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How many countries in the world?

197 countries if you’re being technical, 215 from a travel stand point, although it’s pretty complicated, let’s have a look…

Visiting every country in the world was  a thousand times tougher than I ever expected. For a start, I had to sit back and think ‘OK, but hang on, how many countries in the world? 200 or so?’ It’s so tough to get a definitive answer. Bear with me….

Generally speaking though, there are around 200 countries, but generally doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to become one of the few people to officially do it! So I had to delve a little deeper, and the answer was found somewhere from the United Nations list (193 recognised countries) and the FIFA football list (211 members), but how can you put an official number on it?!

How many countries in the world?
How many countries in the world?

What is a country?!

First of all, we need to think what makes a country a country. Does it have to have a flag, a government, it’s own currency, a passport? It’s so difficult to decide. So let’s say this – an independent country is not only a self-governed nation with its own authorities, but its status needs the international diplomatic recognition of sovereignty from at least some other sovereign countries. So you need to manage all your own affairs AND have other countries understand and recognise that you are indeed a country. Which stops me from declaring my apartment ‘johnnyland’ and it being an officially country. Shame.

how many countries in the world
My google maps after visiting every country in the world!

FIFA?

Initially, being a huge football fan, I wanted to work off the FIFA list, but it was just plain wrong. Football has more national teams than any other sport so that’s a great starting point too, and the federation ‘FIFA’ is a huge global body. But, alas, politics still plays a part. For example, the UK is 1 country but FIFA used Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales as 4 separate ‘countries’, despite all using the same British pound, same British passport, having the same British queen and all using the same British Government (albeit slightly differently). So without getting political, and growing up in Northern Ireland that’s quite tough (!), the FIFA list isn’t strictly correct, so onto the next one. The United Nations….

How many countries in the world traveling to Libya
Libya! 179/197

THE UNITED NATIONS SAY THERE ARE 193 ‘COUNTRIES’…

The United Nations list is probably the best to work off, it’s pretty expansive, not TOO political (more on that in a second), and if you’re recognised by the UN then realistically you’re pretty much a country. So they say they have 193 members. So that means 193 countries, right? Not quite!

The UN also see 2 permanent observer states in Palestine and the Vatican City, both of which I see as countries and Palestine, in particular, is one of my favourites, so that would make the count 193 + 2 =  195. So 195 countries? Calm down sailor, we’re not there yet. That then excludes Taiwan (recognised by 22 countries), and Kosovo (recognised by 109 other countries), so what to do?

Taiwan is excluded because China claims them, the rest of the world don’t want to harm their relations with China due to all the trading opportunities etc, so they too cut ties with Taiwan, despite the fact that very much is a country, so that makes the cut. Incidentally, Taiwan is a brilliant place to visit, I’d massively recommend it. Anyway, now we’re at 196.

Kosovo is a political one too, since declaring itself independent from Serbia in 2008 it’s had a tough ride, but again without getting overly political, it’s recognised by countries such as the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and a lot more, as well as being a member of the IMF, The World Bank, the IOC etc,  yet the countries that don’t recognise it include Iraq, Iran, Angola, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Mali, Nigeria, Russia, Syria and Sudan, so I have gone with including it in my list and I personally recognise Kosovo as a country, so that makes 197!

traveling to somalia
Somalia! 193/197!

So there are 197 countries in the world?

Yes, kind of. There are 197 countries in the world if you are aligned with the technical aspects of things alone, rather than a practical sense. Can you say you’ve been to every country when you have that big block of Greenland on a map, starting back at you, chanting “you cheated and you know it, we’re not really Denmark”. Bearing that in mind, there are 197, but in the sense of pure travel, it’s more.

traveling to turkmenistan
Turkmenistan! 186/197!

So here’s the full list of EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD according to the technical 197 list that I initially visited, in the order I visited them:

