How to Travel the World on a Third World Passport (It’s Possible With These Tips!)

by Visa Guides & Immigration57 comments

I was born in a third-world country, the Philippines, and with the ‘power’ that my third world passport holds — which, mind you, is low — I am no stranger to the fact that I can’t just travel on a whim.

A passport is said to be very powerful if it lets you travel to a lot of countries visa-free at low costs (for any immigration-related fees), high validity (with a long number of allowable days to stay), and minimal effort (quick to process). Some of the most powerful passports are from Singapore, South Korea, Germany, Japan, and Sweden according to the Passport Index.

With this data in mind, let’s do a simple example of how powerless my third world passport actually is: Singaporeans and South Koreans can go visa-free to over 150 countries — and what does my Philippines passport give me? Well, it will only allow me to go visa-free to 60 countries.

Surely there are others who have it worse than I do, but I hope this shows how someone from a third world country like me can’t just go to European countries at just about any time without going through rigorous planning, costly visa applications, and strict immigration officers first.

In case you don’t know, for us, visa processing can take 2 weeks at the very least — if not 2 months!

So you can just imagine how tedious it is. People from first-world countries who complain about visa processes that they ever happen to encounter are nothing to scoff at; but, it does make us wince at times because we think it’s an easier and rarer ordeal for them (we often have it worse).

Like what I would often like to jokingly say…

Third World Passport Meme

You really can’t blame us third-world or even second-world passport holders for making it a HUGE deal whenever we get a visa. After all, rejections are common tales among all of us!

Oh, you bet that I celebrated when I first got my Schengen Visa — in fact, I still celebrate every time I get any kind of visa.

Of course, there were millions of times that I wished that visas didn’t exist, but let’s face it: rules are warranted. There are people who have ill intentions for going abroad and a country has to protect its citizens and society. For instance, the Philippines is typically referred to as a high-risk country for most embassies because we have a huge number of people in the past (and even in the present) who either want to overstay abroad or work illegally.

If we put all of these factors together, it’s quite common then that the question of: “How to travel the world on a second or third world passport?” would be commonly met with negativity and answers of “It’s impossible!

In fact, a lot of people message me with this kind of mindset… and I can’t blame them.

HOWEVER… let me tell you that it IS possible because I, for one, have been making my way around the world since 2013 with my Philippine passport. Plus, there are a LOT of underprivileged passport holders out there who are doing the same as well!

So don’t let yourself think that visas will prevent you from making your travel dreams a reality because there are so many ways to make it happenYES, no matter if you hold the most complicated and powerless passport there is. It will just be tiring, long, and meticulous; but as long as you prepare for it and accomplish all the requirements or paperwork ahead of time, your dreams of traveling the world won’t just be a dream anymore in the long run!

In a way, applying for visas under a limited or third world passport embodies this quote very well:

If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.

…and that is to sacrifice some of your effort, money, and time.

Actually, this applies to any goal since we have to give up some things sometimes in order to get what we truly desire. Although hopefully, with this post, I will help alleviate your worries and assist you to success as I list below the ways on how to travel the world on a third world passport!

How to Travel with a Third World Passport

» Plan Your Destinations

Travel Planning: Destinations

Photo by: Shutterstock

Prioritize Visa-Free Entry or Visa-On-Arrival Countries

This is a no-brainer but a lot of us tend to forget this notion.

Look at it this way: traveling to 60 visa-free countries under a Philippine passport, as an example, would already make you go on a world trip for years!

Hence, don’t force yourself to go to Europe or the USA first especially if it would take you a while to prepare all of your visa application documents. Besides, building up yourself as a well-traveled person (especially if it’s your first time traveling abroad) can help for future visa applications, so it will help to travel to ‘easier’ countries first.

Let’s not also forget that most of the time, a lot of the visa-free countries have a lower cost of living; as such, that will help your travel fund too!

