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August 19, 2011

The best passport for world travel

Man holds up a passport

Man holds up a passport. Photo: motograf / Flickr

Have you ever wished you had another country’s passport? For some nationals, they have the right to get working holiday visas all over the world.  They can pick up and move to a country, and have the right to live there.   Your passport has a big effect on how well received you’ll be in another country, in the eyes of their immigration officials.

The Economist had a chart called The Wanderers.  A law firm named Henley & Partners compiled a list of twenty countries, ranking them according to easily their nationals could enter foreign nations without needing a visa.  Makes you realize how much of that is beyond an individual’s control. If your government happens to be oppressive or unfriendly to immigrants, it’s the humble citizens who get punished with paperwork and exorbitant visa fees when they go abroad.

The first time I experienced this was when I taught English in China.  My boss, who was from Iceland, observed that Europeans paid much lower China visa fees than Americans.  That was when I learned about “reciprocity,” which basically translates as tit-for-tat.  If America charges high visa fees on foreigners, than those countries will return the favor when Americans visit.  Have any of you dealt with this?

The most extraordinary story I heard was from a Hong Kong girl.  She has passports for Hong Kong, China, the United Kingdom, and Canada!  That’s ultimate mobility, right there.

What are your experiences of dealing with passports and visas?  Please share your stories in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (25) 
Category: Expat Life, Notes from the collective travel mind, Working Abroad

25 Responses to “The best passport for world travel”

  1. Simon Says:

    I hold a British passport. I used to travel often and extensively in Latin America and always felt great freedom carrying my passport. I was made to feel most welcome on my travels perhaps with the slight exception of Guatemala – something to do with Belize & politics! In general though, it was an asset. I currently live in Morocco and with the exception of Turkey & Egypt, I haven’t over the last 10 years travelled outside the US or Europe. I do however sense that, in the wake of the UK foreign policy shift, that pride of carrying a British passport has been diminished, and that’s a pity. From that point of view, the addition of a passport from a more neutral country would be nice but I wouldn’t swap.

  2. Davis Says:

    That girl from Hong Kong. She of the many passports. What do they mean? When she gets into trouble, which state will come to her aid? Will Whitehall send a gunboat? Not that most states are of much help to their nationals these days. And citizenship itself does not seem to mean much. Some people want to be citizens of the world, but I do not. For one thing, I am not clear what rights world citizenship carries, or how, exactly, they are to be enforced.

    If some petty border official wants to give me grief over my country’s policies, I can live with that. After all, he has to live there and I don’t.

  3. Traveler Says:

    Here is the full Henley Visa Restrictions Index 2011:


    (Rank. Passport[s] of Country/Countries, Number of Countries Accessible Without Visa / Visa on Arrival)

    001. Denmark, Finland, Sweden, 173.
    002. Germany, 172.
    003. Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, United Kingdom (British citizen passport), 171.

    004. Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, 170.
    005. Ireland, United States, 169.
    006. Austria, 168.
    007. Switzerland, 167.
    008. Australia, Greece, New Zealand, 166.
    009. Canada, Iceland, Singapore, 164.

    010. South Korea, 163.
    011. Malta, 160.
    012. Liechtenstein, Malaysia, 158.
    013. Hungary, Slovak Republic, 157.
    014. Slovenia, 156.
    015. Czech Republic, 155.
    016. Poland, 154.
    017. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, 153.
    018. Cyprus, Malta, 150.
    019. Hong Kong, 149.

    020. San Marino, 148.
    021. Brunei, Romania, 144.
    022. Andorra, Bulgaria, 143.
    023. Israel, 142.
    024. Argentina, Chile, 141.
    025. Brazil, 140.
    026. Barbados, 137.
    027. Bahamas, 136.
    028. St. Kitts and Nevis, 131.
    029. Mexico, 129.

