THEY SAY IT’s a small world. It isn’t. Planet Earth is a big place and full of infinite variety.
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 120 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. And see our website ()
We believe what we have done is unique. We have taken ten different criteria for our 120 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:
1. Popularity (number of tourists per year)
2. Number of things to see and do
3. Tourist friendliness
4. Value for money
5. Number of World Heritage Properties
6. Safety and security
7. Quality of the health system
8. Quality of the environment
9. Corruption level
10. 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 travelers. The rating method-ology and sources are explained in Appendix 1, and Appendix 2 ranks every country by each criterion.
What it doesn't cover
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 have included a little ‘Our view’ section for many dest-inations. These are our opinions or pointers to favorite places in most of the countries we have visited. For some of them we are relying on the impressions of trusted colleagues. We hope it adds a personal touch.
We may get a little opinionated in places, but we believe in telling it like it is. We hate travel guides that paint a rosy picture of everywhere. If we don’t like a place, or we don’t think you will, we will say so, but we will attempt to justify our opinion. We’re not in the business of pleasing people – except our readers.
We trust you will find this guide useful and informative. We have enjoyed compiling it, but not nearly so much as we have enjoyed visiting these places. We just love travel, and we know you do too or you wouldn’t be reading this book.
The rating system is by necessity a little arbitrary – there is no way to properly weight the different factors. But the ten individual indexes give a good indication of the strengths and weaknesses of each country, and act as a handy guide to which of them offer a combination of desirability and ease of travel.
The result is, we believe, a refreshingly different way of looking at the world and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each country as a travel destination.
Some of the countries we really like rate rather poorly, while some of the higher-ranking countries we find not so desirable. But that’s just an indication of how different things appeal to different people. As my old grandmother used to say, ‘it would be a funny old world if we were all the same.’
We hope you will find it a useful addition to your never-ending quest to work out just where on earth to go to next.