How Many Countries Have You Visited?

How Many CountriesI’m sometimes asked in interviews, and recently included in a bio, the number of countries I’ve visited.

You’d think “How many countries have you visited?” was a straightforward question.

I mean, how can anyone NOT know how many countries they’ve visited?!

Well, I visited Czechoslovakia, both the Czech half and the Slovak half. That was one country then but is two countries now.

And, because I’m British — well, English, really –I automatically count England, Scotland and Wales as three countries, under the mistaken belief that they’re the three flags in the Union Jack.


Further, what about if I only spent a few hours in a train station or at an airport?

And, more importantly, how many countries are there anyway?

Because I’m British — well, English, really — I automatically count England, Scotland and Wales as three countries, under the mistaken belief that they’re the three flags in the Union Jack.

Now, I always thought there were around 200 countries in the world.

Zac and I travel slowly, and I’m really not into bagging countries, so I don’t, honestly, keep count.

Still, I was wasting time on Twitter when the question of countries came up.

I’d always understood, largely from online bios, that Gary Arndt, a well-known blogger behind Everything Everywhere, had visited over 100 countries.

That’s an impressive figure, because it covers more than half the world, and not every country in the world is safe to visit at any given time.

But then I heard that these “countries” included Alaska, Hawaii and all seven emirates of the UAE. Which didn’t make sense to me.

Gary’s quite upfront about his country list. And he’s definitely been to a lot of places. But…

While I can understand the desire to include Taiwan, what kind of “country list” includes Alaska? Sicily? The Isle of Man? Okinawa? Sarawak? Tasmania?!

What kind of “country list” includes Alaska? Sicily? The Isle of Man?!

Well, this kind of list.

The Travelers’ Century Club is a US organisation established in 1954, when international travel was really rather difficult.

Its main benefits, according to the website, include “bragging rights”, and its function appears to be to list as many countries and territories as possible so that members can say they’ve been.

The TCC includes no fewer than 320 places on its list of “countries and territories”.

A member needs to have visited 100 “territories” to join.

And, according to the rules, it counts as a visit if you’re passing through overland, even if you’re in a car without stopping.

Its main benefits, according to the website, include “bragging rights”.

Put politely, the Travelers’ Century Club list of “countries and territories” is not the most intuitive.

You can score a maximum of seven points in Indonesia, and three in Malaysia, plus a point each for Turkey in Asia and Turkey in Europe, although, bewilderingly, they insist on you leaving Istanbul to do this.

Island-hopping, whether in the Med, the Pacific or the Caribbean, reaps rich rewards. You can bag Greece, Crete, the Ionian Islands and the Dodecanese, plus Italy, Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia, for a total of eight seven points across two countries.*

Confusingly, a trip to Ibiza appears to count only towards Spain, whereas Majorca bags you the Balearics as well. Catalunya doesn’t figure at all.

You can bag Greece, Crete, the Ionian Islands and the Dodecanese, plus Italy, Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia, for a total of eight points across two countries.

The TCC list does, as Gary makes clear, include “distinct geographic and cultural destinations”.

On which basis, Indonesia, with its 17,000 islands and 700 languages, has to count for rather more than seven.

Because, believe you me, a Togutil hunter-gatherer in the Halmahera forest, is culturally, linguistically and geographically highly distinct from a Jakarta bond trader with a Harvard MBA.

But then we really would be talking about “places”, rather than “countries”.

And that way madness truly lies.

A Togutil hunter-gatherer in the Halmahera forest, is culturally, linguistically and geographically highly distinct from a Jakarta bond trader with a Harvard MBA.

So, if the Travelers’ Century Club list sucks – and, since it describes itself as a list of “countries and territories”, I don’t really see why anyone would use it for counting countries – what other options are there?

The most obvious is the list of UN member states, which comes in at 193 nation-states or, for the layman, “countries”.

This is the list that Chris Gillebeau uses on his mission to visit every country in the world – he’s up to 188 right now!

Tiny self-governing European principalities, like Liechtenstein, Monaco, Andorra and San Marino, and Pacific island nations like Vanuatu and Tonga, have seats at the UN.

But, of course, the UN excludes many peoples who are not self-governing – Tibetans, Palestinians, Abkhazians, Scots, Catalans, Kurds… – on the grounds that they are, well, not countries.

Still, many folk (including would add the self-governing entities of Kosovo, Vatican City and Taiwan to the list of 193 UN nation-states, bringing the total to 196.

It’s the UN list that Chris Guillebeau uses on his mission to visit every country in the world.

Now, I’m sure I learned in school that England, Scotland and Wales are separate countries, so I wasn’t going to give up on my notion of them being distinct just because the UN said so.

I turned, naturally, to the world of sport.

The list of 206 Olympic Committee members includes young countries such as South Sudan, and non-UN entities such as Taiwan and the Palestinian Authoritory.

But, sadly, Team GB is just one entity.

Back to the drawing board.

I’m sure I learned in school that England, Scotland and Wales are separate countries, so I wasn’t going to give up on my notion of them being distinct.

OK! Football.

We TOTALLY have different football teams.

FIFA includes 209 member football associations.

