What are the most densely populated countries in the world?

most densely populated countries
A densely populated country refers to the number of people living there compared to the size of the country. Source: AFP

What are the most densely populated countries in the world? This may be surprising but despite China and India being the most populated countries in the world, they are by far not the most densely populated.

This is simply because China and India are too large to have the highest population density.

Several tiny countries and territories fit far more people into each square kilometre than even the most populous and large countries.

Densely populated countries are those where a large number of people reside within a relatively small area.

It refers to the concentration of population within a geographical area, typically measured in terms of persons per square kilometre (km²). 

To understand this concept better, let’s use Monaco, the most densely populated country in the world, as an example.

It has a population of fewer than 40,000 people compared to China’s 1.4 billion, but it squeezes them into a two km² of land area compared to China’s 9.7 million km².

There are a few more factors that make a country densely populated. These include geographic constraints such as limited habitable land, good agricultural climates and economic opportunities.

Their governments are different too.

Governments of densely populated countries implement policies to manage population growth, promote sustainable development and reduce urban pressures through urban planning, affordable housing initiatives and investments in public transportation.

most densely populated countries

High density can affect a country’s socio-economic, environmental and political landscape. Source: AFP

What happens when you live in one of the most densely populated countries

Cramming too many people into a small space can seem unpleasant but that doesn’t make living in one of the most densely populated countries a nightmare through and through. 

Like all things in life, it’s not so black and white. In fact, there are just as many pros as there are cons:


  • Rich cultural diversity: Densely populated countries usually have many cultures, languages and traditions. For example, India, with its huge population, is home to over 100 languages and over 700 different tribes.
  • Economic opportunities: With more people, comes more talent — a key factor to create a large consumer market and attract businesses. Cities like Tokyo and New York thrive because of their dense populations, which offer many job opportunities.
  • Facilities: The necessity to accommodate large populations leads to investment in infrastructure. Being only 734.3 km² in size, countries like Singapore are forced to be creative and effective in coming up with ways to transport and house people.


  • Depleting resources: With so many people, resources such as water, energy and food are used up quickly. For example, Bangladesh, home to over 171 million people in 148,460 km², is facing water scarcity and land degradation due to overexploitation.
  • Environmental degradation: Pollution, deforestation and habitat destruction are common. China’s industrialisation and more than 1.4 billion people have led to worrying air and water pollution in cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
  • Bad traffic: Having a big population can quickly lead to an unsustainable rise in the use of cars, especially if a country doesn’t have good public transport. This increases traffic congestion and overcrowding, which leads to longer commute times and reduced quality of life. 
  • Unaffordable houses: A country with too many people but too little homes often has to deal with skyrocketing property prices, which can lead to homelessness.

15 most densely populated countries in the world

1. Monaco 

With an area of just over two square kilometres, Monaco accommodates a population of around 39,000 people.

One of the main reasons for Monaco’s population density is its status as a global hub for finance, business, and tourism.

The principality’s tax policies, coupled with its unique way of life, attract many residents and visitors. 

most densely populated countries

Singapore has one of the best and most affordable public transport systems in the world. Source: AFP

2. Singapore 

Singapore is renowned for its strategic location in Asia, tiger economy and world-leading urban development.

As its small land area of approximately 725 square kilometres is home ot over 5.8 million residents, this also makes it one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

The country’s economy, with strong trade, finance and manufacturing sectors, attracts many migrants and expatriates seeking employment opportunities and a better quality of life.

most densely populated countries

The Vatican remains the home of the pope and the Roman Curia, and the spiritual center for followers of the Catholic Church. Source: AFP

3. Vatican City 

Vatican City is the smallest independent state in the world and the administrative centre of the Roman Catholic Church.

Situated within Rome, Italy, Vatican City covers only about 44 hectares (110 acres), making it smaller than many university campuses, and has a population of around 825 people.

That is around 1,736 inhabitants per km², surpassing even major cities like Mumbai and Manila.

4. Bahrain

Bahrain, a small island in the Arabian Gulf, is one of the most densely populated countries globally. 

