Below are a list of the common questions many ask along with some information on how countries and locations for trips are determined. Click each heading to expand the text underneath. If you don’t see the answer you’re looking for just shoot me a message with your question and I will respond as soon as possible.
Where are you now?
A list of my next half dozen upcoming trips is listed in the “Upcoming Trips” item in the menu which you can see by clicking here. You can see all my trips planned for the coming twelve months that are both finalized and in the planning stages.
You may also follow my real time world map with all flights on my personalized page on MyFlightRadar24 at the following link: my.flightradar24.com/MPScan
How do you define a country vs. territory vs. administrative region vs. autonomous area?”
This is an awesome question that does not have a defined answer. Sadly there is no consensus on the issue of the total number of countries in the world.
Why? Because there is no universally agreed definition of “country” and there are many areas of the world that are fighting for their independence in various ways. There isn’t a single international body to answer the question on the table: “How many countries are there in the world?”
Wait. What about the United Nations?
The United Nations, as the most unified international organization, is often considered the starting point for counting the total number of nations in the world. All the 193 United Nations members are independent countries recognized worldwide. 193 is a conventional number that is used by many to establish a bar from which to add or subtract from the total.
Becoming a part of the United Nations is not so easy. First of all, consent of all 5 permanent members of the Security Council (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) is needed for the adoption of the new candidate. After that, the UN General Assembly approves this decision by no less than the two-thirds of the votes.
Such a complicated procedure ensures that all the accepted UN members have been recognized by the vast majority of other states and have established diplomatic relations with them. If you’re looking for more reading on this topic, I suggest you start with the Wikipedia article here: List of states with limited recognition.
What about other major areas that aren’t technically a country according to the UN?
As of 2018, there are four others that deserve separate recognition from the official number of 193:
Holy See (Vatican) maintains bilateral relations with the majority of the world through its 180 diplomatic missions in independent states and international organizations. It’s not considered a country but almost everyone recognizes it as independent of other countries.
Palestine is separately recognized by 136 UN member nations and since 2012 has a status of a non-member observer state in the United Nations – which amounts to a de facto, or implicit, recognition of statehood. It is a member of the Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, G77, and the International Olympic Committee. They get a spot on the list.
Taiwan is recognized by 22 countries (21 UN members and one UN observer). This self-governed territory with a population more than 23 million people has all signs of statehood and plays the significant role in the region as one of the high developed economies in Asia Pacific. It participates in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Taiwan has its diplomatic missions (official and unofficial) in more than 100 states and maintains the unofficial bilateral relations with the United States, Canada, UK, European Union, Germany, France, Russia, India, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Nigeria and others.
Kosovo is officially recognized by 111 UN states and by Taiwan. It also has obtained the membership of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Such wide recognition of these two entities could be a basis to include Taiwan and Kosovo in the list of independent states. At the same time, China claims that Taiwan is a part of its internal territory, and Serbia does the same by insisting that Kosovo is its autonomous province.
Are there other smaller exceptions?
Again, of course. There are too many to list.
All other self-proclaimed entities are considered as “partially recognized countries” where some of them either do not control their own territory and are only recognized by partially recognized subjects like themselves. Here are a couple examples:
- Western Sahara is only recognized by 4-5 UN member nations.
- Northern Cyprus is confirmed only by Turkey.
- Republic of Abkhazia has obtained acceptance of only 4 UN members
- Nagorno-Karabakh Republic statehood is accepted only by three partially recognized states.
Do non-countries make your list? What about cool places?
Absolutely! Included in my list are unique and/or remote places that may not qualify as a country but absolutely deserve recognition and no world travel bucket list would be complete without visiting them. For example:
Guam is a place that I visited in May 2014 and counts. Although it is a territory of the United States of America, I think it deserved a separate spot on the list for its remoteness and uniqueness.
Svalbard, Norway will also hold a separate spot even though it is governed by the Kingdom of Norway simply because it is the northernmost inhabited place in the world with a tourism industry. I couldn’t honestly tell myself that I had gone everywhere in the world without a visit here.
Antarctica, the 7th continent, does not qualify as a country or have a formal government, yet it is acknowledged as an entire continent. Nobody who claims to have visited everywhere on the planet could look at you with a straight face and tell you that wasn’t on their list. It gets its own spot for sure.
Given everything above, my list is just that, my own personal list. There’s no right or wrong, but my own view of the planet. It’s subject to change as time moves forward and the world evolves.