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Driving on the Left or Right: Which Countries Do What, and Why?

Throughout the world, the modern motor industry has influenced a widespread movement to drive on the right side of the road.

Yet, many countries still choose to drive on the left, and when we read into history, we can understand how this mix came about. 

With that being said, let’s find out which countries drive on the left and right sides of the road and the reasons behind this.

Presently, 76 countries and territories (34% of the world’s population) drive on the left side of the road, while 163 countries and territories (66% of the world’s population) drive on the right. If we look into history, this wasn’t always the case, and present-day rules are a result of colonization and the modern motor industry shaping the way we drive.

Why do countries drive on the left?

If we investigate the history of road driving, for some, driving on the left-hand side of the road was a more convenient way to travel safely. Let’s run over some examples. 

British influence 

When considering the history of left-hand side driving, we need to look back thousands of years to the Roman Empire, when Romans and their gladiators marched on the left and also used to travel with their carts and wagons on the left-hand side of the road.

While steering with their left hand, they would use their right hand to draw weapons in confrontational situations.

This trend continued into the middle ages when people would ride horseback, and driving on the left-hand side of the road enabled them to free their hands to fend off attackers on the right. In 1300 AD, a rule was passed that meant those traveling to Rome had to keep on the left-hand side of the road. 

This practice carried through time, and eventually, in 1773, Britain passed the General Highways Act, promoting vehicles to drive on the left.

Also, at the time, the countries they occupied were influenced to drive on the left side of the road. Since then, Britain decided to stick to the left-hand side of the road and hasn’t looked back since, making it a law in 1835 that has stuck until the present day.  

This is why the majority of countries driving on the left-hand side of the road today are formally associated with British territories. 

Why do countries drive on the right?

In the present day, driving on the right-hand side of the road is generally favored around the world, and if we look at how this came to be, it can be attributed to a left-handed French leader and the modern motor industry. 

French influence

While the British were busy influencing countries to drive on the left-hand side of the road, the French were pressing their occupied territories to drive on the right-hand side of the road. 

If we travel back in time to post-revolution France, the French military commander and political leader, Napoleon, who was left-handed, used the right-hand side of the road as an intimidation tactic to throw opponents off center. He also saw this as a way to prevent congestion when conducting military activities. 

As a result, France later transferred this approach to their occupied territories spread around the world, including the European countries of Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Spain, and more. 


With regards to Europe, similar to other parts of the world, by the 18th century, there wasn’t a national rule about which side of the road to drive on. This later changed as a result of Napolean, and his conquests, when occupied territories adopted driving on the right-hand side of the road. 

This spread continued after Napoleon’s death. Through the late 19th and early 20th century, the rise and spread of the motor transport industry made driving on the right-hand side of the road a widespread driving standard throughout Europe, continuing until the modern day.

In fact, at the present time, the UK, Ireland, Malta, and Cyprus are the only European countries that continue to drive on the left.


There is evidence that from the earliest known settlements, left-hand travel dominated America. In those days, when swordsmen would ride horses, traveling on the left-hand side of the road made drawing a sword with their right hand more effective to fend off attackers. 

This all changed in the 18th century when teams of horses would pull their cargo wagons while the driver would sit on the back left horse, controlling and leaving their whip hand free. With all this going on, it made things a lot easier if he were to drive on the right-hand side of the road, being able to navigate the cart and look down and see oncoming traffic to the left more easily. 

The same reasoning applied to drivers concealing handguns, as when traveling on the right-hand side of the road, they could easily access their weapons with their left arm, quickly warning or fending off any threats. 

This would eventually catch on further afield and become the popular method of travel throughout America, and in 1804 New York was the first State to advise driving on the right, and by the 1860s, all States were using this rule.

Recent changes

Whether a country chooses to drive on the left or right-hand side of the road is not set in stone, and up until present times, countries continue to switch which side of the road they drive on for various reasons. 

These reasons include the rise in vehicle manufacturing, with some countries that have driven on the left-hand side of the road for centuries now choosing to switch to driving on the right-hand side to “fit in,” resulting in roughly 3/4 of the world presently using the right-hand side of the road to drive on. 

The year 1924 saw three countries switch to the right-hand side of the road, Canada, Poland, and Spain. In 1928, Brazil and Portugal made the change. Austria completed their change in 1938. More recently, in 1967 Sweden switched over, as well as Iceland in 1968, Burma in 1970, and Ghana in 1974. 

The last country to switch sides was Samoa, which in 2009 became the only country in 40 years that switched from right-hand side to left-hand side road driving. They made this switch to cater to less costly car imports from countries such as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, instead of the more costly imports of American-made cars.

Which countries drive on the left and right

Let’s run through the different countries around the world, and find out what side of the road they drive on.  


