I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have visited some really interesting countries. I thought I’d post some of the stamps I’ve gotten along the way, for other passport stamp collectors and maybe to inspire future collectors!
Visitors to Europe often complain, “they don’t stamp my passport anymore!” This is often correct: if you’re arriving from the US, they MIGHT stamp your passport when you arrive in the European Union, and they MIGHT stamp it on your way out. It is entirely possible you won’t get a single stamp in the European Union. However, this was not always the case! Oldtimers out there might remember when US citizens had to get a visa to visit FRANCE! No kidding! Here’s what it looked like. The first one is from 1988, while the second picture is the French visa from 1987.
Before the European Union got serious and removed all the international borders within its area, you could count on a lot of entry and exit stamps, like this one from Hungary.
Hungary also had a great visa before they joined the EU.
Another aspect of European passport stamp collecting is that the map of Europe has changed so much in the past 30 years. Many countries have disappeared, to be replaced by new ones. There are passports stamps you just can’t get anymore, like this visa from the German Democratic Republic (East Germany.) (I still wish I would’ve visited Yugoslavia!)
The DDR (German abbreviation for East Germany) also had what I still think is one of the best basic entry/exit stamps ever! Multi-colored and far cooler than the country ever was!
Nowadays you have to work harder to get cool stamps in Europe. But it’s still possible!
Let’s start with the boring reality of the European Union. This is what the stamps look like when you fly into the EU (into and out of Sofia, Bulgaria.)
Most of the non-EU countries have also adopted this style of entry and exit stamps. For example, here are stamps from Iceland and Bosnia and Herzegovina, neither of which is an EU member.
If you’re driving a car, though, you have a better chance of getting stamps at border crossings, like this one from the Czech Republic.
This stamp is from Croatia, flying into Zagreb. The Europeans are very thorough: the plane logo in the upper right-hand corner indicates you flew in, the country abbreviation in the upper left (HR surrounded by stars) shows the country you visited, and in the lower left, you see the arrow pointing into the box, which indicates arrival.
The United Kingdom has its own stamps for entry and exit, but they’re fairly boring.
NOT BORING are the stamps you get in Ireland! First off, they’re GREEN! How cool is that! They are in the EU, but they use this special stamp alongside the typical EU stamps. I got this at a cruise ship port stop in Cork (Cobh).
If you visit Europe, and want more than the standard EU stamp, you’ll have to visit some of the non-EU countries for unusual stamps. And here, the smaller the country, the cooler the stamp! This first one is from Ukraine, a place I visit a lot.
Ever heard of the Principality of Monaco? the Principality of Liechtenstein? the Principality of Seborga? Yeah, didn’t think so! They have some great stamps!
I’m not a fan of the “new” Liechtenstein stamp: the old one was much cooler, I thought!
Don’t just look for stamps at airports and border crossings: you can find some really interesting ones in unlikely places. One of more “famous” places to go is to Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, the old crossing-point between East and West Berlin back in the Cold War days. There are several stamps that you can get at the museum there. It’s pretty much a tourist scam: 6 stamps for €5 or 14 stamps for €10. Here’s the complete set.
One of the most amazing churches in the world is the Dom (Cathedral) in Cologne (Köln), Germany. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the tallest twin-spired church in the world (515 feet/157 meters high) (515 ft), and is the most-visited site in Germany. One of the things you can do while you’re here is climb to the top of one of the spires, and if you do, you get a special stamp to commemorate the event! Here’s the cathedral and the stamp!
If you’re into cars, and you’re visiting Germany, I’m sure you’ve already planned a trip to the BMW Museum in Munich. While you’re there, ask at the information desk to get your official stamp!
If you go to St-Petersburg on a Baltic cruise, you can get a Russian stamp! (And the good thing about visiting Russia this way is that you DON’T need a visa if you do a ship’s excursion or get a local company to guide you around!
As you can see, there are still lots of places you can get cool souvenir passport stamps in Europe, and there’s a lot more I don’t have time to include. Just remember one thing: wherever you go, bring your passport and see if they have a stamp! Cheap, easy to carry around, and a great souvenir of a great trip!