If you are a traveler, it’s hard to find a better nationality than American. Traveling as an American has its advantages.
Language And Access
Some obvious advantages of U.S. citizenship:
- English is the most widely spoken language in the world. Most Americans speak the most popular form of English.
- Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. passport was the 16th most powerful passport. A person holding a U.S. passport was able to travel to 185 countries visa-free (Henley Passport Index).
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of countries open to unrestricted travel for U.S. passport holders has dropped to 9 (as of October 13, 2020). The American passport is now one of the weakest in the world.
According to Government Embassies And Tourism Boards the following countries are open to U.S. passport holders without restriction:
- Dominican Republic
- North Macedonia
This is temporary. The American passport will be strong again once the Covid-19 pandemic runs its course or the U.S. government implements a plan to control the virus.
Money: The U.S. Dollar And PPP
Another valuable advantage of traveling as an American is the value of the dollar, especially when coupled with purchasing power parity (PPP). Without going into the dry economic details, this means that Americans realize more value for their money in almost every country for most purchases.
While having coffee in Mexico City I chatted with a woman from Brazil. She told me that Mexico is slightly more expensive. For Kim and me, as Americans, Mexico is a bargain.
The coffee we were drinking cost 50 pesos (USD 2.30), a third of the price I would pay in the United States. For my Brazilian friend, the cost way slightly more than in her country.
In countries in which use a currency worth more than the U.S. dollar, such as the Euro, most items are less expensive. A superb bottle of wine can be purchased for 6 Euros (USD 7) in Italy. We found the same value for most food in so-called ‘expensive’ Italy and France.
Not Everything Is Less Expensive
Our train tickets from Northern Italy to Southern France were an inexpensive USD 100 each. In Italy, however, a gallon of gas is about USD 6.25. In Kosovo, an economy rental-car is about twice the rental fee as in the U.S.
Fresh healthy food costs less in the European, Central American, and Asian countries in which we have stayed. However, processed food and fast food is much more expensive.
With few exceptions food, clothing, transportation, housing, and most of life’s enjoyments are less expensive than in the United States.
In fact, including dependencies and territories, only 20 areas are more expensive than the United States. Below is a combined list from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Central Intelligence Agency of areas with PPP is greater than the United States:
- Cayman Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Man
- San Marino
- Saint Maarten
- United Arab Emirates
A continuous refrain from our friends and family is: BE SAFE! We hear this frequently when we relocate from country to country. We hear it gravely when we depart the U.S. Although misplaced it is appreciated.
Like value, safety is relative. This translates into another advantage of traveling as an American:
- America is one of the most dangerous places to live or visit so almost every other country is ‘safe’ for Americans.
I mentioned in a previous blog that Syrian refugees come to the U.S. because they view it as a safe place compared to their home country. However, many of my Chinese students would not study in America because they view it as a dangerous place compared to their home country. The reality is the U.S. is safer than Syria and more dangerous than China.
How is safety measured between countries? Kim and I use two measures:
- Crime statistics
- Crime perception
Crime statistics can be found on many websites, just make sure the data is from a reputable source. The World Bank is a good place to start.
Be aware that the raw numbers seldom tell the full story. For example, The World Bank data shows the U.S. has 5 homicides per 100,000 people, and Mexico has 19 homicides per 100,000 people. Quite a difference.
But the real difference is who is being killed. In the United States, homicides tend to occur in mass or random shootings or general crime. In Mexico, homicides are generally limited to those associated with the drug cartels.
In 2017, 35,000,000 American visited Mexico. In the same year, 238 Americans were killed in Mexico. In the United States, 5 of every 100,000 Americans are murdered. In Mexico, .00238 Americans out of every 100,000 are murdered. If you are not involved in the drug trade, Mexico is SIGNIFICANTLY safer than the U.S
To determine crime perception, a more meaningful measure of crime, we use Numbeo. This site allows you to compare different cities or countries among different crime and safety categories. To gather the data, Numbeo surveys individuals living in the countries and cities
The Politics Of Safety
Sadly safety has become a political issue in the U.S.
Jamaica has positive political relations with the U.S., thus the U.S. media seldom reports on the high crime rate. Instead, Jamaica is portrayed in a positive light. This is the same situation for the high crime countries of Belize and the Virgin Islands.
On the other hand, the U.S. government has decided that Mexico and Guatemala are political enemies. Therefore, the media reports about crime in these countries. It labels these countries as dangerous, having a high crime rate, and targeting Americans. It’s politics, not reality,
The reality is in Belize 30 of 100,000 people will be murdered. In Jamacia where 47 out of 100,000 people are murdered. In the Virgin Islands, it’s almost 50 out of 100,000 people!
Guatemala is almost twice as safe as the Virgin Islands with only 27 or 100,000 killed. Mexico is the safest of these countries.
Guatemala and Mexico are not in the top 10 most dangerous countries list. The Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and Belize are!
Yet the American media reports on the dangers of Mexico and Guatemala and the pristine beaches and snorkeling in Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and Belize.
The point is that despite what the media and government are saying to America, Americans are safer when they travel abroad.
It’s Good To Be Traveling As An American
In relative terms, few other countries offer the advantages of:
If you find yourself with a U.S. passport, use it! Take advantage of your advantages.