Gunnar Garfors: 17 Passports and 198 Countries

In my extensive travels, I’ve had the privilege of visiting approximately 40 countries. However, there exists an extraordinary individual, a 48-year-young citizen of Norway, who has not only journeyed all 198 countries but has accomplished this remarkable feat not once, but twice! Gunnar Garfors Passports Countries

Gunnar Garfors
Gunnar Garfors

Gunnar Garfors stands as the sole person to have achieved this astounding milestone. While a dozen astronauts have walked on the moon, it is awe-inspiring to note that only one person has circled our planet and explored all of its countries twice. But there are more astonishing achievements…

  • 2012:  He visits 5 continents in the same day
  • 2014: 19 countries in 24 hrs
  • 2018: Circumnavigated the world by plane in <57 hrs
  • 2018 Dec: The first person to visit all 198 countries in the world – Twice!

These outstanding achievements generated two books.
>198: How I Ran Out of Countries is the first book he published, sharing his global travel experience
> Elsewhere: A journey to the world’s least-visited countries

Gunnar displayed exceptional kindness by offering insights from a unique perspective on his global travels, focusing on the less-explored topic of passport and visa-related details, which had not been covered in previous interviews.

How many passports do you have?
How many passports do you have?

How many passports do you have?

17 in total, and I could keep 15. One was an emergency passport I needed for a trip as my normal passport was in an embassy, and the border police refused to let me keep it. One is probably hiding somewhere in my mom’s loft.

I have two passports at times when I travel extensively. In Norway, you are allowed to have a so-called duplicate passport if needed for work reasons. This is however only valid for 2 years, as opposed to 10 for normal ones.

Do you always get the passport type with the most possible pages?

I wish! In Norway, all passports have 34 pages. I have however added extra pages to passports twice. Once border police in Laos did it with pages from an old Laos passport as there was enough space for their stamp. Another time I took unused pages from one of my old passports and added to my current ones. Never had any issues with this. That’s so cool. Unusual official Laos page extensions in a Norway passport. You already made passport history with this.

How many visas do you have in all the passports?

Loads… I am however traveling in Africa and I only have two passports here, so I cannot count. Most of my passports filled up before they expired.xx

Gunnar Garfors passport

What was the most difficult visa to get?

For my first time to visit every country, it was Eritrea. They put a post-it sticker on my passport saying “Hellow! Your Visa application rejected”, although they kept the money I had sent to the embassy. On my second applications, I wrote a handwritten letter explaining how much I wanted to visit Eritrea, and they then issued it after 5–6 weeks. The second time I had an issue with Pakistan. I actually landed in Islamabad, but was denied entry as my VOA hadn’t come through, and was sent back on the same plane. I eventually got it at the embassy in Oslo.

What is the rarest visa in your passports? Gunnar Garfors Passports Countries

Yemen or Nauru, the two least visited countries in the world – my book Elsewhere is about the 20th least visited countries in the world. I needed to use my press card to get into Yemen, as they didn’t issue tourist visas at the time.

Any memorable stories about visas or passport issues during travel, crossing borders?

Returning to Kazakhstan from Kyrgyzstan, the border police made my brother Øystein and myself aware that we should have registered in Bishkek. He commanded us into a room, waving a gun. Then he opens a book in Russian, points at it and says “straff!” which means punishment. In the book, someone had written $200 by pencil. Our full bus was waiting outside, so we were a bit stressed. I offered $5, which he refused. Another $20 luckily did the trick, though.

Do you keep your receipts of visa/passport fees?

No, I have no idea how much I have actually spent on my travels.

What was the most expensive visa?

Nigeria, I think. It was $250 or so, at the time. Wow, that’s quite a price for just a visa!

Tips to keep your passport safe at all times during travel? Ever lost one during travel? Gunnar Garfors Passports Countries

I always carry it on me, in an inside pocket. Once a passport fell out while I was dancing at a club in Berlin, but it was returned by mail a month or so later.

If you had a wish to Norway passport designer or visa designers, what would you want them to change?

The color of our new passports is awful. What’s wrong with the red color we used to have?


Great insights, and it is surely an advantage to hold one of the strongest passports, which Norway always had. I appreciate your time in responding to my questions, Gunnar. I’m aware that your time is valuable, and I’m grateful for your assistance. Wishing you always safe travels during your adventures and an ample supply of visa pages.


By the way, regarding the prospect of a new Norwegian passport design… Gunnar Garfors Passports Countries

I propose that your photograph be prominently featured on one of the visa pages. After all, who could serve as a more fitting brand ambassador for Norway than yourself? Typically, we reserve such pages for individuals who are no longer with us, but why not celebrate living legends like you instead? 😉

All pictures courtesy of Gunnar’s Instagram account @garfors.

Fridjof Nansen and the Nansen Passport


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FAQ Passport History
Passport collection, passport renewal, old passports for sale, vintage passport, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application, pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...