    030. Antigua and Barbuda, 128.
    031. Uruguay, 127.
    032. Vatican City, 125.
    033. Seychelles, Venezuela, 124.
    034. Croatia, Mauritius, 122.
    035. Paraguay, 121.
    036. Costa Rica, 120.
    037. Panama, 114.
    038. El Salvador, 113.
    039. Guatemala, Honduras, 112.

    040. Taiwan, 111.
    041. Macao, 109.
    042. Nicaragua, 108.
    043. Serbia, 100.
    044. Macedonia, 99.
    045. Montenegro, 97.
    046. Trinidad and Tobago, 95.
    047. South Africa, 92.
    048. St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turkey, 91.
    049. Russian Federation, 89.

    050. Bosnia Herzegovina, 87.
    051. Grenada, 86.
    052. Albania, 84.
    053. Belize, 83.
    054. Dominica, 82.
    055. Solomon Islands, 79.
    056. Samoa, 78.

    057. Fiji, Maldives, Tuvalu, 76.
    058. Jamaica, Peru, Vanuatu, 75.
    059. Guyana, Kiribati, 74.

    060. Nauru, Tonga, 73.
    061. Kuwait, 71.
    062. Papua New Guinea, 70.
    063. Ecuador, Gambia, Marshall Islands, Ukraine, 69.
    064. Botswana, 68.
    065. Bolivia, United Arab Emirates, 67.
    066. Micronesia, Qatar, Suriname, 66.
    067. Bahrain, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Palau Islands, 65.
    068. Sierra Leone, 64.
    069. Swaziland, Thailand, Tunisia, Zambia, 63.

    070. Ghana, Tanzania, 62.
    071. Oman, 60.
    072. Uganda, 59.
    073. Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, 58.
    074. Belarus, 57.
    075. Azerbeijan, Zimbabwe, 56.
    076. Cape Verde, Kyrgyzstan, 55.
    077. Colombia, 54.
    078. Benin, India, 53.
    079. Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal, 52.

    080. Armenia, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Mali, Togo, 51.
    081. Morocco, Tajikistan, 50.
    082. Uzbekistan, 49.
    083. Dominican Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, 48.
    084. Algeria, Nigeria, Turkmenistan, 46.
    085. São Tomé & Principe, 45.
    086. Bhutan, Central African Republic, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, 44.
    087. Mongolia, 43.
    088. Gabon, Haiti, Laos, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, 42.
    089. Chad, Egypt, 41.

    090. Cambodia, China, Jordan, 40.
    091. Bangladesh, Congo-Brazzaville, Rwanda, Yemen, 39.
    092. Cameroon, Comore Islands, Libya, Sri Lanka, 38.
    093. Equatorial Guinea, Kosovo, North Korea, Syria, 37.
    094. Iran, 36.
    095. Burundi, Djibouti, 35.
    096. Angola, Congo-Kinshasa, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nepal, 34.
    097. Lebanon, Palestinian Territory, 33.
    098. Eritrea, Sudan, 32.
    099. Pakistan, 31.

    100. Iraq, Somalia, 28.
    101. Afghanistan, 24.

  4. Rfid Says:

    I have a great story to tell, however the girl from hong kong does impress me.

    I am a us and Mexican citizen, my wife is German and our kid was born in brazil. He has 4 passports and none of which overlap he has the right to live anywhere from Alaska to Argentina (except for Canada and central America). He can travel from Portugal to Vladivostok without a single visa.

    It does get messy once you look at Asia since china requests visas from everyone but he never pays high fees.

  5. Evan Kulter Says:

    Best Turkish-US passport combination, thanks to recent efforts of government Turkish citizens can travel Brazil,Uruguay,Russia,Kazakhstan,Syria,Iran,Libya,Tajiksitan,Kyrgistan very soon Belarus without a visa where US citizens need a visa. So a Turkish-US passport can travel more than 180 countries. l guess way better for example than a Hispanic(Spanish),Portuguese-US or let’s say Italian-US or Greek-US) passport holders.

