Countries With the Most Travel Friendly Passports

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Countries With The Most Travel Friendly Passports

I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff.” Anonymous

I used to think that the USA had the best passport. We could go almost anywhere but we do need an awful lot of visas. The Henley Passport Index periodically measures the access each country’s travel document affords. The ranking is determined on the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. It is based on the exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association, which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information. Here are the top countries starting with the best passports to have. We are not number one. 

Japan retained its top spot as the world’s most powerful passport in 2019 for the second time in a row with access to 190 countries.They believe it is due to strong security regulations, economic security and international reliability. They are good guests.

 Singapore is in second place with 189 countries. People from Singapore are welcome almost everywhere.

South Korea is in third place with 188 countries.The Asian countries are dominating this category.

Germany and Finland are in fourth place with 187 countries. Germany has given up its  previous first place ranking. (Finland)

Denmark, Italy and Luxernbourg rank fifth with 186. No one expects trouble from this group.  (Italy)

France, Spain and Sweden are next with 185. They are independent, they don’t usually break anything and they are quiet. (Spain)

Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland and Portugal are behind them with 184. I feel very welcome in these countries so I understand why counties like them.(Portugal)

Belgium, UK, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Canada and USA rank eighth  with 183. Brexit has not yet impacted the UK score -nor has our President changed ours. (Greece)

Malta has a  score of 182. This tiny independent,European Union country has a very attractive passport to many people.Wealthy individuals seeking secondary citizenship for security, have their eye on Malta, which doesn’t impose taxes on their worldwide income and assets and applies only a flat 15 per cent tax on money brought into the country. 

Czech Republic follows with 181. It is doing very well for an ex Communist country.

Lithuania,

Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and Lithuania jointly share the eleventh position with access to 180 nations. (Iceland)

 The findings suggest that visa free access is improving in the world. The last time I went to Brazil I needed one. This time I do not.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Faith In United

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Faith In United

“Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right” .Peter F. Drucker

Years of pent up anger against the airlines was released when a passenger was dragged off a flight. It wasn’t pretty. Everyone is mad at the airlines about something. There are fees upon fees upon fees. Boarding is a mess.There are many airline and TSA personnel that act like they are having a bad day and taking it out on you for no reason. There are  weird overhead bin policies and very overcrowded planes. There are no handicapped bathrooms. It feels like  airline company decisions were made for profit only. No one seemed to care about their customers. They changed the rules to suit themselves and airline travel feels a lot harder than it used to be.

 I lost my iPod and expensive Bose noise cancelling headphones on my recent return flights from Iceland. I didn’t bother to be on hold for an hour to try and track it down because I didn’t know where it could be. I just assumed that someone would take it. 

 Today almost a month later, I received a phone call from Julie at United Airlines Lost and Found asking if I lost something. I hadn’t flown back on United and was about to say no but instead I said “Wait, did you find my iPod? And my headphones?”  She said “Yes.” “But I didn’t fly on United Airlines. How did you find me?” “Your name was in your iPod (not locked). We emailed you twice. (I get a lot of airline email). And you have a frequent flier number so we found your phone number.”

 I wonder how many hands this IPod passed through to get to Julie. Was it a United Airlines person that picked it up in the airport when I was changing planes? Did someone from Icelandair hand it to another person in San Francisco? I asked what I could do and she said, “Just tell people you had a good  experience with United Airlines.”

We want the airlines to be better. We want their employees to smile and be helpful. I try to live my life with the idea that karma is real. Why is it so remarkable to me that I got my iPod back from a different airline and that someone went out of their way to find the owner? I wonder how many people did the right thing here. It looks to me like both people and United Airlines are trying to be better and I should have some faith in the world and also give United another chance..  

Fly safe,

JAZ

Thirty Six Hours In Lisbon, Portugal With the Flu

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36 Hours in Lisbon With The Flu

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain

Flying to Porto, Portugal from Spain I traveled  in a haze of recycled stale air, surrounded  by the germs of a hundred set of lungs. It did not help that the people I sat next to were both sick and coughing.

 I’m a germaphobe. I get on the plane with hand sanitizer in my purse.  I bring wipes into the bathroom in case i have to touch something. I put polysporin around my nostrils not to breathe anything in. i have a mask if necessary. This usually works along with my various good luck charms. 

The next evening I felt like I had been hit with a truck.  If I had been in Southeast Asia or Africa, I would have been sure it was malaria or dengue. Being in Portugal, I went with the flu. The rain in Porto is not helping.

