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Top 15 Cheap, Safe and Friendly Countries | Kimeshan Naidoo (kimeshan.com)
57 points by dboles99 on Oct 5, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 78 comments

Japan didn't make it to the top 15, but it was listed in there as number 1 safest. I've been living in Japan for a few months now and I have to say, after living in SF for enough time to start a Tumblr of human feces I had found out in the open, I'm really happy with the safety and cleanliness of Tokyo.

I also hear stories all the time of people getting their belongings back after having forgotten them or misplacing them. For example, a coworker told me that he had accidentally left his Macbook Air on the train. He realized this after getting off of the train and the doors had already closed, so he stood on the platform in the exact same spot and waited for the same train to loop back around. The laptop was right where he had left it.

Aside from that, the service here is so good to the point that I want to tip everyone like 30% but there isn't even a tipping culture here. And the price that you see on the menu is the price you pay. And they often either have pictures of the food on the menu, or wax sculptures of the food out front.

Oh and convenience stores are actually convenient, and clean. I remember walking into 7/11 here and expecting it to be filthy, but it was so clean that it actually hurt my eyes.

Anyway, Japan is a really pleasant place to live and I hope Americans pick up on some of the conveniences that people here have (PS: heated toilet seats all over the place!)

I agree for the most part (my experience being in Tokyo). I remember having trouble finding my hotel, and two kids not only showed me where it was, they walked with me a few blocks to it, rode down the elevator with me, and personally introduced me to the staff. I was blown away at how polite the gesture was, and vowed to be more helpful to the legions of lost parents trying to find their way around Princeton.

On the other hand, there were scammers trying to take advantage of tourists who couldn't understand the subway system (less popular stations tend to be labeled exclusively in kanji). And the locals can have a very skewed idea of American culture; for example, our hotel breakfast was french fries and hot dogs.

(And yes, the toilets were great. Gotta get that stuff here in the US)

I've had a very similar experience to what you mentioned with the hotel. Another student and I were totally lost in a train station, and we said "excuse me" to a guy before realizing he was on his cell phone. We felt bad for almost interrupting his phone call, so we were about to ask another person, but the guy immediately ended his call, went down the elevator with us to the platform, walked us onto the train, and pointed out the station we wanted to go to on the map.

Could you elaborate on the scammers? I can imagine maybe someone asking you where you're going, then saying "oh, it costs 300 yen to go there, let me buy your tickets for you," when it actually only costs 150 and he keeps the change. Was it something like that?

> Could you elaborate on the scammers?

Here's an example. I remember there being a big storm, so big that the subways were shutting down temporarily, and if you didn't catch a ride soon you would be stuck for a bit. Of course this announcement was in Japanese, and I didn't understand the exact words, but I did figure it out from the rain + watching other folks scramble to buy tickets.

There was a guy there who would go up to the tourists and let them know there was a storm coming and that they needed to buy their tickets. He would say this very hurriedly, causing the tourists to become a bit panicked. Then it was "Where do you live?" "Ah, you should take this route" "Do you have enough for this? How much money do you have?" and at this point the tourists would instinctively pull their yen out of their pockets. Then the guy would clasp their hands over the tourists, lead their hands to the machine, and dump the coins in the machine. The machine would spit out a ticket, he would hand it to them, and then say "oh and I'll take this for helping you" and run off (revealing that he took some of your yen while he was guiding your hands to the machine).

He was actually pretty slick about it, and I imagine it worked on most people because they were accustomed to the locals being very polite. And by reinforcing that he was helping you, I think he avoided people reporting him. I ended up running into him again doing the same thing at a different subway station, so I assume he changed locations often.

Outside of Tokyo it is a lot less friendly, with less English and more Japanese style toilets. Even in Tokyo, you'll find "no foreigner" signs and higher prices for foreigners.

I don't mean to defend Tokyo to the death because every place has its good and bad points, but I have to say I've never once seen a "no foreigner" sign or higher prices for foreigners here. In fact, I've only seen lower prices for foreigners but those would be for things like English language exchange events.

