30 Happiest Places In The World

30 Happiest Places In The World

30 Happiest Places In The World

It’s been a bit hard to see the silver lining with dark clouds closing in from all sides. If it’s not loadshedding switching the lights off, it’s administrative red tape, social dissent, ill health and social uprisings.

To change the pace, Rand Rescue thought we’d take a hiatus from the bad news and focus on the happiest places in the world. Whether you want to relocate to a fun, chilled or peaceful place, or simply want to start planning that long-awaited getaway when this dragging lockdown finally ends, we’ve got options for you.

Top destinations for happiness

Our list of happiest destinations is not based on a single criteria but multiple. Whether your definition of happiness is serenity, liveliness, friendly locals, simplicity, nature, indulgence or excitement – there is certainly a location which will appeal to your taste and interests.

Our list was curated and collated from various sources, including:

 – The World Happiness Report

 – Trip Advisor’s 2021 Traveler’s Choice destinations

 – Badoo’s top destination poll

 – Bands In Town user votes

 – Yahoo Answers rankings

 – US News top countries for Adventure

 – List Challenges most interesting country rankings

 – Time Out’s City Life Index

 – Rough Guides most beautiful location user votes

 – The Active Times most photogenic locations in the world

NOTE: we’ve deliberately excluded the common political, cultural and economic criticisms which usually exclude some of these places from the list. The focus of our list is not politics, but focusing on the people and the physical places and what makes them ‘happy’ places.

It should also be noted that most countries in the world are going through a tough time right now given health and economic hardships, so rankings are based on a general view.


If you’re looking for nearly any type of natural environment where you can get lost and break away from the buzz of city life, Argentina has everything you’re looking for. Argentina’s geography encompasses plains, deserts, tundra, forests, mountains, rivers, oceans, parts of Antarctica as well as several islands.

While Argentina encapsulates the spirit of the Americas, it also has a very universal feel to it – you might imagine you’re in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia or Australasia at any given time.


Australia is an odd mix of western, southern and Aboriginal hospitality. There is an odd bluntness to Australia’s hospitality though. One gets the sense that pretentiousness is simply not worth the effort and being anything but yourself is simply not a possibility.


Brazil is the epitome of unfettered flamboyance, but where such brazen actions may seem conceited in any other context, the country has a wholesome honesty to its ostentatious nature.

It is not ignorant of its problems, but merely chooses to infuse a sense of festival into all matters – whether mourning, playing football or celebrating – everything is over the top and even the darkest corners of its tapestry is infused with a sense of colour.


Travellers to Bulgaria have stated that you shouldn’t expect a smile from Bulgarians – but they reiterate that friendliness in a Bulgarian sense is not measured by smiles.

When visiting this country, you’re almost guaranteed to get an invitation for a lengthy meal, loads of wine and hours of dancing.


Cambodia is considered the kindest country by many polls. Whether it’s the rich culture, their connection to the nation or the odd mix of contemporary and ancient culture fused into one.

Cambodia has a sense of serenity which underscores each experience and interaction within its borders.


One cannot write an article about happiness and friendliness without listing Canada. The country is so famous for its politeness, that many memes, series and movies mention it.

It’s well known for welcoming foreigners into its cosmopolitan cities and offers wide open spaces with a wealth of adventurous pursuits.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica has topped the We Forum’s list of destinations to visit three out of four times.

It’s known for wild jungles, stunning beaches, exotic wildlife, adventures, interesting food and even volcanos.


Cypriots are considered some of the most hospitable people in the world. Visitors state that the moment a Cypriot smiles at a foreigner, they already consider you part of the family.

The etymology of the Greek word, filoksenia (hospitality) stems from the roots ‘filos’ for friend and ‘ksenos’ for guest. Add the relaxed lifestyle and year-round sunshine, and it’s clear why Cyprus is on our list.


In 2019, Ecuador was considered 3rd in the world for Ecological happiness. The Happy Planet Index measures life expectancy, wellbeing and ecological footprint and bases their score on a mix of these.

Their happiness comes down to their harmony with nature and being progressive without negative impact to their surroundings.


Many visitors consider Fijians to have ‘the biggest hearts’. Despite the relative poverty, the people seem to exude warmth and live rich lives. The idyllic wealth of natural beauty and resources is perhaps part of the happiness which encapsulates visitors to their shores.

Tourists advise new visitors to come on an empty stomach as locals are bound to feed you hearty meals.


The world tends to make fun of Germans for being blunt and emotionless, but in actual fact, the country has an incredible standard of living and welcomes all foreigners to take up their social and economic benefits.

It’s especially welcoming of expats and treats all people like first class citizens.


It seems almost counterintuitive that a country which is used to darkness in winter would not perpetuate the same grumpiness most of us are prone to display when we lack Vitamin D – but Iceland is known for its calm, friendly and welcoming people. The nation is so peaceful that they even need to export wrongdoers – since there is no prison on the island.

It is listed the friendliest nation for tourists according to the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. Whether you love the cold or want to enjoy the hot springs amid the northern lights, Iceland is bound to offer you a magical experience.


In his book Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts perfectly encapsulates the nature of India. Just like the spices which infuse its food, India is absolutely raw and candid in its nature. It is an example of how happiness permeates, despite hardships.

While many traveller stories often focus on the hardships and negativities of the country, those who immerse them in India are adamant that this wild contrast of colours, flavours and richness is the very thing that makes it such a rich and happy place.


