Any country can be good to visit. At RoughMaps, we’re not in the habit of saying “good country, bad country.” It’s really more like “different county, differenter country.”
That being said, there are some countries that make especially favorable destinations for American travelers right now, and others that might be best left for another day.
So let’s take a look at 15 of the best countries for Americans, and 15 of the worst.
Oh, a quick note first: We’ve left out countries that are obviously super dangerous to visit right now. So if you were wondering whether it’s safe to take your kids to Syria or celebrate your anniversary in North Korea… the answer is “no” and that’s all we need to say.
1. Best: Ireland
Why go to Ireland? As if we need to ask! Ireland is rich in both natural and manmade wonders. Its green, rolling countryside is punctuated with ancient cities and towns, its people are hopelessly friendly, and its pubs have many delicious brews on tap. Whether you like to explore culture and history or just prefer a quiet rural retreat, Ireland won’t disappoint.
Why is it great for Americans? One of the things you notice right away, especially in Dublin, is how proud the Irish are of their 1916 rebellion against the English. In fact, the way they celebrate its leaders is not so dissimilar from the way Americans view the founding fathers.
You can tell how close Ireland and the U.S. are from the fact that the American ambassador lives in the same park as the Irish president, right across the lane, in fact.
Finally, as we said, the Irish are friendly, love guests, and mostly speak English (albeit with a charming brogue).
2. Worst: Honduras
What’s the deal with Honduras? Thanks, Seinfeld. Honduras is the second-largest country in Central America. It’s stunningly beautiful, with colonial hamlets, warm temperatures, rippling highlands, and access to both the Pacific and the Caribbean.
So why should I think twice? The State Department has issued a Level 3 Travel Advisory, encouraging Americans to reconsider visiting at this time. The main reason is the activity of notorious gangs such as MS-13, as well as the limited ability of the government to maintain order. Especially in urban areas, tourist safety cannot be guaranteed. Foreigners have been robbed, kidnapped, and even killed.
It may be possible to visit certain regions with a greater degree of confidence, but you should really do your research before you go.
3. Best: Georgia
Why go to Georgia? To be clear, we’re not talking about Atlanta, but the former Soviet Republic in the Caucasus.
Georgia is not the country that first springs to most travelers’ minds when they’re planning a holiday. But there is much ancient history in the country, as well as stunning mountain vistas and valleys clustered with wineries. In fact, wine could well be a selling point in itself, since Georgians have been making wine for at least 8,000 years.
Why is it great for Americans? Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that Georgia was part of the USSR, the country now enjoys close relations with the United States. There is extensive trade, and a warmer attitude toward Americans that you’ll find in many other places. Indeed, there’s even a street named after George W. Bush in Tbilisi, the capital city. So… there’s that.
Also, despite stereotypes of former Soviet Bloc nations, Georgia has relatively little crime or corruption.
Americans (and most everyone) can enter the country visa free and stay for up to a year.
4. Worst: Burundi
What’s the deal with Burundi? Burundi is a small East African country just to the south of Rwanda. It’s an off-the-beaten-path sort of destination with a friendly people who are committed to preserving their ancient ways. It is one of the least developed countries in the world, so it would appeal mainly to intrepid travelers who aren’t afraid to get a little dirty and see the “real” world.
So why should I think twice? Political instability, mainly, as well as recurring concerns about malaria. While tourists are not the main targets of internal political violence, it’s very easy to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is compounded by the fact that borders often close without warning, medical facilities are poor, and the United States government has almost no ability to aid travelers who get into trouble here.
5. Best: Japan
Why go to Japan? Asked no one, ever. Whether you like hypermodern cityscapes or forgotten temples, Japan has you covered. The Japanese people are unfailingly helpful and will go out of their way to offer hospitality. The food is insane — even 7/11 mals here are five-star affairs. You’ll also be blown away by how clean and efficient everything is. When it comes to organization, the Japanese are streets ahead.
Why is it great for Americans? It’s kind of counterintuitive. After all, Japan and the U.S. were mortal enemies during WWII, and the death toll of that conflict was devastating for both sides. You would think some animosity might linger.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and the former rivals became surprisingly fast friends after the war. One reason is that the Japanese cheerfully incorporate foreign influences they admire into their own culture, creating an amazing synthesis. As a result, the Japanese have much in common with Americans, even while they remain distinct. If you’re visiting, you have to go see Japanese baseball, for example!
6. Worst: Haiti
What’s the deal with Haiti? It pains us to say, because Haiti has a great and fascinating history. It is, in fact, the only country in the world that was founded by slaves who revolted against their masters. Visiting Haiti can be very rewarding, especially if you know a local who can shepherd you. Unfortunately, only the brave will venture beyond the richest enclaves around the capital, Port-au-Prince.
