Landlocked country

A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basins. There are currently 44 landlocked countries and 4 landlocked de facto states. Kazakhstan is the world's largest landlocked country while Ethiopia is the world’s most populous landlocked country.[1]

Landlocked countries: 42 landlocked (green), 2 doubly landlocked[lower-alpha 1] (purple)

In 1990, there were only 30 landlocked countries in the world. The dissolutions of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia; the breakup of Yugoslavia; the independence referendums of South Ossetia (partially recognized), Eritrea, Montenegro, South Sudan, and the Luhansk People's Republic (partially recognized); and the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo (partially recognized) created 15 new landlocked countries and 5 partially recognized landlocked states while the former landlocked country of Czechoslovakia ceased to exist on 1 January 1993. On 5 October 2022, the Luhansk People's Republic was annexed by Russia and ceased to exist as a de facto landlocked state.

Generally, being landlocked creates some political and economic disadvantages that having access to international waters would avoid. For this reason, nations large and small throughout history have sought to gain access to open waters, even at great expense in wealth, bloodshed, and political capital.

The economic disadvantages of being landlocked can be alleviated or aggravated depending on degree of development, surrounding trade routes and freedom of trade, language barriers, and other considerations. Some landlocked countries in Europe are affluent, such as Andorra, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, San Marino, Switzerland, and Vatican City, all of which, excluding Luxembourg (a founding member of NATO), frequently employ neutrality in global political issues. However, 32 out of the 44 landlocked countries, including all the landlocked countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, have been classified as the Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) by the United Nations.[2] Nine of the twelve countries with the lowest Human Development Indices (HDI) are landlocked.[3] International initiatives are aimed at reducing inequalities resulting from issues such as these, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10, which aims to reduce inequality substantially by 2030.[4]


Bolivia's loss of its coastline in the War of the Pacific (1879–1884) remains a major political issue

Historically, being landlocked has been disadvantageous to a country's development. It cuts a nation off from important sea resources such as fishing, and impedes or prevents direct access to maritime trade, a crucial component of economic and social advance. As such, coastal regions, or inland regions that have access to the World Ocean, tended to be wealthier and more heavily populated than inland regions that have no access to the World Ocean. Paul Collier in his book The Bottom Billion argues that being landlocked in a poor geographical neighbourhood is one of four major development "traps" by which a country can be held back. In general, he found that when a neighbouring country experiences better growth, it tends to spill over into favorable development for the country itself. For landlocked countries, the effect is particularly strong, as they are limited in their trading activity with the rest of the world. He states, "If you are coastal, you serve the world; if you are landlocked, you serve your neighbors."[5] Others have argued that being landlocked has an advantage as it creates a "natural tariff barrier" that protects the country from cheap imports. In some instances, this has led to more robust local food systems.[6][7]

Landlocked developing countries have significantly higher costs of international cargo transportation compared to coastal developing countries (in Asia the ratio is 3:1).[8]

Historically, traveling between a landlocked country and a country which did not border said country required the traveler to pass border controls twice or more. In recent times the advent of air travel has largely negated this impediment.

Actions to avoid being landlocked

Countries have acted to overcome being landlocked by acquiring land that reaches the sea:

Trade agreements

Countries can make agreements on getting free transport of goods through neighbouring countries:

  • The Treaty of Versailles required Germany to offer Czechoslovakia a lease for 99 years of parts of the ports in Hamburg and Stettin, allowing Czechoslovakia sea trade via the Elbe and Oder rivers. Stettin was annexed[11] by Poland after World War II, but Hamburg continued the contract so that part of the port (now called Moldauhafen) until 2028 could be used for sea trade by a successor of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic.
  • The Danube is an international waterway, and thus landlocked Austria, Hungary, Moldova, Serbia, and Slovakia have secure access to the Black Sea (the same access is given to inland parts of Germany and Croatia, though Germany and Croatia are not landlocked). However, oceangoing ships cannot use the Danube, so cargo must be transloaded anyway, and many overseas imports into Austria and Hungary use land transport from Atlantic and Mediterranean ports. A similar situation exists for the Rhine river where Switzerland has boat access, but not oceangoing ships. Luxembourg has such through the Moselle, but Liechtenstein has no boat access, even though it is located along the Rhine, as the Rhine is not navigable that far upstream.
  • The Mekong is an international waterway so that landlocked Laos has access to the South China Sea (since Laos became independent from French Indochina). However, it is not navigable above the Khone Phapheng Falls.
  • Free ports allow transshipment to short-distance ships or river vessels.
  • The TIR Convention allows sealed road transport without customs checks and charges, mostly in Europe.

Political repercussions

Losing access to the sea is generally a great loss to a nation, politically, militarily, and economically. The following are examples of countries becoming landlocked.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea now gives a landlocked country a right of access to and from the sea without taxation of traffic through transit states. The United Nations has a programme of action to assist landlocked developing countries,[14] and the current responsible Undersecretary-General is Anwarul Karim Chowdhury.

