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As most COVID restrictions are lifted international travel is well within the reach of those Australians who can afford it. Airlines and travel companies are hawking all kinds of deals to encourage offshore tourism and many are taking advantage of that. Yet before you rush down to your local travel agent, maybe you should take time to consider the ethical status of the country you are looking to visit. 

Some no-go zones are bleedingly obvious but for what it’s worth here is a brief guide to ethical travel in a world where human rights are trampled on daily. The top ten countries to avoid entirely this year are:


What kind or country executes a mentally disabled man for smuggling an almost insignificant amount of heroin in today’s world? The same tiny country which had the second highest per-capita execution rate in the world in the late 90s, with some 400 hangings since 1991. The recent execution of Malaysian man Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who reportedly had an IQ in the very low range, brought world wide protests. His crime – smuggling about three tablespoons of heroin into Singapore. It’s a country that promotes itself as a vibrant, modern tourist destination, but feed a pigeon in the street or get caught chewing gum and you could be up for an enormous fine.


A shameless manipulation of votes allegedly won them the Football World Cup later this year and now the West Asian cashed up emirate is doing its best to soften its bad publicity. You may have seen the adverts running on local TV with colourful animated characters cavorting around its luxurious attractions. No mention of course of its appalling treatment of foreign workers, many who died in the construction of its football stadiums and other infrastructure.


An impressive skyline, but just like Qatar, one that has been built on the sweat and blood of underpaid and grossly mistreated foreign workers from counties like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.


Trump’s favourite middle eastern stopover where an assembly line execution of some 81one prisoners was carried out in March of this year. A country where women are still stoned to death in the street for the crime of adultery and gay men thrown from rooftops.


Prior to the shocking military clampdown, Myanmar was becoming a popular destination for international tourists. Now with the extended imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi and the continued persecution of the Rohingyas, your conscience should say no.


No ‘Holiday In Cambodia’ and visit to Angkor Wat if you have a problem with corrupt military dictatorships.


Companies such as the infamous Young Pioneer Tours continue to offer ‘chaperoned’ tours to the DPRK, for what has been described as  ‘propaganda porn’ – like the thrill of sneaking a selfie with a giant statue of Kim Il-Sung. Step out of line and you could end up like the American college student Otto Warmbier who was arrested on a charge of subversion, imprisoned for over a year and released in a near vegetative state – only to die soon after back in America. And what of the thousands of North Korean political prisoners rotting in Kim Jong Un’s notorious internment camps.


It probably won’t deter the sex tourists or wife hunters, but it’s hard to reconcile a country under the reign of terror enforced by Rodrigo Duterte as an attractive place to visit. Even worse it appears the Marcos dynasty is about to resurface with  presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr gaining increased popularity.


The Guardian has described China’s Uyghurs as living in a ‘dystopian hellscape’ as their cultural genocide is brutally enforced. Democracy is dead in Hong Kong and given the state of Australia/China relations, the Ministry of State Security could be watching your every move.


For obvious reasons the Government here is telling Australians not to travel to Russia and that could be the case for many years to come unless you sign up with Young Pioneer Tours. No ‘Russia with love’.

This is by no means the definitive top ten and there are probably many other countries your conscience might tell you to avoid. Maybe the answer to any ethical dilemmas when it comes to world travel is simply to stay at home, even though we have our own share of human rights violations and social and political injustices. At least you get to feed pigeons in the park and enjoy a packet of Juicy Fruit!

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