In addition to the inalienable rights that come with being a citizen of the United States is the opportunity to put your passport to good use. One of the things that makes having a US passport such an invaluable resource is how much of the planet it enables you to visit without having to deal with any paperwork or visa applications beforehand. Indeed, most nations greet US citizens with open arms.

How Does a US Passport Compare?

The Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index is an annual global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom their citizens enjoy. In this year’s index, the United States is tied for third place with Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Spain. Sweden is in second place and Germany comes in at the top.

Obviously, you should check about any specific entry requirements for any country you’re considering visiting. But as of January 2017, American passport holders could travel to more than 160 countries and territories without a visa. Some of these destinations offer visa-free visits for Americans. Others grant visas upon arrival. Depending on your politics and how you draw your international boundaries, there are 195 or so countries in the world. So clearly, being an American citizen gets you into the vast majority of them.

Of course, some places are easier to visit for Americans than others and a few don’t really want Americans (or any other) visitors at all. So which countries raise the least fuss at their borders about Americans entering and which ones do their best to keep us out? Let’s have a look.

Easiest

Perhaps the smartest starting point for seeing which countries expect what from Americans planning to visit is Wikipedia’s “Visa requirements for United States citizens” article. The page is a handy resource for quickly determining what’s required to go where. It’s not a bad idea after that to check with any official sites or documentation from the countries you’re considering visiting.

As you might imagine, places to visit with the least hassle are mostly ones close to and on good terms with the US. That’s Canada, Mexico, much of South America, most of the Caribbean and Western Europe. After that, the list gets kinda patchy but ally nations such as Japan and South Korea, offer visa-free access.

For the Bahamas, Canada, Dominican Republic, and Mexico, Americans don’t need a passport. An Enhanced Drivers License valid for Land and Sea Travel will do.

The most easy-going countries seem to be Canada, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mexico, St. Lucia, and United Kingdom. No visa is required at all upon entry at any of them and as an American you’re allowed to stay up to six months. Most countries offering visa-free or visa-upon-entry travel usually grant a maximum stay of 90 days or three months.

For the Bahamas, Canada, Dominican Republic, and Mexico, Americans don’t need a passport. An Enhanced Drivers License valid for Land and Sea Travel will do.

Toughest

Many of the countries with the toughest visa processes for Americans are pretty much no-go zones anyway. Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen are among the toughest countries to grant Americans permission to visit and toughest to travel around if you actually manage to get in.

Here’s a look at some of the other countries with extra rigid requirements for American travelers.

For Americans wishing to go to Saudi Arabia, advance visas are required, which are generally only for work-related purposes. And if there’s proof of a visit to Israel on your passport you’ll probably be refused entry. If allowed in, you’ll need a sponsor to vouch for you as well. And if you happen to be female, you’ll need your husband’s permission and to have your sponsor meet you at the airport.

Russia has a multi-page visa application for potential American visitors. One of its questions asks you to list every country you’ve visited in the last decade.

Entry into the Southwest African nation of Angola can be even less likely for Americans. To visit, you’ll need a letter of invitation (written in Portuguese) which costs $450 on top of a $150 visa application fee.

The tiny and isolated Pacific Island nation of Nauru requires a $100 tourist visa that can only be obtained at one of its 12 consulates in the world (three are on US soil though, in New York, Washington, and American Samoa).

The East African nation of Eritrea’s application process takes six to eight weeks with a high rejection rate.

Entry into the Southwest African nation of Angola can be even less likely for Americans. To visit, you’ll need a letter of invitation (written in Portuguese) which costs $450 on top of a $150 visa application fee. You’ll need to have your airfare paid for and a hotel booked before a visa is granted too. Oh, and you’ll need to hand over your passport for up to two weeks.

Some countries that you might think would make it easy for Americans to visit but surprisingly don’t include Brazil and India. To visit Brazil, American’s must pay a $160 fee for a tourist visa. For India, there’s a $60 fee for an e-visa, which are only allowed twice in a calendar year (though it should be noted that Americans are eligible for a ten-year, multi-entry visa). An e-visa holder can only enter India via 24 designated airports or three seaports.

 

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About The Author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, curator, and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world. He's called London home since 2001.