This MyTake took a lot out of me, but I feel it's an interesting concept that hasn't really been touched on. Having traveled and researched quite extensively, it got me thinking. I know different people have different factors they look into while traveling. But for this list I took into account things such as security, local culture, transportation and infrastructure, accessibility, cost and attractions/activities, and excluded the temporary COVID guidelines.
So without further adieu, here are all seven continents ranked from LEAST tourist friendly, to MOST tourist friendly.
Number 7- ANTARCTICA
This one shouldn't come as a shocker. While there may be a sense of pride in visiting this remote and barren continent, there are plenty of factors that make Antarctica the worst continent for tourism. As you probably know, the continent is almost exclusively reserved for research. This means the few crazy tourists who actually DO want to go there, will have a hard time getting there. The easiest and most popular way to visit is to book a South Atlantic cruise, which usually stop in Antarctica for a day or two. These cruises however can be quite expensive, and there is something a bit eerie about being on a boat in the middle of the Southern Ocean.
For those who want to "chill" there for a bit longer, it is possible to arrange a stay at one of the many research stations, but this is a complex and expensive process, that's reserved almost exclusively for research students or journalists.
If you DO manage to make your way there, you'll find that the icy coastline, although breathtaking, isn't unique. You can see the same kind of landscape in Alaska or Patagonia, and they're much easier to get to. The same goes for the region's wildlife. And once you stray away from the coast, you will find a barren, inhospitable wasteland.
One region of the Antarctic that would be worth visiting are the Kerguelen Islands, but since they're pretty much off limits to anyone but French scientists, there's no sense in even discussing them.
The only other region of the Antarctic that's worth visiting and is open to tourists, is South Georgia Island. Though there is some debate as to whether a visit South Georgia counts as a visit to Antarctica.
In the end, this is really just a destination for die hard travelers who want membership in the very small, All Seven Continents Club.
Maybe the only plus of traveling to Antarctica, is you don't have to worry about crime.
Number 6- AFRICA
This may come as a surprise to you, but unless you have a shit ton of money and are ONLY interested in wildlife, Africa is probably the worst "inhabited" continent for tourism. There really isn't a single country in the region that I would describe as "perfect."
If a country is affordable and has well organized tours, like South Africa or Kenya, it's full of crime and corruption. And if a country is safe and modern, like Namibia and Botswana, it has expensive and poorly organized tours/transportation/accommodations.
For example, if I want to do a safari to Etosha, I have to stay in Windhoek, because there's no Etosha tours from Swakopmund, even though the park can be reached from there with a few hours drive. There are no Okavango tours from Gaborone, and no Great Zimbabwe tours from Victoria Falls. Distances are vast and roads are poor, so if you want to see EVERYTHING a particular country has to offer, you have to either book an overpriced multi-day tour package, or stay multiple towns, either by using public transportation or renting a car, which can be a logistical and financial nightmare.
It is possible to find multi-day tours that are on the cheaper side, but you have to be willing to sleep in a tent or hostel, and share a room/bathroom with a group of strangers. A lot of hotels in the nature areas like Victoria Falls, are located away from the main attractions, either in the countryside or near slum areas, so you're pretty much restricted to tours, as you can't explore on your own. And while African cities make good base points, most of them are extremely unsafe for foreigners.
Honestly, the only parts of Africa that know how to properly do tourism are NORTH Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. And while those places are rich in culture, history and beaches and are fairly safe, you're not getting the TRUE African experience, as you won't find any of the famous African animals in those places.
Maybe Africa is better suited for Europeans and Aussies, but for Americans looking to travel cheaper, there isn't enough to keep you occupied for two weeks, and it's simply not worth the long flight and cost to only stay for just one.
In the end, while African countries are very diverse and have much to offer in terms of nature and cultural heritage, the majority of them are extremely unsafe and have poor infrastructure and hygiene. And despite their low wages and cost of living, a trip to Africa can cost you a fortune. For a continent that prides itself so much on tourism, you'd think they'd be more organized, and provide more options for people who want to do more than just safari.
Number 5- OCEANIA
This may be another one that comes as a surprise, but as is the case with Africa, most of it boils down to cost, transportation and activities. While you can often find cheap deals to islands like Hawaii, Fiji and Tahiti, the majority of the region, including Australia and New Zealand, is extremely expensive to travel to. While some of the colonial and more popular islands are well connected, others are almost impossible to get to, and if you do, you'll find they don't have a whole lot to offer. While the islands of Polynesia, Melanesia and parts of Micronesia and of course Australia and New Zealand , DO offer a wide range of attractions, ranging from natural, to historical and cultural, you'll find that as is the case with Africa, the majority of the continent is set up for luxury eco-tourism, mainly scuba diving and lounging at those $5000 a night overwater bungalows. Interisland transport is very expensive and limited, so choose your island carefully, because unless you have a shit ton of money, you'll pretty much be stuck on that one island for your entire stay.
