The typical “taboo” traveler is interested in international news, politics, and current affairs and someone who is seeking a trip that offers more “challenges.”

The interwebs define “Taboo Travel/Political Travel” as a form of travel where a destination’s desirability is directly proportionate to how taboo it is. Hence, the more politically controversial and/or relevant the country, the more isolated and difficult it is to reach, the longer the amount of time it has been closed off to the outside world, are the ingredients in the recipe that create a strong appetite and deep curiosity in travelers to visit taboo/political destinations. This type of travel also attracts adventure seekers. Taboo travel is generally for those people who want to dig a little deeper and go beyond the surface of what most travel packages offer. The typical “taboo” traveler is interested in international news, politics, and current affairs and someone who is seeking a trip that offers more “challenges.” Some countries that fit the definition of a taboo or political travel destination are Northern Ireland, Cuba, Myanmar (Burma), The Koreas, Palestine, Jordan, The Baltics, Colombia, Russia, South Africa, and more. No taboo/political tour company currently travels to Iraq, Iran, or Afghanistan.

So how do you take a taboo/political trip/vacation?

Obviously, the first step is to do a thorough search of the internet, where you will find a whole host of sites offering to plan and organize a highly personalized and individual travel experience. Many providers offer personal and group travel options. Typical tours include an expert guide, most (if not all) meals, all accommodations, and local transportation. On many trips, especially in politically sensitive locations, travelers can meet political and community leaders, see historic sites where significant political decisions, actions, protests, etc. took place. In some cases, a taboo or political tour can focus on issues beyond politics such as environmental protection and climate change, human rights, gender equality, and more. For example, a taboo tour with a theme of environmental change/global warming may consist of visits to geological and natural wonders, power plants and factories, green technology sites both urban and rural, hikes across glaciers, visits to members of parliament, meetings with CEOs of firms at the cutting edge of technology, opportunities to interact with journalists and media outlets, and beyond.

IMG: North Korea — Pyongyang, Arirang (Mass Games)

What does a taboo or political tour cost and can I afford it?

In general, the costs for this type of travel are a bit higher than the average prices of other types of travel. Taboo/political tours are highly specialized and tailored for the individual traveler or group, so the costs tend to be higher. Another factor to consider is the location in the world of the destination itself. Obviously, it is less costly to visit a destination such as Cuba or Colombia, even Iceland from the United States. However, travel to destinations further afield, such as South Africa, North Korea, Myanmar (Burma) will carry greater costs, so be sure to factor that into your travel planning and budget.

Due to the locations you travel to, political/taboo tours carry a certain amount of risks. Here are some things to consider before you decide to take a political or taboo vacation:

  • Is the tour company licensed and authorized? This can help in terms of offering some protection to travelers especially in places like North Korea, Cuba, and Myanmar (Burma) because there is an established relationship for certain types of travel institutions and processes in that country.
  • How long has the tour company been in business? Are they reputable? What do the testimonials say on their company websites?
  • How do taboo/political travel companies assess risk and how often do they do that?
  • What is the company’s track record regarding successful visits?
  • What do the arrest and sentencing records look like for American travelers in countries amid political unrest or under the governance of an authoritarian regime?
  • Are you a dual national and could there potentially be risks related to your travel as a result especially in politically sensitive countries?

Political and taboo tours are a growing niche in the travel industry and one that for the savvy traveler require a bit more research before diving in. Good luck and happy Taboo Travels.


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