What Country Travels The Most? The Top 10

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

There are two things you can guarantee to see when you check into any hostel in the world: a sub-standard bathroom and a British backpacker. I’m not saying the two are in any way related, but any traveler who has spent any time on the road will tell you they’ve run into a Brit. Ask what other nationality, and you’re likely to get Australian, then maybe German. Which begs the question: What country travels the most?

Turns out, it’s not exactly a straightforward answer. Predictably, the travel statistics out there usually focus on where those travelers are going (France, followed by the U.S., Spain, China, then Italy). But there is scant data on where those travelers are coming from.

WorldHum blogged about a press release back in ’06 that stated Germans took 86.6 million trips abroad, Britons took 65.3 million, and Americans took 58.3 million. This didn’t necessarily mean those counties were the most traveled internationally. It just meant that those three countries took the most trips abroad overall.

Perhaps the best method of determining this question would be to examine how much money is being spent by each nationality internationally. To do this we can look at the recent UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, a newsletter put out by the U.N. agency devoted to tourism (the .pdf is here).

According to the report, it turns out money is a very good predictor of travel. It was estimated that in 2009, German travelers shelled out a whopping $80.8 billion while outside their country, followed by the United States ($73.1 billion), the United Kingdom ($48.5 billion), China ($43.7 billion) and France ($38.9 billion). Rounding out the top ten were Italy, Japan, Canada, Russia, and the Netherlands.

1) Germany
2) United States
3) United Kingdom
4) China
5) France
6) Italy
7) Japan
8) Canada
9) Russia
10) Netherlands

Of course these numbers could be a little skewed by the fact that a particular country happens to be a little more frugal than another while on the road, or that one country spends a lot of money in a neighboring country. But it paints a pretty accurate picture, and also seems to back up prior data.

Surprised by the results? Where are the Aussies? How about the Swedes? China about to overtake the U.K.?

By Matt Stabile



Matt Stabile Bio PictureMatt Stabile is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheExpeditioner.com. You can read his writings, watch his travel videos, purchase the book he co-edited or contact him via email at any time at TheExpeditioner.com. (@TheExpeditioner)

  • Mark

    I am with ram_eil’s assessment, I traveled a lot to the States and could not believe how many Americans I met did have a passport. I would say 80%. The amzing thing is that if you go South West, many never been to NY or Chicago, let alone traveling to a different country. In my youth, I worked in a resort hotel in Eilat (Israel) and from all the nations that would make our guests (and workers) it seems that the Germans were the most traveled people.

    Israelis, by the way, are also HUGE travelers and we are only around 7 millions. Flying to Greece, Turkey or Prague for a weekend is a common thing among Israelis. I would also say that if you check traveling nations per capital China would be far last and the US just ahead of them.

  • ram_ell

    These numbers would only make sense if they were normalized by population, then you would have who are the people that travel the most per capita, and not only because there are tons of people in the U.S. or China… My prediction is that the U.S. would go way down, you can find top middle class people and even higher that in their lives have never put a foot outside the U.S. Nothing compared to countries like France, where most accomodated people have a good chance to have travelled to Asia and Africa, let alone to many other countries in Europe.

  • Pearts Project

    Yes, how about the swedes? I am, myself, a swede. And my perception is that I bump into swedes everywhere. Jungles, remote beaches, small villages… But in a list like this we can not compete since we are only 9 million in Sweden, compared to Germany and USA we can not compete. Since I am a swede I’m traveling a lot, so much that I had to find a way to tell all my stories. I also have a best friend, often traveling with me. To make a long story short we call our adventures Pearts Project, and we want to inspire and guide others so we decided to share our stories at http://peartsproject.spotlife.se

    One day, we hope to work together with bigger travel communities, adventure companies or interesting explorers. Eventually we will sit in he sofa of Oprah show and tell our story ;)

    If someone has a good idea, or want to do something fun together with us, post your idea or email peartsproject@gmail.com

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  • Ken

    I think you’re doing this whole study wrong. You are looking at overall trips or dollars, but what you should be looking at is trips or dollars per capita. For all you know, Panamanians are the most traveling nationality in the world, but since the entire population is 3.6 million, there is no way they can compare to the amount spent or the trips taken of countries like the US and China which is 100 times their size of 300 times their size. This whole study is simply flawed from a research perspective. Your title should be “Which country spends the most on travel?” then it would be accurate