Some countries have a long coastline, but much of it may not be readily usable for trade and commerce. For instance, in its early history, Russia's only ports were on the Arctic Ocean and frozen shut for much of the year. The wish to gain control of a warm-water port was a major motivator of Russian expansion towards the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, and Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, some landlocked countries can have access to the ocean along wide navigable rivers. For instance, Paraguay (and Bolivia to a lesser extent) have access to the ocean through the Paraguay and Paraná rivers.

Several countries have coastlines on landlocked bodies of water, such as the Caspian Sea and the Dead Sea. Since these seas are in effect lakes without access to wider seaborne trade, countries such as Kazakhstan are still considered landlocked. Although the Caspian Sea is connected to the Black Sea via the man-made Volga–Don Canal, large oceangoing ships are unable to traverse it.

By degree

Landlocked countries may be bordered by a single country having direct access to the high seas, two or more such countries, or be surrounded by other landlocked countries, making a country doubly landlocked.

Landlocked by a single country

Three countries are landlocked by a single country (enclaved countries):

Landlocked by two countries

Seven landlocked countries are surrounded by only two mutually bordering neighbours (semi-enclaved countries):

To this group could be added three landlocked territories, two of them are de facto states with no or limited international recognition:

Doubly landlocked

A country is "doubly landlocked" or "double-landlocked" when it is surrounded only by landlocked countries (i.e. requiring the crossing of at least two national borders to reach a coastline).[19][20] There are two such countries:

To this group could be added one doubly landlocked territory that is a de facto state with no or limited international recognition:

After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Württemberg became a doubly landlocked state, bordering Bavaria, Baden, Switzerland, the Grand Duchy of Hesse (Wimpfen exclave), Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, and Hohenzollern-Hechingen. The latter two were themselves landlocked between each other, Württemberg and Baden. In 1866 they became an exclave of Prussia, giving Württemberg a border with a coastal country but any path to a coast would still lead across at least two borders. The Free City of Frankfurt which was independent between 1815 and 1866 was doubly landlocked as it bordered the Electorate of Hesse, the Grand Duchy of Hesse, Hesse-Homburg, and Nassau. In the German Confederation there were several other landlocked states that only bordered landlocked states and landlocked exclaves of coastal states: the Grand Duchy of Hesse, Hesse-Homburg, Nassau (all until 1866), Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Saxe-Hildburghausen (both until 1826), and Reuss, elder line (until 1871). All of these bordered Prussia but not the main territory with sea access.

There were no doubly landlocked countries from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the end of World War I. Liechtenstein bordered the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had an Adriatic coastline, and Uzbekistan was then part of the Russian Empire, which had both ocean and sea access.

With the dissolution of Austria-Hungary in 1918 and creation of an independent, landlocked Austria, Liechtenstein became the sole doubly landlocked country until 1938. In the Anschluss that year, Austria was absorbed into Nazi Germany, which possessed a border on the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. After World War II, Austria regained its independence and Liechtenstein once again became doubly landlocked.

Uzbekistan, which had been part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, gained its independence with the dissolution of the latter in 1991 and became the second doubly landlocked country.

However, Uzbekistan's doubly landlocked status depends on the Caspian Sea's status dispute: some countries, especially Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, claim that the Caspian Sea should be considered as a real sea (mainly because this way they would have larger oil and gas fields), which would make Uzbekistan only a simple landlocked country since its neighbours Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have access to the Caspian Sea.

