I came to a bit of curiosity, wondering what foreign license plates look like. Excluding plates for trucks and motorcycles, most United States plates look alike: same dimensions, name of the state, six to eight characters allowed. If you’ve been on a road trip on a major Interstate highway in America before 2009, you have probably noticed that the Canadian plates look the same: one for each province or territory, and if you’re anything like me, have probably been like “Mom, look!!!!!!“ in excitement. Interestingly enough, the territories of Nunavut and Northwest Territories have polar bear shaped plates. However, you are unlikely to see one of those unless you someday visit Yellowknife or Iqaluit.
Most Americans tend to think about Mexico as a single unit, and forget that it too is divided into states. You can easily find this out by looking at the last page of map in your annual Rand McNalley US and Canada road atlas. As such, each state has its own plate, and funnily enough, they look very similar to US and Canadian license plates: same size and name of the state. However, they number the plates in three parts rather than two. In America, we have three letters, a dash, and three or four numbers (or possibly the other way around). In Mexico, the plates have three letters, a dash, two numbers, another dash, and two more letters. Central American plates are also the same size, but are usually only characters on a solid color, with the country name written on the top, and “Centro America” on the bottom. The type of characters varies: Panaman plates have only numbers, while Belizian ones all begin with C for private vehicles. South American license plates, depending on the country, are either elongated (but not as long as Euro plates) like in Argentina and Brazil, or American sized, like in Venezuela. Guyanan plates look entirely different from the other styles.
African license plates seem to come in two styles: long like European plates (which make sense considering that most of Africa was under European jurisdiction until the 1950s and 1960s), or square with two rows of characters. They tend to vary only in colors, but have solid backgrounds. This pattern even applies to the plates in Arabic, not in Latin characters.
Asian plates have the most variation, simply because of the great cultural variety on the continent. In the Middle East, the plates are in Arabic, but the name of the country is in English (the first three letters, that is), and the plates are often clearly divided into two, three , or four sections, by raised lines. Chinese plates are blue with a Roman letter and five numbers, and a single Chinese character on the left, which might mark (this is my guess) the province of registration. Indian plates have the Indian flag on the left with two rows of characters. Japanese plates have only four characters, all numbers. In Burma (Myanmar), the plates are entirely in local characters, rather than adopting Roman letters and/or Arabic numbers. While in Central Asian countries like Khazakstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, and Uzbekistan, the plates resemble European plates, probably since they used to be part of the Soviet Union.
European plates are easily recognizable due to their elongated, yet short shape. Countries in the European Union have plates that are white with a vertical stripe on the left: containing the symbol of the EU and the country code (one or two letters). Countries not in the EU follow this pattern, but don’t have the EU symbol, having their flag instead. Other countries have older looking plates, some of which have their flag or some identification of the country (however, not all, as it never used to be that way). In Russia, the country identification is in a segmented-off square on the right with the flag, “RUS”, and two numbers indicating province.
There you have it, my informative research rant about license plates. I hope this didn’t bore you to death. I would like to thank worldlicenseplates.com for giving me all my information. Thanks for reading!