  6. hongimoto Says:

    theres heaps of stories from HK like that, i am one of them 😛

    – born in HK, so that entitles me to an HKID card, used to be a BDTC or BNO passport, but now its an HKSAR passport (dont currently have one but am eligible for one)
    – before 97 i gained British Citizenship through my father who worked for the Government, so the whole family we have british passport
    – then we moved to new zealand and got naturalised after 3 years (still living here now)
    – because i was born in HK, and the PRC have always regarded HK as part of PRC, so that i am a chinese citizen. i get a little card that gives me free access to china (but not a chinese passport as such, but it is still proof of citizenship. PRC passport is next to useless ayways against what else i got)

    currently i only have a valid NZ passport and thats pretty much all i need anyways, british one expired ages ago and i would only need it if i was going to work in the EU

  7. kilt Says:

    Japanese passport is the best passport in the world. (Obviously)
    Henley index is wrong as it is biased towards the west (as usual).
    If u look at wikipedia, japanese passport holder can travel to 184 countries visa free or visa on arrival. This is more than danish passport holder which is at 173 countries.
    Japanese passport can go travel to the whole of EU, USA/Canada/ AUS/NZ/ CHINA/ most part of ASIA (including India) visa free.
    what else can we ask for? Henley index is wrong. (I bet it’s run by the american) as usual.

  8. Dave Says:

    I have 4 passports too I was born in the uk to a south african( of welsh decent) father and a irish mother , they emigrated to the US when i was 7 months old and naturalized , I hold a valid passport for the US, uk, eire and south africa so I can pretty much travel anywhere visa free, because of the afghan thing I tend to travel on my Irish passport because of its neutrality, my son is technically allowed 5 as my ex wife is australian but in reality he only has 3 US, uk and australian

  9. Richard Says:

    Does someone can help(tell) me (how) to obtain the full version of full Henley Visa Restrictions Index 2011? I need it in pdf. Thanks very much.

  10. khalil kharwa Says:

    Which countries do the finns and Scandivians have free access compare to USA and UK ?

  11. Meth Says:

    30 years back, when there was war in Sri Lanka, as every young man looking for a better future I was trying to escape the situation and I remember well how it was difficult to get a Visa to just to get out of the country, At that very moment every where else was greeny except Sri Lanka,. And I envied the people who had right to travel and move anywhere in the world just because they happen to be born there….

  12. shiva Says:

    i have a sri lankan passport , my life sucks

  13. SriLankanGuy Says:

    I have an ordinary Sri Lankan Passport (Not a diplomatic one). I’ve traveled to the US, Canada, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia, India and Thailand with it. I want to travel to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Phillipines, Mexico, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and do a Euro-trip (Schengen Area).

    Right now I live and work in Singapore, so it makes it slightly easier to get visas. But it frustrates me how ineffective the Passport system is in assessing travel worthiness. Despite my excellent track record of travelling and not overstaying visas, with the SL Passport I still get treated as if I’m a dubious character and I get very little recognition for my integrity as a genuine traveler.

    I really wish that was an international system that assesses travel worthiness of citizens to reward them based an good traveling record (Somewhat like a credit card system, where you can improve your credit score).

    Else, you will always be reduced to the lowest common denominator of your country. For example a CEO in Sri Lanka is not the same as a street vendor in Sri Lanka in terms of travel worthiness, yet they both will be treated more or less same way when applying for a visa (In sense that the same absurdly strict requirements apply to all). While in the meantime, a homeless guy in Europe can put on his backpack and causally enter foreign countries! And if he overstays his visa, he gets a small fine and he’s good to go again. It’s a completely unfair and ineffective system that needs an overhaul.

  14. DEK Says:

    SriLankanGuy: A system that allows a low-level bureaucrat to pull up your entire travel history sounds like a pretty bad idea. Not only would it be a handy thing to police the foreign contacts of a traveler, but it would be of particular convenience for hostile Arab governments in discouraging travel to Israel by denying a visa to their country to anyone who has ever gone to Israel. Nowadays, the authorities must rely on the stamps they find in your passport.

