BEST COUNTRIES
                                         In partnership with  and    

Behind a country's wealth and success are the policies that create possibilities, the people that drive the effort and the history that shapes the environment and perspective. Globalization has expanded a country's presence beyond its physical borders, and the 2018 Best Countries rankings seek to understand a nation's worth beyond hard metrics. The 2018 Best Countries report and rankings are based on how global perceptions define countries in terms of a number of qualitative characteristics, impressions that have the potential to drive trade, travel and investment and directly affect national economies. The report covers perceptions of 80 nations.

Ranking the Countries

The study and model used to score and rank countries were developed by Y&R's BAV Group and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, specifically professor David J. Reibstein, in consultation with U.S. News & World Report.

Switzerland flagSwitzerland

#1 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017

Switzerland, officially called the Swiss Federation, is a small country in Central Europe made up of 16,000 square miles of glacier-carved Alps, lakes and valleys. It’s one of the world’s wealthiest countries, and has been well-known for centuries for its neutrality. The Swiss Confederation was initially founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among cantons. In 1499, the Confederation became independent from the Holy Roman Empire. In 1848, a new constitution turned the Confederation into a centralized federal government, ending a period of conflict. Since then, the country has enjoyed relative tranquility.

$659.8 billion 
GDP
 
 8.4 million 
POPULATION
 
 $60,374 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Canada flagCanada

#2 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017 Canada takes up about two-fifths of the North American continent, making it the second-largest country in the world after Russia. The country is sparsely populated, with most of its 35.5 million residents living within 125 miles of the U.S. border. Canada’s expansive wilderness to the north plays a large role in Canadian identity, as does the country’s reputation of welcoming immigrants. Although the Norse briefly settled in Canada during the 10th century, European exploration accelerated in the 1500s. France and Britain angled for control over the region, with the British cementing their dominance in 1763. The country was a collection of British colonies until it became a self-governing dominion in 1867. 

$1.5 trillion 
GDP
 
 36.3 million 
POPULATION
 
 $46,441 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Germany flagGermany

#3 in Best Countries Overall

#4 out of 80 in 2017 Germany, the most populous nation in the European Union, possesses one of the largest economies in the world and has seen its role in the international community grow steadily since reunification. The Central European country borders nine nations, and its landscape varies, from the northern plains that reach to the North and Baltic seas to the Bavarian Alps in the south.

$3.5 trillion 
GDP
 
 82.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $48,449 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

United Kingdom flagUnited Kingdom

#4 in Best Countries Overall

#3 out of 80 in 2017 The United Kingdom is a highly developed nation that exerts considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence. Located off the northwest corner of Europe, the country includes the island of Great Britain – which contains England, Scotland and Wales – and the northern portion of the island of IrelandThe year 2017 ushered in anxiety about the country’s role on the global stage, due to the public voting in the summer of 2016 to leave the European Union. The vote raisesquestions about the European Union, as well as thepolicies supporting the eurozone.

$2.6 trillion 
GDP
 
 65.6 million 
POPULATION
 
 $42,421 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Japan flagJapan

#5 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017 Japan, one of the world’s most literate and technically advanced nations, is an East Asian country made up of four main islands. While most of Japan is covered by mountains and heavily wooded areas, the country’s roughly 126 million people lead a distinctly urban lifestyle. Long culturally influenced by its neighbors, today the country blends its ancient traditions with aspects of Western life.

$4.9 trillion 
GDP
 
 127.0 million 
POPULATION
 
 $41,220 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Sweden flagSweden

#6 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017 The Kingdom of Sweden, flanked by Norway to the west and the Baltic Sea to the east, expands across much of the Scandinavian Peninsula and is one of the largest countries in the European Union by land mass. Capital city Stockholm was claimed in the 16th century, and border disputes through the Middle Ages established the modern-day nation.

$511.0 billion 
GDP
 
 9.9 million 
POPULATION
 
 $49,759 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Australia flagAustralia

#7 in Best Countries Overall

#8 out of 80 in 2017 The Commonwealth of Australia occupies the Australian continent. The country also includes some islands, most notably Tasmania. Indigenous people occupied the land for at least 40,000 years before the first British settlements of the 18th century.

$1.2 trillion 
GDP
 
 24.1 million 
POPULATION
 
 $48,712 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

United States flagUnited States

#8 in Best Countries Overall

#7 out of 80 in 2017 The United States of America is a North American nation that is the world’s most dominant economic and military power. Likewise, its cultural imprint spans the world, led in large part by its popular culture expressed in music, movies and television. In 2016 the country elected Donald Trump president. Trump's rhetoric and stances on issues including immigration and foreign trade have raised questions around the world, including from the country’s closest allies, about the nation’s future course on the global stage. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. launched its War on Terror, including the Iraq War, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and other military strikes, including the 2011 killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The war has had wide-reaching effects on the country’s politics, economy and global alliances that resonate to this day.

Overall Rankings

France flagFrance

#9 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017 It is difficult to overstate the influence France has on the world, both in the past and today. Located in Western Europe, France is one of the world’s oldest countries, and its reach extends around the globe through science, politics, economics and perhaps above all, culture. Starting in the Middle Ages, France evolved through kingdom, empire and finally, into a republic. It was one of the first nations to champion the rights of the individual.France today is a democracy with a separation of power falling between executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

Overall Rankings

Netherlands flagNetherlands

#10 in Best Countries Overall

#11 out of 80 in 2017 

Situated along the fringes of Western Europe, the Netherlands is a coastal lowland freckled with windmills characteristic of its development around the water. Three major European rivers - the Rhine, Meuse and Schelde - run through neighbors Germany and Belgium into the nation’s busy ports. 

The Kingdom of the Netherlands emerged in 1815 after years of Spanish and later French occupation. In 2010, a collection of island territories in the Caribbean known as the Dutch Antilles were disbanded, but Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten remain constituent countries within the Kingdom. 

Known as Dutch, the people of the Netherlands have formed what has long been considered a tolerant society,though some politicians are increasingly voicing concerns over immigration and Islam.. In 2001, the country became the first to legalize same-sex marriage, and national stances on drugs, prostitution, euthanasia and abortion are liberal. Holland also boasts the highest concentration of museums in the world. It was the birthplace of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, as well as the microscope, telescope and thermometer. 

More than 1,000 bridges and 20,000 miles of bike pathsconnect the densely populated nation, with most citizens concentrated in a grouping of cities along the coast, known as the Randstad. Much of the country is underwater, and the 40 million people that touch down in capital city Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport each year land more than a dozen feet below sea level. 

The seat of the government is located about 40 miles southwest of the capital in The Hague. The Dutch operate under a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, within which there are two main political parties. In 2012, leaders of the two parties signed a cooperative coalition agreement, focused on improving health care, the housing market, the labor market, foreign policy and the energy sector. 

[Explore the top universities in the Netherlands.] 

Known for its tulips, this high-income, developed nation is one of the world’s leading exporters of agriculture, an industry that has become mostly mechanized. An open-market policy and prime transportation location help the Netherlands maintain a trade surplus, but the economy continues to recover from an expensive stimulus program designed to help it bounce back after the economic downturn in 2009. 

The Netherlands is active in United Nations peacekeeping efforts and headquarters The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It was a founding member of NATO and the modern-day European Union, of which it has been quite vocally supportive.

