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Which Country is the Best? (And the Worst...) NEW for 2024/25

Updated: Jun 5

As our current RTW trip is winding down, many people are asking me what they always ask me... "Which country was your favourite?"


And I'm gonna answer how I always answer; that I like different countries for different reasons. So here are the official 'Best For' rankings, only considering the 40 countries I have been to so far, and based on my personal experience there.



 


So which Country is the Best?



MOST LIVEABLE


Winner: Colombia

Runner-up: Thailand

2nd Runner-up: Malawi


It's safe to say Colombia stole our hearts from the moment we stepped off the plane. Not only because it was the smoothest immigration I have ever experienced, but the people are lovely and so welcoming, the weather is ideal, and the mountains are spectacular.


Other reasons why I chose Colombia as the most 'liveable' place are; that there is lots of wildlife, much of the high-altitude land is perfect for growing food, they have a rich and interesting culture, tap water is drinkable, foreigners are allowed to buy property, land is affordable for us, we get on with Colombian people, we kind of speak Spanish, there's access to many different food ingredients (important), the landscape itself is stunning, and the country is less climatically vulnerable than many others.



 


BEST FOOD


Winner: India

Runner-up: Italy

2nd Runner-up: Thailand

3rd Runner-up: Japan

4th Runner-up: Mexico



This is a hot topic and was a really tough decision, but in the end, India could be the only choice for first place. Reason being? Everything is good. In all of the other countries I have been to, food is always hit and miss, you need to choose the restaurant or street stall well to get the best of it.


But in India, whatever you order is delicious (apart from their desserts, eek sorry!) And overall, Indian dishes pack the most flavour. Would I want to eat it for every meal, every day for the rest of my life? Maybe not, but there's nothing more satisfying than a dosa dripping in coconut chutney.


These five countries also match Joe's Top 5 cuisines of the world, and I am sure many other people's, albeit the order is different, and I am very much expecting a severe backlash from my Italian friends!


I have written a bunch of stuff on travelling India, as I have spent almost two years there I know it pretty well.




 


BEST PEOPLE


Winner: Philippines

Runner-up: Iraq

2nd Runner-up: Malawi



I am well aware that there a nice people and not-so-nice people in every country, it's just in my experience, Filipino hospitality is like no other, and every interaction we had during our two months in the Philippines was joyful. The people are so friendly, laid back, and easy to get on with, we felt like we slipped straight into the community, rather than observing as visitors.


I do not doubt that anyone visiting the Philippines would have the same experience, however, mine and Joe's was made that much more special by living in the surf village of Liw-Liwa and being welcomed by the amazing folks at Sunny Corner.


Malawi is known as 'the warm heart of Africa' for a reason, and the spirit of the Malawian people touched us in so many ways. Our travels there were filled with genuine connections and no other country in the world has ever made us feel more welcome.


Planning a trip to the Philippines can be quite dizzying to begin with, so to help you get started, check out my article: A One-Month Itinerary for the Philippines.



 

Not sure what to pack for your backpacking adventure? Check out the I Dream of Mangoes article:



 


MOST NATURAL BEAUTY


Winner: New Zealand

Runner-up: Colombia



I can't even count the number of times I have driven around a corner in New Zealand, and my jaw has literally dropped in awe at the scenery. It truly is a remarkable place of natural beauty, whether it's glaciers, volcanoes, geothermal springs, alpine lakes, snow-covered mountains, limestone caves, fjords, forests, or beaches... you're going to find heaven everywhere.


To top it all off, New Zealand has heaps of wild camping, and hitchhiking is well-established, so you can experience all of this on a low budget.


Are you curious about the best activities and sights in NZ? Check out my article: The Top 10 Things to See and Do in New Zealand.



 


BEST SCUBA DIVING


Winner: Indonesia

Runner-up: Malaysia

2nd Runner-up: Fiji



Indonesia is a country comprising of 17000 islands, that all sit snugly in the coral triangle, a small patch of ocean that contains 20% of the worlds coral, and over 3000 species of fish (that's twice as much as the Great Barrier Reef).


The reefs of Indonesia sit on a transitional line between Asia and Australasia, and the underwater landscape is unbelievably diverse. The ocean is warm, you can dive all year round, and it's relatively affordable.


The best diving I have enjoyed in Indonesia is at Komodo National Park, with the folks from Scuba Junkie. The Mantas are abundant, and the currents (including the famous 'Shotgun' dive site), make diving here a very wild ride.


Also at the top of everyone's scuba diving bucket list is the world-famed Raja Ampat, in Indonesia's Papua region. Of course, it's an absolute ordeal to get there, which is why it remains so unspoilt.


If you would like to experience the magic of diving in Komodo National Park, check out my article: A Guide to Scuba Diving in Komodo.



 


BEST BEACHES


Winner: Thailand

Runner-up: Australia



Soft white sand ✔️

Warm clear water ✔️

Stunning sunsets ✔️

Cute beach bars ✔️

Gorgeous islands ✔️

Fantastic weather ✔️


As popular as Thailand is, there are still many places where you can avoid the crowds, the tourist infrastructure is there, it's clean and mostly litter-free, locals are friendly to foreigners and the food is so exciting. I love Thailand!


