Passport Power Rank 2017

Wow. What a year it has been since we put together the 2016 version of our Passport Power Rank.

The UK left the EU, potentially losing visa-free travel privileges within the area (and the distinctive red passport).

America voted in Donald Trump who swiftly tried to bring in a ridiculous travel ban, build a wall, …. I could go on.

How have these events effected a¬†citizen’s ability to travel visa-free? Here is the¬†2017 version of our¬†Passport Power Rank.

Methodology

Each year Henley & Partners¬†publishes a ‚ÄúVisa Restriction Index‚ÄĚ,¬†a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy.

Points are awarded to countries for the number of destinations that offer visa-free travel to their citizens. e-Visas are treated the same as visas on arrival. Where the conditions for obtaining an e-visa are straightforward (fee, return ticket, hotel reservation), a visa-free point was assigned.

There are 218 destination countries (territories) in total. The maximum attainable score is 219 (points are not assigned for a national traveling to their own country).

Analysis

Best and worst passports for travel

Country-visa-free-count-2017-map

Full-size map.

 Rank 2017 Country Visa free destinations 2017
1 Germany 176
2 Sweden 175
3 Italy 174
3 Spain 174
3 Finland 174
3 United States 174
3 Denmark 174
8 France 173
8 United Kingdom 173
8 Belgium 173
8 Netherlands 173
8 Singapore 173
8 Austria 173
8 Norway 173
8 Luxembourg 173

 Rank 2017 Country Visa free destinations 2017
185 Lebanon 37
185 South Sudan 37
185 Kosovo 37
185 Sudan 37
185 Ethiopia 37
190 Palestine, State of 36
190 Nepal 36
192 Yemen 35
192 Eritrea 35
194 Libya 33
195 Somalia 30
196 Syrian Arab Republic 29
197 Pakistan 28
198 Iraq 27
199 Afghanistan 24

Full rankings.

Germany tops the list for a fourth year in a row with 176 destinations accessible without a visa for passport holders (out of a possible 219). Down one from 2016.

Interestingly, various EU Member States have varying visa free travel to non-EU countries.

Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan prop up the table, each with visa-free access to fewer than 30 countries.

Year-on-year changes

Total of Visa Free Relationships by Year 2013 - 2017

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Visa-free travel between countries increased again between 2016 and 2017 – albeit at a much slower rate then 2015 and 2016 – by 55 extra visa-free destinations in total.

2016-2017 change in visa-free destinations count

86 passports had visa-free travel increased, 70 decreased, and 43 had no change at all.

Biggest visa restriction changes in 2017

Change in visa free destinations (top 8 2017)

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The biggest mover was Marshall Islands which gained an additional 33 destinations its holders can travel to without the requiring a visa. Peru (+32 visa-free destinations), Micronesia (+31), Soloman Islands (+30), Kiribati (+30) and Tuvalu were the other signifiant movers.

At the other end of the scale was Jordan (-4), Ghana (-5) and Dijibouti (-5) had the amount of countries they could travel to without needing a travel visa decrease. Notably, India (-3), Hong Kong (-2), UK (-2) and France (-2) also saw visa-free travel privileges decrease. Perhaps a sign of things to come for the UK since Brexit.

Improvements

Visa restrictions can change for a wide variety of reasons: security, political, social, etc. For additional studies it would be to add such context for each country to try and better understand why visa requirements seem to change so frequently.

tl;dr

The German passport is the most powerful allowing visa-free travel to 176 countries. In contrast, Afghani’s can only travel to¬†24 countries without a visa.

Get the data

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

China Earns 8 billion USD Each Year From Visas

The American Passport has some of the fewest foreign travel visa requirements for holders (ranked 8th for freedom of movement in 2016).

Many countries still¬†require inbound tourist to pay for a visa for reasons from political agreements (or disagreements) to economic drivers. In some cases, transit visas are required if you’re only transiting through an airport within a country.

What country is the most expensive for tourist visas? What country earns the most from tourists?