Overall Rankings

Denmark flagDenmark

#11 in Best Countries Overall

#12 out of 80 in 2017 The Kingdom of Denmark emerged in the 10th century and includes two North Atlantic island nations, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Along with Sweden and Norway, it forms Scandinavia, a cultural region in Northern Europe. Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, also serves as the country’s cultural and industrial hub. With a population of more than 1 million, Copenhagen is home to notable institutions such as the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Copenhagen also serves as a hub connecting Northern Europe with the rest of the world, with the largest international airport in Scandinavia, an active port, a subway system and the Oresund Bridge, connecting the city with Malmo, Sweden.     

$306.1 billion 
GDP
 
 5.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $48,230 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Norway flagNorway

#12 in Best Countries Overall

#10 out of 80 in 2017 The Kingdom of Norway is the westernmost country in theScandinavian peninsula, made up mostly of mountainous terrain. Nearly all of its population lives in the south, surrounding the capital, Oslo. Norway’s coastline is made up of thousands of miles of fjords, bays and island shores. The Norwegians developed a maritime culture, and were active throughout the Viking era, establishing settlements in Iceland and Greenland. For many years, Norway’s fate was tied to Denmark and Sweden. In 1905, Norway gained independence from Sweden through a referendum. The country was neutral during both World Wars but was nonetheless occupied by Nazi Germany for five years.

$370.6 billion 
GDP
 
 5.2 million 
POPULATION
 
 $69,407 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

New Zealand flagNew Zealand

#13 in Best Countries Overall

#14 out of 80 in 2017 

British and Polynesian influences course through picturesque New Zealand, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean southeast of Australia. Early Maori settlers ceded sovereignty to British invaders with the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, and European settlers flooded in. 

Today, 70 percent of Kiwis, a common term for the people of New Zealand after a native flightless bird, are of European descent. A sense of pride has surged among the Maori, the country’s first settlers who now account for about 14 percent, as homeland grievances become more openly addressed.

Though the British monarch remains head of state, New Zealand has operated under an independentparliamentary democracy led by a prime minister since its independence in 1907. The vast majority of its 4.5 million people are concentrated in the north island, with nearly one-third living in Auckland. But low density and scattered populations make for peaceful exploration of the nation’s impressive mountains and pristine beaches of “Lord of the Rings” trilogy movie fame.

New Zealand saw impressive growth and transformation in the decades following independence. The export market, abounding with dairy, sheep, beef, poultry, fruit, vegetables and wine, was opened beyond the United Kingdom, and manufacturing and tourism were expanded. Per capita income remains high and, at 7.4 percent, education expenditures as a percent of gross domestic product are some of the highest in the world.

[Explore the top universities in New Zealand.]

The Kiwi spirit and culture are personified by such notable natives as Sir Edmund Hillary who first climbed Mount Everest in 1953 and Lord Rutherford, who split the atom. The bungee jump, Hamilton Jet boat, referee’s whistle and frozen meat are also credited to New Zealanders.

Since 1980, New Zealand has been a nuclear free zone. It is a leader in peacekeeping and global security and party to key international organizations, including the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Pacific Islands Forum.


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$185.0 billion 
GDP
 
 4.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $37,165 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Finland flagFinland

#14 in Best Countries Overall

#13 out of 80 in 2017 Geography defines the history and culture of Nordic Finland, one of the most northern-reaching countries in the world. Bordered by Scandinavia, Russia, the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, Finland and its vast stretches of heavily forested open land acts as a northern gate between West and East. Finland is a bilingual country – Finnish and Swedish are both official languages.

$236.8 billion 
GDP
 
 5.5 million 
POPULATION
 
 $42,261 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Italy flagItaly

#15 in Best Countries Overall

#16 out of 80 in 2017 Italy is a south-central European country, whose boot-shaped borders extend into the Mediterranean Sea. The country’s historical cities, world-renowned cuisine and geographic beauty make it a popular destination for more than 40 million tourists each year. The nation is home to Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, and houses two countries within its borders – the Vatican and San Marino.

$1.8 trillion 
GDP
 
 60.6 million 
POPULATION
 
 $36,823 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Singapore flagSingapore

#16 in Best Countries Overall

#15 out of 80 in 2017 

Founded as a British trading colony in the 19th century, Singapore is a bustling metropolis in Southeast Asia and home to one of the world’s busiest ports. The vast majority of its 5.7 million citizens live on the eponymous capital island, and dozens of surrounding islands complete the city state. 

Singapore gained self governance in 1959, and in 1963 joined the Federation of Malaysia. In 1965 it left the federation and became independent as the Republic of Singapore. Today, it operates under a conservative parliamentary republic that is world-renowned for its strict laws and tight regulation. While safety and security serve as a major point of pride, residents and visitors are subject to harsh penalties for chewing gum, littering and more.

One of Asia’s four economic tigers, Singapore has seenimpressive growth in recent years as efficient manufacturing and production practices have made way for free-market innovation in the booming electronics and pharmaceutical industries. Gross domestic product per capita is high and unemployment is low, making Singapore one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Singapore is densely populated, with most citizens living in urban high-rises. The Singaporean government has forecasted exponential population growth in the coming decades, with immigrants expected to account for more than half of the population by 2030.

[Explore the top universities in Singapore.]

Space constraints coupled with rapid population growth contribute to concerns about the rising cost of living and income inequality. Conservation, land reclamation efforts and improved environment-friendly practices amid the urbanization and industrial pollution are also a focus.  

Four official languages - Mandarin, English, Malay and Tamil - cater to the diverse population of a nation that has been an important gateway for international trade. Many also speak Singlish, a slang dialect. Local cuisine blends elements of Chinese, Indian and Western traditions, among others, as do the architecture and local festivals.

Singapore headquarters the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and is a member of a number of additional international organizations, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.


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$297.0 billion 
GDP
 
 5.6 million 
POPULATION
 
 $87,832 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Austria flagAustria

#17 in Best Countries Overall

#18 out of 80 in 2017 Austria a culturally rich, high-income parliamentary democracy that hosts several key international organizations. Located in the heart of Central Europe, the modern Austrian state was shaped by the two world wars of the 20th century.

$386.4 billion 
GDP
 
 8.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $47,726 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Luxembourg flagLuxembourg

#18 in Best Countries Overall

#17 out of 80 in 2017

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a landlocked country in northern Europe with Belgium to the west, France to the south and Germany to the east. The country is one of the smallest in the world and the second-wealthiest after Qatar. Castles and churches dot its forests and rolling hills. 

Luxembourg has fallen under the rule of many states and kingdoms since its emergence in the 10th century, but has always remained a distinct political unit. After years of control under the Hapsburgs, Luxembourg formed a union with the Netherlands in 1815. The country, whose boundaries have constricted over time, won independence in 1867.

Overall Rankings

Spain flagSpain

#19 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017 A number of independent kingdoms united in 1492 to form the Kingdom of Spain, a cultural patchwork that continues to shape the modern nation’s dynamic identity. Spain comprises much of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal on the southwestern edge of Europe. It also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and two enclaves in North Africa.

$1.2 trillion 
GDP
 
 46.4 million 
POPULATION
 
 $36,347 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

China flagChina

#20 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017 Home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, China has been ruled by the Communist Party since 1949, when the nation was established as the People’s Republic of China. The country is the world’s most populous and is considered the second-largest by land mass.

