Asia is one of the most beautiful and diverse continents on the planet. With a rich heritage, famously friendly locals and landscapes that range from mountains to beaches, Asia is a wonder to explore.
Although Asia has had its fair share of troubles and unrest, much of this is consigned to history. Today, with the exception of a few countries which should be avoided, there are plenty of safe Asian cities for backpackers to explore.
While you shouldn’t be overly concerned about your welfare when visiting, it is important to be aware of potential dangers, scams and petty crime. To help kickstart your trip planning, we’ve compiled a list of some of the safest cities in Asia below.
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11 Safest Cities in Asia
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand’s second city, Chiang Mai, has earned a name for itself as one of the most popular digital nomad spots in Southeast Asia and is a firm favourite on many Thai itineraries. Despite its size, Chiang Mai is a relatively easy city to navigate, and is also easy to reach, with its own international airport, rail station and bus terminal.
Chiang Mai has been consistently named the safest city in Southeast Asia according to Numbeo’s Safety Index between 2020 and 2023. Chiang Mai scored 75.5 points in the 2023 report, putting it three points ahead of its nearest rival. Thefts, muggings and violent crime are all rated as ‘very low’ or ‘low’ risk, and residents report feeling safe walking alone.
Chiang Mai also takes second position in the Health Care Index when compared with 215 cities worldwide! Despite this, the city is best avoided during the burning season, which runs from February to April, as the air quality is extremely poor.
In recent years, some anti-government protests have occurred in Thailand, including in urban areas such as Chiang Mai. Though this shouldn’t generally cause a problem for tourists, you should be aware of current issues and the possibility of potential demonstrations.
Top Things to Do in Chiang Mai:
- Eat at Ploen Ruedee Night Market where you can find some of the most delicious cheap eats in the city.
- Hike in Doi Inthanon National Park, home to the country’s highest peak.
- Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most famed temple, situated on a mountain just outside the city.
- Stroll through the Sunday Night Market on Walking Street, where you can enjoy tasty street food and pick up some souvenirs.
- Discover the Old City by wandering through the streets within the city walls, admiring the many temples and enjoying the trendy cafés.
2. Tokyo, Japan
As a country, Japan ranks number nine on the Global Peace Index and is home to some of the safest cities in Asia, top of which is its capital, Tokyo. As the world’s largest city, Tokyo is a huge, buzzing metropolis full of bright lights, amazing food, karaoke bars, famously efficient public transport and a rich heritage.
From shopping to art galleries to watching sumo wrestling matches or visiting Japanese gardens, there is no shortage of exciting activities in this thriving city.
The Economist’s Safe Cities Index ranks Tokyo as number five for overall safety and number one for health security! Numbeo rates the risk of all crimes as ‘low’ or ‘very low’ and the city is a safe place to travel around alone.
Top Things to Do in Tokyo:
- Enjoy the chaos at Shibuya Scramble Crossing, the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. While you’re here you can also visit the statue of Hachikō, the world’s most loyal dog.
- Taste the sushi at budget-friendly joints such as Sakura Sushi or Kura Sushi Harajuku.
- Sing karaoke at Karaoke Kan Shibuya Udagawacho, famed for featuring in the movie Lost In Translation.
- Visit a Japanese garden – Imperial East Palace Gardens and Mejiro Garden are both free to enter.
With a booming economy, excellent transport system and famously clean streets, Singapore is a rags-to-riches success story and one of the safest cities to visit in Asia.
The city-state ranks as the sixth most peaceful country in the world on the Global Peace Index and sits at number three on the Safe Cities Index, scoring a huge 80.7 points. On the same scale it also comes in at number two for both infrastructure security and health security and takes the top spot for digital security – so not a bad place for digital nomads!
Perhaps one of the reasons for the city’s exceptionally low crime level is the strict legal system, particularly when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Travellers are advised to know the rules before visiting and avoid drugs of any kind.
Top Things to Do in Singapore:
- Be dazzled by the Garden Rhapsody, a daily light and sound show at Gardens by the Bay.
- Take a stroll around the beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens.
- Discover the public art on a walking trail around Downtown.
- Watch the Spectra Light and Water Show, a 15-minute extravaganza of lights, music and water features.
- Delve into Singapore’s Chinese heritage and enjoy delicious food in Chinatown.
4. Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan’s capital is a welcoming city and the economic and political heart of the island. In Taipei, you can enjoy the unusual fusion of Chinese culture and influences from Japan, Southeast Asia and America.
A prosperous and international city, Taipei ranked highly in the Prosperity and Inclusive City Seal and Awards, which measures factors such as personal safety, environmental quality and access to internet and healthcare.