I have seen both...the no foreigner sign was outside a strip club in Shibuya and the higher price was at a hotel Where the reception called and asked in Japanese "how much for foreigners" before quoting a price. We all spoke Japanese and we called her on it and got the native price.

Ah, that's unfortunate. The other thing that drives me crazy is the fact that no one will give me a credit card here. I understand that I have no credit history in Japan, but can't they at least give me a crappy ~$500 limit card to start with or something? I've applied to probably 10-15 cards and have been rejected every time.

My theory on why a lot of these things happen is that the companies or establishments have been burned by foreigners too many times in the past. For example, SoftBank does a background check when you try to open a cell phone plan with them. They don't tell you what they're checking, but if you fail the check, you have to pay for the phone up front instead of paying monthly. I'm guessing a lot of people came here for half a year or a year, opened up the contract, then left the country without paying.

I've also heard that getting an apartment is quite tough as well, but I had no trouble going through an agent and I got my first choice. You have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to move in (guarantor fee, key money, first month's rent, agency fee) but that's not really a foreigner-only thing. If I had known someone in Japan who would have been willing to pay my last month's rent if I flew back home without mentioning anything, then I wouldn't have needed the guarantor service.

Off-topic, but since you mentioned it: do you know if HN user potatolicious has seen your SF poo blog? He's commented on that phenomenon many times here and I'm sure he'd appreciate your Tumblr!

Hmm, I don't think so, I was only able to get 3 different pictures because I ended up moving. Here it is, for the record (warning: poo) http://sfdisgusting.tumblr.com/

Sure is a lot of poo on the sidewalks and in public areas in SF. I don't think I've ever seen someone just pull their pants down and push out a brownie in the middle of the sidewalk anywhere else but there.

Yup. When my mom came to visit me, she came back to my apartment one night and said, "you'll never believe what I just saw." I already knew what she was going to say, it was that she saw a homeless guy pull his pants down in broad daylight next to a trash can to relieve himself.

Sounds awesome. How come you're in Japan?

The short story is I work at Gengo (http://gengo.com/), based in Shibuya.

The long story is I took a Japanese class a bit randomly in college (my favorite CS professor suggested that we broaden our interests by taking some liberal arts courses). I studied here in 2010, then came for a vacation in 2012, and by then I realized I'd like to live here so I applied to Gengo.

I'm assuming a very selective use of data here, and very subjective definitions of "safe" and "cheap".

For instance, the availability of quality healthcare is not included in "safe", and how said healthcare is paid for not included in "cheap". When I grow old and my health starts to fail, I'd rather be in some of those unfriendly, expensive and unsafe countries...

Another example: some of these top 15 countries are definitely neither safe nor friendly if you're openly gay.

This is a list op countries that are nice to visit for a few weeks if you're well-off, healthy and not planning to do anything even mildly risky.

If you want to actually live your life somewhere, you're better off in some of the bottom 15 than any of the top 15.

Also the report seems to assume you won't learn a word of any language other than English ('friendliest' is friendliest to monolingual English speakers). And safest is interpreted to include only crime and war, but car crashes are far more likely to injure or kill you on vacation in all but the most war torn crime infested countries.

I'm not so sure the safety index counts for war. Georgia is ranked as #2 although it was in war with Russia just a few years ago and Russian military forces still occupy a good chunk of Georgia. [1]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia%E2%80%93Georgia_war

I've spent significant time in #3 (Morocco) and #4 (UAE) and would be hesitant to return. As a solo female these places are hostile once you leave the confines of the westernized areas. If you are just hanging out the business districts and make heavy use of taxis you're fine but what's the point..

#15 Portugal on the other hand? If you can work remotely and can get a visa, I'd put it at the top. Amazing country, affordable, fantastic people and the language isn't complicated to pick up if you have any Romance knowledge.

There is error in calculation or wrong assumption somewhere clearly. We have Estonia in top 15 and Latvia in bottom 15. Two neighboring countries that are quite similar in size, economical situation, cultural background and political situation. Estonia has some little advantages over Latvia (IMHO) but those are not that critical.

Could you expand on the advantages of Estonia over Latvia?

