Visit Mexico: Sun, Sea… and Homicides

Not many people would choose to holiday in a dangerous area — although some would.

War torn countries often see foreign visitors in the form of armies and press personnel, not those who want to relax on the beach. As such, I believe countries seen as violent attract far fewer tourists than those deemed peaceful (one of the reasons you see Western countries heavily market their safe image to tourists following a terrorist event).

I’ve often heard friends debating visiting countries that I would classify as “safe”. Which left me thinking; should I be worried about visiting certain places that I didn’t immediately considered dangerous? Here are the numbers….


The US State department regularly publishes travel warnings to citizens reflecting dangers within foreign countries. This not only includes warnings not to travel, but also deaths and injuries citizens have suffered in foreign countries. Data.World collated a series of data sets in March 2017 related to these travel warnings for the last 7 years (since 2009 – 2016). In total 240 countries were considered, only 53 of those were issues warnings by the US State Department.


Top 20 Countries by Travel Warnings Issued

Country Region Travel Warnings Issued
Mexico Americas 28
Mali Africa 26
Israel Asia 25
Pakistan Asia 25
Iraq Asia 24
Afghanistan Asia 23
Nigeria Africa 23
Syria Asia 23
Algeria Africa 22
Iran Asia 22
Yemen Asia 22
Burundi Africa 21
Central African Republic Africa 21
Kenya Africa 20
Lebanon Asia 20
Philippines Asia 20
Chad Africa 19
Libya Africa 19
Sudan Africa 19
Colombia Americas 18
Congo Africa 18
Eritrea Africa 18

Full list.

If you expected Iraq or Afghanistan to be top of this list due to recent conflicts, you’d be wrong. Mexico, a country that received 71.5 million US visitors over period considered, had 28 travel warnings issued against it. Similarly Israel, a country that welcome 3.1 million tourists in 2015 of which 637,000 we’re by US citizens (4.77 million over period considered), had the third largest number of travel warning issues by the US State Department.

Top Regions by Travel Warnings Issued

Region Travel Warnings Issued
Africa 50
Asia 47
Americas 46
Europe 42
NA 33
Oceania 22

Full list.

The difference between total travel warnings issued by continent is smaller than you may have initially thought. Africa (54 countries) has just 8 more travel warnings than Europe (50 counties).

Note, NA region generally classifies many smaller island territories. See this table for list of countries classified NA.

Top Cause of Death

Cause of death Type Count
Homicide 1243
Suicide 927
Veh. Accid-Auto Vehicle 857
Drowning 776
Other Accident 740
Veh. Accid-Motorcy. Vehicle 247
Air Accident Air 164
Vehicle Accident – Auto Vehicle 152
Disaster 144
Drug-Related 144

Full list.

Homicides are by far the leading cause of deaths for US tourists (more than vehicle accents combined). 593 of these tourist homicides, almost half, were in Mexico! I was surprised to see suicides placed second on the list. Perhaps this is misrepresentation of reported cause of deaths (suicides do not necessarily reflect badly on the country).

Top 10 Countries by Death Count

country region num_deaths num_warnings num_travellers Probability of death
Mexico Americas 1653 28 71608500 0.00231%
Haiti Americas 221 10 3316700 0.00666%
Thailand Asia 191 4 343500 0.05560%
Costa Rica Americas 184 0 8137400 0.00226%
Philippines Asia 181 20 3240000 0.00559%
Dominican Republic Americas 149 0 18169700 0.00082%
Jamaica Americas 128 0 10606600 0.00121%
Germany Europe 125 0 32703500 0.00038%
China Asia 118 0 14593400 0.00081%
Afghanistan Asia 104 23 #N/A #N/A

Full list.

Mexico is looking pretty dangerous based on the death count, but you should pay close attention to the probability of death being relatively low (0.002%, ranked 23rd by probability of death).

Several countries with relatively high rates of American death have not been issued a single travel warning in ~7 years, including Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Many of the deaths in these countries are the result of natural disasters where very early warnings are hard to issue by any government.

