Fun facts: Road signs around the world

Road signs have been around since the Romans constructed pillars and milestones to let travelers know how far they were from Rome. It was only with the invention of cars that road signs became essential, and then became commonplace.

Have you ever heard of the Vienna Convention of Road Signs and Signals? Me neither, but it’s a treaty started in 1968 that aims to make road signs the same all over the world. This means that if you travel to another country, you should still be able to instantly understand their road signs.

Not all countries have signed up to the treaty, however, so there are still some differences from country to country.

I’m walking here!

Wherever you are in the world, you will be able to recognize the road sign for a pedestrian crossing. It always shows a person crossing a road, although each country has their own unique variation. The UK uses a stick man, Israel’s and Japan’s men have hats, whereas Qatar’s sign features a clothed person.

Road signs for pedestrian crossings

Watch your language

It is important to understand road signs when you are in another country. Of course, not everyone can speak every language, which is why most signs use pictures and symbols. In countries with more than one official language, their road signs often have to feature multiple languages. In Quebec in Canada, traffic signs can feature English, French, and Cree (the language of the Cree Native Americans).

Quebec stop sign

Animal Alert

Warning signs for animals are common across the globe. Depending on where you are in the world, you will see different animals feature. Some of them are more unusual than others... Here are some examples:

Animal warning road signs

Unusual Signs

Some countries have some unusual road signs. If you’re in the UK, US, or Russia, you might see a sign for a tank crossing if you’re close to a military base. In Denmark, they even have a helpful sign for anyone wearing high heels: be careful when walking down the cobbled streets.

Denmark road sign broken heel zone
Photo courtesy of Espresso Marco via Flickr.

Have you seen any interesting or funny road signs on your travels? Let us know in the comments below.

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