If you get involved in the hardcore traveler circles then the question of what counts as a country, or indeed what a country is throwing up heated debates, with most opinions (in my humble opinion) being wrong. You can check the YPT rules of what counts as a country here.
But, I’ll give my two cents regardless.
The 193 Club
The 193 club thinks that the only country that counts, or the only way to qualify as a country is to be in the UN. That means that Switzerland wasn’t a country until 1994.
To carry this through its even dumber level, you can visit Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, but the last one is the same as visiting France. I had a friend who wasn’t interested in coming to Greenland as he had already been to Denmark (boooooo).
The Travelers Century Club
On the flip side, you have these guys who claim every Emirate, Malaysian state, Hawaii, Alaska, and I assume your own bedroom (I am not a member although I do qualify). This list is frankly silly.
My Middle Ground
I personally count all countries that are either self-governing or at least have their own FIFA team. I also personally count all the unrecognized countries such as Transnistria, which are de facto independent.
To put this to a good rule of thumb. Hong Kong counts as a country, Tibet does not. HK has its own government sports teams, currency, etc, and you need a passport to get there from China. Tibet does not count. You might think it morally should, but it is de facto and dejure part of China.
To sum up, and in my fine opinion, this leaves with the following…
The final count – 256 countries and territories + 10 Unrecognized Countries + 1 Antarctica + 2 New Country Projects = 270
This list rightly or wrongly counts Donetsk and Sealand for example.
Alas, Islandia is not included, yet anyway.
Update! We are now adding Bir Tawil to this list, making us a grand total of 270 countries WE count! Many might not agree with Bir Tawil, but it’s essentially self governing, and no one else claims it.