Thinking of moving to another country? Or perhaps you’re wondering where your current home ranks in the list of safe destinations? It’s great to be on the brink of a new adventure, but safety and security are important too when you’re thinking about relocating abroad as an expat. Safety has taken on special meaning in the age of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. And digital security is now an even higher priority as work and commerce move online.
In this post, you’ll find the top safest countries in the world 2022 for expats. We’ve ranked countries by metrics such personal, health, infrastructure and environmental safety, as well as digital security. From countries with the lowest crime rates to thriving business cultures, these are the safest countries in the world today.
The countries listed feature at the top of several studies and league tables. However, how safe you feel in a particular country and which is the safest country depends on who you ask (and can also depend on who you are).
Some destinations are much safer for men than for women, for example. And there are few, if any, protections for LGBTQ rights in some countries. We’ve taken a closer look at 10 countries that both a) feature regularly in the safest country lists, and b) are highly popular with our members.
Our index looks at factors including the freedom to live, move about and work safely, and overall quality of life, including education, environmental and digital security, and healthcare. COVID-19 management and restrictions still vary, so you need to do your own research at the time you’re planning to move.
Safety is – or should be – a key concern for expats. But how exactly can you judge whether a country is safe and secure? It’s not just about crime rates.
Factors contributing to safety and security, or the lack of it, include:
- Poverty, the ratio between the highest and lowest-earning members of the population
- The state of the economy
- Cultural around morality, law enforcement and tolerance of crime
- Measures for law enforcement including the carrying and use of guns and firearms, and the scale of punishments for levels of crime
- Levels of civil unrest
- Political stability
- The availability (or otherwise) of public healthcare
- Digital security
If you’re considering moving to another country, you’ll also need to look at the natural environment – for example, is there a hurricane season? Is the landscape prone to flooding or forest fires? If you’re an expat, you need to factor these possibilities into your decision.
Overall, according to the 2022 Global Peace Index, the world is, once again, less safe than it was last year. It’s only a slight decline, but it reflects a continued downward trend over the last 14 years.
Positive news includes fewer incidences of military action, which have reduced on average in over 100 countries since 2008, despite recent conflicts, including the war in Ukraine. And 70 countries remained free from terrorism attack in 2021, the best result for over ten years.
Africa, South Asia and the Middle East remain the less safe regions of the world, although, as everywhere, safety can vary significantly between different regions within countries.
Europe and in particular the Nordic countries, are consistently ranked amongst the safest, and happiest, countries in the world to live in.
Wherever you choose to move, it’s wise to do your research and ensure you have the right support, including insurance cover. There are many good reasons to become an expat in 2022, and many fantastic places to head for.
The top ten safest countries in the world in focus
In recent years, Iceland has become an attractive option for expats. It has rich culture, amazing natural beauty and is surprisingly accessible and comfortable. Pollution is low, life expectancy is high, and there is very little crime. The police are unarmed. The legal system prioritises rehabilitation over punishment, and you may well see babies left in prams outside restaurants while their parents enjoy a quiet meal.
Taxes fund Iceland’s universal healthcare system. The country has no private hospitals, although doctors can see patients privately.
With a sophisticated telecoms network and good airport connections, Iceland ranks top for basic infrastructure in the IMD World Competitiveness Report. Some of Iceland’s rural roads have poor surfaces and driving can be tricky, especially when the weather is bad. Most people have cars and public transport is quite basic.
Iceland has a very low level of crime, especially violent crime, making it one of the safest countries in the world.
Iceland has a good track record of dealing with cyber security issues, setting up a government task force back in 2013 to lay a foundation for strong, reliable systems.
Air pollution in Iceland is much lower than the OECD average and nearly all homes have energy from renewable sources. The country ranks at the top for environmental quality, according to the OECD’s Better Life Index.
From stunning landscapes, made even more famous by the Lord of the Rings, to sophisticated cities and a laid-back approach to life, New Zealand has long been a target for those wishing to relocate abroad. A big draw for lovers of the outdoors, it also offers world-class culture in its cities, and has a safety record which relies on strong public healthcare and education, and a surprising lack of the dangerous flora and fauna found in neighbouring Australia.
