There are safety concerns in any city, but certain cities have done an excellent job improving conditions for residents and travelers. The world’s top five safest cities are Copenhagen, Toronto, Singapore, Sydney, and Tokyo.
Whether you’re moving or traveling to a new city, safety is one of the most important concerns. Many cities have a bad reputation because of crime rates, dangerous traffic, poor digital security, and other environmental factors, but what are the safest cities in the world? In this article, we’ll go over the top five safest cities in the world, the safest cities for women, and the safest cities for the LGBTQ+ community.
What are the top five safest cities in the world?
Measuring the safety of a city can be tricky. For this article, we referred to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2021 Safe Cities Index. This report covers 60 of the world’s major cities and 76 indicators for urban safety. These indicators are grouped into five pillars: personal, health, digital, infrastructure, and environmental security. What cities ended up in the top five?
#1. Copenhagen, Denmark
Safe Cities Index score: 82.4/100
Copenhagen, Denmark is considered the world’s safest city. It has a very low crime rate. In 2021 when the study was released, crime was at its lowest in over ten years. According to Travel Safe Abroad, there’s a low risk of muggings, scams, terrorism, and natural disasters. The city also enjoys strong social cohesion, which is essential for maintaining peace and security. For tourists, public transport is often the best option for exploring the city since it’s fairly inexpensive and convenient. You should still watch out for pickpocketing because even though it’s not as common as in other cities, it tends to happen on public transport.
#2. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Safe Cities Index score: 82.2/100
Toronto is Canada’s largest city, which is why it might be surprising that it’s also considered the safest. Travel Safe Abroad finds the city has an overall low risk for issues with transport and taxis, natural disasters, and terrorism. It has a medium risk for pickpocketing, which tends to happen near restaurants where people are distracted, and for scams, especially online ones. That said, violent crime does appear to be on the rise in Toronto, especially on public transport. According to one survey, over half of Toronto’s transit workers reported experiencing harassment or violence on the job, while in 2021, there was a 10% increase in violence against riders compared to 2019. This represents a trend across North America.
#3. Singapore, Singapore
Safe Cities Index score: 80.7/100
This city-state in southeast Asia ranks high on digital security and health security, while it comes in 13th on personal security and 37th on environmental security. It’s probably the safest place in Asia. According to Smartraveler, violent crime against tourists is rare, though you should be on the lookout for scams using automated voice calls and texts claiming to be local government officials. The monsoon season hits between December and March, and June to September, so prepare for heavy rain.
#4. Sydney, Australia
Safe Cities Index score: 80.1/100
Sydney is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s also a very safe city with low violent crime. According to Travellers Worldwide, petty crimes like pickpocketing, scams, bag snatching, and hotel room break-ins are most likely to affect tourists. Sydney can also experience extreme weather like flash flooding and wildfires. The terrorism level on the Australian national security website is “possible,” which means the threat of terrorism is very low and people don’t need to change their daily habits.
#5. Tokyo, Japan
Safe Cities Index score: 80/100
Tokyo comes in 1st for health security, 5th for infrastructure security, 16th for personal security, 13th for environmental security, and 20th for digital security. Violent crime is very rare, while you can take precautions against more common petty crimes like pickpocketing. The subway and bus systems are the most convenient and safe options for travel. Weather-wise, Tokyo can experience typhoons and earthquakes.
More safe cities
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Wellington, New Zealand
- Hong Kong, Hong Kong
- Melbourne, Australia
- Stockholm, Sweden
What are the safest cities for women?
Women face specific challenges when living or traveling alone in a city. They’re more likely to face harassment and violence, so safety is a top concern. We referred to Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, who partnered with GeoSure Global to learn what cities are safest for women. They combined the score with a survey. Here are the results for the top five safest cities:
#1. Basel, Switzerland
Switzerland has a fairly good record on women’s rights. In the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, Switzerland achieved the narrowest gender gap score in its history. There’s lots of room for growth still, but generally, Switzerland views men and women as equal. The city of Basel got the highest Women’s Safety GeoSafeScore™ and was placed 13th overall by survey respondents. Travel Safe Abroad gave the city an 87/100 score based on its low risk for violent crime, safe transport, and low risk for natural disasters. Pickpocketing is the biggest concern for tourists, although women can generally feel safe walking during the day or night.
