Wednesday, October 19, 2016

World's Top 50 Country Passport Stamps

My ten passports.
A journalist recently asked to go through my passport stamps, and I took her up on the offer. It also triggered me to go through my ten passports to find my favourite stamps. The intention was to come up with a top 25 list, but I just couldn't do it. Call me awful at prioritizing, but here you have my favourite 50 stamps from the 198 countries of the world. With two bonus ones thrown in. 

No, I do not have a Belarussian passport,
I just couldn't resist buying a cover when there.
What constitutes a top passport stamp or visa sticker? The design itself matters, how unique or hard it is to get, as well as any good story related to getting it. Or a combination of the above. The most special one is from Laos. Not because it is groundbreaking or spectatular or contains fancy holograms, but because I had run out of empty pages in my passport. Something the police woman at the border at Wattay International Airport in Vientiane wasn't slow to discover and pinpoint. 

- Sir, you do not have any empty pages in your passport, she said. 
- Oh, I am really sorry about that. Are there no half-empty pages you can use, officer? I suggested.
- Let us see what we can do, she answered. 

That's when she picked up a new Laos passport from behind her counter, ripped out four pages and stapled them into mine. 

- Now you have four new pages, she smiled, before demanding a colour photograph from me. 

A true problem solver on an international border? Very rare. And very welcome.

To be fair, I did have my second passport in my pocket, with a lot of unstamped pages, but I wanted to see if she could squeeze another stamp or two into my stamped-out document. She wasn't into squeezing, she preferred expansion. 

My Laos passport inside my Norwegian one. And a form of a stamp from EAST TIMOR (1) on the left.
Never mind my awful photograph, by the way.

The police officer at the border was right. There was no way to squeeze these LAOS (2) stamps 
and a sticker into my passport. But it still makes for my most special visa to date.

My Laos passport was even used by MYANMAR (3) later, by a rather retro looking ink stamp. 

I will go through the remaining 46 countries semi-alphabetically, as there are sometimes more than one memorable stamp on each page.  

Look at that careful hand writing. AFGHANISTAN (4) delivers.

It's early, but the alphabetical order calls for a bonus one already. Penguins are the cutest!
From ANTARCTICA (bonus #1), of course. I visited China's research station there.

I just love how they have misspelled my name, or used an old visa, and then had to tip-ex it.
BENIN (5) certainly qualifies. 

I entered the capital with the coolest name in the world.
Ouagadougou in BURKINA FASO (6) is usually shortened and pronounced Waga.

We have decided to go for red. And no other colours. CAMEROON (7).

CAPE VERDE (8) was my country number 198. The last one, in other words. We partied for four days to celebrate.

There are for sure no Cameroon inspired copycats in neighbouring CHAD (9). #blue

I was not expecting having my photo taken by a webcam in the COMOROS (10).

Damn, even my hotel was revealed on the CONGO (11) visa.

The DJIBOUTI (12) page may come across as slightly chaotic.

The visa to EQUATORIAL GUINEA (13) is among the hardest ones to get your hand on.
Unless you are a US citizen. 

It took me several tries to get a visa to ERITREA (14) too.
To celebrate New Years Eve here comes recommended.

My second favourite visa of all times! That guy may look like me, but it is actually my brother Øystein.
I had run out of passport photos, he hadn't. They still let both of us back into IRAN (15) from Turkmenistan,
despite of our identical passport photos in our visas.

There is just something about the green sun in this IVORY COAST (16) visa.

One of the most unusual visas I have received. Some sort of a postage stamp covered by an ink stamp,
both of which had some yellowish paper glued on to it. Go, JORDAN (17)!

The glorious for Cultural Learnings of America for make benefit glorious nation of KAZAKHSTAN (18).
Sorry, I know you have all heard the bad joke before. 

The five big on one page. Cannot compete with KENYA (19) on that one. 

Four Pacific nations in one photo: KIRIBATI (20), SAMOA (21), TONGA (22) and TUVALU (23).

I like the simplistic design of the LIBERIA (24) visa. 

MADAGASCAR (25) may be very inexpensive, but not quite gratis. The visa was free, though.

For MALI (26) you will need two pages. At least.

Another typical and rather red African visa stamp from MAURITANIA (27).

The dodo of MAURITIUS (28) might not beat the penguin of Antarctica, but rather cute nevertheless. 

But where is Genghis Khan? It was almost like this sticker from MONGOLIA (29) was missing something.

NAURU (30) is the world's least visited country!

Seriously? 1500SEK (175USD) for a visa to NIGERIA (31)?

No, it is not difficult to get a visa to NORTH KOREA (32), er, I mean...the
Super Duper Mega Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Unless you are from South Korea, that is. 

There is no bullshit about the PARAGUAY (33) visa stamp.
And in FIJI (34) you can actually stay for four months as a tourist. Blimey, that is a decent holiday.

PAPA NEW GUINEA (35) has the most yellow visa in the world. Just sayin'.

Yet another rarely visited country. Only ten countries received fewer tourists than SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE (36)

I always thought it would be hard to visit SAUDI ARABIA (37), but I had no problems in getting a 3 day transit visa at the embassy in Oslo. I still had to sign on a paper saying that I agreed to receiving capital punishment should I smuggle drugs into the country. 

The most strangely shaped passport stamp I have seen. Thanks for the creativity, SEYCHELLES (38)!

SOUTH SUDAN (39), the world's youngest country, provided me with this visa on the airport in Juba. 

Probably the most colourful visa stamp in the world. SURINAME (40) makes me smile.

I haven't been in TANZANIA (41) since 2000. Which means I have been to all other 197 countries since then.

These two visas with corresponding stamps are beautifully coordinated, somehow.
I give you TOGO (42) and KYRGYZSTAN (43).

TURKMENISTAN (44) is he only country playing in the same league as North Korea,
competing for the craziest country in the world-award.

The compactness of the VENEZUELA (45) stamp appeals to me. But do also note the dates on the stamps from
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (46) and FRANCE (47). And check out the next photo too. 

MOROCCO (48) was also visited on the same date. And there is more...

We actually started off in the Asian part of TURKEY (49) on the same date too.
Adrian Butterworth and I felt a little bit restless on June 18, 2012 so we visited five continents in the same day

A combination of alphabets and directions of writing on the visa from YEMEN (50) . 
And finally, AUSTRIA (bonus #2). The Postal Service there asked me if I'd like to be on a real postage stamp.
It's a very limited edition, and I put one of them in my passport. You know, just for the hell of it. 

But what about the journalist that inspired me to go through 324 pages of visas and stamps? Camilla Flaatten is a travel report for Aftenposten, the biggest newspaper in Norway. Here you'll find her story about my passports.