Numbeo’s Safety Index ranks Taipei as the third-safest city in Asia and fourth in the world! It also scores ‘very low’ on almost all the indicators used to assess crime rates and ‘very high’ on the safety indicators, including walking alone at night.
Although the overall risk of crime is extremely low, visitors should still be vigilant to avoid petty crimes such as pickpocketing and scams. A common scam involves a ‘friendly helper’ at ATMs whose true intention is to scan credit cards. Avoid any offer of help when withdrawing cash.
Top Things to Do in Taipei:
- Visit the National Palace Museum, which houses one of the world’s most impressive collections of Chinese art and artefacts.
- Pay a visit to Longshan Temple, one of the country’s most important and the best introduction to Taiwan’s religious traditions.
- Eat at Ningxia Night Market.
- Hike in Yangmingshan National Park, located just north of the city and where you will find Taipei’s highest peak.
5. Georgetown (Penang), Malaysia
The island of Penang lies just off Malaysia’s northwest coast. Famous for its spices, Penang has a long and colourful history, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgetown sits at its cultural heart. This colourful capital boasts some of the most beautiful architecture and best food in Malaysia.
The country is one of the top 20 most peaceful in the world and Penang is rated as the fourth-safest city in Southeast Asia by Numbeo. Website Travel Safe Abroad, a site written by travellers for travellers, cites pickpocketing as a risk in Penang so, as with any urban area, you should be vigilant and take care of your belongings.
Top Things to Do in Penang:
- Sample some of the best dishes Penang has to offer in the food capital of Malaysia.
- Take a guided tour around The Blue Mansion, one of Georgetown’s most important historic houses.
- Watch the sunset from Penang Hill.
- Walk along the battlements at Fort Cornwallis, a historic fort and one of the top attractions in colonial Georgetown.
- Learn about the history of the spice trade at the Tropical Spice Garden.
- Take a hike through Penang National Park, the smallest in the country.
6. Osaka, Japan
Japan’s third-largest city has been on a mission to improve its image and a swathe of urban revitalization and architectural projects have made it a more attractive destination. With easygoing locals who know how to have a good time, Osaka is a welcoming city for travellers.
For three iterations running, Osaka sat in third place on the Safe Cities Index. Although it has recently slid to spot 17, it still scores very highly overall, with 76.7 points. It remains in the top five for health security and top 20 for personal security. Numbeo rates it as the number one safest city in Eastern Asia, rating all crime indicators as ‘low’.
Osaka is located in a region that is susceptible to natural disasters including typhoons and earthquakes so visitors should stay alert to local weather warnings.
Top Things to Do in Osaka:
- Soak up the atmosphere canalside at Dotonbori, Osaka’s centre of nightlife and entertainment.
- Explore some history at Osaka Castle.
- Enjoy the rides at Universal Studios Japan.
- Marvel at the skyline line at vertigo-inducing Abeno Harukas, which was until recently Japan’s tallest structure.
- Pay a visit to Osaka’s most famous shrine, Sumiyoshi Taisha.
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7. Hong Kong
One of the world’s largest financial hubs, Hong Kong is a metropolis where modernity and tradition coexist. Just outside the frenetic buzz of the city, with its neon lights and towering skyscrapers, you’ll find nature galore, with national parks, beaches and mountains.
With 78.6 points, it comes in at number eight on the Safe Cities Index, and number three for health security. Numbeo ranks it similarly highly with a score of 78.3 and a rating of ‘low’ or ‘very low’ on all crime indicators.
In one of the most densely populated cities in the world, pickpocketing is not uncommon so keep an eye on valuables.
Top Things to Do in Hong Kong:
- Take the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island with sweeping views over the city’s famous skyline.
- Eat and shop at Temple Street Night Market.
- Escape from the city chaos and find some tranquillity at Chi Lin Nunnery, a Buddhist complex that dates back almost a century to the 1930s.
- Step into the past at the Hong Kong Museum of History.
- Satisfy your inner foodie with some Michelin-recommended cheap eats, including dim sum at Tim Ho Wan, dumplings at Wang Fu and roasted meats at Kam’s Roast Goose.
8. Hoi An, Vietnam
Perhaps Vietnam’s most charming city, Hoi An is a collection of narrow streets lined with beautiful colonial buildings, coffee shops and strings of colourful lanterns.
With an exceptionally high rating of 84.19 on Numbeo’s Safety Index, it is generally considered safe for solo travellers, although you should exercise caution when travelling at night, as in any city. Also, as with any busy urban centre, keep a close eye on your belongings to avoid opportunistic pickpocketing, which while rare, can occur.