Covering an area of just over 750 square kilometres, Bahrain is one of the smallest countries in the Middle East. However, its population density is high, with around 1.4 million people calling it home.

This is an average density of over 2,000 people per square kilometre.

5. Malta 

Malta is just a small archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea but is one of the most densely populated countries globally. Its natural landscapes and rich history attract people from all around the world. 

A total land area of just over 316 square kilometres hosts around 500,000 people.

This means there are over 1,500 people per square kilometre. 

Malta’s strategic location in the Mediterranean has made it a point of civilisation throughout history — attracting settlers, traders and conquerors over millennia. 

most densely populated countries

Every year, more than three million people are being added to Bangladesh’s population. Source: AFP

6. Bangladesh 

Nestled between India and Myanmar is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Bangladesh has a land area of 147,570 square kilometres and a population of 169.4 million.

This equals to over 1,100 individuals per square kilometre. Its density creates challenges in resource management, urban planning and socio-economic development.

7. Bermuda

Located in a tiny British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean, the country spans only 54 square kilometres but has around 64,000 residents.

Its limited land area leaves little room for the expansion of population centres. With only a handful of inhabited islands within the territory, every inch of available land is used for residential, commercial or recreational purposes.

8. Taiwan

Despite its relatively small land area of 36,000 square kilometres, Taiwan is home to over 23 million people.

Its historical and cultural influences are one of the reasons for its high density. Taiwan has a long history of settlement dating back thousands of years. 

The country’s strategic location in the Asia-Pacific region has made it a hub for trade, commerce, and cultural exchange, attracting people from neighbouring countries.

9. Mauritius 

Located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa is a country renowned for its stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage and excellent tourism industry. 

However, Mauritius is also one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Despite its small land area of 2,040 square kilometres, Mauritius is home to over 1.2 million people. 

most densely populated countries

Did you know Rihanna is from one of the most densely populated countries in the world? Source: AFP

10. Barbados

Barbadoes is famous for being the birthplace of Rihanna, white sand beaches, and a Unesco World Heritage-listed capital.

It is just 430 square kilometres in size but has over 600,000 people living in its small area. This is around 1,800 people per square kilometre, which means you will be bumping into people — a lot. 

11. Macau

Macau, a small region located in China, has a limited land area of just 32.9 square kilometres — making its population density over over 22,000 people per square kilometre.

Despite its small size, Macau is home to a diverse population, with a mix of locals, immigrants, and expatriates.

most densely populated countries

With many picture-perfect beaches. it is no surprise that many people choose to live and work in Maldives. Source: AFP

12. Maldives

Known for its postcard-worthy natural beauty and islands, Maldives is at the top of many people’s bucket list of places to travel to. 

However, did you know the archipelago nation, situated in the Indian Ocean, is also one of the most densely populated countries globally? 

The country has over 1,100 islands spanning 298 square kilometres. However, only 200 of the islands are habitable and they’re home to over 500,000 people. 

This equates to 1,800 people per square kilometre, most of residents concentrated in the capital city of Malé and other urban centres.

13. South Korea

With a population of around 51 million and a land area of about 100,000 square kilometres, the population density of South Korea is around 515 people per square kilometre.

The country’s terrain is full of mountains, leaving limited areas suitable for habitation and agricultural activities.

As a result, most of the population is concentrated in urban centres, such as the capital city Seoul and the metropolitan area of Incheon.

14. Netherlands

The Netherlands has a population of over 17 million and a total land area of around 41,500 square kilometres — that means there are 415 people per square kilometre.

As a portion of the country lies below sea level, this makes large parts of the land unsuitable for habitation or agriculture. 

As a result, the Dutch population is concentrated in the more elevated and habitable regions.

most densely populated countries

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with an overall density of 6,300 people per square kilometre. Source: AFP

15. Hong Kong 

Hong Kong squeezes over 7.5 million people into land that’s about 1,100 square kilometres.

Anyone who’s been in its tiny hotel rooms the size of office cubicles will know what it’s like to live in a place with a density of 6,300 people per square kilometre.

As a bustling metropolis known for its economy, thriving job market and attractive business opportunities, it is no surprise that many immigrants and expatriates come here to find employment and a better life.