The Truth About Traveling in a Third World Passport

Few weeks ago, I came across this article, I Can Travel Because I’m Privileged, written by a 22-year young American who’s currently roaming around Europe. Nah, it could be just another story of how she “quit her job to travel the world” or “bought a one-way ticket to live the life of her dreams”. Like every other viral article written by a first world citizen.

Thankfully, it’s not. Someone finally admitted why a lot of them can do it. It’s called PRIVILEGE. And this brings me to list the points why most Asian’s or third-world passport holders can’t travel on a whim.

While these types of articles are both enticing and inspiring, what the writers fail to mention are their citizenship and mighty passports. As first world citizens in North America, Australia, Western Europe, Singapore and Japan, they can travel extensively without visa in over 150+ countries. Whereas third world countries like Philippines have to go through expensive and tedious process of getting a visa that requires a consistent source of income (i.e. full time job) and a return ticket.

We can’t work anywhere either because even if we do get an approved tourist visa, we’re not allowed to earn money from the country we are traveling to. Those lists of odd jobs and teaching English abroad to earn money while traveling don’t apply to us unless we have a valid “work visa” that is much harder to acquire.

There’s familial responsibility – it is common in Asian culture to give or send money back to our parents to help out on the house expenses or support a sibling or a relative to go to school. It’s a major priority and I believe that this comes first before any luxury.

There’s also the cost of living. If you’ve been working and living in the US, Europe or Australia and you decided to travel around Asia, hopping temples in Cambodia, shopping in Bangkok or wandering in India, the worth of your dollars and euros could stretch for months. But for third world passport holders, the small conversion and value of Asian money to these first world countries might not even last a month.

third world passport

On the bright side:

I am not trying to label nor am I feeling bitter (okay, maybe sometimes :p) about this thing called ‘privilege’. In a way, I am privileged too, because as an expat in Singapore, the visa process and approval is way more lenient here.

I’ve got nothing against the first world because we need them, too. Rules and processes are in place for a reason and while I’m at the disadvantage side of it, I truly believe that it’s not personal. Countries have agreements between them that enable them to help each other’s citizens. That’s just what it is. Laws aid in peace and balance whether you’re privileged or not. If everyone could go anywhere at their own liking, security will be compromised and will be harder to manage. As travelers, we want safety. We want our families to be safe. We want our nation to be safe.

You’re a third world citizen. You can’t quit your job and travel on a whim. Does one give up?

No. Don’t let anyone talk you down about your dreams. If you want to travel then by all means work hard, save more and reach that dream. Slowly. You don’t need to do it at one shot. These places in your bucket list will still be there in the next 5, 10 or 20 years. 

Take your time. Just because people are doing it so easily doesn’t mean you have to. 

Don’t let others make you feel like you’re living a less wonderful life because you’re not doing it the same way that they do. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

So take confidence my fellow risk takers, dreamers and doers. It might take a while. But trust the process. You’ll get there. Eventually.


  • ❤️ Your thoughts on travel really inspire me! And all those stamps on a passport spread!! Ahhh. Someday. Slowly. But someday. :)

    Caffeine Rush

  • Melai! This is a very spot on article. I couldn’t agree more. The process of obtaining visas with a third world passport is such a pain in the ass. If the situation won’t allow us to travel to countries that requires visa, we still have other countries to explore. Travel is not a competition anyway. ;-)

    • Agree Joy! I am so late to respond, hehe, been busy with work and travel planning. Hope you had a great time in your recent adventures! :)

  • Great article! I have to say I had never really thought about it that way. I love that you are not letting these things stop you from seeing the world :)

  • Well written post. I believe everything you have mentioned are all accurate. :) Hope to hear from you soon! x

    Love, Airish
    Gorgeous Glance

  • I AM BITTER ABOUT THIS! Kidding. Okay, not really kidding. Haha! I just applied for a Korean VISA and thankfully, it was approved but it was nerve-wracking all the same. And it’s really so expensive travelling abroad for people in third-world country. Definitely a shock for our wallets, lol.

    xx, Richel Goes Places

    • Hahaha! I know right. But there’s no cure for wanderlust so how? :))

      Yay for approved korean visa! I haven’t been there. Huhu. But I really want to go during fall season and I always miss planning for it because my “list of places to go to” just keeps on adding up. :D :D

  • oh, I love this article. Thanks for the encouragement, Melai!

  • Darling Escapes

    I had the same conversation with a friend the other day. It’s amazing how much we take for granted when you travel with a US/CAN passport.