Methodology

VisaHQ provides a service to help travellers apply for tourism visas online. Their database contains costs charged by each countries embassy for issuing travel visas to American citizens.

For this post I only considered the Embassy fee, ignoring any additional costs. As each country offers visas of differing lengths (days), conditions (number of entries allowed), and Embassy processing speeds, I used the cheapest visa provided for each country.

Visa costs and availability are always subject to change. Data was collected from VisaHQ during April 2017.

I calculated¬†potential visa revenue using visa costs to US tourists¬†against all inbound tourists of all nationalities in 2013 from a UNWTO report (“US visa cost” X “inbound tourists”).

Results

Most expensive tourist visas for Americans by county

cost-of-visa-for-american-600

Full-size map.

Rank (cost) Country alpha-3 region Embassy fee USD
1 Nigeria NGA Africa 265
2 Cook Islands COK Oceania 200
3 Pakistan PAK Asia 192
4 Congo Republic COD Africa 175
5 Afghanistan AFG Asia 160
5 Algeria DZA Africa 160
5 Bangladesh BGD Asia 160
5 Bolivia BTN Asia 160
5 Brazil BRA Americas 160
5 Gabon GAB Africa 160
5 Guinea GIN Africa 160
5 Mozambique MOZ Africa 160
5 Paraguay PRY Americas 160
5 Qatar QAT Asia 160
5 Sierra Leone SLE Africa 160
5 South Sudan SSD Africa 160
5 Uzbekistan UZB Asia 160

Full list.

Nigeria is the most expensive country for a tourist visa — $265 USD gets you a multiple-entry visa (leave and return as many times as desired) valid for 2 years.

The top 5 most expensive countries for tourist visas for American visitors spans 17 countries. 8 in this list are African nations, 6 Asian, 2 Americas, and 1 Oceanic. In total American citizens are required to pay for tourist visas to enter 89 countries.

Entry into the EU is completely free for US passport holders. In total US citizens can travel to 142 countries without having to pay for a tourist visa.

Potential visa revenue by country

Country Embassy fee USD International tourist arrivals (1000) Potential visa revenue USD
China 140 55686 7,796,040,000
Russia 123 28356 3,487,788,000
Saudi Arabia 107 13380 1,431,660,000
Brazil 160 5813 930,080,000
Turkey 20 37795 755,900,000
India 77 6968 535,839,200
Algeria 160 2733 437,280,000
Iran 90 4769 429,210,000
Qatar 160 2611 417,760,000
Uzbekistan 160 1969 315,040,000

Full list.

China could potentially earn almost $8 billion USD from inbound tourist visas (56 million tourists paying $140 USD a each). Russia and Saudi Arabia also stand to raise billions from tourist visas, $3.5 billions USD and $1.5 billion USD a piece.

121 countries raise no revenue from tourist visas (or equivalent visa-free entry) issued to Americans.

Improvements

I calculated¬†potential visa revenue using visa costs to US tourists¬†against all inbound tourists of all nationalities in 2013 (“US visa cost” X “inbound tourists”). Clearly this is incorrect. Many inbound tourists of other nationalities will likely be subject to different visa requirements and costs when compared to US citizens. If I could get a breakdown of visa costs and inbound tourists by nationality the accuracy of this calculation could be significantly improved.

tl;dr

In total American citizens are required to pay for tourist visas to enter 89 countries. Nigeria charges Americans the most for a tourist visa, $265. China could potentially earn $8 billion from inbound arrivals (assuming all visitors were tourists and required to pay the same visa costs as Americans).

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

You’re Not Worth ¬£20 Million GBP (Of Travel Medical Cover)

The explosion of insurance providers and the baffling array of cover terms they offer are at best frustrating, at worst risk leaving you without valid cover.

One of the most important things to consider is medical cover. In some countries simple medical treatments can be very expensive (I’m calling you out America).

Do most people really need the multi-millions offered by travel insurance companies?

Methodology

I decided to compare travel insurance quotes delivered by Compare The Market using 4 scenarios: trips to the US and EU, comparing standard and winter sports cover.

