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Caution While Traveling: Unfriendliest Cities for Foreigners

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Whether you’re an avid globe trotter or just looking for a new cultural experience, visiting a new city can be an exciting adventure.  However, not all destinations may be accommodating or appreciative of your foreign roots. While some countries welcome foreigners with open arms, others couldn’t care less about making you feel right at home. Here’s where you’ll find some of the least friendly cities for foreigners:

Moscow, Russia

A recent poll by TripAdvisor, an international traveling portal reports that Moscow tops the list of most unfriendly places in Europe. Blame it on the chilly winters, poor economy or the Soviet roots, but Moscow doesn’t exactly welcome foreigners with open arms.  The high cost of living, gloomy weather and poor transportation services can make it difficult to enjoy your trip to Europe. You’ll find plenty of things to do and see in this city, but don’t expect to be pampered or given any type of royal treatment during your stay.

London, England

The British capital that is best known for its regal roots and rich nightlife may also be one of the most unwelcoming to foreign visitors.  The AFP reports that London is among the dirtiest and most unfriendly cities in Europe. Americans often complain about British humor and the Brits revel in their abilities to ‘spot’ Americans in the crowd.  No matter where you’re from, it’s challenging to blend in with the Briton lifestyle and keep up appearances with the locals.  Don’t be offended if locals aren’t willing to help you out with directions or simply ignore you as you walk down the street; it’s not necessarily personal, but being cold and uptight may just be a part of British culture.

New York City, New York

The mega-metropolis in the United States is home to millions of immigrants the world over, but that doesn’t make it a friendly melting pot.  The overpopulated city streets coupled with unfriendly neighborhoods can be a nightmare for any non-English speaking traveler.  Visiting the cultural hotspots such as Chinatown and Little Italy may offer some hope for foreign nationals looking for a taste of home. Rude taxi cab drivers, over-the-top prices and lack of customer service have given NYC an unfavorable reputation. reports that New York City’s cost of living is 364% compared to the national average, which means basic expenses such as food, clothing and hotel reservations are much higher than the norm. (Source: 

Hong Kong, China

It’s become increasingly difficult to obtain a visa to China, and even though China’s visa rules have been fairly strict, foreigners are having trouble getting through Embassy paperwork and securing a visit to beautiful Beijing and Hong Kong.  Even when they get there, foreigners can be left looking for affordable hotels and apartment rentals;  hotel prices on the rise, the high cost of food and transportation, and the language barrier can make it hard to enjoy the cities at their best.  Hong Kong has often been dubbed the ‘New York’ of Asia; CNN Money recently ranked Hong Kong as the 5th most expensive city in the world, a city where everything is 19 percent pricier than even New York City.

Beijing, China

Many locals had to undergo weeks and months of ‘customer service’ training before the Olympics in Beijing to ensure Westerners and foreign travelers would feel comfortable and accommodated for on Chinese territory. Beijing is filled with beautiful sites and attractions, but you may need to brush up on basic language skills in order to get from point A to point B with limited stress and frustration.  The city is known for pickpockets and street thieves, so tourists and foreign visitors need to be extra careful about where they go sightseeing on any given day. The Beijing Embassy in the United States cautions tourists to take extra care when visiting open-air markets, airports and stores that are usually manned by low-paid security guards.

Milan, Italy

It’s filled with history and gleaming architectural sites, but Milan may not be the best place to enjoy a leisurely stay. United Press International reports that Milan has one of the highest smog levels in Europe, and the second-highest levels of ozone after Paris. The city has been named one of the world’s dirtiest cities by Popular Science Magazine, and foreigners and tourists can have difficulty finding their way around congested streets and navigating their way through non-English speaking crowds.

Casablanca, Morocco

From the street hustlers to the unfriendly tourist guides, many Westerners find the Moroccan culture to be offensive.  Though you’ll find many beautiful areas to visit, the overpopulated city can be hard to navigate and you’ll rarely find someone who speaks English.  A lack of tourist information, scorching temperatures and poor transportation make it difficult for foreign travelers to feel comfortable and safe during any visit to Casablanca. reports that although Morocco has a moderately high crime rate in urban areas, criminals tend to target tourists and may even pretend to be ‘guides.’  Almost every service provider  - whether it is a guard at the gates of an attraction, a taxi operator or a shoe shiner – will expect a tip regardless of the level of service rendered.  Be prepared for many surprises at this exotic locale.

Los Angeles, California

This west coast city was dubbed the 5th most miserable city in the U.S. by Forbes in 2008  for its polluted skies, high taxes and chronic commute times, and may not give foreigners a realistic view of U.S. culture upon their first visit.  Even when visitors survive LA traffic and ignore the Hollywood-obsessed crowds, they may find it hard to track down genuine and honest people throughout the city.  Many describe the residents of LA as jaded, shallow and boring; they’re not typically open minded or interested in cultures outside of the U.S., making it very difficult for foreigners to feel at home.



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