How many countries in the world? 197 although it’s pretty complicated, let’s have a look…
Trying to visit every country in the world is a thousand times tougher than I ever expected. For a start, I have 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.
Generally speaking though, there are around 200 countries, but generally doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to become the youngest person to officially do it! So I had to delve a little deeper, and the answer was found somewhere between the United Nations list (193 recognised countries and the FIFA football list (211 members), but how can you put an official number on it?!
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 other countries. So you need to manage all your own affairs AND every other country has to admit that you are indeed a country. Which stops me from declaring my apartment ‘johnnyland’ and it being an officially country! Shame.
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. They 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….
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? 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 favourite, so that would make the count 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?
Due to the political nature of the UN, 195 would then exclude Taiwan (recognised by 22 countries), and Kosovo (recognised by 108 other countries). 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, 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!
So there are 197 countries in the world?
Yes, 197 countries in the world. 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 other countries. Bearing that in mind, there are 197.
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 or Scotland, for example, fight regularly for independance, they are still very much part of Spain and UK respectively, so they certainly can’t be counted. This is not a political endorsement, just a simple fact.
However, the following 9 territories have declared themselves independent already (although those declarations aren’t officially ratified, and are unlikely to be), and therefore not yet recognised by most of the rest of the world, so can’t really be considered ‘countries’ just yet. Incidentally, I’ve actually visited 5 of these 9 areas, and will probably visit them all, but just because it’s fascinating, rather than to achieve any particular goal.
- 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.
- 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.
- (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.
- 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.
- 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.
- South Ossetia
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.
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.
- 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.
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 other places that lots of people (wrongly!) 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, Guadelope, 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? That’s it, 197, although to be honest when I started writing this I was absolutely sure the final number was 197 but after spending the whole day researching, I’m starting to reevaluate and I’m considering adding Western Sahara (where I’ve already been) Niue, the Cook Islands, making it 200, and even perhaps Abkhazia and South Ossetia to my list, making it 202. In my head and my heart thought, I’d say it’s 197. If Niue and Cook Islanders have New Zealand passports, then can they really be sovereign states? Doubtful. However, on my journey to every country in the world, perhaps I’ll visit all the disputed territories too, just to make sure. Or maybe now I’m close to the end, I just can’t quit my travels. “Hi, my name is johnny, I’m a travelaholic” Something like that. 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!
Oh, and here’s the full list of EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!
Just to make it more interesting, I’ve listed them in the order I’ve visited them:
- Republic of Ireland
- The Netherlands
- South Korea
- The Philippines
- East Timor
- Sri Lanka
- South Africa
- North Korea
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Vatican City
- San Marino
- Czech Republic
- Papua New Guinea
- New Zealand
- Solomon Islands
- El Salvador
- Costa Rica
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Saint Lucia
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St Kitts and Nevis
- Dominican Republic
- South Sudan
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Republic of Congo
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Equatorial Guinea
- Central African Republic
- Ivory Coast
- Burkina Faso
- Sierra Leone
- The Gambia
- Cape Verde
- Marshall islands
STILL TO GO:
196. Saudi Arabia
197. Norway (party time!)
That’s everything I can think of! Let me know if you have any questions, or if you think I’ve made a mistake anywhere. Please note, I don’t wanna get drawn into political debates, I blog about travel, lifestyle and blogging. I have my opinions on what should be considered countries, and what shouldn’t, but those conversations are for the pub, not for a lifestyle blog. Thanks everyone!