The trip was proposed for April 17th 2017, for 7 days. I chose a date long into the future so that readers can retrieve the same quotes for analysis. Travel insurance calculations do not seem to be affected by date of travel (I retrieved quotes for a travel date of 17th April 2016 and 2017 and quotes returned were identical).

Travel insurance quotes were provided for 27 year old male with no existing medical conditions.

Medical treatment costs for comparison were taken from a report by AXA (a travel insurance provider).

Results

Count of Quotes

Count of providers and quotes

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43 quotes for standard cover (US & EU) seems like a lot to me – but¬†as a customer it’s nice to have some choice so I won’t complain.¬†Providers typically offer 3 different cover levels (i.e Bronze, Silver, Gold) within each cover type.

Cost by Defaqto rating

Average cost of cover by rating

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Defaqto is an independent company that provides general ratings for insurance policies designed to show customers:

…where a product or proposition sits in the market, based on the quality and comprehensiveness of the features and benefits it offers.

As expected, policies tend to increase in price as the Defaqto rating increases. Though for US standard cover, you can purchase some 5* policies cheaper than some 3* and 4* policies offered.

Average price difference by rating

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For Winter Sports policies there is a large difference between the cheapest and highest premiums. Standard insurance policies have a smaller difference. Choosing a 5* policy over a 2* for US standard cover is, on average, only £3.21 GBP more expensive. Compare that to US Winter Sports Cover where the difference is £44.82 GBP.

Cost of treatment

Average cost of medical treatment

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Average cost of treatment map

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The charts above shows average of estimated costs for three of the most common health claims abroad: Ear infection, Gastroenteritis, Broken bone following a slip or fall.

The US is by far the most expensive for medical treatment (¬£15,888) — twice that of the 2nd most expensive, Singapore (¬£7277). The most expensive place for treatment in Europe is Mainland Greece (¬£5911).

Bear in mind that these costs are for relatively common misfortunes, and that more serious incidents can lead to eye-wateringly high sums — the cost to be incurred by someone falling off a balcony and seriously injuring themselves in the US, for example, is likely to be in the region of ¬£150,000.

Medical cover limits

Average medical cover provided

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Most policies, regardless of their Defaqto rating, offer between £10 Р15 million GBP of cover. Only one policy offers unlimited medical cover.

Even though treatment in Greece is a third of the cost for comparable treatment in the US, medical cover offered by EU and US policies is almost identical.

Medical excess

Average medical excess by rating

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That said, it is very unlikely you’ll ever need millions of GBP worth of medical treatment, even whilst skiing where it can cost ¬£75 GBP per-minute flying time to be evacuated from the mountain by helicopter.

If you’re in Europe it’s very likely you will¬†incur relatively low treatment costs — below ¬£5,000 GBP. The cost of treatment is likely to be even less than the policy excess, especially for 2* policies with relatively¬†high¬†excesses (>¬£150 GBP).

Take 2* and 5* Standard cover in Europe that have average excesses of £188.16 GBP and £35 GBP respectively, a difference of £153.16 GBP. The average premiums for these policies are £11.16 GBP and £20 GBP, a difference of £8.84 GBP. By choosing the 5* policy you could save £144.32 GBP (153.16 Р8.84) on a claim.

Additional factors

Average baggage cover

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Average baggage excess by rating

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Spending a little extra on an EU Standard policy could increase your baggage cover by as much as £1,500 GBP and reduce any excess you would be required to pay by over £150 GBP.

Though beware. Many travel insurers also put a limit on the payout for individual valuable items, such as cameras and laptops. The limits vary between insurers but are typically either £250 or £500. If someone steals your cash while you are on holiday, the payout is again usually limited to £250 or £500.

Average cancellation cover by rating

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Average cancellation excess by rating

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Again cover and excesses are much more favourable for customers choosing Defaqto higher rated policies for cancellation cover too.

