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If you've travelled a bit, at some point you'll either have dreamed of or been asked - 'will you visit every country in the world?'. However, it's not a straightforward goal to aim for...

I've heard much debate on this. Is Kosovo a country? Not according to the U.N.! Is Gibraltar a country? Do you separate England, Scotland and Wales? Is French Guyana a part of France?

Chris Guillebeau, one of the most well known travellers and country counters, has over 160 countries under his belt. Of course, as you travel you realise it becomes harder and harder to define what IS a country...

bonus:

And so, for the country counters or just those who may have a definitive answer (with references please) - how many countries are there in the world that you would consider you have travelled to, if you'd been to all of them?

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I think it's great when aimed at "Say I want to visit every country in the world..." Oh and I added the "terminology" tag because in a way it's asking for the definition of the term "country". –  hippietrail Nov 2 '11 at 7:36
    
What about that sovereign nation along the Old Forgotten highway on the North Island of New Zealand? Does that count? –  Adam Nov 17 '11 at 5:50
    
@Adam - Details? I'm from Christchurch but haven't heard of this... –  Mark Mayo Nov 17 '11 at 5:51
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4 Answers 4

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There are 192 members by the UN (193 if you count the Vatican, which is an observer without voting rights). There are 196 that qualify as 'independent countries'. List of countries by capital. Arguments via about.com

This is debatable. For instance, I would say Taiwan is a country... many people would disagree with me.

Scotland and Wales I would not count as separate countries as they form a willing commonwealth in the UN as the United Kingdom.

Wikipedia's list of sovereign states puts it at 204 (including the new South Sudan). I would say this one is a little more controversial. It is up for debate if Northern Cyprus is sovereign. I prefer to use this definition of an independent country (I've seen it before, but I can't remember who came up with it) and say there are 196 countries in the world. The criteria are:

  • Has space or territory which has internationally recognized boundaries (boundary disputes are OK).
  • Has people who live there on an ongoing basis.
  • Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.
  • Has the power of social engineering, such as education.
  • Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.
  • Has a government which provides public services and police power.
  • Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country's territory.
  • Has external recognition. A country has been "voted into the club" by other countries

Although, admittedly, some of these criteria are rather subjective.

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I am using the Globetrotterslogbook to keep track of where I have been. Nice feature is that they also distinguish dependencies and overseas territories, making it possible to even track the journey dreamed about in the "most remote exclave" question

enter image description here

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The two most authoritative answers are from United Nations already mentioned, and from FIFA which counts 208 members.

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On what grounds is FIFA, a sports governing body, one of the two most authoritative on defining political borders?? –  Mark Mayo Nov 2 '11 at 23:00
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I think because the question of "what is a country" is not only political, in fact sometimes the political view skews the results. –  hippietrail Nov 3 '11 at 8:01
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"In Latin America the border between soccer and politics is vague. There is a long list of governments that have fallen or been overthrown after the defeat of the national team." (Luis Suarez) –  MSalters Feb 7 '12 at 14:01
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The Travelers' Century Club, or TCC, is a club for people who have visited 100 or more countries.

However these guys have their own definition of a country, from Wikipedia:

The TCC has a fairly loose definition of what constitutes a country and has established its own list of currently 321 "countries". This includes not only sovereign states but also certain territories, exclaves and island groups. The club argues that "although some are not actually countries in their own right, they have been included because they are removed from parent, either geographically, politically or ethnologically", based on rules established in 1970

These rules make it much easier to visit 100 countries, however they make it somewhat harder to visit all 321.

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Annoyingly, their list only boosts my countries by 2 (Canary Islands and Siberia), and doesn't acknowledge Qwa Qwa, Ciskei and Transkei - 3 countries that no longer exist, but DOES recognise northern and southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe). Sigh, now I have no idea what I'm on :) –  Mark Mayo Nov 27 '11 at 22:43
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