  • Algeria, Right
  • Angola, Right
  • Botswana, Left
  • Egypt, Right
  • Kenya, Left
  • Lesotho, Left
  • Madagascar, Right
  • MalawiLeft Mauritius, Left
  • Morocco, Right
  • Mozambique, Left
  • Namibia, Left
  • Senegal, Right
  • South Africa, Left
  • Swaziland, Left
  • Tanzania, Left
  • Tunisia, Right
  • Zambia, Left
  • Zimbabwe, Left
  • Cameroon, Right
  • Congo, Right
  • Gabon, Right
  • Ghana, Right
  • Mali, Right
  • Nigeria, Right
  • Seychelles, Left
  • Togo, Right
  • Uganda, Left

The Caribbean

  • Antigua, Left
  • Aruba, Right
  • Bahamas, Left
  • Barbados, Left
  • Bonaire, Right
  • Curacao, Right
  • Dominica, Left
  • Dominican Republic, Right
  • Grenada, Left
  • Jamaica, Left
  • Martinique, Right
  • Puerto Rico, Right
  • Reunion, Right
  • St Lucia, Left
  • St Maarten, Right
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines, Left
  • Trinidad and Tobago, Left
  • Haiti, Right
  • Anguilla, Left
  • Cayman Islands, Left
  • Guadeloupe, Right

Central America

  • Belize, Right
  • Costa Rica, Right
  • El Salvador, Right
  • Guatemala, Right  
  • Honduras, Right
  • Nicaragua, Right
  • Panama, Right  


  • Austria, Right
  • Belgium, Right
  • Bulgaria, Right
  • Canary Islands, Right
  • Croatia, Right
  • Cyprus, Left
  • Czech Republic, Right
  • Denmark, Right
  • Estonia, Right
  • Faroe Islands, Right
  • Finland, Right
  • Germany, Right
  • Gibraltar, Right
  • Hungary, Right
  • Iceland, Right
  • Ireland, Left
  • Italy, Right
  • Latvia, Right
  • Lithuania, Right
  • Luxembourg, Right
  • Malta, Left
  • Northern Ireland, Left
  • Norway, Right
  • Poland, Right
  • Portugal, Right
  • Romania, Right
  • Scotland, Left
  • Sicily, Right
  • Slovakia, Right
  • Slovenia, Right
  • Spain, Right
  • Sweden, Right
  • Switzerland, Right
  • Wales, Left
  • Tenerife, Right
  • Ibiza, Right
  • Mallorca, Right
  • Georgia, Right
  • Liechtenstein, Right
  • Lanzarote, Right
  • Ibiza, Right
  • Lanzarote, Right
  • Mallorca, Right
  • Tenerife, Right
  • Holland, Right
  • UK, Left

The rest of Europe

  • Albania, Right
  • Andorra, Right
  • Azerbaijan, Right
  • Belarus, Right
  • Guernsey, Left
  • Isle Of Man, Left
  • Jersey, Left
  • Kosovo, Right
  • Macedonia, Right
  • Moldova, Right
  • Montenegro, Right
  • Russia, Right
  • Serbia, Right
  • Turkey, Right
  • Ukraine, Right
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, Right

The Middle East

  • Bahrain, Right
  • Israel, Right
  • Jordan, Right
  • Kuwait, Right
  • Lebanon, Right
  • Oman, Right
  • Qatar, Right
  • Saudi Arabia, Right
  • Syria, Right
  • UAE, Right
  • Yemen, Right

North America

  • Canada, Right
  • Mexico, Right
  • USA, Right
  • Greenland, Right


  • Australia, Left
  • Fiji, Left
  • New Caledonia, Right
  • New Zealand, Left
  • Papua New Guinea, Left
  • Samoa, Left
  • Vanuatu, Right
  • Guam, Right

South America 

  • Argentina, Right
  • Brazil, Right
  • Chile, Right
  • Colombia, Right
  • Ecuador, Right
  • Paraguay, Right
  • Peru, Right
  • Uruguay, Right
  • Venezuela, Right
  • Bolivia, Right

South Asia

  • India, Left
  • Pakistan, Left
  • Sri Lanka, Left
  • Bangladesh, Left

Southeast Asia

  • Cambodia, Right
  • Indonesia, Left
  • Malaysia, Left
  • Philippines, Right
  • Singapore, Left
  • Thailand, Left
  • Vietnam, Right

East Asia

  • China, Right
  • Hong Kong, Left
  • Japan, Left
  • South Korea, Right
  • Taiwan, Right


Throughout history, political and cultural domination has had a major influence on what side of the road countries presently drive on.

From towns and cities having the freedom to choose which side of the road they drove on, to entire countries being colonized and adapting to new driving rules and regulations.

Although the majority of the world drives on the right-hand side of the road, a sizable chunk still chooses to drive on the left, with no signs of shifting anytime soon.

References (link)