New Zealand benefits from excellent public and private healthcare. Residents receive free or subsidised care, while the private sector, accessed through private medical insurance offers faster care and supports non-residents. There are three emergency medical care services.
New Zealand is remote and mountainous, but public transport is well established, including bus, rail and inter-island ferry services. The distances between destinations mean most New Zealanders travel by car and the roads are well maintained. The highest number of accidents occur during extreme sports activities.
The crime rate in New Zealand is lower than in many other countries, with fewer incidents of violence and theft. Walking or cycling is quite safe, but as usual, it’s important to be careful, especially at night. The New Zealand police are considered friendly and trustworthy.
New Zealand ranks well globally in terms of average download speeds, well ahead of Australia. The Government participates in discussions on cyber security with other countries at the United Nations, in regional forums and at multi-stakeholder forums like the Internet Governance Forum. New Zealand is also contributing to building international cyber security capability, especially in the Pacific.
New Zealanders are vocal in their concerns about the environment and believe that everyone should take responsibility. Reducing waste is rated as the second most important challenge facing New Zealand over the next 20 years, behind reducing poverty. Citizens lobby their government for more action on reducing emissions and improving water quality. In August 2022, New Zealand released its first national plan to prepare for the floods, fires and rising seas it expects due to climate change in future.
Newly in the top ten (up from 11th in the last Global Peace Index ranking), Ireland continues to benefit as memories of political unrest recede. It enjoys a very low serious crime rate, is militarily neutral, and has a strong economy. It is certainly a beautiful place to live, with stunning rural landscapes, beautiful historical sites, rich literary and artistic history, friendly local communities and a sophisticated city culture. From a safety point of view, it’s worth being aware that the weather and the dramatic landscape can prove challenging.
Ireland offers high-quality, universal healthcare. Additionally, the government provides medical cards to those with lower incomes. There’s also a drug payment scheme which caps monthly spending on prescription drugs. However, there are choices in terms of service delivery points and levels of care, so looking into private health insurance is advisable.
Ireland’s cities and larger towns offer very different experiences from some of the more rural areas. While urban communities are served by safe, modern and efficient transport networks, more remote areas may not have public transport to the same standard, although personal safety is not considered an issue. Electricity is the main source of energy in Ireland, but some rural communities also rely on oil heating.
Other than the usual precautions about carrying valuables and staying vigilant there is no reason to believe you are unsafe in Ireland. The crime rate is low, as is the threat of terrorism or cultural violence. The number of road deaths is roughly parallel to that in the UK, but it’s worth noting the rugged landscape and sometimes extreme weather in the country can be challenging.
Six of the top 10 cyber security companies are located in Ireland. Dublin is Europe’s largest data hosting cluster, and represents a significant talent pool, research centre and focal point for the whole digital security industry. National Broadband Ireland connects rural communities to high-speed fibre under the National Broadband Plan.
In 2021, Ireland signed the legally binding Climate Action Act into its law and set out a framework for achieving international and EU climate targets, including a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, and a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Ireland’s government, and many energy and climate commentators, produce open and detailed reports on the country’s progress in these areas.
This Scandinavian country is generally considered one of the safest countries in the world. It has a low crime rate and there’s almost no risk of natural disaster. It benefits from continued economic stability, and a strong sense of common responsibility for social welfare. Denmark consistently ranks high in terms of liveability and happiness, and Copenhagen, the Danish capital, is number 1 in the Economist’s Safe Cities Index for 2022.
According to the OECD, people enjoy good access to high-quality healthcare in Denmark, with the country spending over the EU average on healthcare – 10.1% of GDP. Check out our latest ranking of countries with the best healthcare system.
Denmark has a highly advanced infrastructure, and claims to offer the most reliable electricity in Europe. Copenhagen’s airport ranks at number 3 in the European Consumer Airport Index. Public transport is of a very high standard.