$11.2 trillion 
GDP
 
 1.4 billion 
POPULATION
 
 $15,395 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Ireland flagIreland

#21 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017 

The Republic of Ireland is an island nation in the Atlantic Ocean, separated from Britain on the east by the Irish Sea. Nicknamed the Emerald Isle for its well-watered grasslands, the country is known for its rich cultural traditions, lively pub scene and its struggles for independence. The country comprises five-sixths of the island of Ireland – the remaining sixth is Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom

Irish culture has been largely influenced by the Celtic tribes who reached Ireland around the 6th century B.C. In the following centuries the country endured invasions by the Vikings, Normans and British. After a bloody fight for independence and civil war in the early 20th century, Ireland became a republic in 1949.

$294.1 billion 
GDP
 
 4.8 million 
POPULATION
 
 $69,276 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

South Korea flagSouth Korea

#22 in Best Countries Overall

#23 out of 80 in 2017South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, is a nation in eastern Asia with a long history of conflict that occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. Liberated from Japan in 1945 at the end of World War II, South Korea was invaded by communist forces in North Korea a few years later. Aid requested by the United Nations helped end the three-year war and support the south on its way to democracy. A critical divide between the two nations along the center of the peninsula remains.

$1.4 trillion 
GDP
 
 51.2 million 
POPULATION
 
 $37,731 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

United Arab Emirates flagUnited Arab Emirates

#23 in Best Countries Overall

#22 out of 80 in 2017 The United Arab Emirates, or UAE, is a federation of seven emirates on the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula. The country, wedged between between Oman and Saudi Arabia, has rocky desert, wetlands, waterless mountains and coastlines that stretch along the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.

The emirates that currently comprise the UAE were known as the Trucial States in the 19th century as a result of a series of agreements with Great Britain. In 1971, six of these states merged to form the UAE; a seventh joined in 1972.

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$348.7 billion 
GDP
 
 9.3 million 
POPULATION
 
 $68,092 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Portugal flagPortugal

#24 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017

Jutting into the Atlantic Ocean on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula and flanked by Spain to the east, Portugal is a nation with its gaze turned outward. Its history is steeped in discovery and exploration, beginning with early leaders that, after ousting Celtic and Moorish settlers in the 12th century, focused on building their kingdom beyond continental borders.

The westernmost nation of continental Europe used its maritime strength to colonize and forge trade routes toIndiaChinaJapan and the coasts of Africa. Such legendary explorers as Bartholomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan sailed under Portuguese masts throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, their journeys blessed by ambitious monarchs. Eighty percent of Portugal’s current population is Roman Catholic.

The Discovery Age giant was thrown into economic turmoil after an earthquake ravaged the capital, Lisbon, in 1755, a fall that Portugal has never quite recovered from. Largely dependent on the success of its colonies, the nation’s strained economy was pushed into steeper decline with the independence of Brazil, its wealthiest colony, in 1822 and the flood of emigrants returning home as other African and Asian colonies were relinquished through the next century.

Financial strife continues to haunt Portugal. The nation’s budget deficit, while decreasing, is well above the European Union’s accepted rate, and financial assistance received from the European Commission and International Monetary Fund in 2011 is still being repaid. The country’s gross domestic product per capita is one of the lowest among wealthy nations, and unemployment rates are high in this heavily service-based economy. Long stretches of beach, a mild climate and 15 UNESCO Heritage Sites make Portugal an increasingly popular place to visit.

Militaristic dictatorships that had taken advantage of a nation in crisis were finally overturned in 1974, and a democracy was established. Portugal released its last-standing colony, Macau, to China in 1999, and the once vast global empire has been reduced to a nation of about 10 million residents, heavily concentrated around Lisbon and the nearby coastal region.

[Explore the top universities in Portugal.]

Portugal is a founding member of NATO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Free Trade Association. It is also a member of the World Bank and World Trade Organization.


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$204.6 billion 
GDP
 
 10.3 million 
POPULATION
 
 $28,916 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

India flagIndia

#25 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017

Located in Southeast Asia, India sits on a peninsula that extends between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. The country, the birthplace of Hinduism and Buddhism, is the world’s second most-populous nation after China, and has roughly one-sixth of the world’s population

For many years of its long history, India faced incursions from the north by Turks, Arabs, Persians and others. By the 19th century, Great Britain became the dominant power on the subcontinent. After years of nonviolent struggle against British rule, India gained its independence in 1947.

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$2.3 trillion 
GDP
 
 1.3 billion 
POPULATION
 
 $6,694 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Russia flagRussia

#26 in Best Countries Overall

#27 out of 80 in 2017

The scale of Russia is difficult to imagine. It is the world’s largest country by land mass – nearly twice as big asCanada, the world’s second-largest nation – and covers all of northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe. It shares land borders with more than a dozen countries, and shares sea borders with Japan and the United States.

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$1.3 trillion 
GDP
 
 144.3 million 
POPULATION
 
 $26,926 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Thailand flagThailand

#27 in Best Countries Overall

#26 out of 80 in 2017

Thailand, which translates to “land of the free,” is the only Southeast Asian nation that did not encounter European colonization. Located just above the equator, the nation is wedged into the Indochina peninsula with neighborsMyanmar, Laos and Cambodia and has an arm that extends out to Malaysia.

Originally known as Siam, the kingdom was unified in the mid-14th century and became a constitutional monarchy in 1932 after a nonviolent revolution. Recurring coups have since escalated into large-scale political turmoil spurred by party division and grievances against leaders, and in 2014, the government was throw into interim military rule.

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$406.8 billion 
GDP
 
 68.9 million 
POPULATION
 
 $16,885 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Greece flagGreece

#28 in Best Countries Overall

#29 out of 80 in 2017

Located in southeastern Europe, Greece as an independent nation is young, existing since the 19th century. Its civilization, however, is one of history’s oldest and most influential, credited with creating the concept of democracy as well as the ancient Olympic Games, and laying Western foundations in science, the arts and philosophy.

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$194.6 billion 
GDP
 
 10.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $26,829 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Brazil flagBrazil

#29 in Best Countries Overall

#28 out of 80 in 2017

Occupying half of South America’s land mass, Brazil is the giant of the continent – both in size and in population. Brazil’s history is filled with economic turmoil, veering from boom to bust, and its culture is a melting pot that has traditionally welcomed the world.

Brazil is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. However, the country in the 21st century confronts serious questions touching on poverty, inequality, governance and the environment.

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$1.8 trillion 
GDP
 
 207.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $15,238 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Israel flagIsrael

#30 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017

Israel, the only Jewish nation in the world, is a small country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. For its relatively small size, the country has played a large role in global affairs. The country has a strong economy, landmarks of significance to several religions and strained relationships with many of its Arab neighbors.

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$318.7 billion 
GDP
 
 8.5 million 
POPULATION
 
 $35,220 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Mexico flagMexico

#31 in Best Countries Overall

#33 out of 80 in 2017

Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on its West and the Gulf of Mexico to its East, Mexico is the third-largest country in Latin America and has the second-largest economy. The nation is one of contrasts, with terrain encompassing arid lands and Caribbean coastlines and a society that has extremes of wealth and poverty.

Once home of the Maya, Aztec and other ancient civilizations, Mexico was ruled by Spain starting in the early 16th century. Administered by Spain for three centuries, the country achieved independence early in the 19th century, first as a short-lived empire and then as a republic in 1824.

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$1.0 trillion 
GDP
 
 127.5 million 
POPULATION
 
 $18,935 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Poland flagPoland

#32 in Best Countries Overall

#31 out of 80 in 2017

Poland is a medium-sized nation located in central Europe with a history and culture shaped by a millennium of conflict across the European continent.

The Christian Kingdom of Poland was formally created in 1025 and by the mid-16th century the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth was one of the largest countries on the continent. Partitioned by neighboring countries in the late 18th century, Poland briefly regained its independence following World War I. Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union invaded the country in 1939, marking the beginning of World War II.