Top 10 Countries by Probability of Death

country region num_deaths num_warnings num_travellers Probability of death
Thailand Asia 191 4 343500 0.05560%
Pakistan Asia 22 25 226200 0.00973%
Greece Europe 54 0 691800 0.00781%
Haiti Americas 221 10 3316700 0.00666%
Egypt Africa 35 11 579800 0.00604%
Philippines Asia 181 20 3240000 0.00559%
Ukraine Europe 13 15 276800 0.00470%
Saudi Arabia Asia 34 16 749100 0.00454%
Belize Americas 68 0 1563400 0.00435%
Nigeria Africa 32 23 780900 0.00410%

Full list.

The probability (US citizens) of dying in most countries is rarely low, with the exception being Thailand. Here US citizens have a 0.06% chance of death, that is 1 in every 43320 travellers is killed, whilst only 4 travel warning were issued. Pakistan, the country ranked 2nd most dangerous according to State Department data (also ranked 3rd by travel warning issued with 25), has a much lower probability of death, just 0.01%.

Change in travel behaviour based on warnings

travelcountries region num warnings travel pct change
Egypt Africa 11 -34.09
Thailand Asia 4 -15.00
Pakistan Asia 25 -3.00
Philippines Asia 20 -2.34
Venezuela Americas 7 -1.41
Honduras Americas 9 -1.18
Israel Asia 25 -0.06
Mexico Americas 28 0.52
Haiti Americas 10 0.53
El Salvador Americas 9 1.76
Russia Europe 6 4.03
Colombia Americas 18 5.97
Bahrain Asia 3 6.55
Nigeria Africa 23 10.99
Ukraine Europe 15 11.37
Saudi Arabia Asia 16 11.98

Full list.

Overall, countries subject to travel warnings do not see notable declines in American visitors in the 6 months after a warning is issued. Egypt saw the biggest decline in US travellers over the 7 year period between 2009 – 2016, a drop of 34%. Sadly this is the result of political unrest and security fears that have resulted in a significant decline in tourism from most countries around the world.


Political tensions between nations are likely to have a significant effect on the travel warnings issued by countries. Being able to compare the travel warnings issued by each government would be a good extension on this initial analysis (who issues most warnings, where are most warnings issues against, etc…).


The probability (US citizens) of dying most countries is rarely low, with the exception of Thailand. In Thailand US visitors have a 0.06% chance of death.


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The Cities Where Breathing is Worse Than Smoking

On hot summer days in London, UK I regularly walk along some of the most trafficked streets (vehicles). Whilst the pollution is not always visible, I can clearly smell the exhaust fumes of the passing busses and feel it settling on my skin. It does not surprise me reading articles with titles including, “London’s Air is as Bad as Smoking” (credited for the title of this post).

Pollution is arguably the biggest hazard to human health today, especially in our cities (although Donald Trump doesn’t agree). With this concern in my mind, I wanted to uncover some of the worst places for my health to visit.

What is PM 2.5 and PM 10?

Particle pollution, also called particulate matter (PM), is a mixture of solids and liquid droplets floating in the air. Some particles are released directly from a specific source, while others form in complicated chemical reactions in the atmosphere.

    • Coarse dust particles (PM10) are 2.5 to 10 micrometers in diameter. Sources include crushing or grinding operations and dust stirred up by vehicles on roads.
    • Fine particles (PM2.5) are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller, and can only be seen with an electron microscope. Fine particles are produced from all types of combustion, including motor vehicles, power plants, residential wood burning, forest fires, agricultural burning, and some industrial processes. PM2.5 particles are considered most damaging to health.


The World Health Organisation produce a Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database (data from 2016 update). The primary sources of data for this are official reporting from countries to WHO, official national / subnational reports and national / subnational web sites containing measurements of PM10 or PM2.5 and the relevant national agencies. The dataset covers 2972 cities from 184 countries.


PM2.5 pollution levels by country

PM2_5 Total Country 2014

Interactive map.

Top 10 countries by total PM2.5 pollution level

Country PM2.5 Urban 2014 mean annual Οg/m3 PM2.5 Urban rank 2014 PM2.5 Total Country 2014 mean annual Οg/m3 PM2.5 Total Country Rank 2014
Saudi Arabia 127.1 1 107.7 1
Qatar 104.6 2 103.4 2
Egypt 100.6 3 92.8 3
Bangladesh 88.8 4 83.5 4
Kuwait 78.4 7 74.5 5
Cameroon 63.6 12 65.2 6
Mauritania 86.2 5 64.8 7
Nepal 74.3 8 64 8
United Arab Emirates 64.4 11 63.6 9
India 65.7 10 62.4 10

Full table.