NOTE: Be informed of the difference between ‘visa-free entry’ and ‘visa on arrival’.
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Visa free entry means as is: you can enter and stay in a country for a set period of time. Visa on arrival, on the other hand, means that you still need a visa to enter but you can avail that either by paying for it once you arrive, by applying for it beforehand online, or by emailing the embassy in order to get a confirmation of your stay.

Travelscope is a good resource for determining what countries you can enter into freely or not as dependent on your passport. The data on this site is moderated and controlled by users, but it’s still advisable that you research and verify the information either by doing a quick search on Google or by inquiring with the appropriate embassy.

If you ever need some guidance in pinpointing the best countries to venture into (as ranked by cost of living, safety, etc.) as well as planning your overall travel lifestyle, you can check out the articles below:

Map Out Your Itinerary

If you rather have the liberty to visit one or several first-world countries whilst you venture to several visa-free countries, you have to take into account that you won’t be coming back to your home country for a while.

This means that all the visas you need to acquire should be applied or prepared for beforehand; besides, almost all countries want you to apply for a visa in your home country or place of official residence. Plus, most visa applications can only be done at most 3 months before your intended departure.

FAQ: “Can I apply for a tourist visa at an embassy abroad while I am traveling as a tourist in a foreign country?”

YES — but also NO. There are embassies abroad that might allow you to apply for a visa while you’re in their territory, provided that you have dire circumstances. Most of the time, however, it’s not allowed.

I have a few friends who have been successful in doing this as long as they justified perfectly why they can’t apply from their home country.

For instance, one of my friends reasoned with the Embassy of Mexico located in Brazil that he can’t go back to the Philippines because he was on a continuous world trip and he provided details of his journey and situation to back it all up. It’s obviously not a serious circumstance but the embassy was surprisingly lenient.
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In another instance, when he arrived in the USA and wanted to apply for a tourist visa with the local French Embassy, they rather refused him and required him to go back to the Philippines to apply.

It’s certainly a case-by-case basis. Each country has different visa rules and procedures: some can be more lenient while some can be very strict; in fact, most are very strict.

As such, it helps to research beforehand. (Russia for example is commonly known as a country that does not allow this).

Overall, the answer is that it’s possible BUT generally, it’s really tough… You might even have to plead at some point! That’s why it’s always best that you plan out your route beforehand and prepare everything in advance.

  • EXAMPLE: Plan your world travel route for a year as you mix visa-free and visa-required countries across the months. After a year, go back to your home country and then apply again for the necessary visas that you’ll need for your new route the following year. At the same time, you can also try applying for long-term visas. Let says, if you want to stay longer in Europe legally, you can read my guide here.

Consider a Long-Term Stay

Most tourists are allowed to stay for no more than 3 months; but if you are a third world passport holder who wants to include several long term stays in your world travel spree, below are some of your options:

  • Studying. Apart from trying your chances on scholarships, did you know that there are FREE foreign universities? Yes, FREE!
    • For example, some countries in Europe have no tuition fees for international students. (Learn more here). There are also affordable universities too! As a matter of fact, my first ever successful long-term visa application was for a student visa in Belgium wherein I aimed to study a 1-year Master degree in Marketing.
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  • Working. There are official full-time or part-time job positions, but you can also try internships. Additionally, you can also look at some jobs that are popular right now with travelers and they can absolutely give you the appropriate long-term visa that you’re looking for:
    • Au pair jobs: This is very popular in Europe wherein in exchange for free accommodation, food, and pay, you only need to watch a family’s young kids and do small tasks around their house.
      • For applications, check: www.GreatAuPair.com, www.IAPA.org, www.Europa-Pages.com/au_pair/, or www.TransitionsAbroad.com
    • Teaching English: If English is your first language, it’s relatively easy to teach English to students in a foreigh country.
      • To search for opportunities online, see: www.TIEOnline.com, www.SearchAssociates.com, www.ESLcafe.com, and www.GoAbroad.com/teach-abroad
    • Freelancing: Apparently, there are a couple of countries worldwide that offer a self-employment visa which allows you to stay in their country long-term as an artist, freelancer, digital nomad, etc.
      • So far, I’ve learned that Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Dubai offer this type of visa. Please inquire with their respective embassies to know more info about this.
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RELATED READ: Best Travel Jobs