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$469.5 billion 
GDP
 
 37.9 million 
POPULATION
 
 $27,690 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Czech Republic flagCzech Republic

#33 in Best Countries Overall

#37 out of 80 in 2017

The Czech Republic may have been born in 1993, but the nation’s history goes back more than 1,000 years. Its location in the heart of Central Europe has nurtured a rich culture yet provided its people with a reserve born from interference and invasions from larger powers. Perhaps due to the country’s history, the people are among the least religious in the world.

The Czech Republic’s modern history began at the end of World War I, when Czechs and Slovaks, formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, created Czechoslovakia. Nazi Germany occupied the Czech lands during World War II, and following the war, the newly reformed Czechoslovakia fell under the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. The “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 pushed the Communist Party from power and returned democracy to the country. On Jan. 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia dissolved and two separate nations formed, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czech Republic today is a parliamentary democracy.

The Czech Republic is considered an advanced economy with high living standards. The country compares favorably to the rest of the world for inequality-adjusted human development, according to the United Nations. Machinery, engineering, electronics, automobile manufacturing and brewing are major industries while tourism and agriculture are also industrially significant.

[Explore the top universities in the Czech Republic.]

Czechs are the country’s largest ethnic group, and Moravians, Slovaks and Poles are other significant groups. While Czechs don't tend to be particularly religious, Roman Catholicism is the most popular faith among religious citizens. Like other developed societies, the Czech Republic has an aging population. A significant proportion of children are born outside of marriage, according to the government’s Statistical Office.

Culturally, the Czech Republic has a rich history in music, literature, visual arts and decorative glass and crystal. Notable classical composers include Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana, while notable writers have included Franz Kafka and the late Vaclav Havel – the author and political dissident who served as the country’s first president following the downfall of communism.

The Czech Republic is a member of major international organizations such as the United Nations, and regional groupings such as the European Union, NATO and the Council of Europe.

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$192.9 billion 
GDP
 
 10.6 million 
POPULATION
 
 $33,529 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Malaysia flagMalaysia

#34 in Best Countries Overall

#35 out of 80 in 2017

Located in two separate regions in the South China Sea, Malaysia is a small country with a fast-growing economy. Once a British colony, the country is home to about 29 million people, many of whom live in or near the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

Located on an ocean trade route, Malaysia came under the influence of ChinaIndia, the Middle East and eventually Great Britain in the late 18th century. The Federation of Malaysia was formed in 1948 by the unification of former British-ruled territories along the Malay Peninsula. In 1963, the former British colonies of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, joined the Federation, thereafter known simply as Malaysia. The first few years were marked by a communist uprising, confrontation with Indonesia and the withdrawal of Singapore in 1965. 

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$296.4 billion 
GDP
 
 31.2 million 
POPULATION
 
 $27,292 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Qatar flagQatar

#35 in Best Countries Overall

#34 out of 80 in 2017

Qatar is located on a small desert peninsula that extends northward into the Persian Gulf from the Arabian Peninsula.

Qatar became subject to the Islamic caliphate after the rise of Islam in 628 A.D. and was subsequently ruled by a number of local and foreign powers. Since the mid-1800s, the country has been ruled by the Al Thani family.

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$152.5 billion 
GDP
 
 2.6 million 
POPULATION
 
 $125,160 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Turkey flagTurkey

#36 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017

Founded in 1923, Turkey is home to a unique intersection of culture as the nation bridges Asia with Europe. The country is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, though influences of bygone Roman and Byzantine rule pepper the streets and skyline. Extravagant mosques and cathedrals can both be found within blocks of the Grand Bazaar in the city of Istanbul, home to 14 million people.

Religious identity is an important part of Turkey’s evolution. For more than a decade, power struggles between a military-backed secular government and an increasingly popular religious movement have raised concerns about government stability. The Islamic-based Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, was recently elected to lead the parliamentary republic, temporarily curbing fears of anti-Islamic sentiments.

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$857.7 billion 
GDP
 
 79.5 million 
POPULATION
 
 $24,986 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Saudi Arabia flagSaudi Arabia

#37 in Best Countries Overall

#32 out of 80 in 2017

Saudi Arabia is the giant of the Middle East, with both the vast majority of land and wealth of the Arabian Peninsula falling within its borders.

Millions of devout Muslims from around the world participate in a pilgrimage to Mecca each year, believed to be the birthplace of the Muslim prophet Mohammed and the cradle of Islam. A fierce religious identity dominates the Sunni-majority nation, with principles of the Koran, conservative Sunni teachings known as Wahhabism and strict Islamic Shariah law present in all aspects of life.

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$646.4 billion 
GDP
 
 32.3 million 
POPULATION
 
 $55,331 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Hungary flagHungary

#38 in Best Countries Overall

#46 out of 80 in 2017

Hungary is a landlocked central European country with Christian roots, which for centuries served as a barrier for Ottoman Turkish expansion in Europe.

While Hungary enjoys the relative economic prosperitytypical of many European countries, it is linguistically isolated from its European peers. Over a beer and goulash, most of Hungary’s 9.9 million citizens speak Hungarian, or Magyar. Like Finnish and Estonian, the language is one of the few non-Indo-European languages in Europe.

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$124.3 billion 
GDP
 
 9.8 million 
POPULATION
 
 $27,475 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

South Africa flagSouth Africa

#39 in Best Countries Overall

#38 out of 80 in 2017

South Africa is located on the southern tip of Africa, with coastlines on both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Africa’s third-largest economy behind Nigeria and Egypt, South Africa draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year eager to see its impressive terrain, wildlife and cultural diversity.

Although South Africa has come a long way since the end of apartheid in 1994, it remains a country of vast inequality and high crime. While the country is dotted with world-class dining, trendy shops, sprawling vineyards and upscale safari lodges, townships lacking basic infrastructure are often only a short distance away.

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$294.8 billion 
GDP
 
 55.9 million 
POPULATION
 
 $13,291 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Argentina flagArgentina

#40 in Best Countries Overall

#42 out of 80 in 2017

Argentina, the birthplace of tango, has experienced its share of tragedy and hardship since it became an independent nation in the early 19th century. During the 20th century, Argentina tilted between democracy and authoritarian rule, marked by the 1976-1983 “Dirty War” launched against political opponents of the country’s military government. Estimates of the number of people who disappeared during this period range from 7,000 to 30,000. Democracy returned to Argentina in 1983.

The overwhelming majority of its citizens are ethnically European or partially European, reflecting the country’s 16th-century Spanish colonization and the waves of 19th and early 20th century immigration that flowed from Europe – particularly Spain and Italy. While the majority of Argentines are Catholic, the nation is home to many other religions, including substantial Jewish and Muslim communities.

The World Bank classifies Argentina as a high-income nation. The country’s economy is driven by manufacturing, agricultural exports, natural resources and the services industry, which includes a thriving tourism industry.

[Explore the top universities in Argentina.]

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$545.9 billion 
GDP
 
 43.8 million 
POPULATION
 
 $20,053 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Indonesia flagIndonesia

#41 in Best Countries Overall

#39 out of 80 in 2017

Made up of a chain of thousands of islands between Asia and Australia, Indonesia is the world's largest archipelagic state and the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation. Indonesia’s people are diverse, speaking more than 300 languages and ranging from cosmopolitan urbanites to rural villagers. There are hundreds of volcanoes in Indonesia, the most famous of which is Krakatoa, whose explosion in 1883 was one of the most catastrophic in history.

