15 maps that will change the way you see the world

The world accord to forest size, Foreign Office advice, reliance on tourism and World Heritage Sites
The world accord to forest size, Foreign Office advice, reliance on tourism and World Heritage Sites

1. Life expectancy

This map shows the world according to life expectancy. The results are depressingly unsurprising. Africa is the only continent that contains nations where the average life expectancy is below 60. And there are 28 of them. The lowest life expectancy of all is found in Sierra Leone, where it is a staggering 46. Japan is where residents live the longest – 84, on average, according to the World Health Organisation data, published this year. It is closely followed by six countries on 83 years: Andorra, Australia, Switzerland, Italy, Singapore and San Marino.

2. Where’s safe

This map shows those countries the Foreign Office believes is safe for British travellers to visit (in green), and those it doesn’t (red). The Foreign Office advises against travel to parts of those countries shown in yellow.

3. Terror threat

This map shows where the Foreign Office believes a terrorist attack is most likely to occur. The threat is rated “high” in more than 30 countries, with summer holiday favourites such as Spain and France given the same rating as Libya, Pakistan and Somalia. Russia, Egypt, Tunisia, Myanmar, Kenya, the Philippines and Colombia, Turkey, Thailand, Australia and Belgium are also given the top rating, as well as much of the Middle East, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Afghanistan. ountries where the terror threat is low include Iceland, Bolivia, Ecuador, Poland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Hungary, Vietnam and Japan.

4. Population density

Those most – and least – crowded countries are shown here, based on the latest available figures from the UN Population Division. If you like solitude, avoid most of the Far East and Western Europe, and consider one of the 10 least crowded places…

  1. Greenland – 0.0 people per sq km
  2. Falkland Islands – 0.3 people per sq km
  3. Mongolia – 1.9 people per sq km
  4. Western Sahara – 2.3 people per sq km
  5. Namibia – 2.9 people per sq km
  6. French Guiana – 2.9 people per sq km
  7. Australia – 3.1 people per sq km
  8. Iceland – 3.3 people per sq km
  9. Suriname – 3.3 people per sq km
  10. Botswana – 3.5 people per sq km

5. Alcohol consumption

This map reflects alcohol consumption per capita. Belarus is the most sozzled state, which a typical adult consuming 17.5 litres of pure alcohol a year – equivalent to 179 bottles of wine or 1,750 shots of vodka. It is followed by Moldova, Lithuania, Russia, Romania and Ukraine. Britain is 25th overall – we each consume 11.6 litres of pure alcohol a year, on average.

And the most abstinent countries? Unsurprisingly, they are mostly Muslim states where the sale and consumption of alcohol is restricted. In Pakistan, Mauritania, Libya and Kuwait the average citizen drinks just 100ml of pure alcohol a year – the equivalent of a single bottle of wine.

6. World Heritage Sites

The map below shows which countries have the most World Heritage Sites. Italy, China, Spain and France come out on top, possessing 51, 48, 44 and 41, respectively. Which will come as no surprise. France is the most popular country in the world, with Spain not far behind. China is the most populous, and Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance. To see every World Heritage Site on one map, follow this link.

7. Frequent fliers

This map shows which nationalities are the most frequent fliers, according to 2014 data published by The World Bank. Unsuprisingly, given its size and wealth, the US is miles ahead of any other nation, with 9,553,214 departures from its airports last year. Next on the list is China with 3,356,756.

The other countries in the top 10 for 2014 are Canada (1,290,420 flights), the UK (1,069,420), Brazil (937,437), Japan (927,437), Germany (913, 156), Russia (747,804), Turkey (723,207) and India (720,050). Of those countries that feature (there was no data for Norway, Uruguay and Sweden, among others), the lowest number of flights last year was in Chad, with just 75.

8.  Natural disasters

This map shows which countries are most at risk from earthquakes, storms, floods or droughts, according to the 2015 World Risk Report, compiled by the United Nations University for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). The report also takes into account how well prepared each country is to deal with a disaster. Europe – with the exception of the Netherlands, Albania and Serbia – is largely free from risk, as is the US and Canada. Africa and the Pacific Rim countries are, unsurprisingly, where the danger is highest.

The 10 safest countries, according to the report

  1. Qatar 0.1
  2. Malta 0.61
  3. Barbados 1.16
  4. Saudi Arabia 1.32
  5. Grenada 1.44
  6. Iceland 1.55
  7. Kiribati 1.78
  8. Bahrain 1.81
  9. United Arab Emirates 2.1
  10. Sweden 2.26

The 10 least safe

  1. Timor-Leste 16.37
  2. El Salvador 16.85
  3. Cambodia 16.9
  4. Costa Rica 16.94
  5. Solomon Islands 18.11
  6. Bangladesh 19.81
  7. Guatemala 20.88
  8. Philippines 27.52
  9. Tonga 28.23
  10. Vanuatu 36.43

9. Urbanisation

This map shows the world according to urban population as a percentage of total population. Those countries or territories in dark blue have the most urbanised populations, those in lighter colours the least. There are seven places where 100 per cent of the population lives in urban areas, as defined by national statistical offices: Hong Kong, Singapore, Bermuda, Macao, Cayman Islands, Sint Maarten and Monaco. Other highly urbanised countries include Qatar, Kuwait, Belgium, Malta and Uruguay. The least urbanised populations are mostly in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, with Trindad and Tobago, Burundi, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Malawi, Nepal and Sri Lanka among the 10 most rural countries.