So why should I think twice? Massive government corruption has sparked violent protests over the past year. These can be ferocious and unpredictable, and can make it very difficult to get around. The authorities have limited capacity to respond, and in some areas you won’t even be able to get an ambulance if you need one.
Crime is also a problem. According to the State Department:
“Travelers are sometimes targeted, followed, and violently attacked and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince international airport. The U.S. Embassy requires its personnel to use official transportation to and from the airport, and it takes steps to detect surveillance and deter criminal attacks during these transports.”
7. Best: Canada
Why go to Canada? Abundant hockey, good beer, natural vistas, and free healthcare. What more could you possibly want?
Canada is the second largest country in the world, so you can really take your pick of which Canada you want to visit. The east coast, with its coves and lighthouses? Quebec, with its history and poutine? Ontario with its big, phallic tower? The badlands in Alberta? The rainy inlets of British Columbia? Go nuts.
Why is it great for Americans? Canadians love to grumble about Americans in private and hate being mistaken for Americans when abroad. But you would have to intentionally provoke most Canadians to get them to say something rude in public. People here are generally happy to help you out, whether you’re lost or just need a recommendation — even in big cities like Toronto.
Also, the Canadian Dollar typically trades lower than the USD, so you can make your budget go farther. (That said, it kind of depends on how you spend your money; many things are more expensive in Canada, though they also tend to be of higher quality.)
8. Worst: Burkina Faso
What’s the deal with Burkina Faso? It’s a smallish, landlocked country in West Africa. Although it’s one of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso has generally had a reputation for being friendly and welcoming. It also has a great music scene, so it’s a great place to absorb West African culture. Until fairly recently, it was also known as a safe destination as well.
So why should I think twice? Burkina Faso is sadly now the subject of a Level 3 Travel Advisory, which means the government is strongly encouraging travelers to reconsider visiting. Unfortunately, the country has proved vulnerable to the strains of terrorism spreading in other West African countries like Mali, which lies just to the north. Kidnapping and terror attacks are a serious concern here, and U.S. government personnel are forbidden from working in whole swaths of the country. So if you get into trouble, help could be very hard to find.
9. Best: Taiwan
Why go to Taiwan? Taiwan is an island off the coast of mainland China that’s roughly the shape of a sunflower seed. The status of Taiwan is extremely controversial: the Taiwanese claim they’re an independent country, while the Chinese government considers it a breakaway province with no claim on its own sovereignty.
Setting that mess aside, Taiwan is densely populated, with very modern cities like Taipei that you will want to check out. But it also has mountains and verdant forest waiting to be explored.
Why is it great for Americans? Although everyone is eager to avoid having the uncomfortable conversation about who really owns Taiwan, the U.S. has long been the country’s principal defender. In the Formosa Resolution of 1955, the United Stated pledged to defend the Taiwanese against invasion, which is one of the reasons they’ve been able to keep their de facto independence.
For this reason, you might find you get a warmer reception than you would in mainland China.
10. Worst: Turkey
What’s the deal with Turkey? Where to begin! Turkey is a repository of so much history and culture — from the Romans to the Ottomans and everyone in between. Turkey straddles the Bosphorus Straits, the dividing line between Europe and the Middle East, as well as the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. In so many ways, Turkey is where all these cultures and influences meet.
So why should I think twice? Turkey is bordered to the south by Syria and Iraq, two countries where things… aren’t going so great right now. That threat of terrorism has spread into Turkey, so you should definitely stay alert and avoid straying too far south toward active war zones.
Moreover, the current Turkish government under President Recep Erdoğan is very authoritarian. According to the State Department:
“Security forces have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including U.S. citizens, for alleged affiliations with terrorist organizations based on scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated. U.S. citizens have also been subject to travel bans that prevent them from departing Turkey.”
11. Best: Thailand
Why go to Thailand? Gee, I don’t know. Do you like temples? Elephants? Amazing food? Night life? Beaches? A friendly and open people who will welcome you, feed you, respect you? No, you’re not interested in any of that!
Why is it great for Americans? The Vietnam War blackened America’s reputation with many countries, but in Thailand it had the opposite effect. Thailand was fighting off its own insurgencies, and the U.S. stepped in to help. This was the beginning of a friendship between the two peoples, a sort of phoenix from the ashes of a terrible war.
Also, Thai people are famously friendly to LGBTQ travelers, and trans people in particular are traditionally respected. Pretty cool, huh?
