Passports are vital documents that allow us to cross borders and explore the world… but how much do you actually know about them?
Like most people, your answer to that question is probably: not a lot. Passports are something more of us have become so accustomed to, we can’t imagine the world without them. We know we have to renew them; we know there’s fees to be paid; and we know if we forget them then we’re not going to be crossing a border— but that’s about it.
We’ve talked about the management of your own passport before, but what about passports in general? As it turns out, the entire concept has quite a few stories to tell…
#1 – The concept of passports is older than you think
The origin of the passport dates back to 1414, and the reign of King Henry V in England. Henry V created a document that helped people prove their identity and nationality when they were visiting foreign lands; a practice that was then confirmed with an Act of Parliament. This was not referred to as a passport (this exact term dates to 1540), but it’s purpose is clear.
#2 – 40 million passports have been stolen since 2002
A database, maintained by Interpol, stores the details of all stolen passports. This database helps to flag suspicious travel if a passport reported as lost or stolen is used to travel.
#3 – World War One saw passports become a requirement for international travel
Although the concept of passports dates back over 600 years, it wasn’t until the outbreak of World War I (1914 – 1918) that passports became formal requirements for overseas travel.
#4 – Red is the most popular color for passports
By some margin, red is the most commonly chosen color for passports, followed by blue, green and then black.
#5 – Queen Elizabeth II does not have a passport
Not only does Queen Elizabeth II not have a passport, but it’s widely thought Her Majesty is the only person in the world who is afforded this privilege. The rest of the royal family — including the heir to the throne, Prince Charles — all require passports for international travel.
#6 – Passport prices vary hugely between countries
We all know that passport fees are a fact of life, but the fees citizens are charged varies hugely between countries. For example, a passport in China costs just $29 USD, but Australian citizens can expect to pay $212 USD!
#7 – Singapore passports are the most “powerful” in the world
Passports issued to Singaporean citizens are currently the most powerful in the world. A Singapore passport holder is able to travel to 164 different countries without the need for a VISA.
If you’re curious, the least “powerful” of all passports is the passport held by citizens of Afghanistan. These passports allow for VISA-free travel to just 25 countries.
So the next time you’re preparing for a flight, you can look upon your own passport and think of how they’ve changed through time and across the world – and how one small document can make such a big difference!