Saudi Arabia has levels of PM2.5 pollution in urban areas almost 30% higher than the next most polluted urban areas in Qatar.

For reference, the World Health Organisation recommends 10 Οg/m3 (mean annual) as a guideline safe level.

Only 19 of the 179 countries (that reported PM2.5 figures) have equal to or less than the recommended 10 Οg/m3 (mean annual) level in urban areas. 20 of the 184 reported countries have total pollution less than this recommendation.

The lowest levels of pollution are found in the Soloman Islands with urban and total PM2.5 levels equal to 5Îźg/m3. Notably, larger countries including the United States have urban (8.4Îźg/m3) and total (8.2Îźg/m3) PM2.5 levels below 10Îźg/m3.

PM2.5 pollution levels by city (best and worst)

Rank Country City/Town Annual mean, ug/m3
1 Iran (Islamic Republic of) Zabol 217
2 India Gwalior 176
3 India Allahabad 170
4 Saudi Arabia Riyadh 156
5 Saudi Arabia Al Jubail 152
6 India Patna 149
7 India Raipur 144
8 Cameroon Bamenda 132
9 China Xingtai 128
10 China Baoding 126
2963 United States of America Not in a City,McKenzie,ND 3.20
2964 Canada AUCLAIR 3.00
2964 Canada NORMAN WELLS 3.00
2966 New Zealand Te Anau 2.73
2967 United States of America Not in a City,Custer,SD 2.40
2968 United States of America Not in a City,Converse,WY 2.30
2969 Sweden KIRUNA 2.27
2970 Finland Muonio 2.21
2971 United States of America Wenden, AZ 2.00
2972 United States of America Sinclair,Carbon,WY 1.60

Full list.

Zabol, Iran is the worst polluted city according to the World Health Organisations Air Pollution database by some margin (217 ug/m3 annual mean, 2000% above WHO safe recommended levels!).

4 of the top 10 most polluted cities are in India. 32 of all 2972 cities considered have PM2.5 pollution levels above 10Οg/m3 mean annual.

At the other end of the spectrum, many of the least polluted areas are not cities, unsurprisingly. 5 of the least polluted 10 areas are all in the US and all have PM2.5 levels way below the 10Οg/m3 WHO recommendation.

856 cities considered (of 1972 total) all have less than or equal to 10Οg/m3 mean annual PM2.5 pollution.


From my brief research it would appear there is some disparity in the way pollution levels are reported. Whilst this analysis provides a good overview to the problem of pollution, it could be worth comparing such analysis to the way data is reported (sensor distributions in countries, etc).

Looking at pollution as a problem, it would also be valuable to compare levels of pollution against population numbers to understand how wide the impact is.


Areas of the Middle East are some of the worst polluted on earth, and most dangerous to your health.

Get the data

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

1 Litre of Beer Costs Just 1 USD in Slovakia

Economists use a range of goods to gauge consumer prices in different countries around the world.

Beer is one consumable that can be used for such purposes, although not often omitted.

I believe this is because unlike a bottle of Coca-Cola, the local varieties of beer can result in significant price differences. Which left me wondering; where can you visit to find the cheapest beer?


I used GoEuro’s Beer Price Index (2015 and 2016) for beer costs around the world. This index includes both supermarket and bar costs for a 33cl beer. GoEuro’s data also calculates a mean average beer price using the calculation (supermarket cost + bar cost) / 2.


Cost of beer around the world 2016

Overall Average Price for Beer in USD 2016 Histogram

Download chart.

A 33cl beer will cost you anywhere between $1.14 and $6.59, on average. Lausanne, Switzerland is the most expensive where a beer at a bar will cost you $12.20. That’s over 6 times more expensive than the cheapest city for a beer at a bar, Kiev ($1.82).

Cheapest beers 2016

Beer Price Index 2016 map

Interactive map.

