The world's least friendly cities, from Miami to Macau

Top travel writers pick the cities where they've felt least welcome, whether it's because of surly bartenders or being mistaken for, err, a 'working girl'

Wednesday 28 September 2016 15:59
The world's least friendly cities

Baku, Azerbaijan

Being used to dealing with a degree of unwanted attention while travelling in countries that don’t see a lot of visitors who look like me (blonde), it was actually kind of nice to feel quite invisible as I explored Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Invisible to everyone, that is, except those who approached me in the hope I might have been in a different profession.

Sarah Reid, @sarahtrvls

Dallas, US

Texas is a land apart, a big-hearted state with three warm and welcoming cities: Houston, Austin and San Antonio. But not Dallas. I first visited “The Big D” in 1994. I don’t want to be loved, when I go to a new city. But I do like to feel as though I am appreciated at least for the income I bring. But I found Dallas grudging. “Shopping and eating,”, said one Dallasite I met, “that's all this town is good for.“ Since then I have returned several times; I have been engrossed by the Sixth Floor Museum (from where, allegedly, the shots that killed President Kennedy were fired) and the stunning Dallas Museum of Art. But I still find it a city that does not care for the visitor, in both senses.

Simon Calder, @SimonCalder

Prague, Czech Republic

The unfriendliest place I’ve ever been to is Prague. Angry taxi drivers, rude waiters, pissed-off tour guides, plus the added bonus of a whole series of scams in hotels and cafes. It underlined my opinion - and I’ve been back since - that even though Prague is a beautiful place, and it is staggeringly pretty, it’s fallen foul to the dark side of tourism.

Mike MacEacheran, @MikeMacEacheran

Has Prague been ruined by tourism? (Getty Images)

Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw was an utter horror for me – and not just because so much of it looks like a David Lynch fever dream of Elephant & Castle. I was taken on a weird business dinner with two mystery guests who were introduced as PE teachers from Gdansk but turned out to be prostitutes – one of each gender for me to choose from. When I expressed my feelings on the issue I was menaced out of the nightclub by their “minders” who seemed to materalise out of thin air.

Mark C O’Flaherty, @markcoflaherty

Miami, US

I’m a firm believer in the idea that a warm welcome tends to be a mirror image – and if you are friendly and amenable yourself, you can expect the same in return. That said, I’ve always found something a bit clipped and surly about the bars and restaurants along South Beach in Miami. Perhaps it’s the years of serving legions of booze-addled Spring Breakers, but – in my experience – service often seems cold and dead-eyed.

Chris Leadbeater, @LeadbeaterChris

Don't expect a friendly greeting from the bartenders of South Beach


As one of London’s hard-eyed hoardes, I think it’s hard to identify a culprit, when we can be pretty stony faced and tutting with tourists. However Macau’s never ending stampedes of gamblers who don’t even acknowledge your presence when they trample over you has to be up there.

Georgina Wilson-Powell, @Georgina_WP

Reykjavik, Iceland

I love Iceland, and Icelanders in general, but in Reykjavik I have to say I found a lot of people to be curiously awkward. Perhaps not actively unfriendly, but certainly not effusive – tourist information staff seemed baffled that I’d asked for directions, and local tour operators were affronted that I wanted to double-check arrangements. Not as extreme as some of our other writers’ experiences, but certainly odd. (Incidentally, for a warmer welcome, head to East Iceland – I found it much friendlier.)

Nicola Trup, @nickytrup

For a warm Icelandic welcome, head outside the capital

Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ll say Hanoi, but in general I found Vietnam a fairly combative experience – the endless barrage of scams meant most interactions with locals were spent arguing about being short-changed, haggling over taxi fares only to have the same fight all over again once at the destination, and, in Hanoi, having an angry stand-off over a room price that suddenly inflated when it was time to pay. Indeed, in the Vietnamese capital, the sport of ripping off tourists reaches impressively dizzy heights of the comical and bizarre – a friend who recently visited had his shoe whipped off WHILE WALKING DOWN THE STREET, then, after he had chased down the fellow, it was returned to him with a “ repair” entailing a strip of car tyre and a demand for US$20. Did I enjoy my time in Vietnam? Absolutely – but it was sad to have to treat all unsolicited approaches with a level of suspicion.

Laura Chubb, @laurachubb1


Vladikavkaz, Russia

Between the corrupt police, the hideous humid weather, the dreadful food, and the maniac who tried to run us off the road, I’d say Vladikavkaz is the most unfriendly place I’ve ever been. If not there, then one of the other cities in southern Russia. I ended up there by chance in 2013. The sky was grey, the people were grey, the Ladas were grey. The highlight of my few hours there was trying to communicate with a local cop by writing football scores in the grime on our car, but we still had to pay a bribe to get away.

Jamie Lafferty, @MegaHeid

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