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Safest Places to Travel 2018

By Kit KieferNovember 20, 2018

(Howth, Dublin, Ireland |  Photo credit:  Adam Markon via Unsplash)

 
What do the Virgin Islands, Australia, and Switzerland have in common? They’re considered by travelers to be the world’s safest places to travel, according to the annual State of Travel Insurance survey conducted by Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.

Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection surveyed more than 2,000 American travelers and asked them a variety of questions on travel safety and travel insurance.

One of the most important questions added for 2019 asked travelers to rank 53 destinations (excluding the United States and Canada) in terms of safety.

The results were sometimes surprising, sometimes thought-provoking, but ultimately very good news for travelers planning travel to these destinations.

Here’s what we found.
 

Person with flashlight in Icelandic icy cave

(Thórsmörk, Iceland | Photo credit: Jonatan Pie via Unsplash)

The Safest Places To Travel: The Top 10

According to the 2,000 consumers surveyed in the annual State of Travel insurance survey, the following countries are considered by US consumers as the 10 safest destinations (excluding the United States and Canada).  They have one thing in common, though: They’re also among the world’s most popular destinations.

The top 10 are, in order, according to 2,000 consumers who participated in the State of Travel Insurance survey:

  1. Ireland

  2. Australia

  3. Iceland

  4. Switzerland

  5. Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland)

  6. The Virgin Islands (U.S. and British)

  7. Italy

  8. The Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg)

  9. The United Kingdom

  10. The Bahamas                                                                                  

 

That’s one Asia/Oceania destination, seven European destinations, and two Caribbean destinations – and notably, one Caribbean destination (the Virgin Islands) that less than a year ago was deep in recovery mode after being hit by two devastating hurricanes.
  


“In the BVI we feel that the safety of all visitors, our guests, is of primary importance,” says Sharon Flax Brutus, Director of Tourism of the British Virgin Islands
“In fact, we have a service credo based on four basic elements, with safety being the number-one priority for our guests: safety, efficiency of service, friendliness of service, and authenticity of service. This shines through.”

Would anyone turn down a vacation to any of these countries? Absolutely not. And the fact that American travelers think they’re an exceptionally safe bet is just one more reason to visit.

 

People standing on beach looking at the ocean in the British Virgin Islands

(Long Bay, British Virgin Islands | Photo credit: Bob Commander via Unsplash)

Safest Places To Travel: The Details

Let’s look at each of these places in a little more detail. To give you a comprehensive picture of how these countries rank for safety, we reviewed three different ranking measures:

  • The Safest Places score from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s State of Travel Insurance survey, which is derived from the number of respondents who state a given destination is safe;
  • The Global Peace Index which ranks countries from 1-163 and was created by the Institute for Economics and Peace. This ranking takes into account a wide range of factors, from crime and incarceration rates to terrorist threats to militarization to social welfare;
  • The State Department’s travel-advisory level, as found at travel.state.gov. This rating, on a four-point scale, can get very specific about safety conditions in each country.

 

So here’s our top 10, what makes these destinations popular, and what makes them safe:


1. Ireland

Person walking on bridge connecting cliffs in Ireland

(Ballycastle, Ireland | Photo credit: Jessica Knowlden)

Safest Places score: 3.11

Global Peace Index Rank: 10

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 1

Why It Appeals To Travelers: It’s green and lush, it’s compact and easy to get around, the people are friendly, and there are strong historical ties between the U.S. and Ireland. Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive.

Why It’s Safe: Ireland ranks particularly low on terrorism, political violence and low on militarization. It’s also an English-speaking country, which appeals to American travelers.

Special Concerns: None.
 
 

2. AUSTRALIA

Red sandy beach in Australia

(Francois Peron National Park, Australia | Photo credit: Michael Lämmli)

Safest Places score: 3.05

Global Peace Index Rank: 12

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 1

Why It Appeals To Travelers: It’s exotic and remote, but still accessible. The people are friendly, and it seems to be far removed from issues troubling the rest of the world.

Why It’s Safe: It’s an English-speaking country, which appeals to American travelers. It’s largely outside of the global trafficking and smuggling routes and also ranks extremely low for homicides, violent crime, political instability, and militarization.

Special Concerns: None.

 

3. Iceland

Person watching northern lights in Iceland

(Thórsmörk, Iceland | Photo credit: Jonatan Pie via Unsplash)

Safest Places score: 2.93

Global Peace Index Rank: 1

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 1

Why It Appeals To Travelers: The number of travelers visiting Iceland is exploding, and for many good reasons: The scenery is otherworldly, the people are wonderful, and the country is very accessible and relatively inexpensive. People have been saying, “Visit Iceland while you can,” for years. In 2019, it’s truer than ever.