    A “good traveling record” is in the eye of the beholder and may not turn out to mean what you think it will means.

  15. SriLankanGuy Says:

    Hey DEK, that’s a good point actually. Maybe the travel record should be a score, akin to a credit score. The details of your travels are confidential. The score could be based on whether you respect the visa regulations and not overstay, frequency of travel and travel to countries with high entry requirements. The details of such a system can be ironed out to protect individual privacy. The point is there’s got to be a better way, the current system puts an incredible amount of barriers for legitimate travelers.

  16. DEK Says:

    SLG: How about a system that simply flags visa violations? No judgments or point values or credit scores: a simple did you or didn’t you.

    I don’t like visas. If a country has a reason for not admitting a particular individual, fine; otherwise, I believe open borders are part of the natural right to free movement and it should make no more difference whether I want to go to Pittsburgh or Peshawar. Once you acknowledge that the government’s permission is needed to move about, there is nothing that limits that to national borders: I am told that Russia used to have internal passports.

  17. usa Says:

    poor haiti

  18. Irene Says:

    I am a Chinese citizen and currently studying in the UK. I am aware of that British citizen passport is one of the best passports and Chinese passport is one of the worst ones according to the Henley index. However, please bear in mind – the freedom to travel without a visa and the countries that actually you are able to go to are two completely different things. It depends on your economic situation and free time. Although British citizens are allowed to travel to most area of the world visa free while Chinese people are required to have one, and the visa application process sometimes can be very complicated and time consuming, many British people with average income don’t have enough money/ time travel a lot and/or far but as you may be aware nowadays Chinese visitors are pretty much “everywhere”.

  19. Tamem Says:

    I really love to get Europe Passport.

  20. Traveler Says:

    Here is the full Henley Visa Restrictions Index 2012:


    (Rank. Passport[s] of Country/Countries, Number of Countries Accessible Without Visa / Visa on Arrival)

    001. Denmark, 169.
    002. Finland, Germany, Sweden, 168.
    003. Belgium, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom (British citizen passport), 167.

    004. Italy, Luxembourg, USA, 166.
    005. Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, 165.
    006. Australia, Austria, Canada, 163.
    007. Greece, Switzerland, 162.
    008. Singapore, 161.
    009. South Korea, 160.

    010. Iceland, 159.
    011. Malta, 156.
    012. Liechtenstein, 155.
    013. Slovak Republic, 154.
    014. Hungary, Malaysia, 153.
    015. Czech Republic, 152.
    016. Slovenia, 151.
    017. Poland, 150.
    018. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, 149.
    019. Hong Kong (SAR), Monaco, 147.

    020. Cyprus, 146.
    021. San Marino, 143.
    022. Brazil, Israel, 141.
    023. Andorra, Argentina, 140.
    024. Brunei, 139.

    025. Romania, 138.
    026. Bulgaia, Chile, 137.
    027. Barbados, 135.
    028. Bahamas, 133.
    029. St. Kitts and Nevis, 128.

    030. Mexico, 127.

    031. Antigua and Barbuda, 126.
    032. Uruguay, 125.
    033. Vatican City, 124.
    034. Venezuela, 123.
    035. Seychelles, 122.
    036. Mauritius, Taiwan, 120.
    037. Croatia, Paraguay, 119.
    038. Costa Rica, 117.
    039. Panama, 113.

    040. El Salvador, 111.
    041. Honduras, 110.
    042. Guatemala, 109.
    043. Macao (SAR), 107.
    044. Nicaragua, 105.
    045. Serbia, 99.
    046. Trinidad and Tobago, 98.
    047. Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, 97.
    048. Turkey, 95.
    049. Montenegro, Russian Federation, 94.

    050. South Africa, St. Lucia, 93.
    051. St. Vincent and The Grenadines, 92.
    052. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Grenada, 87.
    053. Belize, 86.
    054. Commonwealth of Dominica, 85.
    055. Albania, 84.
    056. Solomon Islands, 81.
    057. Samoa, 79.
    058. Maldives, 78.
    059. Fiji, Jamaica, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, 77.