  • Although the artiacal not being per capita is misleading so is spending per capital. The areas on Europe, Australia and North America are roughly the same but contain 40+, 2 and 3 countries respectfully. I’d be more tempted to spend more after traveling a long way to somewhere than when I just walk or drive over the boarder. Also tracking spending in Europe is difficult (Euro and Schengen Agreement)

  • Where did you pull those population stats from?
    U.k about 65million
    USA 350million
    Germany 80million
    Also then think about the principalities of Europe litchenstein, Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, The Vatican. Each is only a few km2 (Andora is quite large but The Vatican is about 1km2) they will all have travel rates in the 90%s… Hong Kong, Sinapoor, Maccau… Austalia probably ranks better on the original method of the artical

  • I’m quite surprised The USA is as high as it is being that a relatively small % have a passport. Also it’s not suprising that European countries do well being that they are so close and with budget airlines; I mean I flew back from Switzerland to the U.K just for 10hours just to collect something last week and a few days ago I just Skied over to Italy. Though I dare say Euopeans travel may be under represented as passports are not regularly stamped at borders and with the widely adopted signal currency of the Euro it would be difficult to track peoples travels. (As a 18yo U.K national/backpacker I’ve visited 35 countries, from my own experience I tend to bump into Brits and Germans the most)

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  • Jasper

    Interesting article! The question who travels the most is not easily answered for sure, many different ways to measure and define. For example, an American traveling from California to Wisconsin might not count at “travel” as this person wouldn’t leave the country. I used to live close to the german border, I even cycled across sometimes. Is that travel? Food for thought!

  • Jorgen Lindahl

    Pretty skewed since it does not account for population. A list of money spent per capita would have been more interresting. That’s when you’d see the Swedes for sure.

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  • Aussie backpacker

    The biggest traveler groups in Australia would be youth and the middle class (one of the most numerous and wealthiest middle classes in the world). They therefore don’t spend as much as other traveling countries, particularly the US, Japan and Europe. I’m a 26 year old Australian who has traveled to 27 countries in six continents. There has barely ever been a hostel/hotel or airport departure gate that I haven’t met or heard an Aussie. International departures by nationals and the number of days spent abroad each year would be a better indication. Consideration for people living temporarily overseas would also be interesting.

    • Dimitris Athanasopoulos

      I really agree with you. You seem like a ver traveled guy with plenty of experiences. I am now creating my own backpacking website with tips and stories in a very professional way. If you would like to be a writer there or share your stories, please contact me on Facebook or dim.athan89@gmail.com so that I can give you more info. :)

  • Great list


    Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration when talking about Americans travelling frequently or not is location. It costs almost nothing to take Ryan Air or Easy Jet to numerous countries within Europe for an incredible price. Looking up a flight from London to Berlin right now I found flights for $125 round trip using Easy Jet. My flight from Newark, NJ to Canton, OH (only an hour flight) costed me around $370. Don’t you think if Italy, Turkey, Germany, or any of the other culture-rich first-world countries were a train ride or a cheap flight away that we’d be travelling too? From New York to Mexico City it’s going to cost you $600 per person. Driving would take days of non-stop driving. Trains? Probably as expensive as the flight, but take as long as driving would. So before you criticize Americans for not travelling as well as Brits or French, you might want to take location and cost into consideration. Also consider that most of Europe could easily fit within the continental U.S. We have a lot of our own country that we explore, and that takes a lot of travel time, effort, and money as it is.

    • Dimitris Athanasopoulos

      Every you meet people in hostels all over the globe, you will ALWAYS find a Kiwi or an Aussie… And they have the most isolated countries in the world. Australia is equally vast but you see them everywhere in the world. I lived in the USA and I understood that people there are really afraid of anything outside the border. Most of the Americans I’ve met, haven’t been abroad except from Bahamas or a cruise. It is a different culture there

      • titietrominet

        I agree, many Americans have never been outside of their native State.

    • lengtrini

      Good point but its now opens up the question why is inter connectivity around the US so difficult just imagine if you all had a mass train system from state to state?

