The world is a scary place. And while danger can strike anywhere, you can put the odds firmly in your favor by traveling to the safest countries in the world. Here are the world's three safest countries, ready for your next vacation.
It should come as no surprise that this rich and isolated Nordic nation is one of the safest countries in the world. Norway ranks No. 1 on the United Nations' Human Development Index and is considered to be one of the most equitable societies in the world.
Norwegians can live in luxury without ever having to loot your luggage. A natural resources boom has kept GDP per capita soaring over the last 15 years, with the average Norwegian pulling in $99,558 in 2012. And with a life expectancy of 81, Norwegians quite literally have more to live for than citizens of 182 other countries, including Americans' 79-year average.
While terrorist Anders Brevik's 77-person killing spree in 2011 might seem to push Norway far off this list of safest countries, the country's accommodating justice system is increasingly serving as a model for others. Brevik will receive just 21 years in prison (less than four months per murder), and he will spend his time in a three-room cell with TV, laptop, and exercise equipment at his disposal. While opponents call for blood, Norway has consistently had one of the lowest incarceration, rape, and homicide rates in the world -- potentially due in part to its progressive prisoner rehabilitation programs.
Norwegians may make $50,000 more per year than their Atlantic Ocean neighbors, but Iceland snags second place for the world's safest countries. With only 320,000 citizens, this island nation is no place for nonsense. It ranked No. 1 on the 2013 Global Peace Index from Vision of Humanity, scoring top marks for weapons control, freedom of press, and democratic governance.
With an unemployment rate of just 5.4%, most Icelanders simply don't need to steal. In the U.S., we aren't even dreaming of getting that low. The Federal Reserve's long-term target is 6.5%, and our current 6.7% rate has more to do with job-seekers giving up than increased employment.
1. New Zealand
New Zealand isn't just the safest country now -- it has been since before humans lived there. The country's flightless bird population serves as a perfect example of what makes this island nation so secure: no predators.
In 2011, there were just 39 murders -- that's one-fifth the homicides in New Orleans, a city about which there is even a murders map to keep cartographical track of crime. While its inaccessibility may irk Lord of the Rings enthusiasts, New Zealand has also kept guns out of everyone's hands -- even the police. Everyday cops aren't packing, and in 2008 (most recent data) there were only seven gun deaths.
A safe country needs an accountable government, and New Zealand tied for first (with Denmark) on the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index from Transparency International that measures how corrupt a country's public sector is perceived to be. Smart citizens also have less reason to steal and 95% of New Zealanders attend high school, and a whopping 83% head on to higher education. And while the country's 6.2% unemployment rate is higher than both Norway's and Iceland's, New Zealand has significant social safety nets to keep its down-and-out citizens off the streets.
Make Smart Choices
Norway, Iceland, and New Zealand aren't just the world's safest countries -- they're also some of the most beautiful nations around, with vibrant cultures and friendly locals. Kindness begets kindness, and these countries' safety records serve as models for the rest of the world. So leave your pepper spray at home, pack your bags, and bon voyage.