This page is about problems that may arise from evidence of travel to or visa for certain territories. For the issue of visas in general, see Visa.
Nothing in this article here should be considered as legal advice. All facts presented here are purely anecdotal. You are strongly advised to talk to embassy officials or a lawyer if you need accurate information on something.
It is a sad reality that diplomatic conflicts and wars often adversely affect travel. While most of those issues are more or less temporary, some have plagued travelers for decades, and don't show any signs of going away soon. The reason for being denied admission is usually related to travel to a place that is:
- not recognized as a country by your national government, or another country that it borders,
- has some sort of territorial dispute with the other country, or
- has sanctions put in place by the other country (see Americans in Cuba for the most long-lived example)
There are some work-arounds for most of those cases, which will be discussed below. Note that
In some cases (famously for visiting Israel and Cuba) destination country officials may be willing to help the traveler by not stamping their passport or by stamping a separate piece of paper instead, to make it easier to hide evidence of the trip later on.
Israel and Arab/Muslim countries
While the state of Israel is a member of the United Nations, and has been at peace with both Jordan and Egypt and Morocco for four decades now (and travel between these three is no problem), several Muslim-majority and Arab nations do not recognize the existence of the state of Israel and deny admission to anybody who is Israeli or shows any evidence of having been to Israel (e.g. visa (stamps) in a passport). On the reverse, travel to Israel with evidence in your passport of travel to one of the countries mentioned below is usually no problem, but you may be selected for especially intense questioning or scrutiny at the border or airport. In 2020-2021, Israel normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Bahrain, and Morocco restored its partial normalization of relations with Israel that had existed before 2002. Tourism by Israelis to the United Arab Emirates began almost immediately despite Covid-19 restrictions.
Countries that are known to deny entry to travelers who have been to Israel
Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
You may also have difficulties, but to a lesser extent, entering other Islamic countries, such as Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iraq, Malaysia and Pakistan.
Ways to avoid proof of having been to Israel
Back in the day the main way of avoiding the Israeli stamp was by having the stamp on a separate sheet of paper or by using an additional passport for those critical Islamic countries.
However, this is no longer a problem since in most cases Israeli passport control no longer stamps visitors' passports. Under a new system, visitors entering Israel are given special entry (and also exit) cards separate from the passport by the passport control. This is true for at least Ben Gurion International Airport, Ramon International Airport and the Aqaba/Eilat border crossing, and may also apply to all other border crossings from Jordan and from Sinai (Egypt) to Israel.
Problems with overland entry/exit to/from Israel
Unfortunately, most countries that ban travel to Israel take a stamp from one of the border crossings in Jordan or Egypt that offers entry to Israel (or even just exit from Jordan/Egypt) as proof of travel to Israel. This is especially true for the specific land border exit stamps, as there is nowhere else that you could enter besides Israel. Therefore, you should try to get stamped for this border crossing in some other way than using the passport you intend to use for travel to countries that deny entry. While many border officials know of this issue, and will accommodate travelers by stamping a piece of paper instead, you may be unlucky on the Jordan or Egypt side.
In this case, you'll have to apply for a second passport, which allows you to have a stamp of any neighbouring countries or even Israel in one passport and travel to Muslim countries with another one. (Inquire at your own embassy.)
Immigration of these countries might also check for luggage stickers from Israel or neighbouring countries on your suitcase or the back of your passport, so remove any leftovers or signs of them.
Getting more than one passport
While this may be illegal or subject to some conditions (frequent travel, business travel), in some countries it is easily arranged for a nominal fee (usually not more expensive than your first passport) and perfectly legal to have more than one valid passport at a time. If you are unsure whether your country allows that, go to the place that issued your passport and ask well in advance of your trip to Israel, as issuing a passport can take months. If you have dual citizenship, you may consider using the passport of one country to visit certain countries and another country's passport to visit those with restrictions.
United States of America and hostile countries
Under new rules passed in 2015, travelers who visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 are not eligible to enter under a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) commonly used by visitors to the US from Western Europe. They remain eligible to apply for a regular tourism or business visa – at the expense of more cost and hassle than with the Visa Waiver program. Due to the role of U.S. airports as global aviation hubs, consider whether you want to avoid travel through the United States for as long as this policy is in effect or get a costly and hard to get visa for every time you connect through an American airport.
Under a 2017 executive order, citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela or Yemen have been turned away from the US despite holding valid US visas. In some cases, US landed permanent residents ("green card" holders), refugees and dual citizens (who emigrated from one of the affected countries to a western nation other than the US) have been detained, turned away or placed on return flights to remove them from the USA.
British and Canadian citizens can now travel to Iran, but only on an organized tour.
Beginning in the fall of 2016, travellers began to report being denied visas to China, or entry to China under visa waiver programs because of visits to Turkey and other countries in the region. Other travellers have reported being questioned at the port of entry about their visits to certain countries even though they hold valid Chinese visas.
Primarily, the issue appears to be related to having entry and exit stamps from Turkey. Stamps from other countries in the region, like Iran, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia may also have caused problems.
Applicants for Chinese visas with stamps from some of these countries, Turkey and Pakistan in particular, have been told to include a written explanation of the purpose of their visit to the countries in question. In addition, all applicants for Chinese visas have been required to include either their previous expired passport or copies of the visa pages of the previous passport with their visa application. A Pakistani stamp may not be a problem, depending on where you entered Pakistan. People crossing from Afghanistan and Iran (specially those travelling overland from Turkey) have sometimes been denied entry on the Khunjerab border. Another concern for the Chinese authorities is the Pakistan-China border, which is adjacent to the disturbed Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China.