  • Working Holiday Visas. If you’re 18 to 35 years old, you can try this special visa that serves as a residence permit. It allows you to stay in a another country for 1 to 2 years and you can either work or study during that time. To check what country you can go to for this as dependent on your nationality, see here.
    • Example: Philippine residents can apply for a working holiday visa to New Zealand.
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RELATED READ: How to Legally Stay Longer in Europe

– – –

» Have the Right Paperwork

Prepare Travel Paperwork

Photo by: Shutterstock

Naturally, in order to travel the world on a third world passport, you need to have the proper papers that are needed for ‘immigration’ — this is mostly in the form of a tourist visa along with some other important travel documents.

For this, there are 4 main things you must ensure that you have whenever you travel and apply for visas:

  1. Accurate, complete, and genuine documents
  2. True, strong, and reasonable purpose of entry/stay
  3. Sufficient funds or support
  4. Proof of NOT overstaying

RELATED READ: How to Ace a Visa Application

To fulfill the above requirements, you will need to have the following papers with you at all times…

Accommodations & Flights

No matter if you’re visiting a visa-free country or not, immigration and embassies often ask for these documents; therefore, it’s best to arrange them as early as now. Some tips for making this less of a hassle are as follows:

  • Find connections. Look up your friends and family members abroad who are living in the destination that you’re heading to and ask them if it’s possible for you to stay in their house. This will help fulfill the need for providing proof of accommodation and it will also help you save up on booking costs.
    • Consider a cultural homestay. In exchange for 3-months’ worth of accommodation and food with a host family abroad, you will either share your skills or your native language with the family members for a certain amount of time in a week. A sample organization that arranges this is Cultural Homestay International. Though they can only arrange 3-month trips at a time, if you want to travel for a year, they can definitely combine multiple destinations for you!
    • Take note that this would warrant a ‘Letter of Invitation’ and some other official papers from your host (which should be easy to arrange).
    • You can also try other ways of scoring FREE accommodation such as doing house sitting, etc.
  • Be wary when discussing the details of your free accommodation. Don’t just say that you’re going to ‘couchsurf’ or ‘housesit’ at some stranger’s place abroad without explaining the arrangement thoroughly.
    • You’ll still need to provide proof of your relationship with your host, an invitation letter, and some other documentations that the embassy might need. (Remember that if your housesitting stint involves you getting paid for your service, you would then need to apply for a working visa. After all, you’re not allowed to ‘work’ while on a tourist visa).

NOTE: Arrangements such as housesitting (overlooking a house while the owners are away) and volunteering (doing menial jobs for establishments in exchange for free food and accommodation) are technically a type of “work” that might warrant a work visa instead. However since you are NOT receiving money in return, governments consider this a ‘gray area’ so there’s no need to mention it when going through, let’s say, immigration. To avoid any unneccesary confusion with an officer, it’s best to just present a “dummy booking” of a hotel on Booking.com as proof — this basically means booking a hotel that has FREE cancellation a day before check-in.

Otheriwse, if you are being offered payment in return for the work you do through a housesit or volunteer work, take note that these situations are legally NOT allowed especially if you only hold a tourist visa. I know that some people still do this without a work permit especially if they are traveling visa-free and have never been caught; but again, it’s risky. To be on the safe side, it’s often best not to take jobs like these for as much as you could (unless you have a work visa, of course).

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  • Get wise. Secure a cheap short-term rental space such as an Airbnb because it is definitely better than booking numerous hotels.
    • Some people typically book a cheap apartment in one location to serve as their ‘base’ while they travel around neighboring towns or even countries.
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  • Mind the timing. For flights, make sure your connecting flights’ time slots are not too close (make it at least more than 2 hours) to avoid missing your flight.
    • If you want to simply reserve future flights without paying for the full price, you can contact local travel agencies who can do this for you with a small fee. You can also do a reservation directly with an airline, but in my experience,most of them don’t offer this service.
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Proof of Funds

Every foreign country wants you to convince them that YOU have enough money to support yourself while you’re on a trip within their territory. If you don’t, they would certainly tag you as a sketchy character; to avoid this, make sure you have the right documents for proving your financial capacity.