It's also good to know that things on the islands operate very differently than they do on the mainland. Many islanders still have a "locals only" mentality, and have no concept of "your stuff/my stuff", except when it comes to their beaches. In Fiji for example, it is not uncommon to have to ask permission from the village chief to use the beach, and you may have to ask them through a third party, as some of them don't talk to commoners. It's also not uncommon for female tourists to be harassed, or to have rocks thrown at you or your vehicle by the local children. This is especially a problem on Samoa. The American islands aren't much safer or welcoming and you need your own car if you want to see something.
And if you're wondering about Papua New Guinea, don't even bother. A tour to visit the famous Mudmen, will cost you in the triple digits. This is probably due to the necessary presence of armed security, as this anthropologists paradise has one of the highest violent crime rates on the planet.
The BEST countries in Oceania are by far New Zealand and Australia, but if you wanna see EVERYTHING you need a lot of time and, and a lot of money.
Number 4- SOUTH AMERICA
While South America has some of the most beautiful cities on earth, and some iconic sites like Machu Picchu, Iguacu, Rio and the Galapagos, it also has a whole lot of nothingness. It's one of the less geographically diverse continents out there, and one of the highest in terms of crime. However, it still has many positive aspects that make it more ideal for tourism than the continents we've looked at so far. The continent can either be expensive or cheap, depending where you want to go. For example, cities like Cartagena, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Florianopolis rank low in affordability and attractions, but high in safety and modernity. While the interior cities/countries rank higher in affordability and attractions, but lower in safety and modernity. However, while crime is a problem more so than in some other regions, it isn't nearly as bad as in Africa or Central America. Colombia and Ecuador have gotten better over the years, and even in countries like Brazil and Bolivia you can find pockets where crime is far lower than even in the States. The only South American country I would consider as truly dangerous, is Venezuela, which is a shame, as it's probably the most interesting of the South American countries.
The biggest issues you'll probably face in South America is corruption, scamming and food hygiene. That's not to say you should let your guard down, as some of the larger cities, especially in Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia, still have a problem with theft. One should especially exercise caution when using public transportation. But unlike Africa, South America is very well organized, so you'll have no issue finding a reputable tour company to take you to some of its most iconic sites. Plus you'll find the people here a lot more open and outgoing than in some other parts of the world. There's a reason South America is known as the party and flirting capital of the world. But if you want ancient history, colonial architecture, wildlife or a hunting trip with an indigenous tribe, they have that too.
Number 3- ASIA
This is another one you might have expected to be a little higher, but we're talking about the largest and most diverse continent on earth, so of course certain parts are gonna be better than others. But even with its many positive aspects, there are still other factors that don't place this continent higher on the list.
East Asia for example has no shortage of attractions and is often praised for its safety, cleanliness and modernity, and its transportation and infrastructure are regarded as the best in the world. But although many Westerners are fascinated by the culture for others, their unusual food, strict rules and bizarre cultural practices can be really frustrating. And while the young generation is becoming more modern and Westernized, much of the older generation are still stuck in their old ways and are not shy about showing their dislike and distrust of foreigners, even other Asians.
Southeast Asia is often praised for its heritage sites, cheap prices and friendlier more laid back people, but ranks higher in crime and corruption, and lower in transportation and hygiene.
South Asia has a rich culture, some fascinating natural and historical sites, and low prices, but is often criticized for its lack of safety, especially regarding women, and it's poor hygiene, infrastructure and transportation.
Central Asia is amongst the most underrated regions on earth, with its pristine mountain ecosystems, stunning architecture and friendly people. None of this matters though, because aside from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the region is very restrictive when it comes to foreign tourism. If you DO manage to get into one of these countries, the constant harassment by local police and government minders will be enough to make you want to never come back.
So that only leave Western Asia, which includes Iran, Cyprus, the Middle East and Caucasus. Despite all the news reports we hear, the reality is that armed conflict is only restricted to a handful of countries in the region. Sadly, these countries happened to have some of the world's richest natural and cultural heritage. The Gulf States however have managed to remain fairly peaceful and conflict free. Countries like the UAE and Qatar pride themselves as being some of the world's best luxury travel destinations, with even Saudi Arabia slowly opening its doors to Westerners for the first time. And to the contrary, a holiday in the Gulf isn't as expensive as you might think. But while the region ranks high in terms of safety, hospitality and infrastructure, just like with East Asia, it's strict laws and cultural practices might be enough to keep some travelers away. While the countries of the Levant are more secular and laidback, their political instability makes the possibly of armed conflict quite high. The most developed country in the region, Israel can be extremely expensive. Iran has some of the best wildlife and cultural sites on the planet, and despite reports from the Western media, its people are regarded as some of the friendliest and most pro-Western on the planet. But sadly, none of this matters as the strict religious regime doesn't want you coming there, except to some of the islands in the Gulf. And if you DO manage to get a visa, you'll be accompanied by a government guide who picks your itinerary and watches your every move. So this only leaves Turkey, Cyprus and the Caucasian nations. While some of them rank high in corruption and tourist scams, violent crime and the risk of terror remains relatively low. Turkey is byfar the most secular country in the Muslim world, and doesn't have some of the strict laws that other Islamic countries have. Azerbaijan is practically Atheist, and Cyprus, Georgia and Armenia have a strong European influence. And as long as you stay away from the breakaway regions, they are completely safe and are also incredibly cheap, making them perfect destinations for independent travel.
