The Safest Places to Travel in 2021

Reykjavik, Iceland. (photo via patpongs/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Patrick Clarke
by Patrick Clarke
Last updated: 1:00 AM ET, Fri January 1, 2021

Travel Without Hesitation

The COVID-19 pandemic hampered international travel for much of 2020 but as vaccines are distributed and more countries reopen their borders to foreign tourists there's hope that Americans will regain a sense of normalcy in 2021 in terms of where and how they can travel abroad. Safety will be the top priority for many and while conditions can change in a hurry in the time of COVID-19, there are a handful of potential destinations that stand out when it comes to offering travelers both protection and peace of mind.


Although Canada is still off-limits to Americans, it was rated as the safest destination among respondents to a recent survey conducted by travel insurance company Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. In addition to handling the coronavirus pandemic better than most, Canada ranked as the world's safest place across all three age groups, with millennials, middle-aged and mature travelers all in agreement.

New Zealand

New Zealand is another country that has responded well to the COVID-19 crisis that remains closed to Americans heading into the new year. The Down Under destination ranks second on the 2020 Global Peace Index, even edging out Canada by four spots. New Zealand is also listed at a Level 1 travel advisory (exercise normal precautions) by the U.S. State Department.


Like its Oceania neighbor, Australia routinely performs strongly on the Global Peace Index and has also fared relatively well in terms of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020. Unfortunately, like New Zealand, Australia will begin 2021 with its borders closed to eager U.S. leisure travelers.


Ranking number one on the 2020 Global Peace Index, Iceland remains closed to Americans entering 2021 as it's restrictions continue to mirror those of the European Union. The U.S. will need to see a dramatic improvement in terms of COVID-19 cases in early 2021 in order for Iceland and the rest of Europe to open up to Americans sooner rather than later.


Switzerland is a top 10 country in terms of peace but has struggled in its recent handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Like most places, Switzerland is a perennially safe destination that Americans will have to continue dreaming about for now when it comes to non-essential travel.


Scandinavia, including Denmark, Norway, Sweden and, yes, Finland, ranks among the best in the world when it comes to both peace and happiness. According to the World Happiness Report by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations, Finland is the world's happiest country, followed by Denmark, with Norway and Sweden ranking fifth and seventh, respectively. All four nations also rank inside the top 17 on the 2020 Global Peace Index.


Italy was ravaged in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic but has recovered quite well and remains one of the world's most peaceful countries, according to the 2020 Global Peace Index. When Europe eventually reopens to U.S. leisure travelers, you can bet Americans will flock to this coveted cultural hub.


Ranking inside of the top 20 globally for both peace and happiness, Ireland is currently open to American travelers seeking a safe destination abroad. However, visitors are required to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form and quarantine for at least two weeks.


While the pandemic has forced the U.S. State Department to raise its travel advisory levels for many destinations that would otherwise be considered safe to visit, Singapore is one of only five places listed at a Level 1 (exercise normal precautions) on the State Department's four-level scale heading into January. The sovereign island city-state also placed seventh on the 2020 Global Peace Index.


Even amid a global pandemic, Thailand enters 2021 as one of the safest destinations on the planet. The Asian hotspot recently received a Level 1 travel advisory (exercise normal precautions) from the U.S. State Department and a Level 1 Travel Health Notice (Low Level of COVID-19) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Like Thailand, Taiwan is one of the few places to begin the new year at a low-risk Level 1 based on assessments by both the U.S. State Department and CDC. While Taiwan has room for improvement in terms of the Global Peace Index (37th), it still fares far better than the United States, which ranks 121st by comparison.


Portugal was one of the emerging international destinations for Americans prior to the coronavirus pandemic and while the COVID-19 crisis has forced many to put their travel plans on hold, the European country, which ranks third on the 2020 Global Peace Index, remains among the safest places in the world for travelers.

Cayman Islands

The Caribbean was already close but in the COVID-era it's also become one of the most accessible destinations for American travelers in the time of coronavirus. The Cayman Islands, which is currently only opened to approved travelers (repatriation, Global Citizens, work permit holders, etc.), has wasted little time showing that its pandemic protocols are to be taken seriously, which should provide visitors some additional comfort in the new year.

Turks And Caicos

The beautiful Turks and Caicos islands reopened to travelers this past summer and have attracted a handful of celebrities since then, including Ludacris and Kylie Jenner. The Caribbean hotspot enters 2021 receiving a Level 2 Travel Health Notice from the CDC, meaning visitors face only a moderate risk due to the pandemic.

Saint Lucia

One of the first countries to reopen to Americans this past summer, Saint Lucia has also attracted celebrities amid the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pre-arrival registration and health screenings, visitors from non "travel bubble" countries such as the U.S. are required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test within seven days of travel.


Aruba was already among the world's safest vacation spots for travelers but has cemented itself on that list in 2021 by embracing a multi-layered approach to tourism that includes visitors having to produce negative tests and purchase insurance to cover them in the event that they fall severely ill upon contracting COVID-19.

Costa Rica

One of the world's happiest countries, Costa Rica also offers visitors plenty to see and do outdoors, which has never been more important amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It's safe to say that the unique Central American country offering travelers a taste of both the Caribbean and Pacific will continue to be a hit with nature lovers and adrenaline junkies in 2021.


Japan ranked 10th on the Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection Safest Countries scale for the second straight year and has landed between seventh and 14th on BHTP's list for each of the last three years. Japan also ranks ninth on the 2020 Global Peace Index.

Traveling will be different but also safer in 2021.

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Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

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CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

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