What does your passport do? Lots more (or less) than you think.
Passports get you places. But some get you there easier than others. And some? Red flags. Read on for more about passport permissions and security.
The Passport Index annually ranks travel access by passport, according to country visa requirements, waivers, and prohibitions.
Mobility winners: Germany, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, with a score of 135
According to the site: Mobility Score is the total number of countries that can be easily accessed with a given passport. It is a calculated total based on Visa-free, Visa-on-arrival, eTA, and eVisa issued within 3 days.
Runners-up: Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Italy and Ireland, coming in at 134.
The site is neat! Find a country, click on the passport, and you can see its rank in the world, visa requirements by country (including Covid bans) how the passport has performed over time, compare different passports and more.
Lower on the list: the UK, Poland, the Czech Republic, at 132, and the US, way down the list at 106. Lowest on the list? Afghanistan, with a mobility score of 30.
Why is this important?
Your passport not only gets you places, but gets you out of places! Strong passports are often proof of external support, embassies or consulates, or alliances with other countries. In countries with reliable government systems in place, a strong passport (and the protections it promises the holder) is a valuable tool in your travel kit.
For frequent international travellers with weaker passports, including China (60) Russia (51) and many Middle Eastern countries, waiting- and paying for- visas is time-consuming and expensive.
Go for duo!
Headed to an area that isn’t friendly with your current passport, or your travel plans?
Do you have an option for dual-citizenship? Take a minute now, to see if you do. Ask your browser: “Can I have a second passport if I’m from…” Or ask your grandmother! Many countries offer citizenship through family ties, including Italy and Ireland.
It’s complicated, of course, and usually requires lots of paperwork, but worth the effort.
Legal passports-for-money? Despite what you think about it, it’s a thing. If you’ve got the scratch, you can upgrade to a passport that provides better mobility and access. Countries that offer citizenship-by-investment options usually require dropping a significant chunk of change on local real estate or a ‘donation’ to a government fund.
Why bother with a passport from a small island nation in the Caribbean? Passports from St Kitts (91) St Lucia (84) or Dominica (81) all offer visa-free travel to over 115 countries, including the UK, EU and the Schengen Zone.
Ponying up for citizenship in Malta (130) Portugal or Ireland grants passport holders rights to work, study and live in the EU region.
Keep your passport safe
I used to think that a passport wallet was a waste of money. Still do! But I keep my passports (I’m one of the lucky ones) out of sight when on the road.
Why advertise your citizenship(s) to a bunch of strangers?
Passport covers are distinctive. Tuvalu’s cover reflects the gemstone colour of the sea surrounding it. Switzerland’s looks like a pocket safety guide for camping. El Salvador helpfully comes embossed with a map showing its location in Central America, in case you forget.
No matter where your from, knowing what your passport can and can’t do makes you a better-informed traveller.