  • As an Australian, I always feel privileged when I meet others in third world countries. I have travelled extensively throughout South East Asia, and South America, and always love to chat to locals. Many of them express such an interest in travel, but have never been able to go. I always assumed it was a financial thing, I’ve never thought about it being a passport issue too. Great article, and very eye opening!

  • Laura Hall

    I can totally understand this. I moved to Dubai from the UK and i see how differently people are treated here depending on where they’re from in the world. With everyone needing a visa to work here the process can be so hard for some people and i think it’s unfair! Great that you’re addressing it :)

  • Anita Sane

    We can’t choose the place we are born. Still there are many consequences from that. I understand what you’re talking about. I find myself somewhere in a middle between the two poles.

  • Sonja Thomson

    I agree with this so much! I’m privileged to have a New Zealand passport, but I try not to forget that. Awhile ago I wrote a post about travel bloggers forgetting privilege because of all of those posts, and I was guilty of writing a couple of them too! I think there’s a balance between encouraging people who can because they have the privilege but just need a push, and recognising not everyone can.

  • I can totally understand that. I am always joking that with my Russian passport I need a visa even to go to a toilet :D Anyways, living in Europe, I see that less as an obstacle for me. More like a routine for some of the trips.

  • Suzannah Freeman

    Sometimes articles like this bring people back down to earth. Not everyone is as privileged as those who can just hop on a plane and go anywhere, so thank you for bringing this subject to light. It’s important. By the way, your blog is just stunning! <3

  • I feel you! I am an expat myself but my passport still belongs to my home country, Romania. I would never even think of applying for a visa for the USA, as I know I will get denied. Because I am living in the UK, I have to wait 2 more years and then I will get the British passport. That will open so many more travel opportunities for me. :) I still travel though, I pay more for visas but I don’t let that stopping me.

  • Susanna Kelly

    Great article inspiring EVERYONE to travel. You’re right it’s not as easy as just taking off and going. For most of the world it involves a lot of work. Even though I realize I am privileged and a U.S citizen with two passports (Canada and the U.S) I had one visa that as a pain in the ass to obtain. I feel for anyone who has to go through that every time. I think the world is slowly starting to open up to easier travel and I hope it continues. Until then I hope your article can help those that struggle with barriers to not give up!

  • Clíodhna Ryan

    Great article. While I am a privileged EU passport holder, many of my friends in African countries are not. This injustice of this is multi faceted. As you pointed out its as much about currency value as it is about visas. I love your comment that bucket list destinations will always be there. If I see one more article on “why you need to drop everything and travel NOW!” Im going to scream! Im going to share this on my Facebook page- Your Next Big Trip as I think you have highlighted a really important message. Well done.

  • Yeah i kinda dread this “everyone can quit their job/move/travel etc”, because most of the time they are written by people coming from countries with high financial level meaning that most of the other countries will be quite cheap for them. While I can travel around the EU, I have to have a passport and visas for pretty much everywhere else. Haven’t checked for working outside of the EU, but pretty sure I would not be allowed unfortunately. But (of course there’s a big but :D) there are so many opportunities for work, study and exchanges, so we should take advantage of what there is available.

  • Bridget

    As a South African I can totally relate! Traveling can be hard work, just to get a visa. Then there are always so many restrictions. While I love being South African, I so wish I could have another passport just to make traveling easier!

    • I think of that too sometimes. I wish I have a stronger passport so there are more opportunities to work and travel abroad. But I love being a Filipino and the limitations actually make me prudent in making decisions.

  • wow, I feel very privileged then. I had no idea how hard it can be fot others

  • Wow! I’m now just starting to get into solo travel. Before I always traveled with family and so because my life has been very comfortable, I never thought about what it would be like to travel from a third world country. It’s crazy because I always assumed unless you’re from the middle east, that most could travel anywhere. I never realized that privilege is mostly reserved for Europeans. The more I meet people get to see what people from other cultures and nations are scrutinized or eyed under a microscope, the more I see how unfair things really are. We, that have the privilege, definitely take it for granted.

  • Sheena Sy Gonzales

    Yes it can be hard, but not impossible! Keep pushing for your dream! :)

    Sheena |

  • Thanks for this and having the courage to “out” this issue. Great post and points. Will repost you : )
    Friendlynomad |

  • I have never tried traveling outside the country and this pretty sums up why. I have a 3rd world passport and I am not that privilege to just quit my job and fly. I have to work my ass off to earn money for all the payments needed before I can leave this country.

    This is such a helpful post, Melai :)

    All the love, Auradelle