Cover, excesses, and premiums

Whilst medical cover is similar (¬£10-15 million GBP) for all policies, regardless of their Defaqto rating; excesses, baggage, and cancellation cover offered are much more attractive the higher the policies rating. And higher rated polices are not significantly more expensive than those with a lower rating. The more expensive US Winter Sports policies have an average difference of ¬£44.82 GBP between 2* and 5* policies — and you will immediately make a saving by choosing the higher rated policy due to lower excesses should you need to make a claim .

All-in-all, medical cover should probably be the least of your considerations when choosing a policy. Reputable providers offer more than adequate cover.

Improvements

With enough time, deconstructing each individual policy for the differences in cover and terms would help in comparing them all (I imagine this task would take a small army to complete). Instead of using broad Defaqto ratings, I could better consider each policy against the other to see which was the most cost effective for requirements.

tl;dr

It’s very rare to need¬†tens of millions worth of medical cover. You¬†should be more concerned with policy excesses.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The Most Common Passport Colours 2016

Passports are beautiful documents. Take a page out of the new UK passport¬†as an example.¬†If¬†you’ve ever taken the time to admire your own passport you will know this¬†— and for the cost, it should be!

Purples, reds, blues, blacks. Coats of arms, flags, intricate typography. Animals, people of distinction, iconic objects. Design elements that often make up the national identity of the country.

Enjoy them, passports as we know them might not be around for too much longer.

But which colours are you most likely to see? And how are colours chosen?

Methodology

The relevant standards for passport design is set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Document 9303, which sets standards for machine readable travel documents (which includes most government-issued ID cards as well as passports).

The size ID-3 is specified in ISO/IEC 7810. The ICAO standard has a lot to say about security, what photos should look like, what belongs on the data page, etc., but doesn’t restrict the design any further beyond recommending a size.

Countries are completely free to choose the colours of their passports, as evidenced by the fantastic variety of passport designs.

I collected scans of passport covers from PassportIndex.com to analyse. To the best of my knowledge, they are all the most recent versions.

For population statistics I used the most recent figures published by the World Bank (2014).

Analysis

Dominant colours

Passport colour map 2016

Full size map.

Count of passport dominant colours all countries 2016

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Examining the dominant colours in passports from all 201 issuing authorities, blue (70) and red (67) are by far the most abundant colours in use today.

Potential passports that could be issued by dominant colour 2016

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Adjusting for the total number of passports that could be issued to everyone worldwide, which is very different to actual number of passports issued, things change. In this case, red would be by far the most common passport colour due to its use by highly populated countries like China.

Significance of colour

Passport colour distribution by region 2016

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Colours have always held cultural significance in design choices. In many Asian countries red often symbolises good luck, in the US most would associate the colour with anger or danger.

Some regional groups of countries have agreed to use a common design for their passports: Regular EU passports are burgundy red (official and diplomatic passports vary), CARICOM passports are all dark blue (officials green, diplomats red) and show the CARICOM logo.

Swiss passport design

All passport images.

Other countries choose colours familiar from national symbols. For instance, the Swiss passport is bright red, like their flag, and many Islamic countries make their passports green or black.

Improvements

The passport scans I used were not dated. Whilst brief research shows them to be correct, I have my doubts.

Quality of scanned passport covers could also be improved to identify subtle differences in colour. I did attempt to do this with the current scans but the colours calculated seemed inaccurate.

tl;dr

  • The most common passport colour is Blue…
  • .. but if everyone in the world owned¬†a passport the most common colour would be Red.
  • Regional groups of countries have agreed to use a common design for their passports, which is why over 75% of EU passports are red.

Acknowledgements

Get the Data

Passport Power Rank 2016

If you have a visa or visa-free access to enter a country your journey through a border is often much easier.

As the modern world becomes ever more interconnected one would expect an increase of visa-free travel relationships between countries. But with the seemingly growing list of conflicts such freedoms can vary significantly depending on nationality.

So which country has the most powerful passport for visa-free travel?