Why It’s Safe: Iceland is renowned for its friendly people and its relaxed atmosphere, and that carries through to the Global Peace Index rankings, which gave Iceland extremely high marks for safety, social support, and political stability. Iceland is virtually free from terrorism and political violence, making it an even more attractive destination for travelers.

Special Concerns: None.

 

4. Switzerland

House on cliff in Swiss mountains

(Berggasthaus Aescher Wildkirchli, Weissbad, Switzerland | Photo credit: Christian Regg via Unsplash)

Safest Places score: 2.87

Global Peace Index Rank: 9

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 1

Why It Appeals To Travelers: It’s everything many people love about Europe distilled into one compact country: beautiful lakes and mountains, exciting cities, and wonderful food. Switzerland is cosmopolitan yet rural, and very easy to get around.

Why It’s Safe: Switzerland has long been a bastion of safety and neutrality in Europe, and that perception is reality with Switzerland today. Switzerland’s very low crime rates, low levels of terrorism and political violence, and exceptional political stability make it an attractive destination for European travelers craving a taste of the Alps (and some Swiss chocolate).

Special Concerns: None.

 

5. Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland)

People on a boat in Denmark

(Denmark | Photo credit: Nick Karvounis via Unsplash)

Safest Places score: 2.83

Global Peace Index Rank: Denmark 5, Norway 14, Finland 17, Sweden 18

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 2 (for Denmark); 1 (for Finland, Sweden, and Norway)

Why It Appeals To Travelers: People love Scandinavia for the spectacular scenery, the wonderful food, and the outstanding quality of life. Many Scandinavians speak English, making it easy for travelers to get around and be understood. Transportation is outstanding, the cities are delightful, the architecture is striking, and the winters are cold. What’s not to love?

Why It’s Safe: All the Scandinavian countries get high marks for their quality of life and the level of social support they provide their residents. This results in low crime rates, high levels of political stability, and low levels of political violence. Immigrants and refugees have strained the social system in some instances, and Scandinavian countries are not immune to general terrorism threats throughout Europe. But for travelers, these are largely non-issues.

Special Concerns: Like many other popular European countries, Denmark has level-2 status with the State Department so travelers know to “exercise caution” to possible terrorism. Nothing definite.
 

 
“It’s an honor to receive the title from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, and we hope it will encourage travelers to visit Finland and explore our different regions,” says Joonas Halla from Visit Finland. “Finland was named the happiest country in 2018 by the United Nations, and received a notable title of having the cleanest air in the world by the World Health Organization. We have many reasons for people to fall in love with Finland and find their own happiness, from spotting the northern lights, experiencing the sauna culture, freedom to roam our forests and nature, and tasting our mix of Michelin-starred restaurants and street food. There’s something for everyone.”
 
 

6. VIRGIN ISLANDS (BRITISH AND U.S.)

Waves coming in to Tortola beach

(Tortola, British Virgin Islands | Photo credit: Matt Briney via Unsplash)

Safest Places score: 2.82

Global Peace Index Rank: Not rated

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 1

Why It Appeals To Travelers: The Virgin Islands are some of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean, with glorious beaches, wonderful fishing and diving, and captivating architecture, mountains, and flowers. In addition, according to Flax Brutus, “We’re also known as the sailing capital of the world.” The islands have an interesting history, with many resorts to attract winter travelers.

Why It’s Safe: The Virgin Islands have a relatively high standard of living, helping contribute to historically low crime rates; in addition, the U.S. Virgin Islands are governed by U.S. laws, making it easy for travelers to understand what’s being enforced and why. The British Virgin Islands are very proactive about protecting travelers, and have a number of programs in place to keep travelers safe and oriented.

Special Concerns: None.

 

 
“The British Virgin Islands have always been a safe place, even for me growing up as a child,” Flax Brutus says. “I’m thrilled that travelers around the world appreciate how safe our destination is.”


7. ITALY

Skyline view of the Vatican city, bridge, water and architecture

(Vatican City, Italy | Photo credit: Christopher Czermak via Unsplash)

Safest Places score: 2.82

Global Peace Index Rank: 38

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 2

Why It Appeals To Travelers: Italy has long been a favorite destination of American travelers, in part because of the historic bond and immigrant history between the two countries. From Rome to Florence to the glories of the Italian coast, Italy has something for everyone – not to mention the food, the museums, and the culture.