The following tips do not only apply to third world passport holders but to just about anyone too.

  • Show proof of your self-employment. If you’re planning on traveling the world for a long time and you plan to work as a digital nomad, freelancer, or entrepreneur while you’re on the road, you will be classified as a self-employed individual.
    • When it comes to visa applications, this would mean that embassies will typically need a copy of your business registration or business permit, tax statements or income tax return for the past year, as well as bank statements or financial reports for the last 3 months. Requirements may vary of course, depending on the country; but these are the basics. Given this fact, it’s important that you register yourself or your business for as soon as you could and have these documents ready at all times.
      • If you’re remotely employed by a company as a freelancer, you can also show your certificate of employment with your client.

NOTE: For digital nomads who work “online” while they travel overseas, going in with just a tourist visa is fine since you’re not going to their country to look for work. A lot of embassies in the world don’t have clear regulations yet for nomads either, so it’s basically a grey area.
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Still, it’s good practice to provide as much details as you can to the embassy officer to explain what your job is and that you are paying tax and working for your self or for your own company. For immigration officers, if they ever ask about your work, simply mention how you’re a self-employed freelancer or business owner (as dependent on the work that you do).
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This is basically to assure them that you’re not heading to their country to work (even though technically you’ll be working there, but only ‘online’ thereby not affecting the local employment). This is also a good practice if you want to avoid any confusion with an officer that might not be familiar with the details of a digital nomad job because surely, given the nature of immigration, it’s a quick process so if you’re not as clear, you might not be allowed to leave the country, be deported or held back for questioning.

  • Unemployed? Some of the documents that could prove your solvency are: proof of investments (land, house, car, etc.), financial assets (stocks, etc.), copies of personal credit cards or bank statements in the last 3 months, or a sponsorship letter from your travel sponsor.
    • Ask your parents, a friend, or a relative that is employed or ‘well off’ to act as your sponsor on paper. This means that they will tell the embassy in writing how they will be responsible for your expenses — even if in fact they won’t be doing so (unless, of course, they’re really volunteering to do so). This is certainly one of the effective ways to ensure a strong financial standing in your visa application.
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FAQ: “How much money do I need to have in my bank account?”

This is tough to answer because every country has its own minimum requirement (depending as well on the type of your visa), so I suggest that you call the corresponding embassy or check their website for any info.

As an example though, from my experiences with Schengen Area visas as a third world passport holder, most of their member states want tourists to show that they have at least EUR 50 available per day of their stay.

Speaking of this, you obviously need money to jumpstart your traveling lifestyle! Here are some things to consider in order to come up with a good travel fund…

Strong Ties to Your Home Country

This, in my opinion, is what most embassies put great importance on especially when assessing a visa application. They want to know after all that you’re a third world passport holder who won’t overextend your ‘welcome’ by staying longer (illegally).

The details of this requirement varies from country to country; but generally, to decipher if you might or might not overstay, they will investigate your situation, travel plans, financial resources, and strong ties to your home country.

Employed persons or students have it easy for this since they can just present a document that states their approved leave of absence; but for self-employed or unemployed persons, you would need to show pieces of evidence. Apart from the previous documents and tips that I have already mentioned, it helps to show other proof such as:

  • Documents that mention an affair or event that would necessitate your return (job offer, start of your studies, wedding, etc.)
  • Proof of possession of real and personal property in your home country (real estate, car, etc.)
  • Or a letter from you or from people who know you, stating any other reason(s) why you won’t overstay abroad (your long-term plans in your residence country, marriage certificate, etc.)

