Full List of Countries That Have Left-Hand Traffic in the World
|Which Countries That Have Left-Hand Traffic?|
Table of Content
Knowing which side of the road people drive on is important for anyone who's thinking about using a vehicle in a foreign country.
There are 163 countries and territories that drive on the right side of the road, while 76 of them drive on the left.
Many of the countries that drive on the left — making up about 30% of the world's population — are former British colonies, including ones in Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, and Oceania.
Since people were using mostly their right hands, they were going on the left side of the road and keeping their left safe so that they were able to reach easily to their swords if a danger approaches. Travelling on the left side of the road was formalized first in the 1300s.
Why do some countries drive on the left side of the road?
Archaeological evidence suggests that the ancient Romans may have driven their carts and chariots on the left, and the practice seems to have carried over into parts of medieval Europe. The reasons for this are not entirely certain, but some believe it arose as a matter of safety. The majority of people are right handed, one theory goes, so driving or riding on the left would have allowed them to wield a weapon with their dominant hand if they crossed paths with an enemy.
Until as recently as the 1700s, horse and wagon traffic was so light that the decision to drive on the left or right often varied according to local custom. Left-hand traffic finally became the law of the land in Britain after the passage of government measures in 1773 and 1835, but the opposite tradition prevailed in France, which favored the right as early as the 18th century. These two countries later exported their driving styles to their respective colonies, which is why many former British territories such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India still drive on the left. In the United States, meanwhile, many researchers trace the beginning of right-hand traffic to the 18th century and the rise of freight wagons pulled by large teams of horses. Since these vehicles often didn’t have a driver’s seat, drivers tended to ride on the left rear horse to more easily control their animal team with their right hand. As the wagons became more popular, traffic naturally moved to the right so drivers could sit closer to the center of the road and avoid collisions with one another. Yet another major influence was carmaker Henry Ford, who mass-produced his Model T with a left-positioned steering wheel, which necessitated driving on the right side of the road.
These days, left-hand traffic remains the norm in Britain and many of its former colonies as well as in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand and several other nations. Nevertheless, with the rise of the automobile, many countries have switched to the right to fit in with their neighbors. Canada abandoned the left side of the road in the 1920s to facilitate traffic to and from the United States. In 1967, meanwhile, the government of Sweden spent around $120 million preparing its citizens to begin driving on the right.
Left- and right-hand traffic
Left-hand traffic (LHT) and right-hand traffic (RHT) are the practices, in bidirectional traffic, of keeping to the left side or to the right side of the road, respectively. They are fundamental to traffic flow, and are sometimes referred to as the rule of the road. The terms right- and left-hand drive refers to the position of the driver and the steering wheel in the vehicle and are the reverse of the terms right- and left-hand traffic. The rule also extends to where on the road a vehicle is to be driven, if there is room for more than one vehicle in the one direction, as well as the side on which the vehicle in the rear overtakes the one in the front. For example, a driver in a LHT country would overtake on the right of the vehicle being overtaken.
Left-hand traffic (LHT) and right-hand traffic (RHT) are the practices, in bidirectional traffic, of keeping to the left side or to the right side of the road, respectively. They are fundamental to traffic flow, and are sometimes referred to as the rule of the road. The terms right- and left-hand drive refers to the position of the driver and the steering wheel in the vehicle and are the reverse of the terms right- and left-hand traffic. The rule also extends to where on the road a vehicle is to be driven, if there is room for more than one vehicle in the one direction, as well as the side on which the vehicle in the rear overtakes the one in the front. For example, a driver in a LHT country would overtake on the right of the vehicle being overtaken. RHT is used in 165 countries and territories, with the remaining 75 countries and territories using LHT. Countries that use left-hand traffic account for about a sixth of the world's land area, with about a third of its population, and a quarter of its roads. In 1919, 104 of the world's territories were LHT and an equal number were RHT. Between 1919 and 1986, 34 of the LHT territories switched to RHT. Many of the countries that adopted LHT were formerly part of the British Empire, although some, such as Indonesia, Macau, Mozambique, Nepal, Suriname, Sweden (RHT since 1967), and Thailand, were not. Similarly, many of the countries that were a part of the French colonial empire adopted RHT. In LHT traffic keeps left, and cars usually have the steering wheel on the right (RHD – right hand drive). Roundabouts circulate clockwise. RHT is the opposite of this: traffic keeps right, the driver usually sits on the left side of the car (LHD – left hand drive), and roundabouts circulate anti-clockwise. In most countries rail traffic follows the handedness of the roads, although many of the countries that switched road traffic from LHT to RHT did not switch their trains. Boat traffic on rivers is effectively RHT. Boats are traditionally piloted from the starboard side to facilitate priority to the right.
