For those of you who are not aware, I have spent most of my adult life travelling the globe and enjoying the beauty and customs various countries have to offer. I do many travel presentations and continuously receive questions about where these strange places are, why on earth would I go there and most of all, is it safe?
The first two are easy, but as of late, the safety issue has become more and more prevalent in my research into different places to visit. I am four countries away from 100, and must honesty admit that finding a new destination is becoming quite a challenge.
There is always the option to cruise, but I am not a big proponent of socializing, dining and sightseeing in group form, with restrictions to time. Please do not misunderstand me, as I believe cruising is an excellent way for many people to spend vacations, but for me, where photography is the main element of my trip, I need early morning light, lots of time to sit and observe, and excursions to unique and out of the way locales.
When it comes to safe destinations, my initial source is the Canadian Government’s travel advisory website for specific information. Unfortunately the range covered is broad, and sometimes not pertinent to individual travel plans, as the information can be vague. A better source for me is the Gallup Poll, which is based on local people and events, and is created from the perspective of the people who live there.
The poll is taken in 130 countries and more than 1,000 residents are asked if they feel their country is safe. The three questions asked are: 1, Do you have confidence in the police force in your city? 2, Do you feel safe walking alone at night in the city where you live and third, have you, or a member of your household had money or property stolen in the past 12 months? These are questions very pointed, and should be of interest to anyone travelling to a specific spot.
Of all the people interviewed (approximately 130,000), 65% said they had confidence in the local police force, 64% said they felt safe walking at night and 86% stated they had not had anything stolen. So how did individual countries fare?
Well, you will be happy to note that Singapore is the safest country in the world, followed by Iceland, Uzbekistan, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Jordan and Austria. A couple, such as Jordan and Uzbekistan surprised me, mostly because I never really thought of the Middle East as even remotely safe. The former Soviet states were certainly not among destinations, which I would consider harmless. Who knew?
Interestingly enough, on the other end of the spectrum is Venezuela, with a rating of 14%. Coincidentally that country also has the highest murder rate of any place on earth, with a total of 19,000 in 2014. Per capita, however, Honduras leads the homicide list, followed closely by El Salvador. If you check those numbers closer to home, the US had 12,000 murders in 2013, whereas we (Canada), only had 500.
South-east Asia is becoming a much safer place to visit with safety percentages increasing by 7% over last year. Canada was close behind with an overall score of 78 (SE Asia had a score of 79). The Caribbean came in at only 55 points.
Fortunately I have never had any safety issues while abroad. I am conscientious of my surroundings; never wear flashy clothes, carry an old, worn out backpack and try to carry a local newspaper (to intimate that I can read the resident language, hence I must be a local). I never engage in conversations that I don’t initiate, and I carry my money, passport, etc. well hidden. (I always have about $20 equivalent in my pocket, in case I need to buy something in a hurry).
I have found that most people, no matter where you go, tend to be friendly and helpful. A little common-sense goes a long way. I guess if things continue to worsen, I can always vacation in Uxbridge or Zephyr.