If you haven’t already found it, the World Economic Forum has ranked the world’s unfriendliest countries (but don’t worry, they’ve also included the friendliest countries in the list). The next time you’re planning a trip, consult this list to consider whether locals in your destination might give you a bad taste.
The results, which appeared in the WEF’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of 2013, gives each country named a numerical score out of seven on foreigners. Residents in 140 countries surveyed were asked the question, “How welcome are foreign visitors in your country on a scale of 1-7?”
The study, which took place in 2011 and 2012, saw that most people viewed their country as very friendly, with most responding with a six or seven. It stood out when answers were anything less than six, as only 38 countries had a score between 1-5.9. The United States placed at 102, the last of the countries with a score of six.
Though no country scored a perfect seven, the highest was 6.8 and should be on every traveller’s bucket list. If you’re from one of the countries listed here, you might be proud to give visitors the warmest welcome, or perhaps your own welcome might improve your country’s rating.
20 (Unfriendly) Bolivia- Hostile Or Misunderstood?
In this charismatic South American country, natural wonders like the Salar de Uyuni salt flats and Madidi National Park have been major attractions for international tourists. There’s no denying that Bolivia is a beautiful and diverse country, but recent economic upsets have left its tourism industry quite unstable.
For the most part, Bolivians are a warm and hospitable people with a vibrant history and culture. The most isolated country in South America, Bolivia is rich in oil reserves, which have caused rifts between its government and people, and international tension. Be cautious, but don’t be deterred from visiting Bolivia.
19 (Friendly) Iceland- The World's Most Welcoming Country
Iceland, a tiny, Nordic country in the North Atlantic, has seen tourism skyrocket in recent years. With international attention focused on the Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss, and geysers, Iceland’s got enough sights to see to fill at least a month’s itinerary.
But it’s the locals that really make an Icelandic holiday special. While also being the third happiest country in the world, according to the United Nations’ 2017 World Happiness Report, Iceland tops the list of friendly countries. Icelanders welcome outsiders with open arms, and will go above and beyond to make you feel at home.
18 (Unfriendly) Venezuela- A Country Struggling With Economic Crises
It is currently very inexpensive to travel to Venezuela, but for all the wrong reasons. Once one of the wealthiest countries in South America, with the falling price of oil over the years, Venezuela’s economy has effectively collapsed. The Venezuelan bolivar is worth almost nothing, and food and supplies are scarce for those in poverty.
Crime is also rampant, and foreigners can be easily targeted as they stand out. Venezuela is now one of the world’s most dangerous countries, and though foreign visitors can live in luxury on a Venezuelan holiday, it’s best not to take advantage of its economic crisis.
17 (Friendly) New Zealand- Come For The Scenery, Stay For The Kiwis
Whether you travel to New Zealand to visit Hobbiton or hike mountains, the friendly New Zealanders will show you the ultimate kindness. The openness of Kiwis is world famous, and when travelling to a new country, you want to feel wanted. Not knowing people in a new country can be intimidating, whether you’re relocating or visiting, but here, you’ll feel like you’ve known these people for life.
New Zealanders collectively have a laid-back, positive attitude that foreigners find comforting. Couple this with their sense of humour and modesty and you’ve got a perfect destination for tourism.
16 (Unfriendly) Russia- A Nation Of Stern Faces
Russia isn’t exactly a country known for its warm, fuzzy feelings. That’s not to say Russia isn’t home to some hospitable people, but when in Russia, be prepared to be met with some icy expressions.
Russians generally don’t smile when they meet strangers—it's not meant to be rude, it’s just not part of their culture. But when you get close, you can expect a friendlier attitude. Try not to take it personally, but eagerness is rare here. However, Russians will usually assist foreigners in need, despite looking unapproachable, so long as you are polite.
15 (Friendly) Morocco- Where You'll Always Be Invited In For Mint Tea
Some would-be travellers to Morocco are under the impression that the country is unsafe for foreigners, but that’s simply untrue. There are instances of petty crime like pickpocketing, but so long as you are cautious of your surroundings, you should find yourself completely safe.