Features of the Left-Hand Traffic
• The traffic flows from the left, only the right lane can be used to pass the vehicle in front.
• The traffic from the opposite direction is on the right.
• Most traffic signs are on the left side of the road where drivers can see.
• Vehicles turn clockwise as they return from traffic hubs.
• When the rails cross over, they first look to their right.
• The vehicle’s driver’s seat is on the right.
• Where there is no sidewalk, pedestrians must walk from the right side of the highway.
Features of the Right-Hand Traffic
• The traffic flows from the right, only the left lane can be used to pass the vehicle in front.
• The traffic from the opposite side stays on the left.
• Most traffic signs are on the right side where drivers can see.
• In the traffic hubs, when the cars turn, they turn clockwise in reverse.
• When the rails cross over, they first look to their left.
• The vehicle’s driver’s seat is on the left.
• Where there is no sidewalk, pedestrians must walk from the left side of the highway.
Top 10 of Countries that Traffic Flows on The Left
Unlike 66% of the world’s population, Australians abide by left-hand traffic laws. That also means the steering wheels in vehicles are on the right-hand side, so the driver is closer to the centre of the road. Other countries that do this include New Zealand, India, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
If you wish to drive in Australia in a rental car, keep in mind that if you’re used to driving on the right, everything is basically mirrored. Here are our top five things to remember when setting off (on the left-hand side of the road):
1. Watch out for roundabouts. Just as you’ll be driving on the left, roundabouts will rotate to the left. You’ll also exit on the left. However, be mindful that you’ll need to give way to any traffic coming from your right before entering.
2. Turning right at an intersection will require crossing the intersection, and oftentimes where traffic lights are present, you will need to wait for the right-hand arrow to turn green. There are also intersections where right-hand turns won’t be allowed at all.
3. If the intersection has stop signs instead of traffic lights, you’ll need to give way to any cars on your right before moving through, as well as any cars whose path you’ll be crossing.
4. When coming up to a pedestrian crossing, you’ll want to check on your left, then right, to account for which curb you are closest to.
5. However, if you’re not in the car and you find yourself at a pedestrian crossing, make sure to look right first, then left, before crossing.
3 Australian States Take on Left-Hand Drive Vehicles
New South Wales
In NSW, LHD vehicles are legal only if they meet certain provisions. All vehicles over 4.5 tonnes must be Right-Hand Drive (RHD) almost without exception. Special purpose vehicles such as street sweepers are the only LHD vehicles of 4.5 tonnes allowed. Vehicles that are less than 4.5 tonnes and more than 30 years old may be registered with LHD. However, this must be the original state of the vehicle and vehicles that were converted to LHD cannot be licensed even if they meet the weight and age requirements.
Other vehicles of this size that are less than 30 years old usually must be RHD but there are some exceptions. A qualified certifier must assess a LHD vehicle to determine whether it may be registered this way. LHD vehicles that cannot be registered must be converted to RHD and the conversion must be assessed before registration.
Vehicles that are permitted to be registered as LHD must meet all NSW road safety road worthiness requirements. They must have rear-view mirrors on both sides of the vehicle and have headlights that dip downwards or down and to the left. Since most LHD vehicles are imported they also must meet the standards for imported vehicle registration in NSW.