Yes, of course (I'm Lithuanian myself, that is one of 3 Baltic states http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltic_states). Those are minor economical advantages:

1) Estonia has euro (currency), Latvia will have euro next year;

2) Estonia prepared for crisis Latvia had to use helping hand of IMF.

3) Average salary is slightly larger in Estonia than in Latvia. Estonia - 865 euros, Latvia 676 euros, Lithuania 630 euros (data 2011 4th quarter).

I can think only about one cultural difference:

Baltic states do not like Russian people very much because of historical reason. It is not as bad as Northern Ireland or Basques but citizen of Baltic state can refuse to speak Russian in some situations while many older people can speak Russian without problems (younger generation does not speak Russian, e.g. I will not speak Russian because my Russian is terrible). Latvians require some tests to be passed in order person could get Latvian citizenship - so in result Latvia has quite high population of Russians that do not speak Latvian and do not have citizenship. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-citizens_(Latvia)

Returning to theme those differences are minor as in Baltic states:

1) if you know English you have big opportunities;

2) Education level is quite high in all Baltic states;

3) Freedom of press is quite high in all the countries (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_Freedom_Index). Internet is cheap and fast.

4) Prices are lower than compared to many other EU countries. http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index....

5) Crime levels are quite similar in all Baltic states (http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index....) and are comparable to USA.

My point is that Estonia is not cheaper, safer and friendlier place to live than Latvia. While Latvia has this problem with Russian people but this problem exists in all Baltic states. If you are stubborn not to speak language of the country you are living in you will have problem in any country - the only exception USA as they don't have official language. Still I doubt that you will have luck speaking with officer in other language than in English in USA.

I'd argue that "friendliest" is actually the most dubious use of data: the data comes from an "executive opinion survey" that asks local businessmen how welcome they feel foreigners are in their country. Actual tourists experiences may beg to differ. For the authors' stated purpose of "finding people to go party with" and "immersing themselves in the local culture", the UAE is not making the top 15 countries on most people's world rankings. If you speak (or are willing to learn) Spanish you'd be better off in Bolivia...

> This is a list op countries that are nice to visit for a few weeks if you're well-off, healthy and not planning to do anything even mildly risky.

Have you been to Thailand or Ethiopia, in positions 9 and 10?

I can't be more agreed

Seeing UAE on this list immediately shows how flawed the methodology is. It might be safe and friendly for white rich muslim males who don't drink alcohol, but that's about it.

Right. It's also entirely legal for men to beat their wives in the UAE (as long as you are not leaving visible marks), so I would argue that it's really not safe for women who are married or open to possibility. It would be like calling a country that doesn't criminalize murder safe even though it has a murder rate in the 100s (for context, El Salvador holds the highest murder rate in the world at 139).

If you're a women who needs to factor in the risk of your husband beating you as soon as it is legal to do so, you should probably be shopping for divorce lawyers rather than holiday destinations.

You have no idea what you are talking about.

It is very common to kidnap alone female tourists on broad daylight, since they "do not belong to anyone".

Yeah. As a brown person holding an Indian passport UAE is as unfriendly as it gets - starting from inequality in pay to enforcement of law to freedom of speech. (well, the last one is for everyone).

This seems very culturally specific and subjective.

Is the suggestion that Latvians hate all foreigners more than any other nationality in the world? Or that Venezuelans are on average less friendly than people from Argentina?

Conversely, will Macedonians (the most highly ranked destination) be very friendly and welcoming to visiting Albanians? I have reservations!

Venezuelans are pretty friendly but the country is dangerous as hell and inflation is wreacking havock. This must have determined their shitty score.

Then again, if you get your Bolivares on the black market you can have a super cheap holiday. I was there in May and would go there again over Macedonia. Venezuela is beautiful.

Macedonia was certainly cheap and friendly when I visited there a long time ago, just before independence. But the Venezuelans were friendly too and although there were warnings about Caracas at night it wasn't that bad. And I was kidnapped in Morocco, so YMMV with this list.

Kidnapped? That sounds like a story worth telling!

+1, please share. Does not seem like something you just casually throw in at the end of a comment.

