If you have driven a car, whether in the UK or further afield, you will likely be familiar with one of the most frustrating aspects of driving: congestion.
Although being sat in traffic can be frustrating as a driver (and can also have damaging effects on pollution levels), it is all part of owning a car - along with having to pay out for car tax and car insurance. With the causes of congestion ranging from roadworks and car accidents to too many cars on a road, traffic jams can take minutes or sometimes even hours from your day.
On this page:
- The top 20 most car-congested countries
- Positions 21-50 of the most car-congested countries
- The African countries with the busiest roads
- The Asian countries with the busiest roads
- The European countries with the busiest roads
- The North American countries with the busiest roads
- The countries in Oceania with the busiest roads
- The South American countries with the busiest roads
To investigate which countries are the worst for traffic congestion, we’ve looked at the total number of vehicles on the road, as well as the total road network length in 64 countries around the world. By dividing the total number of vehicles for each country by the size of the total road network, we were able to reveal the number of cars per kilometre of road and therefore the countries which will feel the most congested whilst driving.
Top 20 most car-congested countries
The United Arab Emirates tops our list of most congested countries, with a total of 553 cars per km of its 4,080km road network. The UAE also scores highly for pollution with an average µg/m³ of 29 (µg/m is the concentration of an air pollutant in micrograms per cubic metre of air).
Hong Kong ranks as the second most congested location, with 390 cars per km of road, and Singapore follows behind in third position with 192 cars per km of its 3,500km of road network.
The UK ranks in 11th position, despite comparatively low levels of pollution (8µg/m³) which is the lowest of all the top 20 most congested countries. However, with over 34 million vehicles on a total road network of 394,428km, the UK sees a ratio of 86 cars per km of road.
1. United Arab Emirates
With a total road network of 4,080km and 2,254,000 vehicles on the roads, the UAE ranks as the most congested country, with an estimated 553 vehicles per km of road. According to the TomTom Traffic Index 2020, UAE cities Dubai and Abu Dhabi rank in 230th and 399th positions respectively.
The UAE has sought to tackle the high levels of traffic in the country by improving public transport. The Dubai Metro was introduced in 2009, along with an annual ‘car free’ day (24 February). Despite this, congestion levels remain high, as do pollution levels, with a score of 29 µg/m³.
2. Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s total road network is 4,080km in length and with almost 822,000 (821,933) vehicles on the roads, Hong Kong is estimated to have around 390 cars per km of road. The country also ranked in 57th position in the TomTom traffic index, with an average congestion level of 30%.
Despite running a well-established congestion charge throughout the country, Singapore ranks as the third most congested country, with 192 cars per km of its 3,500km total road network. The nation charges drivers entering the central city area, with rates varying by the time of day or area that you’re entering the city from. The country also ranks as the 83rd most polluted destination in last year’s TomTom traffic index.
In fourth position is Turkey with an average of 172 cars per km of its 67,333km total road network. According to the TomTom Traffic Index 2020, Istanbul ranked as the 5th most congested city in the world, with an average 51% congestion level in 2020.
Bulgaria ranked in fifth position, with 171 cars per km of road, and an average of 28 µg/m³ of pollution. Capital city Sofia ranked as 53rd most congested city in the TomTom Traffic Index, with a 30% congestion score.
6. South Korea
With a total of 17,664,000 vehicles and a 110,714km total road network, South Korea ranked in sixth position with an average 160 cars per km of road.
Taiwan ranked in seventh position with 158 cars per km of road, with an average pollution level of 15µg/m³. Not only this, but five cities in Taiwan also ranked in the top 50 most congested cities, according to the TomTom Index, with Taipei ranking in 23rd, Taichung in 34th, Taoyuan in 35th, Kaohsiung in 39th and Tainan in 41st position.
Israel ranked in eighth position with an average of 143 cars per km of its 19,555km total road network. Tel Aviv ranked in 25th position in the TomTom world traffic index, with an average congestion level of 37%. Israel is using technology to improve traffic and congestion levels in the country, with the country recently using AI to improve the efficiency of its traffic lights.
9. Czech Republic
Ranking in ninth position was the Czech Republic with 97 cars per km of its 55,744km road network. With 5,392,8000 total vehicles on the road, the Czech Republic had the lowest pollution score of the top 10 countries with an average level of 12µg/m³. Despite this Czechia cities Prague and Brno ranked in 137th and 167th positions respectively and Ostrava had a lower ranking of 247th in the TomTom traffic index.
In tenth position was Malaysia, with 92 cars per km of a total road network of 144,403km. Malaysia has a total of over 13 million vehicles on its roads, and an average pollution level of 16µg/m³. Capital city Kuala Lumpur ranked at 77th place in last year’s TomTom traffic index, with a congestion level of 28%.
Positions 21-50 of the most congested countries
Ranking in positions 21-50 were some of the biggest countries in the world, including the US, Russia and China. Russia ranked in 33rd position with 38 cars per km of its 1,283,387km total road network, China ranked in 37th position with 32 cars per km of road, and the US in 47th place with 18 cars per km of the 6,586,610km road network - the longest road network of all countries analysed.
The African countries with the busiest roads
The Asian countries with the busiest roads
The European countries with the busiest roads
The North American countries with the busiest roads
The countries in Oceania with the busiest roads
The South American countries with the busiest roads
Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, comments:
“Congestion is an issue faced by drivers regardless of the country they are in. And to tackle this, some countries have rules in place to help ease the flow of traffic. In the UK, this includes banning cars from some areas, or charging motorists for driving in certain areas. And this can vary from country to country, and even by city, so it’s important to check the latest congestion rules and charges when driving in a new area. Driving without realising the regulations can lead to fines - something which no-one wants to deal with, particularly if hiring a car or driving abroad.
“Knowing how congested roads might be while driving in another country or city can also help you travel much more efficiently and spend as little time as possible stuck in traffic jams (and more time exploring)!”
We calculated the total number of vehicles, plus the total road network (in kilometres) for 64 of the world's major economies. We then divided the total number of vehicles for each country by the size of the total road network, to reveal the number of cars per kilometre of road, for every country listed. This figure was used to rank each country's roads from the highest to lowest volume-to-capacity ratio.Data sources for total road network lengths:
All data is correct as of 28 September 2021.