Norway world’s best place to live

I’m not sure if everybody wants to live in Norway, but it’s certainly at the top of the global list. The United Nations Development Program determined this based on data GDP, education and life expectancy – among other metrics – to find the best of the best, as well as the other end of the spectrum. The data’s from 2007, though, so it doesn’t reflect a post-financial crisis world.

Joining Norway are Australia and Iceland, the latter of which was a hot location until a year ago, when the entire country got an International Monetary Fund package normally reserved for the third-est of third-world countries. Yet, even with the recession in mind, Iceland (a favorite destination of mine) is still far better than Niger, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, which sit at the bottom of the list. Several other sub-Saharan African states also ranked toward the bottom because of ongoing war and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS.

The spread is most evident in life expectancy, where a mailing address in Norway would add 30 years relative to Niger. In Niger, the current average life expectancy is 50. And, for every dollar that someone earns in Niger, the same person would pick up $85 in Norway. In Afghanistan, one can expect to live only 43.6 years.

Money matters, still. Lichtenstein continues to boast the world’s highest GDP per capital at $85,383. The 35,000 people who live there share the small principality with 15 banks and more than 100 wealth management companies. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the lowest income in the world: $298 per person per year.

The top climbers on the list for 2007 were China, Iran and Nepal.

Europe’s Wee Nations

You know all the big ones by heart, the ones who loom in your remembrances of Western Civilization class and, well, perhaps many a vacation or period living abroad. The names are so familiar: France, Britain, Italy and so on. But what about the little ones? The wee nations of Europe who have their own flags and governments, perhaps their own currencies, and who certainly deserve a look should you be planning a trip to the continent any time soon…or later, for that matter.

Well, this tidy little guide from Fodors takes you on a brief tour of Europe’s wee states. Places like Andorra, given its independence by Charlemagne when they helped fight the Moops, er, Moors centuries ago. There is Monaco, which many backpack travelers know for its casinos and as the parking place for vast and unfathomably pricey yachts of the rich and discreet. There is Lichtenstein, the sleepy, but wealthy little haven along the Rhine between Switzerland and Austria where if you blink while on the road, you miss it. And so on…

It’s a cool, useful little list and made me think that someone should do a book about the world’s smallest countries. Hmmmm…

Rent a Country For Your Next Company Event

Sick of the boring company picnics at your local park? Try renting an entire country.

Along with a hand full of small villages in Austria and Germany, Liechtenstein — a small, landlocked country between Switzerland and Austria — can be rented from RentaVillage.com. Aimed at luring in large corporations, the company promises to “turn your events into an unforgettable experience.”

How do you even go about putting an entire country up for rent? Does the public get to vote on it? I don’t know that I’d want my entire country over run by Google or Sprint or whoever for an entire weekend.

The 5 Smallest Countries in the World

Traveling through Europe as a teenager, we made a stopover in Liechtenstein, a small, landlocked principality nestled between Switzerland and Austria. Crossing the border, I remember thinking to myself, “wow, this country has a lot of letters in its name. I’m hungry.” And so we found a place to eat, but then I realized that all of Liechtenstein was less than 70 square miles! I couldn’t believe it. I lived in Texas at the time, which was roughly 4,000 times larger, and it was only a state! This was an entire country, and I could probably run from one side to another in a few hours! Insane.

I was sad to find out, then, that Liechtenstein didn’t even make the cut in the “5 Smallest Countries in the World” profile by Neatorama.com. What a bummer. Here are the countries that did make the list:

  1. Vatican City – 0.17 square miles
  2. Monaco – 0.8 square miles
  3. Nauru – 8 square miles
  4. Tuvalu – 9 square miles
  5. San Marino – 24 square miles

Liechtenstein comes in sixth. Sixth. So close. If I would have visited any of these on that trip, my head probably would have exploded for the shear novelty of being in such a small country. What can I say? I’m easily amused.

Eurail Announces New Options for 2006

eurailFor the first time ever, the company will introduce a single-country pass, the Eurail National Rail Pass. Travelers can choose to explore one country from three to 10 travel days (within one month or two) for these nine countries: Finland, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain or Sweden.

Another expanded offering is for the existing Eurail Regional Pass, with seven new combinations to choose from: Austria-Czech Republic, Austria-Switzerland, France-Benelux, France-Germany, France-Switzerland, Germany-Austria and Germany-Switzerland.

Finally, the Eurailpass will now be valid in 18 countries with the addition of Romania in 2006. The complete list includes: Austria (including Liechtenstein), Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France (including Monaco), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. (The Eurail Selectpass is also valid in Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia & Montenegro and Slovenia.)

As a reminder, don’t forget to check out the bonuses available to rail riders, including discounts on boat crossings, rental cars and a free map when you buy tickets. All these new options will be available for purchase beginning January 1, 2006.