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OPEN DOOR POLICY

These countries have the fewest visa requirements for tourists

By Natasha Frost

The only thing standing between you and a Cook Islands vacation is a flight.

Unlike the vast majority of countries, the South Pacific archipelago—located about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) northwest of New Zealand—has no visa requirements for tourists whatsoever. Whether you’re from Afghanistan or Austria, Syria or Switzerland, all you have to do is show up.

For the majority of people traveling to the majority of countries, that isn’t the case. As of 2015, 61% of travelers were required to apply for a visa prior to traveling—an expensive and often time-consuming experience, with a risk of rejection. The overall refusal rate for the US B tourism or business-travel visa, for instance, was 32.4%.

A more open world is one of the factors contributing to the rise of global tourism, with international tourist arrivals expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. Reducing visa requirements is one of the easiest ways for tourism-dependent countries to lure potential visitors. The three countries given a full score for openness by the World Tourism Organization, listed below, are all idyllic island nations whose economies depend on tourism.

Countries with more stringent visa requirements, such as France or the US, tend to have more developed economies in which tourism plays a smaller role. For these countries, according to the UN WTO, visas are thought to help improve security, control immigration and tourism demand, and generate revenue. But for prospective tourists, such requirements tend to be understood as little more than an expensive, time-consuming hassle—and a good reason to travel elsewhere.

These 20 countries are ranked the most accessible to tourists, in the UN World Tourism Organization’s 2018 Visa Openness Report:

CountryOpenness score
Cook Islands100
Federated States of Micronesia100
Niue100
Dominica80-99
Haiti80-99
Ecuador80-99
St. Kitts and Nevis80-99
Qatar80-99
Indonesia80-99
Mauritius80-99
Vanuatu70-79
Fiji70-79
Guyana70-79
St. Vincent & Grenadines70-79
Montserrat70-79
Bolivia70-79
Antigua & Barbuda70-79
Samoa70-79
Cambodia70-79
Timor-Leste70-79