Holidays 2020: Where are the countries with the lowest risk that are safe to travel to?
Holidays can be tricky to plan at the best of times but with coronavirus throwing the travel plans of many into chaos, jetting off just got even more worrisome. Many countries in the world may make for fascinating destinations but they come with all sorts of health and safety risks, including the threat of terrorism. So, in 2020, where are the countries with the lowest risk that are safe to travel to?
Express.co.uk spoke to Dr Richard Darwood, Medical Director at independent medical practice Fleet Street Clinic and a specialist in travel medicine, who shared his top destinations for coronavirus-free travel.
“Although the growing number of coronavirus cases seems scary it is import to keep in mind that the risks to travellers are still incredibly small,” he said.
“Out of the nearly 40 or so countries in which cases of COVID-19 have occurred, case numbers in the vast majority of these countries are still only in single or double digits. What’s more, many of these cases relate primarily to repatriations from China, subsequently holding them in quarantine. Not a single case has so far been linked to air travel.
“Coronaviruses spread most easily in busy, crowded environments, so now might be a good time to enjoy open spaces and the outdoors.”
Also taking into consideration the Institute for Economics and Peace’s latest Global Peace Index (GPI) and the 2020 travel risk map of International SOS (the world’s largest medical and travel security services firm), these are Express.co.uk’s top 10 safest countries.
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Coronavirus: “It’s important to keep in mind that the risks to travellers are still small”
Iceland has been named the most peaceful country in the world by the Global Peace Index since 2008.
What’s more, International SOS has rated Iceland as having an “insignificant” travel security risk.
This means: “Rates of violent crime are very low. There is no significant political violence or civil unrest and little sectarian, communal, racial or targeted violence against foreigners.
“Security and emergency services are effective and infrastructure is sound. Transport services are of a high standard with good safety records and only occasional travel disruption. Industrial action affecting essential services is rare.”
According to the GPI: “Iceland is the only Nordic country that is more peaceful now than in 2008.”
Iceland also has not yet reported any cases of coronavirus and has a “low” travel medical risk, according to International SOS.
“Low” means: “Quality medical care is available throughout the country. Specialist care, emergency and dental services, and quality prescription drugs are widely available. Low risk of infectious diseases,” explains the firm.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) states: “Approximately 298,000 British nationals visited Iceland through Keflavik airport in 2018. Most visits are trouble-free.”
They add: “Terrorist attacks in Iceland can’t be ruled out.”
New Zealand is ranked the second most peaceful country by the 2019 GPI – a position it has kept for two years. In 2019 the country “maintained or improved its scores in 22 out of 23 indicators.”
New Zealand has a “low” travel security risk, one up from “insignificant.” International SOS explains that “low” means: “Violent crime rates are low and racial, sectarian or political violence or civil unrest is uncommon.
“If terrorism is a threat, groups have limited operational capabilities, and acts of terrorism are rare. Security and emergency services are effective and infrastructure is sound. Industrial action and transport disruption are infrequent.”
Terrorist attacks in New Zealand “can’t be ruled out.”
The country also has a “low” travel medical risk plus there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus there.
However, travellers should be aware that New Zealand is currently suffering a measles outbreak concentrated in Auckland.
The FCO states: “Around 200,000 British nationals visit New Zealand every year. Most visits are trouble-free.”
Holidays: Patagonia is at the southern end of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile
Greenland is the world’s largest island and an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark.
Consequently, the GPI does not rank it individually. However, Denmark is the fifth most peaceful country according to its findings.
Denmark was one of 24 countries which had a reduction in terrorism impact in 2019, while terrorist attacks in Denmark “can’t be ruled out,” states the FCO.
According to the statistical website, Numbeo, Greenland rates low for crime and high for safety.
There are no current cases of coronavirus report in Greenland and it has a “medium” travel medical risk.
“Medium” means: “Quality medical care is available from selected providers. Reliable emergency services, limited specialist and dental care are usually available. Some risk of food or water-borne diseases. Potentially life-threatening infectious diseases such as malaria and typhoid may be present.”
However, Greenland has clean, safe drinking water everywhere, although Arctic mosquitoes are legendary and ferocious.
According to Dr Dawood, Patagonia is a good choice for Coronavirus-free travel at the moment.
