Whether it’s a friendly face at check in or a taxi driver who’s full of useful tips, nothing beats getting a warm welcome on your travels – and our interactions with local people have a huge impact on how we view countries as a whole. This month, we asked our Facebook and Twitter followers to share where they’ve found the most hospitable places around the world. Here’s what they said.
This South American country has been voted among the world’s least friendly tourist destinations in the past – but we’ve always thought Bolivia has been a bit misunderstood. And it looks like our readers agree. As long as you make an effort to learn some key phrases in the local languages, you’ll find out exactly how hospitable Bolivians can be. From the otherworldly Salar de Uyuni to the vast, sapphire-blue Lake Titicaca, the country’s spectacular sights make it worth going the extra mile.
Finns are famous for being uncommonly reserved, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a welcoming bunch – all you have to do is join them in the sauna to find out. Sweating it out together has become a national obsession, and you’ll no doubt come away from the experience with plenty of new friends. Once you’ve beaten each other with a bunch of leafy twigs and plunged feet first into a pool just a shade above freezing, you’ll at least have plenty to talk about.
Cut off from the rest of the world for decades, Myanmar only recently began emerging from its period of isolation – and now is a fascinating time to go. Visit any one of the traditional teahouses to meet the friendly locals, who generally still view tourists as a novelty. In 2016, Myanmar was voted the world’s most generous country in the World Giving Index for the third year running. The index takes into account the kindness to strangers, so you can expect to be warmly received on your travels.
It’s likely that the spindly acacia trees, dusty plains and ochre-hued sunsets that come to mind when you think of Africa belong to Kenya. It hosts a breathtaking range of natural habitats, from the reefs and lagoons of the Indian Ocean to the fertile plains of the Maasai Mara. And its cultural heritage – with more than 40 ethnic groups – is just as rich. It’s common for locals here to speak three languages – their own, Swahili and English – so you’ll find it easy to start up a conversation.
Home to everything from rumbling volcanoes to orangutan-filled rainforests, and surrounded by some of the best dive sites in the world, Indonesia’s 17,000 tropical islands are extraordinarily diverse. Meanwhile, the people that live here share around 300 ethnicities and many hundreds of languages between them. Locals are outgoing and accustomed to seeing new faces, so you shouldn’t be surprised if a complete stranger introduces themselves.
Stepping off the plane and into Japan can feel a bit like strolling onto another planet. There’s everything from ramen vending machines to futuristic capsule hotels to get your head around – and the rules of etiquette can seem just as tricky to navigate. But there’s no need to worry, as Japan is regularly heralded as one of the most welcoming and hospitable countries in the world. That means you don’t have to fret if you’ve accidentally forgotten to switch to toilet slippers or committed a chopstick-related faux pas.
Colombia is widely regarded as one of South America’s rising stars, with the gradual decline of the drug cartels and improving security conditions finally granting access to its charming colonial cities, cloud forests and palm-fringed beaches. Locals here are famous for their hospitality, and you’ll no doubt get to experience this first-hand with a visit to the country’s underrated capital city or thriving Medellín.
Once dubbed “the pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill, Uganda still has plenty to be proud of, including a healthy population of mountain gorillas, the source of the world’s longest river and the Mountains of the Moon, the continent’s tallest range. Many years of civil strife have largely kept it under the tourist radar, though travellers have begun flocking back in recent times with the fostering of stability. Now, you’ve voted it one of the most welcoming countries on Earth, so it’s the perfect time for a trip.
In big Indian cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, you’re almost guaranteed to meet a new person every minute – and the welcome could initially seem a shade too warm. Everywhere you go, local people may introduce themselves, stare at you, or take photos, and you might even find yourself faced with awkward questions such as “Do you have a boyfriend?” or “How much money do you earn?” All of this is perfectly normal in India, and it’s simply a friendly way of showing interest in a new face.
Top of the list sits Ethiopia, a profoundly beautiful East African country with a history that stretches back many thousands of years. It was never colonised, so the tribal customs and hospitable traditions you can see here are largely just as they’ve always been. Take the Ethiopian coffee ceremony: the women of the household meticulously roast, grind and boil the aromatic beans, before presenting three consecutive cups of exceptionally fresh coffee to their guests. The process can last for hours, but it’s considered a real mark of friendship.