For many people, the world feels like a much more dangerous place now than it was a few decades ago. Information arrives more quickly, and through many more channels, and it’s hard to avoid noticing security alerts from so much of the world. But travel is hugely important for staying informed, understanding other people and other cultures and keeping fear at bay, and if there’s a middle ground — traveling while staying safe — we’re all for it.
In the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, countries are ranked according to their safety and security. The criteria to measure a country’s safety includes a handful of indicators, the index of terrorism incidence being perhaps the most obvious. For this, they used third-party data that looked at how many terrorist incidents occurred between 2010 and 2012, and how many fatalities and injuries happened in this same period.
All countries with a score in the top 95th percentile tied as having the lowest incidence of terrorism. The report also looked at the cost of terrorism on businesses, as well as the cost of crime and violence on business. Other indicators included the reliability of police services and the homicide rate.
The good news is that “safe” and “secure” don’t mean boring. Below are the 10 top-ranked countries for safety and security, and what to do and see in each of them.
Qatar is one of the top ranked countries in the Middle East, both in terms of safety and in the overall ranking. There is a wide variety to do here: wander through Souq Waqif, visit Sheikh Faisal’s private museum at Al Samriya or jump over to the the man-made island, Pearl-Qatar.
In ninth place is Rwanda. Although the country doesn’t score well in all indicators (the terrorism index and rate of homicide are not as low as most others on this list), police response is reliable (sixth place), the business cost of terrorism is low (ninth place) and so are the business costs of crime and violence (fifth place). It’s also home to some incredible natural wonders: tourists can visit a gorilla park on one side of the country and see giraffes and lions on the other.
Switzerland landed in eighth place for the safest city, and has also done well in the broader report, ranking as the 10th overall destination. Though their name is synonymous with neutrality, Switzerland offers anything but a bland experience. Ski the alps, bungee jump, or just stare at the grandeur of the Matterhorn.
In seventh place overall is Norway, with reliability of police ranking in fifth place and number of homicides ranking in 10th. For a nature-focused visit, see the famous fjords or take a trip along one of the 18 national tourist routes; for more of a cultural experience, sip on craft beers and take a walk on the roof of Oslo Opera House.
Singapore comes out well-rounded in its safety scores: the cost of business crime and violence is quite low (seventh place), police reliability is high (fourth place) and the homicide rate is third lowest in the world. Visit museums, indulge in shopping, or wander alongside the colorful Peranakan houses.
5. Hong Kong
Hong Kong has one of the lowest incidences of terrorism in the world. The one thing to watch out for during your visit? Counterfeit currency is not uncommon, although the main inconvenience lies in the fact that merchants prefer to take bills under $HK500. Visit the Pak Tai Temple on Cheung Chau Island, or escape the throb of the city by lounging on Repulse Bay Beach.
Though Oman’s next-door-neighbor, Yemen, has suffered devastating conflict in the last few years, Oman is the fourth safest city in the world, and is tied with a few other countries on this list for having the lowest incidence of terrorism globally. Nature lovers should check out the sloping sand dunes and turquoise fjords; those in search of culture shouldn’t miss the markets in Nizwa or the fortresses.
Iceland’s popularity with international travelers has boomed in the last several years, so knowing it’s also the third safest destination is only a bonus. Keep a lookout for the Aurora Borealis, soak in the Blue Lagoon or enjoy glaciers, waterfalls and whale-watching.
2. United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates are on the up-and-up, having hosted 14.4 million international visitors in 2015. In addition to being the second safest destination in the world, with excellent dining and shopping, plus beaches in the Persian Gulf, they also have plenty of reasons for travelers to visit.
Although it dropped significantly since the last report, it still is the safest country in the world. With tourist attractions including the Northern Lights, the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, Lapland (if the sun stays up all night, you might as well, too) and the distinguished honor of most saunas per capita, it’s a terrific place to spend a holiday.