Why It’s Safe: Despite moderate rates of crime, Italy ranks low in homicides and political terror. It has a small number of displaced people, and has seen little impact from European terrorism. Petty theft can be a concern in some tourist areas, but in general, travelers have little to worry about when visiting Italy.

Special Concerns: Like many other European countries, Italy has level-2 status with the State Department so travelers know to “exercise caution” to possible terrorism. Nothing definite.

 

8. Netherlands/Belgium/Luxembourg

Windmills in grassy wetlands in the Netherlands

(Alblasserdam, Netherlands | Photo credit: Vishwas Katti via Unsplash)

Safest Places score: 2.72

Global Peace Index Rank: Netherlands 19, Belgium 19

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 1 (for Luxembourg);2 (for the Netherlands and Belgium)

Why They Appeal To Travelers: For many people, Amsterdam is the gateway to Europe. The country is renowned for its flowers, windmills, captivating cities, and ease of getting around. Packed with medieval architecture, legendary breweries, and more, Luxembourg is a charming jewel.

Why They’re Safe: Like many European countries, the Netherlands and Belgium have low rates of homicide and violent crime, high levels of political stability, and low rates of terrorism and political violence. Petty theft can be a concern in some of the major cities, but with reasonable precautions these countries are exceptionally safe.

Special Concerns: Belgium and the Netherlands have level-2 status with the State Department so travelers know to “exercise caution” to possible terrorism. Nothing definite.

 
“We’re delighted to hear the news about safety in Belgium, but not surprised,” says Maxime Weemans, the press officer for the Belgium Tourism representing the Wallonia area. “Our French-speaking region of Wallonia is one of the least populated and unspoiled parts of central Europe. The landscapes are breathtaking and peppered with pretty towns, lush green hills and valleys. There's almost an age of innocence in some of the weird and wonderful festivals and carnivals with their masks and music and fascinating rituals. It's almost a comfort to see something nostalgic which transcends the passage of time. The many lakes, rivers, railway lines and cycle paths also evoke a feeling of peace and tranquillity. Wallonia is a great short break destination so close to the UK and ideal for short breaks with families from a safety and practical point of view!”

 

9. UNITED KINGDOM

London city lights skyline at night

(Westminster Bridge, London, United Kingdom| Photo credit: Gordon Williams via Unsplash)

Safest Places score: 2.72

Global Peace Index Rank: 41

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 2

Why It Appeals To Travelers: England has long topped the list of favorite destinations for Americans, for so many reasons: London is one of the world’s great cities, full of museums, palaces, history, and more. The countryside is charming, transportation is wonderful, and everyone speaks English – even though they drive on the other side of the road.

Why It’s Safe: The U.K.’s low ranking is mainly due to its relatively high level of militarization, which should not be a concern for travelers. Where it matters – rates of violent crime and political violence, political stability, and terrorism impacts – the U.K. gets high marks.

Special Concerns: Like so many other European countries on this list, the U.K. has level-2 status with the  State Department so travelers know to “exercise caution” to possible terrorism. Nothing definite.

 

10. The Bahamas

Palm trees on beach on sunny day

(The Bahamas | Photo credit: Peter Hansen via Unsplash)

Safest Places score: 3.05

Global Peace Index Rank: Not rated

State Department Travel Advisory Level: 2

Why They Appeal To Travelers: The combination of incredible beaches, outstanding resorts, great diving and fishing, and a British bearing have long made the Bahamas one of the favorite Caribbean destinations for American travelers, whether they’re staying at a resort or arriving on a cruise ship.

Why It’s Safe: Like many Caribbean destinations, the Bahamas are generally safe for most tourists doing most things in most places. However, a small number of areas in the Bahamas require additional vigilance. Check out the State Department’s travel advisory on the Bahamas for more.

Special Concerns: The State Department has given the Bahamas level-2 status so visitors know to be cautious and vigilant to “crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault ... in tourist areas.”

 

In Conclusion

You could spend weeks in the world’s safest destinations and find something new and exciting to do every day. That’s why it’s a great idea to protect all your trips with travel insurance from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection … because safe doesn’t mean boring.
 

QUESTIONS ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE?

Check out our online guide, "What Is Travel Insurance All About?" We’ve provided in-depth answers to all your travel insurance questions, starting with the basics.

Check out the guide!

 
 

Kit Kiefer
Kit Kiefer

Kit Kiefer is a former travel writer for The New York Times and has more than 30 years of freelance experience writing about domestic and international travel. He blogs and produces content for Winbound, a content marketing firm.

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Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection (BHTP) is a registered trademark and a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company (BHSI), a leader in specialized casualty and liability insurance.  The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable.  BHTP disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information.  The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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