A few days later when we got to Lisbon,  it was in full force. 

 We checked into Santiago del Alfama around nine pm. Driving through the steep, narrow one way cobblestone streets at night, made us glad we weren’t driving.

The hotel was a fifteenth century palace restored into a beautiful modern five-star hotel.  I loved every piece of furniture and  art that I saw in this hotel. It was  totally my taste. The room was beautiful.

The average standard illness is easy to cope with when you are home and much worse when you are traveling. If it had really been the fifteenth century, I would have thought it was God’s will – but instead i can blame the people next to me on the plane.  Luckily the hotel has a  lovely  restaurant with delicious food. and we don’t have to go anywhere.

i have breakfast at one of the most charming  breakfast places in a hotel with wonderful food and coffee. My cold pills have not kicked in yet and i am sneezing. “God bless you” says the person sitting next me. I remember that sneezing was a symptom of the bubonic plague and they used the term God Bless you to ward off  the evil. I wondered if i had the plague.  Maybe there were some fifteenth century plague germs lying around. I do get a lot of weird things. 

My plan is to go to the Tile Museum which i missed the last time I was in Lisbon. My body is fighting me on this to stay in bed but there are no sick days when you are a mom of small children and so my body has learned to rally.

The Museo de Nacional De Azuelo was definitely worth it.

The building is the former Madre de Deus convent founded in 1509 by Queen D. Leonor.

The collections  are tiles  from 15th century till present days.

It gives amazing insight into the beautiful tiles you see around the city. i could have spent all day here. 

Portugal has a long history of preserving fish which  has been traced back to the Phoenicians, Romans  and Carthaginians. It became a gourmet thing a lot more recently. The best thing to buy are the sardines which are healthy and delicious. i definitely needed healthy.  We head to Conserveira de  Lisboa the oldest and best family run business to buy tinned fish. They are in beautiful tins and packaged in boxes. 

We have met the owner of the hotel and we end up having lunch with him at Prado a place his wife likes and turns out to be delicious. Lunch in Portugal takes a few hours.

  It is amazing how shopping and a delicious meal can miraculously take away my symptoms for a bit.

We walk back to the hotel and I take a nap and pack. The flu has moved into my lungs by now.  Getting up at 4am for the long plane ride home is not going to be pretty. I have some soup at the hotel restaurant.

 

I put my body in mom mode. This will be so much  easier than having the flu and entertaining a baby and toddler at the same time. All I have to do is get to the airport wait in line, go through security, find the plane, fly to London, pick up my luggage, change airports, go through customs and security, check in  again, walk really far to the plane, wait four hours , get on the plane for ten more hours, go through customs and security, pick up luggage and go home. I have had children. I can do this. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Travel Mistakes

Travel Mistakes

“You can handle just about anything that comes at you out on the road with a believable grin, common sense and whiskey.” Bill Murray,

We, as human beings make mistakes. It is part of our DNA. Even the best travelers make mistakes. Take a deep breath and move on. Here are some of my worst travel mistakes.

Failing to triple check your flight’s date, time and departure airport. This can lead to all sorts of disasters, including missing flights (yup), long layovers and even trying to leave from the wrong airport (twice). Your airline may book your departure from a different airport than your arrival. Check on every leg of your trip. 12 AM flights for me are a disaster. You only make that mistake once.

Over packing is my biggest problem. Most airlines charge for each checked bag and some even charge for carry on luggage. If you go over the weight limit, you’ll pay a big penalty. Small planes might not even take your bag. Cost aside, schlepping heavy, overstuffed bags through crowded airports and airport security is a nightmare. I am always doing this and swearing that next time that I won’t. But I do.

Not getting travel medical insurance or trip cancellation insurance. Accidents or a sudden illness can happen anytime, to anyone, even if you’re young and healthy. Travel insurance is especially important if you’re traveling to a country like the United States where a routine medical emergency, like a broken leg, is crazy expensive. It does take a while to get your money back but eventually, you do.

Not booking enough time between flights. You only have to miss a connection once or twice to know it is something you don’t want to do again.  I never take that one-hour connection anymore. There are too many variables for me.You have to claim your baggage at the point of entry now and that always takes more time than you think. Large airports are a problem. I have missed planes in Chicago, Miami, London, and Sydney. Weather is always a problem. There is always what I like to call Hakuna Matata in third world countries. Planes leave when they leave.