And – yay! – it includes England, Scotland, Wales and, umm, Northern Ireland.


All the same, it is probably the FIFA list that comes closest to the list of countries I have in my head.

Although given I don’t even know where my own national flag comes from, I’m probably not the best person to ask.

FIFA includes England, Scotland, Wales and, umm, Northern Ireland.

Over dinner in Bali with the well-travelled and geographically literate Stuart and Sam of Travelfish, the question of how many countries there are came up again.

Unencumbered by being English — let alone Scottish or Welsh! — they were definite that the UN list was the only one to use.

“But what about ENGLAND?” I said, pleadingly. “What about ENGLAND?!”

Sam flattened me. “Nobody says they’ve been to England, Scotland and Wales. They just say they’ve been to the UK.”

I have to confess that the internet really doesn’t back me up on this one, either.


“Nobody says they’ve been to England, Scotland and Wales. They just say they’ve been to the UK.”

So, forsaking the warm embrace of the Travelers’ Century Club, which allows me 70 “countries and territories”, and the boy over 40 (you can see the list here, if you care, although I might have missed a couple – our Where We’ve Been page is a lot more visual), I turn to the UN list.

The UN allows me a measly 53 countries, down 5 from my ropy 58, and the boy a mere 30.

The UN allows me a measly 53 countries, down 5 from my ropy 58, and the boy a mere 30. And if you knock off the three where I was only passing through, I’m down to a mere half-century.

Which means that I — well, I need to go edit that bio!

But… What about you?

How many countries have you been to? Do you keep a count? And, what list do you use to count them, if you do?

Thanks to Flying Singer for the Earth image.

*: Edit: thanks to Ali for pointing it out. Corsica is, just as when Napoleon was so famously born there, a part of France, not Italy. facepalm

92 Responses

  1. Yvette says:

    Hahahaha well at least we got a blog post out of all that madness. 😉

    Whenever people ask me I say I hit country #50 this past summer- though yeah you can argue with me because I count airport transits and stuff like that (and for me yeah, it’s just “the UK” sorry- though get back to me after the Scottish referendum in 2014). Turns out most people don’t count those, though I always figured if the CIA was tracking me they’d say I was in X country so it counts.

    Though yeah I told my boyfriend who I’m visiting next week in Southampton about the Century Club list, and he said by their logic we should visit the Isle of Wight one day because it’s geographically separate and bag a new country. Can’t argue with that! 🙂

    • Yvette says:

      PS- Just did my count, turns out my previously cited number of 50 countries visited aligns *perfectly* with the UN list with the exception of Vatican City, so that’s what I’ve been going with. So guess that’s that!

      On the Century Club list I got to 65, most of which were thanks to the Caribbean (I’ve been to 7 “countries” there though none of them are on the UN list). The most ridiculous one of the bunch is Saint Martin/ Sint Maarten, which is all of 87 km2 and takes 15 minutes max to drive across, but counts as two because the French and Dutch own it jointly… not to be confused with Anguilla all of 10 miles away, St Bart 10 miles in the other direction, or Saba 20 miles in a third direction which are ALSO all individual countries. What?!

      • Theodora says:

        Ooh, well done, you!

        You have, of course, the advantage of not being British/English — whatever. My count now only includes the UK, so I’ll be interested to hear what my British/Welsh/English/Scottish/Northern Irish readers have to say about that.

        I thought the Caribbean was ridiculous, too, but I don’t know the area at all, really, so didn’t want to comment on the ridiculousness of it. Another thing that’s ridiculous is including Tibet with no definition of where Tibet is. The T.A.R.? What normal Chinese call Tibet (swathes of northern Szechuan and Yunnan)? Or what some Tibetan activists claim for it, which goes all the way down to Kunming, which has never, ever been Tibetan…

  2. I think in course of time we will stop to count. Besides the problem of using the best list of countries it is also a question if for example visiting Munich is really enough for saying I’ve been to Germany.

    • Theodora says:

      I’d agree with you on that, Andreas. I only count when I’m asked to count (or when shamelessly copying someone else’s bio for a web piece, AHEM!).

      I see “Have you been to France?” “Do you know France?” / “Have you been to Paris?” “Do you know Paris?” as different levels of question. I’ve been to Germany on several occasions — Munich a couple of times, Berlin a couple of times, and out in the countryside, but I don’t know Germany at all: I would, however, say I’ve been to Germany.

      Mind you, how differentiated is Bavaria from the rest?… Like I say, I don’t know Germany, so I just think Reinheitsgebot(?sp) and lederhosen…

  3. Steph says:

    I don’t use any particular list but I DO count England, Scotland and Wales as separate. Maybe b/c I used to live in England, I don’t know. It just makes sense!

    • Theodora says:

      I did, too, until I started looking into it, and then I had to draw the line with the UN. Which was rather gutting to me as an English person, I can tell you, but not as annoying as it would have been had I been Welsh or Scots 😉

      There’s a VERY geeky definition about self-governance and nationhood, and many parts of Europe started as independent kinglets or duchies or principalities and then got merged. But, as you know, Spain has Catalunya and the Basque region, which have their own languages and in Catalunya’s case a lot of self-government. But they don’t count as separate countries, although it’s very similar to the situation with the UK.

