How Many Countries Are in the World?

I'm a counter and a list-maker. I have been tracking every single place I've been, every place I want to go and writing lists upon lists of each spot I want to see for years.

Up until recently, I was going by the 197 country list for my bucket list. For those of you who don't know, my goal in life is to visit every country in the world. I've been adding to my bucket list for the past four years; every time I find a photo of somewhere new or talk to someone who's lived or traveled somewhere I want to go, I add that information to my bucket list. And so it's grown. Turns out, it's grown far beyond the confines of just 197 countries.

There are plenty of other lists out there (some of the ones I've referenced include: ISO standard - 249, this guy's list - 215, the FIFA country codes list - 211, the UN recognized list - 195, the Traveler's Century Club - 327) but none of them really seem to jive with my own list. Some of them have too many places, some not nearly enough.

My Task

So, I've set myself a task of figuring out what I've deemed valid as a separate and valuable place to visit on its own right in addition to those countries formally recognized by the UN (with a sprinkling of help from various online sources). This list is sure to change over time.

I have visited any country that is in bold below. Most of them are links to the categories so you can read posts all about my travels to each place!

The United Nations Member Countries

These are the 193 full recognized members of the United Nations. Naturally, this means they've all got spots on my list.

A

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan

B

  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi

C

  • Cabo Verde
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Congo, Democratic Republic of the
  • Congo, Republic of the
  • Costa Rica
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic

D

  • Denmark
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic

E

  • East Timor
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Estonia
  • Ethiopia

F

G

  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana

H

  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hungary

I

  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy

J

  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan

K

  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan

L

  • Laos
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg

M

  • Macedonia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Micronesia
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar

N

O

  • Oman

P

  • Pakistan
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal

Q

  • Qatar

R

  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Rwanda

S

  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • South Sudan
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Syria

T

  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Tuvalu

U

V

Y

  • Yemen

Z

  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

*Please read below about why the UK actually loses its spot on my list.

TOTAL: 193


The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is made up of four countries which I find to be completely different to one another, warranting their own spots on the list.

TOTAL: 193 -1 for UK +4 for the countries = 196


The United Nations Permanent Observers

There are two countries which hold the status of permanent observers in the United Nations, so they get the same rights as official countries on my list!

  • Palestine
  • Vatican City

TOTAL: 196 + 2 = 198


Other United Nations Recognized Countries

There are countries that, while they themselves are not UN countries, are recognized by UN members. This guarantees them a spot in my list.

  • Kosovo (recognized by 102)
  • Taiwan (recognized by 17)

TOTAL: 198 + 2 = 200


Dependent Areas

Dependent areas are territories that are governed by one of the countries listed above but are separated by a degree of autonomy. They are not independent states yet I still consider all the following to have the right to their own spot on the list.

  • Akrotiri and Dhekelia (UK)**
  • American Samoa (USA)
  • Anguilla (UK)
  • Aruba (Netherlands)
  • Bermuda (UK)
  • Bonaire (Netherlands)
  • British Virgin Islands (UK)
  • Cayman Islands (UK)
  • Christmas Island (Australia)
  • Cocos Islands (Australia)
  • Cook Islands (New Zealand)
  • Curaçao (Netherlands)
  • Falkland Islands (UK)
  • Gibraltar (UK)
  • Guadeloupe (France)
  • Guam (USA)
  • Guernsey (UK)
  • Isle of Man (UK)
  • Jersey (UK)
  • Montserrat (UK)
  • Niue (New Zealand)
  • Norfolk Island (Australia)
  • Northern Mariana Islands (USA)
  • Pitcairn Islands (UK)
  • Puerto Rico (USA)
  • Réunion (France)
  • Saba (Netherlands)
  • Saint Helena (UK)
  • Saint Martin (France)
  • Sint Eustatius (Netherlands)
  • Sint Maarten (Netherlands)
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (UK)*
  • Tokelau (New Zealand)
  • Turks and Caicos (UK)
  • US Virgin Islands (USA)

I did not include any dependent territories without a permanent population* (Ross Dependency - New Zealand; Bouvet Island, Peter I Island, Queen Maud Land - Norway; British Antarctic Territory - UK; Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Navassa Island, Wake Island, Bajo Nuevo Bank, Serranilla Bank, Palmyra Atoll - USA; Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Australian Antarctic Territory, Heard and McDonald Islands - Australia; Clipperton Island, French Southern and Antarctic Lands - France) or any restricted to military personnel** (British Indian Ocean Territory - UK).