12. Worst: Pakistan
What’s the deal with Pakistan? Pakistan stands between India, China, Afghanistan, and Iran. As you can imagine, it is therefore home to part of the old Silk Road. But its history stretches back father than that, into the mists of time; Pakistan was home to the Indus Valley people, one of the earliest known civilizations. From lush river valleys to daunting peaks, this land boasts great beauty. But also great danger.
So why should I think twice? The problem, as you may guess, is terrorism. Per the State Department:
“Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Pakistan. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls… airports… tourist locations… Terrorists have targeted U.S. diplomats and diplomatic facilities in the past, and information suggests they continue to do so.”
Pakistan also has very rocky relations with its neighbor India, and both countries have nuclear weapons. Not a good look.
13. Best: Belize
Why go to Belize? Belize is a lesser-known destination in Central America, but people are starting to realize how awesome it is — so go now before it blows up! The country has a long Caribbean coastline, so you can bank on great fishing or diving, and superb beaches for all you bums to lounge upon. For the more adventurous types, there are also jungles and Mayan ruins just waiting to be explored. You will also be amazed by the diversity of the population.
Why is it great for Americans? Belize and the U.S. have a good deal in common because they’re both former British colonies. In fact, Belize is the only country in Central America that has English as its official language. Dollars will also gladly be accepted here (although that’s true almost anywhere).
14. Worst: Nigeria
What’s the deal with Nigeria? Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with more than 190 million people. It is correspondingly diverse, both in terms of its people and its geography (tropical bays and inlets in the south, hills in the interior, arid plains in the north). There are more than 500 languages spoken here, and although English is the official one, only the elite speak standard English in casual conversation.
So why should I think twice? Can you guess? It’s one of the sad themes of this list: terrorism. Nigeria is (very generally) divided between the Christian south and the Muslim north. Combined with latent ethnic tensions, this is a combustible mixture. Boko Haram operates out of the northeast of the country, but terror attacks are by no means limited to that region. Violent crime and even piracy are also distressingly common.
15. Best: Australia
Why go to Australia? Yes, there are lots of things down under that want to kill you — jellyfish, funnel-web spiders, Russell Crowe. But there is also spectacular beauty, from Sydney Harbor to Uluru (AKA Ayers Rock) to Tasmania. And, of course, there’s the Outback, that vast expanse of wilderness and desert that seems to go on forever, daring you to test her breadth.
Why is it great for Americans? Australians, like Canadians, have much in common with Americans, even if they still keep Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state. They speak English, of course, just with their own infections variations. They’re a friendly and outgoing people, respectful of guests, and generally not shy about… shall we say romantic trysts with foreigners.
16. Worst: China
What’s the deal with China? Well, apart from being the most populous country on Earth with the most ancient and storied culture, nothing much really.
It’s absurd to tell someone “don’t visit China,” and that’s not really what we are saying here. There’s just too much to see and do. The Great Wall is only the crust of the pudding; there’s also the Forbidden Palace, the Terracotta Army, the Li River, the pandas… And who could forget the food? You definitely won’t go hungry!
So why should I think twice? As you are no doubt aware, China and the U.S. are in a trade war right now. Relations are as testy as they’ve been since the Nixon era, and China is an authoritarian country where the government will absolutely use and abuse its powers for political reasons. If you’re an American (or a Canadian) in China right now, you have a bit of a target on your back.
Courtesy of the State Department:
“Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years. … U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened.
“[Americans] may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to ‘state security.'”
17. Best: Zambia
Why go to Zambia? Zambia is a startlingly attractive destination for lovers of wildlife and the great outdoors. It is home to some of the best safaris your money can buy, and of course the world-famous Victoria Falls. The modern Zambia is landlocked, a large conglomeration of different ethnic and language groups. It’s also quite poor. But despite these problems, which have proved insurmountable elsewhere, the Zambian people have managed to live together in relative harmony.
Why is it great for Americans? It’s really a great destination for everybody and anybody who wants to visit southern Africa. On the World Peace Index, Zambia is tied with the UK, so you don’t have to worry about safety any more than you would in London — or anywhere else, for that matter.
18. Worst: Lebanon
What’s the deal with Lebanon? Lebanon is a Middle Eastern country with ancient history, pressed up against the shores of the Mediterranean. Its crown jewel is the city of Beirut — which some claim is the oldest continuously inhabited city on the planet. There are ruins and remains from half a dozen empires to be found here — from Byblos (the city from which the Bible takes its name) to Baalbek, where you will find the largest extant Roman temple in the world.
