Despite the horror stories you may read in the papers, most people travel abroad without any issues. However, some destinations are still safer to visit than others.
If you’re thinking about going on holiday, the safety of the place you travel to can be a key aspect to consider. As, no matter how appealing the country, feeling safe is important.
With this in mind, we’ve taken a closer look at the 12 of the safest places to travel in the world, as determined by the Global Peace Index (GPI) in 2022. This index is based on 23 indicators of peacefulness, including country conflicts, crime rates, safety and security, and political stability in 163 countries around the globe.
According to the GPI, Europe is considered the most peaceful region in the world – home to seven of the 10 top most peaceful countries, followed by Asia.
The safest countries in the world have a few things in common: high levels of wealth, social welfare, healthcare, and education. They also have effective criminal justice systems and stable governments, who have positive relationships with their citizens. And, good infrastructure from good roads and public transport.
We hope this article will offer some insight when planning your next break.
With only three people per square kilometre, the tiny Nordic nation of Iceland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world – and has been ranked the most peaceful country on the planet since the index started.
Violent crime is such a rarity that the police only carry batons and pepper spray, and the country itself has strict gun laws and no army. Plus, Iceland has early warning systems in place to protect visitors from any natural hazards.
Iceland is also ranked the third happiest place in the world, and this homogenous nation enjoys a high standard of living, equality, and religious freedom.
With volcanoes, glaciers, whales, waterfalls – and the ethereal Northern Lights in winter, Iceland is a bucket-list destination. You can enjoy puffin-watching, soak in geothermal pools and dine on freshly-caught fish among the pretty-painted wooden houses of Iceland’s compact capital Reykjavik.
Discover the beauty of Iceland
2. New Zealand
For lovers of the great outdoors, it’s hard to beat New Zealand‘s magnificent, magical landscapes.
In the north, you can travel the wine route, enjoy white-sand beaches, and take boat trips in the Bay of Islands. Also worth visiting are the geysers, mud pools, and mineral lakes of Rotorua.
The south is home to glaciers, lakes, and snow-covered mountains. You can spot dolphins and whale watch off the coast, go ‘tramping’ on foot in Mount Cook National park, or cruise in the silence of the spectacular Milford Sound fiord.
With a small population, New Zealand has a low crime rate. Violent crime is particularly rare as the country, like Iceland, has strict gun laws and a strong focus on community policing.
New Zealand police have provided a guide to keeping safe for travellers, which maps out police stations and visitor centres, as well as the travel times and distances between locations.
New Zealand is an easy country to travel around, with good roads, compact cities, and an open-minded, welcoming population. There are also no deadly animals, and natural hazards – like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – are well-monitored.
Explore magnificent New Zealand
Ireland is the most peaceful it’s been, having jumped from the 11th to 3rd most peaceful place in 2022. Crime is quite low outside a few city neighbourhoods, and there’s little threat of terrorism.
In fact, the Emerald Isle’s landscape of breathtaking cliffs and winding country roads may pose a greater safety risk than its people. So, it’s important to pay attention to local travel advice – particularly if you find yourself caught outside during a sudden rainstorm or in areas with no phone reception.
Irish people are known for their friendly welcome, love of music, and, of course, Guinness.
The west of Ireland is perhaps the most scenic, with quaint towns and villages hugging the coast. It’s also home to its most famous sight, the Cliffs of Moher.
Immerse yourself in Ireland’s great outdoors
Denmark is not only one of the safest countries to visit, but also the second happiest country on the planet.
One reason for this is the high regard for equality and strong sense of common responsibility for social welfare. For example, everyone has access to high-quality healthcare – even visitors if they need it.
Denmark is one of the few countries where people report feeling safe at any time of the day or night. And, there’s almost no risk of natural disaster.
This scenic coastal nation has charming towns, national parks, and fascinating geological formations such as the white cliffs of Møn.
Its laid back, cosmopolitan capital, Copenhagen, was crowned the safest city in the world in 2021 because of its low crime rates and high level of trust and honesty among people. Why not take in the palaces, stroll through the colourful houses of iconic Nyhavn harbour, or check out its fabulous Nordic food scene while you’re here?
Discover the magic of Denmark
This landlocked country in the heart of Europe is very safe to visit.
Serious crimes in Austria are almost non-existent, and there have been no major acts of terrorism in recent years. It’s considered safe to walk in the grand capital Vienna after dark, and visitors can also access the country’s high standard of healthcare if they need to.
Over half of the country is covered by the Austrian alps, which can be visited on awe-inspiring trips by mountain railway, and are known for winter sports.
Austria is also home to castles and palaces such as the wonderful Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, which was once the heart of the Habsburg empire.
Experience Austria’s charm
Unlike Iceland and New Zealand, Portugal’s police are armed – but an increased police presence has led to a decline in the country’s crime rate.
This compact southern European country consistently ranks among the best countries for retirement, encouraged by its high level of safety and mild climate.
Portugal is known for its diverse natural scenery – from the golden beaches and glistening waters of the sun-drenched Algarve to the traditional black stone houses of inland villages that are surrounded by forested mountains, lakes, and rivers.
