It’s completely reasonable that anyone travelling abroad these days considers personal safety one of the deciding factors in their ultimate choice of destination.
Heightened regional tensions, outbreaks of civil unrest, religious conflicts, terrorism, border disputes … there’s plenty to think about before you travel.
So when the wanderlust strikes, perhaps consider the following list of countries that made the top 10 in this year’s Global Peace Index – a ranking the Institute for Economics and Peace compiles that overlays a number of factors to determine where you’re most likely to find calm.
The three main criteria are the relative domestic harmony, global or local conflicts and current military and political stability – with multiple considerations in each category evaluated.
Of the 161 nations ranked, 93 countries were more peaceful than in the preceding 12 months and 68 got worse.
Here’s a countdown of the top 10 safest countries in the world according to the report’s findings.
10 – Ireland and Japan (tied)
The Emerald Isle, the Republic of Ireland has long been a magnet for travellers and while it has had its economic and political upheavals, it remains a very safe place for visitors and climbed into the top 10 after holding 12th spot in 2016.
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Ireland tied with Japan, a nation focused on tourism and efficient transport to move its visitors around. So determined and confident is the government in the nation’s tourism appeal, it bullishly doubled its initial 2020 target to 40 million visitors per year and already, it looks like that phenomenal growth will be achieved.
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9 – Switzerland
Well known for its political neutrality, no surprises for guessing Switzerland scored highly in the Peace Index and remains a popular place to visit both as a destination in its own right and a transit hub for trips across Europe.
The mighty Matterhorn, the incredible Jungfraujoch and Bernina Railways, the magical alpine villages and its cosmopolitan cities make Switzerland an easy choice for safety-conscious travellers.
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8 – Canada
With a global reputation for the friendliness of its people – particularly when it comes to engagement with visitors – this land of stunning outdoor diversity and culturally rich cities thoroughly deserves its place in the top 10.
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7 – Slovenia
As more and more people enjoy the privilege and the thrill of travel, exotic and authentic experiences are getting harder to find.
This fact has seen relative newcomers make their mark earning a reputation as modern must-see destinations. Slovenia remains domestically a harmonious nation and with such a strong and clear law enforcement presence on the ground, visitors feel very comfortable exploring this fascinating and historic land.
6 – Czech Republic
Prague is considered by many to be Europe’s most beautiful city and as a result, it and the broader Republic attracts more visitors annually than the entire resident population.
Border-crossing German travellers incidentally outweigh others by at least three to one. In the Peace ranking, the Czech Republic scored highly for its nominal rate of violent crime.
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5 – Denmark
Not far behind Prague in its attractiveness, Copenhagen is another much-loved city by globetrotters and is the major drawcard to this enchanting Scandinavian nation that also scores highly as the happiest place on earth.
If you intend to visit Denmark, expect incredible architecture, colourful cityscapes, wonderful beaches and castles.
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4 – Austria
Whether it’s Christmas markets or music or art pilgrimages, skiing or alpine touring, Austria is a spectacular and very safe place to visit. In fact, with three neighbouring countries making up the top 10 on the Peace Index, if you are concerned about your welfare but keen to visit Europe regardless, you could do a lot worse than base yourself in this central region.
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3 – Portugal
When it comes to picture-postcard castles, Portugal is the surprise of Europe. This incredibly beautiful nation with such a long and proud maritime history is a photographer’s paradise. It’s also very reasonably priced for visitors with holiday-money extending further than in many countries.
2 – New Zealand
The Kiwis’ vocal stance against global conflicts combined with the country’s relative geographic isolation, sparse population and warm welcome afforded to visitors put it at number-two in the peace stakes. For visitors, it’s easy to navigate, offers incredible diversity within its compactness and boasts a hospitality level very few places come close to.
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1 – Iceland
But right at the other end of the world, the nation that ‘punches highest’ in its statistical quest for ultimate peace, is Iceland. Its number-one rank has been immovable for a decade and doesn’t look like budging anytime soon. The island nation’s crime stats, jail population, conflicts and just about every other measure that matters make it the safest place you can visit.
It also helps that Iceland has some of the most breathtaking scenery on earth.
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And remember, for the very latest information on relative safety and threat levels around the world, always check Smart Traveller before you leave.