10. Reliance on tourism

This map demonstrates those countries that rely most on income from tourism (show in red). Nine of the top 10 are islands, including the Maldives and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, and the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Aruba and Anguilla in the Caribbean. Macau – a special administrative region of China – relies more heavily on tourist dollars than any other place, with 44 per cent of its GDP coming from overseas visitors.

11. The world’s greenest places

The map above shows those countries with the highest percentage of forest area, according to World Bank Open Data. Unsurprisingly, the tropical lands of South America, the Caribbean, Africa, south-east Asia and the South Pacific dominate, with Suriname, Micronesia, Palau, Gabon, Guyana, American Samoa and the Solomon Islands all in the top 10. But some more northerly countries fare well too, with Finland (72.9 per cent forest area), 11th, Sweden (69.2 per cent) 15th, and Japan (68.6 per cent) 17th. And the least tree-filled countries? There are four with no forest whatsoever, according to World Bank’s definition – San Marino, Qatar, Greenland and Oman – while in a further 12 places there is less than one per cent.

12. Railways

This map shows the world’s nations according to their railways. Those shown in dark blue have the most extensive networks, those in lighter colours the smallest. Unsurprisingly, the largest and most populous countries dominate, with the USA, China, Russia, India and Canada making up the top five. There are some more surprising findings, however. The British attachment to rail travel is clear. It has the world’s 17th largest rail network, at 17,732km, despite being just the 78th largest nation by land area. That figure was once as high as 34,000km. Romania’s 22,298km network is also impressive, putting it 15th on the list, even though it is only the world’s 81st largest country. Many countries don’t have any railways at all, often due to the harsh, mountainous or densely forested surroundings. They include Iceland, Greenland, Yemen, Oman, Bhutan, Libya and Papua New Guinea.

13. Road deaths

Each country on this map is colour-coded to reflect the number of road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year. Most of the bottom 10 – including Eritrea, the deadliest driving destination, Libya (40.5) and Iraq (31.5) – are unlikely to feature on the travel itineraries of most Britons. But a couple – Thailand (38.1) and South Africa (31.9) – are popular holiday destinations. Relatively risky roads can also be found in Ecuador, Vietnam, Brazil, Paraguay, Kenya and Laos. The safest places to drive include the Maldives (1.9 deaths, though the lack of roads probably helps), Norway (2.9), Denmark (3), Sweden (3) and Switzerland (3.4). Britain is just behind, with only 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year.

14. Which countries have paved paradise?

This map shows the world according to the total length of each territory’s road networks. Unsuprisingly, the US – a nation of RVs, pickup trucks and wide open spaces where the car is undoubtedly king – comes top, boasting an incredible 6,586,610km of roads. The rest of the top five, consisting of India, China, Brazil and Russia, is also unlikely to shock – each is colossal in size and/or in population. Blissfully tarmac-free countries include Suriname, Jordan, Lesotho and El Salvador. And the tiniest road network of all? That honour goes to Tuvalu, in the south Pacific, with just eight kilometres.

The 10 biggest road networks

  1. USA – 6,586,610km
  2. India – 4,689,842
  3. China – 4,106,387
  4. Brazil – 1,580,964
  5. Russia – 1,283,387
  6. Japan – 1,210,251
  7. Canada – 1,042,300
  8. France – 1,028,446
  9. Australia – 823,217
  10. South Africa – 747,014

The 10 smallest

  1. Tuvalu – 8km
  2. Cocos (Keeling) Islands – 22
  3. Gibraltar – 29
  4. Nauru – 30
  5. Sint Maarten – 53
  6. Monaco – 77
  7. Norfolk Island – 80
  8. Maldives – 88
  9. Saint Pierre and Miquelon – 117
  10. Niue – 120

15. The world’s most connected countries

The map below shows the world according to average connection speed in Mbits/s, as recorded by Akamai – the content delivery network (CDN) responsible for serving between 15 and 30 per cent of all web traffic.

A couple of places appear surprisingly high up. The Norwegian island pairing of Svalbard and Jan Mayen, for example, has an average connection speed of 36.5Mbits/s – the highest of all. But it only has one unique IP address, so the result is somewhat skewed. The lofty positions of The Vatican (3rd) and Antarctica (27th) are also due to the low number of readings.
Akamai’s official rankings only take into account countries or regions with a unique IP count of at least 25,000, which gives South Korea the true top spot, followed by Ireland, Hong Kong, Sweden, The Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland. Norway, Latvia and Finland complete the top 10. The UK is 23rd in the ranking, the US 20th, Australia 50th and China 111th.