Travelling can be a bureaucratic nightmare for those on restricted passports. Here we look at the best passport to have in 2018 based on the freedom it provides.
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 played loud Arabic music while he worked, loved learning British colloquialisms (“armchair critic”, “fairweather friend”), and held a Jordanian passport. One day, he came into work clearly frustrated and announced that he was giving up on travel.
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.
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I have been routinely reminded of this fact in the ensuing decade, most recently by Arton Capital, a financial firm that annually compiles an index of the best passports to have. In this case, ‘best’ is defined by the number of countries the passport holder can visit either without a visa or by obtaining one on arrival.
South Korea Steals top spot
Last year, the best passport to have was a tie between Germany and Singapore (159 countries each). In 2018, the South Korean and Singaporean passports have pushed the German passport into third place.
South Korea and Singapore passport holders can now easily access 163 countries. South Korea joins Singapore at the top of the index ranking for the first time. European countries have historically dominated the index, with Germany regularly in first place.
Last year saw the rise of Asian countries with Singapore the first Asian country ever to top the world’s most powerful passports. South Korea is now the second with Japan also quietly moving up to second place, tied with Germany on 162.
The UK has the joint-fourth highest score with easy access to 160 countries and the US and Ireland have the joint-fifth with 159 countries.
Alas, for poor Munir, travel still remains difficult on a Jordanian passport with easy access to just 50 countries. Even worse is Afghanistan, which sits at the bottom of the table with visa-free access to just 26 countries. The rest of the bottom five is made of Iraq (29), Pakistan (30), Syria (33) and Somalia (34).
Best passport to have: the rankings
Editor’s note: If you’re planning to put your passport to use this year, grab a copy of our travel guide to help you see more of the world.
|RANK||COUNTRY||VISA-FREE SCORE||POWER RANK|
|United States of America||159|
|48||United Arab Emirates||142||20|
|57||St. Vincent and The Grenadines||130||27|
|58||Saint Kitts and Nevis||129||28|
|59||Antigua and Barbuda||128||29|
|61||Trinidad and Tobago||127||30|
|93||Bosnia and Herzegovina||105||46|
|Papua New Guinea||73|
|Sao Tome and Principe||58|
|Cote D'ivoire (Ivory Coast)||56|
|172||Central African Republic||48||84|
|179||Congo (Dem. Rep.)||44||88|
Rankings are from Arton Capital, a financial firm that enables individuals, families and companies to invest abroad.