Crime levels in Denmark are low, and driving standards are high, making it one of the safest countries in the world.
Broadband is available almost everywhere in the country. The government is currently strengthening digital security with its Cyber and Information Security Strategy.
Denmark aims to recycle 70% of all its waste by 2024. It has invested in greener public transport, and Copenhagen has its own climate adaptation plan.
Picturesque historical villages, modern cities, bustling waterways and traditions of classical music, theatre, and gastronomy, all attract expats to Austria. The cost of living is high for a reason; healthcare and education standards are high, and Austria has consistently been one of the safest countries in the world to live in.
Austria’s healthcare system is ranked in the top 5 by the World Health Organization . Public health insurance in Austria is mandatory if you’re in paid employment, self-employed, claiming unemployment benefits, a pensioner or a dependent. When you start a job, school, or university in Austria, you will be automatically covered. Residents also have the choice of additional private health insurance, which covers extras like flexible visiting hours, private hospital rooms and your choice of doctor.
The Austrian energy sector is very diverse, including liquid fuels, natural gas, hydropower, other renewable resources, and coal. Nuclear power was legally banned in 1978. Renewable resources are increasing, and the electricity market was opened up in the early 2000s.
After decades of being a monopoly, the telecoms industry is now very highly developed and competitive, though expensive.
Austria has an excellent transport and communication network. The country’s strategic location and relative political neutrality have made it an ideal host for international summits, and communications and transport hubs, which depend on rail, roads and inland waterways.
Austria has a very low crime rate, and you can travel about safely with no more than normal precautions. Some social unrest has led to demonstrations, but these are few and far between and there have been no major acts of terrorism. Road deaths are around double those in the UK, so care should be taken when driving on unfamiliar or mountainous roads. However, the country does offer a great variety of extreme sports and adventure activities, and if you want to take part while in Austria, you should ensure you have the right healthcare insurance.
The cybersecurity market is one of the fastest growing ICT subsectors in Austria, propelled by a rise in cyber breaches, and vulnerabilities revealed during remote working in the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, there is very high risk awareness and continuous investment in cybersecurity by government institutions and the larger Austrian businesses.
The local home telecoms market is well-stocked with companies vying for business, from a range of providers.
Austria aims to position Vienna as a platform for international energy diplomacy. Several Vienna-based organisations are working to accelerate electricity access and increase the share of renewable and affordable energy.
A global network hosted in Vienna aims to create an enabling environment for renewable energy and energy efficiency. It will focus on working in partnership with participating states as well as other regional actors to generate long-term national and regional ownership.
Portugal is the oldest country in the Iberian Peninsula. Its medieval castles, stunning cities and golden beaches combine luxury with natural beauty to deliver some of the most beautiful sights in the world. Friendly locals and an attractive climate make it an ideal destination for families, and retirees as well as those seeking a safe and inspiring place to live and work.
The standard of healthcare in Portugal is high. Foreign nationals who are classed as residents will usually be eligible for subsidized state healthcare, which incorporates both public and private services. Non-residents and temporary visitors need to buy private health insurance.
In 2021, Portugal announced a huge investment in public infrastructure including a high-speed rail link between its two largest cities, Lisbon and Porto, to be completed in 2030. Other sectors which will be supported by the programme are transport and energy, and the expansion of deepwater ports to support Portugal’s extensive international trade.
The flow of tourists and an often-hidden level of poverty combine to make petty theft an issue in Portugal, especially in the cities and the predominantly tourist destinations. However other than this, it’s a pretty safe place to be. It’s best to be vigilant on public transport, but more of the country is well served by trains, buses and roads. On a natural level, the Mediterranean seas round Portugal claim many lives each year and there is a likelihood of forest fires in drier seasons.
By the end of June 2020, 95.2% of all Portuguese households and 93.6% of rural households had fixed broadband coverage. However, according to a recent report, Portugal ranks second in the world for the percentage of single users affected by spam and phishing. According to the figures, almost one in four of the population was the target of a computer attack last year.