Patagonia is a sparsely populated region at the southern end of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile.
However, Chile ranks much more highly than Argentina on the Global Peace Index, making it the safer option of the two when other non-coronavirus factors are considered.
Chile comes in at 27th place (compared to Argentina’s 75th) and has a “low” travel medical risk (in contrast to Argentina’s higher “variable” risk).
Terrorist attacks in Chile “can’t be ruled out.”
According to the FCO: “Around 80,000 British nationals visit Chile each year. Most visits to Chile are trouble-free.”
However, the government adds: “Following civil unrest in October and November 2019 across Chile you may see a police presence in major cities. There is potential for further demonstrations with a risk of violence in Santiago, Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, Antofagasta, Concepcion and other major cities.”
According to Dr Dawood, now is a good time to take a family holiday in a European villa rental.
Portugal is currently the most peaceful of all European countries and the third most peaceful on a global scale (after rising two places), making it the best option for such a trip.
The country was officially neutral during World War Two and has kept out of foreign conflicts.
Portugal is one of the countries which has shown the largest improvement in Positive Peace since 2013, according to the GPI.
It has a “low” travel security risk and terrorist attacks in Portugal “can’t be ruled out.”
No cases of coronavirus have been reported in the country and it has a “low” travel medical risk.
“Around 2.2 million British nationals visited Portugal in 2018. Most visits are trouble-free,” said the FCO.
Slovenia is the second most peaceful European country according to the GPI (in eighth place globally) making it another good option for a family villa holiday.
What’s more, it’s one of a handful of European countries with an “insignificant” travel security risk.
According to the FCO: “Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Slovenia, attacks can’t be ruled out.”
The country has not yet reported any cases of coronavirus and has a “low” travel medical risk.
“Around 160,000 British nationals visit Slovenia every year. Most visits are trouble free,” said the FCO.
Holidays: Slovenia is the second most peaceful European country according to the GPI
Dr Dawood recommends Britons head off on an African safari in a bid to escape coronavirus.
Botswana is an African country famed for its safaris – and is the most peaceful country in Africa, according to the GPI, coming in at 30th globally.
It has a “low” travel security risk and a “medium” travel medical risk (one of only a handful of African nations to rank thus – most others have a higher risk). No coronavirus cases have yet been reported in Botswana.
“Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Botswana, attacks can’t be ruled out,” said the FCO.
It adds: “Around 42,000 British nationals visit Botswana every year. Most visits are trouble free.”
Enjoying a road trip or exploring the national parks of Canada is recommended by Dr Dawood as he encourages holidaymakers to enjoy the great outdoors.
Canada is the sixth most peaceful country in the world and has a “low” travel security risk.
However, terrorists are deemed “likely” to try to carry out attacks in Canada.
The North American country also has a “low” medical risk. That said, it has reported 14 cases of coronavirus although one must remember it is the world second-largest country.
The FCO states: “Around 724,000 British nationals visit Canada each year. Most visits are trouble free.”
Holidays: Botswana is an African country famed for its safaris
Road trips and national-park exploring in the USA is also advised by Dr Dawood. However, he also recommends hiking the Appalachian trail, which stretches about 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia.
The route is on the east coast and therefore very far from California where America’s first case of coronavirus of unknown origin has been reported. According to the CDC, there are currently 53 cases diagnosed in the United States.
International SOS classes the USA as having a “low” travel medical risk and a “low” travel security risk.
Unfortunately, America doesn’t fare very well on the GPI, only coming in at 128th place.
The FCO states: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the USA. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant at all times.”
However, by sticking to the countryside and national parks, these risks are greatly minimised.
“Around 3.8 million British nationals visit the USA every year. Most visits are trouble free. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel,” advised the FCO.
In good news for those who don’t want to travel too far away, Dr Dawood recommends heading off to the “highlands and islands” of the UK.
“Stay domestic, no international travel hubs, plenty of fresh air and wonderful places to explore,” the expert said.
The UK comes in 45th position on the GPI but has a “low” travel security risk.
According to the FCO: “The threat to the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) from terrorism is substantial,” which means “an attack is likely.”
In total, 20 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the, but, if one sticks to Dr Dawood’s suggestion of “highlands and islands” this shouldn’t cause too much concern, ditto for terrorism.
The UK has a “low” travel medical risk in general.