In Western Australia vehicles of less than 4.5 tonnes that are at least 15 years old may be registered despite being LHD. These vehicles must meet certain standards and are licensed for personal use only. The vehicles must meet the requirements of road worthiness in WA including Australian Design Rules (ADRs).
In order to be licensed in WA, LHD vehicles must have seat belts manufactured to British or Australian standards or other standards which are deemed to be as good. American and Japanese seat belt standards are acceptable provided that the seat belts are properly identified as having been made to meet these standards. Appropriately placed head rests and child restraint anchorage points must meet the relevant ADRs based on the age and class of the vehicle.
All LHD vehicles must have two side mirrors without exception. The headlights of the vehicle must dip down and to the left or meet the standards for RHD vehicles. Vehicles manufactured after June 1973 must have amber-colored rear indicator lights.
LHD vehicles may be converted to RHD. It is recommended that this change be made before licensing. The conversion method and manner must meet the minimum requirements for workmanship and safety standards.
In South Australia only vehicles that are over 30 years old may be licensed as LHD. If they meet certain other requirements these vehicles may be fully licensed to be driven on South Australian roads. Vehicles that are less than 30 years old may receive a single-trip exemption in order to be driven from the area of import to the owner’s home or place of conversion.
Vehicles that are licensed in LHD must be identical to the manufacturer’s original specifications. This includes the type of material for some parts but not others. It does include the shape of the vehicle and the features that were originally present. All vehicles must be roadworthy and in good shape which means free of rust and without dents or damage.
Other features may be required based on the age of the vehicle. Vehicles manufactured after 1977 must have head restraints and child restraint anchorage points, for example, while this is not required of vehicles manufactured before 1972. Certain modifications may be made such as the fitting of seat belts or the transformation from a left-hand side exhaust pipe to a rear exhaust pipe since left-hand side exhaust pipes are not allowed in SA. All vehicles to be permanently licensed in LHD must be inspected by a qualified person.
In the Middle Ages you never knew who you were going to meet when travelling on horseback. Most people are right-handed, so if a stranger passed by on the right of you, your right hand would be free to use your sword if required. (Similarly, medieval castle staircases spiral in a clockwise direction going upwards, so the defending soldiers would be able to stab down around the twist but those attacking (going up the stairs) would not.)
Indeed the ‘keep to the left’ rule goes back even further in time; archaeologists have discovered evidence suggesting that the Romans drove carts and wagons on the left, and it is known that Roman soldiers always marched on the left.
This ‘rule of the road’ was officially sanctioned in 1300 AD when Pope Boniface VIII declared that all pilgrims travelling to Rome should keep to the left.
This continued until the late 1700s when large wagons became popular for transporting goods. These wagons were drawn by several pairs of horses and had no driver’s seat. Instead, in order to control the horses, the driver sat on the horse at the back left, thus keeping his whip hand free. Sitting on the left however made it difficult to judge the traffic coming the other way, as anyone who has driven a left-hand drive car along the winding lanes of Britain will agree!
These huge wagons were best suited to the wide open spaces and large distances of Canada and the US, and the first keep-to-the-right law was passed in Pennsylvania in 1792, with many Canadian and US states following suit later.
In France a decree of 1792 ordered traffic to keep to the “common” right and Napoleon later enforced the rule in all French territories.
In Britain there wasn’t much call for these massive wagons and the smaller British vehicles had seats for the driver to sit on behind the horses. As most people are right-handed, the driver would sit to the right of the seat so his whip hand was free.
Traffic congestion in 18th century London led to a law being passed to make all traffic on London Bridge keep to the left in order to reduce collisions. This rule was incorporated into the Highway Act of 1835 and was adopted throughout the British Empire.
