By Randee Dawn
When thinking about a vacation, the question of “how safe is my destination” is one of those factors that might not get much discussion – but which is of paramount importance to the majority of travelers. Sure, there’ll always be intrepid folks and those looking to do humanitarian work who might consciously venture into less-safe regions, but most of us just want to know: Will this destination be a dream, or a nightmare?
No destination is ever 100 percent safe; the world political situation alone is ever-fluctuating, so conscious research and due diligence is necessary for anyone setting out to an unknown locale. And safety isn’t just about whether you can walk the street or the beach at 1 a.m.; it’s about digital security, health security, infrastructure, too.
That said we’ve managed to narrow down some amazing vacation destinations where you can simply go and enjoy yourself without worry. Tuck those safety concerns far back in your mind (other than common sense!) and let the relaxation take over in these four terrific places:
- Reykjavik, Iceland
Along with gushing waterfalls (fosses), breathtaking landscapes and horses around every corner, Iceland is one of the safest places in the world to visit in general. Yes, there’s a small population (just 323,000), but violent crime is almost non-existent in the country. From 1999-2009, Iceland’s homicide rate never went above 1.8 in 100,000 people in any given year (the U.S. is between 5.0 and 5.8 per 100,000). But as a whole there’s little economic class strife in the country, and its capital of Reykjavik is remarkably quiet and self-contained – yet still vibrant enough to sustain a growing tourist influx and rising property values. Plus, everybody speaks near-perfect English!
- Portland, Oregon, USA
The city may have three times as many inhabitants as the whole of Iceland (around 609,000), but Portland remains a remarkably peaceable city (it hit a 42-year low for homicides in 2013, though the numbers have climbed since then). It was No. 1, according to Travel+Leisure in public transportation and pedestrian friendliness, and features a wide variety of farmers markets, parks, environmental awareness and beautiful landscapes. They’re a little wary of those who might want to move in – notoriously former Governor Tom McCall used to say, “Come visit, don’t stay” in order to preserve their near-pristine Eden – but that works just fine for vacationers.
Considered by many as the safest country in Asia, Singapore’s murder rate is even lower than Iceland’s (0.3 per 100,000) with a population that’s many times higher (nearly 5.4 million). Violent crime even went down in the first half of 2015, though there is a higher chance of online scams and credit card fraud there. That said it’s hard to beat Singapore for its many wonders. The former British colony, Singapore is known as “Asia for Beginners,” and is clean with an easy-to-use public transportation system. There’s a European feel to the Singapore River and outside shopping plazas. Cuisine is top-notch with samples from all over Asia, though it’s still easy to get a steak if you want one. The most brutal thing about the city may be its weather, though – avoid June or July, when the heat can be oppressive.
- Copenhagen, Denmark
With a crime rate that’s still under the 1 in 100,000 mark, Copenhagen (population 562,000) is another Scandinavian destination that can be explored in relative safety. Named the second-safest city in the world in 2010, in 2013 Denmark’s Crime and Safety Report indicated there’d even been a 6 percent drop in the overall crime rate; though like much of mainland Europe it is not immune to the potential for terrorist attacks. Danish security is now one of the tightest in Europe, however, and the borders are tightly patrolled. But once inside, it’s hard to resist the charm of Copenhagen, from its colorful buildings and bicycle highways to the ever-present seaside view to the wide variety of shops and (of course) Danish pastries. Plus, the locals are unparalleled for their open arms for visitors.