Photo: KnowInsiders
Photo: KnowInsiders

What is a Landlocked Country?

A landlocked country is defined as entirely surrounded by land. Some of these nations may have coastlines, but these are only on closed seas. Rivers might run through a portion of the region, and there can be bodies of water within the country's borders, but every border is land-based, rather than water like an ocean shore. Of all the countries in the world, forty-nine of them are landlocked. This number is equivalent to one-fifth, or twenty percent, of all countries in the world.

The Landlocked Countries

Before we get into the details of life in a landlocked country, let's get to know these nations a little better. There are over 40 countries in the world that do not border an ocean. Two are in South America (Bolivia and Paraguay), while the rest are dispersed across Europe, Africa, and Asia. There are two continents without any landlocked nations: North America and (obviously) the giant island of Australia.

The largest landlocked country in the world is Kazakhstan, located in Central Asia. The smallest is Vatican City, located entirely within the borders of Rome. Of all the landlocked nations, however, two stand out in terms of their distance from oceans. Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan are double-landlocked--they are the only two nations that are completely surrounded by other landlocked countries. If they want access to an ocean, they have to cross an entire country before they get to a nation with a coast.

Does Being Landlocked Matter?

A landlocked country does not have access to the ocean since the nearest coast is in another administrative unit. Every continent, except North America and Oceania, has landlocked countries. The most significant include Bolivia, Switzerland, Austria, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. Landlocked countries have transport costs, which are on average 50% higher than countries that are not. If containerized imports are considered, landlocked countries have costs that are 85% higher than the world average. For landlocked countries in the developing world, the following issues are particularly prevalent:

Landlocked developing countries struggle with high trade costs and depend on transit countries.Photo: Dandc
Landlocked developing countries struggle with high trade costs and depend on transit countries. Photo: Dandc
  • Difficulties in accessing international markets and a dependency on the stability and openness of neighboring countries to ensure reliable access to international markets.

  • Economies that are reliant on the resource sector, such as agriculture and mining. While agriculture tends to be mostly subsistence-oriented, other resources have a strong export component and high transport costs. Their exports are thus likely to be less competitive. The median landlocked country has less than 40% of the trade volume of the median coastal country.

  • The internal transport system tends to be deficient with a high concentration level, mostly around the capital.

A landlocked country can mitigate its lack of accessibility to global trade by developing transport corridors towards maritime gateways. While fluvial navigation is possible in specific cases, fluvial systems servicing landlocked countries are mostly present in Europe (e.g. Switzerland and Austria can be serviced by barges). It is through rail corridors that the most effective freight services are established. There are no specific connectivity barriers for landlocked countries to access air transportation (e.g. Zurich is a major air transport hub in Europe). Still, landlocked countries tend to be less connected because of their lower levels of development.

Landlocked by a Single Country

There are three countries that are completely landlocked (i.e. surrounded on all sides) by only one country. Two of these countries are founded within the country of Italy.

These single-country landlocked countries are Lesotho which is surrounded by South Africa, San Marino, a state surrounded by Italy, and Vatican City which is a city-state surrounded by Rome, the capital city of Italy.

Countries that are landlocked by a single country are known as enclave countries.

Photo: Wikipedia
Landlocked countries: 42 landlocked (green), 2 doubly landlocked (purple). Photo: Wikipedia

Landlocked Countries That Share the Most Borders With Other Countries

Two landlocked countries share borders with eight countries.

Austria shares a border with Czechia (Czech Republic) to the north, Germany to the northwest, Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Italy to the southwest, Slovenia and Hungary to the southeast, and Slovenia to the east.

The second landlocked country that shares the most borders with other countries is Serbia.

The eight countries that share a border with Serbia are: Hungary to the north, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the east, Montenegro and Kosovo to the southwest, Macedonia to the west, and Romania and Bulgaria to the east.

Double-Landlocked Countries

Photo: World Atlas
Uzbekistan, one of the two double landlocked countries are surrounded by countries that are themselves landlocked. Photo: World Atlas

Landlocked countries that are separated from the nearest ocean coastline but not one, but two countries, are known as double-landlocked or doubly-landlocked countries.

The first country that is double-landlocked is the microstate of Liechtenstein located in central Europe which is immediately surrounded by the landlocked countries of Austria and Switzerland.

The second country is located in central Asia, Uzbekistan which is surrounded by the landlocked countries of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

There are two de facto states with limited or no international recognition: South Ossetia and Transnistria.

The largest landlocked country is Kazakhstan in Central Asia with a land area of over 2.7 million kilometers.

As the smallest sovereign state in the world, Vatican City is also the world’s smallest landlocked country. Photo: View of St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican as seen from the top of St. Peter’s Basilica, CIA, public domain.

The List of Landlocked Countries Today

Country or Territory Area(km2) Surrounding countries Number of Surrounding Countries
Afghanistan 652,230 Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China, Pakistan 6
Andorra 468 France, Spain 2
Armenia 29,743 Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan 4
Austria 83,871 Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland 8
Azerbaijan 86,600 Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Turkey 4
Belarus 207,600 Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia 5
Bhutan 38,394 India, China 2
Bolivia 1,098,581 Peru, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay 5
Botswana 582,000 Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa 4
Burkina Faso 274,222 Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast 6
Burundi 27,834 Rwanda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo 3
Central African Republic 622,984 Chad, Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan 6
Chad 1,284,000 Libya, Niger, Sudan, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Cameroon 6
Czech Republic 78,867 Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia 4
Ethiopia 1,104,300 Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan 6
Hungary 93,028 Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine 7
Kazakhstan 2,724,900 China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan 5
Kosovo 10,908 Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia 4
Kyrgyzstan 199,951 China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan 4
Laos 236,800 Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand 5
Lesotho 30,355 South Africa 1
Liechtenstein 160 Switzerland, Austria 2
Luxembourg 2,586 Belgium, Germany, France 3
Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.) 25,713 Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania 5
Malawi 118,484 Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique 3
Mali 1,240,192 Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania 7
Moldova 33,846 Romania, Ukraine 2
Mongolia 1,566,500 China, Russia 2
Artsakh 11,458 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran 3
Nepal 147,181 China, India 2
Niger 1,267,000 Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Algeria 7
Paraguay 406,752 Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia 3
Rwanda 26,338 Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo 4
San Marino 61 Italy 1
Serbia 88,361 Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania(via Kosovo and Metohija[c]) 8
Slovakia 49,035 Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary 5
South Ossetia 3,900 Georgia, Russia 2
South Sudan 619,745 Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic 6
Swaziland 17,364 Mozambique, South Africa 2
Switzerland 41,284 France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy 5
Tajikistan 143,100 Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China 4
Transnistria 4,163 Moldova, Ukraine 2
Turkmenistan 488,100 Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran 4
Uganda 241,038 Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania 5
Uzbekistan 449,100 Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan 5
Vatican City 0.44 Italy 1
West Bank 5,655 Israel, Jordan 2
Zambia 752,612 Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola 8
Zimbabwe 390,757 South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique 4
Total 14,776,228
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