Vacations that are far from smoking
November 17, 2012 6:36 PM   Subscribe

We want to take a vacation next January or February. The destination should be cool or cold, and most importantly, should be as smoke-free as possible. What are your ideas on where we should go?

I am significantly allergic to cigarette smoke. Exposure causes asthma-like attacks. This can make travel difficult. Even in locations where indoor smoking is banned, it seems that smokers still cluster around buildings and transportation hubs, making things miserable for someone like me. So we are looking for a place where either policies or culture or both conspire to make unwanted exposure to smoke in public places uncommon.

Ideally, we'd like to vacation outside the US. We enjoy food, archeological sites, and museums, about in that order. We're not afraid of non-English-speaking locales. Also, herds of camera-toting tourists are not our thing, but we can survive just fine in either large city or more rural situations.

Thanks for your suggestions!
posted by bloggerwench to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Well, it will be cold and likely raining but much of the highlands of Scotland would fit your bill. As would smaller cities, villages in Ireland.

Irbit, in Siberia would be a choice but it's cold with a capital COLD. They make sidecar motorcycles there and the factory gives tours.
posted by BrooksCooper at 6:39 PM on November 17, 2012

Depending on your budget, Iceland or Norway? I lived and traveled around Northern Norway last year, and is probably my favorite places on Earth and I would go back in a heartbeat. It's definitely cold depending on where you go, and there will likely be snow in the northern parts in January. In terms of smoking my anecdotal experience is that I saw far fewer smokers in Norway then I would in the rest of Europe, and slightly less than in Canada.

I would highly recommend taking the Hurtigruten, which is a coastal cruise and operating ferry that goes along the coast of Norway, including up to the northern parts of the North Cape. It was absolutely gorgeous, and you would have a great chance of seeing the northern lights! Tromso and Bergen are amazing cities, and you can do all sorts of winter activities in both. Only downside to Norway that it is super expensive and a somewhat long flight from Oregon.
posted by snowysoul at 6:54 PM on November 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

How about Salt Lake City, Utah? The Mormon population should make this possible, although I don't know for sure. I know you said outside the US, but that popped to mind.

Other religion- or faith-based locales might be something to think about in general.
posted by amtho at 7:11 PM on November 17, 2012

The suggestions by snowysoul are excellent. A variation on those - turn right at Norway, cross Sweden and you come to the one of the most unique countries in Europe, if not the world. Also - that's peak time to see these.
posted by Wordshore at 7:34 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Burlington, Vermont. Quaint city streets, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tours nearby, and the Build-a-Bear factory. You're right off gorgeous Lake Champlain, and on the Canadian border.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:37 PM on November 17, 2012

Scandinavia is very interesting. Great examples, says my confirmation bias! That's certainly on the table.
posted by bloggerwench at 7:51 PM on November 17, 2012

Lapland. Rovaniemi specifically, in Finland.
posted by infini at 10:01 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Denmark! To add to the Scandinavia chorus. If you like food, you NEED to spend some time in Copenhagen nomming on New Nordic cuisine all night and pastry all morning, and hit up the museums there too, and then you should rent a car and go to all the Viking archaeological sites. Denmark gets cold in the winter, to be sure, but not as cold as the rest of Scandinavia. My husband and I were there in June and completely fell in love. I don't remember seeing a single smoker, although I'll admit I wasn't looking very hard.

If you're willing to consider staying in the States, Santa Monica is lovely in January and smokers are surpassing rare, and frankly kind of pariahs. The city keeps flirting with banning smoking in all apartments, which is notable since it's an apartment dwelling kind of town. I guess if you want "cool or cold", though, you may not get it.
posted by town of cats at 11:01 PM on November 17, 2012

Well, it will be cold and likely raining but much of the highlands of Scotland would fit your bill. As would smaller cities, villages in Ireland.

Both of these places are still smoking cultures. You will not be able to visit a pub that does not have smokers outside, front and back. (23% of our population smokes, and the rate of casual smokers actually went up by 2% after the smoking ban.)

I think Sweden is your best bet, statistically speaking. That or Nepal.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:27 PM on November 17, 2012

Nepal might not have a lot of cigarette smokers, but the ones that there are smoke everywhere and it can be hard to get away if you're sitting in a tiny mountain cabin and it's freezing outside. It also felt to me like one of the most polluted countries I've been to, which might be a problem if you react to cigarette smoke.

I'm afraid I haven't been to any countries where I haven't found I got more exposure to cigarette smoke than here at home in the UK (especially now people can't smoke inside public spaces), but of course you will still get people smoking clustered around entrances.

I don't remember finding it a problem in Peru or Bolivia and that would certainly be cold if you go anywhere high.
posted by kadia_a at 1:59 AM on November 18, 2012

If you come to Quebec you could hit Carnaval and/or Montréal en lumière. Montreal has a good archeological museum. There is lots of good food in Montreal, from the inexpensive to the very expensive.

The latest surveys show a smoking prevalence of 23.3% in Quebec. This is higher than Sweden (google just told me 15%). There is no smoking in public places, bars, restaurants. Average Feb. temperature in Montreal is 18F (-8C).
posted by Cuke at 6:26 AM on November 18, 2012

Seconding snowysoul on Norway! Last year I went to Tromso in February from the continent and wow, does the air smell so clear and clean. Very few smokers, even outside the bars and other typical hangouts. The cold is just right, and 2012 and 2013 are peak years for the Northern Lights. Go there now!

If you decide on Tromso and want any advice on where to stay or what to do, feel free to contact me. Keep in mind that Norway is exxxpensive.
posted by whatzit at 3:34 AM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

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