Territories caught in a frozen conflict can be fascinating travel destinations but they can also present a number of potential risks.
Frozen conflicts essentially equate to situations whereby fighting between two or more sides has ceased, but no peace treaty or workable, official resolution has been achieved.
As such, fighting could theoretically break out again at any moment, but things are quiet from a day-to-day perspective.
There may be tensions around any militarised border, but the shelling and shooting has stopped – for now.
The affected territories are left in limbo, often administrating themselves internally, sometimes with the support of an external country, sometimes on their own. As a result, these territories are usually underdeveloped.
Investors will mostly be unwilling to spend their money developing an economy if they fear for its long-term stability. Their investments could be lost in a matter of hours if fighting were to break out again.
Many of these unrecognised territories often have a poor legal framework, which acts as a further detriment to would-be investors. The resulting impact of this is that these territories can be highly underdeveloped, even impoverished.
Theoretically this could make a foreign traveller an attractive target for petty criminals, simply because they may be perceived as being wealthier than the average member of the local population.
The lack of development also presents a very practical problem: how do you get into the territory and around it? In some cases, the unresolved legal status of the territory means that it is unrecognised by other states. For a start, this can make it difficult obtaining the correct visa.
Furthermore, many airlines may not fly to the country. Just getting there can involve a costly hop via more than one other regional city to eventually land at the right airport.
Even once you are there, it can be difficult to get around if the road system is not properly maintained. Public transport can be dire and taxi drivers can be unaccountable as well.
The lack of development of the authorities may also mean that driving standards and the practises of other road users are poor, even reckless.
Some roads and large areas of these territories often suffer with landmines, unexploded ordnance and other hazardous material left over from earlier conflicts. Usually this will be away from the normal areas of human habitation and areas of touristic interest but there can be exceptions.
On top of the above, healthcare facilities may be chronically under-developed. If you suffer a car accident, step on a mine or even if you simply slipped in the street and broke your ankle (hopefully not a common occurrence) you could find yourself with little in the way of medical assistance. Very simple medical conditions could suddenly become very serious situations requiring difficult and very costly medical evacuation. The nearest good regional hospital could be several flights away.
In other circumstances the authorities may be suspicious of outsiders. If a situation developed whereby a traveller found themselves detained or in jail, there is often little in the way of consular assistance available. If a foreign country does not recognise a territory it cannot hope to help its citizens who get into trouble there. It certainly won’t have an embassy in the territory or someone to try and mediate your release or provide legal assistance.
In light of the above, things may appear ‘safe’ from a day-to-day security basis in these territories, but in reality a number of risks may still be present in such a territory.
So why on earth would you want to visit?
For a start, many of these locations contain sites of beauty. Disputed coastal stretches, pristine forests and rugged mountains feature in many territories locked in a frozen conflict.
Another big motivation is simple curiosity. Some of these territories are little-known and little understood. There is often minimal literature surrounding the day-to-day lives of the people residing in these areas and it can feel like a true adventure to visit and witness the lifestyle.
In many cases these territories are stuck in a form of time-warp. The lack of development brought about by conflict and instability means that the way of life can make these areas feel like a living museum. Everything from outdated means of administration to seemingly retro products and services can evoke periods of the past that no modern museum could. This can be a particular draw for anyone curious to see vestiges of the way of life in the Soviet Union for example.
These territories can also be exceedingly liberating for anyone sick of destinations ruined by tourism. They often lack the familiar sights of other destinations, such as hordes of foreign visitors, Western fast-food outlets and other ubiquitous landmarks of globalised commercialisation.
Finally, there is also often a sense that this might be the last chance to see the territory in its current form. With gradual modernisation, as well as the ever-present potential for a resumption in conflict the territory could be irrevocably changed in the near future.
Alternatively, a peaceful resolution could result in the territory being thrown open to the same commercial and touristic trends seen everywhere else in the world.
Either way, the status quo and its fascinating myriad of social and political facets may only be here for a glimpse of time.
So, if you are not put off by the potential challenges and want to explore some of these fascinating locations, please see the risk reports on some of these areas below:
Other countries and territories which might also be worth visiting because of their involvement with or proximity to such conflicts, or historical status as being associated with one include the following as well:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
- South Korea
They’re definitely worth a visit. If you have recently been to any of these locations please share your travel safety tips with other users by registering with our site and posting under the “What the Starlings Say” tab on the relevant country/territory report.
We hope you have safe – and interesting – travels ahead!