Countries that also drive on the left-hand side

Along with the UK, 75 countries and territories drive on the left. Finding a destination with similar road laws to the UK can make you feel safer when getting behind the wheel in a foreign country.

Along with the UK, 75 countries and territories drive on the left. Finding a destination with similar road laws to the UK can make you feel safer when getting behind the wheel in a foreign country.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
6
minute read
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Posted 12 JULY 2021

Which other countries drive on the left-hand side? 

Even though it’s the norm in the UK, only a third of the world’s population still drives 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. The full list of countries, territories and islands that drive on the left is here: 

Europe 

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

Asia 

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

Oceania 

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

Africa 

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

The Americas 

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Dominica
  • Falkland Islands
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Montserrat
  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • 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 highway robberies than the Highway Code. In the Middle Ages, horse-riders would stick to the left-hand side of the road so they could keep their right arm free to draw their sword (or other weapon of choice) if they thought they were about to be attacked or robbed. 

As time went on, wagons were developed that had seats for the driver to sit on behind the horses. The driver would sit to the right so that his hand was free to whip the horses and not just the side of the wagon. 

Later, traffic congestion in 18th-century London led to a law being passed to make all traffic on London Bridge keep to the left to reduce collisions. Left-hand driving was eventually made mandatory in Britain in 1835 and 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 (the equivalent of at least £4 billion in today’s money).

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, practically, it’s not always that simple. For example, if you wanted 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 on board a ferry to Ireland, it’s much more of a long-winded trip to get to Malta or Cyprus in your own car. 

If you do drive your own car in Europe, you’ll now need to get a Green Card from your insurance provider to prove you have at least third-party cover, even in Ireland. This rule came into force after the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020. 

When driving in Cyprus or Malta, you must also display a GB sticker on your car, but you don’t to have a GB sticker to drive in Ireland. If you’re driving through Europe to get to Cyprus or Malta you’ll need to follow the European rules for GB stickers. If your number plate includes the GB identifier with the Union Jack, you won’t need a GB sticker. But you will need to display a GB sticker clearly on the rear of your vehicle if your number plate has any of the following: 

  • a EU symbol (a ring of stars on a blue background)
  • a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
  • numbers and letters only - no flag or identifier

Spain, like Cyprus and Malta, is an exception to these rules and requires you to have a GB sticker, whatever is on your number plate.

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

If you fancy a road trip but the thought of driving on the opposite side of the road fills you with anxiety, it can be sensible to plan a holiday to a destination with similar road rules to 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 means you can travel further afield and see more of the country you’re visiting. The likes of 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 level of cover included so you won’t face any nasty surprises if you damage the vehicle. 

If you’d rather stay closer to home but still get a sense of being abroad, a driving holiday to Jersey can be 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 motor insurance – although it’s always worth checking first.

Frequently asked questions

Why does Japan have left-hand traffic?

Japan is one of the few countries where residents drive on the left but has never been part of the British Empire. So renting a car here isn’t too daunting, especially as all major road signs are also written in English, and the main roads are pretty easy to navigate.

The origins of driving on the left date back to the samurai, who wore their swords on their left-hand side so they could easily access them with their right hand. The tradition became even more ingrained in society in the 19th century, when a huge railway network was built, and all trains were driven on the left-hand side thanks to engineering advice from the Brits. Left-hand traffic eventually became written in law in 1924.

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

Yes, you can legally drive a left-hand-drive car in the UK even though most vehicles driven in this country have a steering wheel on the right-hand side.

Left-hand-drive vehicles will usually have 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 gov.uk website.

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

Yes, you won’t need specialist insurance for a left-hand-drive car. Because you’ll need to provide your registration number to get a quote, your insurance provider will know whether your car is a left or right-hand drive.

You may find that your insurance is more expensive though, if you drive a left-sided car. That’s because a left-hand-drive car will usually have been imported, often from the US. Imported cars will generally be made to different specifications and it can often be difficult to get hold of parts if they need fixing. They might also be more desirable to thieves. Naturally, this will push up the cost of your premium. See more on how to reduce the insurance costs of imported cars.

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