The Prep List for Country Counting Women Travelers
Country counters are common, especially among seasoned women travelers. Country counters are travelers whose goal is to travel to a maximum number of countries. Per the UN, there are 195 sovereign countries; two are not members of the UN: the Holy See and State of Palestine. The UN excludes Taiwan, several Pacific Islands under New Zealand administration, and various dependent areas.
Country Counters cheat when counting; they often do not go by UN membership. Some count all seven Emirates rather than The UAE as one entity. Some include places that are not sovereign like Hong Kong, Bermuda, Antarctica. Others count airport stopovers. However, you tally, if you go to exotic destinations, be prepared for surprises, and unusual requirements in hard to understand google translation English. There might be scary borders.
Our group includes some unusual destinations. Preparing to visit Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia for a women’s group trip April 2022, we followed instructions carefully. First, there were few airline choices. Second, although these three countries are close, one land border is closed and unsafe. We had to be aware and book a short flight. Third, we would be on unfamiliar airlines.
Unfamiliar airlines: Cabin rules might be a surprise. On the BA flight to Iran, we did not have to wear head scarves. We did have to put them on, as we exited the plane. At the domestic Moscow Airport, there was no carry on luggage. We could only take a wallet and a passport. In Peru, airplanes forbid aerosols: deodorant, hairspray, bug repellent, also, medicines with alcohol and nail polish with acetone. Emirates has an unusual pet policy, quoted from Emirates website: Pets are not permitted in the cabin, with the exception of falcons between Dubai and certain destinations in Pakistan. Don’t assume you know the ropes, especially when flying a new airline on a new adventure. You might sit next to a falcon.
Testing is less of an issue as Covid wans. For adventurous places, you probably still need a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arriving. We needed it for Baku, Azerbaijan. The flight from the US to Baku with a stopover in Qatar, takes close to two days. Timing is tricky with a 72 hour expiration. Get a rapid PCR and pay the big money, for 24 hours pre. In October 2021 one of our women travelers to The Emirates had a flight delay from the MidWest. Her PCR Covid test expired. She was retested at JFK, (increasingly airports have test centers). The problem was the double cost; then insurance refused to cover it under ‘travel delay’.
Documents traveling to new areas can be confusing; many are translated oddly or use UK lingo. Go the old yellow magic marker route and study your instructions. Line up your documents in the order you will use them: Emergency contact numbers should always be first. Then add flight info, boarding pass, test document, locator form if required, insurance policy if required, hotel list, itinerary. Separately have your passport, two hard copies of the photo page and of the visa page.
Note: some countries still require a visa stamp on actual pages of your passport.) Have your original CDC card safely tucked away. (I also keep all documents in a photo file on my phone). Here is a video I did on How to Store Documents
Going to unusual places, documents might have to be in a specific language; English is usually acceptable. Some countries want paper proof of travel insurance. If so and if the policy is very long, keep a copy in your phone and print out the medical insurance paragraphs with $US coverage. Countries want to make sure you will not be a medical burden.
Diet: Going to non-Western places, bring snacks; granola bars, dried fruit. Time change will make you hungry at non mealtimes. Food might not be to your liking. You just might crave that hit of chocolate. Generally, load up on breakfast if local cuisine does not agree with you. Pinch some eggs, cheese, bread off the buffet if you don’t want to go out for dinner alone. I did that in Tehran rather than leave the hotel at night alone.
In summary, country counters learn how to navigate new places and rules, so you can relax and enjoy the experience. The next frontier for you will be SPACE. Sorry we have no tips for space travel. This writer will not even go on a Ferris Wheel.