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most welcoming countriesMany years ago, on a three-week tour of Ireland, a friend and I found ourselves on the streets of Dingle in the rain, waiting for our small tour bus to come pick us up. It was cold, and we huddled together beneath one small umbrella trying to stay warm. As we stood there shivering, the colorful front door of one of the small houses up the street swung open, and an older woman stepped out and waved to us.

“Come in, come in,” she yelled.

My friend and I looked at the woman, looked at each other and then jogged up the street and into a small, but warm living room. For the next 30 minutes, the woman plied us with hot tea and biscuits, asked us questions and showed us pictures of her family. When it was time to meet our tour bus, she gave us each a friendly hug goodbye.

Fifteen years later I sadly do not remember her name, but her kindness and friendliness toward us, strangers in her town, will never fade from my memory. And she is not the only truly friendly soul I’ve met on my travels in Ireland. There was the father in Northern Ireland with his two young children who picked my sister and me up off the side of the road and rushed us to the ferry port so we wouldn’t miss our boat, and the bus driver in Dublin who drove us to our hostel even though he was on his break and then refused to take money from us.

Random Acts of Travel Kindness

Because of these experiences, and the overall atmosphere of its inhabitants towards visitors, Ireland remains, in my opinion, the friendliest of all the 30-some countries I’ve visited. According to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, I am not alone in finding Ireland to be a super-friendly tourist destination.

In the report, “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013,” 140 countries are ranked according to the attractiveness and competitiveness of their travel and tourism industries. One of the criteria included in the rankings is the attitude of the country’s citizens towards foreign visitors. Ireland ranked ninth.

Iceland leads the pack of friendliest countries, followed by New Zealand, Morocco, Macedonia, Austria, Senegal, Portugal, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Rounding off the top 10 is Burkina Faso.

Honestly, I was a bit surprised to see a few of those countries on the list, and also saddened that Australia (another of my top five friendliest countries) was left off (it ranked 27th overall). Another surprise (or maybe it’s not??) — the United States came in fairly low, placing 102 out of 140.

At the other end of the spectrum, Bolivia ranks as the most unwelcoming country for visitors, followed by Venezuela, Russia, Kuwait, Latvia, Iran, Pakistan, the Slovak Republic, Bulgaria and Mongolia.

When Travelers Get a Rude Awakening

Belgium, which I found to be the least friendly of all countries I’ve been to, actually ranked in the top 20 most welcoming countries, coming in at number 19.

What do you think of the results? Which of the countries you’ve visited have been the most friendly or least welcoming?

–written by Dori Saltzman

29 Responses to “Is Your Favorite Country One of the World’s Most Welcoming?”

  1. soliteyah says:

    Friendliest countries: Ireland (and Northern Ireland), and New Zealand. Even the customs people and police officers were friendly in NZ!

    Bummer that the U.S. is so low. I think it depends on where you go. Southerners do seem to live up to their friendly reputation, and I found the folks in Portland, Oregon, very welcoming too.

  2. Kristy says:

    I completely agree about Ireland and New Zealand, although I found many friendly faces in the Isles of Scotland and countryside of England. People were not at all friendly in St. Petersburg, Russia (and seemed to loathe our presence) and some were downright rude in Barcelona, Spain (although I still loved the city). I live in the United States and have toured many cities. The people living in San Francisco seemed to be genuinely hospitable to tourists offering transportation guidance and tips on things to do.

    I think a smile goes a long way when traveling – and you might find a friendly face if you look friendly yourself.

  3. Theresa says:

    Depends where in the US. Northeast is not at all friendly, but I’ve found the South and Northwest to be fine.
    Lots of scowling in Russia and I’ve found that France is not that friendly either.

  4. Jim Tackett says:

    My wife and I both agree that Copenhagen Denmark is the friendliest people we have met. we have met many friendly folks all over the world including Scotland. In France if you at least attempt to speak French no matter how horrible you do it you will find the French people are more open, helpful and friendly. The most unfriendly people in the world we have found was in St. Petersburg Russia.

    • Haddock says:

      I lived in Copenhagen for two years and find its inhabitants less friendly than Londoners, let alone the Irish or the Icelanders.

  5. Vik says:

    The friendliest people I have encountered are in Japan .
    When you ask for directions they will leave everything And even few people got down the train before their station to take us or show the way very nice and polite people I also agree with other writers that people in New Zealand are quite friendly too. The worst people I met was in China Kuwait and turkey they try to be rude and nasty when you have to talk to them or deal with them

  6. Jan Brandvold says:

    Turkey, Thailand, Italy and Greece would all be on my list of friendly places to travel!

  7. vagabondginger says:

    Ireland indeed tops the list as well as the Scots. Brits and New Yorkers are getting better. The border agents in Bolivia want $100 from a US citizen and a yellow fever vaccination document, which I did not have, so they kept my money and rudely gestured me on. The Russians are very unfriendly and when I asked a waiter for a coffee refill I received a very curt “no”. (I learned later that there is a shortage, but it wasn’t presented that way.) They have a lot to learn about capitalism.
    I worked with a group of Bulgarian students in Alaska one summer and one of them invited me to his wedding. It was absolutely the best fun and very different from most American weddings which are all about lavish productions.
    But if you take the time and smile, friendliness can be found everywhere.

  8. Pat conaghan says:

    Yes to NZ and Ireland but I was just in Turkey and the people were fantastic.

