For Your Interest: The Henley Passport Index. Real Travel. Real Access.

Image: RCA. Map, Attanatta. Passports, Craig James. Passport Control, Bobby Hiddy.

Every year the travel industry releases a list of the best passports. There is actually more than one list, but the one travel pros and industry insiders pay attention to is called the Henley Passport Index. (HPI)

A happy disclaimer: The index is neutral. It does not grade cultures, societies or governments. It’s also not a list of the happiest people, the most popular destinations or the countries with the best beaches/temples/pizza/wine/soccer teams.

The HP Index is an equal measurement of the “travel freedom” for all of the 199 official passports in the world. From number 1 to 110, the list is an Olympics style country-by-country ranking of the most desirable and useful passports, all the way to the least kindly and favourable. The top passports carry the most standing at international checkpoints and have good, great or super back end embassy support & services. The passports at the bottom of the index are in effect basic, useable travel documents and come with extra levels of scrutiny.
There are 3 ways a traveller can get to a country. Depending on the geography, they are by land, sea or air. There is only one way a traveller can (legally) get into a country. That is by using a valid passport to go through a border checkpoint.


#Facts: Most of the worlds’ travel is by air. In 2019, half a billion* people flew somewhere in an aeroplane. The HP Index uses a six-step checklist plus the International Air Travel Association (IATA) database to give each passport a score called a “visa-free” number. This is the total number of countries a traveller can go to without needing a visa. The higher the visa-free score, the “better” the passport. (*543 million- Source Statista)

There are two types of travel, business and leisure. Before Sept 2001, the majority of international visitors were good-to-go at customs with a ticket, some money and a current passport from a neutral-ish country. That used to be enough to get from A to B to C without too much official hassle or delay. All of that changed on 9/11. Since then, metal detectors, transportation safety screening and passport swipes to a central database have been a fact of life and are a “must” barrier to overcome at every sea, air & land crossing. The HP Index came about as a one stop answer to the jumble of questions on who gets to travel where, which countries allowed entry and what the number of restrictions for each nation were.

For most of 2020, going forward into 2021, and well beyond, what were once very open skies will be a web of small sky corridors, hotel quarantines and narrow travel bubbles. It is a sure bet voyagers will need to have a vaccination passport or some type of health/immunity pass, as well as a regular passport. 259d5e2cea033ae5ca
Fun fact: The HP Index already included vaccinations as part of its ranking formula before Covid-19.

On the Henley Index, the best passport in 2021 is Japanese, which has a visa-free score of 191. Top 5 travel freedom also goes to those with passports from Singapore, Germany, South Korea and Finland. They collected scores of 190,189 and 188.
At the bottom of the HP Index for 2021 are Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. All five countries have a visa free score of 33 or lower. The war on terror is still ongoing. These nations are flagged on global security lists as being of high or extreme risk.

Henley Index Top 10 passports 2021:
1 Japan.                  6 Italy.
2 Singapore.           7 Luxembourg.
3 Germany.             8 Spain.
3 South Korea.        9 Austria.
5 Finland.              10 Denmark.

See the full list and check your passport position: The Henley Passport Index 2021.

For many people, sunny island getaways are a dream vacation. Citizens from Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia, The Seychelles and Antigua enjoy plenty of travel freedom when going in the other direction. They earned visa-free scores between 144 – 151.
Halfway down the chart are a mix of countries from very different time zones and regions. The one thing all of them have in common is a visa-free ranking of 100 or more. They are Belize, Turkey, Albania, Georgia and the Russian Federation. Tiny Palau (pop: 17,900), in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and Moldova, which is landlocked in between Ukraine and Romania, both ranked 20 points higher.
Once upon a time, travel agents were the go-to service for cruise escapes and airline travel. Then came Expedia, KAYAK and Travelocity. Now it is “travel creators” who custom design tours and ocean voyages to favourite tourist destinations like Cuba, Jamaica, Monaco and Fiji. The visa-free score for each is 64, 86,174 and 88.

A little history on passports. Passports and travel identification documents have been in use for hundreds of years. Between 1913 -1915, passports from different countries began to have a similar look and style. The first big push to create a common format was in 1920 when the League of Nations put out guidelines for what would be included in passports and how they were issued. This was followed up in 1926 and 1927. The two next big steps in passport development came from the outcomes of a United Nations travel conference in 1963, and courtesy of the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1980. Since 2007, travellers to the United States have been subject to the passport framework of the U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

Types of Passports: 
Ordinary Passport – Also called a regular or tourist passport.
Passport Card – Alternative to regular passport. Not valid for air travel. Valid at land & sea borders.
Official Passport: Used by government employees and families for work related travel. Diplomatic Passport – Given to diplomats and family members. (Does not guarantee diplomatic immunity)
Emergency Passport: Temporary replacement for lost/stolen passports.
Family Passport: Issued to whole families. 
Collective Passport: For group travel. E.g. school groups, sports teams. (Rarely issued)
Refugee Document : Used by asylum seekers or refugees. Approved for international travel.

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Photo credits: Copa Airlines, JT Occhialini. Passport, Antonio.
Cruise Ship, Frans Schouwenburg. Visas, Neutral Name Co.
Aruba Sign, Kurt Williams.