The title of this blog is a harsh way to start out any conversation about travel. Normally, I tell people there’s nowhere I wouldn’t go, and I mean that for the most part. I truly want to experience everything (that’s safe). I think (just about) everywhere offers something. However, there are countries I wouldn’t visit again without a real reason to. And surprisingly, I do often get this question after people ask me my favorite countries. People also want to know what’s at the bottom of my list.
Often, there are a few reasons for this:
- I didn’t enjoy my initial visit
- The country was very difficult to travel in
- There wasn’t much to see or do
So, without further ado, here are the top 3 countries I wouldn’t visit again.
I’m so glad I checked China off my list in 2019. I have no plans to go back here. First, China is a difficult and expensive country to get a visa to which means you really need to want to go in order to visit. I originally visited on a 144-hour transit visa. During that visit, I had a poor experience with immigration/customs at the airport and the police in the city. I just so happened to visit during the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China so large sections of the city were closed off. If you even attempted to go near these streets, they stopped you and asked for your passport instead of just explaining that you can’t go there. And I want to emphasize that I wasn’t intentionally going down these streets, I just took a wrong turn and was happy to turn around once I understood.
Beyond that, I found large cultural parts of my visit to China to be frustrating. For example, there was no waiting in line normally for anything. If you were at the airport and trying to check in for a flight, everyone had their elbows out, trying to get in front of you. There was no common courtesy and no saying, “Hey, excuse me, I was here first.” Even if the person understood English, they pretended they didn’t so they could push and shove ahead of you. The airline employees also had trouble wrangling people. They tried to put up ropes to keep everyone in one area and people would go around them.
It seemed to be an understood part of the culture. However, to me, it was incredibly frustrating because I wasn’t used to it. You had to have someone else stick up for you in Mandarin and address it directly to make a difference.
The only circumstances under which I would go back to China is on “official business.” I would need to be officially sponsored by the state or have some sort of formal clearance, so I had a guide with me at all times. I did everything myself on my last trip, and I wouldn’t want to be waiting — elbows out — in any line in the future because it was too frustrating.
On any future trip, someone would need to roll out the red carpet for me (yes, I know ridiculous that sounds). However, I’ve heard that people going for business or to conferences generally have a good experience. Likewise, if someone visits with someone who has grown up in China, then they also have an improved experience because they speak the language and understand the culture.
My friend, Caroline, and I were so unimpressed with Malaysia that it was comical. We visited both Kuala Lumpur and George Town (Penang). There were some cool spots that I would recommend. For example, the Batu Caves is 100 percent worth going to. We woke up super early to go and ended up making it there (no thanks to the locals) before really anyone else, so we got some cool pictures. You can read more about our Batu Caves experience in Country #29: Malaysia.
However, I felt the country was kind of lackluster overall, so the week we spent there was a bit long. We spent half the week in Kuala Lumpur and half the week in Penang. We eventually started to find some gems (especially in Penang) after a few days. However, this place wasn’t incredible to me. If someone told me they were taking me on a surprise trip and it ended up being to Malaysia, then I would be disappointed.
Serbia was originally Country #55 on my journey; however, I ended up returning to it to visit Kosovo (Country #87). I first went to Belgrade on a long layover in 2019. I reserved judgment then because how much of a city can you really discover in 16 hours? Some but not very much. Unfortunately, I can now confirm that I really don’t enjoy Belgrade.
This was the first country in nearly 90 that indoor smoking was pervasive. It was actively difficult to find restaurants that I could enjoy in a smoke-free environment. There are a lot of dietary factors that I’ve bent on to make travel easier, and I will never bend on that one. Cigarettes are disgusting and bad for your health. I refuse to not enjoy a meal that I’m paying for while simultaneously ruining my lungs with secondhand smoke. Do people really need to smoke during a meal? Can’t they just smoke before and after? *Rant over*
Beyond that, the public transportation in the city was awful. We wanted to do a couple of day trips, but they were so logistically difficult. Honestly, some of the worst if not the worst public transport I’ve seen in Europe.
Fortunately, we’ve had some pleasant interactions with some younger people in Belgrade, especially on the street. Save for one bad restaurant experience, Serbia is not all bad. We met some very kind border agents when we had a tremendously difficult experience traveling from Pristina to Nis (a story for another time!).
This is a country I’m always hesitant about visiting. I can’t quite put it on this list because I know I will visit France again. I actively have places I want to visit in France like Normandy. However, when I think about the places that I don’t like traveling to, France is at the top of the list. I find France especially difficult to travel in because of the way the country is set up. The country also has a language barrier, and the people are not always the kindest when it comes to accommodating that language barrier compared to other countries I’ve visited. Finally, there are some inconveniences that France has that just don’t exist at the same frequencies in other countries. For example, when I was last in France, there were a ton of train strikes that made it vertically impossible to get anywhere.