So why should I think twice? Location, location, location. Lebanon shares borders with both Syria and Israel.
Syria continues to be wracked by internal conflicts involving the government of Bashar al-Assad, Russian troops, ISIS, rebels of every persuasion, the U.S., Kurdish forces, and Russell Crowe. (Okay, that last one was just to see if you’re paying attention. The rest are real, though.)
Lebanon’s border with Israel is dangerous because the two countries have a toxic relationship. Bombings and skirmishes are not to be ruled out.
19. Best: Slovenia
Why go to Slovenia? Slovenia is unspeakably beautiful, and it still has yet to emerge as an “it” travel destination. The architecture tends to be baroque and traditionally ‘European’, the food and wine are great, and the geography is varied (Mediterranean coast, Julian alps, interior plains). Slovenia packs a lot of good stuff into a very small Balkan country.
Why is it great for Americans? Slovenia is incredibly safe — one of the top 10 safest countries in the world, in fact. So you won’t have to spend your whole vacation wondering if you’re going to get kidnapped, or debating whether or not that city is safe to visit. The answer is an emphatic ‘yes.’
As we suggested, Slovenia has also yet to reach its full potential in terms of attracting tourists. Sooner or later, it’s going to become mega-popular, so you should go now.
Finally, First Lady Melania Trump is from here, so… there’s your icebreaker when you talk to locals!
20. Worst: Nicaragua
What’s the deal with Nicaragua? Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, stretching across the isthmus from the Caribbean to the Pacific. It is most famous for its many volcanoes and volcanic likes — many of which are hikeable. Until very recently, travelers had started taking notice of Nicaragua. Unfortunately, recent events have made visiting a dangerous proposition for the time being.
So why should I think twice? Nicaragua is in turmoil thanks to internal conflict between its ruler, President Daniel Ortega, and pro-democratic protestors/insurgent groups seeking to remove him from power. Anyone perceived to be in league with these groups is in real danger, with the State Department noting there have been “credible claims of torture and disappearances.” While police and para-police groups battle it out for the future of Nicaragua, it’s best for tourists to go elsewhere
21. Best: New Zealand
Why go to New Zealand? As fans of The Lord of the Rings films know, New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Mountains, plains, rivers, glaciers… It’s the reason Instagram was invented (not that that’s why you’re going, of course). The people are super friendly as well, just as long as you don’t refer to them as ‘Australians who got lost’ or something.
Why is it great for Americans? Despite the tragic mosque shooting that took place there recently, New Zealand is actually the second safest country on Earth, all around. Kiwis are full of love for just about everyone, and they will give you a royal welcome as long as you’re not a jerk. It’s definitely worth the long flight!
22. Worst: Peru
What’s the deal with Peru? Peru is celebrated as the home of the Incas, that amazing civilization that built cities in the clouds and nazca lines and Machu Picchu. In recent years, its chefs have also won plaudits for their cuisine. It’s a classic destination in the Americas, somewhere most travelers dream of visiting at least once.
So why should I think twice? The State Department has issued a Level 2 Advisory for Peru, meaning Americans who are planning to visit should exercise increased caution. According to State:
“Crime, including petty theft, carjackings, muggings, assaults, and violent crime, is a concern in Peru, and can occur during daylight hours, despite the presence of many witnesses. The risk of crime increases after hours and outside the capital city of Lima where more organized criminal groups have been known to use roadblocks to rob victims.”
Another issue has nothing to do with safety at all: Machu Picchu has become something of a tourist trap. The sheer number of visitors has led the authorities to reduce the number of people who are even allowed on the site in a day, mostly because the foot traffic is doing structural damage.
23. Best: Chile
Why go to Chile? Chile is the longest, thinnest country in the world, with more than 3,000 miles of Pacific coastline. The diversity in the landscapes is incredible: mountains, fishing hamlets, vast expanses of Patagonia, wine country. There truly is something for everyone in Chile. If you’re looking to explore some of South America, it’s a great place to get started.
Why is it great for Americans? Chile is the safest country in South America. In larger cities, such as Santiago, English is widely used and understood, although Spanish is the dominant language. Chileans are also eager to help tourists, too eager in some cases.
24. Worst: Egypt
What’s the deal with Egypt? Well, you see, a few years ago, a couple of Egyptian guys decided to build some giant triangles in the desert. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Everyone wants to go to Egypt. Everyone.
So why should I think twice? The first problem is terrorism. For this, we go back to our old friends at the State Department:
“Terrorists have conducted attacks in urban areas, including in Cairo, despite the heavy security presence. Terrorists have targeted religious sites, to include mosques, churches, monasteries, and buses traveling to these locations.”