      In Indonesia, Bali has a whole bunch of royal families running their own parts of the island, while there are five separate sultans in North Maluku, an area which doesn’t even figure on the TCC list. The thing is, if you let us all get away with it the list just spirals into silliness…

      • Ricardo says:

        Just to clarify that the Basque self-governance is much more independent that the one Catalans have currently. Any one from Catalunya will also confirm you this. The Basque Country (both Basque Autonomous Land and Navarre) are the only regions in Spain who even collect their own taxes, uses them and at once a year negociate with Spain how much to pay dircetly with the central government. Is is meant to be the most independent self-governance in Europe although not of course fully independent.

  4. Siobhan says:

    Thanks, I just spent a lovely hour with a hot chocolate and an atlas! I keep two scribbled lists inside the cover of a dog eared, way out of date pocket atlas that I can’t seem to part with. One aligns with the UN list except I count England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland as 4 countries (I’m half Scottish, half Irish if that says anything). The other is a list of ‘places’ just so that I can record those more unusual or out of the way ones, like Sipidan, the Asir and Najran in Saudi Arabia, Siwa oasis, Labrador… I’m only at 39 countries so have some catching up to do:) My boys are just 5 and 3 but they have each been to 17 countries- a respectable start I think. Oh, and I love the new blog by the way, well done.

    • Theodora says:

      Welcome back, lady, and thank you! Tell me, have you been looking for Travels with a Nine Year Old and then clicking through to here and getting all confused? Or have you been following quietly all along?…

      My gut instinct is with you on Scotland being different, and Ireland, of course, is. EXCEPT… then we have to let everywhere else in Europe have all their random bits and it spirals into chaos… Very jealous of you for going to Saudi. I know I’d loathe it — as per that piece in Vanity Fair — except at the same time I know it’s unimaginably beautiful.

      17 is great going at 5 and 3! Well done, you.

      • Siobhan says:

        You used to pop up on my feed on my homepage but during a crazy move from Belgium to Canada, a process taking three months and including some travel, having our “stuff” shipped and new computers all round, I wasn’t properly tuned in for a while. But I’m back now!
        While most of my travel has happened post-childhood, Saudi Arabia was actually home for 7 years until age 11. So maybe that’s cheating? 🙂 But we certainly “travelled”, whenever we weren’t camping on the Red Sea coast, and I was regularly off on road trips with my dad to wherever we were “allowed” to go. It is a seriously beautiful part of the world.
        Didn’t see the Vanity Fair piece, will check it out.

  5. Dalene says:

    Travelfish? What do they know? 🙂

    I count Scotland too.

    • Theodora says:

      Yeah, bloody Australians! 😉

      I have regretfully had to remove Scotland, but I am looking forward to maybe adding it back in 2015 or so. That’s the nice thing about Europe. Such an endlessly, umm, flexible nationalist spectrum… We’re like Africa, but with money.

  6. Abbie says:

    33 from the TCC list which includes airport transfers in India and a drive straight through San Marino. Seems I need to get myself to the Caribbean sharpish.

    • Theodora says:

      Caribbean or the Balkans will sort you out in no time flat. Mind you, I’d prefer the Caribbean at this time of year. But the Balkans count for the UN list too…

  7. Tracy says:

    I found myself reading Gary’s explanation of the list the other day. There were some very persuasive points to the list. Hawaii – I totally get including Hawaii as a separate country to the USA. It is completely distinct in culture. But it lost a lot of credibility at Tasmania. The concept isn’t bad – if it’s geographically or culturally distinct and you are all about bragging rights … someone just needs to be a lot more systematic and thorough. As you say, Indonesia needs to be at least 20 countries if not more.

    The UK is a funny one. I always say “I’ve been to the UK” but when I’m counting countries that I’ve visited I count Wales, England and Scotland separately.

    • Theodora says:

      I think it IS a persuasive list provided you don’t call them “countries” or look too closely at what they’re picking. I feel about the Isle of Man rather as you feel about Tassie. The problem with using it as a list of “countries” is that you can rack up tons within a very small area of the Caribbean. Which is probably where the people we know who claim to have visited 80 countries but are shocked by Asia get their list….

  8. Keith says:

    I say my number is 52 but I count the following which should maybe be counted as 2. 45 is ok with me but over 50 does sound a lot more impressive.

    Northern Ireland UK
    Wales UK
    Scotland UK
    England UK
    Hong Kong China
    Macau China
    Taiwan China
    Vatican City

    I will tell you going between Macau, Hong Kong and China sure feels like crossing borders a lot more than traveling between the Netherlands and Germany.

    I also don’t count the country I was refused entry but I did get a stamp in my passport.

    I could accept the UN list if they just added Taiwan.

    My goal is just to keep up with my age and if I use the 45 number I am behind. I guess it is time to hit the road.

    • Theodora says:

      We spent an hour and a half queuing at Shenzhen, so, yes it certainly does feel like crossing borders — and mainland Chinese still need visas to enter. I suppose one difficulty with the UK is that we’re all on the same passport, and not one region is fully self-governing.