Over scheduling. It is never fun to pack too many activities and too many countries into one trip. I plan a lot but I have learned to go with the flow. I feel that you do and see whatever it is that you are supposed to. Be flexible.

Keep your valuables in the safe and check that safe before you leave. Also, remember to close the safe when you leave the room.  Yes, I made that mistake in Argentina.  Yes, I have left my passport in the room in St Petersburg and my jewelry in Johannesburg. Jet lag and many days of traveling will do that to you.

Not checking Visa Requirements. I have done this twice now. Don’t expect someone else to tell you. Your travels agent or tour company may think they told you and they might have but you didn’t hear it.  It turns out that you need a visa in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Australia. I had been to Australia before and forgot that part. Many countries issue Visa on arrival. Brazil does not and it takes longer than you think to get it. Same with Myanmar.

Always grab some local currency when you arrive in a country at the airport.  Also, carry extra cash for emergencies. Everyone in the world does not take credit cards. I am a worrier so I always get some before I leave. It is easier now with cash machines but depending on where you are, they are not always so easy to find.

Not letting your bank and credit card companies know that you are out of the country.  I watched in horror in London as the cash machine took my bank card. Apparently, I had not called to let them know I was there. In Spain, my credit card was turned down all day and when I called they were surprised that I had gone without a word.

Not checking airline security rules. Airline security changes all the time. If there is a recent terrorist attack, there are more rules. Nothing is more annoying than having to throw out your carry on stuff. If you have health issues, make sure you carry prescriptions and a doctor’s note.

So the next time you book the wrong flight or screw up something know that even the best travelers have made these mistakes (more than once) and survived. I learn from them and hope I don’t make them again – but I probably will.

Fly safe,

JAZ

What Not To Bring To New Zealand

What Not To Bring  To New Zealand

“Anything to declare? the customs inspector said.”Two pounds of uncut heroin and a manual of pornographic art,” Mark answered, looking about for Kitty. All Americans are comedians, the inspector thought, as he passed Parker through.” Leon Uris, Exodus

Biosecurity entering  New Zealand is definitely a bigger threat to them than terrorist security. New Zealand depends heavily on natural resources and agriculture and they have gone to great lengths to prevent foreign organisms or disease from entering and harming the country’s wildlife, plant life, marine life and health. I know this because I waited in a queue for two hours to be checked for fruit. If you carry an Australian or New Zealand passport, their line moves faster.

The best thing is not to bring anything with you that resembles food. I ate my almonds while I waited. The sign says no dairy products, honey products, meat, fish, fresh foods, anything not sealed in manufacturer’s packaging or any plant material including seeds, cuttings, and bulbs. Also excluded from entry are some medicinal or natural health products, especially anything unpackaged or without a full list of ingredients. You may also need to be wary of materials such as animal hide, bones or teeth etc. I really want to make some jokes here but I won’t because I was really annoyed about that wait.

If you are bringing outdoor equipment such as tramping boots, camping, fishing or diving gear, this also needs to be declared. It is also a good idea to make sure that your gear is clean, give it a good wash and clean off any debris, such as plant material or soil.

There are specially trained dogs at the airport to check for food. How specially trained does a dog have to be for that? There is an exhaustive list on the MPI  website of things that you cannot bring in. (Ministry for Primary Industries not Military Police Information as I originally thought)

Having an Arabic sounding last name when pronounced wrong, I’m used to being thoroughly checked for weapons and really did not understand the seriousness of this.  I did not declare the closed big bags of M and M peanuts, jelly bellys and vitamin C bars  in my luggage. It passed through the  food X-ray machine and no one went through my bags as they normally do. Apparently I look more like a terrorist then a candy smuggler. 

If you don’t declare any at risk goods you are immediately fined 400 NZ dollars and it can go up to 100,000 NZ dollars. So declare all food. I will next time also.They will decide if you can keep it or not. 

There is a big  interactive exhibit in the Wellington Museum called Catch the Invaders where you can pretend to be the MPI. I was finally able to comprehend the importance of this. New Zealand’s isolated geography has been helpful in keeping disease and pests out. Greater international trade, climate change and tourism makes it vulnerable to new pests and diseases that will affect their wildlife and economy. New Zealand is a beautiful country that still has vast areas of wilderness  and I understand now why they want to keep it that way. (photo Cordula Reins)

Fly safe,

JAZ

Fly The Unfriendly Skies

Fly The Unfriendly Skies

“This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.” Jack Kerouac

Flying is stressful these days.  Passengers are more nervous to fly than ever. Going on a plane gives people a lot of anxiety. It is annoying to get to the airport an hour or two before a flight. Security is a headache. Fear of terrorism makes flying scary.  Flights are crowded. Fewer people are willing to volunteer to take a later flight. By the time you are on the plane, you just want to get where you are going safely.

