Passport is the most basic of human documents that features a picture of yours that’s badly out of date. All travelers have and know them – except for those who only ever travel in their own country or are EU citizens who don’t want to go anywhere else. But did you know that passports have some weird trivia related to them?
5. Passports Are Kinda Old
Possibly the first mention of something akin to the passport comes from… the Bible! Nehemiah 2:7–9, dated to about 450 BC (or 450 BCE), details an official of the Persian king asking for permission to visit Judea, The king grants it and gives him a letter “to the governors beyond the river” that should ensure his safe passage.
The Chinese were all about those passports, maybe even as back as the Han dynasty (so 206 BC). The passports were intricate, detailing age, height and body features, which is the best they could do about two millennia before the invention of photography. The passport was necessary for travel in the imperial territory and even children over a year old had to have them.
The first real (as in, meant for international use), were created by the British king Henry V to help his subjects abroad to prove who they are. They were mentioned in the 1414 Act of the Parliament. In 1540, issuing passports was a duty given to the Privy Council of England – and thus that’s when the word “passport” was first used.
4. Trains Nearly Killed Passports
In ye olde days, travel was slow and easy to control. In the medieval times, passports for foreigners listed which inland (so, not port) cities they could enter, which was fairly easy to check at the gates. And even later on, land travel was slow and ponderous, and good roads few. And if border enforcement fails, you could always nab the people in a city.
But during the 19th century, train travel became rapidly popular and moved ever greater numbers of people at rapid (for the 19th century, anyways) speeds. Basically up WWI, checking the passports was considered such a bother that it had essentially stopped at all. Then the Great War happened, and governments started checking passports as a matter of national security.
3. Photos? Why?!
Aside from the Chinese having the very reasonable idea of having identification in the passport that would allow checking whether the passport holder is the person they claim to be, pictures were almost an afterthought in the whole process.
And then World War I happened. Carl Hans Rhody, a German spy, entered UK with a fake US passport in 1914, which led to the requirement for there to be pictures in them. Britons in the 1920s complained that this measure is dehumanizing. I’m sure we’re going to be hearing some like that after Brexit, too. On the other hand, the rules were super lax, and you could submit the picture of your family, be photographed on the beach or in full bishop garb and – hold on to your seat – even smile.
Terrible times, those were.
2. Taste The International Travel Rainbow
A country can do whatever it wants when determining the color of the passport cover. However, it seems that the three colors are the most popular around the world. It appears that Eurasian countries like reddish or burgundy colored passports. Meanwhile, countries touched by England (and Brazil, for some reason), have a preference for blue ones. Many Islamic countries go for green passports, as it’s a religiously significant color for them.
Countries also like to get artistic with the insides of the passport. Norwegian passports show the northern lights under UV lighting, and Canadian ones have a bunch of illustrations like that. Finland, safe in the knowledge that people only ever make moose jokes about Sweden, made their passport into a flipbook that features a running elk.
1. My Passport Can Beat Up Your Passport
No, we’re not talking about the physical durability of passports. People generally agree that passport power is measured by how many countries can be entered without a visa. As the political situation changes around the world (and immigration bureaucrats desperately try to show that they’re worth keeping around), country positions change. As of 2017, Germany had the most powerful passport, allowing citizens to enter 176 countries (out of 218) without a visa. Syrians, Pakistanis, Iraqis, and Afghans have the short end of the passport stick, with only about 30 countries allowing them in without a visa.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II doesn’t even have a passport. You see, British passports are issued in the name of the queen and it just wouldn’t be cricket to issue a passport to yourself. I also assume that there’s little danger of people infiltrating a country by pretending to be Queen of England.
But however powerful your passport may be, they can’t save yours for flight disruptions. Flight delays, cancellations, and overbooking don’t really care about things like that. So if you end up experiencing flight disruptions, don’t despair. File a claim with Skycop and you might get up to €600 in-flight compensation!