On a larger scale, there is evidence that action is being taken. Energy, communications and transport players have been required by law to report incidents and risks associated with computer attacks to the National Cybersecurity Center since 2018, but it was only last year that the regulation was published, defining obligations in terms of cybersecurity certification.
At the end of 2021, Portugal was reported to have exceeded pollution limits in all environmental categories, such as greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. However, despite the country’s economic and political challenges, it is still committed to improving the environment. The OECD’s Environmental Performance Review of Portugal highlights Portugal’s environmental achievements and makes recommendations for further improvement, including that more be done to make environmental and economic policies mutually supportive.
As part of its 2021 investment commitment, €13 billion has also been directed towards clean energy projects, largely centred around hydrogen production.
Previously one of the 6 republics in the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia retains historical ties to Western Europe, whilst being transformed into a modern state. The country is very welcoming towards expatriates, blending rustic architecture and sophisticated culture, and providing a pleasant living environment amidst snow-capped mountains, beautiful rivers and a heavenly coastline.
As part of the EU, Slovenia offers healthcare services on a par with other European countries, dispensed through public as well as private healthcare service providers. All businesses and employees contribute to the public healthcare system by paying taxes, and specialists may charge an additional fee for some of their services. Expats from outside the EU must purchase private health insurance for themselves and their dependent family members, and proof will be required to get a visa.
Slovenia’s transport infrastructure is well developed, with a high level of government investment. There are good-quality roads and expressways, a railway, which is being upgraded, and well-maintained air and sea ports.
The country exceeds the EU average in overall fixed broadband take-up. 5G technology is already available for wider use across the country. Costs are low, with flat rate access available for residential and business users.
Slovenia is largely protected by its geographical location from most of the world’s areas of conflict or unrest. It’s one of the cleanest countries in Europe, with a low risk of natural disasters. Though not completely non-existent, crime rates are very low in Slovenia, children can be seen playing in the street and – while it is not to be recommended – locals are known to leave their cars or homes unlocked.
There is a growing level of interest in cyber security and tech development in Slovenia, which has a history of learning programming at an early age. This also contributes to a high level of awareness of cyber risk.
Slovenia is one of the most water-rich European countries in Europe. The country’s electric power transmission network is well connected to the European network. The country is ranked 14th in the World Energy Trilemma Index which measures energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability.
The landscape of the Czech Republic boasts national parks, stunning small towns and medieval fairy tale castles. The capital city, Prague, enjoys a thriving social and cultural scene, and is surrounded by mountains and forests offering the full range of winter and summer activities. Much has been done to create a vibrant, safe and modern country in the wake of its years as part of the former Czechoslovakia.
Healthcare is generally good and relatively inexpensive with many services available free or for a small fee.
The Czech Republic is working on modernising its communications infrastructure. Access by providers is open and competitive.
The Republic inherited an extensive public transport network of bus and train routes from Czechoslovakia, which reaches even the most remote locations. Public transport is cheap and clean, and significant investment has been made in roads and expressways.
Most electricity is generated by fossil fuels (76%) While a portion of this production comes from coal, oil is imported from Russia. Nuclear power contributes 20% of electricity production.
Although the Czech republic is one of the safest countries in the world, some public protests against the war in Ukraine may cause localised strife. Petty theft, especially in tourist areas remains the main problem, and there is some corruption involving bogus plain clothes policemen. Trams in town and city centres have been known to cause accidents.
Cyber-security has been on the minds of Czech politicians since 2011, when a national authority responsible for cyber-security was set up. Activity was increased in 2014, when the Czech Republic signed the Act on Cyber-Security.
The Czech Republic has prioritised environmental protection and security issues. It continues to work at reducing emissions and is committed to continuing its battle against air and water pollution, poor waste management, and needless destruction of nature. However, there are some challenges, including opposition to nuclear power from activists and neighbouring countries.
Singapore has long been a desirable destination for people from all over the world, traditionally those working in trade and finance. In more recent years, its reputation as a safe, friendly, and efficient country has led expats of many kinds, including families and retirees to settle down to enjoy its warm, comfortable climate, friendly locals, and high standard of living.