One thing the different Asian regions DO share in common, is they have no shortage of guided day tours, and they're fairly affordable and well organized. So all those factors taken into consideration, I think ranking Asia at number 3, with Western Asia ranking as the best in Asia, is fair.
Number 2- NORTH AMERICA
This may also come as a surprise, especially since people only tend to think of the U.S. and Canada, but what those two countries lack, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean make up for. While the tourism sector is the U.S. and Canada is a significant part of the economy, in fact the U.S. ranks in the third most visited country on earth, they cater more to independent travelers. In fact, the U.S. and Canada are often criticized for their lack of public transportation and tour agencies. That's not to say they don't exist, they just aren't as popular or organized, except for Las Vegas, which has multiple our agencies which take tourists around the Southwest and California. And Alaska, because it's so remote. Even Hawaii has few tour agencies. This means if you want to see some of our spectacular national parks, amazing historic sites and iconic cities, you'll have to rent a car and drive to them yourself. However, the vast distances and high cost of fuel means you'll most likely have to limit your visit to one region of the country. I personally suggest the Southwest. It's a pretty similar situation in Canada, except maybe in the eastern provinces, which have a lot of European influence.
So, this is where Mesoamerica and the Caribbean save the day. The regions on their own could be ranked as some of the best destinations for tourism. Mexico, despite its vast size is extremely well connected. Thanks to its extensive highway network, you can base yourself in one city, and take day tours to towns that are almost 200 miles away. Mexico City is especially good for this. And Central American countries for instance are very small, so you can easily do day tours around the country, and from one country to another. The only catch is that most of these tours run out of the main cities, so if you want to stay on the coast, or in a smaller town your options are somewhat limited. But there is certainly no shortage of beautiful attractions in Mesoamerica, but sadly the recent gang violence has made some of them unsafe to visit. And while the people are open and friendly, a lot of them sadly are also out to scam tourists. Though you are still relatively safe if you travel with a tour company and stay in the touristy areas exercising normal precautions.
The Caribbean is byfar the best tourist region in North America. The islands are so small, that you can easily do short day trips if you get tired of the beach. There are many tour companies on the islands that do short day tours, but a lot of the islands also have great public bus systems, which makes independent travel fun, cheap and easy. In fact, this is one of the only regions where I have no qualms about using public transportation. A lot of the islands are also connected by ferry services now, making independent island hopping a great alternative to cruise travel. But not all Caribbean islands are so tourist friendly. On Jamaica for instance, tours can be very expensive and are usually only limited to places within a short distance. You pretty much need a car in Puerto Rico, a car and sail boat in the Bahamas and a multiday tour package for Cuba. The islands also have more crime than they should and some locals can be quite aggressive, especially towards tourists with cameras, which may be part of the reason few tourists venture out and about.
But if you're smart and do a bit of research, North America is undoubtable one of the best destinations for tourism.
And that brings us to.....
Number 1- Europe
This one shouldn't come as a surprise. With its low violent crime rates, modern infrastructure, excellent transit and diversity of attractions, it's no surprise that Europe is the most popular continent on the planet and undoubtably, the Queen of Tourism. It's nearly impossible to drive a few miles in Europe without finding something interesting. But you don't need to drive, because the continent has such a great public transit system that you can literally get to almost any village. But if you're pressed on time, you can go with one of the thousands of well organized tour companies the continent has. The most popular travel style in Europe is Autokar tours. You can travel to another country safely and comfortably without having to deal with the hassle of public transportation, and food and accommodation is usually included in the package. Europe is also often praised for having the best accommodations of the planet, with everything from 5 star resorts, to hiker's chalets. But of course no system is perfect. Eastern Europe is slightly less developed, and there are regions where it's pretty clear they don't want tourism. A lot of services, especially ferries, tours and restaurants also shut down during the winter months, but you have the luxury of being able to visit for half the price, and have much of the place to yourself. Pickpocketing, tourist scams and corruption are quite common, and although still safer than other continents, the threat of terrorism and violent crime has gone up quite a bit within the past decade. But the pros still outweigh the cons enough to make it number 1.
Thanks for reading. Which continent do YOU most enjoy traveling to? Let me know in the comments below.