There are certain destinations and attractions which are off-limits to independent travellers. These places can only be reached on a tour, where you don’t have a choice and where a tour guide or an entire tour group is mandatory.
It might take a little time to get used to the idea of allowing someone else to take the reins. You may need to swallow your pride as an independent traveller because if you really want to see some of these amazing and fascinating destinations this is the only way you will be able to.
There are plenty of restrictions in place for those who want to visit this magical but disputed Himalayan land. To begin with, you’ll have to enter through either mainland China or Nepal. Unfortunately, there are no other international flights. You will also need a special visa, and the only way to obtain that is to book yourself on a group tour. Though you will have a certain amount of freedom of movement once you arrive in Tibet, the tour booking is essential to be permitted entry by the Chinese government.
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is located in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic of Congo. This is the home to the most endangered mountain gorillas and it is also known to be the hideout for the other kind of guerrillas too. Probably not the sort of place you want to wander around solo certainly not the sort of place where you can. Tours are essential if you want to see these amazing animals in the wild (and avoid the dangers). So there’s a very good reason why independent travellers aren’t allowed to just go roaming around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Unless you happen to be Indian, Bangladeshi or Maldivian, the only way you’re getting into the Kingdom of Bhutan is by booking through an official Bhutanese tour operator or one of their official partners. That’s the way Bhutan rolls – no entry unless you’re on a tour, the prices for which can seem quite high, though you have to remember that these are all-inclusive, and part of the Bhutan government’s “daily minimum spend” rules. The hassle and the cost are definitely worth it though.
You can’t hike Peru’s famous Inca Trail without the services of an official guide. Anyone who fancies the idea of strolling along this ancient pathway in their own solitary company will receive a rude shock on arrival. If you hope to do a private tour rather than a group trip, it will cost you a lot of money and you will still be sharing the path with a large crowd. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Incas carved many more pathways through the Andes that are equally spectacular, but nowhere near as popular.
There are plenty of good arguments both for and against the idea of going to North Korea as a tourist – what’s not up for debate, however, is that you’ll have to visit as part of an organised tour that will be supervised constantly by representatives of the North Korean Government. Signing up for such a tour is the only way you will be granted a visa to enter North Korea. The visa process is surprisingly very straightforward.
If you’re the sort of person who would consider a former nuclear disaster site a tourist attraction then it takes all kinds, as they say. Chernobyl, in Ukraine, is open for business. However, the only way you will be able to see it is with a tour guide. Applications for passes into the exclusion zone have to be made to the Ukrainian Government at least 10 days before your visit and it is recommended by the tour agency.
Landing in the great southern continent is by permit only and these are mostly held by the big tour operators. The quickest (and easiest) way to access Antarctica is to fly to Argentina, to the southern hub of Ushuaia, and then jump on a cruise ship. It will take about three days of sailing before you hit dry (icy) land.
The border between North and South Korea, around the town of Panmunjom, is a bizarre place where rival soldiers glare at each other, fixing for a fight, while an uneasy peace between governments persists. It is possible for tourists to check this area out, but only as part of an organised tour. Most travellers will arrive from the South Korean side, having booked in advance, attained Government approval a tour from Seoul.
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