Ranked: The best and worst pas

Image: Canva

Ranked: The best and worst passport to hold in 2021

Henley & Partners has released its quarterly report on the world’s most powerful passports for 2021. Here’s where SA ranked:

Ranked: The best and worst pas

Image: Canva

The latest Henley Passport Index, released on 8 July 2021, indicates that the South African passport now ranks 57th in the world. 

The SA passport ranked one place lower than 2020 when it came in at number 56. This is said to be the worst performance ranking for South Africa since the Henley Passport Index was introduced in 2006. The SA passport’s highest ranking was 35th, achieved in 2008 and 2009.

The world’s most travel-friendly passports in 2021

According to CNN, the index doesn’t take temporary restrictions into account, and saw Japan on top of the leaderboard once more, with its passport offering visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 193 destinations around the world.

However, the report says, in the first quarter of 2021 international mobility was still only 12% of its pre-pandemic levels.

“With restricted mobility the status quo, the latest results and research from the Henley Passport Index demonstrate that the gap between theoretical and actual travel freedom remains stark.”

In the real world, holders of Japanese passports theoretically have access right now to fewer than 80 destinations – almost the same as the index ranking of Saudi Arabia, which sits down in 71st place.

Vaccine roll-out

Meanwhile, countries with highly successful COVID-19 vaccine rollouts are still bound by travel restrictions.

The US and the UK are in joint seventh place on the index, alongside Switzerland, Belgium and New Zealand – having both steadily declined in passport power since holding the top spot together in 2014.

In theory, US and UK passport holders are able to access 187 destinations around the world, but the reality is that doors are only open to UK travellers in fewer than 60 destinations, while the US is just ahead at 61.

“That puts them on a par with Uzebkistan and Rwanda’s index rankings respectively.”

The biggest climbers

Since 2011, China has climbed 22 places, from 90th position to 68th, while the UAE has gone all the way from No. 65 to No. 15. 

The best passports to hold in 2021 are:

The passport top 10 remains virtually unchanged as we enter the second half of the year.

  1. Japan (193 destinations)
  2. Singapore (192)
  3. Germany, South Korea (191)
  4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (190)
  5. Sustria, Denmark (189)
  6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (188)
  7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (187)
  8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway (186)
  9. Australia, Canada (185)
  10. Hungary (184)

The worst passports to hold

Several countries around the world have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to fewer than 40 countries. These include:

  • 108. North Korea (39 destinations)
  • 109. Nepal (38)
  • 110. Palestinian territories (37)
  • 111. Somalia (34)
  • 112. Yemen (33)
  • 113. Pakistan (32)
  • 114. Syria (29)
  • 115. Iraq (28)
  • 116. Afghanistan (26)