There was a movement in the 20th century towards the harmonisation of road laws in Europe and a gradual shift began from driving on the left to the right. The last Europeans to change from left to right were the Swedes who bravely made the change overnight on Dagen H (H Day), September 3rd 1967. At 4.50am all traffic in Sweden stopped for ten minutes before restarting, this time driving on the right.
Today, only 35% of countries drive on the left. These include India, Indonesia, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and most recently, Samoa in 2009. Most of these countries are islands but where land borders require a change from left to right, this is usually accomplished using traffic lights, cross-over bridges, one-way systems or similar.
3. Hong Kong
Driving across the border into China is jarring precisely because it is so seamless. One minute you are cruising along an orderly Hong Kong highway. Then, after a quick passage through immigration — a breeze compared to crossing the border on foot — you are plunged into the frenzied traffic of Shenzhen. It takes a moment to register the fact that you are now driving on the wrong side of the road.
Hong Kong drives on the left; mainland China drives on the right. It’s one of the most obvious differences between the former British colony and its estranged motherland, a reminder of how 156 years of colonial rule continue to exert a strong influence over every aspect of Hong Kong life. The Basic Law, adopted when China resumed control over Hong Kong in 1997, guarantees the city’s “way of life” will remain unchanged until 2047. But officials on both sides of the border are eager to tie Hong Kong ever closer to the mainland. You would be forgiven for wondering just how much longer the Special Administrative Region will keep driving on the left.
There’s a certain symbolism in a city that continues to operate as a mirror image of the country of which it is part. You could even read it as a measure of Hong Kong’s power and influence. When an elegant cable-stayed bridge was planned for Shenzhen Bay in the early 2000s, planners conceived it as a part of Hong Kong that extended into the mainland. And that’s exactly how the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor has worked since it opened in 2007: traffic stays on the left until it reaches a border crossing located well into western Shenzhen. Hong Kong controls the mainland portion of the roadway and bridge, which it will lease from China until 2047.
The new 30-kilometre Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is just the opposite. As soon as vehicles pass through the border control facility located on an artificial island near the Hong Kong International Airport, they are on mainland territory, operated according to mainland rules – which includes driving on the right. That’s true despite the fact that only a small handful of mainland vehicles are allowed to drive on the bridge; nearly all of its traffic consists of vehicles registered in Hong Kong or Macau, which also drives on the left.
Globally, there are right-driving and left-driving countries, which are based on the lane position cars drive on public roads.
The term left or right driving explains the driving position of vehicles on public roads (left or right lane) while the term left or right-hand-drive explains the position of the steering wheel in a vehicle.
Citing worldstandards.eu, about 35% of the world population drives on the left, and the countries that do are mostly old British colonies while the majority of the others drive on the right lane. Examples of the former with cars being right-hand-drives are the U.K, Japan, Australia, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
“In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him,” as cited from the worldstandards.eu website.
British colonialism contributed to Indonesia and the majority of Southeast Asian countries implementing the concept of right-hand-driving. Citing carmudi.co.id, the left-driving Indonesia implemented was based on many variables as in the past cars that were imported mostly consisted of right-hand-drive cars during the colonial age.
Cars made by Japanese auto manufacturers eventually grabbed the interest of the Indonesian public due to its affordable prices compared to European car makers that implement left-hand-drive cars. Similarities in the average posture of Indonesian people compared to Japanese people also contributed to the choice of adopting a left-driving system.
In the past, almost everybody traveled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard (a sheath for the blade of a sword or dagger) further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people.
Furthermore, a right-handed person finds it easier to mount a horse from the left side of the horse, and it would be very difficult to do otherwise if wearing a sword (which would be worn on the left). It is safer to mount and dismount towards the side of the road, rather than in the middle of traffic, so if one mounts on the left, then the horse should be ridden on the left side of the road.
In the late 1700s, however, teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team. Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road. And so the trend started for right hand driving in France and the USA.