It’s no surprise that Ireland has made this list. It’s not merely a beautiful destination, but the country is known for jolliment, parties and jokes. Despite Ireland’s violent past, it seems the people have always managed to find a silver lining amid any gloom and use any event for a wild party!


Kenya is a famed safari destination for western visitors, so it may be that the friendliness towards strangers is ingrained, but whatever the reason: they’re a friendly bunch.

Kenya is ranked no.2 in Africa for happiness according to the Gallup Happiness Index. This points towards the nation’s internal resilience and that it’s not a mere persona put up for visitors.


Malawi is well known throughout Africa as one of the warmest and most welcoming places to visit. Most anyone will tell you that you feel absolutely safe among Malawian people and that their warmth is not a mere ‘show’.

Malawian people are known for their broad smiles and courteous treatment of others.


Just like South Africa and many other countries on the list, Mexico has had a bad rap for crime, but according to travel surveys, Mexican people are considered the third friendliest people in the world.

Not only does Mexico have some of the most beautiful places to visit, travellers praise its people for welcoming newcomers.


Morocco is ranked the no.1 destination in Africa for its friendliness towards tourists. Not only that, but foreigners seem absolutely enthralled by the mix of exotic culture and cosmopolitan living which makes people feel simultaneously at home, and in an entirely different world.

Moroccans are known for showing travellers around, introducing them to family and giving them advice on the best places to visit.


Mozambique is the nearest Southern Africans generally get to a tropical island vibe. With a range of festivals hosted on the shores of the country, with the warm weather fuelled by the Indian Ocean setting the perfect ambience for a fun and affordable holiday all year round.


Though the Netherlands is undoubtedly famous for its acceptance of 420 culture, this is not the reason why it’s considered such a happy place. Unlike many other European nations where the cultural heritage seems almost stifled – everything seems cohesive and the experience as visitor is seamless, whether you visit a museum, go shopping, eat out or go cycling in nature.

New Zealand

New Zealand is on many lists for travel and adventure. The country is famous for its wide array of outdoor activities amid the beautiful scenery. People are welcoming and exude a positive attitude towards life.

The country is also welcoming to immigrants and protects human rights.


Panama is not just known as a friendly place, but even has a ‘friendly nations visa’ to fast-track residency for countries they deem to be diplomatic friends.

Panama is also known as a happy place to run a business since they’re so progressive in terms of entrepreneurship. Among the people who can enjoy a friendly nations visa is South Africa.


The Philippines offers breathtaking scenery and a wealth of adventures for travellers visiting their shores – from watersports and mountain excursions to forest outings.

With more than 7 000 unique islands to visit within the Philippines, you also have your pick of diversity.


Portugal is not only one of the safest countries to visit, but an InterNations survey found that at least 94% of Portuguese locals are considered friendly towards expats and tourists. More than 30% of expats who move there state that they felt at home the moment they moved there, and half of respondents said they consider Portugal as their permanent residence now.


While many Western travellers are weary of visiting middle-eastern nations, Qatar is considered one of the friendliest places to live in the region. It’s welcoming of foreigners who want to live and work there and moved from no.41 to no.22 between 2018 and 2019 on the Ease of Settling in Index ranking.

There are still certain regional rules you will need to adhere to, especially as a woman travelling or living on your own, but these rules are generally easy to follow.


Rwanda may not be on everyone’s bucket list – given safety concerns. But if one considers how friendly and welcoming the people are given the horrendous history of human rights atrocities, it’s clear that the Rwandan people have something to teach all of us about resilience.

And while many people still believe Rwanda to be unsafe due to past political unrest, it was ranked the 9th safest country in the world to visit in 2017.


Senegal is not on everyone’s radar, but it’s ranked as the second most welcoming country to foreigners, as ranked by business leaders and Western expats and it even clinched 6th place in the world rankings based on the ‘attitude of population toward foreign visitors’.

A total of 13 African nations made the list of friendliest countries towards foreigners.

South Africa

TripAdvisor head of destination marketing and sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Helena Egan, noted in an INDABA travel show how her friends had stated around the dinner table how friendly and proud South Africans are.

While we have many problems, most visitors are struck by our willingness to help tourists, to open our homes to strangers and to show the spirit of Ubuntu to one and all. Despite all we go through, we like looking for a laugh and sharing our braai with anyone who wants to be fed and entertained.


Thailand is plastered on many a website and travel bulletin as THE destination to visit.

Much of this has to do with the affordability of the region for travellers, but most visitors are intrigued by the ease of getting around, the wide array of excursions, and the nation’s acceptance of foreigners as a kind of vagrant ‘secondary citizenry’ in the country.


Travellers who had to rank their worldwide travels listed Vietnam as the safest country to visit in the Southeast Asian Peninsula.

Travellers are advised to expect wholesome and healthy cuisine, and a calm and friendly people who are not pushed for time. Many South Africans who have visited the region have fallen in love with the place and returned there time and again.

Want to make a move?

While borders are closing for South Africans once more, this does not deter you from making long-term plans.

If you’re keen on relocating, be sure to talk to Rand Rescue and let us help you move your money safely, legally and securely across borders. With the constant see-sawing of South Africans’ access to the globe, it’s best to plan in advance.

Simply leave your details and we’ll get back to you!

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