Methodology and Sources

ALL DATA IN THE Top 100 Countries index is taken from reputable and publicly available international sources. We have tried to ensure that the ratings are fully researched and that they come from acknowledged authorities in the area.

The ratings use different scales. To overcome anomalies, we have mathematically normalized each rating to a 0 to 100 scale. That means the lowest rated country in each index has been given a value of zero and the highest a value of 100, with all other values ‘stretched’ to maintain their relativities. The final rating, out of 100, is an average of these ten normalized ratings.

No attempt has been made to weight any of the factors – each carries as much importance as any other and has the same bearing on the overall index. Any weighting system would be subjective. We have created an Excel spreadsheet, downloadable for free at our website, which will allow you to weight any of the individual factors and perform other calculations and comparisons if you wish to.

We do not attempt to rate intangibles like the quality of the food, the weather, the friendliness of the people, or similar things. The rating system should be regarded simply as a way of com­paring countries by the ten factors we have used, and not as a definitive guide to where to visit and why – though the rationale is that it might make your decision easier or more informed.

The main reason some countries have been excluded is because of too many gaps in their data. These are mostly very small or very poor countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But all of these unrated countries are described briefly in the text of the book, in the appropriate geographical section.

War-torn Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen are excluded, as is the hermit kingdom of North Korea – there is little reliable data. Not that you’d want to visit them anyway.



SOURCE: The UN World Tourism Organization database measures the number of annual international visitors to each country. As a general rule, the more people that visit a country the more there is to see and do and the more reason to go.

Numbers are mostly from 2017, the most recent available from the UN. Some data – from 11 countries – is from 2015 or 2016. The most recent UN data for the United Arab Emirates is from 2012, so numbers here are from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism (Dubai and Abu Dhabi are combined).


Tourism infrastructure

SOURCE: The World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report (2017 edition – the most recent) contains a series of detailed indexes that measure ‘the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the travel and tourism sector, which in turn, contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country’.

This excellent and free report looks at all aspects of global tourism. It is essential reading for anyone in the industry, and interesting to the general reader. The report has an overall index and 14 component indexes. One of them is Tourist Service Infra­structure, which is what we have based this factor on.

Value for money

SOURCE: This data is taken from the World Bank’s calculation of Purchase Price Parity (PPP), a widely accepted measure of how cheap or expensive a country is. It measures bang for your buck.

Many countries that rate well in other areas rate poorly on this factor. Maintaining a high standard of living costs money, and higher incomes mean higher prices.



SOURCE: It’s more fun to be in a country where the people are happy and living fulfilled lives than one where they are miserable. The data in this index component is taken from the 2019 World Happiness Report, published annually by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The WHR rates countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The focus is on ‘the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that have driven those changes’.


World Heritage sites

SOURCE: The UNESCO World Heritage Convention. The number of World Heritage sites in each country is a good guide to the significance of its cultural heritage on a global scale. These sites are usually a good reason for visiting a country.

Many attractions are spread across multiple countries. In this case, every country included in that listing is given one point.


Safety and security

SOURCE: SafeAround, a website and app which rates over 160 countries and over 100 cities for their level of physical safety for the traveler, taken from numerous reputable sources.

‘There was no existing website that made it easy for travelers to assess the safety or dangerousness of the country they were going to visit’.


Health system

SOURCE: This date is taken from the 2018 Legatum Prosperity Index. We have used the ‘Health’ component, which is based on a country's ‘basic mental and physical health, health infrastructure, and the availability of preventative care’.

There is no available measure of how good a country’s medical system is in dealing with travelers who fall sick or have an injury. But this measure shows how good the healthcare system is.



SOURCE: The 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), an excellent report produced by Yale University’s Center for Environ­mental Law and Policy and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network.

It is based on 24 performance indicators across ten categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. Hong Kong was not separately listed and is assigned the same rating as China.



SOURCE: The Corruption Perception Index 2018, published by Transparency International, a global anti-corruption NGO. It is based on the ‘perceived levels of public sector corruption accord­ing to experts and businesspeople’.



SOURCE: The 2018 Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index is a ‘broad measure of human freedom and the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom’.


Extra metrics

WE HAVE INCLUDED in our analysis a couple of other key measures: A county’s total population (in millions) and land area (in square kilometres, a more often used measure than square miles). From this we calculate population density (people per square kilo­metre), which tells us how crowded it is.

We have also calculated annual visitor numbers per capita, a reasonable indication of how tourist-infested a country is. The higher the number, the more you will notice other visitors.

These extra metrics are included in our analysis of each country but are not used in determining the ratings in the Top 100 Countries index.