When choosing their next holiday destination, most people begin with the scenery, or the culture or those unpronounceable ruins everyone says you have to see. But we believe that ‘friendliness’ should be high on the priority list. When you’re a million miles from home, and every street corner looks the same, and you’re hungry and lost and have limited phone reception, friendliness can be next to godliness.
It’s a virtue a number of organisations are finally starting to take into account when ranking countries in their annual ‘Mine is Better Than Yours’ poll. The World Economic Forum’s most recent report ranked 140 nations from the most to the least friendly. And for those travellers looking for a warm welcome, a helping hand and a friendly face, look no further than their Top 10 Friendliest Countries.
10. Burkina Faso
Proving that you don’t have to have much to be happy, tiny Burkina Faso in West Africa is one of the poorest countries in the world and, apparently, one of the friendliest. Perhaps it’s the stunning waterfalls, incredible wildlife and rolling amber deserts that puts a grin on the locals’ faces. Or maybe it’s the small but burgeoning tourist industry. Either way it’s a unique destination just crying out for an Intrepid holiday.
No surprises here. When your national drink is Guinness and you have a proclivity for seeing magical green fairies everywhere, it’s only natural to greet people with a smile. Ireland is renowned for its friendly locals and warm hospitality. If you want to learn the gift of the gab, go kiss the Blarney Stone just outside Cork.
8. Bosnia & Herzegovina
Don’t be fooled by the fact WWI started here, Bosnians are some of the friendliest folk you’ll ever meet and have the growing tourism stats to prove it. Intrepid travellers can’t get enough of B&H’s picturesque mountain villages, cultural east-west fusion and world-class river rapids.
It’s hard not to be happy in Portugal. Looking out over the rolling hills of Beiras, some fresh black olives in one hand, maybe a glass of velvety Douro valley port in the other, life starts to make sense. This welcoming country has inspired writers, artists and musicians, as well as about 13 million happy holiday makers each year.
The beating epicentre of new Africa, Senegal is a stunning blend of glitzy nightlife, white-sand beaches and lush tropical forests, with a dash of saucy colonial French charm thrown in for good measure. Wherever you go here you’ll be greeted with a smile, and that friendliness is paying dividends for the country’s booming tourist trade.
If Julie Andrews were singing Her Favourite Things today, statistics indicate she would include ‘tourists’ alongside ‘brown paper packages tied up with string’. Austria has become known as one of Europe’s friendliest holiday destinations in recent years. Not only is it a stunning picture-postcard of alpine scenery, glacial lakes and architectural wonders, it’s one of the few places on the continent where it’s not unusual to be ‘Good morning’d’ by strangers on your. Vibrant in summer and festive in winter, Austria holidays are perfect any time of year.
It must be all those mountains, but there’s something special about Macedonia. Apart from its crumbling ancient ruins, hilltop monasteries and jaw-dropping alpine views, the friendliness of locals is fast becoming world-renowned. Head to the beautiful lakeside town of Ohrid for a crash course in genuine Slavic hospitality.
It’s not too surprising Moroccans are good with travellers. Historically the gateway to North Africa and a bustling trading hub alive with the languages and customs of a dozen different cultures, it’s recent history as a Hollywood hotspot has also seen a big influx of film crews, movie stars and wide-eyed tourists. It’s only natural they’ve got being nice down to an art form.
2. New Zealand
Their antipodean cousins across the Tasman Sea might be a bit miffed about missing out, but according to the World Economic Forum, New Zealand trumps Australia when it comes to friendliness. It’s probably all that clear alpine air, fresh seafood and Middle Earth magic that does the trick.
A country that only gets 3-4 hours of sunlight in winter could be forgiven for being a bit grumpy about life. But perhaps Iceland’s spectacular volcanic scenery, colossal waterfalls and endless clean geothermal power have worked some magic on the smiling locals. Don’t be surprised if you’re offered free food, drinks and hiking advice from friendly Icelanders – it’s all part of the culture here.
Feature image c/o Jamie McCaffrey, Flickr