There are around 200 countries in the world, depending on how you count them. No one can ever visit them all, except for a few box-tickers. In this book, we have tried to give you a brief overview of most of the world’s countries and what makes them worth visiting. We actually rank 140 countries and look at dozens more (we didn’t spell it out – a hundred sounds better).
We have tried to paint a picture of each of them. It is not definitive. There are plenty of good sources of more detailed information, most of it free and online. The days of relying solely on a Frommers or a Lonely Planet guidebook are long gone.
We believe what we have done is unique. We have taken ten different criteria for our 140 countries, found numeric ratings for them, and combined them into an overall score to rate and rank each country. We also rank them for each factor. The result is a useful guide to how easy and desirable these countries are to visit. It will help you decide where on earth to go next.
The Top 100 Countries index uses the following criteria, all of them from independent and reputable international sources:
- Popularity (number of tourists per year)
- Tourist infrastructure
- Value for money
- Happiness level
- Number of World Heritage sites
- Safety and security
- Quality of the health system
- Quality of the environment
- Corruption level
- Personal and economic freedom
The Top 100 Countries index does not cover things like excitement level, the tastiness of the local cuisine, or the ease or cost of travel to these destinations (which will vary according to your starting point). Nor does it look at a range of other subjective factors. Travel is the most personal of experiences, and individual tastes cannot be quantified.
But we believe the ten factors we have chosen give a good indication of the relative merits of each country, based on the criteria that are important to most travellers. The rating methodology and sources are explained in Appendix 1, and Appendix 2 ranks every country by each criterion.
The book does not cover countries in the order of preference, though there is an overview in Chapter 1. The main body of the book is structured according to the regions of the world, looking at most countries individually, even those that are not rated. It is intended as a guide to help you work out which countries you might visit. We look at the best things to see and do, and at each country’s history and culture.
The description of each country is accompanied by its detailed score in the Top 100 Countries rating, for each of the ten criteria, plus other things like the level of tourist infestation. The ratings help us see the pros and cons of each destination. Different people like different things, but by using this rating system we have tried to give an objective analysis of each country.
For major destinations, like the USA, Europe’s ‘Big Five’, China and Japan, we go into some detail, breaking our descriptions down by the regions of that country. Some places are mentioned only briefly, and most unrated countries are skimmed over – they are simply not very good places to go. But India, for example, gets a detailed listing, despite its low score, because it is so big and so interesting.
We hope you will find it informative, and a useful addition to your never-ending quest to work out just where on earth to go to next.