But that threat is actually more in hand than it was a few years ago.
Of more concern is the frequency of pickpocketing, as well as the level of abuse female and LGBTQ travelers can expect to experience. We could say the same about many, many other countries, but Egypt is one of the worst.
25. Best: Singapore
Why go to Singapore? Singapore is one of the most important ports in the world, an island, a city state, and a nation all in one. You will be amazed at the modernity of the city and its many amenities. Malay, Chinese, and Indian influences intermingle to create a unique atmosphere, and street food stands “hawkers” will serve you meals fit for a king.
Despite being incredibly densely populated, half of Singapore is preserved as green space, leading many to refer to it as a “garden city.”
Why is it great for Americans? If all that doesn’t make you want to go, consider that Singapore has the best airport in the world. I know what you’re thinking, but it literally does. Changi airport has gardens, art installations, gourmet restaurants, entertainment arcades, and even a rooftop pool! It definitely makes coming and going that much more of a treat.
26. Worst: Iran
What’s the deal with Iran? It’s so unfortunate. This country has a lot to offer, and in the last couple years they’ve been trying to attract more tourists — with some success. Iran (formerly known as ‘Persia’) is a treasure trove of ancient wonders and relics. Ancient settlements like Yazd, Persepolis, and Pasargadae underline the thousands of years of history that make Iran so unique. On top of all this — despite perceptions encouraged by the media — Iranians are very warm and generous people.
So why should I think twice? Politics, always politics. Because of the obvious and never-ending tensions between the U.S. and Iran, it’s impossible to really visit and explore independently. Americans are allowed to visit Iran, but while you’re there you will be accompanied and supervised by tour guides at all times. That will severely limit who and what you can meet and discover.
27. Best: Costa Rica
Why go to Costa Rica? Costa Ricans believe in living la pura vida — the simple life, or the pure life. Costa Rica is one of the safest places in Central America, and (according to studies anyway) the happiest place on Earth. Take that Walt Disney!
Costa Rica’s main attraction is its natural beauty. Almost a quarter of the country is taken up by national parks; with less than 0.1% of the land on earth, this tiny country contains about 5% of the biodiversity. If you’re conscious of the environment, this is a great place for ecotourism.
Why is it great for Americans? Hiking, biking, surfing, scuba diving, golfing, sailing, or just plain chilling on the beach — all these activities and more await you. And the emphasis on caring for the natural world means you can go as green as you please while doing it.
28. Worst: Saudi Arabia
What’s the deal with Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arabia covers about 80% of the Arabian peninsula (duh), and contains the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. All able-bodied Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives. The result is the Hajj, an annual journey to Mecca; more than 2 million Muslims come to Saudi Arabia every year to participate. Unfortunately, non-Muslims cannot participate or enter the sacred places.
So why should I think twice? It’s extremely difficult to gain access to Saudi Arabia in the first place. The country has just recently introduced a new tourist visa in an attempt to open up somewhat, but it’s still a slog to get the necessary permission to enter the kingdom. From what we hear, it would probably be easier to get a job teaching English in Arabia than to book a trip.
Of course, once you do enter, you will be subject to all sorts of rules that don’t sit well with those of us who believe in gender equality.
29. Best: Portugal
Why go to Portugal? Portugal’s popularity with tourists has exploded in the last decade. Portugal boasts medieval architecture; geographic diversity; a long, languid coastline; a clement climate; and some of the best food in the world. Lisbon, Cintra, and Porto are three cities you can’t miss if you’re passionate about architecture.
Why is it great for Americans? Portugal has all the glamor and history you could want, but not at the same prices you’ll pay elsewhere in Western Europe. Despite its popularity, you can still make your money go a long way here. Plus, because it’s a fairly small and self-contained country, you can get around without too much difficulty.
30. Worst: Brazil
What’s the deal with Brazil? Brazil is one of the most important and vibrant countries in the world. So many great things come to mind when you think of it: the Amazon rainforest, Christ the Redeemer, butts. Brazilians are passionate and outgoing, with a festive culture and lively cities that will make you wish you never had to sleep. It’s no wonder so many people dream of paying a visit.
So why should I think twice? As we write this, the Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate. Smoke is streaking across the sky, leaving an ominous stain, portending the poison that weakens the people below with every breath. Meanwhile, Jair Bolsonaro, the fascistic president of Brazil, is refusing aid from the international community to fight the fires, acting like none of this is a big deal.
The Brazilian government’s lack of concern for the Amazon, which provides 20% of the oxygen we all need to survive, is serious enough to warrant a tourist boycott for the time being.