War in Ukraine Shakes Up the List of Most Travel Friendly Passports for 2022

The 2022 edition of The Henley Passport Index has been released, with some interested changes to the list this year. Since 2006, the annual report has ranked the most travel friendly passports from around the world, indicating which country’s citizens can move the most freely on an international level. And while this year’s index has changed dramatically at the top of the list, there has been some suffering further down due in no small part to the war in Ukraine.

most travel friendly passports
Photo Credit: Kraig Becker

The World’s Most Travel Friendly Passports

The Henley Passport Index generates its rankings based on the number of places that a passport holder from a given country can travel with the need for a visa or alternatively a visa can be obtained upon arrival. The more countries that can be visited in this way, the higher a passport will fall on the list.

Over the past few years, the top ten countries on the Henley Passport Index have remained largely unchanged, with a few nations moving up or down a spot from time to time. That list—along with the number of countries passport holders can visit—includes:

  1. Japan and Singapore (192)
  2. Germany and South Korea (190)
  3. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain (189)
  4. Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden (188)
  5. France, Ireland, Portugal, and the United Kingdom (187)
  6. Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States (186)
  7. Australia, Canda, Czech Republic, Greece, and Malta (185)
  8. Hungary (183)
  9. Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia (182)
  10. Estonia, Latvia, and Slovenia (181)

As you can see, the top ten is dominated by European countries, which are aided by visa-free travel within the EU, not to mention a history of open borders between many of those nations.

most travel friendly passports

Ukraine Up, Russia Down

While the Passport Index does tend to stay fairly static year in and year out, sometimes international events can have an impact on the rankings. Such is the case this year, which saw Ukrainian and Russian passports impacted by the on-going war between those two nations.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, many Eastern European nations waived visa requirements for refugees fleeing the war. This allowed hundreds of thousands of people to move more freely throughout the region. As a result, Ukrainian passports became slightly more travel friendly with the country’s ranking on the Henley list improve one spot to number 34.

On the other hand, Russia’s unprovoked attack of Ukraine has led to its passport holders receiving more restrictions. In fact, many countries now refuse entry to Russian travelers. This has caused that country to tumble four spots down the list, giving it a ranking of 49th overall. As the war continues to linger on, it could drop further depending on future sanctions.

The Least Travel Friendly Passports

While the list of the countries with the most travel friendly passports is always interesting to see, the countries that make up the bottom of the Henley Passport Index are equally fascinating. In most cases, the low ranking comes as no surprise, as travel is often restricted by internal politics, international sanctions, or a combination of both. That list—along with the number of visa-free destinations—looks like this:

112. Afghanistan (26)
111. Iraq (28)
110. Syria (29)
109. Pakistan (31)
108. Yemen (33)
107. Somalia (34)
106. Palestinian Territory and Nepal (37)
105. North Korea (39)
104. Libya, Kosovo, Bangladesh (40)
103. Lebanon, Sri Lanka, and Sudan (41)

The researchers who compile the Henley Passport Index warn that there could be significant changes coming to the rankings in years to come, including nations at the top of the list. Climate change is expected to have a dramatic impact on travel, migration, and immigration in the decades to come. As a result, some nations are likely to make it more difficult to cross their borders in an effort to restrict the influx of refugees from certain parts of the world.

So? How does your passport stack up? Does your country fall high on the list? Are you ready to put it to good use again now that the pandemic is subsiding? The past two years haven’t been particularly good ones for frequent travelers, but hopefully that will change soon.

Kraig Becker