It is likely that the increased scrutiny is related to Chinese government concerns about possible insurgents returning from Iraq and Syria who have passed through Turkey entering China to visit regions in Northwest China with large Uyghur populations.
These restrictions may have originally been related to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, held in October 2017. However, reports of visa and entry denials continue.
Due to longstanding tensions between India and Pakistan, citizens of Pakistan are rarely granted visas to visit India.
Due to longstanding tensions between India and Pakistan, citizens of India are rarely granted visas to visit Pakistan.
Entities with limited recognition
Some territories while de facto being under the control of one administration are considered by others (and often the international community) to be de jure under the administration of another country. While Wikivoyage takes no side on these issues, they can affect travelers.
Tourists entering via Moldova and returning to Moldova should experience no issues, and the same should hold true for tourists entering via Ukraine and returning to Ukraine. However, tourists entering Transnistria via Ukraine and exiting into Moldova may experience some hassle upon eventual exit from Moldova due to having no Moldovan entry stamp.
Passports are not stamped by Transnistrian guards, but a migration card is issued upon arrival at the checkpoint. DO NOT LOSE THIS, as you will need to present this upon departure from Transnistrian territory.
Tourists can get to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia.
If you are planning to go to Azerbaijan, any sign indicating a previous visit to Nagorno-Karabakh on your passport will get you permanently banned from Azerbaijan. Even an Armenian entry stamp, without actually setting foot in N-K, may reportedly attract attention of the Azerbaijani border guards, resulting in an interrogation of the probability of an earlier visit to N-K. All Armenian citizens, as well as citizens of other countries who are of Armenian descent, or have Armenian names or surnames, are banned from entering Azerbaijan. It might be best to ensure that no Armenian souvenirs or memorabilia are in your possession. Reports of Azeri authorities confiscating Armenian fridge magnets from travellers on the Tbilisi-Baku train (May 2019) should be taken seriously.
Since the official position is that the island as a whole acceeded to the European Union, entry stamps and visas of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) are no longer an issue for later visits to Greece or the Republic of Cyprus-controlled half of the island, both EU members.
In accordance with this policy, arriving into the island through an entry point in the North is also no longer an issue while crossing the 'Green Line' into the South for EU citizens. Those travelling on US and Canadian passports are also reportedly spared from trouble. However, for Turkish citizens, an entry into the island through the North is still considered illegal by the Republic of Cyprus, and they aren't let through the intra-island border into the South.
Tourists can enter from Russia (Psou border crossing near Sochi), but not from Georgia. On the Georgian side only those with prior permission may be allowed to cross by the Georgian authorities. However those who entered from Russia are considered by Georgian authorities to enter the country illegally and they could be prosecuted if they arrive in Georgia in the future.
Tourists can enter South Ossetia from Russia only. Just like in Abkhazia, they may subsequently face charges of illegal entry if they come to Georgia.
Serbia regards Kosovo as part of its territory, meaning that entering Kosovo through a border crossing that is not with Serbia is considered to be illegal entry under Serbian law. The official stance is that travellers with stamps or visas from Kosovo will be denied entry into Serbia though enforcement of this rule is sporadic. Entering Serbia through Kosovo, though, will be regarded as illegal entry, and would likely lead to you being arrested at Serbian immigration. For this reason, if you enter Kosovo from Montenegro for instance, and wish to travel onwards to Serbia, you will have to exit Kosovo to a third country (North Macedonia) and from there into Serbia. Note that it is acceptable to do this trip in the opposite direction - you can travel from Serbia into Kosovo (e.g. Mitrovica) and then enter a third country without any issue.
For citizens of European Union countries, crossing borders using a national ID card instead of a passport should prevent all Kosovo/Serbia visa/stamp trouble.
Kosovan passports are not recognized by most Commonwealth of Independent States countries, Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon, Cuba and Venezuela.
Although China regards Taiwan as part of its territory, there are no additional restrictions on foreigners whose passports contain Taiwanese stamps and visas. Taiwanese passports are, however, not valid for travel to China; you will need to obtain a separate Taiwan Compatriot Pass (台胞证) from the Chinese government for that.
While Taiwanese passports are accepted for travel to most countries, in some cases diplomatic and official passports are not accepted even if ordinary passports are.
Entering Crimea from Ukraine requires special permission of the Ukrainian government. Unless you hold a Ukrainian passport, the only way to Crimea is through Russia, and this generally does not leave any imprints in your passport other than a standard Russian visa with an entry stamp from Moscow, St. Petersburg, or some border town (it is not possible to travel directly to Crimea from abroad). However, you might want to avoid talking about your recent visit to Crimea when you arrive at a point of entry to Ukraine, as Ukrainian officials will likely consider this visit an offense and ban you from entering the country.
Home country restrictions
United States citizens
The United States government restricts its citizens' travel to Cuba and North Korea.
The longstanding restriction on travel to Cuba has an array of official and unofficial exceptions. See Americans in Cuba.
As of 2017, a strict restriction has been placed on travel to North Korea with a U.S. passport; violations may result in invalidation of your passport or felony prosecution. Exceptions can be requested from the U.S. State Department, mainly for journalists and aid workers, however, North Korea in turn often denies admission to journalists. If you don't fall into those categories and you're still dead-set on setting foot in North Korea, the other option is a quick border-hop on a tour to Panmunjeom from South Korea.