I am fortunate enough to hold a British passport, and although I repeatedly take it for granted, as I think most Brits do, I still think that my passport is my most treasured possession.
At some point in your travels I will guarantee that somebody will tell you that 2/3 of Americans don’t have passports, and have never stepped foot outside their native country. If you have ever looked at an atlas then this fact should come of little surprise given the size and the variety of landscapes that Americans have within their borders. When you come from a relatively small, cold, rainy island such as Britain – it really does force you to look outside of the country in order to find new adventures, let alone a little sunshine! Some countries make it almost impossible for their citizens to even obtain passports, let alone leave the country, which I find unimaginable.
The other main advantage to being born in the UK is that I am a native English speaker. English is the third most spoken language after Mandarin and Spanish. When you combine the number of native and non-native speakers it is estimated that about 1.5 billion people speak English. Plus, it still remains the de facto language of business in not only the Western world but right across the globe. Now this is great news for anyone who grew up, like me, in Britain, although there are a large number of my fellow Brits who do not actually realise what a huge advantage this is.
I’m always amazed by the amount of money, and time, that non-native English speakers dedicate in order to learn a language that I just picked up naturally without even really trying. It is little wonder that the majority of Brits don’t make much of an effort to learn foreign languages when the English language opens so many doors for us.
For me, there are 3 major benefits to being the holder of a British passport that, through just the sheer good fortune of being born in the right place, many people forget. These are:
1. Britain is part of the European Union (KIND OF!!!!!!)
I wrote the following before the UK referendum which took place on the 23rd June 2016:
The one major advantage of being a European Union (EU) citizen is that you are allowed to travel and work anywhere in the EU without any special work permits or visas. This allowance to live, work, study and do whatever you please anywhere within the 28 member countries is something that is envied throughout the world – no questions asked, no visa applications, no restrictions. With the impending vote in the UK on whether to continue to be an active economic member of the European Union it will be interesting to see whether the visa requirements change should the ‘out’ campaign be successful. The proverb ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’ springs to mind.
I still can’t believe WHY OH WHY 17 million people in the UK voted to give this up, and really do feel sad for the younger generations in the UK whose futures will now be compromised by this crazy decision.
Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union then as I write this in July 2016 it is still unclear what the visa requirements will be when I actually arrive in Europe in April 2017 to begin the European leg of my world cycle. The following few months should be interesting times in deciding what the future looks like for British citizens travelling though Europe, and once the dust settles I will have a clearer idea of the visa requirements and costs for the route that I will take through Europe.
2. Increased safety
In terms of safety, having a British passport could be considered a double edged sword depending on whether you are a glass half full or half empty type of traveller. For those that are more on the half empty side of the fence then they will be quick to point out that you are more likely to be targeted or kidnapped given the current state of conflicts in many regions of the world.
My personal experience has been quite the opposite to this viewpoint, and I would actually say that you are afforded far more safety by being white and western than being put at risk. Recently in Vietnam, three British tourists lost their lives in a tragic accident whilst climbing a waterfall in Da Lat. This tragedy was extensively reported in the UK and around the world. I am not sure that it would have been as heavily reported if it had been 3 Vietnamese or even Asian tourists that had lost their lives.
It is an unfortunate reality that if a citizen from a western, or more developed country, dies or goes missing abroad then it more often than not makes international news. This therefore prompts increased efforts to recover them, which in my experience has led to me actually being safer than other nationalities when I find myself in the back of beyond. Hopefully, in the next 12 months I will not be proven wrong on this theory!!!!
3. Freedom of Travel
I will update this section once the new arrangements are n place for UK citizens following the EU referendum result
The British passport actually ranks joint 3rd in the world (only Germany and Sweden rank above us) in terms of freedom of travel. Having a British passport offers me visa-free, e-visa or visa-on-arrival tourist access to a massive 175 out of 218 countries and territories in the world. The lowest ranked country is Afghanistan with access to just 25 countries. Click on this link to see the full ranking for each country in the world.
The map below shows visa requirements for British Citizens. The countries in grey require a visa to be applied for at an embassy before arrival in the country.
Visa requirements for my cycle tour
The table below lists the visa requirements for the countries I will be visiting on my ride around the world. The information is based on the visa requirements for a British citizen:
|Country||Visa requirements||Maximum length of stay||cost||Notes|
|Vietnam||I have a residency permit||1 year||Paid by employer||Cost to extend 30 day tourist visa is exorbitant
Many cyclists run out of time so I would
recommend entering with the 60 day visa.
|Cambodia||E-Visa or visa on arrival||30 days||£20|
|Thailand||Visa stamp on arrival||30 days||Free|
|Malaysia||Visa stamp on arrival||90 days||Free|
|Indonesia||Visa stamp on arrival|
Visa from embassy
|Some restrictions on point of entry|
|New Zealand||Visa stamp on arrival||180 days||Free|
|Argentina||Visa stamp on arrival||90 days||Free|
|Chile||Visa stamp on arrival||90 days||Free|
|Boliva||Visa stamp on arrival||30 days||Free||Can extend for 60 extra days for free|
|Paraguay||Visa stamp on arrival||90 days||Free|
|Brazil||Visa stamp on arrival||90 days||Free|
|Serbia||visa stamp on arrival||90 days||Free|
|Romania||visa stamp on arrival||30 days||Free|
|Bulgaria||visa stamp on arrival||90 days||Free|
|Iran||Visa||TBC||TBC||UK citizens need to have an official guide|
|United Arab Emirates||visa stamp on arrival||30 days||Free|
|Nepal||Visa on arrival||30 days||£30||Print visa form + need 2 passport photos|
|Bangladesh||Visa on arrival||30 days||£30|
|Myanmar||evisa (only at airport)|
|£35||Border crossing with Laos opens in 2016.
Foreigners cannot cross from Bangladesh.
Need a permit and visa to cross from India.
|Thailand||Visa stamp on arrival||30 days||Free|
|Laos||Visa stamp on arrival||30 days||£25|
|Vietnam||I have a residency permit||1 year||Paid by employer||see notes at the top of this table for Vietnam|
The above visa information was correct when I updated this page in July 2016. If you know that the requirements have changed or have any tips or recommendations for places that I must visit on my cycle I would love to hear from you – please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can, or alternatively click here to email me direct
For a complete breakdown of the myriad of additional expenses that you may incur if you set about planning your own cycling adventure click on the following links or use the ‘Costs’ tab at the top of the page:
Finally, you should know the drill by now – I intend to record my journey via blog posts, so if you would like to follow my journey as I cycle around the world add your email address to the form at the foot of this page to receive automatic updates.