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Other countries that drive on the left-hand side

The UK famously drives on the left-hand side of the road. But which other countries drive on the left? And are they good destinations for a self-drive holiday? Here’s our handy guide.

The UK famously drives on the left-hand side of the road. But which other countries drive on the left? And are they good destinations for a self-drive holiday? Here’s our handy guide.

Written by
Alex Hasty
Insurance comparison and finance expert
Reviewed by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
21 JUNE 2023
6 min read
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How many countries drive on the left?

Of the 193 countries recognised by the United Nations, some 54 drive on the left-hand side of the road. That’s only around a third of the global population. The other two-thirds drive on the right.

In fact, most of continental Europe drives on the right, so if you’re planning a driving holiday abroad, this is an important consideration.  

Which countries drive on the left? 

Most other countries that drive on the left-hand side are former British colonies, including Australia, India, South Africa and the Caribbean nations.

Here’s the full list of countries, territories and islands that drive on the left:

Where in Europe can I drive on the left?

  • Channel Islands (including Jersey and Guernsey)
  • Cyprus
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Malta 
  • UK mainland

Where in Asia can I drive on the left?

  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • East Timor
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand 

Where in Oceania can I drive on the left?

  • Australia
  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos Islands
  • Cook Islands
  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Nauru
  • New Zealand
  • Niue
  • Norfolk Island
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu 

Where in Africa can I drive on the left?

  • Botswana
  • Eswatini
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe 

Where in the Americas can I drive on the left?

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Dominica
  • Falkland Islands
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Montserrat
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Suriname
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • US Virgin Islands

Why does the UK drive on the left-hand side? 

Interestingly, the reasons for this go way back before cars even existed and have more to do with fighting than the Highway Code.

Back in Roman times, chariot riders would stick to the left-hand side of the road so they could keep their right arm free to draw their weapon and defend themselves from enemy attacks. 

Later, when horse-drawn carriages became popular, the driver would sit to the right so his hand was free to whip the horses.

Traffic congestion in 18th-century London meant a law was passed to make traffic on London Bridge keep left to reduce collisions. Left-hand driving became mandatory in Britain in 1835 and was adopted throughout the British Empire.

Did you know?

The UK Government considered switching to the right in 1969 but rejected the idea because of safety issues and the huge cost involved. We wouldn’t be the first though – Sweden, Nigeria and Ghana have all switched sides.

What are the advantages to driving on the left? 

The AA quotes a 1969 study that shows driving on the left is safer. Admittedly the difference is only marginal, but it’s thought to be because most people are right-handed and right-eye dominant, which makes driving on the left slightly easier.

What are the disadvantages of driving on the left? 

Because most of the world drives on the right, fewer cars are made with UK drivers in mind, which means they tend to be more expensive. It’s one reason we tend to pay more for our cars than mainland Europe does.

Some people may also find it difficult to adjust to driving on the right when they hire a car abroad.

Can I take my car to a country that drives on the left? 

In theory, you can take your own car to a country that drives on the left, assuming you have the necessary documents, including a valid licence and car insurance. But it isn’t always that simple.

If you want to visit a European country that drives on the left, your options are limited to Malta, Cyprus or Ireland. While it’s relatively easy to take your car by ferry to Ireland, it’s far trickier to get to Malta or Cyprus in your own car.

Are left-side driving countries good for a self-drive holiday? 

If you fancy a road trip but dread driving on the opposite side of the road, one option is to holiday somewhere with road rules like those in the UK. After all, getting used to the different road signs, speed limits and languages can be challenging enough without the added ordeal of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. 

Hiring a car abroad allows you to travel further afield and see more of the country you’re visiting. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are among the best places in the world for scenic road trips, and they’re all countries that drive on the left.

If you’re renting a car, insurance is typically included in the hire costs, but always check the Ts & Cs so you won’t face any nasty surprises if you damage the vehicle. 

If you’d rather stay closer to home, a driving holiday to Jersey can offer the best of both worlds. You can take your own car on the ferry from Poole or Portsmouth and explore the island at your leisure. The rules of the road are similar to mainland Britain and you should be covered by your UK insurance – although it’s always worth checking first.

Tips for driving abroad

If you’re planning an overseas driving trip, it’s essential you get up-to-date travel advice first. Even if you’ll still be driving on the left, the country or territory you’re visiting may have different rules and regulations to those you’re familiar with in the UK.

Make sure you do your homework on the local driving laws and signage, and remember to take all the documents you need to legally drive in your destination.

Discover more tips for driving abroad. 

Frequently asked questions

Can I drive a left-hand-drive car in the UK?

Yes, you can legally drive a left-hand-drive car in the UK. Left-hand-drive vehicles have usually been imported into the UK. If you’re importing a car yourself, rather than going through a broker or a dealer, you’ll need to make sure it’s registered with HM Revenue and Customs, and the DVLA.

You can find more information on importing vehicles into the UK on the Government’s website.

Can I get insurance for a left-hand-drive car in the UK?

Yes, you can get insurance for a left-hand-drive car, and you won’t need specialist insurance either. When you compare with us, we’ll ask you to confirm that your car is a right-hand drive. If it isn’t, just change the details and we’ll show you a list of quotes from providers that will insure your car.

But you may find your insurance is more expensive if you drive a left-sided car. This is because a left-hand-drive car will usually have been imported, often from the US.

Imported cars are generally made to different specifications and getting hold of parts can be tricky. They might also be more desirable to thieves. Naturally, this pushes up the cost of your premium.

See how to reduce the insurance costs of imported cars.

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Alex Hasty - Insurance comparison and finance expert

At Compare the Market, Alex has had roles as Commercial Associate Director, Director of Trading and Director of Growth. He’s currently responsible for the development and execution of Comparethemarket’s longer-term strategic options, ensuring the right breadth of products and services that meet customer needs.

Learn more about Alex

Rory Reid - car and technology expert

Rory Reid is a car and technology expert. He serves as the main presenter on Auto Trader’s YouTube channel and was previously a host on BBC Top Gear and its sister show Extra Gear. He is also a presenter on Fifth Gear. Previously, he hosted Sky TV’s Gadget Geeks, CNET’s Car Tech channel, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition and on the YouTube channel Fast, Furious & Funny.

Learn more about Rory

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