Asia, and in particular, Southeast Asia is a popular destination for first-time backpackers and frequent travellers alike. However, the continent is as diverse as it is unpredictable and there is no denying that some countries in Asia are safer than others.
If you’re thinking about heading to Asia on the trip of a lifetime, you’re in the right place. This comprehensive list of the safest Asian countries for travellers will help you to choose your next destination.
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A note about COVID-19: This article won’t be focusing on any safety issues related to COVID-19. Instead, it will dive into general safety levels using the Global Peace Index and the experience of travellers. If you are considering travelling during the pandemic, make sure you understand the entry restrictions and vaccine/testing requirements.
How Did We Decide The Safest Asian Countries?
Using our own personal travel experience (three of the team have lived in Asia and all of us have travelled the continent extensively), our epic Facebook community and the Global Peace Index rankings for 2021, we’ve compiled the following list of the safest countries in Asia.
The Global Peace Index (GPI) is put together annually by Vision of Humanity and is decided based on militarisation, ongoing conflict and the overall security of a country. Each country is given a Global Peace Index Ranking which places them in a league table of 163 countries and a GPI Score which measures its peacefulness using 23 different indicators.
For some context, using the 2021 rankings, Iceland is the safest country in the world with a GPI score of 1.1 while Afghanistan (GPI score 3.631) is the most unsafe. The USA sits in joint position 122, with a GPI score of 2.337.
The Top 6 Safest Countries in Asia
Disclaimer – Global safety advice can change quickly and without notice. At South East Asia Backpacker we always recommend investing in travel insurance and doing your own research about a place before you intend to visit.
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- Global Peace Index ranking: 11/163
- Global Peace Index score: 1.347
According to the GPI, Singapore is the safest country in Asia. This buzzing city-state has also been touted as one of the top places to live in Asia, offering a high quality of life and a reliable healthcare system.
As a hub of Asian trade and finance, it benefits from an influx of business travellers as well as wealthy elites trying to bag some prime Singaporean real estate.
Serious crime is very low within this island nation, likely due to the harsh penalties that exist for even minor misdemeanours. For example, one of our favourite Singapore facts is that if you are seen naked by your neighbours (even in your own home), you could be fined $2,000SGD!
Singapore is famous for being the cleanest country in Asia (and maybe even the world). Chewing gum has been banned in an attempt to keep the streets clean and police even do spot checks in public toilets to keep them in pristine condition. The ‘City of Rules’ as it has been dubbed, may come with a lot of restrictions but it is easy to see the benefit when you’re strolling down the sparkling streets.
As budget-travellers will already know, the main downside of backpacking through this tiny city-state is the cost. Singapore is one of the most expensive countries in the whole world! Still, there are plenty of things to do in Singapore, even for cash-strapped backpackers.
Traveller Highlights in Singapore:
- Get lost in the magical Garden Rhapsody light and sound show that takes place every evening in the Gardens by the Bay. It’s one of the best free things to do in the city!
- Singapore is home to a melting pot of cultures which can be seen in its districts. Check out Little India and Chinatown to go on a journey through Asia without having to jump on a plane!
- Grab some noodles at the Michelin star hawker stall Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles.
- The Singaporean food scene is one of the world’s best. While you’re there, make sure to hop on a food tour to get all the best local tips.
- Go wildlife spotting in the protected Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Look out for the long-tailed macaques that swing in the trees!
“If safety is your concern when travelling in Asia, nowhere beats Singapore” – Rudolph.
- Global Peace Index ranking: 12/163
- Global Peace Index score: 1.373
The GPI ranks Japan as the second safest country in Asia, with it coming just one place behind Singapore. Japan generally has a very low homicide rate and serious crimes tend to be rare occurrences. The country is so trusting, that it is very normal to see people leave their bags unattended in public spaces!
The main safety concern in Japan are natural disasters. As the country is located on the Ring of Fire, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes and typhoons do happen. Although these aren’t very regular occurrences, climate scientists say that these kinds of events will become more frequent and severe if appropriate action is not taken to prevent the planet from warming further.
To ensure that tourists feel safe when visiting Japan, the government has created an ingenious app called ‘Safety Tips’. This will send push notifications to warn travellers about severe weather events.
The country is very generally welcoming, however, solo female travellers should be aware that although catcalling tends to be a rare occurrence, non-consensual rubbing and upskirting is a problem on public transport. Women-only carriages do exist on some train lines.
Traveller Highlights in Japan:
- Take a dip in the hot springs! There are over 3,000 of these across the country and they offer the chance to relax and take in beautiful views.
- Sumo Wrestling is the national sport of Japan and no trip to the country would be complete without it!
- Gaze in awe at Mount Fuji, one of the country’s sacred mountains. It is even better if you can time your visit with cherry blossom season.
- Feast on sushi and sashimi, because why on earth wouldn’t you?!
- Walk on the world’s wildest intersection in Tokyo. The Shibuya Crossing is the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing and needs to be seen to be believed!
“1st place [in my opinion] goes to Japan.. It’s another level.’ – Miguel
- Global Peace Index ranking: 25/163
- Global Peace Index score: 1.515
Malaysia is a rapidly evolving country that has seen big advances in the last few decades. Much more technologically developed than other countries in the region, prices are still more reasonable than in neighbouring Singapore.
Violent crime is generally pretty low, although travellers should watch out for pickpockets in the big cities. If this is something that you are concerned about, consider investing in a money belt or theft-proof backpack.