  1. Republic of Ireland
  2. UK
  3. France
  4. The Netherlands
  5. Belgium
  6. USA
  7. Canada
  8. Thailand
  9. Laos
  10. Cambodia
  11. China
  12. Bangladesh
  13. India
  14. Nepal
  15. South Korea
  16. Vietnam
  17. Malaysia
  18. Singapore
  19. Japan
  20. The Philippines
  21. Brunei
  22. Indonesia
  23. East Timor
  24. Australia
  25. Sri Lanka
  26. Zimbabwe
  27. Zambia
  28. Botswana
  29. South Africa
  30. Swaziland
  31. Mozambique
  32. Malawi
  33. Tanzania
  34. Kenya
  35. Uganda
  36. Rwanda
  37. Ethiopia
  38. Somalia
  39. Djibouti
  40. Sudan
  41. Egypt
  42. Jordan
  43. Syria
  44. Lebanon
  45. Burma
  46. Taiwan
  1. North Korea
  2. Mongolia
  3. Russia
  4. Kazakhstan
  5. Finland
  6. Estonia
  7. Latvia
  8. Lithuania
  9. Belarus
  10. Ukraine
  11. Moldova
  1. Romania
  2. Bulgaria
  3. Macedonia
  4. Kosovo
  5. Greece
  6. Albania
  7. Montenegro
  8. Croatia
  9. Bosnia & Herzegovina
  10. Serbia
  11. Hungary
  12. Israel
  13. Palestine
  14. Italy
  15. Vatican City
  16. San Marino
  17. Switzerland
  18. Liechtenstein
  19. Slovenia
  20. Austria
  21. Slovakia
  22. Czech Republic
  23. Poland
  24. Germany
  25. Denmark
  26. Sweden
  27. Luxembourg
  28. Qatar
  29. Bhutan
  30. UAE
  31. Portugal
  32. Spain
  33. Andorra
  34. Monaco
  35. Iceland
  36. Papua New Guinea
  37. New Zealand
  38. Solomon Islands
  39. Vanuatu
  40. Fiji
  41. Tonga
  42. Samoa
  1. Kyrgyzstan
  2. Tajikistan
  3. Uzbekistan
  4. Iraq
  5. Maldives
  6. Iran
  7. Azerbaijan
  8. Georgia
  9. Armenia
  1. Turkey
  2. Malta
  3. Cyprus
  4. Mexico
  5. Belize
  6. Guatemala
  7. El Salvador
  8. Honduras
  9. Nicaragua
  10. Costa Rica
  11. Panama
  12. Brazil
  13. Uruguay
  14. Paraguay
  15. Venezuela
  16. Colombia
  17. Ecuador
  18. Peru
  19. Bolivia
  20. Argentina
  21. Chile

*Antarctica

  1. Suriname
  2. Guyana
  3. Trinidad and Tobago
  4. Grenada
  5. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  6. Saint Lucia
  7. Barbados
  8. Dominica
  9. Antigua and Barbuda
  10. St Kitts and Nevis
  11. Dominican Republic
  12. Haiti
  13. Cuba
  14. Bahamas
  15. Jamaica
  16. Bahrain
  17. Kuwait
  18. Algeria
  19. Tunisia
  20. South Sudan
  21. Democratic Republic of Congo
  22. Burundi
  23. Comoros
  24. Madagascar
  25. Seychelles
  26. Mauritius
  27. Lesotho
  28. Namibia
  29. Angola
  30. Republic of Congo
  31. Gabon
  32. Sao Tome and Principe
  33. Equatorial Guinea
  34. Cameroon
  35. Central African Republic
  36. Chad
  37. Nigeria
  38. Benin
  39. Togo
  40. Ghana
  41. Ivory Coast
  42. Mali
  43. Burkina Faso
  44. Niger
  45. Liberia
  46. Sierra Leone
  47. Guinea
  48. Guinea-Bissau
  49. Senegal
  50. The Gambia
  51. Mauritania
  52. Morocco
  53. Cape Verde
  54. Libya
  55. Eritrea
  56. Afghanistan
  57. Turkmenistan
  58. Kiribati
  59. Tuvalu
  60. Marshall islands
  61. Nauru
  62. Palau
  63. Micronesia
  64. Pakistan
  65. Oman
  66. Saudi Arabia
  67. Yemen
  68. Norway (COMPLETED MARCH 2017!)

So 197/197, I’ve kind of finished. But I know I’ve cheated a little bit, let me tell you why.

WHERE THERE ARE MORE THAN 197 COUNTRIES. 215 IS MORE DEFINITIVE.

Disputed territories! First up, 2 very dubious visits are included on my 197 list, and I feel like a bit of a fraud – Somalia and Iraq.  Somalia has an autonomous region in the north called Somaliland, and although not recognised by many nations, it’s in every way its own country. Passport, government, currency, culture, sports teams. It’s a political reason that it’s not more recognised but it’s as near to a country as it can be. Somaliland is the cheat mode all travelers who try to visit every country in the word use. Me included. Shame on us.