In fact, most international visitors find Moroccans to be very welcoming. If you come prepared with a bit of research on the country’s customs and how to approach them as an outsider, you should have no problem getting Moroccans to open up to you. If you’re looking to explore North Africa, look no further than Morocco.
14 (Unfriendly) Kuwait- New Strict Laws Target Expats
Despite ongoing political unrest in the Middle East, the turmoil has not drastically affected all countries. The United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s wealthiest countries, sees a booming tourism industry yearly. But nearby, the tiny nation of Kuwait isn’t so accepting of international visitors.
Kuwait’s economy is stable and growing, attracting more expats and foreign workers. However, if you plan to relocate to the Gulf state, be prepared to be met with a cold welcome. Expats have reported that making friends is near impossible and locals are generally disinterested in interacting with foreigners.
13 (Friendly) Macedonia- Take A Trip To This Overlooked European Nation
Ever since World War II, the Balkan countries have suffered internal and external political upsets in trying to find their own identities. The Republic of Macedonia, which borders Greece to the north, was a former part of the Yugoslav Republic until 1992.
Today, the ethnic groups within the old Yugoslavia are still trying to fully recognise their own cultural identities, but they will gladly introduce you to their heritage. Tourism is a major industry in Macedonia, with endless lakes and mountain valleys, and plenty of Greek, Roman, and Ottoman architecture.
12 (Unfriendly) Latvia- A Baltic Country With A Baltic Attitude
The case for Latvia is similar to Russia—smiling isn’t a thing you’re expected to do. Coming from a Western country like the US, this puts many people off, but it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. As long as you’re familiar with the custom, you’ll know that people don’t intend to be rude.
That said, Latvians usually aren’t too thrilled about foreign tourists. They view many as ignorant and obnoxious, mostly due to parties rolling through the capital, Riga. Common courtesy and manners will get you far in the Baltic states, and you shouldn’t have any trouble.
11 (Friendly) Austria- Also Has One Of The Best Qualities Of Life
Austria is by far one of the most desirable places to live, whether you’re a native or expat. InterNations data concludes that Austria has one of the highest ratings for safety and healthcare, and 77% of expats are happy with their lives there.
While Austria scored a 6.7 on the WEF’s scale, InterNations surveys report that foreigners have trouble settling in. Austrians themselves seem to think they’re very open to newcomers, but expats say they feel a bit isolated at first. Despite this, people who live in Austria have a very high quality of life and are happy to live in the small, mountainous country.
10 (Unfriendly) Iran- This Nation Is Still In Recovery
It probably comes as no surprise that Iran isn’t on the list of the most welcoming countries. It was once one of the most advanced nations in the world, pioneering rapidly developing fields in science in the 1960s and achieving fully secular state status. However, revolution and political interference by outside states severely damaged the country's government and economy.
Today, Iran is still in recovery from decades of conflict, and Iranians aren’t the fondest of Western tourists. They’re still wary of outsiders, not without good reason. However, Iran is packed with World Heritage Sites and is hoping for a tourism comeback in future years.
9 (Friendly) Senegal- Perhaps The Most Surprising On This List
Senegal probably isn’t at the top of your list of travel destinations, but maybe it should be. This coastal West African country has a distinctive ancient culture, and tourism is starting to become a major industry.
Unlike in other African countries, the Senegalese won’t hassle tourists on beaches or in markets, and are generally said to be respectful of foreigners. Senegal is safe for children, too, and you’ll never have to worry about violence. The Senegalese are often described as a smiling, happy people who are always willing to help.
8 (Unfriendly) Pakistan- Pickpockets Are The First To Chase Tourists Away
We hear a lot in the news media about Pakistan—stories of terror groups and violent extremists that are enough to scare us away, but these aren’t widespread in Pakistan. It’s true they pose a threat to Pakistani citizens and there’s a lot to improve in the way of violence in Pakistan, but they aren’t going to cause harm to the average tourist.
In Pakistan, foreigners have to take precautions to ensure their safety, but stick to the main city areas and you’d be fine. However, petty crime is common, especially pickpocketing, and thieves especially target tourists, causing the most damage to the country’s friendliness rating.