Drug-related crimes come with harsh punishments in Malaysia including the death penalty so make sure to avoid getting involved with any kind of drug use while you are there.
Much like a number of other countries in the region, Malaysia is affected by Southeast Asia’s burning season. The ‘haze’ as it is known locally, takes place from June to October and the smoke from the forest fires can be a health concern, especially for visitors with respiratory illnesses, including asthma.
Traveller Highlights in Malaysia:
- Get a photo from the top of the iconic Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
- Chow down on the country’s best street food in Penang. From Chinese to Indian and Malay, there is something for everyone!
- Take some time to chill on the beautiful Langkawi Island.
- Head to Borneo for the opportunity to spot Orangutans at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
- Climb the epic Mount Kinabalu. Remember, you’ll need to be an experienced hiker to take on this challenge!
“Malaysia is the best bet [for safety], other than Singapore.” – Zack
- Global Peace Index ranking: 34/163
- Global Peace Index score: 1.662
The island of Taiwan may be a country that surprises many readers of this list but it actually has a very good safety record. Violent crime is low compared to world averages and although pickpocketing and other petty crime increases in large population centres, it is still generally very low.
The country is at risk from typhoons and earthquakes owing to its position in the Pacific Ocean, however, while this is something you should be aware of, it should not deter you from visiting this incredible country.
Much like many other countries across Asia, dengue fever can be a problem for travellers. You should always practice bite avoidance in the country by wearing insect repellent with DEET content. If the worst comes to worst, you can rest easy knowing that Taiwan’s medical facilities are much the same quality as they are in the western world.
Traveller Highlights in Taiwan:
- Ascend to the top of Taipei 101. This star-brushing skyscraper features one of the world’s fastest elevators.
- Visit one of the oldest temples in Taipei, Longshan Temple. Unlike many other places of religious worship, this temple caters to those of the Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist faiths.
- Gorge yourself at one of Taiwan’s famous night markets. These are the places to go if you want to eat until your heart’s content.
- Hike in the jaw-dropping Taroko National Park. It is one of only nine national parks in the entire country.
“Taiwan [is one of the safest]” – Danika.
- Global Peace Index ranking: =42/163
- Global Peace Index score: 1.783
Considering its precarious location on the Ring of Fire, you may be surprised to see Indonesia on this list of the safest countries in Asia. However, aside from the threat of natural disasters, Indonesia is generally a very safe place to be.
Violent crime is not too much of an issue in the country however, you are still advised to avoid dodgy areas after dark. The main crime that you should be aware of is pickpocketing which occurs regularly in popular tourist spots such as Bali.
The island of Bali is easily the most popular destination in the country and accounts for 40% of all tourists every year. Indonesia is known for its friendly people who will make you feel welcome in their country from the moment that you arrive.
Although the threat has decreased over recent years, Islamic terror attacks are still something to be aware of. To keep yourself safe, avoid getting involved in any kind of demonstration or protest during your time there.
Much like other countries in the region, drug-related offences come with very harsh penalties. You should avoid getting involved with drugs.
Traveller Highlights in Indonesia:
- Hike the mighty Mount Rinjani in Lombok. After all, how often do you get the opportunity to trek to the crater rim of an active volcano?!
- Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Borobudur.
- Head to Bukit Lawang for a spot of ethical jungle trekking.
- The Gili Islands are some of Indonesia’s most beautiful. However, with an increase in tourists, some argue that they have lost their charm. Hark back to the good old days with a visit to the secret Gili Islands.
- Get up close to some of Indonesia’s most famous wildlife and see if you can spot a Komodo Dragon!
“I’ve felt very safe in Singapore, KL and Indonesia (Java and Bali) by myself – that’s where I’ve been so far.” – Katy
- Global Peace Index ranking: 45/163
- Global Peace Index score: 1.809
The often-overlooked landlocked country of Laos is a great destination for travellers. Generally, the crime rate is low but it is important to remember that you will stand out as a tourist. Most of the crimes against travellers happen in party town Vang Vieng where inebriated tourists make easy targets for robbers.
Drugs such as weed and mushrooms are regularly sold in backpacker areas. However, possession is illegal and tourists are regularly caught in stings. In towns such as Vang Vieng, criminals often frequent bars where ‘Happy Pizza’ is sold, ready to take advantage of stoned tourists.
The roads are particularly bad in Laos, especially once you get off the beaten track. Although it is not always common to find seatbelts in cars, you should always wear one whenever possible. Never jump on a motorcycle without a helmet.
One of the biggest threats is unexploded ordnance (UXO) that has been left from the Second Indochina War. Laos holds the depressing accolade of being the most severely bombed country per capita in the world’s history.
Although the mission to remove these UXOs is ongoing, there are still numerous places where these unexploded bombs can pose a threat. Although most of these will be off the tourist track, you should still heed any safety signs and stay on established trails.
Traveller Highlights in Laos:
- Marvel at the mysterious Plain of Jars. This UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of 150 stone jars from the Iron Age!
- Gaze at the breathtaking Kuang Si Falls, just north of Luang Prabang. If you are brave enough, you can hike to the top or swim in the turquoise pools.
- Zipline and take in the views of the local wildlife at the Gibbon Experience.
- Go kayaking in the 4000 islands and see whether you can spot the rare Irrawaddy dolphins close to the Cambodian border.
- Head to the heart of the jungle and go trekking in Luang Namtha.
“Thailand and Laos [are the safest I think].” – Lana
What are your thoughts on the safest countries in Asia? Where have you felt safest on your travels?
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