If you are interested in travelling around the world, you might wonder about the number of countries in this world. As a frequent traveler, I started to count where I have been to so far and from the moment it becomes over 40 countries, I wondered what percentage I have visited among the independent countries. For sure, there are numerous countries in this globe. However, declaring the ‘exact’ number of countries is not easy due to the controversies over it.
Why is the number of countries in the world controversial?
What is the reason that the number of countries is controversial issue? First, the standard of counting can be an issue. Some associations such as UN approve only independent countries with full soverignty; however, if you see the books such as lonely planet travel guide, they count Hong Kong or New Caledonia as a country, which are a province of China and France respectively though they have the right of self-government. Second, there are many areas going through political conflicts. For example, Taiwan declares itself as an independent country whiles many other countries regard them as a part of China. So it can be an influential factor changing the number of countries in the world. Therefore, the number of countries varies and here are some ideas about standard of counting countries.
193 countries in the world
When it comes to counting the number of countries in the world, whether they are a member of UN or not can be a standard According to UN, there are 193 members of the United Nations. So it could be said that those 193 independent countries are the only ‘countries’ of this world.
195 countries in the world
In addition to the 193 members of the UN, there are 2 UN observers. They are 2 non-member observer states: the Holy See (Vatican City) and Palestine. These two UN observers are also considered as a country often. Then, it is summed up as 195 in total. This 195 is commonly used to represent the number of countries in the world. (The U.S. doesn’t admit Palestine as a nation but consider UN as an independent country. When I visited the U.N. head office located in New York, I was explained that The U.N. is regarded as a country.)
196 countries in the world
In addition to 195 countries, one country is often added. It is ‘Taiwan’. Taiwan is a country which insists that they are an independent country, while China considers it as a province that belongs to them. The countries in the world have different perspective about this issue according to the political relationship between China and Taiwan. Thus, it is hard to say if a Taiwan can be counted as a country or not because it is controversial issue now.
Anyway, if Taiwan is considered as an independent country, the number of countries in the world can be regarded as 196. This number is also referred very often as a ‘number of countries’ in this world.
257 countries in the world
In addition to the 196 countries, the 61 dependent areas (for example, Niue Island, Tahiti Island, etc) are included. Those dependent areas are an area separated from the mainland of nation so those are not independent countries. However, some people claim that these areas should be counted in the number of nations in the world. Then, it becomes 257 countries in total.
(E.g. New Caledonia near New Zealand is a south pacific island country which is far from France, but it belongs to France. It is not a country because it is not independent, nor a member of UN. However, some regard New Caledonia as a country since it can be seen as a separate country apart from France.)
If you want to stick to one number:
Usually travelers prefer counting more countries into their ‘have been to’ list. So many travel books have a generous standard of counting countries, including places such as Hong Kong, Greenland, New Caledonia into their country list. It is totally fine. You can have your own list of countries that you want to travel and it doesn’t matter!
However, if you want to stick to only one generally accepted number to count the number of countries in this world, despite the various complications in this issue, the most accepted numbers of countries in the world is 196 countries.