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Which passport is the best to carry while travelling?

October 8, 2013 Destination Global, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Most people have access only to one nationality of passport. But more broadly, the answer to this question depends on which criteria you use. In terms of getting into countries using passport alone, without visas, some passports really stand out, while the holders of certain other passports strike major restrictions almost wherever they go.

Australian passports, for the record, come sixth on the list (tying with Greece and Singapore) in terms of holders not requiring visas. On a list of 219 countries, Australians can enter 167 countries visa-free. New Zealand is one better than Australia, as Kiwis can enter 168 countries visa-free.

The very best passports to hold in terms of entering countries without restriction are those of Britain, Sweden and Finland. Their nationals can enter 173 countries visa-free.

Britain signed treaties with many countries in the days when it was very powerful and possessed a global empire. Sweden and Finland tend to be neutral and have few enemies.

Second (equal) on the list of desirable passports, judged on those same criteria, are those of the United States, Denmark, Germany and Luxembourg. Citizens of those countries can enter 172 countries without red tape.

The Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index ranks countries around the world based on how freely their citizens can travel with just a passport – no visas. The list was compiled according to laws prevailing in July 2013 and it can be downloaded as a PDF file by clicking here.

Being in the European Union is a bonus for visa-free world travel, as nine of the 10 top countries in the Visa Restriction Index are all members of the EU. The US is the sole exception.

There are other considerations in passport desirability. Some travellers (including spies) consider the passport of a low-profile or neutral country (Switzerland, say, or New Zealand) better to travel on than the passport of a higher-profile country which has more enemies in the world.

It’s worth remembering also that the vast majority of people have access to only one nationality of passport, and just a small fraction of the world’s citizens ever hold any passport at all. Nearly two thirds of Americans, for instance, never hold a passport – let alone the citizens of poorer countries.

Australians are inveterate travellers and nearly 50% of the Australian population holds a passport. (Technically speaking, you never “own” a passport; they remain the property of the issuing government.)

As far as entering other countries visa-free goes, citizens of Lebanon, Libya, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Sudan find the going tough, being able to enter 38 or fewer countries without a visa.

The worst passports you can hold, in terms of ease of access to other countries,  are those of Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan. Iraqis can access just 31 countries visa-free. Afghanistan occupies the very worst position, with visa-free access to just 28 nations around the world.

One of the main reasons is simply this: countries tend to demand visas from nationalities they  suspect may overstay their welcome or seek asylum.

Written by Peter Needham

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