Overall rank (overall ave) City Country Average Price for 33cl Beer (Supermarket) in USD Average Price for 33cl Beer (Bar) in USD Overall Average Price in USD Bar – supermarket diff Bar – supermarket diff pc
1 Bratislava Slovakia 0.35 1.93 1.14 1.58 451.43%
2 Kiev Ukraine 0.47 1.82 1.15 1.35 287.23%
3 Cape Town South Africa 0.46 2.12 1.29 1.66 360.87%
4 Krakow Poland 0.57 2.02 1.30 1.45 254.39%
5 Mexico City Mexico 0.46 2.48 1.47 2.02 439.13%
6 Belgrade Serbia 0.30 2.73 1.52 2.43 810.00%
7 Cairo Egypt 0.69 2.61 1.65 1.92 278.26%
8 Warsaw Poland 0.60 2.79 1.70 2.19 365.00%
8 Ljubljana Slovenia 0.75 2.64 1.70 1.89 252.00%
10 Budapest Hungary 0.28 3.13 1.71 2.85 1017.86%

Full list.

Most of the cities in the top 10 (7) are all found in Eastern Europe. In Bratislava, Slovakia a 33cl beer can be bought for $0.35. At a bar in Bratislava the same beer might cost you $1.58 — a 451% increase! In Budapest the difference between supermarket ($0.28) and bar ($3.13) is 1018% (Paris is the worst — a 1270% increase).

Year-on-year beer price changes

2015 - 2016 beer price change

Download chart.

Price change rank City Country Overall Average Price % Change 15/16
1 Rio de Janeiro Brazil -43.27%
2 Geneva Switzerland -42.80%
3 Munich Germany -42.05%
4 Cape Town South Africa -39.72%
5 Bucharest Romania -37.81%
6 Ljubljana Slovenia -37.34%
7 Tel Aviv Israel -37.10%
8 Dublin Ireland -34.32%
9 San Francisco United States -34.01%
10 Barcelona Spain -33.90%

Full list.

GoEuro’s price index records beer prices falling in 63 of 64 cities between 2015 and 2016! Only Malaga in Spain saw beer prices increase, by 23% — sorry packaged holiday makers.

The fall in beer prices was actually fairly significant with an average price decrease of 24%. The top 10 cities ranked by falling beer price all saw price decreases of over 30%. In Rio De Janeiro, Geneva, and Munich average beer prices fell by over 40%! Oktoberfest is looking cheap in 2017!

Beer consumption 2016

Beer consumption 2016 map

Interactive map.

Did you know? Out of the 70 countries considered in GoEuro’s Beer Price Index, the top beer consumers in 2016 were: 1) Czech Republic (144 litres person / year), 2) Poland (127), 3) Serbia (119).

Biggest spenders on beer 2016

Average spend on beer consumption 2016

Download chart.

Av spend rank City Country Av. Annual Consumption Per Capita (litres) Av. annual spend per capita (Supermarket only) Av. annual spend per capita (Bar only) Av. annual spend per capita (average)
1 Lausanne Switzerland 56 166.30 2,070.30 1,118.30
2 Helsinki Finland 105 381.82 1,753.18 1,067.50
3 Sydney Australia 99 540.00 1,398.00 969.00
4 New York United States 85 265.30 1,645.91 955.61
5 Miami United States 85 182.88 1,602.12 892.50
6 Toronto Canada 116 376.12 1,395.52 885.82
7 Prague Czech Republic 144 318.55 1,444.36 881.45
8 Venice Italy 106 212.00 1,532.18 872.09
9 Moscow Russia 106 395.09 1,323.39 859.24
10 Frankfurt Germany 107 220.48 1,420.18 820.33

Full list.

Whilst Czech Republic, Poland, and Serbia have the highest beer consumption per capita, the relatively cheap price of beer means that they don’t spend as much ($881 per year, $652 and $546 respectively).

Unsurprisingly Lausanne, Switzerland – where a beer at a bar can cost you more than $12 – comes out top for most spent per person on beer each year at $1,118 (even though consumption is relatively low at only 56 litres p/person p/year).


GoEuros dataset has aggregated beer prices. Having access to the raw dataset with prices by brand would be particularly useful in comparing like-for-like differences in prices around the world.