      I’m definitely minded to include Taiwan, and always included Vatican City, although, that’s weird, because although it’s self-governing with its own prisons and police force, it really doesn’t fit my idea of a country at all either.

      Keeping up with the age is a good idea. The Balkans are always great for country-bagging. And so, I believe, are parts of the Caribbean 😉

      • Keith says:

        I don’t recall the queue at Shenzhen but took the most of a day to get a new visa in Hong Kong to go back into China. Strange to be counted as 1 country with 3 different stamps in my passport and 3 different currencies.

        I did get a few strange looks when paying with Irish pounds when traveling in England and Wales but I was able to spend them without a problem. I need to return to Scotland to get a one pound note.

        Enjoyed the post.

  9. I turned 30 last month and decided that I wanted to have seen 100 countries by the time I’m 40 so I’ve been looking into this a lot too. What makes a country? What list to follow?I’m not onboard with the TCC list either. I don’t think counting Hawaii or Tasmania as separate countries makes sense – they’re both governed by the nation they belong too. I used to argue with English people that England wasn’t a country but I’m moving closer to the idea that England, Scotland and Wales are separate countries. I guess I’ll go via the UN list with a few amendments as I see fit – Palestine and Tibet and the likes which technically should be their own countries.

    Will you keep counting? There are some regions where it’s easy to rack up countries quickly (Caribbean, Europe) but others where you could spend forever having diverse experiences in just one or two countries (North America, South East Asia).

    I feel like I travel lots and I’ve only been to 22 countries! I like going back to the places I like though. Don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!

    • Theodora says:

      I think that’s a good thing, returning to places. Quite a few on my list I’ve been to several times…

      Tibet is a really tricky one in terms of defining borders. Ordinary Chinese usage includes swathes of Northern Szechuan and Yunnan provinces, which is why I say we’ve been to Tibet, because they have lots of Tibetans, yaks, butter tea, and Tibetan Buddhist provinces. Some Tibetan activists would claim all of Yunnan, right down to Kunming, which has never, ever been Tibetan. Technical Chinese usage restricts it to the T.A.R., which we haven’t been to.

      I’m hoping my mum will jump in at some point and explain the act of union to me. I guess, now I have the list, I’ll keep adding to it…

  10. Alyson says:

    As a Welsh reader..yes, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England are all officially separate countries that collectively make up the county called the UK. I’ve just checked ‘cos I’m writing a guest post about Wales for someone. I think I’ve been to about 70 ( because I’m old!) but I’ve not counted recently. No, I wouldn’t count separate states like Tassie, that’s silly, but airport stopovers certainly count, you can have fun at an airport!

    • Kerwin says:

      Yeah on the airport stopovers; I concur…

      • Theodora says:

        I’m inclined to agree on the airport stopovers too. Wales as a country? I think it lacks the self-governance for it to count as a “nation or state”. I’m hoping my Mum will be able to comment here, because she actually understands the Acts of Union and subsequent legislation that bound the UK together and I, well, don’t…

  11. Kerwin says:

    O.K. Theodora, here you go; the list is finally public after a long time –

    Nice story here; now I want to see you list :-).

  12. Adrian says:

    Ohhh.. I am feeling so sad. just because in last 3 years , I managed to travel only across 4 countries till now.. 🙁

    • Theodora says:

      I honestly don’t think it’s a numbers game, Adrian. I only know how many places I’ve been to because I got asked for an interview, and I’d say I know very few countries well: I’m good on Indonesia and Egypt, pretty good on Greece and China, and saw quite a lot of Lebanon. But you could easily spend three years in Indonesia or China and not see or experience a fraction of what’s there… This post only really came up because of the Twitter debate.

  13. Ali says:

    I saw you all debating on Twitter last week, definitely an interesting discussion. I can be a bit of a list ticker sometimes, so that’s why I count how many countries I’ve been. I don’t really do it to brag though, so I’m ok with counting things others might not count. French Polynesia is a territory of France, but I count that as a separate country. I don’t count airport layovers, I feel like spending a few hours in an airport is isolated from the actual country. I once met a traveler who is trying to make it to every country in the world, and he only counts countries he’s spent 3 days in! Everyone has a different view on it, so by my count I’ve been to 39 countries but I’m sure a few of them could be argued away by some people.

    (By the way, Corsica is part of France, not Italy.)

    • Theodora says:

      WHOOPS! I thought Corsica was part of France, because of Napoleon, then did a cursory Google and it came up as Italy. That’s embarrassing. VERY embarrassing. THANK YOU. I’ll correct that in the post, and flag it as an edit.

      For me, I think the definition needs to be a nation-state, because otherwise it’s too woolly. But… here’s some more lists someone sent me that might well include some of the stuff you add while leaving off the really random stuff like Alaska and the Isle of Man…

  14. William van der Worp says:

    England, Scotland , Wales and N. Ireland are not countries but constituent countries (which in practice means they can have their own sport teams (sometimes) to give the masses the false feeling of being a country). There is an exeption however : a country is considered to be a real country when it is it’s own sovereign political entity or occupied by another country. So, the English that think Gordon Brown was part of Scottish occupation are the ones who can claim England is a country. 😉

    • Theodora says:

      There you go! For any question of geography, ask a Dutch person! Thank you, William!