You can listen to a mournful fado music performance in the terracotta-roofed capital, Lisbon, and stroll through the pretty streets of Porto. And for lovers of the great outdoors, why not drive the scenic ‘Portuguese Route 66’ to Faro, or island-hop in The Azores where there’s whale watching?
Unwind in Portugal
With snow-capped alps, emerald-green rivers and lakes, and half of the country covered in forest, Slovenia is both scenic and safe.
Following the appointment of a democratic government in the mid-1990s, the country has focused on improving its quality of life. General crime is very low, violent crime is rare, and Slovenia has high scores on the Global Peace Index for travel security, health risks, and road safety.
This picturesque central European country is a great place for outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, river rafting, kayaking, and canoeing – as well as skiing in winter.
You can take a gondola ride across the lake to Bled Island where 99 stone steps lead to a tiny baroque chapel. And in summer, you can sunbathe on the sandy beaches of the Adriatic, which is rich in Venetian architecture.
Go on an adventure in Slovenia
8. Czech Republic
This central European country is best known for its capital Prague, which is one of the continent’s most fascinating cities.
You can wander along its cobbled streets and cross the 14th-century Charles bridge; visit The Prague Castle, which is the third largest in the world; or grab a local Pilsner beer in a traditional Czech pub (known as a hospoda or pivnice).
In the east of the Czech Republic, Moravia is also a great place to experience rich folk culture and soak up the beauty of the Czech countryside.
Crime rates in the Czech Republic have decreased over the years, particularly rates of violent crime, and even pickpocketing isn’t common. The country also has a low risk of terrorism and natural disasters, and enjoys a state-run health insurance system, which locals can access.
Explore the mystery of the Czech Republic
The island of Singapore is the third safest city in the world according to the Safe Cities Index; ranking second for health, digital and infrastructure security.
The Global Law and Order report in 2022, shows that residents of this city-state feel the highest sense of personal security in the world.
A melting pot of cultures and religions, Singapore also has one of the lowest global crime rates. This is partly due to the strict penalties imposed for even small transgressions, such as littering, and smoking and drinking in public places.
Underneath Singapore’s modern skyline are parks, gardens, nature reserves, historic neighbourhoods, and museums, as well as food courts where you can sample delicious and inexpensive local dishes. A great public transport system also makes it safe and easy for visitors to get around.
Soak up Singapore’s skyline
Japan has been in the top 10 countries in the Global Peace Index since it started. It has a very low crime rate, minimal internal conflict (with limited access to guns), and no political unrest.
According to the latest Safe Cities Index, Tokyo was the fifth safest city in the world, ranking first on health security, and fifth for infrastructure security.
Japanese culture is one of the most fascinating in the world where ancient traditions rub shoulders with the modern world.
During a trip here, you can immerse yourself in tea ceremonies and steam baths, take the bullet train to visit Kyoto’s geisha district, or enjoy a food tour of frenetic Tokyo.
Japan is also full of natural wonders, from the iconic Mount Fuji and cherry blossoms in spring, to the sight of snow monkeys bathing in hot springs in the mountainous Joshinetsu Kogen National Park.
Marvel at the beauty of Japan
There’s more to this compact central European country than chocolate, cheese, and clocks.
Switzerland is listed as the fourth happiest country in the world, and is also one of the wealthiest – with a high quality of life and a low crime rate. And, Switzerland’s long-standing neutrality is a key factor in keeping the country safe.
And it’s the Swiss canton of Zug (pictured), which ranks as the safest region in the country.
Of the many reasons to visit Switzerlan – such as its charming towns, unparalleled hiking, and lively cities – one of the most compelling is a train ride through the mountains and glaciers of the soaring Alps. The journey takes passengers through flower-filled valleys and mirror-like lakes to glamorous, picturesque resorts.
Uncover Switzerland’s secrets
This vast country is one of the planet’s most varied and beautiful. The scenic Rockies, sublime landscapes of Newfoundland, and the mountains, rivers, and forests of the Yukon are just some of the many natural highlights.
Canada has a reputation as a peacekeeping nation, with respect and tolerance for others. Crime rates are low and Canadians are friendly and helpful to visitors, and the country’s generally safe to travel around.
Montreal, with its food and culture, and Vancouver, with its spectacular outdoor setting, tend to be first cities on the travel hit list. But, according to the latest Safe Cities Index, the cosmopolitan, historic city of Toronto is the second safest city in the world, ranking first for personal security.
Explore the magic of Canada
The Safety Perceptions Index 2023 showed a rise in people becoming more fearful and concerned with safety following the pandemic. Safety can mean different things to different people – from the likelihood of civil unrest or terrorism to whether you can drink the tap water or wear jewellery in public.
To find out more about how to travel safely in countries around the world and get handy travel tips, you can visit the UK government’s Foreign Travel Advice section. And if you’re looking for information about a particular destination, you could check travel forums, such as those on TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet.
Note: Although these are generally safe places to visit, as with any destination, it’s important to take the usual precautions to guard against petty theft, such as pickpocketing and ATM scams and use common sense while travelling. Try to be aware of your surroundings, keep your valuables safe, and follow any local advice or warnings.