When inspecting the construction of the Panama Canal in 1906, Theodore Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to make an international visit while in office. Every president since then, except for Herbert Hoover (although he did visit ten Latin American countries as President-elect), has visited at least one foreign country while in office, and the number of countries visited has generally increased over time. The most commonly visited foreign countries by U.S. presidents are Canada and France, which have been visited 41 times by 13 and 12 different presidents respectively. The trips to Canada include nine separate visits by Franklin D. Roosevelt, which is the highest number of trips made by a U.S. president to any single country. While the U.S.' northern neighbor is one of the most frequently visited countries, its southern neighbor, Mexico, has only been visited 33 times. However, 14 presidents have visited Mexico, which is the highest number of individual presidents to visit a country, along with Italy. Of the ten most frequently visited countries; two border the U.S., six are in Europe, and Japan and South Korea round off the list.
The early twentieth century saw the United States emerge as a global superpower, and foreign travel by the Commander-In-Chief helped the U.S. cement their place at the front of the international stage. These trips are not simply for U.S. presidents to liaise with other world leaders, but also to oversee international trade and diplomatic affairs, and to strengthen the U.S.' image abroad by making public addresses; notable examples of this include both Kennedy and Reagan's fervent speeches in Berlin during the Cold War, and more recent holiday visits to U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first U.S. president to travel to multiple countries was Woodrow Wilson, who travelled to Europe for the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, where he oversaw the founding of the League of Nations and was the leading architect of the peace treaties between the Allied and Central Powers following the First World War. The next U.S. president to travel extensively was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited 25 countries during his presidency, including a number of secret journeys during the Second World War. Eisenhower became the first president to make several stops across Asia, and Lyndon B. Johnson was the first to travel around the world in one trip. During his two terms in office, Richard Nixon made significant diplomatic trips to Europe and Asia, visiting the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries at the height of the Cold War, and re-establishing political relations between the U.S. and China. Since Theodore Roosevelt's time, improvements in technology have also made it much easier and more practical for U.S. presidents to travel abroad, and lengthy trans-Atlantic journeys by ship have been replaced by high-speed air travel aboard Air Force One.
When overseeing the final years of the Cold War and the dissolution of the communist system in Europe, George H. W. Bush set the precedent for the number and frequency of international trips made by his successors; Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all made roughly fifty international trips each, making hundreds of stops along the way. George W Bush is the most-travelled U.S. president, making 142 visits across 75 different countries; as of 2020, he is the sole president to have been received by nine of these individual countries, which is more than any other president. By March 2020, Donald Trump had made 39 visits in 25 countries, including the first ever trip by a U.S. president to North Korea; Trump's rate of travel was relatively similar to his recent predecessors, although the global coronavirus pandemic meant that he remained in the U.S. for most of his final year in office. For the same reason, it is unlikely that Joe Biden will make any international trips before the pandemic is under some measure of control.
Number of times each country was visited by the sitting U.S. president (officially, unofficially or while vacationing) between 1906 and February 2021
Occasions where U.S. presidents visited the same country twice on the same trip have been recorded as two separate visits. All visits to current and former British and French colonies have been recorded separately.
*Country-specific notes are as follows (in alphabetical order):
Algeria: only when the country was known as French Algeria; no president has returned since it became independent.
Antigua & Barbuda: only when the country was a part of the British Leeward Islands; no president has returned since it became independent.
Belarus: includes one visit to the country while it was a part of the Soviet Union.
Canada: includes Franklin D. Roosevelt's visits to Newfoundland, before it joined Canada in 1949 (one was part of a wider tour of Canada, while one visit was a holiday to Newfoundland only).
Croatia: includes Nixon's trip to Zagreb while Croatia was a part of Yugoslavia.
Czechia: includes George H. W. Bush's visit to Prague while it was a part of Czechoslovakia.
France: does not include trips to French overseas territories of Martinique or Saint Martin, which have been recorded separately.
Germany: includes West Germany between 1949 and 1990; no president ever visited East Germany.
Russia: includes visits to the country while it was a part of the Soviet Union, including Roosevelt's attendance at the Yalta Conference in Crimea in 1945.
Senegal: includes Franklin D. Roosevelt's trip to Dakar, French West Africa during the Second World War.
Serbia: was only visited when the country was a part of Yugoslavia; subsequent trips to the region have been to Kosovo only.
Vietnam: includes visits to South Vietnam, during the Vietnam War.
Ukraine: includes visits to the country while it was a part of the Soviet Union (including Nixon's trip to Oreanda, Crimea).
The majority of the information came from the individual entries for each president on the linked source. Data for President Trump is incomplete on the Department of State website, therefore a number of other sources have been used to compile this information.
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Various sources, & US Department of State. (February 18, 2021). Number of times each country was visited by the sitting U.S. president (officially, unofficially or while vacationing) between 1906 and February 2021 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved December 04, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1125025/us-presidents-frequency-countries-visited/
Various sources, und US Department of State. "Number of times each country was visited by the sitting U.S. president (officially, unofficially or while vacationing) between 1906 and February 2021." Chart. February 18, 2021. Statista. Accessed December 04, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1125025/us-presidents-frequency-countries-visited/
Various sources, US Department of State. (2021). Number of times each country was visited by the sitting U.S. president (officially, unofficially or while vacationing) between 1906 and February 2021. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: December 04, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1125025/us-presidents-frequency-countries-visited/
Various sources, and US Department of State. "Number of times Each Country Was Visited by The Sitting U.S. President (Officially, Unofficially or While Vacationing) between 1906 and February 2021." Statista, Statista Inc., 18 Feb 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1125025/us-presidents-frequency-countries-visited/
Various sources & US Department of State, Number of times each country was visited by the sitting U.S. president (officially, unofficially or while vacationing) between 1906 and February 2021 Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1125025/us-presidents-frequency-countries-visited/ (last visited December 04, 2022)