While most of the world drives on the right, a large amount of the world is left-hand drive. This can get confusing and many people will end up driving on the wrong side of the road - especially in parking lots or around residential roundabouts. It's annoying for pedestrians too - crossing the road they may look the wrong way for oncoming traffic. Sitting on the opposite side of the car with the steering wheel can also be disconcerting.

Today the main regions that are left-hand drive are the British Isles, Southern and East Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, Japan, Australiasia, and parts of Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia). But one thing is for sure, multiday road trips are a lot of fun around the world left-hand or not.

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Overview

Today 165 countries and territories drive on the right, while 75 countries and territories drive on the left (a large minority). These 75 countries and territories only account for a sixth of the world's land area but a third of its population - mostly because India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia drive on the left.

  • Left-Hand Drive: 75 Countries and Territories
  • Right-Hand Drive: 165 Countries and Territories

Tip: When Traveling Always Look Both Ways Before Crossing The Road

A hundred years ago in 1919, there was an equal number of countries driving on the left and right (around 104 each) but between 1919 and 1986 34 of them switched to the right.

Most of the countries that drive of the left today used to be part of the British Empire (notable exceptions being the United States and Canada). Also while Portugual now drives on the right, it used to drive on the left and today some of its former colonies drive on the left (Mozambique and Macau - others have switched), the same is true for the formerly left driving Netherland with the old colonies of Indonesia and Suriname.

Almost every country that was once part of the Spanish and French Empires - together with all countries that were part of the Soviet Union are right-hand drive. Countries that are left-hand drive independently of the European Empires are Japan and Thailand.

Related: Is A Road Trip Better Than Flying? Here's Why The Extra Time On The Road Is Worth It

The Americas

The Americas are overwhelmingly left-hand drive - but not entirely. All of mainland North America is right-hand drive, but there are a whole bunch of small Caribbean countries that are left-hand drive (except Jamaica none of the big islands like Cuba, Hispanola, or Puerto Rico).

The United States in its entirety is actually not 100% right-hand drive. The U.S. Virgin Islands are left-hand drive, so one can be in a territory of the US and drive on the left. The U.S. Virgin Islands are well worth a visit - as is American Samoa.

  • First Right Hand Law In The USA: The First Keep Right Driving Law was Passed in 1792 In Philadelphia
  • United States: Technically, The United States Is Mixed Left And Right

Today Canada is right-hand drive largely because of the French. Quebec and Ontario were former French colonies and always right-hand drive. but other Canadian provinces were once left-hand drive namely British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. These changed to right-hand drive between 1920 and 1923 (Newfoundland in 1947).

In South America, only two countries are left-hand drive Suriname and Guyana (these countries are more integrated with the Caribbean than South America).

  • Left-Hand Driving In North America: Some Caribbean Island Countries (Including The U.S. Virgin Islands)
  • Left-Hand Driving In South America: Suriname and Guyana

Related: 20 Roads Inexperienced Drivers Should Stay Away From

In Europe and Africa

In Europe, there are four independent countries that are left-hand drive (they are all island nations). All of the mainland European countries are right-hand drive. Many countries used to be left-hand drive. Even the British territory of Gibraltar is right-hand drive.

  • Left-Hand Drive In Europe: The United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta, Cyrus

Fun Fact: Sweden Was Left Hand Drive But Switched In 1967

While basically all countries that have switched, have switched from left to right, Rwanda and Burundi could switch from right to left in the future (their most influential neighbors drive on the left).

In Asia

China is a particularly interesting country with driving. While mainland China is right-hand drive, the special administrative territories of Hong Kong and Macau are the left-hand drive. Thus China is one of the few countries to actually drive on both sides of the road (along with the United States).

  • China: Technically Drives On Both Sides Of The Road

According to Japan Centric, passing on the left had long been the unwritten tradition in Japan. And this can be traced back to the samurai - they would walk on the left because of their swords. As they would draw their swords with their right hands, they felt more prepared if they passed another samurai.

Plus it meant the swords wouldn't be bumping into anything and no one could grab it. Others would follow the samurai and walk on the left to keep out of their way. The British building left-hand trains further reinforced the notion that left was the way to go.

Next: 10 Places Around The World That Are Insanely Difficult To Drive Through