What are the Safest Countries in the World?


What Are the World’s Safest Countries?

What do Bolivia, Peru, Croatia, and Morocco all have in common?

Statistically speaking: they are all safer than the United States. 

Say whaaaaattt??!

According to the 2016 Global Peace Index (GPI), all four of these countries are safer to travel in than the good old United States.  In fact, out of 163 countries – it turns out that 102 countries are safer than the U.S. 

Because the United States is ranked #103 out of 163 countries, in terms of safety. 

Just to give you some perspective: Cambodia is #104, Brazil is #105.  So we are ranked just ahead of these countries.   

Are you shaking your head, wondering how the heck this can be true? 

If travel safety is of concern to you, I urge you to look at the statistics for yourself.  This link will take you to Wikipedia’s 2016 list of the world’s safest countries (as taken from 2016 GPI).  You can also go directly to GPI’s website, and view their entire report here.

Or, I can break it down for you. 

First, how did they come up with these rankings?  The GPI assesses 23 qualitative and quantitative measures to get a sense of each country’s overall level of safety.  The three main themes the GPI looks at are: 1) the level of safety and security in society; 2) the extent of domestic or international conflict; and 3) that society’s level of militarization. 

Here are some of the 23 measures: number of internal and external conflicts; number of deaths from conflicts; relations with neighboring countries; level of criminality within society; number of homicides; level of violent crime; terrorism; political instability; percentage of population in jail; level of police presence; military expenditure; import/export levels of major weapons; nuclear capability; and ease of access to weapons. 

Quite a comprehensive list. 

Note: The primary blind spot I see in this list (that has also been noted by critics) – is a measure of violence specifically against women and children, namely in the form of assault and rape.  I am unclear whether this measure is included within the “violent crime” category.  However, in terms of analyzing safety for women in particular, I feel that a measure of sexual assault numbers should be its own measure – to make this list as comprehensive as possible, and address fully the concerns of both sexes.  (As many assaults go unreported, I understand how this measure could be potentially problematic – but at least it would offer a starting point for analysis.)

Here’s what the world looks like in 2016, with regard to ranking the safest countries in the world:

What are Safest Countries in World?

GPI Peace Index ~ countries in blue indicate safer countries, whereas countries in red indicate countries with greater unrest.

Countries in dark teal (blue) indicate that they are the safest countries in the world.  Included in this category are: Iceland, DenmarkAustria, New Zealand, and Portugal.  These countries, statistically speaking, are the top five safest countries in the world in 2016. 

Then we move to countries in light teal (light blue).  Countries in this category (i.e. most of Europe), have a high level of peace, and would be considered safe countries to travel and live in.  Countries in this category include: Ireland, Australia, Chile, Sierra Leone, and Uruguay

Next up are countries in the yellow category, which indicates that the level of peace is medium.  In other words, statistically speaking, traveling within these countries is marginally less safe than traveling within countries in blue.  Countries in this category include: the United States, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Nepal

Then we have countries in light red, which indicates a low level of peace – or conversely, a high level of instability.  Going by the statistics, you’d want to exercise greater caution when traveling to these countries.  Countries included here are: Egypt, India, Mexico, Turkey, Iran, and Colombia.  

What are Safest Countries in the World?

Here I am traveling in the “unsafe” country of Colombia ~ where I felt nothing but safe.

Finally, there are countries in red.  These countries statistically have a very low level of peace.  In order, starting with the least safe country in the world, here are the world’s most dangerous countries: Syria,South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Central African RepublicUkraine, Sudan, Libya, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, RussiaNorth Korea, and Nigeria.  As of 2016, these are the top 15 least safe countries in the world.

So what does all of this mean

Here’s what this information means to me, as someone who loves to travel. 

Will I personally be traveling to any of the countries in “red,” anytime soon?  Countries like Syria, Iraq, or North Korea?  It’s a pretty safe bet that no, I will not be traveling to any of those countries anytime soon, or perhaps ever.  Which, in some sense is a shame, because I imagine there is much beauty in all of those places, despite their instability. 

The truth is, though I want to travel and see the world – I do not want to intentionally place myself in a situation of extreme or perceived danger.  Adventure is one thing – danger is an entirely different thing, and one that, as a solo female traveler, I heartily wish to avoid. 

What are Safest Countries in World?

Iceland is the #1 Safest Country in the World ~ there is virtually zero crime!

That being said, if you live in the United States, let me ask you a question: in your everyday life, how often do you feel in danger?  Or threatened?  Unsafe?  My personal answer is: very rarely.  And I would guess that yours is too (or rather, I hope that it is).  And yet, according to statistics: the level of peace in our country is medium – not high.  

Let me ask you another question: have you ever traveled to Mexico?  I would assume that a majority of you have.  And yet, Mexico is ranked #140 out of 163 countries, in terms of safety – which tells us that Mexico is a relatively unsafe country to visit.  And yet, how many of us traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Cabo, Cancun, or even Tijuana – and had no problem?  How many of us have traveled to these places several times, even?

My point is: this map and these statistics are painting broad strokes; they do not tell the whole story of any country.  

This map is a tool though, that we, as travelers, can use as a starting point for obtaining more information.  Should we take more travel precautions in certain countries?  Absolutely.  And this map and these statistics make a great and useful tool for making those distinctions. 

GWTW Tip:  If you wish to travel to a country ranked lower in terms of safety, and you have concerns about traveling there: talk to people who have been there.  Do not rely solely on CNN, Fox News, or even these safety rankings.  Talk to people who have actually lived or spent a considerable amount of time there, and preferably recently, as political climates can change quickly.  They will alert you to common schemes that may occur, or places to avoid.  Read current blogs from other travelers, to get the most accurate, real-time portrait you can of that country. Read safety advisories from the State Department.  And from there, your own instincts will guide you, as you make your final decision. 

So, what do I know for sure about safety and travel?  This is a question Oprah asks herself each month, and I think it’s a fantastic question to ponder.

What I Know For Sure ~

  1. I know for sure that bad things can happen to you in “safe” countries, and great things can happen to you in “unsafe” countries.
  2. I know for sure that nowhere is 100% safe.  Life is not 100% safe.   
  3. I know for sure, based on my accumulated experiences, that most people in the world are kind, and do not wish you harm.  Given the choice, they will help you – not harm you.  This is something I truly believe.  And I believe it not out of naivete – but rather, based on experience upon experience, in country after country, all around the world. 

And finally, above all else, here is what I know for absolute sure.  Above all else: trust your gut.  Trust your animal instincts.  Pay attention to the little hairs that stand up on the back of your neck.  Look in people’s eyes – you will know if they are kind or not.  Trust your instincts implicitly ~ and follow their instructions immediately.  Do not wait.  If you scent danger, do not wait or try to be “polite.”  Leave.  Run.  Get out.  Shout for help. Your instincts are your best friend, and your best guide ~ so when they speak up: pay attention.  That is my best advice for the traveler, especially for the intrepid female traveler.

Have you been to any of the countries listed as “unsafe?”  What was your experience there?  What do you think of the United States being ranked #103 ~ does that surprise you, or not?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!     

“And to those who believe that adventures are dangerous, I say try routine: it is lethal.”
Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra    

Noelle Bertram is a former fitness coach & restaurant owner who travels full-time now & writes all about it. Catch up with her on Instagram or @ her website about being the ultimate, fearless travel girl: GirlWhoTravelstheWorld.com!

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