Basically, the main idea here is to assure a foreign country that you don’t have the desire to stay too long in their territory since you have strong ‘ties’ somewhere else (like your home country or your next destination).

That being said, a return ticket also serves as proof that you won’t overstay!

This works for most visa-free countries, but not so much on countries that require you to apply for a visa so it helps to have some of the papers that I mentioned above.

• • •

How to Travel the World on a Third World Passport (It's Possible With These Tips!)

Overall

It seems like a lot of work, right? Yep, it’s really a pain. A big freaking hassle.

But don’t forget the bright side a.k.a. the silver lining! Since like what I’ve mentioned: it’s really NOT impossible to travel the world on a third world passport.

Even if you got rejected in one visa application or two, it’s fine! Remember to NOT let it get to you — stay confident and try again, BUT do reapply with insight. Know WHY you were denied and then work on fixing that problem.

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Embassies may treat us third world passport holders strictly (even harshly) but as long as we fulfill all the requirements correctly and sufficiently, they really won’t have any reason to say no. So go and find that missing piece and do a reapplication. I assure you that after several applications, you’ll become a pro at nailing this thing.

Lastly, if I can add one more tip: do overdeliver. Going by my experiences, it’s better to have more paperwork ready than not. So if you find yourself saying: “Nah, I don’t think they’ll need that.” Stop. Just go and prepare that document too.

You’re never too sure, so why not?

All in all, I hope this article has been of help! There may be a lot of visa horror stories out there from underprivileged passport holders, but don’t ever let yourself be discouraged — don’t let yourself wallow in negativity because like what I always say, if I managed to travel the world on a third world passport, then so can YOU!

• • •

Have you seen my latest vlog?

How I Afford to Travel the World (Vlog)

About Me

Solo Female Travel Blogger: Aileen Adalid

Hey there! I am Aileen Adalid.
At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to pursue my dreams. Today, I am a successful digital nomad (online entrepreneur, travel writer, & vlogger) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.

My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel no matter the odds — and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel hacks, guides, resources, tips, and MORE!

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CURRENTLY BASED IN: The Philippines

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57 Comments

  1. shivansh

    haha! story of my life!

    Reply
    • Aileen

      Story of OUR life! Haha ;) We won’t let it take us down tho!

      Reply
  2. Adeline

    OMW, I was send the link when I ask about travelling when you are from the third world country. This post is the best since I was literally considering writing about it cos I could not find informations.

    Reply
    • Aileen

      Aw, I’m happy to hear that Adeline! I hope this helps you as well :)

      Reply
  3. Mei

    Very informative and inspiring!
    Thank you so much, Aileen! :)
    I, a Thai, am in the process of collecting the documents needed to apply for my first ever Schengen visa. I have heard how difficult it goes with that, and even some people I know have been rejected. So, I was suggested to go for the sponsor type (not really sponsor – just like what you did) instead of the tourist type, but the point is my sponsor-to-be is also a Thai (a friend) who resides in Europe… *Fingers crossed*

    Reply
    • Aileen

      Glad to hear that, Mei! Hope all goes well for your Schengen Visa :D There’s no problem if your sponsor in Europe is Thai — as long as he/she has enough documents to prove his/her sponsorship, it should be fine :) Good luck!

      Reply
  4. Farrukh

    Ver good informative read… With Philippines passport its “only” 60 visa free countries.. Pakistanis have only half of them and those mostly includes smalI autonomus islands of Pacific and indian ocean. So actually we need to apply visa for almost every “country” in the world.

    Reply
    • Aileen

      Indeed, I do recognize the fact that there are some passports out there that have it worse than me. Nevertheless, I hope these tips can be of help to you too!

      Reply
  5. Shweta

    Hi Aileen,
    This is exactly what I needed to read today. I am from Nepal, currently studying in the US and planning to do a solo Europe backpacking and I was kinda worried about the visa process. This is very helpful and encouraging. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Aileen

      Great to hear Shweta! I wish you all the best in your backpacking plans :)

      Reply

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