My older cousin worked for United Airlines. It was at a time when stewardesses were always beautiful and families of employees could travel for free. Planes weren’t crowded and he was proud that he could always score first class tickets for his parents. My cousin’s license plate was FTFS    Fly the Friendly Skies. He loved his job. He was sick for a while and died young – a week before 9/11 happened. We were glad that he missed that.  What would he think about this particular incident?

There is no explaining away the forceful removal of a person with a ticket from an airplane seat who is bloodied in the process, because the airline has overbooked the plane. Computers are not always able to solve human problems. People who fly on Sunday nights tend to have to be in work Monday as well. We have no idea what was going on in his head, how he felt about flying to begin with or what he had to do to cause that reaction.

I read an article about this particular passenger’s character and mental state.  An unknown number of passengers travel with every kind of mental disorder. Many have sat next to me. It is alarming that they are trying to turn this around and blame him. I don’t know how I would have reacted being told that I was randomly selected to leave the plane so a stewardess could get to work. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

If airlines are going to throw people off flights where they will be losing income from their jobs, vacation days, non refundable hotels or activities, they have to offer better compensation. My price is a first class cross-country ticket or 50,000 frequent flier miles but that is just me. 

Several years ago, my friends and I were walking slowly through an airport to change flights to return home from a school ski trip. When we got to the gate, we were told that the flight was overbooked and we would have to spend twenty-four hours in Brussels. It made sense not to let us get on, if we couldn’t fly.  I was a bit surprised because we were sixteen and seventeen years old, part of a chaperoned school group and in a foreign country for the first time.

No one paid us, took our luggage off or called our parents who were waiting at the airport the next day. It was clearly a different time and a European airline. We were escorted to an elegant old hotel in the center of Brussels.  Dinner  had a dress code and since we did not have the correct attire or any attire with us, they asked us to eat an hour early and prepared a special dinner so we could taste some local food. We walked around the city and went to some bars where no one asked us for ID. In the morning we saw more of the city and then they came and picked us up and escorted us to the gate for our flight. We had fun and got to see Brussels. 

I still get nervous if I am at the end of a line going on a plane that it will be overbooked and I will not get on. Do I have to worry about being dragged off a flight as well? Given all the highly mediated flying incidents, did they really need to do this?  Bad behavior doesn’t stop being bad behavior just because the airline says it is legal.

Fly safe, (and I mean it)

JAZ

Global Peace Index

Global Peace Index

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love, mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”Talmud

The Global Peace Index measures each year the national peacefulness of a country based on  perceptions of criminality, security officers and police, homicides, incarceration, access to weapons, intensity of internal conflict, violent demonstrations, violent crime, political instability, political terror, weapon imports, terrorism impact and deaths from internal conflict.

I’ve done blogs about it before rating the safest countries and the not  safest countries to visit.

But what really shocks me  is that the US  is a slacker when it comes to promoting positive peace. It is rated 103 on a list of 163 countries. This means that there are are a 102 countries that are safer to visit and live in than the US. Our performance  number is lowered because of the number of people in our prison system and our involvement in conflicts overseas.

There are the usual but many were surprising to me. Uganda is rated 101. Uganda is safer to visit than the US – apparently. Jordan (where I just was) is much safer at 96. Angola, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Gambia, are all in the nineties. Haiti, Burkina Faso Peru, Cuba, Bangladesh  and Paraguay  have a rating in the eighties. Liberia, Benin, Oman and Senegal are in the seventies. Nicaragua, Argentina, Mozambique, Lesotho, United Arab Emirates, Bosnia and Herzegovina are in the sixties.  Madagascar is above Italy  which is rated 39. Chile and Botswana are in the twenties.

According to the data, we are further away from World Peace then ever with the Middle East dragging us down. 

The most peaceful countries continue to improve their rating while the least peaceful ones are getting worse. Violence and conflict are escalating.  The world continues to spend enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very little on peace.

In case you just woke up from a coma, the world is less peaceful this year than it was last year.

Fly safe,

JAZ