Counting countries and territories in the world is more complicated than you would think. That’s because people and institutions use all sorts of different definitions. To make sense of it all I created a countries spreadsheet like you have never seen before.
With over 50 hours of research it shows a compiled list of 361 countries, de facto states, regions, territories and unrecognised states. Each of those is categorised to show who is counting which: from the United Nations and FIFA to the world’s most elite travel clubs.
With this spreadsheet (version 6.0) you can therefore start counting countries like a pro. It offers full transparency and you can modify it yourself any way you want. If you cannot wait to start, head straight for that download button below. If you are eager for some context, then keep reading.
UN member states
The generally accepted minimum number of countries in the world is derived from the United Nations member states, of which there are 193. Many travellers use this definition as a baseline when counting countries.
While this is the lowest possible number to acknowledge, there are only about 230 people in the world who actually claim to have visited them all. Many of them are listed as so-called UN Masters on Nomad Mania, a global authority in the world for travellers counting countries.
Chances are though that some of those roughly 230 people may not qualify because (1) certain visits cannot be verified or (2) counted as a minimum visit. A common phenomena is travellers ‘stepping’ from South Korea into North Korea inside a cabin in the demilitarised zone. Others might count catching a connecting flight inside an airport. Also, to set a Guinness World Record there is no need to visit Syria. Simply stepping into the Golan Heights (held by Israel) will suffice.
One thing is for sure. More people have been to outer space than have (really) travelled to every country in the world!
Going beyond UN
Despite being a rather clear-cut definition, there are a lot of travellers who use a wider definition on travel than just counting the UN member states. Palestine and Vatican city for example (both non-member UN observer states) are often counted as well. Adding the disputed territories of Taiwan, Western Sahara and Kosovo brings the total figure of ‘countries’ in the world to 198.
But it does not end there. According to my own spreadsheet there are numerous of disputed and contested regions in the world. Abkhazia, Transnistria, Tibet, Northern Cyprus and Kashmir are just a few mentioned there. This way you can easily reach 210+.
Then there is a whole range of institutions all using different methods of counting countries and territories. A brief overview:
- Nomad Mania created a UN+ list with 266 countries and territories. It adds de facto countries that are not officially recognised as sovereign, as well as autonomous territories such as Hong Kong and Gibraltar.
- The British Foreign and Commonwealth office says there are 226 countries and territories in the world
- The Traveler’s Century Club keeps a list of 329 countries and territories in the world that are worth visiting
- FIFA recognises 211 national associations (of which 26 are no UN member states)
- The ISO 3166 country code standard lists a total of 246 countries
- Travel apps, bloggers and maps use all sorts of definitions, ranging anywhere between 193 and 246
This is where it gets complicated. Different lists might not only use different definitions, some also use different names for similar countries. This way, explaining the actual differences between them becomes a real puzzle.
Finally there is Nomad Mania (formerly known as The Best Travelled), an awesome website home to the mother of all travel lists. NM divides the world into 27 mega-regions and subsequently into 1281 regions to visit. No one has ever travelled to all of them, yet there are about ten people who reached over a 1000(!).
To save myself a lot of hassle I did not include the NM list in the Excel sheet. If you want to learn more about these definitions, then just head over to that website and sign up for a member account!
Start counting like a pro
I hope I got you excited to start counting your visited countries like a pro. Just download my Excel spreadsheet through this link, preferably using a laptop or computer to avoid errors. Read the instructions as you go through the different worksheets in the file.
If you liked this article please leave a reply and share it with your travelling buddies! How many countries have you been? Which definition do you like most?