Why does the US drive on the right and the UK on the left? Your travel questions answered

In this week’s travel roundup, we bring you transport trivia, Roman engineering marvels and the world’s tastiest dumplings.

Did you know?

You’re probably aware that around 30% of the world’s countries drive on the left while 70% drive on the right. But have you considered why? In Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte had a big hand in it, while in the United States, we need to go back to the time of wagon trains. Read more here.

When flying around the world, and particularly in hot spots such as London, you may have been told your airplane is being kept in a “holding pattern.” We explain what they are and why they happen.

And as airline after airline raises checked bags fees, it makes you wonder why they charge so much? In the United States, at least, an obscure tax rule helps explain why.

Food and drink

The greatest restaurants in Asia for 2024 have been named, with Singapore snagging the most spots on the 50-best list. But Tokyo is home to both the No. 1 and No. 2 eateries.

When exploring the Japanese capital, you’ll find Tokyo’s oldest rice ball restaurant just a short walk from the city’s oldest temple. Onigiri – seaweed-wrapped snacks perfect for eating on the go – are found in convenience stores around Japan, but the 16-seater Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku draws visitors from around the world.


Bawan, wonton, daifuku, modak and siomay are just some of the Asian entries in our sumptuously packed roundup of the world’s tastiest dumplings, but you should leave room for all the doughy morsels from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the United States, too.

Rail connections

China has been pouring money into huge overseas infrastructure projects for a decade now. The Southeast Asia one could mean a 2,000-mile (3,220-kilometer) journey from southwest China to Singapore will take just 30 hours. Here’s how that’s going.

A simpler connection was made on Europe’s Channel Tunnel train in 2012, when a British woman and a French man sat beside each other on a warm spring evening. This is what happened next.

Whether you’re in a group, traveling solo or with your new international beau, packing well will make your next rail trip go better. Our partners at CNN Underscored, a product reviews and recommendations guide owned by CNN, have selected 22 must-haves for luxurious train travel in 2024.

Tourism vs. conservation

There’s a new addition to Everest climbers’ packing lists: poop bags. Himalayan hikers will now have to take their excrement away with them as Nepal tries to address a growing waste problem on the world’s highest peak.

In Australia, Horizontal Falls is a sacred natural wonder where seawater surges in a gap between cliffs. For years, it’s been a must-see sight for tourists riding boats right into the action. But a new ban will stop them in their tracks.

Finally, a new resort in the Philippines’ famed Chocolate Hills, a protected natural wonder, has stirred fierce debate on conservation. After a public outcry, the Captain’s Peak Garden and Resort has been temporarily shuttered.

In Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte played a central role. In the United States, Henry Ford often gets the credit, but that’s actually wrong. It goes much further back than Ford. Not only does traffic on the right pre-date cars, it pre-dates the establishment of the United States.

That’s how I ended up in a former tobacco drying barn in Conestoga, Pennsylvania, looking at a wagon – only a few days after I test drove a Tesla Cybertruck, its modern electric descendant. John Stehman, whose family has farmed land in the area since 1743, met me. He’s president of the Conestoga Area Historical Society, and, as I had learned from research on the history of roads and driving, the Conestoga wagon was key to this whole story.

Wagon trains

These big wagons, with their tall, arched cloth roofs, became icons of America’s westward expansion as they carried the belongings of pioneers from the east out to the frontier. Back in the early 1700s, though, western Pennsylvania was the distant frontier.


Conestoga wagons were developed by local carpenters and blacksmiths to carry goods, including farm produce and items bartered from Native Americans, to markets in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was, at the time, one of the biggest cities in the colonies. The wagon driver could ride one of the horses or sit on a “lazy board” that slid out of the side of the wagon. But when more active control was needed, he walked alongside the horses, pulling levers and ropes.

“He would give the verbal command, ‘Gee’, ‘Haul,’ or whatever, and they would hear that,” Stehman said. “He would also maybe tug on this (leather ‘jerk line’) once or twice.”

I imagined myself walking down a long dusty trail leading a team of horses pulling this blue-painted wagon. I’m right-handed, like most people. For just that reason, Conestoga wagons had the controls on the left side, close to the wagon driver’s right hand. That meant the driver was toward the middle of the road and the wagon to the right.

Eventually, there was so much trade and traffic between Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia that America’s first major highway was created. The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road opened in 1795. Among the rules written into its charter, according the book “Ways of the World ” by M.G. Lay, was that all traffic had to stay to the right — just like the Conestoga wagons did.

In 1804, New York became the first state to dictate traffic stay to the right on all roads and highways.

A Model T Ford in 1915.

Some people credit Henry Ford with standardizing US traffic on the right side of the road because, in 1908, Ford Motor Co. put the steering wheel on the left side of the hugely popular Model T. Really, though, Ford was just responding to driving habits that had been largely established long before.

The really weird thing is that most of the rest of Europe, besides Britain, drives on the right like Americans do.

Napoleon’s march through Europe

Why are the British outliers even on their own continent? Credit, or blame, the French.

Coloured engraving depicting pedestrians and carriages on the boulevards of Paris, France, around 1750.

The French revolutionary government under Maximilien Robespierre — best known for leading the late 18th-century “Reign of Terror” in which thousands were guillotined — dictated that everyone should drive on the right.

The left side of the road was, by long cultural convention, reserved for carriages and those on horseback. In other words, the wealthier classes. Pedestrians, i.e. poorer folks, kept to the right. Forcing everyone to the same side of the road, besides being good for traffic, was part of doing away with these snobby class distinctions.

The upper classes likely went along since, in those days, being seen as aristocratic was not only unfashionable, it was rather dangerous. (See above about guillotines.)

A street in Stockholm, Sweden, at 5 am. on September 3, 1967 when cars switched from left to right side driving.

The French policy is said to have been spread by Napoleon as his armies marched through Europe. Some evidence for this can be found by looking at a map of the Napoleonic empire in 1812.

There is one nation that was neither a subject nor ally of Napoleon. That would be Sweden. Sweden drove on the left, up until one surprisingly uneventful day in 1967 when drivers there switched to the right.

Hazardous driving

Whatever the reasons, there are sometimes real consequences to switching sides and there have been serious crashes.

William Van Tassel, AAA’s head of driver training, recommends that drivers take extra steps to concentrate when driving on the other side. For one thing, keep the radio off.

“I think it’s fine to talk to yourself, while you’re driving over there. That kind of forces you to be focusing on driving,” he said. “OK, tight left or far right. Check for traffic from the right rather than the left. Whatever it is, whatever works.”

At Avis Budget Group, which rents lots of cars to Americans driving in the United Kingdom, rental agents make sure to remind customers about driving on the left. They take other steps, too.

“In addition, all of our vehicles throughout the UK have ‘Drive on the left’ stickers and in major locations we hand out Drive on the left wristbands, which we advise our customers to always wear on the left wrist as a reminder of which side of the road to drive,” Avis Budget said in a statement.

AAA’s Van Tassel also recommends having a passenger along as another pair of eyes, something that helped me when I nally terrified her.was driving there, although I occasio

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