Thursday, 1 January 2015

What counts as a country visited?

by Todd Romaine

globe road
If you missed it, see our 2014 New Year's post,
How Many Countries Have You Visited?
Ready, set go... 2015 is here, time to add to your country tally!

For the many international travellers that like collecting countries to quantify or reaffirm their status as a seasoned globetrotter, this is the time of year when the previous year is tallied, and the year to come is planned out.

As we kick off 2015, we return to the country-counting subject with a closer examination of the oft-debated question of "what counts as a country?"

As you commence this year's travels, please note the following commonly held ground rules:
  • A layover at an airport or an airport hotel without leaving the physical premise does NOT count as a new country. Even if it means collecting a passport stamp and walking by the taxi rank. If you catch a taxi, bus, or subway into the nearest town where non-airport, everyday civilian activities take place then it counts. Even if it is only for a few hours, chalk it up as another country with the caveat of a very limited snapshot of time.
  • A cruise ship stop in various ports and islands DOES count as individual countries even it just means walking along the dock or beachside tourist areas. Even if the islands in question belong to a country on the other side of the planet, they count. However note if the islands are part of the same political jurisdiction, you cannot double, triple count etc. An example would be the Cook Islands, a New Zealand possession spread out over a huge geographical distance cannot be counted multiple times if you visit several of its islands. The Caribbean is a goldmine to enhance your country count during a cruise. Simple offshore islands in close proximity to the 'mother country' (i.e. within 200 miles) do not get separate country status so do NOT count in your tabulation. This coincides with the international rule of exclusive economic zone status. Therefore, while Prince Edward Island in Canada does NOT count as separate from Canada, Cocos and Christmas Island DO count in respect to Australia, or Svalbard Island with respect to Norway DOES count simply based on geographical distance from the main country.
  • A train through various countries only counts if you physically get out and get into town somewhere outside of non-train activities (i.e. train station). Therefore, listening to your iPod as your train screams through the Luxembourg countryside does NOT count.
  • Flying over a country does NOT count unless you land and leave the airport premises. If you land on an isolated beach somewhere with a helicopter, then technically it DOES count
  • Geographical locations not deemed a country could count. Antarctica counts. Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Tibet, Somaliland, Nagorno-Kabarkh, Azafad and arguably ISIS controlled territories all DO count. These locations are in dispute and are politically unique and contentious from the 'mother country'. These treat themselves with their own customs departments, their own flag and militaries and or own governments in exiles. Ficticious or dubious deemed countries such as Sea Island, Swan River, Cascadia do NOT count.
  • Small official countries count such as the Vatican City, Andorra, Singapore, Hong Kong, Aland, Liechenstein all DO count.
  • Swimming or running through one country to the next DOES count. Yes I have swam between Namibia and South Africa along the Orange River with no customs department present and technically this counts.

Check it out: There are numerous tools that can assist you graphically catalogue your travels. The newest country-tracking tool is #Travelstoke, created by the globetrotting folks at Matador Network. Once you create your personal #Travelstoke map, you can publish it to your social media networks, such as Facebook.

If you have any technical questions on country counting feel free to contact us. Happy 2015 travels!

Related resources
Introducing the #Travelstoke World Map: Create yours today! - Matador Network
How many countries have you visited? - IHateTaxis
Countries of the world: how many have you visited? - interactive list from listchallenges
Where on earth have you been? Create a custom map to show your life's travels - the Guardian

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