List of landlocked countries and landlocked de facto states

Country Area (km2) Population Continent UN subregion Surrounding countries Count
Internationally recognized landlocked countries
 Afghanistan 652,230 33,369,945 Asia Southern Asia China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan 6
 Andorra 468 77,543 Europe Southern Europe France and Spain 2
 Armenia 29,743 3,254,300 Asia Western Asia Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Turkey 4
 Austria 83,871 8,823,054 Europe Western Europe The Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland 8
 Azerbaijan[a] 86,600 8,997,401 Asia Western Asia Armenia, Artsakh[b], Georgia, Iran, Russia, and Turkey 5 or 6
 Belarus 207,600 9,484,300 Europe Eastern Europe Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine 5
 Bhutan 38,394 691,141 Asia Southern Asia China and India 2
 Bolivia 1,098,581 10,907,778 Americas South America Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru 5
 Botswana 582,000 1,990,876 Africa Southern Africa Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe 4
 Burkina Faso 274,222 15,746,232 Africa Western Africa Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Togo 6
 Burundi 27,834 10,557,259 Africa Eastern Africa DR Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania 3
 Central African Republic 622,984 4,422,000 Africa Middle Africa Cameroon, Chad, the Congo, DR Congo, South Sudan, and the Sudan 6
 Chad 1,284,000 13,670,084 Africa Middle Africa Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, and the Sudan 6
 Czech Republic 78,867 10,674,947 Europe Eastern Europe Austria, Germany, Poland, and Slovakia 4
 Eswatini 17,364 1,185,000 Africa Southern Africa Mozambique and South Africa 2
 Ethiopia 1,104,300 101,853,268 Africa Eastern Africa Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and the Sudan 6
 Hungary 93,028 9,797,561 Europe Eastern Europe Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine 7
 Kazakhstan[a] 2,724,900 19,644,100 Asia Central Asia China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan 5
 Kyrgyzstan 199,951 5,482,000 Asia Central Asia China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan 4
 Laos 236,800 7,123,205 Asia South-eastern Asia Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam 5
 Lesotho[c] 30,355 2,067,000 Africa Southern Africa South Africa 1
 Liechtenstein[d] 160 35,789 Europe Western Europe Austria and Switzerland 2
 Luxembourg 2,586 502,202 Europe Western Europe Belgium, France, and Germany 3
 Malawi 118,484 15,028,757 Africa Eastern Africa Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia 3
 Mali 1,240,192 14,517,176 Africa Western Africa Algeria, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal 7
 Moldova 33,846 3,559,500 Europe Eastern Europe Romania, Transnistria[b], and Ukraine 2 or 3
 Mongolia 1,566,500 3,406,916 Asia Eastern Asia China and Russia 2
   Nepal 147,181 26,494,504 Asia Southern Asia China and India 2
 Niger 1,267,000 15,306,252 Africa Western Africa Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, and Nigeria 7
 North Macedonia 25,713 2,114,550 Europe Southern Europe Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo[b], and Serbia 4 or 5
 Paraguay 406,752 6,349,000 Americas South America Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil 3
 Rwanda 26,338 10,746,311 Africa Eastern Africa Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania, and Uganda 4
 San Marino[c] 61 31,716 Europe Southern Europe Italy 1
 Serbia 88,361 6,926,705 Europe Southern Europe Albania (via Kosovo and Metohija), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo[b], Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Romania 8
 Slovakia 49,035 5,429,763 Europe Eastern Europe Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine 5
 South Sudan 619,745 8,260,490 Africa Eastern Africa The Central African Republic, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Sudan, and Uganda 6
 Switzerland 41,284 8,401,120 Europe Western Europe Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Liechtenstein 5
 Tajikistan 143,100 7,349,145 Asia Central Asia Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan 4
 Turkmenistan[a] 488,100 5,110,000 Asia Central Asia Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan 4
 Uganda 241,038 40,322,768 Africa Eastern Africa DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Tanzania 5
 Uzbekistan[d] 449,100 32,606,007 Asia Central Asia Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan 5
  Vatican City[c] 0.44 826 Europe Southern Europe Italy 1
 Zambia 752,612 12,935,000 Africa Eastern Africa Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe 8
 Zimbabwe 390,757 12,521,000 Africa Eastern Africa Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia 4
Landlocked de facto states
 Artsakh[b][d] 3,170 120,000 Asia Western Asia Azerbaijan 1
 Kosovo[b] 10,908 1,804,838 Europe Southern Europe Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia 4
 South Ossetia[b] 3,900 72,000 Asia Western Asia Georgia and Russia 2
 Transnistria[b] 4,163 505,153 Europe Eastern Europe Moldova and Ukraine 2
Total 14,776,228 475,818,737 N/A
Percentage of the World 11.4% 6.9%
a Has a coastline on the saltwater Caspian Sea
b Not fully recognized
c Landlocked by a single country
d Doubly landlocked

They can be grouped in contiguous groups as follows:[23]


  1. If Artsakh (unrecognized) is included, then Armenia, Artsakh, and Azerbaijan form the Western Asian group instead.
  2. If Transnistria (unrecognized) is included, then Moldova and Transnistria form their own Eastern European group.
  3. If it were not for the 40 km (25 mi) of coastline at Moanda, DR Congo would join the two African clusters into one, making it the biggest contiguous cluster in the world.
  4. The Central and Southern Asian cluster and the Western Asian group can be considered contiguous, joined by the landlocked Caspian Sea. Mongolia is almost a part of this cluster too, being separated from Kazakhstan by only 30 km (19 mi), across Chinese or Russian territory.

There are the following 13 "single" landlocked countries (each of them borders no other landlocked country):

Landlocked countries by continent

According to the United Nations geoscheme (excluding de facto states), Africa has the most landlocked countries, at 16, followed by Europe (14), Asia (12), and South America (2). However, if Armenia, Artsakh (unrecognized), Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and South Ossetia (partially recognized) are counted as parts of Europe, then Europe has the most landlocked countries, including all four landlocked de facto states. If these transcontinental or culturally European countries are included in Asia, then both Africa and Europe (including Kosovo and Transnistria) have the most, at 16. Depending on the status of Kazakhstan and the South Caucasusian countries, Asia has between 9 and 14, including Artsakh and South Ossetia. South America only has two landlocked countries.

Australia and North America are the only inhabited continents with no landlocked countries. Antarctica is uninhabited and has no countries. Oceania (which is usually not considered a continent but a geographical region by the English-speaking countries) also has no landlocked countries. Other than Papua New Guinea, which shares a land border with Indonesia (a transcontinental country), all the other countries in Oceania are countries without a land border.

All landlocked countries besides Bolivia and Paraguay are located in Afro-Eurasia. Though 11 island countries (including Northern Cyprus) share at least one land border with another country, none of them are landlocked.

See also


  1. A country is "doubly landlocked" or "double-landlocked" when it is surrounded only by other landlocked countries.


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