When can you say you’ve been to a country?

When can you say you’ve been to a country?

Can you say you have been to a country if you only spent a few hours in one of its cities? Changing planes at international airports doesn’t count (of course), but what about a weekend or day trip to one place? Technically you can, but do you?

I was thinking about this question when filling in one of those where have you been maps that you might have seen doing the rounds.

I had a go at one of these maps when someone sent me a link, and I found that large countries lit up because I had been to one of its cities. I felt like a British colonial cartographer, trying to shade the world red.

British Empire Map
[British Empire Map (from wikipedia.org]

I wasn’t going count some countries, but then I thought I should just to illustrate this train of thought. This is the map of the world of the countries that I’ve technically been to. (This map of Visited Countries by VirtualTourist).

Visited Countries Map

Notice how all of Turkey is coloured in. I did a day trip from Rhodes in Greece to Marmaris in Turkey. Marmaris has a large expat beach scene and the 4 hours I was there didn’t really feel like Turkey.

I once spent a weekend in Mexico at Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), about 60 miles from the US border on the Gulf of California. I went with some friends from Arizona. Rocky Point is a beach resort town and it is the closest beach to Phoenix. I didn’t feel like I was in Mexico (except for those mariachi buskers with the oversized hats) and back then you didn’t even need a passport to go there. So when I’m asked if I have been to Mexico I usually say no. I guess you could say I’ve been there, but I haven’t done it.

I have been to the capitals of every Scandinavian country but I have never seen the Fjords of Norway or the Wilderness of Lapland, so I don’t usually say I’ve been to Norway or Sweden either. I have though beaten myself with birch branches in a sauna in a small town in Finland, so I don’t beat myself up about that one and proclaim Finland as done.

With these sort of maps at least they break down the states and territories of the US and Canada. Even so, some of these areas can be vast. The territory of Ontario has been lit up on my map because of a weekend I spent, mostly indoors, at a convention in Toronto.

I have lived in a few different countries and I have found my preference is to base myself in one place and get to know a country. I feel confident in saying that I have done England, Ireland, Switzerland and Hungary.

Australia is my home country so I have to say I’ve been there but so far I have only done the East Coast.

When do you say you have been to a country?

Join The Newsletter

Sign up to the weekly newsletter for the latest posts, and a roundup of best travel reads, news, and lifestyle articles.


  1. I have asked myself the same question. I have travelled a lot, but have also spent many ‘stopovers’ in airport hotels… do they count? I don’t really think so. I would consider a weekend in Paris ‘been there’… but a week in Boston hardly qualifies as having ‘been’ to the US. Interesting point.

  2. Enigma of Bellevue says

    Interesting point to ponder. Including stopovers seems quite inelegant. How many cities in which countries until you’ve ‘been’ anywhere? A wonderful topic for nomads to discuss over late night beans.

  3. Reading your thoughts about when one may claim to know a country I must totally agree with you and Lynda.

    It’s a shame I hardly have any photos of Portugal, France and Southern Africa, countries I thoroughly know. When I see people who have been to almost every major city of the world where they spent hardly a week I can only smile.
    They think they know while not having a clue.

    I live on Tenerife Island now where I know much. However, I am still learning more about it which makes it interesting for myself.

  4. awesome post mate, and i question i often ask myself. I frequently meet people who i call ‘box tickers’ who go on a speedy road trip thru as many countries as possible in as little time as possible in order to tell everyone the have been to x many countries, crazy attitude if u ask me!

  5. Thanks Johnny. It seems the answer to this questions changes for me as I get older.

  6. Of course airport stopovers count. Box-ticking or not, you were there, weren’t you? I’m not saying it’s a good way to experience anything, but if you have been somewhere, no matter what you did or how long you spend time there, you have been there. Period.

Speak Your Mind