#2. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Toronto returns to our list as one of the safer cities for women. It has a low crime rate compared to other large cities, safe neighborhoods, and a welcoming environment. At the time of writing, there was a spike in violence on public transport, so women traveling should exercise caution. While Canada considers itself a progressive country, there are lots of barriers to overcome, especially when it comes to violence against Indigenous women.
#3. Bern, Switzerland
Bern is the capital of Switzerland, and like all cities in Switzerland, it’s fairly small. Women can feel safe traveling alone, exploring the sights, and walking at night. The risk for terrorism, scams, mugging, and violent crime are low, although tourists should be on the alert for pickpockets.
#4. Zurich, Switzerland
GeoSure gave this Swiss city a 27th ranking, while Travel Safe Abroad gave it an 87/100. There’s little risk of violent crime, scams, terrorism, and mugging. As always, women should be on the lookout for pickpockets, especially in the busier tourist areas where thieves can slip in and out.
#5. Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal appears on many lists of the safest cities for women travelers. It has a low violent crime rate, few muggings, and a low terrorism risk. In the capital city of Libson, pickpockets can be an annoying problem but are usually easily avoided with the proper precautions. Female travelers should also be wary of scams and do good research beforehand. Generally, Lisbon is a safe city for women.
More safe cities for women
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Bruges, Belgium
- Kyoto, Japan
- Hong Kong, Hong Kong
- Reykjavík, Iceland
What are the safest cities for the LGBTQ+ community?
While acceptance has improved globally over the years, the LGBTQ+ community still faces heightened risks. The status of a country’s LGBTQ+ laws and public acceptance factor into how safe a city is. Here are the 5 of the safest cities in the world:
#1. Toronto, Canada, Ontario
Considering Toronto’s overall safety and safety for women, it makes sense it would also score well for LGBTQ+ safety. On EnjoyTravel.com, the city earned a 100/100 on the Equality Index for inclusive laws. It has a vibrant nightlife scene, Pride celebrations, and a welcoming environment.
#2. Zurich, Switzerland
Switzerland is a progressive, accepting country where LGBTQ+ people can feel safe. It was home to Der Kreis (The Circle), which was the only queer periodical published in Europe during WWII. Today, Zurich hosts many LGBTQ+ organizations, bars, clubs, and festivals.
#3. Oslo, Norway
Gay marriage has been legal in Norway since 2009. Most Norwegians support same-sex relationships, as well, which makes the country a safe place. The city of Oslo is especially welcome and is home to many LGBTQ+-friendly cafes, clubs, and events. All tourists should be aware of petty crime and exercise caution when drinking alcohol.
#4. Auckland, New Zealand
For many years, New Zealand has been a leader in improving LGBTQ+ rights. It has strong anti-discrimination laws, while the Māori people have accepted same-sex relationships since before colonial times. The city of Auckland welcomes all tourists and hosts many attractions specifically for the LGBTQ+ community. The city often appears on lists highlighting the safest and best cities for LGBTQ+ travelers.
#5. Dublin, Ireland
Ireland is generally a safe country. In 2015, it became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage through a national referendum vote, which means the people voted it in through a popular vote. There are several gay bars in Dublin, as well as LGBTQ+ club nights, festivals, and outdoor events.
More safe cities for the LGBTQ+ community
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Valletta, Malta
- Brussels, Belgium
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Reykjavík, Iceland
What can you do to stay safe in a city?
Everyone should take precautions while traveling in a city. Here are the three most important tips:
#1. Avoid the riskier neighborhoods (or use extreme caution)
Every city has more dangerous areas. In many cities, these are the red-light districts where sex workers and sexual entertainment (like theaters) are located. There are often lots of cameras, which can make tourists feel safer, but it’s generally best to avoid these areas after dark if you’re worried about pickpockets. If you do want to explore a riskier area, be extra careful.
#2. Don’t let your belongings out of your sight
Pickpockets notice when a potential victim isn’t paying attention. They’re also very good at unzipping bags or slashing them open. Always keep your belongings in your sight. If you’re sitting on public transport, hold your bag in your lap or on your front if at all possible. It’s much harder to steal a bag when it’s held this way.
#3. Do research beforehand
Whether it’s planning a travel route or knowing where emergency services are located, you always want to do research beforehand. This is especially important if you’re brand-new to a city and don’t know where anything is. Research the best ways to travel (by taxi, public transport, rental car, etc), the areas you should avoid, emergency numbers, and so on.