There are three major indexes published each year that rank major cities in terms of liveability: Economist Intelligence Unit’s Liveability Index; Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey; and Monocle’s Quality of Life Survey. There is one city which consistently boasts a ranking around the top of all three: Vienna.
This month I decided to visit Vienna for the first time, and these liveability indexes were never far from my mind. What I really wanted to know was this: does a great city to live in necessarily translate into a great city to visit? What criteria are these indexes using to judge liveability anyway, and are these factors at all relevant to visitability?
My favourite City liveability index is the one compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Melbourne (my home city) has been ranked number one in this index for four consecutive years (*cough cough*).
These are the factors the EIU takes into consideration in its ranking:
When I think of my favourite cities and why I love them, it doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of education, or even how safe I felt.
One of my most exhilarating travel memories, for example, was riding on the back of a motorcycle in Goa, India. There were three of us on the motorbike, the road was full of hairpin bends, and the vehicle was being driven by a yoga instructor we had just met that morning, who had convinced us to accompany him back to his house under the pretence of hosting us for lunch. (Spolier alert: he wasn’t an axe murderer, but he DID want to move to Australia and thought that we could help him procure paid employment)
And it doesn’t usually have anything to do with comfort either. Another cherished memory was hopping into a taxi in Shanghai, stating the address of the restaurant I was headed to, and being met with a completely blank expression from the driver. He didn’t speak a word of English.
There was something really cool about the way the Chinese people looked at me blankly whenever I tried to communicate with them. I really felt I was somewhere exotic, somewhere that not a lot of people like me had been to.
So if it has nothing to do with safety and nothing to do with comfort, what makes a city visitable?
Here is the criteria that I will using for the My Seasoned Travels "Most visitable city index" (trademark pending :P)
Ease of getting around
- Ability to get from the airport to your hotel without paying as much as your airfare, or spending as much time as the duration of your flight
- A public transport network that doesn’t require a short course to navigate
- A public transport network that doesn’t require you to re-mortgage your house in order to buy a daily ticket (London I’m looking at you!)
A favourable exchange rate
- Hate to say it, but the weaker the currency the better
- An exchange rate that is easily convertible and doesn’t require me to whip out my calculator every ten minutes (maybe I should just get better at Maths?)
- Locals who will stop to give you directions on the side of the road; locals who are interested in travellers; locals who will annoy the hell out of you - in a good way - asking you about your home country while trying to sell you a Turkish carpet
- Locals who will not rip you off in the market and sell you goods which will prove to be collectively defective within a week of you returning home (Marrakech, I’m still not talking to you)
- Friendly and attentive service in bars and restaurants, without the expectation of a 20% tip
- Average temperatures of between 27 and 32 degrees
- Humidity levels that don’t leave you feeling like you just stepped out of the shower
- No rain please
- No wind please
- No hurricane, tornadoes or floods would also be nice please
- Availability of mouth-watering local food, preferably purchasable via a street hawker
- Availability of a local dessert that includes at least one of the following ingredients: honey, pistachio nuts, flaky pastry, Portugese tarts
- Presence of a local wine that comes cheaply by the glass. Bonus points if the wine can also be consumed as part of a cocktail (Barcelona, I love you)
Something to challenge you
- Little to no English spoken by the locals
- Ability to spend the day doing something you couldn’t have done at home
- Ability to inspire you to do something you would’t have done at home
- Selfie sticks are not available for purchase at the base of major attractions
A good cemetery
- Because that’s just the way I roll
What about you? What makes a city visitable in your eyes?