Next up, Iraq. Similar situation, but different politics. Kurdistan, an autonomous region in the north of Iraq isn’t really Iraq. Culturally it’s completely different, legally it’s different in that you can fly in with no visa and get stamped in, whereas in Iraq proper, that’s not possible. They fly their flag proudly, drink Guinness at Irish pub quizzes at the weekend (to that, I can testify!), so I honestly don’t feel like a visit to Iraqi Kurdistan is visiting Iraq. Technically perhaps, but travel shouldn’t be about passing by on a technicality, it should be about seeing the world, experiencing everything we can, and I kind of feel I’ve let myself down a little here.

Disputed territories…

Nothing is simple when defining what makes a country, so for that reason, there are a lot of disputed territories around the world. Now while Catalonia may fight regularly for independence, they are still very much part of Spain so they certainly can’t be counted. This is not a political endorsement, just a simple fact.

However, the following territories have declared themselves independent  (although those declarations aren’t officially ratified by most nations), and therefore not yet recognised by most of the rest of the world:

1. Somaliland (visited 2010)

Declared its independence from Somalia in 1991. Not recognised as a country by any other country, officially still a part of Somalia proper.

2. Nagorno-Karabakh (visited 2013)

Declared its independence in 1991. It isn’t recognised by any UN member states, and by only 3 UN non-members: Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria. Officially part of Azerbaijan.

3. The Turkish Republic of) Northern Cyprus (visited 2013)

Declared its independence in 1983. It is only recognised by 1 UN member state, Turkey. Officially still part of Cyprus proper.

4. Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic/Western Sahara (visited 2015)

Declared its independence in 1976. It is recognised by 47 UN member states (plus 37 additional member states who used to recognise it) as well as South Ossetia. Officially still part of Morocco proper.

5. Transnistria/Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (visited 2012)

Declared its independence in 1990. It isn’t recognised by any UN member states, and by only 3 UN non-members: Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Officially part of Moldova.

6. South Ossetia (visited 2018)

Declared its independence in 1991.  It is recognised by 4 UN member states (Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru) and 4 UN non-member states (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria). Officially part of Georgia proper.

7. Abkhazia (visited 2018)

Declared its independence in 1999. It is recognised by 4 UN member states (Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru) and 3 UN non-member states (South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh). Officially part of Georgia proper.

8. (Iraqi) Kurdistan and beyond (visited Iraqi Kurdistan 2015, yet to visit Iraq proper)

They have their own Kurdistan Regional Government, 32 countries have diplomatic relations in Erbil, Kurdistan’s de facto Capital city ( in addition to the UN, EU etc), they also have ’embassies’ in foreign nations around the world. To visit Iraqi Kurdistan,  tt’s visa-free for most western nations, a different situation to Iraq proper where you need an Iraqi visa. It has its own flag, its own sports teams. It’s pretty much a country, not as strong a claim as Somaliland but still, to go to Kurdistan and claim to have visited Iraq is a little weak. I’m guilty of that!

9. Cook Islands 

Cook Islanders are New Zealand passport holders, and New Zealand is officially responsible for the defence and foreign affairs of the Cook Islands (and Niue). However, these responsibilities confer New Zealand no rights of control per se.  It is however recognised by 11 UN member states. As of 2016, the Cook Islands, Niue, and Kosovo are the only states that participate in UN specialised agencies, but which are not member or observer states of the UN itself.

10.  Niue

Niueans are New Zealand passport holders, and New Zealand is officially responsible for the defence and foreign affairs of Niue (and the Cook Islands). However, these responsibilities confer New Zealand no rights of control per se.  It is however recognised by 7 UN member states. As of 2016, the Cook Islands, Niue, and Kosovo are the only states that participate in UN specialised agencies, but which are not member or observer states of the UN itself.

AND THE UK?

And then, of course, the devolved situation of the UK with Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Here’s when we talk about technicalities, 2 days in London and you’ve visited all of the UK. But what about Scotland for example? The UK is the country by definition, but the devolved situation is difficult, so from a travel standpoint, not a legal/technical one, you should really visit them all. Besides, Edinburgh is one of the best cities in the world, you HAVE to go there.

traveling to oman
Oman! 194/197!

Furthermore, there are other places that lots of people consider countries but all belong to an actual sovereign member state.

  • Hong Kong (rightly or wrongly, China)
  • Macau (China)
  • Tibet (China)
  • Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales (the UK)
  • French Guiana (France)
  • Puerto Rica (US)
  • Lots of the Caribbean (BVI, Guadeloupe, Aruba, USVI, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, Saint Martin and more)
  • Reunion Island (France)
  • French Polynesia (France)
  • American Samoa (US)
  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Madeira (Portugal)
  • Faroe Islands (part of Denmark)
  • Gibraltar (part of the UK)
  • Greenland (part of Denmark)
  • The Arctic (belongs partly to Norway, Denmark, Canada, the US and Russia)
  • The Falklands (part of the UK)
  • French Polynesia (part of France)
  • Guam (US)
  • Tahiti (French Polynesia, and therefore France. Same for Bora Bora!)