      So, for the record — and thanks for the Economist link! — what is Catalunya? Just a semi-autonomous region?

  15. This is a great post. Ther eare so many lists. I have a 35 yr old friend who has just completed every country on the UN list… he just went to another this year that was recently added. I always just used Tripadvisor haha… Im going to try the other lists now and let you know 😀

    • Theodora says:

      Ooh, Erin, don’t you know TripAdvisor is the devil?!

      Let me know how you get on…

    • Only 20 according to the UN list, booooo! 25 on the TCC list. We will head to the Central American beginning of next year and also will have to add a cAribbean cruise to the to do list to cross off quite a number of places 😀 Luckily we did a Sth Pacific cruise all ready 😀 Your list is very healthy, love it! Erin

  16. Addison S says:

    Personally I count the UK as individual countries, but perhaps many don’t because they apply for a UK Visa. I’m proud to say that I have passed the 50 mark. A respectable number, but the desire is still there to reach the century.

  17. oh I just did a post of this myself last week ( I am shooting for 50 by 50 and I am at 47! Ad I did NOT count Scotland! : )

  18. Alex Smith says:

    Well, unlike a lot of folks here, I still have to start my own list of must visit countries. Which ones are in your top ten?

    • Theodora says:

      Ooh, that’s a question and a half. My top ten recommendations from the ones I have visited would be, in no particular order: China, Indonesia, the UK, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, the US and Mexico.

      Ten countries I’m really eager to see: Nepal, Ethiopia, Antarctica (which isn’t a country), Mongolia, Brazil, the Netherlands (can’t believe I’ve not been!), India, Syria, Iraq (all of it, not just Kurdistan) and Russia…

      • You definitely need to get to Nepal. HIGHLY recommnded!! Also Mongolia. Two of my favorite places. The people are amazing there and live such a different lifestyle. Yes!! Netherlands, you can come and stay with me. Oh and my country count is 98. =)

        • Theodora says:

          That’s a darn fine country count! Using the UN list? Wow! That’s serious stuff… And, thank you for the invite. We’ll be in Europe next summer, so, who knows?!

  19. Jennifer says:

    Interesting! I missed the debate. And I’d have never, ever guessed that the people who keep checklists like this wouldn’t have counted Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales as one big…mush of a country. I think the checklist travelers are a little like birders who keep checklists of what birds they’ve seen. Maybe the different UK countries would count as subspecies. 🙂

  20. Anyone collecting countries should examine why they are doing it. Sure it is fun visiting places but does it really matter if those places are in different countries? Remember that Napoleon started collecting countries and the “Napoleon complex” is the clique we use to describe a man who compensates for physical flaws through aggression.
    Freud believed that collecting was linked to unresolved ‘toilet training’ and that the person collecting was trying to hold onto objects he/she had lost down the toilet and linked object fixation to the anal-retentive stage in childhood. Of course collecting countries is quite the same as collecting objects. But you have to ask yourself the question why do people publish lists of countries and UNESCO Sites? Or closer to the physical – passport stamps.
    Just another perspective I thought I’d share.

    • Theodora says:

      I’d agree there’s something a little OCD and, yes, Freudian about collecting lists of things like countries or UNESCO sites (I mean, seriously, there’s almost 1000 UNESCO sites at the moment).

      That said, I read about one couple who planned their holidays around the places where the chemical elements were discovered, which struck me as so unusual as to be rather laudable — so, they’d do a fortnight in Sweden, and make sure to make the pilgrimage to the site of discovery. I can also see those folk who go travelling in search of great hikes, great train rides, great dive sites or great rollercoasters as again coherent, because it represents a specific interest list. It’s trainspottery, sure. But it’s based around a specific interest. And… these are also lists of their own creation.

      • Collection of knowledge is something most of us are guilty of, with the exception of a few politicians that is.
        Visiting the discovery sites of the chemicals from the periodic table would also be a quest for knowledge. Sounds more like a project to write a book on the history of inorganic chemistry. They will have visited Strontian, near Fort William no doubt? Perhaps that is what inspired the quest.
        I suppose lots of researchers actually travel for a reason other than seeing how many places and countries they can collect. Another example would probably be someone following the footsteps of their relatives in the First or Second World War, especially if they are buried ‘In Flanders Field’.

        • Theodora says:

          I’d agree that that too would be a meaningful quest, in a way that checking off countries, in most instances, is not. I came across them in Periodic Tales — they seem to be hobbyists, who like visiting Europe, and found it a fun way to structure their vacations…

  21. I heard about the Century Club right before moving to Spain, so I take my liberty of saying I’ve traveled to a country with Monaco, Andorra, etc. I’d be interested to see if Catalonia gets listed if they end up leaving the Spanish crown!

    • Theodora says:

      Andorra’s on my list. So what if it doesn’t have its own airport? It TOTALLY counts. Ahem. It has excellent beginner’s skiing.