    060. Guyana, Peru, Ukraine, 76.
    061. Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, 75.
    062. Kuwait, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, 72.
    063.Gambia, 71.
    064. Botswana, Ecuador, Suriname, United Arab Emirates, 70.
    065. Bolivia, 69.
    066. Micronesia, 68.
    067. Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Palau Islands, Qatar, 67.
    068. Bahrain, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, 66.
    069. Thailand, 64.

    070. Sierra Leone, 63.
    Ghana, Tunisia, Uganda, 62.
    072. Kazakhstan, Oman, 61.
    073. Georgia, 60.
    074. Belarus, Colombia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, 59.
    075. Moldova, Zimbabwe, 58.
    076. Azerbeidjan, Cape Verde Islands, 57.
    077. Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, 56.
    078. Benin, 55.
    079. Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, 54.

    080. Togo, 53.
    081. Armenia, Indonesia, Niger, 52.
    082. India, Morocco, Uzbekistan, 51.
    083. Dominican Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Tajikistan, 50.
    084. Mongolia, Mozambique, 49.
    085. São Tomé and Principe, 48.
    086. Central African Republic, Madagascar, 47.
    087. Bhutan, Liberia, Nigeria, Turkmenistan, 46.
    088. Gabon, 45.
    089. Egypt, Laos, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, 44.

    090. Chad, Haiti, Jordan, Rwanda, 43.
    091. Cambodia, Congo-Brazzaville, 42.
    092. China, Comores Islands, Yemen Republic, 41.
    093. Bangladesh, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, 40.
    094. Cameroon, Libya, Nort Korea, 39.
    095. Congo-Kinshasa, South Sudan, 38.
    096. Iran, Kosovo, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Syria, 37.
    097. Sudan, 36.
    098. Lebanon, Nepal, 35.
    099. Eritrea, 34.

    100. Pakistan, Palestinian Territory, 32.
    101. Iraq, 30.
    102. Somalia, 28.
    103. Afghanistan, 26.

    Note: The “Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index” contents the following assumptions:

    Territories dependent on the United Kingdom hold British passports.
    The following are not considered as “nationalities”:
    Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Isl., Virgin Islands (British)

    The following are also considered as destinations with travel rules applicable as follows:
    Andorra and Monaco – travel rules for France applied;
    Liechtenstein – travel rules for Switzerland applied;
    San Marino and Vatican City – travel rules for Italy applied;

    The following are considered as destinations but not as “nationalities”:
    Territories dependent on Australia: Norfolk Island;
    Territories associated with New Zealand: Cook Islands, Niue;
    Territories under the administation of the USA: Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Samoa, Virgin Islands (US);
    Territories under administration of the Netherlands: Aruba, Curaçao, St. Marteen, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba;
    Territories dependent on France: French Guiana, French Polynesia, French West Indies, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Réunion;

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  23. Horatio Nelson Says:

    I was born in the UK, and still live here.
    I hold a British passport, and I’m proud of it, because I can travel all around the world without needing a visa or the flight fare (I’m a pilot) .

  24. Gareth Says:

    reciprocity is a joke for some. I’m South African. In Africa alone, there are many countries I need visas for, countries who’s nationals can travel freely in and out of SA. They come and live here as refugees and we allow them in but I need to get a visa to visit their country. We allow UK, Australian and US citizens in, visa free, but for me to go there, I must apply for visas. Not surprising I guess, I wouldn’t want my own government officials in my country. Maybe if we applied reciprocity a bit more, we may get a few more visa free zones with all the US, UK, “eastern” and EU citizens that travel here.

  25. Nemohos Says:

    Gareth I understand what you mean..African countries are soo damn dumb founded..if the whole Africa makes it visa free in Africa only and make the other continents pay then hell the other countries will make the transaction but of course you still got to have a passport













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