  9. Julio says:

    Friendly countries, in order: New Zealand, Sardinia Italy, Scotland, Ireland.
    Countries less welcoming, in this order: Catalonia Spain, France (especially Paris), Prague, Russia in general.

  10. Trudy says:

    I think sometimes we mistake a cultural way of behavior as being unwelcoming because it does not jibe with our way of acting. For example, in most of southern Africa it is considered very rude to look someone in the eyes and we would think they were not interested in us. In France we always tried to say something in French and all were friendly. In Russia they think if people smile it means they are not living in the real world (our Russian friends said they had that problem with other Russians when they lived there). We have had wonderful experiences with the people in most of the countries mentioned as the worst. Are we being rude to locals? For example, are we acting extremely pushy or loud to their way of thinking.

  11. Jeff says:

    Japan is a fantastically welcoming country to visit. It helps to understand their hesitation to engage with western tourists is because they feel uncomfortable with their English skills. But they like tourists, and will make you feel warmly welcomed. As with all countries, when you get it of the big cities, that as where you’ll find the warmest welcomes. (ie. don’t expect it in Tokyo, for example.)

  12. Anne says:

    I’ve found the people of Croatia and Poland to be among the friendliest people anywhere. I’d go back to either place in a heartbeat.

  13. Steven Maduro says:

    On a 2 week trip through Switzerland last year I do not think that I encountered one rude reception anywhere, whereas in most of other European countries, people are atrociously rude and I would put Spain at the top of that list. I’d be curious to know where Switzerland stands on the “good” list?

  14. Ken says:

    When my wife and I were in Montreal a number of years ago we asked for directions from this gentleman and he had some trouble figuring it out so he said to us “come with me, I will walk over”. I also agree with Kristy that the people in San Francisco were very friendly.

  15. Gary Hergert says:

    The friendliest pakce in the world that we ahve visited is a province in my own country. Newfoundland people are friendly and ougoing and make visiting that island a pleasure. Another counrty we found was a surprise. We really enjoyed the friendliness of people in India.

  16. Nancy says:

    We have had warm welcomes in Taiwan and all over Japan – small towns, large cities – love tourists. I agree with Kristy, a smile goes a long way toward breaking the ice.

  17. Terry says:

    I generally find welcoming people all over. I am from Newfoundland & Labrador and believe that my own province is one of the most outgoing and friendly, as are people in Nova Scotia especially the Acadian folks. New Yorkers I was pleasantly surprised, are welcoming and accommodating, as were the people of Malta and Barcelona. I have been in Florida several times and found people in Orlando likewise but found the Miami Dade area not so.

    • Shameelah says:

      I’ve always wanted to visit Malta. Now I think I will move Malta up on my bucket-list. Thanks for your comment. :-)

  18. Shameelah says:

    I live in South Africa and foreigners have testified that we are very friendly, especially Cape Town residents… and especially since people are more aware of us now following the success of our hosting World Cup Soccer. I found France treated me with exceptional grace, charm and courtesy. I also feel that the energy you vibrate determines your reception in any given country.

  19. Craig says:

    Ireland, yes!!! Before visiting last year, I read an article insisting that an open map in Dublin would initiate immediate offers of assistance. I tried it and it worked!

  20. jide says:

    come to my country and see how friendly we are …….. are you wondering or guessing its a wst african state .

  21. MargaretM says:

    Years ago while in France (Paris) I went to the train station to buy a ticket. I pronounced the city Blois (Bloy) the way I heard my friends say it. The clerk at the counter says to me, “Bluh”! and walked away. I stood there and eventually another clerk was kind enough to finish my transaction. On the other hand, a stranger in the bus terminal used her own phone calling card seeing as I had difficulty making the call to my friends to say I was on my way.
    Loved the Irish, all very charming and very, very nice. Kiwi’s too. As an airline crew, the passengers thanked me when we told them we were delayed!!Went to Germany with my son- everyone was very nice to us! Don’t care for New Yorkers or people from Miami. New Yorkers too bossy and rude. In Miami, you are lucky if they even acknowledge you- it IS the capital of South America!!

  22. Richard says:

    The friendlest people I’ve encountered in my travels have been in Australia and Cuba, While I didn’t find the Russians especially friendly, at lesat a dozen of them rushed to my aid when I tripped and fell while walking across a wooden bridge.

    I’m sorry to say that the least friendly people I’ve encountered are in Miami Beach, Fla, where I’ve lived for 30 years.

  23. Dina says:

    I found the Irish mostly very friendly and over the top helpful! I liked the Aussies and am surprised they do not rank more highly. I have traveled extensively in New Zealand, and found that if you are spending money there, they are friendly, not so if you move there to live. Americans are almost as friendly as the Irish, and even more so when you move there and get to know them. I found people were awful in Spain, lovely in France, so-so in Belgium, Switzerland and the UK, and not very nice in Germany! :) Can’t say about Iceland. Never been there!

  24. Colin Jeffery says:

    I agree with how warm and friendly New Zealand is……I have never been to Ireland.
    The most inhospitable place on earth (that I have visited)….is LAX…!
    and the worst for drining…..even worse than LA……is Miami…!

  25. Alena says:

    I’ve had lots of contact with African people, from various countries. I’ve also had contact with lots of Spanish speaking people, from various countries. Some of these countries may lack access to some training growing up, that more advanced countries have. That may leave some with less social graces and emotional maturity. Yet I find poorer people to be more humble and compassionate. Therefore, I vote for Mexico. I haven’t been to other Spanish speaking countries but my experience with Mexicans is that they are some of the sweetest and and most sensitive people in the world.

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