Landlocked: there are 49 countries that doesn't have a coast and access to the ocean | Photo: Valentin/My Switzerland

A landlocked country is a nation or sovereign state that doesn't have a coast. It is surrounded by terra firma and not directly connected to any ocean.

As a result, landlocked states are completely cut off from the sea and don't have access to international waters and open ocean activities.

As of today, the world has 44 officially and universally recognized landlocked countries and five partially recognized landlocked states.

As a result, 6.9 percent of the world's population - 475.8 million people - lives in nations that lack access to seawater.

These countries represent 11.4 percent of the planet's area.

The largest landlocked country is Kazakhstan, with 2,724,900 square kilometers of territory; the smallest landlocked state is Vatican City, with 0.44 square kilometers.

The most populous landlocked country in the world is Ethiopia, with 101.8 million people; on the opposite side, there's Vatican City, with 820 inhabitants.

Europe and Africa have 16 landlocked countries each, Asia has 15 states without coastlines, and the Americas have only two nations without access to open oceans.

Interestingly, ten of these 49 nations have naval forces: Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Central African Republic, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Laos, Paraguay, Rwanda, Uganda, and West Bank.

They operate watercraft and have naval personnel patrolling large inland water bodies like seas, lakes, rivers, and other endorheic basins.

Landlocked states have the right to a maritime flag.

As a result, they can register ships and sail them in the open ocean under their own flag regardless of having open seaports or not.

The Convention on Transit Trade of Landlocked States is a multilateral treaty that allows these nations to transport goods to and from seaports.

Switzerland: a landlocked country with a naval force | Photo: Säntis-Schwebebahn AG/My Switzerland

A Natural Disadvantage

Being landlocked has many disadvantages - most of them are economic.

Trapped nations don't have access to fishing and maritime trade and rely on friendly relationships with their neighbors to connect to the world.

They also have more customs duties and transportation costs, making it expensive to access the coastline.

In Africa, the situation is particularly disadvantageous.

Unlike Europe, where there's a modern and widespread network of canals and railroads, Africa's infrastructure is undeveloped.

The continent's landlocked countries depend on the infrastructure of their neighbors to transport their goods.

If transit neighbors become hostile or have a civil war, they are forced to seek longer, costlier trade routes.

Ethiopia: the most populous landlocked country in the world | Photo: Visit Ethiopia

Landlocked Degrees

There are several degrees of isolation and separation from international waters.

The current political world map features three countries that are landlocked by a single nation: Vatican City and San Marino (surrounded by Italy) and Lesotho (surrounded by South Africa).

In the next level of isolation - semi-enclaved countries - you'll find seven nations surrounded by two neighbors: Andorra (between France and Spain), Bhutan (between China and India), Eswatini (between Mozambique and South Africa), Liechtenstein (one of the double-landlocked countries, between Austria and Switzerland), Moldova (between Romania and Ukraine), Mongolia (between China and Russia), Nepal (between China and India),

There are also three states in this group with no or limited international recognition: West Bank (between Israel and Jordan), Transnistria (between Moldova and Ukraine), and South Ossetia (between Georgia and Russia).

Finally, in the most extreme category, countries that are double-landlocked, which means they are surrounded by landlocked states only.

They are Liechtenstein (surrounded by Austria and Switzerland) and Uzbekistan (surrounded by Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan).

Austria, Serbia, and Zambia are the landlocked nations with the most number of neighbors - each one of them has eight bordering countries.

Being landlocked has a few advantages, though.

They often avoid bad weather effects caused by oceans, like tsunamis and hurricanes. Also, they have the possibility to monitor all goods and people coming into or leaving the country through the land borders.

Last but not least, they're also safe from invasions from the sea.

Map of Landlocked Countries

Take a look at the complete list of landlocked countries by continent.

Africa | 16 Landlocked Countries

South Sudan
Central African Republic
Burkina Faso

Europe | 16 Landlocked Countries

North Macedonia
Czech Republic
Kosovo *
Transnistria *
San Marino
Vatican City

Asia | 15 Landlocked Countries

Artsakh *
South Ossetia *
West Bank *

South America | 2 Landlocked Countries


* Partially recognized states or states with limited recognition

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