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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?!

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 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.

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. 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….

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? 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!

traveling to somalia
Somalia! 193/197!

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.

traveling to turkmenistan
Turkmenistan! 186/197!

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 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.

  • Abkhazia

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.

  • 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.

traveling to oman
Oman! 194/197!

 

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:

  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

STILL TO GO:

195. Yemen

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!

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18 thoughts on “How many countries in the world?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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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