  22. Bruce says:

    I use the List of Passports as the basis for counting countries as a starting point. I eliminate any passport that is not recognized by a majority of other nations. Now, overall, that list is pretty similar as the UN List.

    My reasoning is pretty simple. Our passports are what allow all of us to travel between different nations. As a traveler there really is no other way to count.

    • Theodora says:

      That’s an interesting list, Bruce, and a good solution. Where did you find it? I guess it includes Taiwan, then, which even China recognises.

      Incidentally, I miss the days when you used to get passport stamps whenever you went to a country. Is that sad?

  23. Truly great post…Boggles my mind that there’s actually a list that counts Alaska and Hawaii. I think I’ve hit about 18 “countries” really regardless of what list is used:)

    • Theodora says:

      Well, unless you’re using the long one, surely? Most of us can scrape together an extra 10 or so from that….

  24. Tash says:

    Ha! UK is one country!

    This is a debate that fills many beer-fueled discussions with my travel mates, and the list to use, AND the criteria to count a country. I love that we are not alone in our good humoured discussions! At last debate, to count a country you need to have slept there, spent the currency and seen a touristy thing.

    39 is my count from the UN list – and I usually say 40, cos I count New Caledonia as a country…

    • Theodora says:

      Ah, but you see, there goes the slippery slope that can lead to one bagging 30 “countries” in a month in the Caribbean (as per Yvette’s comment on Saint Martin/Sint Maarten)…

      I was disappointed to find out that the UK is really only one country in the eyes of almost everyone from outside the UK. And international law. And, and, and…

      I like that definition… Although, if you’re going with sleeping there, then hardly anyone will ever “visit” Vatican City (if you count that one). And, as per Andreas’ comment on Germany, having spent the night and seen at least one touristy thing is a good baseline of what it counts to have visited there…

  25. Shelley says:

    Do you have a cellphone while you are travelling all over? If so what kind of spectacular plan do you use for billing? !!!:)

    • Theodora says:

      Hi Shelley, I tend to use Skype for most things. I have a very, very basic phone, unlocked to work anywhere, and if I’m somewhere for a while I’ll get a local card, and I have a reserve pay-as-you-go SIM for emergencies. GO-SIM, who were sponsors on my giveaway, do international SIMs that are compatible with a range of phones, so they could be an option for your back-up phone as well. My phone’s not data enabled. Hope this helps! Theodora

  26. Arielle says:

    this is so interesting! I had no idea about all the different methods and factors in counting! I don’t keep track but id say around 20 by now… on who knows what list!

    • Theodora says:

      I don’t normally count either but it is quite interesting to see how many different ones there are. And, I think now when I’m stating how many I’ve been to, I am going to use the UN list. Geekily…

  27. Tobias says:

    Interesting article! I honestly don’t know how many countries that I’ve visited even though it’s not that many to keep track on. As you point out, it’s in some situations complicated to know what really count as a country.

    What is required to be accounted for as a visit? More than 1 day? Just crossing the border? By air? By boat? By foot? I’ve been to Russia and Turkey but only on the airport to change flight. Does that count? I’ve been on a cruise that crossed Estonian territory for several hours. I’ve been to the Vatican for 1 hour. I’ve taken train from Nice, France, to Monaco. I’ve crossed the North Korean border, several times, but only just a few meters across it. Does that count?

    • Theodora says:

      I’m not sure I’d count sea or air crossings towards countries, TBH — hmmm…. But I think if the Vatican’s going to count, you don’t have to spend the night there (that WOULD be a challenge). What were you doing in DRK? Visa run?!!!! I can’t wait to see it, actually. Think it would be fascinating…

      • Tobias says:

        If I only want to add countries then I guess I would use the view that gives me as many as possible (Like those who count Sicily as a country..) I’m almost prepared to say that I’ve been to Russia because I stayed at the airport for 10 hours but I can’t say that I’ve experienced Russia. However, I consider that I’ve experienced the Vatican even though I’ve spent less time there.

        I almost live in DRK. It’s a narrow river (50 meters wide) right outside my house that divides China and DRK. Unfortunately I’m not granted Visa, but I can see and hear a lot from my side of the river.

  28. I visited only India i had never gone of India.But i want to go to USA for watching the beautiful places in USA

  29. RogerK says:

    I counted 65 on the UN list but I am probably older than most of you – I have been on about one country per year for a long time, though I did not plan that.
    Using UN rules I had to lose HK and Macau (sniff), and to my surprise the Vatican (or the Holy See) although it has embassies in lots of countries.

    I did not include transit/transfer visits to airports.

    I have managed to visit N Korea which I suppose is the strangest place on my list.
    I looked at the Century Club list when I met some of its members going into N Korea. I thought it was a very contrived list.

    The UK is complicated as there are parliaments and assemblies in England, Scotland, Wales, N Ireland, Isle of Man and some Channel Islands, but in international terms and representation they all come under the UK so I think it is just one nation.

    • Theodora says:

      I wonder if we just think the UK is unusually complicated because we’re Anglo (and in my case English/British/whatever) — I’m sure there are many other curios in non-Anglo cultures (Catalunya springs to mind).

