How to “cheat” your way to visiting EVERY country

How to “cheat” your way to visiting EVERY country

People have different opinions on how many countries there are in the world but in general there are 193 United Nation member states (I also include the non-UN states Kosovo, Taiwan and the Vatican). 

How you define visiting a country also varies. Is it – Stepping over the border? Visiting a major city? Staying overnight? Or for at least 24 hours? 

Only a few hundred people have visited every country in the world. And there’s a small community trying to at the moment (check out EveryPassportStamp on fb if you’re interested). 

Visas can cause the largest obstacle in this quest – they’re often expensive and time consuming, so some people try and find ways around this. Below are ways to visit a country by sometimes bypassing the visa process or visiting little known territories. Whether you consider these as “cheating” or count them as a legitimate visit, is up to you. Please let me know in the comments.

Note: This article is based on having a western passport – UK, US, Canada, Australia, NZ and EU. 

Syria

Visit Golan Heights. The international community recognises Golan Heights to be official Syrian territory but it’s currently controlled by Israel. To visit here you only need to enter Israel which is visa free for most western passports. 

Syria isn’t as difficult to visit as it once was. There’s quite a few group tours running there but these tours will set you back over 1500 USD for the week (excluding flights and a visa). Plus you’re still not guaranteed you’ll get a visa approved. 

Golan Heights
Golan Heights

Iran 

Visit Kish Island or Qeshm Island.

Both islands are part of Iran and visa free (for 14 days) for most nationals. To visit mainland Iran you must be part of a tour group with a recognised Iranian guide, and even with this, many US and UK passports still report getting visas denied without reason. 

Kish Island: Before Covid. Kish Island was easily accessible from Dubai by ferry. However, this has stopped and there’s no news on when or if it will return.

Qeshm Island: Currently there are 40 min flights from Dubai to Qeshm Island. 

They’ve recently made it more difficult for US, Canadian and UK passports to enter. For these passports, a certified Iranian guide is required to be waiting for them upon their arrival at the airports on Kish or Qeshm Island. But with the Football World Cup in Qatar in November 2022, rumours are they will drop this to make the islands more accessible for visiting tourists. 

Kish Island
Kish Island

Iraq 

Visit the Kurdistan Region of Iraq which only requires a visa on arrival for 30 days, compared to the rest of Iraq which requires you to visit an embassy for a visa.

Iraqi Kurdistan lies in the north of Iraq and many consider it to be its own country. In general this mountainous region has remained more peaceful and you can cross it from Turkey over the land border. 

Iraqi kurdistan
Iraqi Kurdistan

North Korea

Visit the demilitarized zone (DMZ). In this strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula, that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea, there are boardrooms where diplomatic meetings are held. Some are considered the property of North Korea and are therefore technically are in North Korea. US passport holders cannot enter North Korea and American Lexi Alford used this loophole when on her pursuit to be the youngest person to visit every country.

North Korea DMZ
North Korea DMZ

Yemen

A country known for its wars – Yemen is often cited as too dangerous to visit. While there are tours running here with armed guards, and many visitors say the Yemenis are friendly, the mainland might be too adventurous for some. So people opt to visit the Yemeni owned island of Socotra. An isolated island with UNESCO status due to its native dragon blood trees. 

Socotra is on a different visa scheme than mainland Yemen and, as usual, a tour is required to secure that visa. 

Flights run every Monday with Air Arabia from Abu Dhabi. There have been reports of cancelled flights from Socotra recently (March 22) and without a visa for mainland Yemen, you can’t take a flight from there to connect to another flight. So there is a chance you might get stuck there for a while. 

Socotra
Socotra

Somalia 

Like Yemen, Somalia doesn’t have the best reputation which is why many opt to visit Somaliland in the north west of Somalia instead. Somalia’s capital Mogadishu is often named the most dangerous city on Earth, in comparison Somaliland is… relatively safe. This is due to its autonomy. While it’s not internationally recognised, Somaliland has its own visa, flag and government. If you enter via its airport or land borders most passports can obtain a visa on arrival.

Somaliland
Somaliland

China 

Another country which isn’t particularly difficult to get a visa for, but is quite expensive, is China.

However, both Macau and Hong Kong (whether you consider this China is up to you) allow most nationals to stay for 6 months without a visa. 

Macau
Macau

Alternatively, many passports could get a transit visa (G Visa). These were available for 24 hours direct transit, 72-hour visa free transit, and the 144 hour visa free transit and all have different rules. Currently these aren’t available due to China’s strict Covid quarantine rules, but for future reference:

  • 24 hours direct transit – you can transit directly through mainland China to a third country without requiring a visa. 
  • 72-hour visa free transit is only available if transiting through the major airports. 
  • 144 hour visa free if transiting from some select airports (Jiangsu and Zhejiang) as well as, through all air, sea and railway ports of Shanghai. You’re not meant to leave this region during your stay. 

Russia 

Like China, obtaining a Russian visa isn’t too difficult but it is expensive at €150 for single entry and it takes time and hassle to send your passport off. Before Covid, overnight ferries ran from Helsinki, Finland to St Petersburg, Russia. On arrival at St Petersburg, 72 hour visas were available. The terms were – you required a tour to enter, which the ferry companies claimed they gave people with the 30 min bus drive from the harbour to the city centre. Once off the bus you have a day or two to explore the city yourself before getting back on the ferry. It’s up to you if you consider this a true visit to the world’s largest country.

Given Russia isn’t the best of friends with most of Europe (especially Finland) at the moment due to the Ukrainian invasion, it’s not known if this will resume. 

Saint Petersburg,
Saint Petersburg

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