Some streets at the centre of the Old City are pedestrianised in the evenings, making it easy and safe to walk around the heart of the city, but you should take care on the roads outside of this area where traffic can be very heavy and chaotic.
Top Things to Do in Hoi An:
- Get measured for some custom-made clothes in Vietnam’s tailoring capital.
- Walk across the famous Japanese Bridge, which dates back to the 17th century.
- Admire the lanterns that light up the streets and soak up the atmosphere at the Full Moon Lantern Festival.
- Visit some of the city’s historic buildings such as the Old House of Tan Ky or the Japanese Culture Gallery.
- Spend the day at An Bang Beach soaking up some sun and trying your skills at some water sports.
9. Seoul, South Korea
A city steeped in tradition and history with a contemporary frenzy of activity and neon-lit streets, South Korea’s capital, Seoul, is a city of contrasts. Fashion and tech-savvy locals who are welcoming to foreigners, the world’s most-visited national park, an efficient transport system and the ubiquitous K-Pop beat are sure to delight any visitor.
With an impressive 75.2 on Numbeo’s Safety Index, it scores ‘low’ on factors including risk of muggings, thefts and violent crime. The biggest risk you’re likely to face in Seoul is the weather, and natural disasters are not unheard of. Typhoons can pose problems during the wet season from June to November.
Top Things to Do in Seoul:
- Wander around the streets of Insadong, browse the shops and art galleries, and enjoy a cup of tea in a traditional tearoom.
- Check out Gyeongbokgung, Seoul’s impressive first palace dating back to 1394.
- Get lost in some culture at Leeum Samsung Museum of Art.
- Take in panoramic views of the city from the top of the N Seoul Tower.
- Discover Seoul’s nightlife and indie music scene at Hongdae.
10. Melaka, Malaysia
Twinned with Georgetown, Melaka in the south of Malaysia is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the country’s most interesting architecture and a fascinating history. With Portuguese, Dutch, British and Chinese influence, this important trading post is a blend of cultures and rich heritage.
Melaka scores well on Numbeo’s Safety Index, with ‘low’ measures for crimes such as muggings, thefts and physical assault.
Though uncommon, pickpocketing can occur so keep an eye on your belongings in busy areas. It’s also worth noting that there are heavy penalties for those caught violating the no-smoking regulations that are in place throughout the city, including some outdoor areas such as Jonker Street.
Top Things to Do in Melaka:
- Enjoy the food and entertainment on offer at Jonker Street Night Market.
- Visit the Stadthuys in Melaka’s famous Red Square.
- Admire the floating Melaka Straits Mosque.
- Pay a visit to Saint Paul’s Church, built by the Portuguese in 1521 it is the oldest church in Southeast Asia!
- Step aboard a replica of an ancient Portuguese ship, the Flora de La Mar, which houses the Maritime Museum.
- Take a photo outside the iconic Kiehl’s Mural and stroll along the river to spot some of the other street art across the city.
11. Yogyakarta, Indonesia
The cultural heart of Java, Yogyakarta, or Jogja, attracts travellers seeking to experience the island’s arts and heritage and the growing café culture is drawing in more and more digital nomads.
Jogja feels safe to explore solo, although as with all big cities, you should exercise caution when travelling alone at night. According to Statista.com, crime rates in Indonesia have been declining consistently over the past decade and Numbeo ranks Jogja as a relatively low-risk city, with many risk indicators rated as ‘low’, including mugging, attacks and drug use.
However, the risk of theft is rated as moderate so be vigilant and don’t flash expensive equipment in public.
Top Things to Do in Yogyakarta:
- Take a walk down Jalan Malioboro, the main street in the heart of the city, soaking up the scene and window shopping.
- Watch the sunrise at Borobudur Temple, the world’s largest Buddhist temple and one of Southeast Asia’s most significant archaeological sites.
- Explore the Hindu temples of Prambanan and in the evening be mesmerised by a staging of a Ramayana Ballet with the stunning temple complex as a backdrop.
- Visit the Water Castle, the former summer retreat of the Sultan of Yogyakarta.
- Learn about Indonesia’s colonial past and its journey to independence at the Vredeburg Museum, which is housed in a former Dutch fortress.
Taking sensible precautions, such as not walking alone at night, refraining from flashing expensive items, and being vigilant, will help you stay safe in most Asian cities. Likewise, keeping abreast of current news and weather patterns will help you avoid any potential unrest or natural disasters.
A little research and planning go a long way in making sure you have a trouble-free visit to some of Asia’s most exciting and vibrant cities. So, with your preparation done, you can relax and enjoy all that this amazing region has to offer.
What is the safest city in Asia that you have visited?