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I really like my passport. It’s gotten me into almost 50 countries and has a great plea from John Kerry to would-be annoyers:

“The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.”

For almost all the countries I’ve visited, I just showed up at the border and handed over my passport to get in, sometimes having to pay for a visa on arrival that cost $20 to $100 (Tanzania!).

I’ve only had to do something other than show up three times:

  • Australia required filling out an Electronic Travel Authority form in advance online and paying 20 AUD.
  • Argentina required paying $160 in advance online and printing out the receipt. That payment is good for 10 years.
  • Paraguay required a $160 visa from an embassy in advance. (I got mine in Argentina for only about $100 due to currency arbitrage.)

Having a United States passport is excellent for travel since so few countries require a cumbersome visa for Americans to enter. Even when you do need a visa, it’s usually pretty automatic to get and just takes planning and money.

But we don’t have the best passport for visa-free travel. Which countries do? Where does the US rank? Which are the worst passports for access?

Henley & Partners released a report of the best passports for visa-free travel. I’m not sure “visa-free” is the most important measure. It was more convenient to pay $20 when I landed in Turkey for my “visa” than it was to pay $160 in advance and print my receipt for my “reciprocity fee” when I went to Argentina.

But “visa-free” is a pretty good proxy, and this article about the study has some interesting findings.

A US Passport is Pretty Good

“In the report, produced in collaboration with the International Air Transport Association, Henley & Partners ranked citizens’ visa-free access to other countries as of July 2013 on a 219-point scale. The United States’ total score of 172, for example, means that U.S. passport holders may enter 172 countries and territories without a visa, a marked increase from 2012.”

Certainly Better than the Countries Where We Fought Our Last Two Wars

“On the flipside, passport holders of Kosovo (38), Lebanon (38), Sri Lanka (38), Sudan (38), Nepal (37), Eritrea (36), Palestinian Territory (36), Pakistan (32), Somalia (32) and Iraq (31) have the least visa-free travel options among all countries and territories surveyed, save those whose passports were issued in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghani passport holders can only visit 13 percent of the world, or just 28 countries, free of formalities.”

Tourism Boards and Governments Don’t See Eye-to-Eye

“Chinese tourists, however, still encounter major red tape when planning trips abroad. Though they’re one of the most sought-after groups for tourism boards around the world just 44 countries offer visa-free entry, placing China directly below Vietnam and tied with Cameroon, Congo, Jordan and Rwanda in terms of freedom of travel.”

Hawaii in particular wishes that the United States would allow Chinese visa-free entry.

Top Ten

1 Finland, Sweden, UK

2 Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, U.S.

3 Belgium, Italy, Netherlands

4 Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain

5 Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland

6 Australia, Greece, Singapore

7 South Korea

8 Iceland

9 Malaysia, Malta

10 Liechtenstein

Bottom Ten

84 Equatorial Guinea

85 Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, North Korea

86 Angola, Djibouti, Iran, Myanmar

87 Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, South Sudan, Syria

88 Kosovo, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Sudan

89 Nepal

90 Eritrea, Palestinian Territory

91 Pakistan, Somalia

92 Iraq

93 Afghanistan




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