Hindu-Buddhist and Muslim kingdoms existed before the arrival of the Dutch, who colonized the archipelago but ceded independence to the country after an occasionally violent struggle in 1949. From 1967 until 1988, President Suharto ruled Indonesia with an iron hand. Free and fair elections took place in 1999, after rioting toppled his dictatorship.

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$932.3 billion 
GDP
 
 261.1 million 
POPULATION
 
 $11,717 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Egypt flagEgypt

#42 in Best Countries Overall

#45 out of 80 in 2017

Egypt, with vast swaths of desert in its east and west and the rich Nile River Valley at its heart, is site to one of the world’s earliest and greatest civilizations. Its location at the northeast corner of Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea has made it a cultural and trading center. But its location has also made it a prize to claim by empires and put it at the center of social and religious movements.

At the beginning of 2014 voters approved a new constitution, the latest of several versions since modern-day Egypt was formed in the 1920s. The constitution’s passage was born from the upheaval that roiled the country and many other Arab nations that sought to end authoritarian rule. Egypt’s 2014 constitution upholds it as a republic with Islam as the state religion and Arabic as the nation’s official language. The country has executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government.

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$336.3 billion 
GDP
 
 95.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $12,551 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Peru flagPeru

#43 in Best Countries Overall

#44 out of 80 in 2017

Peru is a nation whose history is as diverse as the peaks and valleys of its terrain. A strip of the Andes mountains separates a stretch of coastal plains from the dense Amazon jungle that covers more than half of the country. It is the third-largest country in South America, linking Ecuador and Chile along the west coast and bordering ColombiaBrazil and Bolivia inland.

Military rule led the nation through its formative years after independence from Spain in 1821, traces of which could be found in the authoritarian rule of the transformative 1980s. Today, though recovering from human-rights abuses and tensions with radical guerrilla groups, democratic support and power is building steadily. The Republic of Peru is governed by a constitution with a president as chief of state.

The ancient empire of the Incas was centered in Peru, leaving remnants of an expansive kingdom in its wake. A bite of the indigenous coca leaf can help to settle altitude sickness for those who climb the majestic Incan citadel of Machu Picchu.

The plant is also the main component of cocaine, for which Peru rivals Colombia for the top spot in production. It draws a significant portion of its gross domestic product from the narcotics trade and other organized crime, including illegal mining. Much of the world’s copper, silver and gold come from Peru, and the country has benefited tremendously from high international prices for these goods. Recent stimulus packages have aimed to improve infrastructure, invest in education and reduce informal taxation.

While the economy grows exponentially, heavy pollution affects rain forest ecosystems and contaminates drinking water, and demand for workers brings about one-third of the nation’s children into the labor force. Poverty levels have been halved since the beginning of the century, but, at 30 percent, are still high, especially in rural areas. Peru is a middle-income country facing many of the same problems of a low-income country, without the eligibility or attention for assistance.

Peru is a member of key international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, APEC and the World Bank.

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$192.1 billion 
GDP
 
 31.8 million 
POPULATION
 
 $12,913 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Vietnam flagVietnam

#44 in Best Countries Overall

#40 out of 80 in 2017

Curving along the eastern edge of the Indochina Peninsula, Vietnam shares long stretches of its borders with Cambodia, Laos and the South China Sea. Occupied by the French until 1954, a communist state emerged in 1975 after the People’s Army of the north and Viet Cong guerilla fighters defeated the anti-communist south. The bitter war garnered international attention and participation, especially from the United States, at a critical juncture in the Cold War era in which communism was gaining ground on the global stage.

“Doi moi” economic policy reforms beginning in 1986 have helped The Socialist Republic of Vietnam transition to a more modern, competitive nation. State-owned enterprises and agriculture, which once monopolized the economy, are losing prominence as the nation works to achieve sustainable development through more open trade and industry, including food processing, garment manufacturing, machine-building and mining. The United States is now the nation’s most prominent trade partner, a position reinforced by former President Obama’s visit to the country in 2016.


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$202.6 billion 
GDP
 
 92.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $6,423 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Costa Rica flagCosta Rica

#45 in Best Countries Overall

#47 out of 80 in 2017

Located in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica has  been one of the most politically and economically stable countries in Central America since its birth in the 19th century The nation compares favorably to its regional neighbors in areas of human development, and it has used its landscapes of jungles, forests and coastlines to develop an international reputation for ecotourism.

Costa Rica’s constitution was adopted in 1949, and has since been amended to declare the nation as multicultural and multiethnic. The overwhelming majority of Costa Rica’s population is either white or mestizo – a combination of European and Amerindian descent. The population also includes indigenous, African and mixed descent groups. Like other former Spanish colonies across the Americas, Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish and the most commonly practiced religion is Roman Catholicism. However, a significant percentage of the population identifies with other religions, such as Evangelical Christianity and Jehovah’s Witness.

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$57.4 billion 
GDP
 
 4.9 million 
POPULATION
 
 $16,434 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Dominican Republic flagDominican Republic

#46 in Best Countries Overall

#51 out of 80 in 2017

The Dominican Republic, the land of merengue and baseball, occupies two-thirds of the island Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. It was the site of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas, as well the first toehold for European settlement. The country’s history reflects many of the historical challenges that the rest of Latin America has faced: civil disorder, ethnic tensions, authoritarian rule and economic upheaval.

The Dominican Republic is a representative democracy, with a multi-party political system and traditional separations of government power falling on executive, legislative and judicial branches.

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$71.6 billion 
GDP
 
 10.6 million 
POPULATION
 
 $16,071 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Morocco flagMorocco

#47 in Best Countries Overall

#48 out of 80 in 2017

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim country in western North Africa, with coastlines on the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Just an hour ferry ride from Spain, the country has a unique mix of Arab, Berber, African and European cultural influences.

Unlike many of its neighbors, Morocco remained independent for much of its history. Once part of the Roman Empire, the country was ruled by a series of kingdoms after the Arab conquest of the late seventh century. Morocco thwarted attempts at Turkish and European control until the country became aFrench protectorate from 1912 to 1956, when it gained independence.

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a capital in Rabat. The monarch, who serves as head of state, appoints the prime minister, who serves as head of government. The country has a bicameral parliament with indirectly elected members.

The Moroccan government has pursued privatization and economic reform since the 1980s, and now has an open, diverse market economy. Key sectors of the economy include agriculture, aerospace, phosphates, textiles and apparel. The tourism and telecommunications sectors are becoming increasingly important.

Morocco is known for its cuisine, which is admired and imitated throughout the world. The country’s cooks make heavy use of spices and local ingredients, such as saffron, mint and olives. Couscous is Morocco’s premier food, and kabobs, soups and salads are often served. Harira, a thick lamb soup served with dates, is a national specialty served during Ramadan. Bread is a big part of every meal and is often washed down with mint tea, the national drink.

In addition to its mountainous interior, sunny coastline and portions of desert, Morocco boasts cities and buildings rich in historical significance.  Fez is the only complete medieval city in the Arab world, and Casablanca’s architecture blends Moroccan styles with French Art Deco to form unique designs.

Despite Morocco's economic progress, high unemployment, poverty and illiteracy continue to plague the country. Morocco is also involved in territorial disputes, over both the Western Sahara and several islands under Spanish control. Human rights groups complain of ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Morocco is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and a partner of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.


