Most and least tourist-friendly countries….really?

Most and least tourist-friendly countries….really?

So the World Economic Forum has just released a list of the world’s most and least tourist-friendly countries…but I’m not quite convinced by the results!

140 countries were surveyed as part of the WEF’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013 and asked “How welcome are foreign visitors in your country?”

Places like Iceland, New Zealand, or Morocco, came out on top as the friendliest countries in the world (and I can certainly vouch for NZ), but Bolivia, Venezuela, and Russia all hug the bottom of the list. The Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia are also deemed “unwelcoming” and so is China!

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Now some parts of China were definitely a challenge for me and I do remember getting pretty exasperated during the 5 weeks I spent there in 2010 but I can’t remember the locals being particularly ‘unfriendly’ – the language barrier certainly didn’t help, but as far as I recall, nobody went out of their way to make me feel unwelcome (with the exception perhaps of some HORRIBLE hostel staff in Shanghai, but that’s another story!!).

Other high-ranking countries include many in the Western world (Ireland, Canada, Austria, the United States), a few of the most popular tourist destinations like Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, and many countries in West Africa.

Here are the top and bottom 10 countries, acc to the WEF:

Friendliest countries

1. Iceland
2. New Zealand
3. Morocco
4. Macedonia, FYR
5. Austria
6. Senegal
7. Portugal
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina
9. Ireland
10. Burkina Faso

Unfriendliest countries

1. Bolivia
2. Venezuela
3. Russian Federation
4. Kuwait
5. Latvia
6. Iran
7. Pakistan
8. Slovak Republic
9. Bulgaria
10. Mongolia

I am most surprised to see Iran and Pakistan in the least friendliest countries – Pakistan especially was one of my favourite countries MOSTLY because everybody there was so friendly! I have such fond memories of travelling through Pakistan and didn’t once feel worried – and the fact that we had armed police escorting us round had nothing to do with it – even they were friendly!…

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One memory that stands out is from our visit to the town of Sukkur, where we were staying close to the Sukkur Dam. After going for a long walk over it, the group I was with decided to compete against each-other to see who could get back to the other side the quickest, by ‘any means possible’! A couple of people jumped onto passing donkey carts to hitch a lift while Rich & I jumped onto the back of some random dude’s motorbike! He was only too happy to help and could see we were all having a laugh! We ended up racing against some other random stranger who was giving another two people a ride. The two of us were pretty heavy on the back of our guy’s bike and crossing the river took a bit of time but he wouldn’t take a single penny that we offered him as a thank you for the lift – he just gave us the biggest grin, shook our hands emphatically and then sped off on his way!

Another time, we got chatting to a local guy in a supermarket in Lahore, he was very excited to hear our english accents and invited us back to his home for tea!

As for Iran, we could hardly walk two feet in Esfahan without local couples or families waving excitedly at us across the street and asking us to take their photos. Even when me and the girls had to dress up in homemade Chadors and started take photos of each other, instead of being offended, the local ladies were trying to curb their giggles!…

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I can’t really comment on the rest of the ‘least friendly’ list as the only other place I’ve been to is Bulgaria (and going by Sofia, I can kind of understand why Bulgaria is in there!) so I’d be interested to know what others think!

Have you been to Russia, Bolivia or Venezula? What about the Middle East or Mongolia? What did you think of them?

Let us know what you think of the WEF’s results! Which countries have you visited that should actually be on these lists?…


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  1. December 12, 18:35 #1 Brian

    The only ones from that list I’ve been to are Slovakia and Macedonia, and Macedonia I basically just passed through so I can’t really count it, but I’ve heard mixed stories about it.
    Slovakia on the other hand, I agree 100%. Actually, the average locals were quite friendly and helpful (though I heard Bratislava should be avoided), but I can’t say the same for the people in the service industry. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such rude restaurant and attraction staff. In addition, there are no signs to any of the attractions and they charge ridiculous fees for parking and photography. You can tell the government doesn’t want tourists there, so IDK why they even joined Schengen.

    I’ve yet to read any positive comments about Bulgaria, so that one might be true. Though the Bulgarians I’ve met have been friendly.

    Russia, everyone I’ve talked to who’s been to Russia said the Russians were really friendly, but I can’t say the same for Russians abroad.

    Icelanders I’ve heard aren’t really that friendly, unless they’re drunk, and Morocco has a lot of scammers apparantly!

    Mongolia might be true.

    Pakistan I actually expect to see on this list, but the travel vloggers seem to love it, so maybe they are friendly.

    But Iran surprised me as well, as Iranians have a reputation for being the friendliest people on earth!

    Middle East, I’ve only been to Turkey. It’s really difficult to say, because a lot of Turks are two faced, so it’s very difficult to tell if they are being genuinely friendly or just trying to scam you, and there are A LOT of scammers!

    Kind of surprised Chile isn’t on the list of rudest. They have quite a bad reputation, though I didn’t find it too bad.

    It’s funny because usually the countries that people say are rude, I find friendly and vice versa.

    Personally, my LEAST friendly interactions have been in central and northern Europe and the eastern Caribbean. I also didn’t find Taiwanese very welcoming to foreigners, except in some parts. I also never found Canadians very friendly.

    While my friendliest interactions have been in the colonial Caribbean, except for Curacao, and countries like Greece, France, Mexico and Chile, which are usually considered rude.

  2. March 06, 09:06 #2 Travelling Mate

    The Middle East (I include Pakistan) and the former CIS regions can be a bit inhospitable for tourists because of their historic desire to defend their culture against Americanization (or Anglosaxonism) – you’ll have a rougher time getting by with even simplified English and they just haven’t developed the facilities to cater for tourists because they’ve restricted the number of foreigners that can enter their countries making tourist-arrangements a bit of a waste of money for them.

    I disagree with South America and Eastern Europe being on the list because it is fairly simple to get by with pigeon English and the tourist facilities are more plentiful. Of course, exceptions would be Qatar or UAE, or conversely Cuba.

  3. June 15, 15:25 #3 Aisleen Author

    My thoughts exactly Fardin!

  4. June 13, 15:48 #4 Fardin

    I disagree with the iran and middle east countried bieng in the unfriendly countries list.the muslim countries specially IRAN have one of the friendliest and hospitable people in the must see to realize.I think the list is based on politics and one sided thoughts.

  5. April 05, 12:36 #5 Aisleen Author

    Hey Patrick! I’m glad you agree with me about Iran – these types of questionnaires are always v dubious! Would totally agree with you putting Vietnam at the top of the list – I’d add Laos to that, such friendly people! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  6. April 05, 09:23 #6 Patrick

    Can not agree more about Iran. I find the whole thing questionable if it’s down so low. I tried to do a lap of the square in Esfahan – in a couple of hours I managed to make a couple of hundred metre’s progress. I was literally swarmed with people trying to greet me. I had to make excuses and leave, people would not stop stopping to chat.

    I do agree that Bulgaria is not friendly.

    If I was to have a top list it would be Ireland, Iran, Turkey, Northern England (Liverpool and Yorkshire very much so), Thailand, Vietnam.

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