*The only exception I felt I wished to include is South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which you can visit as part of a cruise along with the Falkland Islands and Antarctica.

**I included the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus because, while they are UK military bases, they are accessible to tourists. I know this because I have been there.

TOTAL: 200 + 35 = 235


Autonomous Areas

Autonomous areas are territories that have a degree of freedom from its external authority, often geographically separated from its country or populated by a national minority.

  • Åland Islands (Finland)
  • Faroe Islands (Denmark)
  • French Guiana (France)
  • French Polynesia (France)
  • Greenland (Denmark)
  • Hong Kong (China)
  • Macau (China)
  • Martinique (France)
  • Mayotte (France)
  • New Caledonia (France)
  • Saint Barthélemy (France)
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon (France)
  • Svalbard (Norway)*
  • Tibet (China)**
  • Wallis and Futuna (France)
  • Zanzibar (Tanzania)**

I did not include any internationally recognized autonomous provinces (South Tyrol, Campione d'Italia - Italy; Heligoland, Büsingen am Hochrhein - Germany; Alsace, Corsica - France) nor did I include any internally recognized autonomous regions (those of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Bosnia Herzegovina, China, Comoros, Fiji, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mauritius, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia***, Somalia, South Korea, Spain, Tajikistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine and Uzbekistan listed here)** nor any capitals or cities that may have been called autonomous by their country (including Argentina, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, South Korea and Uzbekistan also listed here).

*Svalbard poses a special case as it is technically under full Norwegian sovereignty and it is not considered a dependency. However, it is classified as having special status, which I think makes it worthy of a spot on my list.

**The only internally recognized autonomous province I wished to include on my list was Tibet which has a rocky past with China to the point where the Tibetan Government-in-Exile maintains Tibet as an independent state under unlawful occupation. I think that deems a visit here necessary, separate from China. I also feel that Zanzibar in Tanzania deserves recognition with its own government.

***Serbia recognized Kosovo and Metohija as an autonomous province in 1963, but with Kosovo having permanent observer status on the UN, that one's automatically on my list.

TOTAL: 235 + 16 = 251


De Facto States

De facto states have limited international recognition after declaring independence and seeking diplomatic autonomy. Thus, they have de facto control of their territory.

  • Abkhazia (Georgia)
  • Adjara (Georgia)
  • Artsakh (Azerbaijan)
  • Găgăuzia (Moldova)
  • Northern Cyprus (Cyprus/Turkey)
  • Somaliland (Somalia)
  • South Ossetia (Georgia)
  • Transnistria (Moldova)
  • Western Sahara (Morocco)

It should be noted that while none of these states are recognized by the UN, many of them host informal diplomatic missions, and/or maintain special delegations or other informal missions abroad. If they can operate this way internationally, I warrant them worthy of spots on the list. Also it should be noted that many of these places require separate border crossings and customs to be cleared; that deems them quite separate to me - and let it be known that crossing the UN buffer zone from Cyprus into Northern Cyprus was quite the experience.

TOTAL: 251 + 9 = 260


The Poles

Finally, I believe that both the poles are both completely within their own right to be visited as separate places and thus also have a spot on my list.

  • Antarctica (with claims from Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and UK)
  • Arctic (with claims from Norway, Denmark, Canada, USA and Russia)

TOTAL: 260 + 2 = 262


So, How Many Countries Are There in the World?

Well, technically 197.

But in terms of 'places' I want to travel to that I deem to be separately worth visiting, my total comes up at 262. This is not as many as the biggest list I've seen (the Traveler's Century Club) but I'm always willing to expand. I encourage comments, suggestions and insights into my list. For now, I'm off to pack my bags and keep traveling!

My current total (all the places in bold above): 24 / 262

Please note that I respect and understand that not all the places on my list are actual separate countries. This is simply the list I've come up with of individual places I wish to travel to and I fully believe that visiting somewhere like New Caledonia does not mean you have seen France and vice versa.

Sources