The Power of Paper

How strong is your 3Seas region country passport? Very.

Travel planning
Photo: Jacob Lund / stock.adobe.com

Travelers from Europe traveling around Europe, or at least most of the continent, don’t have to think twice when the opportunity to spend a long weekend in Lisbon or Tallinn presents itself. With most of the preparation – ticket, accommodation, food recommendations – being handled via apps, all that’s left to do is to show up at the airport on time. That’s the beauty of visa-free travel. But around the world, relying on your passport to open the door to a country of interest for you is still very much a thing.

For 18 years, the Henley Passport Index has been ranking the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. The passports of countries across the 3Seas Region are soaring high, with Austria (fourth position in the study with 189 points), Poland, Czechia, and Greece ranking highest in the region in the latest ranking, released in October 2023 (sixth position with 186 points). In practical terms, this means that holders of Austrian passports can enjoy visa-free travel to 84% of the world, while travelers with Polish, Czech, and Greek passports can visit 82% of the world visa-free.

The Henley Passport Index includes 199 passports and 227 travel destinations. For each travel destination, if no visa is required for passport holders from a country or territory, or if passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival, a visitor’s permit, or an electronic travel authority (ETA) when entering the destination, a score with value = 1 is created for that passport.
With that in mind, Singapore ranked first with 193 points, amounting to visa-free travel to 85% of the world, followed by Japan with 191. While Poland and Czechia are placed in the same group as Canada, Greece, and the United States, all with 186 points, a large swath of 3Seas countries are just behind, a testament to the strength of their passports.

Hungary is 8th (185 points), followed by Lithuania (in 9th position with 184 points), and then Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, and Slovenia (all sharing the 10th spot with 183 points). In terms of visa-free travel available for holders of these passports, the ranking points to 82% of the world for Hungary and 81% for the rest of the countries mentioned above.

Furthermore, Bulgaria and Romania (176 points each) share the 15th spot with no other than Monaco. Positioned a step lower, Croatia is the last 3Seas country in the ranking (175 points). In terms of the share of visa-free travel available to these countries, Bulgarian and Romanian passport holders don’t need to worry about paperwork when heading to 78% of the world, with Croatian nationals having visa-free access to 77% of the world.
The last country in the Henley Passport Index 2023 is Afghanistan, ranked 106th with 27 points. In practical terms, that means that holders of Singapore passports can travel to 165 more destinations than those holding an Afghani passport.

Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, points out that only eight countries worldwide have less visa-free access today than they did a decade ago. In general, countries have been more successful in achieving greater travel freedom for their citizens. Dr. Kaelin says, “Far more than just a travel document that defines our freedom of movement, a strong passport also provides significant financial freedoms in terms of international investment and business opportunities. Global connectivity and access have become indispensable features of wealth creation and preservation, and its value will only grow as geopolitical volatility and regional instability increase.”

Galina Ganeva

a journalist with experience working for some of the most influential Bulgarian publications. She mostly writes about the intersection of society and culture

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