The French Revolution of 1789 gave a huge impetus to right-hand travel in Europe. The fact is, before the Revolution, the aristocracy traveled on the left of the road, forcing the peasantry over to the right, but after the storming of the Bastille and the subsequent events, aristocrats preferred to keep a low profile and joined the peasants on the right. An official keep-right rule was introduced in Paris in 1794. Napoleon’s conquests spread the new rightism to the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), Switzerland, Germany, Poland, and many parts of Spain and Italy.
However, the states that had resisted Napoleon kept left – Britain, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Portugal. This European division, between the left- and right-hand nations would remain fixed for more than 100 years, until after the First World War.
Although Japan was never part of the British Empire, its traffic also keeps to the left. This practice goes back all the way to the Edo period (1603-1867) when Samurai ruled the country (same sword and scabbard deal as before), but it wasn't until 1872 that this unwritten rule became official. That was the year when Japan's first railway was introduced.
Three countries approached the Japanese government to help them build a railway system. These three countries were America, France, and Britain. In the end, Britain won out. In 1872 the first Japanese railway was up and running thanks to the British. A massive network of railways spread out from there, all of which were left-side running. And as we all know, Japan loves their trains. If American or French railways had been built instead, Japan would probably be driving on the right side of the road today.
Horse railways and electric tram cars followed the left-side driving precedent set by the railways in Japan. Around 1900, automobiles started to show up. An order issued in 1902 by the Tokyo police said for the first time that pedestrians had to keep to the left side of roads. Finally in 1924, left-side driving was mandated as official law.
After the defeat of Japan during World War II, Okinawa was under control of the United States and made to drive on the right. Okinawa changed back to driving on the left when it was returned to Japan. The change took place on July 30, 1978. It is one of the only places to have changed from right to left hand traffic in the late twentieth century.
In Malaysia and many Commonwealth countries, people drive to the left when a two-way street has one-way traffic (i.e. Vehicles that are right-hand drive (also known as RHD). Overtaking on the “wrong” side of the road will result in an LHD vehicle being hit. Malaysian soil must be used only by vehicles that comply with the RHD convention.
8. South Africa
Like anywhere in the world, driving is one of the most convenient ways to get around in South Africa.
Thankfully most of the general duties of drivers on public roads will be more or less the same as in your country of origin.
For example, it’s also illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol in South Africa, and wearing a seat belt should still be your number one priority.
However, getting behind the wheel in South Africa will still be a whole new ballgame if you’re an expat or holidaymaker.
The National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 validates a foreign driving license on South African roads if the license has been issued in English and is accompanied by your photograph and signature. If the license is not in English or lacks a photograph, an International Driving Permit is needed. Many car rental companies also require that you apply for an international driving permit.
Traffic flows on the left side of the road in South Africa and vehicles are passed on the right. In most cars, the steering wheel will be located on the right of the car. If you’re from a country where right-hand traffic is the norm, you might be scared about driving in the wrong lane. There’s no need to panic though; other vehicles will mostly show you what to do and road signs are structured in a way that will help you not to make the wrong moves.
Distances are measured in kilometres. Traditionally, the maximum speed at which road vehicles are allowed to travel on particular stretches of road in South Africa is:
• 60 km/h in urban areas;
• 100 km/h on roads in rural areas which are not freeways;
• and 120 km/h on freeways.
There has been mentions of adjusting the speed limits to 40km/h in urban areas, 80km/h in rural areas, and 100km/h on freeways running through residential areas. Nothing has yet come of this though.
No doubt the supporters of this motion are motivated by South Africa’s high road accident rate. South Africans are unfortunately known to speed. Keep yourself and your family safe with these defensive driving tips.
Hiring a car is an affordable and popular way to get around Thailand at your own convenience. Driving in Thailand can be done by tourists as long as you hold a valid driver's license in English from your country of origin or a valid International driver's license. In Thailand, vehicles drive to the left hand side of the road and speed limits are expressed in kilometres per hour. Road signs are also expressed in both English and Thai.