So, how many countries in the world? 197 (on a technicality), 215 to be sure.

That’s it, 197 is the technical number, but if we add the 10 disputed territories, that makes 207. Then morally you’d be compelled to add Tibet, Hong Kong, Faroe Islands etc.  So after far too many hours online, I’d say there is a solid argument for anyone either claiming to, or wanting to, visit every country in the world, for the 197 countries and these 19 guys:

  1. Somaliland
  2. Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. Northern Cyprus
  4. Western Sahara
  5. Transnistria
  6. South Ossetia
  7. Abkhazia
  8. Iraqi Kurdistan
  9. Tibet
  10. Hong Kong
  11. Macau
  12. Faroe Islands
  13. Greenland
  14. Northern Ireland
  15. Scotland
  16. England
  17. Wales
  18. Cook Islands
  19. Niue

Personally, I think Guam, Gibraltar (all places I’ve also visited for the record), French Guiana etc are a push too far, and having a football team is about as far as the argument goes. So with that in mind, that makes 197 + 19 additional nations (-1 for removing the UK and replacing with the 4 nations that make it up) = 215 countries. If Niue and Cook Islanders have New Zealand passports, and Faroe Islanders and Greenlanders have Danish passports then can they really be sovereign states? It’s tough, but having your own devolved Government, culture, autonomy, flag etc is certainly worthy. So now I’m looking at flights to Niue and the Cook islands like the travel freak I am! See you on the road I guess!

I love travel though, box-ticking and border hopping for an hour, or a day, in a country isn’t for me,  I mean, does that even really count?! That’s transport, not travel. Sooooo, 215? I want to see the world, the WHOLE WORLD, and I haven’t been to the Faroe Islands or Greenland, so can I ‘colour the map’ because I’ve been to Denmark? Doesn’t feel right. So let’s give it a crack. 215 here I come. Of the 19 additional nations I listed I’ve visited 17 of them on my travels already, so I need to go back to ‘correct’ my Iraq visit, and then hit up Cook Islands, and Niue and I’m actually finally done. No cheating involved!

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21 thoughts on “How many countries in the world?

  1. I lost your count somewhere, you have 197 and then you say you add the list of 21 and take away one, resulting to 217, but your list only has got 20?

  2. no dear,Saudi Arabia is completly different from past.Go there and visit whole country except holy cities(Makah &Madinah)

  3. I recently decided that I want to visit every country as well. I had to write a list of all the countries and came up with the number 197 as well. However I would like it to be a round number like 200 so maybe I’ll add a few places.

  4. I’m visiting Cyprus this month, and while North Cyprus feels like parts of Cyprus in a lot of ways, it has it’s own Visa system. It’s actually more separate than I thought it would be before I got to (regular) Cyrpus. I needed my passport to cross the border, my credit card stopped working, etc. Plus, if you have friends on the northern side it’s possible they can’t come visit you in the south. It’s more complicated than I think outsiders want to believe.

  5. More than 200 countries are in all over the world, It is really interesting things. every country lifestyle culture all are different. so if we are trying to travel all over world we will see distinct flavor of life style and culture.

  6. Wow! That says a lot about us that more “countries” registered with FIFA than with the United Nations! I too ran into so many different numbers when searching for the exact number of countries in the world. Personally, I would consider a lot of these “territories” as countries in their own right, even if not acknowledged by the UN or other countries. For example: French Polynesia – I’ve never been but I imagine their culture to be quite different from the French culture so I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable lumping them in with the country of France. Same thing with Greenland, which has its own capital, Nuuk. Obviously this would make the list even more longer, but it’s something I personally feel is the “right” thing to do! Great research here, in any case, I learned a lot! 🙂
    -Victoria

  7. Nice lists and justifications Johnny, I agree with you on the Western Sahara Amin others. Regards from no. 51 on your list, going home from an event hosted by the Irish embassy on 1916 all our national questions are indeed complex. Though many are satisfied with simplistic expanations

  8. You could have planned for the 197th and final new destination to be somewhere cheaper than Norway! 😉 Interesting site though mate, really enjoying some of the articles about places next on my list… Kosovo will be my 25th country next month having recently caught the travel bug!

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