7 (Friendly) Portugal- Don't Confuse This Iberian Country With Spain
How could the Portuguese be unhappy in their small, coastal country where the sun shines almost 365 days a year? Perhaps it’s the weather or the endless stretches of sandy beaches, but something is working out for Portugal.
The people in Portugal tend to be quite modest compared to their eager Spanish neighbours, giving off the air of being shy or quiet, but they are always willing to help or have a chat. If you want a warm, almost Mediterranean holiday that isn’t overdone just yet, plan for Portugal. Just don’t confuse the Portuguese with the Spanish.
6 (Unfriendly) Slovakia- A Rich History And A Frosty Welcome
Slovakia has some stunning scenery—wild natural wonders, medieval towns, and dramatic landscapes. But the attitudes of the people might not impress you.
The locals tend to keep to themselves, and aren’t as outward and upfront as other cultures are. They value privacy, but aren’t overly individualistic as some societies, and will open up as you get to understand them and their culture. Still, as a Slavic nation, they aren’t keen on excessive smiling or friendliness to strangers, which is why they might not fully accept you if you’re only on a short holiday.
5 (Friendly) Bosnia And Herzegovina- It's Come A Long Way Since The 1990s
Another of the former Yugoslavia countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina has developed itself rapidly in the wake of the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Coming out of the rubble after the Bosnian War, Bosnia now welcomes over one million tourists each year.
Bosnians seem to love the attention, now that the world is seeing their country in a positive light, and are welcoming to all international visitors. Coupled with an ancient history and medieval towns, a forward-thinking population, and a modern capital city, and you’ve got a fast-growing country that will soon host millions of tourists annually.
4 (Unfriendly) Bulgaria- You're Better Off To Pick Romania Over Bulgaria
Despite being an intriguing country that attracts a number of curious visitors, Bulgaria isn’t too excited to play host. Though not quite rude, Bulgarians aren’t shy about hiding their feelings from strangers—good or bad.
If you’re good at reading body language, you should know that Bulgarians aren’t necessarily being unfriendly, it’s just their way of communicating with strangers and foreigners. People who walk about smiling and making unnecessary conversation are seen as a bit slow, which might make Bulgarians treat you differently, leading to the perception that they are a rude nation.
3 (Friendly) Ireland- There's A Reason Ireland Is Famed For Its Hospitality
We've all heard the stereotype that the Irish are the friendliest people in the world, but actually, they’re the ninth friendliest. Scoring a 6.6, the Irish (and everybody else) see themselves as a very welcoming people.
Irish hospitality is world-renowned, and there’s a reason this perception has lasted years. The Irish are meant to be friendly, extroverted, and genuinely interested in the stories of tourists. People you meet in pubs and shops will ask how you’re finding Ireland, and perhaps give you travel advice. Even the people you pass on the street may smile or say hello.
2 (Unfriendly) Mongolia- Its Welcome Is As Barren As Its Landscape
If you know anything about Mongolia, it’s probably the tales of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Hordes. Thankfully, Mongolians aren’t actually war-waging soldiers, but you might find them a little cold and distant.
Almost half of Mongolia’s population resides in the capital Ulaanbaatar, so this is where to go to meet locals. Mongolia doesn’t get as many foreign tourists as other countries, and natives may find it odd that you’re even there. To further make a rift between locals and foreigners, English isn’t widely spoken and most tourists don’t speak Mongolian.
1 (Friendly) Burkina Faso- The Perfect Place To Experience West African Culture
Most tourists to Africa visit for the safaris, centering on countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa, but they’re missing out on Africa’s hidden gem, Burkina Faso. It lacks the stereotypical savannahs that tourists look for, but it makes up for it in the locals’ friendliness.
The Burkinabé people are more than inviting towards foreigners, and their warmth is unique. Though the tourism industry is limited here, local culture is emphasized, and whether you visit for the heritage or the gentle natural features, you’ll find quiet appreciation in this West African country.
References: InterNations, United Nations, United Press International