      Hoping to visit DRK next spring. Although we will, of course, have to see…

  30. AlastairG says:

    This is a fascinating post – glad I stumbled across it. I often get into debates about what counts myself. I’ve visited a lot of countries at a pretty young age – 91 based on the UN list and I just turned 30. My friends and I have a friendly competition but have come up with some stricter rules: a) only real UN list countries that are widely recognized (sorry Western Sahara, NKR, Transdnistria, Abkhazia and Taiwan); b) no airport or even drive-throughs, so you must spend a night or do something real there like a meal or activity, not just step out the airport and buy a sandwich. I think it becomes too difficult otherwise to come up with any set of consistent rules to say where you’ve actually gone. Happy travels, people!

    • Theodora says:

      91 is pretty darn good going, I have to say. Wow. I need to add Nepal to my list (so slow keeping up).

      I think you’re right that the UN list is the only list that counts (poor Taiwan!), and I think that spending the night somewhere and actually doing something while you’re there is the only way for it to count. Otherwise, with a self-drive vehicle and 24 hours in the Balkans, one could unfairly nail whole handfuls of countries.

  31. chimo mondragon says:

    have you been in the republica popular de oropesa del mar?

  32. kevan hubbard says:

    Think the Isle of Mans a country as its semi independent but Alaskas not[just a state].Ive been to 81 countries and semi autonomous terretories.Ive counted the United Nations as it belongs to no country,and the strange Order of Malta in Rome[not to be confused with Malta].When I went to Serbia Montenegro they where still in a union but counted them as like England,N.Ireland,Wales and Scotland they are nations just in a grander union.Never been but what about Mt.Athos?

  33. Cansu says:

    i rather think it doesn’t make really sense to count the countries you have been to. I mean take roman empire for example its borders had reached from Cyprus till London and almost all places i ve been o are in that area and since this ”country ” thing is human made, it will change all through the history. Maybe you could count continents which I find a bit more permanent still they will change their places as well…. That’s basically brings me to the conclusion that counting is unnecessary but the experiences and memories and inspirations and smiles count more! You can just say I be been to theEarth!

    • Theodora says:

      I agree it’s a pointless activity on many levels. Continents, like countries, are culturally determined, though. China recognises Asia, Europe, America, Africa, Australia and (I think) Antarctica; Jared Diamond talks of Eurasia rather than Europe and Asia; then look at the Australia/Australasia/Oceania divide. But Europe-Asia and North-South America are more cultural boundaries than geographical, IMO, though there’s little in geography that’s purely physical…

  34. black_bird says:

    80 countries is my answer heading to 81 and 82 during xmas 😀

  35. Leigh says:

    I tend to use the FIFA system. Airport layovers, without clearing customs, do not count. The traveler’s century club seems a bit tedious, UAE consisting of 7 different states? and Tasmania as a country? Please. The UN is too harsh. If I travelled all the way to French Polynesia and would not be able to count it, as I have already been France, I would be miffed. I have been to England and Northern Ireland and count them as separate, as per FIFA. Same with Macao and Hong Kong. I have 45 by that list, only 42 if going by UN, so naturally that means I’d take the FIFA list. Of course the FIFA list does not count countries such as Pitcairn or Falkland Islands. Perhaps there should be a better compromise that avoids the UN’s restrictions and doesn’t cater for the Traveller’s century fantasy view of the world.

  36. Nic says:

    Anyone who includes airport stopovers on their list really needs to get out more. There are numerous cases of people spending weeks or even months in airports because they have been refused entry to a country. I could add Russia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sweden, UAE and a couple of Caribbean islands to my list if I added transit lounges but what’s the point? You haven’t visited a country physically, culturally or emotionally until you’ve passed through customs and immigration.

  37. Tai says:

    I found this question always very embarrassing. Same with how many languages can you speak? It’s like if someone asked me how many women I have slept with.

  38. Nic says:

    Having dismissed airports, I thought I would post my other country counting ‘rules’. Geographically historically, politically currently seems to work. So, for example, I visited both east and west Germany – and stood on top of the Berlin wall on the night it came down – but because they are now one country I only score one. I visited Yugoslavia, a country that has now splintered in six, many years ago. It happens that the part of the country that I stayed in is now Croatia, so Croatia is on my list even though it didn’t exist at the time. After reading this blog I have to accept that the UK is one country and not four but, should Scotland vote for independence I will gain a country without leaving my armchair. Go Scotland.

    Not so sure about the passing through countries thing. In theory it would be possible to catch a train from Moscow to Beijing and back again without leaving a train station. Would you really say, if asked, that you hadn’t been anywhere? Personally, I don’t count them but that only means that I lose Switzerland and who wants to ‘fess up to visiting Switzerland anyway?

    And, my final and most important rule. Don’t look back. It’s not where you’ve been but where you’re going that really matters. I’m off to Vietnam in a couple of months with the intention of hiring a motorcycle and heading off into the hills. Can’t wait.

    • Theodora says:

      I’d agree that you have to go with politically current — which means, as you say, you win some and you lose some.