So Caracas at least to me isn't the sort of place one would perceive as dangerous until something finally happens, and the statistics don't lie. Everyone I know who is Venezuelan has either been kidnapped or is close to someone who has, and they've all been on the wrong end of a gun barrel at some point in their lives.

That said, most Venezuelans are in fact friendly people :)

I live in Algeria (4th cheapest country.)

Some of you may giggle at it, but I am wary to tell my friends and family that I make around $3k/month, working remotely as a Software Engineer, fresh out of college. For many here, it may not sound a lot, but it is the most I could find, doing what I love (C programming on Linux/Open Source project.)

In a country where the minimum wages are $180/month, such salaries could be made by senior execs in large companies. At the age of 22, I don't know what to do with that much of money, except helping my parents and investing in housing (a sure bet here.)

Hey SnowDZ , I lived in Algeria all my life , I used to work too in freelance project when I was in Algeria , but I make around 150$/ month no more lol , now I live in France, with no work in France , I'm intented to go back on working on freelancer! good luck

Shocked that Austria is even considered friendly. I know a bunch of people who live there an who have lived there and they unanimously agree that the country is extremely racist towards non native Austrians.

When I was there on a short visit, in central Vienna, I asked about five different people, in English, where a certain museum was. I was just ignored as if I did not even exist.

The sixth person did direct me to the museum, but they happened to be an American living in Vienna.

That article is rather pointless as it measures highly subjective things like friendliness and compares crime stats which are derived using different approaches in different countries. So what if Japan has little to none reported crime. China has little to none reported corruption.

On top of that all this is moot because it's highly dependand on what country you yourself come from. Are you black? Well, sucks to be you if you want to visit eastern Europe. Are you not Japanese? Better be prepared for some unexpected racism in Japan that will make you question what century you're living in.

Do you come from a country just next door who happen to have had some history together well before you were born? That's probably the worst. Look at the comments section of that article for an entertaining explanation of why people tend to vacation on the other side of the planet rather than with their neighbours.

Since the purpose of the comparison is to find nice places to go to you should compare reports based on tourist trips. Crime that happened to tourists, prices paid by tourists and service received by tourists. That kind on comparison would be a better basis for which country is best to visit.

Australia and New Zealand are on my bucket list, but as a person with what I assure you is an ordinary income by Western standards, it seems prohibitively expensive to stay there for any prolonged length of time. Though I am aware of the working hostels in those countries, I think that option would have been far more practical back when I was unmarried and didn't have a child :-)

I live in NZ and yes, our cost of living here is quite high, but average incomes are lower, it's almost impossible to buy a house in Auckland if you're a first home buyer.

Disagree on Austria, more friendly than Germany - maybe, but cheaper - no way.

the map claims exactly that: that Germany is, indeed, cheaper.

Too bad the government isn't that friendly to foreigners either...

Good to see Taiwan at #8. Lovely country, safe and very friendly. I have been working here for past 7 years. I wouldn't call it cheapest but hey I come from India. Reminds of a news[1] recently that a USA police officer came to Taiwan and was shocked to learn this "Kaohsiung has a population of more than 2 million people. He was shocked to hear the city only averages about 10 murders a year. When his group visited the city of Taitung — a city with a population of about 250,000 people — they learned the last murder was in 2005." [1] http://www.newsadvance.com/go_dan_river/news/danville/articl...

ITT: people that see UAE, Morocco, Ethiopia in the top 15 and will completely dismiss this study because death penalty, lashes, muslims and africa. Because you know, these only things define these countries !


Add a teaspoon of wine to a barrel of sewage: you get a barrel of sewage.

Add a teaspoon of sewage to a barrel of wine: you get a barrel of sewage.

Which is to say that some factors kind of overshadow all the others, quite disproportionately. For me, this usually shows up with Australia's wildlife: people are afraid to visit because of silly little things like the wide variety of poisonous snakes, spiders, dropbears, etc. They don't bother me... but I don't walk through long grass without boots on.

It seems strange that the UAE is so high on that list, the impression I got from my admittedly limited experience (an 18 hour stopover hanging out in the city) is that it's definitely not cheap.