Crime is clamped down on hard in Singapore, and firearms are strictly controlled. The city state comes third in the Safe Cities Index. Check out our full guide on moving to and living in Singapore as an expat.
Healthcare in Singapore consistently ranks among the best in the world. It offers a universal system, as well as private healthcare. Life expectancy in Singapore is among the longest in the world.
Singapore Changi, one of the busiest airports in south east Asia, is also rated as one of the world’s best. Singapore also has a world-leading port and telecommunications.
Its very low crime rate is one of Singapore’s attractions. In fact, it’s one of the safest cities in the world. Violent crime, in particular, is rare and guns are strictly controlled.
Singapore comes second in the Safest Cities digital security ranking, but scams are far from unknown. This country is also famous for hosting a vast number of digital nomads.
Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 sets out its agenda on sustainable development. Among its targets are to plant 1 million new trees and reduce waste sent to landfill by 30% in 2030.
Ranked the second-safest country in Asia in the Global Peace Index, and with Tokyo ranked 5th safest city in the Economist index, Japan has a reputation for being a secure country to live in and visit.
Japan has the longest life expectancy in the OECD as well as low rates of obesity and below-average alcohol consumption and smoking. The country has a universal healthcare system, where patients pay 30% of the cost of medical care, and the government 70%.
As well as its sophisticated road and airport network, Japan is well known for its cutting-edge, high-speed trains, including the Shinkansen (bullet train) network.
The crime rate in Japan is low, and crimes targeting foreigners are uncommon, according to security organisation OSAC, making it one of the safest countries in the world.
Cyber security in Japan was strengthened in the run up to the Tokyo Olympics, but cyber-crime is still an issue.
Japan is taking steps towards becoming carbon neutral in 2050. These include investing in next-generation solar panels, hydrogen fuel and electric vehicles.
It’s really important to remember though, that there may be a considerable amount of petty crime even in countries with the lowest crime rates. So wherever you are, it’s always vital to keep your wits about you.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on safety and peace across the world, leading to both increases and decreases across the whole spectrum of violence and conflict.
While most countries recorded a fall in interpersonal violence owing to the pandemic, the level of violent crime and homicide did surge in a few countries, most notably the United States.
- Get a good understanding of your destination before you go. What are the risks? And how can you avoid or minimise them?
- Be aware of culture shock and cultural sensitivities to avoid finding yourself in tricky situations
- Keep your home secure, including making sure all windows and doors are locked when you go out
- Make sure you have all the vaccinations you need for your destination, including your COVID-19 vaccination
- Have a safety net in case things go wrong – international health insurance will enable you to access private treatment if you’re injured or become ill
FAQ for the safest countries in the world
According to travel company Bounce, Ireland is the most welcoming place for female travellers. Austria is second and Norway third.
To come up with their list, the company looked at a number of factors, including the percentage of women who have experienced violence from their partner, the number of women homicide victims and the percentage of women who feel safe walking alone at night.
With their low crime rates, Japan and Singapore top most lists as the safest countries in Asia.
Mauritius is the safest African county, ranking 23rd in the Global Peace Index. Ghana is the second safest, at number 40.
According to travel company Asher & Lyric, Canada is the best country for LGBTQ+ travellers.
This is followed by Sweden and The Netherlands.Safest travel destinations for LGBTQ+ tourism worldwide in 2022
Qatar has the lowest crime rate in the world, followed by the UAE, according to Numbeo statistics.
Venezuala has the highest crime rate.
Wherever you move, we can help you safeguard your health
At William Russell, we have 30 years of helping expatriates accepting their culture shock when they move abroad and settle into their new lives overseas by providing world-class global health insurance. Plus, we produce lots of expert material to help you and your family adapt to life abroad.
Making the move to another country can be challenging. But no matter where you go, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers international health insurance that can cover you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays, and we even offer medical evacuations to patients who require treatment in other countries.