Singapore and Malaysia top visa-free travel index for SEA region


International travel is becoming more mainstream around the world and travelers are looking for visa-free destinations. Source: Hanson Lu/Unsplash

OBTAINING a passport that allows you to travel to nations without having to go through the rigmarole of visa applications is one of the most desirable factors for international travelers.

According to the 2018 Henley Passport Index, a wider variety of passports than ever before are allowing visa-free travel, with many chart climbers in the index coming from Asian nations.

While Germany remains number one in the world for visa-free travel, gaining access to 177 countries, Singapore is only one country off sharing the top of the leaderboard.

This new data from residence and citizenship advisory firm Henley and Partners reveals this to be Singapore’s highest-ranking position on the chart in the last 10 years. Last year, Singaporean passport holders could travel to 173 countries without visas.

As for continents, Europe shone through with the most national passports allowing visa-free travel. Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Austria and the UK shared the third position, and Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherland, Spain and Switzerland shared fourth place.

The lowest-ranking countries for visa-free travel come from north Africa and the Middle East. Somalians can access 32 countries, but Afghanis feature last in the index with visa-free access to only 24 nations.

Of the 199 countries featured on the index, 143 improved their ranking over the past year and 41 countries maintained their position. This year was momentous for Malaysia as the nation climbed to 12th in the world and second for Southeast Asia.

China also climbed up the ladder by ten places to rank 75th out of 199 countries.

Dominic Volek, managing partner of Henley and Partners Singapore and head of Southeast Asia, said the need for visa-free access to global markets, whether it be for business or leisure, is more important than ever before.

“Two trends were clear in 2017: certain countries enjoyed accelerated economic growth while others witnessed political fragmentation, nervous markets and vulnerable economies. Access, connectivity and shared prosperity are all factors driving the need for greater travel freedom,” he said.

The benefits of visa-free travel include not having to fill out lengthy application forms, which can ask you personal information you might not want to share. Without lengthy forms, you can travel on a whim without dreading the long visa queues at border control.

A United States working visa remains the most desirable visa in the world at a reasonable US$190, but they are hard to obtain. But the most expensive visa comes from Nauru, the third smallest country in the world. A trip to the island off the coast of Australia will set you back a cool $8,000 for just three months’ stay, in visa costs alone.