What is a country?

What does it mean to claim you have visited all countries? What is a country, really? This is one of the questions I am frequently asked. It is a valid question that is not easily answered. Some countries are easy to establish. There is little discussion that Canada is a country, or Egypt. Many travelers keep the UN list of countries. These are all recognised by the world community. This count currently stands at 193.

On top of that, there are Palestinian Territories and Vatican, which both have observer status at the UN. However, they are not full member states. Some travellers would therefore answer 195. Besides, there are states that claim to be countries, like Kosovo, Taiwan, and Western Sahara. However, these are not universally recognized. Plus, here is where controversy starts. Several countries don’t and probably never will, recognize Taiwan or Kosovo as countries. Those who do count them, come to 198.

But it doesn’t end there. You can also count overseas territories, self-declared countries, and autonomous regions. Here, it becomes always more debatable and interesting at the same time. You can end up with 201, 215, or up to 240 countries – all depending on your own definition. Basically, everyone can have their own list.

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