Skip to navigationSkip to content

North Korea’s passport is more powerful than most of South Asia’s

Reuters/Faisal Mahmood
Not so easy.
  • Tripti Lahiri
By Tripti Lahiri

Asia bureau chief

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

North Korea is one of the most ostracized countries in the world. But its relatively “weak” passport, in terms of traveling to other countries, remains far more powerful than many of the ones issued by South Asian countries.

According to the most recent Henley Passport Index, an annual ranking of passport power by citizenship planning firm Henley & Partners, North Korea has visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 39 countries or territories. That puts it ahead of five South Asian* countries—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka— who have liberalized access to fewer places in the ranking published last week than North Korea (Germany, as usual, is at the top).

Among the countries Henley ranked as having the least freedom of movement, shown below, North Korea, Ethiopia, and South Sudan have the most powerful passports. (If Iran’s visa-on-arrival policy extended to Bangladesh, though, it would be on par with North Korea.)

RankCountryNo. of countries accessible
7Libya, Nepal36
8Eritrea, Palestinian Territory37
9Bangladesh, Iran, Kosovo, Lebanon38
10Ethiopia, North Korea, South Sudan39

The Maldives, Bhutan, and India, though, are ahead of North Korea in terms of freedom of travel (though the latter is apparently better at feeding its people than India).

Still, the holders of relatively unwelcome passports shouldn’t lose heart—or their globe-trotting aspirations. Instead, they should consider Bolivia.

Ranked the most welcoming country in the world by Arton Capital, the financial advisory firm behind another passport ranking index, it offers visa-free entry or visas on arrival to all the other 198 nations and territories on Arton’s index. That includes all the countries in South Asia—and North Korea.

Reuters/David Mercado
All are welcome here.

*as reflected by the membership of the South Asian Nations Association for Regional Cooperation

📬 Need to Know: COP26

Your guide to the world's biggest climate summit.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.