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  • jack

    Your statistics are ok, but in this case I think you need to factor in the population base from which travelers come. US 300 at million, Canada at 33 million and Australia at 21 million, Netherlands at 17 million. Then you’ll get a better handle on which nation is the more traveled.

  • Tom

    From my travels over the years, I’d put them in this order:
    1. Brits
    2. Canadians
    3. Germans
    4. Aussies
    5. Swedes
    6. Yanks

    • TheExpeditioner

      Not Israelis? Or that’s number 7?

  • MartinL

    It is not just because of the size of the population why (some of) these appear on top. It is also because they have quite a lot of neighbors. I am a Swede, living in Austria – but I am passing through Germany at least once every week. But I would not really see myself as a tourist when I spend my euros in Germany.

  • Bamboclot44

    In my own experience traveling the world across 50 countries I would agree, British, Australians and French were the nationalities I would meet repeatedly everywhere I went. Americans most definitely not…I did meet a few but nowhere close to Europeans. I think these stats are skewed because Americans travel a lot to Mexico and the Caribbean so that’s where most of the money gets spent. One of the primary reasons Americans do not travel is due to the work culture, long vacations are frowned upon…but this is changing slowly :)

    • Dimitris Athanasopoulos

      It is also that the airlines are ripping them off. I was living there and I remember with Delta airways NewYork-Athens, Athens-New York was $2000 and Athens-New York, New York-Athens was almost half price. I have no idea why. Same route, same distance. This was every year

  • Si

    1. Australia – 1173
    2. Canada – 1029
    3. Germany – 943
    4. England – 801
    5. France – 636
    6. Italy – 482
    7. USA – 251
    8. Russia – 227
    9. Japan – 214
    10. China – 54

    This is the 2011 rankings when adjusted for population. The article is very misleading. Was in South East Asia, Australia and Africa for 7 months last year. Basically there were certainly a disproportionate amount of Aussies, Canadians, Germans, Brits and plenty of French – more than usual last year. Scandinavians would most likely be top of the list, but their populations are probably too small to get on the top 10 spending.

    US shouldn’t get so defensive or overly patriotic over misleading statistics. Have only seen lots of Americans in Canada, Mexico and Caribbean. In Malaysia, went up to some guys playing the American brand of football and asked if they were from Canada – they were and knew this would be the case as so few from USA travel. Get on those planes guys – going to Asia is also far for us Europeans and the rest of the world isn’t a big dangerous place!

    • Dimitris Athanasopoulos

      I really agree with you. You seem like a ver traveled guy with plenty of experiences. I am now creating my own backpacking website with tips and stories in a very professional way. If you would like to be a writer there or share your stories, please contact me on Facebook or dim.athan89@gmail.com so that I can give you more info. :)

  • jamie_stint

    I was not surprised that my country is on the list. I guess not everyone would do their best to find a cheap hotel in Victoria London or wherever they would go to save some cash.

  • I was recently in South Africa and let me tell you that I think I met more Germans than South Africans. They are everywhere!!

  • Commonsense

    so, you could not spell united states correctly?
    germans definitely travel abroad the most. but, if consider miles travelled, u.s. and australia are on top.

  • Great topic. There are two interesting topics at work here. One – what countries financially afford to travel more and Two – what is the most common backpacker nationality. From the list it’s hard know what the type of travel preference is for each country. By this I mean do these people “vacation” or “backpack”? Do these people stay in “five-star hotels” or “backpacker hostels” ? From experience, I run into a lot of German, Dutch and Scandinavian “backpackers”, but a lot of Chinese, Italian, Japanese and Russian “vacationers”. 

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  • Pidclinics

    What about pro rata to population?  UK has 86 million, USA 260 mill and gwernany 85 million people so MONEY and numbers are not correct.  What about percentage of POPULATION which would place AUSTRALIA at the top of the list with 34% of its gross population travelling EVERY year

  • RipTorn

    Ive been all over the world and everywhere ive been seems to be occupied by Americans…i dont see germans anywhere except in italy and france. certainly not in America, speaking of just america, its got a lot of great travel locations itself and you could spend a lifetime traveling the expanses of America and never see it all.