I especially love the dreamy island of Koh Lanta, with its chilled-out vibe, live reggae music, and of course, with the wonderful work that Lanta Animal Welfare has been doing, the animals on the island are all happy too.


If you want to know more about what you can get up to on Koh Lanta, check out my article: Things to Do on Koh Lanta.



 



BEST FOR ANIMAL LOVERS


Winner: South Africa

Runner-up: Kenya




There's something quite surreal about having a dip in the pool of your lodge, and two giraffes casually sauntering past. Or falling asleep to the groans of Lions and the saw-cutting-wood sounds of Leopards. Or how about being woken up by a Hippo grazing in your garden?


South Africa is a magical place for wildlife, where, as a human, I entirely felt on THEIR turf. Safaris are also affordable here compared to more bougie places like Botswana and Tanzania.


It's not just land animals that are the draw here my friends, as South Africa is home to some fantastic scuba-diving, including the world-famous Sardine Run, where billions of Sardines spawn in the cool waters of KwaZulu-Natal, attracting numerous predators, and scenes that rival the Great Wildebeest Migration.


The reason I chose Cameroon as second place, is because it's there that I spent 6 months looking after orphaned Chimpanzees, which is quite a unique situation and may always be the best thing I did and will ever do in my life.


Other amazing wildlife encounters include Orca spotting in California, the Hummingbirds of Colombia, and being down with the Mantas at Komodo National Park in Indonesia.


If you would like to experience the wildlife of South Africa, check out my article: Planning a Budget Safari to the Kruger.



 


BEST FOR WINE


Winner: Spain

Runner-up: South Africa




I love Spanish wine. It's completely underrated, often very high quality, and so varied. First, you've got the amazing Sherries of Jerez down in super-hot Cadiz, give me a crisp, briny Manzanilla on a breezy rooftop and let the tapas flow!


Or how about the rich, tart and citrussy Godellos and Albariños from the Galicia region in North-West Spain?


Or for something super interesting, head to the Canaries, where the volcanic soil serves light and funky red wines, made by a new wave of vignerons who are tearing up the rule books!


Yes, there are good wines produced by lots of countries, but for me, those from Spain are the most exciting, without the hefty price tags you'll find with the more traditional Chateaus.


 


BEST FOR ART LOVERS



Winner: Cuba

Runner-up: Mexico (Specifically Oaxaca)



The art of Cuba is wildly diverse, reflecting the island's rich mix of cultures. African, European, North and South American influences all blended together over the 19th and early 20th centuries before the economic embargo cut off most contact with the outside world.


This is when the people of Cuba had to get creative, without the luxury of importing anything, money or mod-cons, artists had to think outside of the box, as seen by the pair of earrings I purchased in a market, made out of re-shaped old forks and mussel shells. Colour and music is everywhere you turn, Cuba is an unforgettable place in person and photos!


I had the best time at the La Fábrica de Arte in Havana, which is a nightclub and art gallery built into an old cooking oil factory.


If you're thinking of travelling to Cuba check out my article: Do's and Dont's in Havana.


 

The Worst?


So now we come to the other end of the spectrum, and I did dabble with the idea of keeping this 100% positive but then thought, what the heck - if people are interested...


Least pedestrian-friendly: USA (specifically California)


Least friendly locals: Türkiye. People have very hit-and-miss experiences in Türkiye, and ours was a miss. We were treated like dirt by most Turkish people we met there. (However, it's worth mentioning that every interaction we had with Kurdish people was not like this, long live Peshmerga!)


Least comfortable I have felt as a woman: Egypt (No excuses here, I was sexually harassed from the moment I stepped off the plane and groped several times, and I shan't ever return.)


Least affordable: Norway


Most corruption I experienced: Cameroon (I once got fined the equivalent of £5 by a policeman because 'it's Sunday'.)


Most hassle: India (It's hard to have a minute to think, but you gotta love the enthusiasm! Not applicable to Kerala.)


Biggest littering problem: Indonesia


Most over-crowded attractions: Japan (Cities only.)


This is based on my personal experience whilst spending time in these countries, I have no intention to generalise the entire population or dissuade anyone from visiting.


As is clear, I wrote India has 'the most hassle' but I have also been back 5 times and spent more than two years in the country, with plans to visit again this year, as I just can't get enough. You've got to take the bad with the good!



 


So what do you think? I would be particularly interested if anyone had anything to add to the food section, as eating is my favourite hobby.


If you enjoyed the read please consider subscribing to my blog, where I post articles 1-2 times per week with updates of mine and my partner Joe's latest travels.


Check out the details of our most recent adventure: Overland from Nairobi to Capetown!


If you're wondering how I sustain my travel, check out my post How to Travel For Longer.


If you have any questions, please hit the comments.



Happy Travels

xx



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Disclosure:
I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.




1 Comment


Kathleen Kenneth
Kathleen Kenneth
Sep 20, 2023

Love this, Aimee. I can't wait to visit these countries.

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