On a couple of occasions recently I have been asked how many countries we have been to. We don’t keep count so I had no idea how to answer and to be honest wondered whether it mattered at all how many we had visited. This led me to wondering what constitutes actually visiting a country and this simple thought seemed to open up a real can of worms.
What’s wrong with Country Counting?
Nothing at all. Let me get this out there straight away, I have no issues with anyone counting the number of places they have been to as I love statistics and like nothing more than a good old list. Keeping an up-to-date score of the countries you have visited is great and a good way to give you impetus to visit even more. No problem with that.
My issue is that everyone counts ‘visiting a country‘ in a different way. So it is completely impossible to ever compare two peoples numbers (if that’s what they want to do). In social media circles and on numerous travel blogs the number of countries visited is a big deal and that number shouted from the rooftops. Because their followers or visitors don’t know what constitutes their ‘visiting a country‘ rules this figure is obviously very confusing.
I guess it’s a little like me saying I ate out three time last week when I bought a sausage roll from Greggs, had a sandwich from Costa, and purchased a pork pie on the train platform at Warminster station. Technically I did ‘eat out‘ but it’s not really eating out is it.
Is there an actual definition of visiting a country?
With all of the differing views I wondered if there was actually a definition anywhere so checked out the Guinness Book of Records as there are a lot of countries-visited records out there. They define it as follows;
“Visiting a country is defined as setting foot within its border. It is not necessary to remain in any country for any length of time. Video/photo evidence, at a recognisable landmark/border sign within each country must be provided”.
So to complete a Guinness record relating to countries you just have to set foot there regardless of the time you spend, for as long as you get a photo by a landmark or border. Simple eh?
How many countries are there?
Seems like a simple question but unfortunately it’s not. There are differing lists of the number of countries depending on where you look. The Guinness Book of Records states that;
There are 193 countries(UN member states) plus 2 others (Vatican City and Chinese Taipei).
So many people have different numbers though that it often causes major arguments especially over countries-visited records of course.
Assuming we can agree on the actual number of countries it is interesting to see some individual ideas of what ‘visiting a country‘ is. Here are a few ideas gleamed from online and personal conversations.
- “You have to spend a few hours there outside the airport”
- “Getting your passport stamped”
- “Definitely have to stay a night or two for it to count as visited”
- “Going through immigration means you are in the country so it counts”
- “Not airport transfers or travelling through, you have to spend a couple of days there”
- “My foot must touch soil (ground) or a sidewalk outdoors, in a place where there are no walls and no ceilings.”
- “As soon as you set foot in an airport you are in a foreign country”
So many different views on it aren’t there which in themselves don’t matter at all. If one person counts just walking through airport arrivals as visiting then it doesn’t hurt anyone but as soon as they start comparing numbers with the couple who’ve spent 3 weeks there it all becomes a bit skewed.
What is our definition of visiting a country?
We didn’t really have one until this discussion started but we think that we need to have had an overnight stay and have visited two separate places at the very least. We’ve transferred through Dubai several times and spent many many hours there but would never count UAE as a country that we have visited. Just our opinion of course.
Country visiting records
There are world records for visiting every country, the fastest time to get to them all, the youngest person to do it, and so many more. And when you start drilling down into the detail there are so many people claiming they aren’t valid or that someone else did it better/faster/etc.
The Fastest time to visit all sovereign countries (as defined by the Guinness Book of Records):
Taylor Demonbreun from Toronto in 2018 visited all UN member countries in 1 year, 189 days.
Look at some of these other records, and they are all official:
- Most countries visited in 24 hours on a bicycle – 7 (Guinness record)
- Most countries visited by scheduled transport in 24 hours – 13 (Guinness record)
- Most countries visited on a continuous car journey – 111 (Guinness record)
- Most countries visited by train in 24 hours – 11 (Guinness record)
- Most countries visited on a single tank of fuel – 14 (Guinness record)
- Most sovereign countries visited in 6 months – 191 (Guinness record)
Fascinating huh? Just goes to show that there is more than one way to get around. Perhaps Jo could attempt the ‘Most countries visited with Jonno‘ record or the ‘Most countries JWalked to in a year‘ one. I’ll get in touch with Guinness straight away ……………
So is Country Counting okay?
Of course it is, it’s a great way to remember where you’ve been and to give yourself incentive to travel elsewhere. We all have different reasons to travel and whether it’s seeing museums, walking up a mountain, or adding the country to your list then that’s entirely personal and completely up to that traveller.
How do you decide if you have visited a country? Do you country count?