When people ask why I travel I almost always answer “for the people”. Meeting and feeling welcomed by the locals can easily make your trip. From a few famously friendly places to a handful of controversial ones here are my choice for the world’s friendliest people in the world’s friendliest travel destinations…
Sumatra, Indonesia – wonderful hospitality and a fascination with visitors
This island is part of Indonesia and is a short ferry journey from Penang island in Malaysia. It’s a beautiful place and home to seriously friendly locals. With an innate hospitality and a fascination with visitors, the locals will always find time to stop, meet and greet. They will go out of their way to help – even including making me spontaneous cups of tea (without asking) and randomly inviting me to visit one of the local schools. A place where you’re almost always guaranteed a wide smile from the locals.
Dublin, Ireland – famously the world’s friendliest people
There is no friendlier city than Dublin, especially if you go for drink. That famous ability of the Irish – to find craic (fun times with convivial company) in boom or bust times – means you’re always in for a treat. You will be amazed at the number of genuinely friendly people who will just come up and talk to you while you’re having a drink. For a more authentic experience head away from the tourist areas and stick to the south of the river Liffey instead.
There is so much to love about Sicily – the great food, the balmy weather and without a doubt, the people. Sciacca is a town on southwestern coast of Sicily where the friendliness of the locals is almost as big as draw as the sea views. The slow pace of life probably helps (and that Sciacca is not full of tourists) and it has a charming, honest, old world atmosphere where you’ll see kind and friendly faces wherever you go. Italy is one of my favourite countries, but even I admit you need to stay out of the tourist zones to find the most welcoming people.
For a big city with a less than generous reputation I’ve personally found the Glaswegians to be among the friendliest people in the world. Yes you’ll probably find that Glasgow is full of characters, whether you bump into a drunkard, a businessman or young teenagers. But they’re mostly very friendly, happy characters with a story to tell and a smile on their face. They’re also a down-to-earth bunch who seem to have mastered balancing a busy work life with a fantastic social life – if you’re looking for a place to party then this is the city. Be assured, locals won’t mind you asking them how to find a place, they’re very proud of their city and want you to enjoy it as much as they do.
Okay this is going to be a controversial choice but I disagree with the rude and unfriendly stereotype that the Parisians seem to be saddled with. I have also visited quite a few times now so I’m sure it hasn’t just been a one-off. People have been kind, friendly and helpful and have gone out of their way to point out directions when I’ve looked lost. One person even went as far as stopping and checking directions on their iPhone. This just wouldn’t happen in London, or most other cities come to think of it.
This place isn’t always on everyone’s travel list but this small capital city in a small county is also another of the friendliest places I’ve ever visited. I accepted a teaching job there in 2001, and far from the locals being insular (as I was told), I was lucky enough to be welcomed into people’s houses to socialise with them and their families. From souks to restaurants and cafes to five-star hotels, people could not be more welcoming. Take for instance the time I went into a restaurant and asked for a coffee. They had just run out and seeing the disappointed look on my face the owner flew out the door and went to buy some from a local shop. An influx of money has meant the city has become a lot more developed in recent years but I’ve heard it’s still as friendly as it ever was.
Cape Town, South Africa
This is another city that hasn’t always enjoyed the best of reputations – its high crime rate has left many travellers wondering if they should visit, but it still gets a place on my list. Admittedly I was initially worried about visiting Cape Town – especially as a young solo traveller – but when I arrived at my hostel it was one of the most friendliest digs I think I’ve ever stayed in. One night I took myself out for a steak (South Africans cook the best steaks) with the intention of just eating and heading back to the hostel. I ended up chatting to the locals and before I knew what had happened we were lining up shots on the bar and playing pool. After that night, every time I walked past the bar the locals rushed out to invite me in for a drink – the kind of experience that makes travelling so worth it.
Before I took my trip to Broome I was warned by other Australians not to lose touch with time when I visited. I didn’t realise how right they could be, the small but beautiful coastal town in Western Australia is one of those places where you could easily kick back and stay for a lot longer than originally planned. My three days turned into a week, and my sister (on a separate visit) went even better – her few days visit turned into a three-month stretch. I’m in no doubt that this has plenty to do with the friendliness of the place. You’ll probably agree that most Australians possess an easy manner but this place set the bar high – in the main town almost everyone would stop to say hello and you could walk down the street without wearing shoes and no one would bat an eyelid.