Worried About Traveling? These Are the 10 Safest Countries to Visit (Slideshow)
Although Eastern Europe was the site of violent turmoil in the 1990s, Slovenia (which emerged as an independent nation in 1991 after the distintegration of Yugoslavia), survived and — somewhat surprisingly — have become one of the safest nations in the world. The country now rarely sees any terror activity or violent protests, engages in few internal conflicts, has low crime rates, and boasts a relatively high police presence. All of this has helped keep the peace in this beautiful nation, which owns a small but extremely scenic amount of coastline, offers plenty of stunning Alpine scenery, and experiences more tourism with each passing year.
Japan has changed quite a bit since World War II ended. It now has no professional military, engages in no external conflicts (and very few internal ones), possesses the third-largest economy in the world, and has a shockingly low homicide rate. Keep in mind that Japan is home to Tokyo, the largest megacity in the world — which is often ranked amongst the safest in the world as well. Coming from the rat race of New York City, I have no idea how 33 million people can get along so peacefully and politely. The almost complete absence of firearms (and strict penalties against their possession) is probably a good start.
A lot of people may think of Canada as nothing more than America’s hat and the land of weird foods, but the Great White North actually has a pretty good thing going up there. The country has one of the highest standards of living in the world (thanks to universal healthcare and a high immigrant acceptance rate) and one of the lowest unemployment rates, and rarely experiences acts of terrorism. Its major cities also have a minor amount of violent crime — which is quite important, as almost 80 percent of Canada’s population resides in urban areas. Tolerance is also key here, and the country is a big supporter of multiculturalism, encouraging citizens to maintain their traditional values and ways of life.
Neutrality has worked out well for Switzerland, which has a booming economy, stable government, and an obvious absence of both internal and external conflicts. Diversity, tolerance, and acceptance have also helped keep the peace, as the country has four official languages and is divided into 26 independent states, known as cantons. Each one has its own laws and regulations, meaning there’s a place for almost everyone in this country — even former outsiders. One-third of Switzerland’s total population is made of people born outside its borders.
In case you missed it, we’ve been all over Switzerland recently, covering its unique cuisine, new Charlie Chaplin-themed hotel and realted museum, wonderful wine country, and even its record-breaking meringue.
#6 Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has only existed in its current form since 1993 (before that it was part of Czechoslovakia), but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a safe, happy, and politically stable country in the 23 years since. It has low military spending, few acts of violent crime, a robust economy, and a very high rate of human development — which includes stats like life expectancy, quality and availability of education, income, and cost of living. That last variable is especially low in the Czech Republic, even in the capital city of Prague, where apartments rent for much less than in comparable European cities.
The Iberian country of Portugal has low crime rates, a great standard of living, and a stable government, all factors that helped it reach No. 5 on this list. One of the major historical events that helped make this happen? Fifteen years ago, Portugal eliminated criminal penalties for drug possession within certain amounts (one gram for heroin, MDMA, and amphetamines; two grams for cocaine; and 25 grams for marijuana). Focusing on rehabilitation and treatment, as opposed to punishment and incarceration, has help both the country’s drug abuse issues, and brought down other crimes related to drug addiction. Plus, with beautiful mountains, plains, and beaches, who has time for violence anyhow?
#4 New Zealand
Australia may have just missed the top 10, but its neighbor (or “neighbour”), New Zealand, almost took top billing. One of the major factors behind this is the high level of political stability, which is helped (or possibly caused) by the high levels of political transparency and low levels of corruption. In fact, Transparency International ranked New Zealand No. 1 in the world, and the 2013 Corruption Perception Index named them the least corrupt. Additionally, the country has notoriously strict laws and tough punishments, as well as a high respect for human rights (even for Pastafarians), and Kiwis are often praised for their lack of hostility toward foreigners.
Two things have brought Austria to the top portion of this list: it has very low levels of violent crime (especially in regard to political, economic, religious, and ethnic violence) and very peaceful relations with its neighbors, both of which are sure recipes for safety and success. It’s also worth noting who Austria’s neighbors are, as the country shares borders with seven nations that are all also highly ranked on this list: the Czech Republic (No. 6), Switzerland (No. 7), Slovenia (No. 10), Germany (No. 16), Hungary (No. 19), Slovakia (No. 24), and Italy (No. 39). Your biggest safety risk in Austria in probably getting injured while skiing down one of its many magnificent mountains.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for this coastal European country. Denmark once had serious crime and terrorism issues (and European counter-terrorism forces broke up a large ISIS sleeper cell in the capital city of Copenhagen just this spring), but managed to tackle these and has been a regular at the top of the GPI list for many years. Additionally, Denmark also maintains a spot at the top of the list of happiest countries in the world, a lot of which is due to the small gap that exists between the rich and poor, which also helps lower the amount of robberies and burglaries. Almost exactly 10 percent of the country lives in Copenhagen, which also receives plenty of attention for being one of the safest big cities in the world. In fact, it’s so safe and such a wonderful city (with fantastic food to boot!) that we recently recommended it as one of the top destinations for students looking to study abroad.
No surprise here, as Iceland is constantly being referred to as the safest countries in the world. As for the reasoning for this rank, there are a few major factors. First, Iceland is never involved in any sort of international conflicts. Since the Icelandic Reformation of the 1500s, the only major issues were the three Cod Wars (1958-61, 1972-73, and 1975-76), which were over the established fishery zones, and only included one death. Iceland does not maintain a standing army, navy, or air force, using only a militarized Coast Guard for protection. Additionally, even the pettiest crimes (like pickpocketing) are nearly nonexistent, and the homicide rate has never exceeded 8 per 100,000 to date. Maybe it has something to do with the camaraderie formed by an isolated island country of only 323,002. One thing is for certain, the safety has nothing to do with a lack of firearms; Iceland actually ranks 15th in the world in per-capita gun ownership.