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$101.4 billion 
GDP
 
 35.3 million 
POPULATION
 
 $8,160 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Panama flagPanama

#48 in Best Countries Overall

#41 out of 80 in 2017

Panama is a Central American nation that connects Costa Rica and South America by way of Colombia. Much of the country’s narrative is tied to a connector of another kind: the Panama Canal, a hub of global trade and transportation that joins the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Caribbean Sea.

Construction of the canal began immediately after Panama’s secession from Colombia at the turn of the 20th century. The two nations, along with Ecuador and Venezuela initially, claimed joint independence fromSpain in 1821. The massive project was financed and built by the United States in return for a claim to sovereignty over land on either side of it, effectively splitting Panama in half.

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$55.2 billion 
GDP
 
 4.0 million 
POPULATION
 
 $22,989 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Philippines flagPhilippines

#49 in Best Countries Overall

#43 out of 80 in 2017

Thousands of islands in the South China Sea comprise the tropical nation of the Philippines. The land of beautiful beaches and abundant biodiversity has long been plagued by political instability, but its resilient economy continues to improve and push ahead of others in the region.

The Republic of the Philippines claimed independence fromJapan after World War II in 1946 with assistance from theUnited States, which had exercised colonial rule over the nation earlier in the century. American influence and ties remain prevalent in the Filipino society, although the relationship has become more strained since the 2016 election of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Citizens have led two revolutionary movements - in 1986, and again in 2001 - against corrupt leadership, leading to the exile and impeachment of two presidents. Though shaky, republican ideals have again taken hold. Recent government actions have boosted social spending in an effort to battle high unemployment and manage a rapidly growing population, a quarter of which lives below the poverty line.

Threats to national order also come from separatist groups primarily based in the southern part of the country.

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$304.9 billion 
GDP
 
 103.3 million 
POPULATION
 
 $7,739 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Croatia flagCroatia

#50 in Best Countries Overall

#49 out of 80 in 2017

Croatia has found itself at the crossroads of major historical movements, both East and West. These political shifts have uniquely shaped its present-day borders, which curve around Bosnia and Herzegovina in central Europe and stretch along the Adriatic Sea opposite Italy. The nation’s stunning Mediterranean coastline eases into the rugged Dinaric Alps and, continuing northeast, the fertile plains of the Danube River.

After World War I, the Croat, Serb and Slovene ethnic tribes joined to form what would become Yugoslavia. The Croats declared independence from the then-Communist state in 1991, and their new nation was thrown into years of territorial war and authoritarian rule. In 2009, ongoing border disputes with neighboring Slovenia were resolved and Slovenia lifted its objections to Croatia’s European Union membership.

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$50.4 billion 
GDP
 
 4.2 million 
POPULATION
 
 $22,937 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Sri Lanka flagSri Lanka

#51 in Best Countries Overall

#50 out of 80 in 2017

Referred to as the teardrop of India, Sri Lanka sits just off the southeast coast in the Indian Ocean. Scars of a bitter civil war are fading, and an island nation rich with resources and ripe for adventure is shining through.

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, previously known as Ceylon, is governed by an elected president and legislature. The young nation was born in 1948, when the early Sinhalese settlers claimed independence from the British, putting an end to a string of colonization by many countries, including Portugalthe Netherlands and India.

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$81.3 billion 
GDP
 
 21.2 million 
POPULATION
 
 $12,285 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Chile flagChile

#52 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017

Distance is one way to define Chile, a long, narrow country on South America’s western coastline whose dramatic landscapes may play a part in the country’s history of producing great poets.

A trip from the country’s northern border with Peru to its southern tip at Cape Horn covers 2,700 miles. Chile is narrow – its widest point is just 150 miles – as its eastern border with Argentina backs up against the Andes, the longest continental mountain range in the world.  

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$247.0 billion 
GDP
 
 17.9 million 
POPULATION
 
 $24,089 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Slovenia flagSlovenia

#53 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017

Slovenia is a small country located in southern Central Europe, bordered by CroatiaHungaryAustriaItaly and the Adriatic Sea.

Slovenia had been ruled by many larger states dating to the Roman Empire and later the Habsburgs of Austria. Following World War I and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovenia achieved self-determination, eventually merging with Croatia and Serbia to first form a Kingdom of Yugoslavia. After World War II, Slovenia was part of a reformed socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. It declared independence in 1991 from the former Yugoslavia and today the country has a parliamentary democracy form of government.

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$44.0 billion 
GDP
 
 2.1 million 
POPULATION
 
 $32,216 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Romania flagRomania

#54 in Best Countries Overall

#58 out of 80 in 2017

Romania is the largest of the Balkan nations, tucked between Bulgaria and Ukraine in southeastern Europe along the Black Sea. It is a jigsaw of distinct regions, each with their own history and influence.

In the 1860s the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia united to form Romania and in 1877 it gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire. Transylvania, which was ruled by Austria and Hungary, was later acquired by Romania after fighting for the Allies in World War I.

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$186.7 billion 
GDP
 
 19.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $22,349 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Colombia flagColombia

#55 in Best Countries Overall

#62 out of 80 in 2017

Colombia is located in the northwest corner of South America and is the continent’s most populous Spanish-speaking nation. Roughly twice the geographic size ofFrance, Colombia is bordered by both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, as well as Panama, Venezuela, Brazil,Peru and Ecuador.

Colombia won independence from Spain in the early 19th century, and was one of three countries that formed out of the 19th-century collapse of Gran Colombia – the other two nations being Ecuador and Venezuela. Today the country is a democratic republic with universal suffrage, with separate executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government.

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$282.5 billion 
GDP
 
 48.7 million 
POPULATION
 
 $14,126 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Bulgaria flagBulgaria

#56 in Best Countries Overall

#63 out of 80 in 2017

Located in the southeastern corner of the Balkans, Bulgaria sits at the junction of Europe and Asia. Its location has made it susceptible to invasions in the past, but it also has provided a rich culture – the country is the birthplace of the Cyrillic script.

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$52.4 billion 
GDP
 
 7.1 million 
POPULATION
 
 $20,355 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Kenya flagKenya

#57 in Best Countries Overall

#61 out of 80 in 2017

When Kenya claimed its independence from the U.K. in 1963, leaders of the newly formed republic promoted a sense of national unity using the motto “harambee,” Swahili for ‘pulling together.’ The sentiment holds true today in a country that blends the rich culture and traditions of dozens of varied groups that call it home.

Scientists have called the East African nation, situated along the equator, the cradle of humankind. Some of the oldest and most complete human remains have been found along the Great Rift Valley, a volcano-lined trench that runs through western Kenya.

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$70.5 billion 
GDP
 
 48.5 million 
POPULATION
 
 $3,364 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Uruguay flagUruguay

#58 in Best Countries Overall

#54 out of 80 in 2017

Uruguay spent much of the 20th century under military rule before emerging as a democratic country in 1984. The country’s origins date to the 16th century, when it was discovered by the Portuguese in 1512, but it remained in contention between Spain and Portugal until it gained independence in the 1811 Battle of Las Piedras. A series of civil wars and internal strife occupied most of the 19th century.

Uruguay is a representative democratic republic with a presidential system. Executive power is exercised by the president and 13 cabinet ministers. The legislative branch is the General Assembly, consisting of two chambers. Members of both are elected by proportional representation.

Located in southeastern South America, Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, is the third most southern capital city in the world. Montevideo is the transportation hub of the country, with most paved roadways originating in the city, as well as Carrasco airport, built in 2009 for more than $156 million.  The Port of Montevideo is the most sophisticated container terminal in South America, handling more than 1.1 million containers annually.