When driving in Thailand it's important to remember that road 'rules' and etiquette are different than what you may be used to at home. In Thailand, tailgating is common and people often cut directly into lines of cars and cut each other off. However, despite the chaotic driving scene, no anger is displayed on the roads and this kind of behaviour is just accepted.
Driving in Thailand during the day is a little chaotic but manageable, however, driving at night is not recommended particularly for tourists. At night there is a lot of heavy truck traffic and the drivers tend to have little regard for other cars on the road. Motorbikes can also be a bit of a hazard as they often drive straight into oncoming traffic. However major routes outside of the city and around tourist/resort areas are generally quite safe.
As in most western countries, using a mobile phone while driving is illegal in Thailand and if you break this rule, you risk being pulled over and issued with a heavy fine. If you are pulled over for any reason while driving in Thailand, simply provide your car rental documents and license to the officer who may also request to see your passport. In the unfortunate event that you are issued with a ticket, your license will be seized, and you will have to visit the closest police station to pay your fine in order to get your license back.
10. United Kingdom
The first written Act in the UK to stipulate that traffic must drive on the left hand side of the road was The Highway Act of 1773, and was in reference to traffic crossing London Bridge. This was then passed into law as a general 'rule' in The Highway Act (1835).
There is, however, substantial evidence that left hand traffic has been the preferred option since at least Roman times in Britain. Archaeologists have excavated many sites where there are deeply gouged tracks on the left side of roads into towns and cities. The depth of the tracks going into these areas are significantly deeper than the grooves travelling out. This suggests that full, heavily-laden carts, possibly on the way into towns to sell goods at market, travelled on the left, causing deep grooves on entering. The grooves on the right hand side of the road, speculated to denote travel out of the towns, have proved to be shallower. It is thought that this is because the goods must have been sold and the carts, therefore, would have been much lighter, carrying far smaller loads.
There are a few theories about why many countries changed to driving on the right. All of these theories, more than likely, could have had some part to play in different countries.
• In the 1700's, the introduction of heavy freight wagons in the Americas is one such theory. With no driver's seat, one of the left-side horses was regularly used to transport the driver. Riding on the horse on the left hand side allowed the driver to use the reins and crop to control the horses. To enable the rider to avoid the wheels of other passing freight wagons, left hand traffic was abandoned in favour of driving on the right hand side of the road, reducing the risk to the driver.
• There is also a theory that in late 18th century France the nobility travelled on the left hand side of the road and forced the peasantry to use the right hand side. After the French revolution, the previous nobility, trying not to upset the new social order, began to ride and drive on the right. The rest of Europe followed suit later as Napoleon grew in power and influence.
• Over time, left hand traffic countries whose borders meet larger countries who drive on the right, have adopted the same 'rule' and converted to right hand traffic to make travel and trade between their countries easier. It was also thought to be a positive strategy by some countries as it reduced the risk of accidents on border crossings. This adoption of right hand traffic has occurred since the late 18th century, right into the 2oth century. The UK, as an island, has never changed, and many (but not all) British provinces have continued to 'drive left'. Abandoning left hand traffic in the UK, and adopting driving on the right, has been considered as an option in parliament on a number of occasions, but was ultimately discarded as too costly.
|Photo: Paradox Forums|
Full List of Countries That Drive On the Left 2022
British Virgin Islands
Isle of Man
Papua New Guinea
St Kitts-Nevits (-Anguilla)
Trinidad and Tobago
Turks and Caicos Islands
Virgin Islands (U.S.)
Countries Where the Traffic is Left Hand (by Continent)
- Christmas Island
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- Cook Island
- New Zealand
- Norfolk Island
- Papua New Guinea
- Pitcairn Islands
- Solomon Islands
- East Timor
- Hong Kong
- Sri Lanka
- South Africa
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- Isle of Man
- United Kingdom
- Caribbean Basin
- Antigua and Barbados
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha
- South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
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