However I can personally vouch for the cheapness, safeness and friendliness of Georgia (I'd stick Armenia on that list too, to be honest). Very lovely place, I'd be very tempted to set up there if I had the opportunity, same goes for Armenia and Montenegro.

Last time I was in Dubai there were a lot of mid-priced hotels to choose from, the Metro worked a treat and reasonably priced and the shops in all the malls I visited didn't have a sales tax. Compared to anywhere in the EU with minimum 15% VAT and given everything was new it felt very well-priced.

Never been to Yemen but I would never have guessed they be in the top 20 for friendliest countries.

People in Yemen are painfully friendly. Hospitality is a point of pride for them.

Most people there are quite poor by Western standards, to the extent that they might not be able to afford much food. However if they meet you (a relative stranger) they will insist that they must offer you hospitality and literally offer you the last bit of food they own, meaning they go hungry.

I don't think it gets more friendly than that.

I have lived in Portugal (Lisbon) for about two years. One of the cheapest countries in Europe, friendly, people are warm towards foreigners. Country itself is very beautiful and great food (one of the best fish cuisine).

However, there are not many tech startups.

Interesting read.

Especially as a student living in the most expensive city, in the most expensive country in the world (Oslo, Norway).

I do appreciate living in a country with free healthcare and University education. But it does have its side effects on society and the economy.

Why isn't China on the list? It should top all 3 criteria - if you're white.

Smoking the equivalent of four packs of cigarettes per day simply by living in some cities.

Easy, smog and visa hassles..

Internet restrictions

My wife immediately asked if there are some similar statistics that also take into the account the quality of food?

As a tourist, one of the most important things for me is how tasty, accessible and diverse the local food is.

Probably quite tricky to rank though.

you should let your wife create an account and, get this, type her own questions

With this kind of comment, perhaps she would feel the environment is too hostile though.

Dude. Really? Try a bit harder next time.

Agree on Australia. Fantastic!!!! country, but cost of living is just ridiculous.

Lovely place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit here -- especially if you're not white and anglophone. We (speaking as an Aussie here!) used to be a lot friendlier, but the last dozen years have seen a serious degradation. It's not the friendly place it used to be.

I've lived in Australia all my life and can't say I share the same opinion. Racism, while clearly present (notably in some parts of QLD and generally outside of the "urban core" as Tloewald succinctly described), is pretty mild from what I've seen. And, in my experience, it's become less of a problem over the past couple of decades. I remember many more reports of race-related violence when I was young.

And within the major cities (especially Sydney and Melbourne) it's a remarkably tolerant environment especially considering the diversity of cultures. I'm often amazed looking around at people in the streets and see so many countries represented!

Then perhaps I'm biased. I'm a white male born and raised in Melbourne which is probably the most cosmopolitan city in Australia.

[I agree about the cost of living though; housing in particular is exorbitant!]

Thats sounds like a pretty broad generalisation. Can you elaborate on what you mean.

This pretty much sums it up:


There are some disgusting people here, I'd like to think they are the minority.

Tloewald has the gist of it (see his comment at this level) though I think the racism is mainly toward our own aboriginals. The response to asylum seekers is more complex than "just" racism. Still stupid though.

The anti refugee stuff is getting pretty extreme, and Australia, especially outside of urban core, has always had a broad undercurrent of racism.

Yes! Details, please. I'd love to visit Australia and NZ, have been all over Europe, US, Canada, Israel, South America, and SE Asia.

Judging by the comments below the article the friendliness index for Macedonia needs to be adjusted down a bit for Greeks. The contrast between results and discussion gave me a good laugh.

Friendliness seems to fluctuate wildly for adjanced and very similar counrtries (baltic and balcans). Big countries seem to take a hit compared to small-ish tourist ones.

But the overall top is not so bad.

Appropriate time for a song about Macedonia? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO5Beq-D74A

Living in Thailand is the best... Taiwan is also a nice place... Would never go back to the States to live, though...

"Friendly" is very very culture specific.

But of course I'd say that, as a dane

I kind of expected my country in the list. And I found it at 12th place.

Is it just me, or is number 9 missing from the map?

Why does South Africa get a special mention?

Writer is from capetown.

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