Methodology

Each year Henley & Partners¬†publishes a “Visa Restriction Index”,¬†a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy.

Points are awarded to countries for the number of destinations that offer visa-free travel to their citizens. e-Visas are treated the same as visas on arrival. Where the conditions for obtaining an e-visa are straightforward (fee, return ticket, hotel reservation), a visa-free point was assigned.

Analysis

Best and worst passports for travel

Country visa free count 2016 map

Full-size map.

Visa-free Rank Country Visa-free Destinations for Citizens
1 Germany 177
2 Sweden 176
3 Italy 175
3 France 175
3 Spain 175
3 Finland 175
3 United Kingdom 175
8 United States 174
8 Denmark 174
8 Belgium 174
8 Netherlands 174

Visa-free Rank Country Visa-free Destinations for Citizens
188 Palestine, State of 37
188 Sudan 37
188 Eritrea 37
188 Nepal 37
188 Ethiopia 37
188 Iran, Islamic Republic of 37
194 Libya 36
195 Syrian Arab Republic 32
196 Somalia 31
197 Iraq 30
198 Pakistan 29
199 Afghanistan 25

Full list.

Citizens in Western countries enjoy the most freedoms to travel. The top 10 countries by number of visa-free destinations for passport holders consists mostly of European nations.

No European countries in the bottom 10 list of countries for visa-free travel, however. Sadly, many Middle Eastern and African countries that have suffered war and poor international relationships make up most of this list.

Did you know? Citizens of North Korea can travel to 42 countries without a visa (should they be granted permission to travel). Surprisingly, 20 other countries have fewer visa-free destinations than North Korea.

Year-on-year changes

Total of Visa Free Relationships by Year

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Visa-free travel between countries has increased from 18,003 in 2013 to 19,072 in 2016, with a slight dip between 2014 and 2015.

2016 - 2013 Change in Visa Free Destinations for Citizens by Country

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Of 199 countries between 2013 – 2016, 25 countries saw places their citizens can visit without a visa decrease, 13 had no change, and 161 saw an increase.

Out of the 25 of the countries that saw visa-free travel reduce, 16 were African. Comparing all African countries, it is the only region to see a decrease between 2013 Р2016 for visa-free travel.

Regional differences

Cumulative total of visa-free destinations by region by year

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Citizens of the 27 EU member states automatically qualify for the largest freedom of movement anywhere in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, cumulatively European citizens enjoy the fewest travel visa requirements to travel worldwide (note, the European region includes 22 non EU nations).

Region Count of countries
Middle East 13
Africa 53
Americas 35
Asia and the Pacific 50
Europe 49

View calculations.

However, the cumulative number of visa-free destinations does not take into account region size. Europe has the largest cumulative count of visa-free destinations, but it also contains the second largest number of countries.

Average adjusted visa-free destinations per country by region year

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Adjusting for countries in each region (cumulative visa free destinations per region / count of countries), European citizens still fare best in 2016, and all years post 2012 for that matter.

This adjustment also highlights¬†the fact large differences in visa restrictions between regions. On average in 2016, African citizens could travel to about 53 countries without a visa. In contrast European citizens could visit 146 destinations without a visa — a massive difference even when you ignore the EU freedom of movement area.

Improvements

Visa-free travel represents only part of the movement of people around the world. Consequently, numbers on all types of entries by country would be very interesting to compare, for example; what countries issue the most business / tourism / long-term visas etc?

tl;dr

  • The passports that have the most¬†visa-free destinations¬†for holders in 2016 from a total of 199 countries: 1. Germany (177), 2. Sweden (176), 3. Italy, France, Finland, UK (175).
  • The passports that have the least visa-free destinations¬†for holders in 2016 from a total of 199 countries: 197. Iraq (30), 198. Pakistan (29), 199. Afghanistan (25).
  • European citizens enjoy the least travel restrictions being allowed to travel, on average, to 146 countries without requiring a visa. Citizens of African nations on the other hand fare the worst, with only 53 countries welcoming them without a visa.

    Acknowledgements