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$52.4 billion 
GDP
 
 3.4 million 
POPULATION
 
 $21,395 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Latvia flagLatvia

#59 in Best Countries Overall

#60 out of 80 in 2017

On the edge of eastern Europe, Latvia sits nestled between Estonia and Lithuania. The trio form the Baltic states and share roots in early tribal settlers as well as similarly strategic locations along the Baltic Sea that have led to various coinciding conquests of their land throughout history.

Latvia is among the larger European countries in terms of landmass, but low population density has allowed more than half of the country’s geography to remain as natural ecosystems. There is great geographic diversity within the country’s borders, too, from Ventas Rumba, Europe’s widest waterfall, to the towering pines of Gauja National Park and the crystalline Baltic waters along the resort town of Jurmala.

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$27.7 billion 
GDP
 
 2.0 million 
POPULATION
 
 $25,702 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Ecuador flagEcuador

#60 in Best Countries Overall

#55 out of 80 in 2017

Named for its proximity to the Earth’s equator, the South American nation of Ecuador is home to a more dynamic society than its straightforward name may suggest. Tremendous culture is packed within a nation a quarter the size of its neighbors, Colombia and Peru.

Once part of the Inca Empire, Ecuador won independence from Spain in the early 1800s and was one of three countries that emerged from the 19th-century collapse of Gran Colombia. Its current population -- largely of mixed indigenous and European descent -- is a clear manifestation of these distinctive roots. Spanish is the official language, and Incan Quechua is used in formal intercultural relations.

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$97.8 billion 
GDP
 
 16.4 million 
POPULATION
 
 $11,185 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Bahrain flagBahrain

#61 in Best Countries Overall

#56 out of 80 in 2017

Off the east coast of Saudi Arabia, a collection of a few dozen small islands comprise the Kingdom of Bahrain. It is one of seven Arab states that border the Persian Gulf and, with the exception of Iraq, belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic union in the region.

Much of Bahrain’s identity stems from its relationship with the water surrounding it; translated from Arabic, its name means “the two seas.” In 1932, it was the first to discover oil off of its shores in the Persian Gulf. While its petroleum industry has not matched the same production level or profitability as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirateshave achieved, its central location to oil transit gives Bahrain a strategic advantage and an important role in foreign relations.

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$31.9 billion 
GDP
 
 1.4 million 
POPULATION
 
 $50,719 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Tanzania flagTanzania

#62 in Best Countries Overall

#59 out of 80 in 2017

Tanzania is an East African country home to the continent’s highest mountain – Kilimanjaro – and the world’s second-deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika. It also includes the Zanzibar Archipelago, several islands – sometimes called the “spice islands” – in the Indian Ocean.

In the 1800s, present-day Tanzania drew the colonial interests of the Germans and the British. The separate states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar gained independence from Britain in the early 1960s, and merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964. In 2015, Tanzania held general elections for the fifth time since it transitioned to a multiparty democracy in 1992.

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$47.4 billion 
GDP
 
 55.6 million 
POPULATION
 
 $3,090 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Myanmar flagMyanmar

#63 in Best Countries Overall

#57 out of 80 in 2017

The history of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is marked by ethnic violence and widespread impoverishment as it has convulsed between democratic freedom and brutal authoritarian rule. The country, a medium-sized nation in Southeast Asia that borders Bangladesh, IndiaChina, Laos and Thailand, is populated by several ethnic groups, with the Burmese dominating the population, politics, economy and society.

City states began emerging in the second century, B.C. and lasted into the 11th century, before one of those states, Bagan, established the first kingdom to unify lands that what would become modern-day Myanmar. Following the kingdom’s toppling by Mongol invasions, various ethnic kingdoms and city-states ruled until Britain conquered Burma in the 19th century.

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$67.4 billion 
GDP
 
 52.9 million 
POPULATION
 
 $5,804 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Azerbaijan flagAzerbaijan

#64 in Best Countries Overall

#69 out of 80 in 2017

Azerbaijan is a small nation located in the Caucasus region, straddling Europe and Asia. Situated at a geographic crossroads, the land was ruled by many empires before it first became a democratic republic in 1918, following World War I. Just two years later, however, it was absorbed into the Soviet Union. In 1991 Azerbaijan emerged as an independent republic following the Soviet collapse.

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$37.8 billion 
GDP
 
 9.8 million 
POPULATION
 
 $17,453 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Tunisia flagTunisia

#65 in Best Countries Overall

#64 out of 80 in 2017

Tunisia is a small Arab country in North Africa that represents both the aspirations of freedom and struggles against terrorism that roil the region. Along with neighborsAlgeria and Libya, it lines the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a strategic location that has attracted Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks and others over the years.

In 1956, the Republic of Tunisia claimed independence from France. Though not an official language, French is still spoken by two-thirds of the population.

After gaining independence, politician Habib Bourguiba became the nation’s first president, and the nation flourished despite his authoritarian rule. Tunisia boasted a strong market-based economy and relatively liberal social policies that were quite contrary to other regional neighbors.

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$42.1 billion 
GDP
 
 11.4 million 
POPULATION
 
 $11,631 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Guatemala flagGuatemala

#66 in Best Countries Overall

#65 out of 80 in 2017

Home to much of Maya civilization, Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America, touching Mexico’s southern border and possessing coastlines on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Guatemalans have traveled a painful road to present-day democracy. The country won independence from Spain in the early 19th century, but civil discord and authoritarian rule has marked much of the country’s history. A United Nations-commissioned panel that examined Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war charted extensive human-rights violations, most carried out by right-wing governments backed by the United States. The panel found more than 200,000 people had been killed during that period – the overwhelming majority being Mayan.

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$68.8 billion 
GDP
 
 16.6 million 
POPULATION
 
 $7,945 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Bolivia flagBolivia

#67 in Best Countries Overall

#72 out of 80 in 2017

Named after a key leader in the Latin American independence revolutions of the early 19th century, Bolivia is a landlocked nation in central South America that reflects the region’s rich yet painful past as well as present-day challenges and promise.

Bolivia is a multiethnic country that has a large proportion of indigenous people. Other groups include mestizo (mixed Indian and European descent) and European. Military dictatorship governed Bolivia for much of its history since independence was gained from Spain in the early 1800s. In the late 20th century, civilian rule returned, and in 2005 voters elected Evo Morales, regarded by many as the nation’s first indigenous president.

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$33.8 billion 
GDP
 
 10.9 million 
POPULATION
 
 $7,229 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Jordan flagJordan

#68 in Best Countries Overall

#67 out of 80 in 2017

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a small, young country located on land of ancient biblical significance. The country is one of the most liberal in the region and also has one of the smallest economies, as it lacks the natural resources enjoyed by many of its neighbors.

Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire until 1918 and later a mandate of the United Kingdom, Jordan became an independent kingdom in 1946. The country lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel in the war of 1967. Years later the country joined Egypt in becoming one of the two Arab nations to make peace with Israel.

Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses and a capital in Amman, its largest city. The country has a prime minister appointed by the ruling monarch.

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$38.7 billion 
GDP
 
 9.5 million 
POPULATION
 
 $12,265 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Ukraine flagUkraine

#69 in Best Countries Overall

#73 out of 80 in 2017

Ukraine, a nation whose history has experienced long periods of occupation from other countries, today wrestles between war and peace, as well as between corruption and reform. The nation borders the Black and Azov seas to the south and abuts several Eastern European nations, including Russia.