      And, yes, I think if you did Moscow-Beijing and didn’t get off the train, you’d still have experienced enough of China to say that you’d been to China. After 9 hours of transit hell in Jeddah, I *feel* like I’ve visited Saudi Arabia, although of course I haven’t.

      Enjoy Vietnam! The hills are lovely.

  39. Paul says:

    The Travellers club is a joke for clearly desperate fools. The current tally of countries is 196. It includes Kosovo and Taiwan I believe. But not Palestine as it’s not an officially recognised entity (where is it’s borders). I’m on 95 btw, gunning for the 100 before re-visits.

  40. Mick says:

    Fascinating thread – I’m only up to 22 so far at the age of 50 but a lot of that was repeated visits to the same countries.

    what’s everyone’s opinion of northern Cyprus ? Is this a separate entity ? I went there and it involved a border crossing and passport presentation but it’s still Cyprus surely ?

  41. Elizabeth says:

    Interesting thread. I just hit my Travelers’ Century Club 100. But on my own method of counting countries, I’m only at 94. The extra six for TCC purposes are Turkey in Asia (i.e., as distinct from Turkey in Europe), Palestine, Easter Island, French Guiana, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. I agree that the TCC list is ridiculous in many respects.

    I’ve been to 89 UN member countries. My own country count is five higher because I include the Vatican and count the constituent countries I’ve visited in the UK and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (giving me six instead of two for those trips). I haven’t been to either Taiwan or Kosovo, but also consider them to be “countries.”

    Just to make things even more complicated, my TripAdvisor map shows 91 countries – the 89 UN member countries plus the Vatican and French Guiana. (Why French Guiana – which is not a country in any real sense – and not the constituent countries of the UK and the Kingdom of the Netherlands? YGIAGAM.)

    I have five criteria for having been in a country: You must have:
    • put your foot on the ground (e.g., no passing through on trains that you don’t get off)
    • passed through any applicable immigration control (e.g., staying in transit at an airport doesn’t count)
    • done something characteristic of that country (usually satisfied by going to see something listed in your guidebook)
    • stayed overnight (except for the Vatican) and
    • done the trip at an age where you still remember it now (e.g., not places your parents took you when you were a baby).
    This list has grown over time. When I added the overnight stay requirement, two countries on my list no longer qualified, so I later did “do-overs” on those countries. From talking to others, this is the most controversial of my criteria. It can indeed be tough, as it can exclude places where you really have been out and about doing things for several hours.

    Nothing on my list has been affected by political changes (as I only started traveling seriously in 2001, i.e., after all the changes in Eastern Europe), so I haven’t yet formed an opinion on how these affect the count.

    Sigh. Country counting is such a complicated business!

  42. Hi Theodora, Thanks for this article, it’s the first time I have seen it. With regards to countries, I personally think it’s an each to their own. I come from Northern Ireland. If anyone asks me which country I am from, I will never say England, Britain, Wales, Ireland, Scotland or even “The UK” (not a country – clearly a Kingdom as title suggests). I always say I am from Northern Ireland. We call it “our wee country!”. I spent a lot of time living in England and Hong Kong and to me – they are both countries. I mean English people are English (forget the British passport thing – people from Sealand have a Sealand passport). I am personally fascinated when I travel by the whole debate over what is a country and what is not. I recently visiting The Republic of Uzupis. Nagorno Karabakh, Christiania, Frestonia, Gibraltar, Vatican City, Austenasia, French Guyana and Transnistria. Some people don’t class these as countries, but to me – they are more of a country than Tasmania is – Tassie clearly being a proud part of Australia but those I have mentioned are patriotically separate nations (at least in their own eyes). It’s certainly a good debate and it rages on. If indeed I ever get to visit every country in the world, I expect the country count to be around 600 ish (adding in all the Micronations and Disputed states like Sark, Austenasia, Talossa, Liberland etc.) On a personal level I’ve been doing a count and I decided to use the FIFA list as they recognise Northern Ireland and the UN don’t recognise NI or even England which I think is wrong. Anyway – that was a long comment! Safe travels and happy debating!! Jonny

  43. Craig says:

    I’m a member of the Travelers Century Club myself. I’m at 139 on TCC list yet have been to 112 countries. The thing is I don’t count unless I’ve made some entry into immigration officials or at least step foot outside the airport . When I get 150 I would visit all the former Yugoslavia you want to rack up 8 countries You then could really rack up some nations if you went from Senegal to Nigeria there’s 11 right there. Although with Ebola Breakout I would postpone that one not to mention all those countries require Visas for U.S.Citizens. Just imagine the Red Tape Bureaucracy there not to mention crossing the borders getting hit up for bribes.

    • Theodora says:

      Yes, I think it’s easier to rack up countries in Europe than in Africa. I believe ebola has almost been eradicated there, but you might find the public transport system rather harder to navigate than in Yugoslavia.

  44. Kin says:

    I only count the countries if I get a stamp on my passport, so just a layover in Narita wouldn’t count as my passport will not get stamped. I also don’t count layovers in airports when counting the cities and states (visited in the US). I do I include everything I had a stopover on when traveling by land when counting cities, as you can at least see the place doing that. Also, that way I can say I’ve been to Kankakee, IL.