You’ve got the sunglasses, the camera charger and your favourite pair of flats, but wait……that long awaited trip to Paris isn’t going to happen if you leave without the most essential travel item: your passport.
They may be a huge hassle to get, but once you’ve got your passport in hand, you’ve pretty much cleared most of the legal hurdles to get to your destination.
Symbols of citizenship, a diary of our global journeys, a ticket to the world, here are some interesting facts about that little travel document you keep in your drawer.
Not all passports are created equal
Passport holders from the UK and the US have visa-free access to a whopping 147 countries in comparison to a passport from Afghanistan which only allows you to walk into 28 countries sans visa.
Passports go way back……to 450 B.C
One of the earliest references to passports is in the Bible. King Artaxerxes of Persia, in the year 450 B.C wrote a letter asking rulers of the lands beyond the Euphrates to grant Nehemiah safe passage as he travelled through their lands to get to Judah.
Russians have two passports
If you’re Russian, you probably have two passports: one for internal travel, (obligatory) and one for international travel (optional).
It’s good to be queen
British passports are issued “in the name of her majesty”. As such, the Queen of England doesn’t need a passport to travel but the rest of the royal family does!
Passport No. 1
Although Vatican City has no border control, they do issue their own passports and as head of state, the Pope has the honour of holding Vatican passport number one.
New look, new passport
If you’ve gained or lost a significant amount of weight you’ll probably need to apply for a new passport. Ditto if your physical appearance has changed drastically due to plastic surgery, facial tattoos or piercings.
Black is best
The colour of your passport depends on the country you’re from (usually limited to red, blue or green) but if you have a black passport, then lucky you, because you’re probably a diplomat or government official and therefore have special privileges at customs and immigration.
Indeed, red is the most common colour of passports, with the British passport even being nicknamed the “red book”.
Stylish passport designs
Ever wondered why, apart from the different colours, most passports around the world are similar in size and shape? You have the League of Nations to thank for establishing international guidelines back in 1920. That being said, this has not stopped most countries from being creative with the interior pages of their passports. For instance, Finland has a moose that walks elegantly when you flip the pages while the Norwegian passport features minimalist interpretations of the country’s landscapes which, when shone under UV light transforms to show the magical Northern Lights.
Most expensive passport
The UK passport costs £12.25 to produce, a reasonable price to pay compared to the world’s most expensive. A Turkish travel document on the other hand costs a whopping £215, after discount.