SA’ers can now visit 108 countries visa-free

Henry

Expensive visas need not deter South Africans from traveling the world; this year citizens with this passport can visit 108 countries without a visa.

The Henley Passport Index, which is based on the International Air Transport Association’s data, has published its latest report on the different countries that passport holders of certain countries can visit visa-free.

A total of 104 countries are ranked in terms of the number of destinations their passport holders can visit without a visa.

According to the index, passports from Japan and Singapore are still the strongest to have, as citizens of these countries can visit 194 out of 227 countries without a visa.

Four more members of the European Union (EU) can also now visit as many countries visa-free. These include France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

However, South Africa is much further down the list and came in 53rd place this year, together with Qatar. Citizens of Turkey and Russia, who ranked 52nd and 51st respectively, can visit about ten more countries than South Africans.

However, South Africans can easily visit several tropical destinations visa-free. These include the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Fiji, the Maldives, Seychelles, St. Lucia and Thailand.

For South Africans who would rather visit countries rich in history, they can travel visa-free to Brazil, or even Egypt, Ireland, Russia, Singapore or South Korea.

Although South Africa’s passport was also 53rd on the list last year, it has systematically moved down the list in the past 20 years. In 2009, South Africa reached a peak of 35th in the ranking, but in 2021 it reached an extreme low of 58th.

Biggest jumps

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has made some of the biggest leaps in the last decade to ensure that its citizens can travel to as many countries as possible without a visa. The UAE has gained an impressive 106 destinations since 2014, resulting in a huge jump from 55th in the ranking to 11th on the list.

Ukraine and China are also among the top five countries that performed best in the ranking over the past decade. Ukraine is now in 32nd place with 148 visa-free destinations; China is 62nd in the ranking with access to 85 destinations without a pre-approved visa compared to just 44 destinations in 2014.

Russia has added 24 destinations to its list over the past decade and is now in 51st place with access to 119 destinations.

Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, founder of the passport index, says that although many countries have done better over the years, the gap between countries at the top of the list and those at the bottom is wider than ever this year.

“The average number of countries that travelers could visit without a visa almost doubled from 58 in 2006 to 111 this year,” he says.

“Yet the gap remains massive with some of the top countries being able to visit more than 166 other countries, while countries such as Afghanistan can only visit 28 countries without a visa.”

Prof. Trevor Williams, an economics expert, says the overarching narrative that connects better economic performance with visa-free access to other countries, international trade, investment and exchange of skills is once again in question in this year’s ranking.

“In many ways, future global economic progress – and greater access to other countries – depends on countries that are lagging behind showing significant improvement in their willingness to trade with other countries,” he says.