Ten years ago, in my first job after graduation, I shared an office with a researcher called Munir who I nicknamed Dr2 because he not only had a PhD but was also qualified as a medical doctor. (I recognise it’s not the wittiest name in the world but it was the best I could do at the time.)
Munir loved learning British colloquialisms (“armchair critic”, “fairweather friend”), played loud Arabic music while he worked and held a Jordanian passport. One day, he came into work clearly frustrated and announced that he was giving up on travelling. Stationed in the UK for three years, he thought he would have a great opportunity to see Europe while he was here. Alas, his passport was so restrictive that securing visas became distinctly Sisyphean. He as a doctor (twice over) had fewer rights than I did as a new grad with relatively few skills just because our passports were different.
It was the first time I realised how lucky I was to have a British passport. I have been routinely reminded of this fact in the ensuing decade, most recently by Arton Capital, a financial firm that this year put together an index of the best passports to have. ‘Best’ is defined by the number of countries the passport holder can visit either without a visa or by obtaining one on arrival.
The full rankings are below.
Unsurprisingly, the UK is #1. With a strong global economy, a stable political environment and an enviable international reputation that somehow overcomes the questionable actions of our past, the British are able to swan into a whopping 147 countries out of 197 listed (75%). What is surprising is that the US is joint #1, also with access to 147 countries. With its more pugnacious attitude to international relations, particularly in the Bush era, it’s interesting that the US is still welcome with open arms across most of the world. The remaining top 10 — or top 29 if you don’t count joint positions — is predictably European (western, wealthy and stable) with the occasional inoffensive country further field (e.g. Canada, Singapore, Malaysia).
Perhaps the most interesting entries toward the top of the list are South Korea joint #2 with France allowing entry to 145 countries and Oman at joint #13 allowing entry to 134 countries. Clearly, both remain untarred by their troublesome neighbours. In comparison, North Korea at joint #73 allows easy entry to only 44 countries (101 fewer than it’s southern counterpart) and Yemen at joint #76 allows access to only 41 countries.
The worst passports at joint #80 with access to only 28 countries include the comparably unstable countries of South Sudan, Palestine and Myanmar. Also at the bottom spot is the seemingly paradise collection of Solomon Islands which has unfortunately been impacted by civil war, as well as the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe which is small, poor and has a history of political instability.
|Rank||Country||No. easily accessible countries|
|1||United States of America||147|
|25||Antigua and Barbuda||113|
|29||St. Kitts and Nevis||108|
|38||Bosnia and Herzegovina||94|
|43||Trinidad and Tobago||77|
|47||United Arab Emirates||72|
|48||St. Vincent and the Grenadines||71|
|60||Papua New Guinea||57|
|76||Congo (Dem. Rep.)||41|
|76||Central African Republic||41|
|80||Sao Tome and Principe||28|
*Rankings are from Arton Capital, a financial firm that enables individuals, families and companies to invest abroad.
This article originally appeared on Atlas & Boots — Travel with Abandon and is republished here with permission.