Yough Pioneer Tours

Collecting Countries – What are the Rules?

When you’re travelling, occasionally the topic of “how many countries have you been to”, will crop up. In many ways, this is a redundant ego contest, so as to quantify how much of a ‘traveller’ you are using a single variable. However, whilst this question may be as arbitrary as asking an Olympic swimmer how many lengths they’ve swam, it occasionally brings up the interesting posit of “but what do you define as a country”? This is not only a great deflection from said “pissing contest”, but much like playing pool in a pub, everyone seems to have their own rules.

With this in mind, I put my stick in the sand and decree the YPT Country Collectors Rules of Engagement.

 The 193 Club 

Flag of Bermuda

There are 193 member nations of the UN, and this is the list that most people that try to visit “every” country in the world use. This issue with this is that it leaves out countries and territories such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and French Guiana for example. Can you really say you have been to England because you sipped a Pina Colada on a beach in Bermuda? Also, the 193 does not include Taiwan, or the Holy See (Vatican City). YPT Country Collectors Rules of Engagement count them.

The Travellers Century Club 

At the opposite end of this spectrum you get the travellers century club, that not only count every country and territory, but seemly almost anywhere. With over 600 “countries” that include every emirate in the UAE, the states of Malaysia, and even Alaska. This is frankly silly. YPT Country Collectors Rules of Engagement hereby dismisses it.


John Charles on international duty for Wales, against Scotland, 1954


FIFA has more members than other sporting agency on earth at 211 members, and we count all of them as “countries”, so that means England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland count. But 211 is still not our final number.

256 Countries and Territories 

Officially there are 256 countries and territories in the world that are pretty much self-governing, which is inclusive of the 193 UN members, the 2 non-UN members, and self-governing places like the previously mentioned Cayman Islands. Places like Gibraltar, and Jersey would also thus be counted in the list. YPT Country Collectors Rules of Engagement is reluctant to suggest that Jersey is a country.

Unrecognized countries 

The principle here is dejure, and defacto. So, Northern Cyprus might officially be part of Cyprus, but in reality it is its own country. Therefore Transnistria, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, Western Sahara, Somaliland, Northern Cyprus, and Palestine would feature on the list, BUT Tibet would not. Why? Tibet is defacto and dejure part of China, no matter what your views on the rights and wrongs of it. As for the Donetsk People’s Republic? The jury is still out, but I would lean towards it counting. The one bog exception here is that you cannot count the unrecognized and the parent country. If you go to Transnistria you have been to Transnistria, you have not been to Moldova.

Transnistria. Moldova or not?


I went to Antarctica a few years ago, but when I went to fill out a “countries visited” app on Facebook in order to show off to my friends, nothing. Antarctica, as per the YPT Country Collectors Rules of Engagement counts! It doesn’t matter what base you went to, you have done the country and continent of Antarctica.

Micronations and New Country Projects 

By Ryan Lackey – originally posted to Flickr as sealand-sky, CC BY 2.0,

If you visit a micronation invented by a guy in his living room, no matter how slick the website, it is still a crazy guy in his living room. But when we look at “new country projects” we hit a grey area. Sealand, which has had some limited recognition we would count, as would the Hutt River Province, but the Kingdom of Lovely would not.

The final count, as decreed by the YPT Country Collectors Rules of Engagement – 256 countries and territories + 8 Unrecognized Countries + 1 Antarctica + 2 New Country Projects = 267

So, whilst our list might be controversial to some, we’ve nailed down our argument for the next pub debate we get into. Don’t agree? Think we missed somewhere? Want to ask about a specific place? Let the debate begin!