33cl of beer is cheapest in Bratislava, Slovakia at an average cost of $1.14 ($0.35 in a supermarket or $1.93 in a bar).


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Go to Iran, Be A Millionaire for Just 31 USD

Travelling between countries can be disorientating. Changes in currency values can be a major contributing factor. A bottle of Coca-Cola might be $1 USD in America, but 14,000 IRR in Iran (only $0.43 USD).

Much of this can be solved using a simple currency conversion app on your phone. After a few days you’ll master the mental arithmetic to perform currency conversions instantly in your head.

Thinking about the value of different currencies, I started to wonder; where could I be a millionaire, or even billionaire?


I collected worldwide currency values against the USD from at 14:00 GMT 19/01/2017 for comparison.


Strongest currencies – GBP vs USD

I couldn’t start this post without mentioning Brexit. Specifically the negative impact it has had on my worldwide purchasing power (I get paid in GBP).

GBP USD Feb 2017

Latest data.

And it’s not just Brexit. My trips to the US are 80% more expensive when compared to 2007, before the housing crisis. As of writing this,  1 USD = 0.8 GBP. Either way, I’m a millionaire in neither currency.

Strongest currencies vs USD

The GBP is one of the strongest currencies against the USD at the moment,

Value rank vs USD US Dollar 1 USD feb 192017 1 USD inverse feb 192017 1000000 USD feb 192017 1000000 USD inverse feb 19 2017
1 Kuwaiti Dinar 0.305627 3.271965 305627 3271965
2 Bahraini Dinar 0.377039 2.652243 377039 2652243
3 Omani Rial 0.385253 2.595695 385253 2595695
4 Latvian Lat 0.661973 1.510636 661973 1510636
5 British Pound 0.805704 1.24115 805704 1241150
6 Euro 0.941908 1.061675 941908 1061675

Full table.

You probably won’t be a USD millionaire in Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Latvia, or the Euro-zone countries either. In Kuwait 1 million USD is worth around 306K Kuwaiti Dinar. You’d need 3.27 million USD to be a Kuwaiti Dinar millionaire. These are the only 6 major currencies that are currently stronger than the USD.

Weakest Currencies – IRR vs USD

usd to irr feb 2017

Latest data.

The Iranian Rial is currently the weakest currency against the USD. The currency has an interesting story. The Iranian Rial was devalued in July 2013 to half its previous value as the government reduced subsidisation of the exchange rate against the dollar. Recently, in December 2016, the Iranian government announced the country’s currency will be changed from the rial to the commonly used Toman. As of writing this decision still needs Parliament’s approval.

1 USD will buy you 32420 IRR. 31 USD will buy you 1 million USD. 1 million USD will buy thirty-two billion four hundred twenty million IRR!

Weakest currencies vs USD

Value rank vs USD US Dollar 1 USD feb 192017 1 USD inverse feb 192017 1000000 USD feb 192017 1000000 USD inverse feb 19 2017
51 Chilean Peso 644.1 0.001553 644100000 1553
52 South Korean Won 1150.45 0.000869 1150450000 869
53 Colombian Peso 2886.5 0.000346 2886500000 346
54 Indonesian Rupiah 13341.1 0.000075 13341100000 75
55 Iranian Rial 32420 0.000031 32420000000 31

Full table.

The Iranian Rial is by far the weakest currency versus the USD. The Indonesian Rupiah comes out second worst with an exchange rate of 1 USD = 13300 IDR. 75 USD would buy you millionaire status in Indonesia.


I have completely ignored purchasing power of a currency. As discussed a bottle of Coke in Iran will cost you 14,000 IRR — it wouldn’t be hard to blow 1 million in a single day.


Go to Iran with 31 USD, become a IRR millionaire.


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Go To Bangladesh And Never See Another Tourist

We’ve all been on holiday and complained there are too many tourists (the British, anyway).

I once read London was France’s 6th largest city. The Costa Del Sol on the Spain’s Southern Coast is a mecca for 300,000+ Brits seeking the sun each year.

Terms like tourist trap are now common among holiday makers. Though an increasing number of us are actively seeking to avoid such traps. Whole industries have sprung up around holidays “off-the-beaten-track”.

But where are the places with the fewest tourists numbers vs locals?


