It took me forever, but I finally figured out what the heck is going on with the different ways people count countries. Download my spreadsheet for free to start making sense of the different definitions used.
Why is counting countries and territories in the world so complicated? That’s because different people and institutions use different definitions. For that reason I created a spreadsheet like you have never seen before.
With over 50 hours of research it shows a compiled list of 357 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.
If you cannot wait to start counting yourself, head straight for that download button below.
If you are eager for some context, then keep reading.
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 when counting countries.
While this is the lowest possible number to acknowledge, there are only about 100 people in the world who actually claim to have visited them all. Many of these 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 100 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.
One thing is for sure. More people have been to outer space than have earned there way on this exclusive list!
There are a lot of travellers who use a wider definition on travel, adding the official non-member states of Palestine and Vatican city. Counting the disputed territories of Taiwan, Western Sahara and Kosovo makes the total number of ‘countries’ in the world 198.
But it doesn’t 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 says there are 327 countries and territories in the world
- FIFA recognises 211 national associations (of which 26 are no UN member states)
- Travel apps and maps use all sort of unclear definitions, ranging anywhere between 193 and 246
This is where it gets complicated. Different institutions 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 that drafted the mother of all lists. NM divides the world into 27 mega-regions and subsequently into 1281 regions, or places to visit. No one has ever travelled to all of them, yet there are about ten people who reached over a 1000(!).
Heinz Stücke is listed as one of them. At an age of 76 he now visited 1115 unique places in the world by primarily moving around by bicycle. It took him almost 50 years, 20 passports but just two wheels to cover nearly 600,000 kilometres. Isn’t that just simply amazing?
To see if you are anywhere near this goal, download my Excel spreadsheet through this link, preferably using a laptop or computer. 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?