The safest countries in the world for travellers
It might produce some of the gnarliest Eurovision entries, but Finland came up as one of the safest places on the Travel Risk Map 2019, which assesses countries across the world for medical risks, security and road safety. Finland also topped the World Happiness Report two years running. Go wild-swimming in your pick of clean lakes or find a summer party for safe and happy revelling where it barely gets dark – try Lapland’s art, culture and nature-focused Silence Festival or find a midsummer party round a huge bonfire on Seurasaari island, off Helsinki. Or in winter prepare for empty frozen snowscapes and the Northern Lights, with dog sledding, skiing and plenty of saunas to thaw out in after. Plus, Santa.
At half the size of London, Singapore’s a tiny country – but the island city-state topped the Time Out Index for safety, with a whopping 91 percent of respondents saying they felt safe living there. Visitors and residents enjoy a booming food scene, from street hawkers serving steaming Singaporean laksa to Michelin-starred Peranakan cuisine. Go as a group to get stuck into its cocktail scene, or go solo and hang out on the nearby beaches with peace of mind – Singapore topped Wegoplaces’ list of destinations in its Solo Travel Safety Report this year. However, while attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community are changing (Singapore now has gay bars and an annual Pride) PDAs are frowned upon and gay sex between men is still criminalised, although prosecutions are rare.
With its happy hygge vibes, Denmark’s not a surprising find on this list. Here, it’s the norm for trusting Danish parents to leave their babies in prams outside cafés, restaurants and shops. Denmark came fifth on the Global Peace Index this year, with some of the lowest crime rates in the world, beating Sweden and Norway. Shoutout to its self-governing Faroe Islands for its wild natural beauty, its stellar food scene pepped up with foraged ingredients and for having had, according to the Faroes’ tourist board, just 10 murders since WW2. It would be really, really bad luck to meet a Scandi noir end here.
This sunny corner of Europe has seen its tourist numbers spike in recent years, attracted by warm temperatures, beaches and culture-filled cities. In the Time Out Index, 67 percent of residents said they felt safe living in Porto, and 64 percent said they felt safe in Lisbon, scoring higher than cities such as Sydney and Boston. While Lisbon is a top destination for LGBTQ+ travellers – with one of Europe’s biggest gay beaches and a banging Pride every June – overall Portugal came third on the 2019 Global Peace Index, so it’s a safe bet for everyone. Safe doesn’t have to mean boring though: check out one of the country’s many macabre skull-adorned bone chapels, like those in Évora and Faro. Also worth a visit is Monsanto, where red-roofed cottages are wedged between gigantic boulders.
The top-ranking South American country on the Global Peace Index 2019, Chile ranks highest in the region for trust in the police, at 59 percent. This long, skinny coastal country – home to epic Atacama and Patagonia, plus the mysterious moai statues on Easter Island – makes a good first stop on the continent. Public safety data-crunching website SafeAround, which ranks cities for travel safety, marks Chile as low-risk in all categories (including pickpocketing, mugging, terrorism, scams, risks for women travellers and natural disasters).
Canada has a reputation for being one of the world’s nicest countries, and the stats back it up: it came first for personal freedoms in the 2018 Legatum Prosperity Index, which measures individual rights and social tolerance. From liberal, inclusive and culture-filled cities such as Montreal and Vancouver, to epic mountain wilderness in the Rockies, the land of Drake and Bieber is a safe, friendly option for tentative travellers, especially since its low crime levels mean it ranked six on the latest Global Peace Index.
Its musicians and artists definitely don’t play it safe, but Iceland frequently tops lists for traveller safety. On its well-trodden yet ultra-impressive tourist circuit of icy blue lagoons, black-rock beaches, geysers and waterfalls, potential hazards are clearly marked with warning signs. It scored top on the 2019 Global Peace Index and it’s an especially great place if you’re a woman – frequently praised for its stance on gender equality, topping this year’s global gender gap index by the World Economic Forum. Be sure to stop off in Reykjavik for its underground Icelandic Punk Museum, complete with drums and guitars for you to play, in a converted(ish) public toilet.
Last year Australia’s coffee-buzzed cities, beaches and natural wonders attracted 9.2 million tourists – and, according to the tourist board, ‘safety and security’ was most the most important aspect of choosing a holiday for global visitors, who viewed Australia as safer than Switzerland, New Zealand, Hawaii, the UK and France. Its critters may have a rep for wanting to kill you, but to put things into perspective, you’re more likely to be killed by a horse or a cow here than a snake or a shark, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Head to Tasmania for off-the-beaten-track arts and food, and lesser-travelled Western Australia for emptier beaches and some of the world’s best stargazing.
Japan, with its neat city tech, zippy bullet trains and blissed-out temples, is way below average for crime stats: they’re at a record low since WW2. In fact, three quarters of people list public order and safety as one of the reasons they love being Japanese. According to the latest Better Life Index of the OECD member countries, which also include countries such as the UK, Iceland, Australia and Denmark, an above-average 73 percent of people feel safe walking alone at night, and the homicide rate is 0.2: the lowest in the study. Tokyo’s art and culture scenes, plus its intriguing subcultures, are solid proof that safe can still mean fun.