Every year the UN World Tourism Organisation publishes a report titled “Tourism Highlights“. For this post I used the 2015 version (figure reported from 2013). The report contains tourism statistics for 217 countries, including inbound tourist arrivals and receipts. Using this data I was able to identify the countries that report the fewest tourists.

Using population statistics reported by the World Bank for 2013 I was then able to work out the number of inbound tourists compared to the native population of each country.


Inbound tourism numbers

number of tourist arrivals 2013 map

Full size map.

top 10 countries with most inbound tourists 2013

Download chart.

10 countries with least inbound tourists 2013

Download chart.

Did you know? The 3 countries that received the most tourists in 2013 were: 1. France (83.6 mil arrivals), 2. United States (69.9), and 3. Spain (60.6).

Did you know? The 3 countries that received the fewest tourists in 2013 were: 191. Kiribati (6000 arrivals), 192. Marshall Islands (5000), 193. Tuvalu (1000).


population summary map

Full size map.

10 countries with largest populations 2013

Download chart.

10 countries with smallest populations 2013

Download chart.

China and India have a combined population of 2.5 billion. About one-third of the world’s population. India’s population is expected to grow larger than China’s by 2022.

On the other end of the scale Nieu, Montserrat, and the Cook Islands have less than 20,000 native citizens. In total the 10 smallest countries have a combined population of 187,933 people (about the size of Sao Tome and Principe).

Did you know? The 3 countries with the largest populations are: 1. China (1.36 people), 2. India (1.29B), 3. USA (319M). 

Did you know? The 3 countries with the smallest populations are: 214. Tuvalu (9863 people), 215. Montserrat (4900), 216. Niue (1190).

Native Population vs. Tourists

tourist population ratio

Full size map.

Rank Destination Population Tourists (2013) Population – tourist diff Tourist:Population
1 Bangladesh 159,077,513 148,000 158,929,513 1,075
2 Congo, Dem. Rep. 74,877,030 191,000 74,686,030 392
3 Nigeria 177,475,986 600,000 176,875,986 296
4 Guinea 12,275,527 56,000 12,219,527 219
5 India 1,295,291,543 6,968,000 1,288,323,543 186
6 Niger 19,113,728 123,000 18,990,728 155
7 Ethiopia 96,958,732 681,000 96,277,732 142
8 Chad 13,587,053 100,000 13,487,053 136
9 Mali 17,086,022 142,000 16,944,022 120
10 Madagascar 23,571,713 196,000 23,375,713 120

Full ranking.

Bangladesh receives just 1 tourist for every 1075 native Bangladeshis (159M pop / 148K tourists).

Rank Destination Population Tourists (2013) Population – tourist diff Tourist:Population
184 Guam 167,543 1,334,000 -1,166,457 0.13
185 Turks and Caicos Islands 33,740 291,000 -257,260 0.12
186 Monaco 37,623 328,000 -290,377 0.11
187 Aruba 103,441 979,000 -875,559 0.11
188 Cook Is 10,900 121,000 -110,100 0.09
189 St. Maarten 40,917 467,000 -426,083 0.09
190 Brit. Virgin Islands 28,054 366,000 -337,946 0.08
191 St. Martin (French part) 31,530 490,000 -458,470 0.06
192 Macao SAR, China 577,914 14,268,000 -13,690,086 0.04
193 Andorra 72,786 2,328,000 -2,255,214 0.03

Full ranking.

Compare that to Andorra, population 73K, has 2.3 million visitors every year — a difference of about 2.2 million! That’s 1 tourist for every 0.03 of the population. In Macao the difference between population and tourists is 13.69 million (1 tourist:0.04 population).


Comparing inbound tourists by nationality would add another dimension to this analysis.


The countries with the fewest tourists compared to native population: 1. Bangladesh (1 tourist: 1075 native population), 2. Democratic Republic of Congo (1:392), 3. Nigeria (1:296).


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Greenland Has Grown By Over 20% During The Last 50 Years

“Planting the flag” usually means making a claim to something, usually territory or land.

Throughout history men have “planted the flag” claiming ownership in the name of the king, queen, country, church, etc. marking the land as their own.

