountain climbing community was undeterred. Five of the world’s fourteen highest mountain peaks are in the Gilgit-Baltistan range, which includes K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Last year the Taliban killed ten climbers at the base camp of Nanga Parbat. The mountain climbers who bring so much revenue to the region, stopped coming and that loss has been staggering. The US government feels that we are at risk for random attacks from Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups  throughout Pakistan. The British government advises against travel to Pakistan due to random terrorist attacks and violence.

7. Sudan is the third largest country in Africa and has been affected by civil war for the last forty years. Seeing the Blue and White Nile River and camel market at Khartoum sound appealing, but the recent indictment of Sudan’s president for war crimes and the killing and starvation in Darfur might make it a less than perfect travel destination.  Southern Sudan is considered extremely dangerous due to bandits and terrorist attacks. There is a general threat of terrorism throughout the Sudan and tourists should avoid protests, demonstrations and anywhere there are large gatherings of people. The Australian government asks that people reconsider their need to go there due to violent civil unrest and kidnappings.

8. Democratic Republic of Congo is one of Africa’s most interesting countries. Travelers want to see the Congo River, volcanoes and gorillas. The area is plagued with  extreme violence, instability, kidnappings, robberies and warlords. The travel advisory is don’t go unless you have to or unless you are Anthony Bourdain.

9. Libya is in a state of political instability due to a weak provisional government replacing the Gaddafi regime. There is still fighting between armed militia groups. If you are already in Libya, stay away from large public gatherings, demonstrations, and sites of civil or militia conflict. As of January 2014 the assassination campaign that was mainly targeting Libyans has now begun to affect foreign visitors. It would not be a bad idea to postpone your travel plans to Libya unless of course you are Anthony Bourdain.

10. North Korea I had trouble picking my tenth country. I couldn’t decide between Iran, Egypt, Burundi and North Korea. They are all good choices for dangerous. I went with North Korea because they have nuclear weapons and they make it very difficult to visit. Going in and out of the country is hard and you could be “detained” as an American for the slightest negative remark. This makes it difficult for someone like me without a good filter. Arbitrary arrest of Americans is common.  Walking around without your guide can get you both in trouble. Talking to North Koreans without permission can get you all in trouble. It’s never a good idea to travel to a country that America has recently severed diplomatic relations with if you happen to be American.

Writing this I felt real gratitude to my grandparents that I never met for getting on that boat and coming to America. I appreciate the freedom, comfort and privileges of living here that I usually take for granted. Things aren’t so great with our country right now but maybe the message in the mess is that we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do better.

Fly safe,

JAZ