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Best Country Information Websites

One of the best ways for travelers to prepare for their trip is to gather background information about the country they are about to visit. The more independent travelers know about their destination the better they will be prepared to deal with the challenges of visiting a foreign country. Below we have listed our favorite websites for providing updated and in-depth information about most countries worldwide. —Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl

BBC News: Country Profiles offer concise information about history, politics and economic background, as well as recent news on most countries.The profiles, although short, provide an updated introduction to the country, covering the basics such as ecosystem, geography, politics, and economy. Each country profile has links to recent relevant recent news from the BBC, as well as other helpful links.

Canadian Centre for Intercultural Learning: Country Insights features lots of interesting cultural information for most countries worldwide. There is very little information available on the worldwide web that helps travelers understand and learn about cultural differences—the Country Insights are an important exception.

Central Intelligence Service: The World Factbook, is in the public domain and "provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities. Our Reference tab includes: maps of the major world regions, as well as Flags of the World, a Physical Map of the World, a Political Map of the World, a World Oceans map, and a Standard Time Zones of the World map." The information is constantly updated due to its mission to provide information to senior policy makers, and is a great source for factual country information, including country comparisons on topics such as economy, geography, military expenditures as a % of GDP, etc.

CountryReports.org provides extensive historical, cultural, and statistical information for countries worldwide. This is a great source for reliable and updated information. The country reports are available only by subscription. Individual subscriptions are $3.50 per month or $44.00 per year, with different rates for different institutions.

Encyclopedia of the Nations is a complete source for detailed information about one hundred ninety three countries in the world. One of the best free websites for updated country information. The information is not intended for travelers, but travelers will find current information about transportation, economy, politics, history, ethnic groups, social conditions, geography, the natural environment, health, culture, tourism, national cuisines, and more.

U.S. Department of State: International Travel Information, compiled by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, provides useful information for travelers and expatriates, such as Travel Warnings, The U.S. State Department, www.state.gov, also publishes Country Background Notes, with facts about the land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy, and foreign relations. The site includes extensive safety and health information for travelers. Beware that the information is presented in a very factual and dry manner.

Wikipedia is the famous free online encyclopedia, and provides a lot of useful information contributed by users about countries worldwide, including geography, history, culture, politics, the economy, food, environment, etc. Since this is an open-source encyclopedia, the information sources are often unknown, and may not always be entirely accurate. However, there are an increasing number of articles that have footnotes and refer to the original sources of information. Since it is referred to so much, there is quite a bit of research and updating energy expended on major topics, such as country information.