If you’re planning to “plant a flag” and claim an area of earth, time is running out. Marie Byrd Land and Bir Tawil Triangle are the only two land areas on Earth not claimed by any country.

The size of a countries land mass can vary for a number of reasons. Historically territorial disputes have seen land won and lost. The biggest risk to a countries land mass in the modern day is the sea, in some cases threatening a countries very existence.

But which countries have changed the most in size over the past 50 years?


I used World Bank data that documents each countries land mass yearly since 1961.

To add additional context I used territorial disputes data found on Wikipedia.


Land mass changes

count of countries that have changed in size

Download chart.

Out of 223 countries, 37 decreased in land mass, 151 had no change and 20 grew.

land mass changes by sq km

Download chart.

Most land mass changes were small +/-1K sq. km — about half the size of Monaco.

Overall, total land mass of all countries shrunk 94K sq. km between 1961 and 2014.

land area changes by country

Full size map.

Growing countries

10 countries that have grown most in land mass

Download chart.

Rank land area % change Country Name Land area diff (sq. km) 1961 – 2014 Land area % of total 1961 – 2014
1 Macao SAR, China 10.30 51.50
2 Greenland 68,750.00 20.12
3 Bahrain 80.00 11.59
4 Singapore 37.00 5.52
5 Hong Kong SAR, China 30.00 2.94
6 Korea, Rep. 1,006.00 1.04
7 Jordan 540.00 0.61
8 Hungary 490.00 0.54
9 Bosnia and Herzegovina 200.00 0.39
10 Uganda 710.00 0.36

Full ranking.

Greenland’s land mass has increased 68,750 sq. km since 1961 — about the size of the Republic of Ireland. According to World Bank records the increase happened between 1996 and 1997 where land mass went from 341,700 sq. km to 410,450 — a 20% increase. I assume this is because of melting ice being officially recorded between these years.

Although Macao grew by only 10.3 sq. km this is a 50% increase in total land mass over the 53 year period.

Shrinking countries

10 countries that have shrunk most in land mass

Download chart.

Rank land area % change Country Name Land area diff (sq. km) 1961 – 2014 Land area % of total 1961 – 2014
199 St. Kitts and Nevis -90.00 -25.71
200 Bhutan -8,606.00 -18.42
201 Ecuador -28,480.00 -10.29
202 Ethiopia -101,000.00 -9.17
203 Vietnam -15,420.00 -4.74
204 Channel Islands -4.00 -2.06
205 Bulgaria -2,070.00 -1.87
206 Seychelles -5.00 -1.09
207 Cuba -951.00 -0.89
208 Macedonia, FYR -210.00 -0.83

Full ranking.

Ethiopia has lost over 100K sq. km of it’s land mass since 1961. The change happened between 1992 and 1993 where land mass went from 1.1M sq. km to 1M — a loss of over 9%!

The list of shrinking countries has 4 small island nations: St Kitts and Nevis, Channel Islands, Seychelles and Cuba. This is probably a result of rising sea levels. St Kitts and Nevis lost over 25% (90 sq. km) of it’s total land mass between 1961 – 2014.

The income factor

land area diff sq km 1961 2014

Download chart.

It is low income areas that will feel the impacts the most from sea level rise as they are the least prepared (lots of settlements on coast, little funding for protection projects, etc.).

The World Bank’s income segmentation highlights how the low and middle income countries are perhaps already suffering land losses as a result.

In total the world lost -34,218 sq. km of reported land mass between 1961 – 2014 — about a 0.07% total loss.

Territorial disputes

count of disputes by countries with more than 5 disputed territories

Download chart.

78 countries have multiple active disputes for land. The US has the most active disputes (13), 6 of which are with Canada.

Did you know? France and Italy still dispute ownership of the Mont Blanc summit

disputed territories by region

Download chart.

In total there are 159 active land disputes across the world.


This post offers a very basic look at changing land masses with little context. Significant changes in land mass should be analysed alongside any relevant contextual information – sea level change, conflicts, etc… – to provide information on causation.


Ethiopia has shrunk the most in total land mass between 1961 and 2014 (-101,000 St. Kitts and Nevis has shrunk the most as a % of total land mass (-26%).


  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Passport Power Rank 2016

If you have a visa or visa-free access to enter a country your journey through a border is often much easier.

