Lao Tzu once said, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Let’s be real, though. Lao Tzu didn’t have to deal with 2023’s skyrocketing flight prices and travel boom.
Travelers are planning bigger and more expensive trips than ever this year – and rightfully so.
Multi-country adventures, wellness-focused activities, and unique experiences are at the top of everyone’s minds right now, so it’s no surprise that Asia has been making a spectacular comeback this year.
According to recent Trip.com data, long-time Asia-Pacific favorites like Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong are topping the 2023 search charts. Hopper also reports that the three most searched destinations for this summer are Shanghai, Taipei, and Chiang Mai.
It’s safe to say that The Pacific is more popular than ever this year. So what’s the catch?
Well, many Asian destinations remain further out of western travelers’ comfort zones than the distance traversed to get there. Oceans away from home, tourists wonder about cultural differences, unfamiliar etiquette, language barriers, and – above all – safety.
Now here’s the good news: Asia is home to some of the absolute safest destinations in the world and should be a first choice for safety-conscious adventurers this year.
We’ve compiled the most secure destinations in the region, according to the Global Peace Index, the Safe Cities Index, the U.S. Department of State, and local country-level crime statistics.
Here are the three safest tourist destinations in Asia this year:
Tokyo has two contradictory claims to fame: the most populous city in the world and the city with one of the lowest crime rates anywhere.
Tokyo is the fifth safest city in the world, according to The Economist’s Safe Cities Index.
Japan is also the tenth safest country around the globe, according to the Global Peace Index. (For reference, the U.S. ranks 129th.) The U.S. State Department has given Japan its safest classification for travel, Level 1.
The statistics are impressive, but the social reality is even more admirable.
Tourists in Japan might be shocked at first when they see people leaving their valuable belongings out in the open. It’s totally normal to find laptops unattended in trendy cafes, purses sitting on park benches, and even phones left on restaurant tables.
Travelers definitely don’t have to worry about pickpocketing or petty theft while in Japan. In fact, even if you lose a wallet on your trip, it’s virtually guaranteed to be returned to a police station with all of your cards and cash still inside.
Theft is simply uncommon here. So, leave the money belt at home, and enjoy one of the most fascinating countries in Asia.
The Japanese culture’s strong national sense of collective responsibility and emphasis on harmonic order definitely play a partial role in its world-class safety.
But more importantly, there is an obvious – albeit friendly – police presence in Japan.
A Kōban, or “police box”, is a 24-hour miniature police station with a 130-year history of keeping social order and security in Japan. They can usually be found every few blocks in Japanese cities but are especially common in front of train stations, tourist attractions, and residential areas.
Where you see an officer inside the kōban, you can also feel protected knowing that their partner is patrolling around on foot or bicycle.
Japan is one of the ten least violent countries in the world, with a murder rate of less than 0.25 per every 100,000 people and a virtually gun-free society.
Under Japan’s strict social safety regulations, it’s almost impossible to get weapons like guns, tasers, and even pocket knives. (If you’re planning to buy some of Japan’s globally renowned cooking knives on your trip, don’t worry. They’re permitted with a special tourist seal.)
If you’re looking for proof of just how comprehensive Japan’s street safety is, look …down, at the small children with brightly colored hats and backpacks. Locals in Japan often allow their kids as young as 4 years old to commute to school or run errands unsupervised.
The social trust that parents have in Japanese society to keep their children safe should inspire confidence in even the most skeptical of tourists.
For a trip that combines ancient Eastern traditions, modern urban life, and peace of mind, head to Japan.
You can feel at ease experiencing a taste of Asia through one of the safest and most unique destinations in the world, Singapore.
Singapore is the third safest city and ninth safest country in the world (Singapore is a city, nation, and state all in one). Like Japan, Singapore is classified as a Level 1 safe destination by the U.S. State Department.
You may have heard it’s illegal to chew gum in Singapore. You might not have heard that violent and drug-related crimes often carry the death penalty or that having an unauthorized gun means 10 years in prison and a literal caning.
Singapore’s laws are strict and meticulously enforced. People know that if they commit a crime, no matter how small, they’ll be caught and sentenced. There’s no such thing as getting off easy here.
With such severe laws and penalties, it’s no wonder that nobody thinks it’s worth it to swipe a tourist’s iPhone.
This legal system may seem radical to foreigners, but it has allowed Singapore to succeed at maintaining near-zero crime rates that protect locals and tourists alike.
Since Singaporeans have full faith in their legal system, they also don’t hesitate to speak up when they see potential danger. Tourists can rely on locals for help in the unlikely event of a sticky situation.
It’s a statistical near-impossibility to experience even petty theft on your trip to Singapore, much less any serious danger.
The biggest threat facing you in the Garden City is likely overeating from the mouth-watering array of global dishes at Singapore hawker centers.
In fact, the delicious fusion of Malay, Indian, and Chinese flavors was life-altering enough to once have prompted Anthony Bourdain to ask: if the tradeoff is a “utopian city-state” with food like this, “is free speech overrated?”
For a safe Asian destination that combines pristine beaches, lush jungles, and fascinating cities, look no further than Malaysia.
Malaysia is the third safest country in Asia and one of the top 20 safest countries in the world, according to the Global Peace Index. The U.S. State Department has also deemed Malaysia a Level 1 safe destination.
The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is the 6th safest city in Asia. It maintains a higher ranking than most U.S. and European cities and has recently seen heavy investment pay off in its trending status with digital nomads.
With the exception of the eastern state of Sabah, far away from all major attractions and most travelers’ paths, Malaysia is an exceptionally safe option in Southeast Asia. Tourists may be surprised to hear that it consistently ranks higher in safety than Thailand on both national and city levels.
Similar to its neighbor Singapore, Malaysia has some pretty strict laws, especially related to violence, drugs, and indecency.
With a local proverb like “He who has learned how to steal must learn how to hang,” it’s no wonder that tourists don’t have to worry too much about pickpocketing here.
While it often gets overshadowed by neighbors Singapore and Thailand, Malaysia has so much to offer travelers – including peace of mind.
Tourists can feel secure marveling at the breathtaking natural beauty of the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, climbing to the world’s biggest cave, or doing some urban exploring around the tallest twin towers in the world. If that’s not enough, there are hundreds of tropical islands and countless plates of nasi lemak to fuel your worry-free Malaysian adventure.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com