Josh Martin is a London-based journalist who writes about business and travel topics.
This truly is the ultimate privilege of travel: as the holder of a New Zealand passport, being questioned at the border, let alone being refused entry into a country, barely crosses my mind.
Given how often our tangible brand of citizenship adorns the ranks of the most valuable and useful passports, I’m more likely to evaluate duty-free options or calculate the probability of finding a taxi at 2 a.m. than I am to evaluate the risk of not being granted entry to a destination.
We know that there are passports that are virtually useless for entering other countries as a tourist: try asking a Somali passport holder if they have ever booked a spontaneous vacation to the United States. But even holders of coveted passports like New Zealand can be caught in the diplomatic crossfire, due to their travel history.
Territorial disputes, wars and long games of geopolitical chess mean that intrepid or uneducated tourists could find themselves rejected, expelled or questioned mercilessly if your passport or itinerary documents show signs of visiting states in conflict with each other.
In one of the latest brain farts of his already prickly administration, US President Donald Trump designated Cuba as a state aider of terrorism and, as such, this meant that those who had visited this pariah Caribbean island could not obtain an e-visa to the United States. This was designed to continue discourage tourism in Cuba, having already reintroduced US restrictions on tourist visas, lifted during the Obama era. It’s not exactly a blacklist, but it means that if you have visited Cuba in the previous 10 years, you must apply for a B2 visa at a US embassy for US$185 (NZ$305) and have a interview.
Kosovo is recognized as a sovereign country by New Zealand, Australia, the United States and other Western countries, but not by many others, notably Russia, Spain and – especially – Serbia, which claims as a territory within its own borders. This can cause headaches for travelers looking to visit the Balkans. This means that you cannot first enter Kosovo by land from North Macedonia, nor can you fly to the capital Pristina, where you will rightly get an entry visa if you then wish to travel to the north, in neighboring Serbia. Indeed, Serbian border guards would consider the Kosovo stamp as illegal entry into Serbian territory. The standoff means you may have to travel to and from Kosovo, to a third country, and then to Serbia.
If you had the chance to travel to Iran As relations between this Middle Eastern country and the West thawed in the mid-2010s, you should be aware that future travel to the United States and Israel will be much more difficult. The pariah state stopped stamping passports in 2019, but all tourists before then will also be forced to opt for the B2 tourist visa for the United States, as Iran is considered a state sponsor of terrorism, while Israeli border forces will likely extend your border control. if you’ve recently visited Iran (expect probing questions and searches via your phone, according to reports).
Israel stopped stamping visitors’ passports about a decade ago because of the problems it caused travelers to the Middle East. Although border agents are now expected to stamp separate visa documents, make sure this happens and be vigilant that no evidence of prior stay in Israel is evident, as subsequent travel to Lebanon, the Kuwait, Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen are unlikely to enter, as these countries – some of which are direct neighbors of the state – refuse entry to travelers who have visited Israel.
New tourist sites
It’s a cheap souvenir that you’ll probably get without much thought in a major destination like Machu Picchu or Antarctica, or perhaps from the tourist offices of microstates like San Marino and Liechtenstein: novelty and definitely not legitimate passport stamp. But they could cost you thousands of dollars if you’re denied boarding or prevented from entering another country in the future.
Just last year, a would-be passenger was refused boarding a flight from Doha, Qatar to Thailand because airport staff considered a novelty passport stamp from Machu Picchu rendered the travel document altered and illegitimate. Rule-followers, too strict about safety, or maybe they just had a traumatic experience of Peruvian hikes and Inca ruins? Either way, it will make you think twice before using your most important ID to collect stamps from Aitutaki, Antarctica, and other non-countries.