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  • Peter Atkins

    I think your method for arriving at US citizens being the second most travelled people (forgive me it that is not you assertion) based on how much each country spends abroad is completely flawed as you have not considered differences in population. According to the UNTWO (http://www.enduringwanderlust.com/who-travels-the-most/):

    “According to the World Tourism Organization or UNWTO,
    Europeans travel more than all other regions combined with a whopping
    52.8 percent of all outbound tourists. Asia and the Pacific (21 percent)
    and the Americas (16 percent) make up most of the rest of the outbound
    travelers with the Middle East (3.8 percent) and Africa (2.9 percent)
    rounding out the field.”

    “The Americas” in this case would include Canada, US and all Central and South American citizens combined. I imagine that this population would have to double or treble the population of the US, which would be roughly equivalent to the population of Europe.

    Perhaps travel is seen as an upper-class luxury in the US whereas many other world citizens will endeavour to do it no matter what their budget.

    Of course, it’s not hard to “travel” to another country in Europe; most of the time it would just involve a drive down the road. I entered four countries in about five hours in Europe. That would hardly get you through the same amount of small country towns in Australia.

    So… sorry mate, I don’t think your argument holds water.

    • Lol

      you’re a moron dude…stop with the America hate…you just look hysterical and insecure.

      Face it, Americans travel more and broader spaces than most other people…its a fact.

      • Daniel Murphy

        sorry mate, your either trolling or missed his point.

        All he is saying is that this is running absolute values instead of per capita values. 

        as per the response bellow (Jutta Tilvis (Finland)) the amount spent per person from each country changes the results considerably, placing Aussies at the top (something that most backpackers would agree with on a who they met scale).

        Also, there wasn’t any american hating. We Aussies tend to travel multiple times during our life (big overseas trips i mean). Quite a lot of Americans i met while traveling were doing there “one big trip”, having finished college and blasting around a bit before going to get a “real” life. The whole kids and a white picket fence thing. Its different ideals about traveling is all.

      • YanksR Turds

        Bull…How many countries you visited “mate”…if you include your troops in the figures…of course you’ll win!

        • Grace Zaqui

          :) so true YanksR Turds, right on!

  • Jutta Tilvis (Finland)

    In the most recent UNWTO World Tourism Barometer (data from June 2011) it also ranks the countries by expenditure per capita (US$) in the following order:Australia 1,014Germany 952Canada 866United Kingdom 780France 625Italy 449United States 244Japan 219Russian Federation 189And dropping China way down on the list with only 41.

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  • Conti Matteo

    I think is not a good ranking. Firstly because of the question: who travel the most? It means how many trips or how many people brought abroad? If the latter, it s very bad about expenses because if two very rich German went abroad and spent 40 billon dollars and 10 millon chinese went abroad and they spent 100 dollars each they gonna spend less than Germans but they brought much more people. If we want to ask how many trip were done independently of it dependes on frequency or number of people, so we should know the average expenses per trip. Maybe some countries have the average higher than other because they do mostly business travels and other leisure travels.

    • Anonymous

      Well, like I said, there’s no clear data for exact numbers, so this is the best I could come up with. I agree, it’s probably not the most accurate, but assuming it’s those countries with the most money that probably travel internationally the most, then this gives us a good rough idea (probably breaking it down per capita would be best, but would likely result in similar ordering).

  • mai

    This says more about the  population size than the willingness to travel. 

  • mai

    This says more about the  population size than the willingness to travel. 

    • Anonymous

      Absolutely, this needs to talk about spending per capita.  I’m pretty sure Australians should be near the top of this list.  Everywhere I go I meet Aussies.

  • Why don’t have the thailand in list ?

  • How interesting! I wonder what that boils down to if you look at spending per average person. That would probably move the US and China much lower in the list because they have so many more people than, say, the Netherlands. Cool post!

    Being German, I am sitting here thinking that 80 billion divided by the 80 million or so population comes down to 1000 per person. Wow! Considering that many people don't travel at all, that is pretty high…

    • Very high, of course, like I said in the post, Germans probably spend a lot of money driving to neighboring countries and spending money, but it still gives a pretty accurate picture.

      • no one

        where do germans like to go most?

        • Torsohero

           Germans are very curious about the all countries.
          Germans have much more holidays than other nations, they do several trips per anno. It’s pretty cheap to go from Germany to other European destinations. Germans love to travel to all European countries, especially Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Those who can afford often like to go to U.S., South-East-Asia, South-Africa, Carrbibean or Australia.

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