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The Gap Year Blog

Top 5 Strongest and Weakest Passports in the World

12 Sep 2018 15:45 PM

Photo Credit: Pixabay | Jackmac34 

Edited with permission by Frontier 

The passport – the must-have document that is sometimes left in the drawer at home when you’re rushing to the airport. It’s useful for getting to far flung places and for identifying yourself. 

However, there’s more to passports than meets the eye. Different passports have different amounts of strength, with some doing the heavy lifting in the gym while others barely lift themselves off the sofa. 

Here’s a rundown of the top 5 strongest and weakest passports in the world.

Passport Strength

A passport’s strength is regularly assessed and updated using the Henley Passport Index. The index measures a passport's strength based on the number of countries you can visit visa-free with it. In 2018, the top 5 is generally dominated by well-developed European and Asian countries:

  • 1st – Singapore and Japan (189 countries)
  • 2nd – Germany (188 countries)
  • 3rd – Sweden, Finland, Italy, Spain, Denmark, France and South Korea (187 countries)
  • 4th – Austria, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, UK, US and Portugal (186 countries)
  • 5th – Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland and Canada (185 countries)

By contrast, some passports are not very useful for visa-free travel and they make up the bottom end of the rankings. Countries which are war-torn tend to feature in this region:

  • 98th – Palestinian Territory, Sudan and Eritrea (39 countries)
  • 99th – Yemen (37 countries)
  • 100th – Pakistan (33 countries)
  • 101st  – Somalia and Syria (32 countries)
  • 102nd – Iraq and Afghanistan (30 countries)

Passport Colour

The strength of a passport isn’t its only defining feature however. Spare a thought for its colour. Admittedly many people don’t think twice about the relevance of a passport’s colour, but it is often carefully selected by a country’s government for political, geographical or religious reasons. 

The world’s passports can be broadly split into 4 main colours; red, blue, black and green. Each country often has a specific reason for picking a certain shade, but here are a few examples:

Red Passports

Countries sporting red passports (or varying shades of red) include Austria, Bahrain, Russia and the United Kingdom. Some suggest that red is used by countries to represent their current or past communist political stance. Burgundy, one of the popular shades of red used in passports, is universally adopted by EU countries to show they are members of the bloc (except Croatia). 


Photo Credit (Russian Passport): Flikr | www.wellingtonstravel.com

Photo Credit (British Passport): Wikimedia Commons | UK Passport Office

Blue Passports

In another example of “we are in this club” statement, some Caribbean countries that are members of Caricom (Caribbean Community and Common Market) have blue passports. Other countries in specific areas like Oceania, North and South America have blue passports to symbolise their specific geographic location.


Photo Credits (Jamaican Passport): Wikipedia | Chris Fitzpatrick]

Photo Credits (US Passport): Wikimedia Commons | Mkt3000 dot vim

Black Passports

Black passports are the rarest (and therefore the coolest). It’s not exactly clear why some countries use black passports, with some speculating that it’s because they look “more official”. New Zealand however seems to choose a black passport as black is its national colour

Photo Credits (Angolan Passport): Wikimedia Commons | Antarsy

Photo Credits (New Zealand Passport): Wikimedia Commons | Government of New Zealand / New Zealand Immigration Service

Green Passports

Green passports tend to be associated with countries where Islam is the predominant faith like Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.  It is thought that countries adopt the colour on their passports because green is of significance to Muslims as it is associated with the Prophet Muhammad.


Photo Credits (Moroccan Passport): Wikimedia Commons | Eljozgui

Photo Credits (Pakistan Passport): Wikimedia Commons | Mike35741

So there you have it, next time you’re travelling somewhere nice, spare a thought for your passport, there's more to it than you may have first thought. 

By Ignatius-Roy Hillcoat-Nalletamby - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!