As the modern world becomes ever more interconnected one would expect an increase of visa-free travel relationships between countries. But with the seemingly growing list of conflicts such freedoms can vary significantly depending on nationality.

So which country has the most powerful passport for visa-free travel?


Each year Henley & Partners publishes a “Visa Restriction Index”, a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy.

Points are awarded to countries for the number of destinations that offer visa-free travel to their citizens. e-Visas are treated the same as visas on arrival. Where the conditions for obtaining an e-visa are straightforward (fee, return ticket, hotel reservation), a visa-free point was assigned.


Best and worst passports for travel

Country visa free count 2016 map

Full-size map.

Visa-free Rank Country Visa-free Destinations for Citizens
1 Germany 177
2 Sweden 176
3 Italy 175
3 France 175
3 Spain 175
3 Finland 175
3 United Kingdom 175
8 United States 174
8 Denmark 174
8 Belgium 174
8 Netherlands 174

Visa-free Rank Country Visa-free Destinations for Citizens
188 Palestine, State of 37
188 Sudan 37
188 Eritrea 37
188 Nepal 37
188 Ethiopia 37
188 Iran, Islamic Republic of 37
194 Libya 36
195 Syrian Arab Republic 32
196 Somalia 31
197 Iraq 30
198 Pakistan 29
199 Afghanistan 25

Full list.

Citizens in Western countries enjoy the most freedoms to travel. The top 10 countries by number of visa-free destinations for passport holders consists mostly of European nations.

No European countries in the bottom 10 list of countries for visa-free travel, however. Sadly, many Middle Eastern and African countries that have suffered war and poor international relationships make up most of this list.

Did you know? Citizens of North Korea can travel to 42 countries without a visa (should they be granted permission to travel). Surprisingly, 20 other countries have fewer visa-free destinations than North Korea.

Year-on-year changes

Total of Visa Free Relationships by Year

Download chart.

Visa-free travel between countries has increased from 18,003 in 2013 to 19,072 in 2016, with a slight dip between 2014 and 2015.

2016 - 2013 Change in Visa Free Destinations for Citizens by Country

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Of 199 countries between 2013 – 2016, 25 countries saw places their citizens can visit without a visa decrease, 13 had no change, and 161 saw an increase.

Out of the 25 of the countries that saw visa-free travel reduce, 16 were African. Comparing all African countries, it is the only region to see a decrease between 2013 – 2016 for visa-free travel.

Regional differences

Cumulative total of visa-free destinations by region by year

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Citizens of the 27 EU member states automatically qualify for the largest freedom of movement anywhere in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, cumulatively European citizens enjoy the fewest travel visa requirements to travel worldwide (note, the European region includes 22 non EU nations).

Region Count of countries
Middle East 13
Africa 53
Americas 35
Asia and the Pacific 50
Europe 49

View calculations.

However, the cumulative number of visa-free destinations does not take into account region size. Europe has the largest cumulative count of visa-free destinations, but it also contains the second largest number of countries.

Average adjusted visa-free destinations per country by region year

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Adjusting for countries in each region (cumulative visa free destinations per region / count of countries), European citizens still fare best in 2016, and all years post 2012 for that matter.

This adjustment also highlights the fact large differences in visa restrictions between regions. On average in 2016, African citizens could travel to about 53 countries without a visa. In contrast European citizens could visit 146 destinations without a visa — a massive difference even when you ignore the EU freedom of movement area.


Visa-free travel represents only part of the movement of people around the world. Consequently, numbers on all types of entries by country would be very interesting to compare, for example; what countries issue the most business / tourism / long-term visas etc?


  • The passports that have the most visa-free destinations for holders in 2016 from a total of 199 countries: 1. Germany (177), 2. Sweden (176), 3. Italy, France, Finland, UK (175).
  • The passports that have the least visa-free destinations for holders in 2016 from a total of 199 countries: 197. Iraq (30), 198. Pakistan (29), 199. Afghanistan (25).
  • European citizens enjoy the least travel restrictions being allowed to travel, on average, to 146 countries without requiring a visa. Citizens of African nations on the other hand fare the worst, with only 53 countries welcoming them without a visa.