Ukraine declared independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Its president is directly elected by voters. The prime minister is the head of the central government, which is separated along executive, legislative and judicial branches.

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$93.3 billion 
GDP
 
 45.0 million 
POPULATION
 
 $8,320 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Kazakhstan flagKazakhstan

#70 in Best Countries Overall

#71 out of 80 in 2017

Kazakhstan, the world's largest landlocked country, is located mostly in Central Asia, with a small section in easternmost Europe. The country has the largest economy in the region, fueled mostly by its vast natural resources.

Present day Kazakhstan was part of variousempires throughout the centuries, including the Mongols in the 13th and 14th centuries. The area came underRussian control in the 18th century and became a Soviet Republic in 1936. In 1991, it was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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$133.7 billion 
GDP
 
 17.8 million 
POPULATION
 
 $25,167 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Ghana flagGhana

#71 in Best Countries Overall

#68 out of 80 in 2017

The former Gold Coast, named for its rich deposits of the precious metal, became the Republic of Ghana in 1957 when it gained independence from British colonial rule.

An ancient trade route once ran through west Africa, crossing through Ghana and neighbors Togo and Cote d’Ivoire. The discovery of gold made Ghana one of the first places in sub-Saharan Africa to attract European traders; it was also the first nation in the region to break colonial rule.

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$42.7 billion 
GDP
 
 28.2 million 
POPULATION
 
 $4,383 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Belarus flagBelarus

#72 in Best Countries Overall

#70 out of 80 in 2017

Carved out of Russia’s east border, Belarus sits among a group of post-Soviet states in East Europe to the north of Ukraine. The nation claimed its independence in 1991 after seven decades under the USSR. Though landlocked, more than 11,000 lakes and ancient, enchanting woodlands cover the flat landscape.

Despite operating under an autonomous government, Belarus maintains extremely close political and economic ties with Russia. The two countries agreed to create a two-state union in 1999, but the treaty has not yet been seriously implemented. Isolationist trade policies are fueled by priority access to cheap oil from Russia, a relationship that has been called into question more than once in the last decade.

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$47.4 billion 
GDP
 
 9.5 million 
POPULATION
 
 $18,073 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Oman flagOman

#73 in Best Countries Overall

#66 out of 80 in 2017

The oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman is located on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula at the confluence of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.

The country was always of interest to foreign powers due to its strategic position for Indian Ocean trade. Controlled by the Portuguese in the 1500s and later the Persians, the country eventually formed close ties with Britain in the late 19th century, though it never became a colony. During the 1800s, Oman profited greatly from the slave trade, cultivating colonies in modern-day KenyaTanzania andPakistan.

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$66.3 billion 
GDP
 
 4.4 million 
POPULATION
 
 $46,067 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Pakistan flagPakistan

#74 in Best Countries Overall

No Change in Rank from 2017

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was born in 1947 when Muslims broke from the Hindu-majority, British India to rule their own homeland. Located in the ancient Indus Valley of the Middle East, settlements in the region, among the Khyber Pass, Himalayas and Arabian Sea, are some of the oldest in the world and most heavily travelled in history.

Conflicts over the Kashmir region, one of the largest of the disputed territories, erupted into wars with India, and in 1971, India helped the Bengalis of the east secede from Pakistan to form modern-day Bangladesh.

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$283.7 billion 
GDP
 
 193.2 million 
POPULATION
 
 $5,095 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Lebanon flagLebanon

#75 in Best Countries Overall

#76 out of 80 in 2017

Lebanon is a Levantine country in the northern Arabian Peninsula, located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and bordered by Syria to its north and east, and Israel to its south. Its location at the crossroads of Asia and Europe gave birth to early kingdoms and has put it in the center of political and religious upheavals throughout history.

Signs of civilization in Lebanon date more than 7,000 ago. The land eventually came under rule of the Roman Empire and then the Ottomans. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Lebanon was brought into French administrative rule until it gained its independence in 1943. Since then, Lebanon has swayed between periods of political stability and economic prosperity to violent sectarianism, marked by the 1975-1990 civil war that claimed an estimated 120,000 lives.

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$47.5 billion 
GDP
 
 6.0 million 
POPULATION
 
 $19,050 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Nigeria flagNigeria

#76 in Best Countries Overall

#77 out of 80 in 2017

The Federal Republic of Nigeria claimed its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, becoming the most populous country in Africa. The Niger River connects Nigeria to its West African neighbors along the Gulf of Guinea, and empties into the Niger Delta, a hotbed for the oil trade. Before moving to the centrally located city of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital was Lagos, a port city by the Niger Delta. Lagos maintains the heaviest concentration of Nigeria’s population and is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

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$405.1 billion 
GDP
 
 186.0 million 
POPULATION
 
 $5,936 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Iran flagIran

#77 in Best Countries Overall

#79 out of 80 in 2017

Iran, once the heart of the great Persian Empire, sits in southwestern Asia, bordered to its east by Afghanistan and to its west by Iraq. Iran has one of the largest economies in the Middle East and one of the largest populations, with 80.8 million people. While Iran experienced secular reforms and a glimpse of democracy in the mid-20th century, today it is governed by an authoritarian regime.

Iran can trace its history back 2,500 years to the time of the Achaemenids. The country has long been of interest toglobal powers because of its strategic location within the Middle East and its abundant supply of oil and other natural resources. The modern state of Iran was founded in 1925. After several western-backed attempts to control Iran’s leadership, the country became an Islamic Republic in 1979.

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$393.4 billion 
GDP
 
 80.3 million 
POPULATION
 
 $19,256 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Serbia flagSerbia

#78 in Best Countries Overall

#80 out of 80 in 2017

Serbia is a small country in central-southeast Europe whose history is a timeline of European wars dating to the Middle Ages. Contemporary Serbia reflects the ambiguities and contradictions of modern Europe – culturally rich, comparatively developed economically yet driven by regional rivalries and ethnic tensions.

In 2006, neighboring Montenegro voted to withdraw from a union with Serbia, leaving Belgrade the capital of a small country that once was the center of the larger six-republic Yugoslavia (the name literally translates as “The Land of the South Slavs”), a socialist federation that formed six decades earlier, at the end of World War II.

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$37.7 billion 
GDP
 
 7.1 million 
POPULATION
 
 $14,412 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Angola flagAngola

#79 in Best Countries Overall

#75 out of 80 in 2017

The Republic of Angola is an oil-rich nation in southern Africa, bordered by Namibia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo along the Atlantic Ocean. It's shimmering shores rise to a high plateau with both desert and rainforest terrain.

Originally colonized by Portugal in the 16th century, the Portuguese withdrew from Angola in 1975, and the newly independent nation was thrown into a decades-long civil war between rival independence movements. The nation’s people and economy are still recovering from the conflict that killed thousands and displaced millions before peace was reached in 2002.

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$89.6 billion 
GDP
 
 28.8 million 
POPULATION
 
 $6,797 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
Overall Rankings

Algeria flagAlgeria

#80 in Best Countries Overall

#78 out of 80 in 2017

Nestled against the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, Algeria was born in 1962 when it gained independence from France following an eight-year war. It is the largest nation by size in the Arab world, and most of the country is covered by desert.

In the 21st century it emerged from years of civil war that began in 1992 when authorities canceled  elections after an Islamist party won the early vote. What ensued was a conflict between the military and Islamist militants that occupied the 1990s.

$156.1 billion 
GDP
 
 40.6 million 
POPULATION
 
 $14,955 
GDP PER CAPITA, PPP
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