Last update: 20 February 2016

What’s the deal with those white oval-shaped bumper stickers? Good question!

cars - oval car stickers (NL)

The usage of these white oval decals originated in Europe in the early 20th century. European countries are relatively small and drivers have always frequently crossed from country to country. Moreover, in those days European licence plates all looked confusingly similar, so Europe needed to find an easy way to identify each vehicle’s country of registration. They came up with the idea of making it mandatory to put a white oval-shaped sticker with black country initials on the back of all vehicles.

This European custom became an international requirement in many countries after the U.N.’s Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949) and Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (1968). It was agreed upon that a distinguishing sign of the country of registration had to be displayed on the rear of the vehicle. It also stipulated that the sign could either be placed separately from the registration plate or could be incorporated into the vehicle’s number plate and if the international registration letter was incorporated into the licence plate, it also had to appear on the front number plate.

cars - oval car stickers - BMW with D sticker

These days, oval stickers with an international circulation mark are not as common anymore in Europe, since standard E.U. number plates have integrated the country code into a blue strip on the left side of the plate. This blue section is actually the flag of Europe (a circle of 12 yellow stars on a blue background), with the country code of the member state underneath it.

Since only two countries border the United States and the vast majority of Americans, Canadians and Mexicans hire a car instead of bringing their own when they go abroad, there was no need for car ovals at all. This explains why these oval-shaped country stickers have never been subject to any kind of regulation by the American Government. At some point in the early 80s, however, it became trendy for Americans to look European: with the yuppie bimmer craze, it was pretty common to see BMWs with the German “D” oval sticker (Deutschland) driving on American highways (see picture on the left). A lot of U.S. servicemen who had been stationed in Germany, also brought back all kinds of German cars and they tended to leave those decals on their vehicles, just to say “Hey, I was stationed over there”.

cars - oval car stickers - American car

Soon, some Americans started putting all kinds of other European country code stickers on their cars. Many of the stickers were silent boasts about what amazing destination the driver had been to. White oval bumper stickers gradually became a fad status symbol, so people started making Euro-looking stickers with abbreviations for places in the States. Common stickers are for instance things like “MV” for Martha’s Vineyard, “CA” for California, “ACK” for Nantucket (which is the airport code) and “OBX” for the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Below is an extensive listing of all independent countries of the world and their international car code.

Country International vehicle registration code
Afghanistan AFG
Albania AL
Alderney GBA (stands for Great Britain Alderney)
Algeria DZ (stands for الجزائر‎ or, in the Latin alphabet, al-Jazā’ir, pronounced as Al Dzayer)
Andorra AND
Angola ANG (unofficial licence plate country code)
Anguilla AXA (unofficial licence plate country code)
Antarctica ARK (unofficial licence plate country code)
Antigua and Barbuda AG (unofficial licence plate country code)
Argentina RA (stands for República Argentina)
Armenia AM
Aruba AUA (unofficial licence plate country code) / ARU (unofficial licence plate country code)
Australia AUS
Austria A
Azerbaijan AZ
Bahamas BS
Bahrain BRN
Bangladesh BD
Barbados BDS
Belarus BY (stands for Byelorussia)
Belgium B
Belize BH (stands for British Honduras, the former name of Belize) / BZ (unofficial licence plate country code)
Benin DY (stands for Dahomey, the former name of Benin)
Bhutan BHT (unofficial licence plate country code)
Bolivia BOL
Bosnia and Herzegovina BIH (stands for Bosna i Hercegovina)
Botswana RB (stands for Republic of Botswana) / BW (unofficial licence plate country code)
Brazil BR
British Virgin Islands BVI
Brunei BRU
Bulgaria BG
Burkina Faso BF
Burma (officially Myanmar) BUR (stands for Burma, the former name of Myanmar)
Burundi RU (stands for Ruanda-Urundi, the former name of Burundi)
Cambodia K (stands for Kampuchea, the former name of Cambodia)
Cameroon CAM
Canada CDN (stands for Canadian Dominion)
Cape Verde CV (unofficial licence plate country code)
Catalonia CAT (unofficial licence plate country code, E is the official code)
Central African Republic RCA (stands for République Centrafricaine)
Chad TCH (stands for Tchad) / TD (stands for Tchad, unofficial licence plate country code)
Chile RCH (stands for República de Chile)
Colombia CO
Comoros COM (unofficial licence plate country code)
Costa Rica CR
Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) CI
Croatia HR (stands for Hrvatska)
Cuba C
Cyprus CY
Czech Republic CZ
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea KP (unofficial licence plate country code)
Democratic Republic of the Congo ZRE (stands for Zaïre, the former name of the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Denmark DK
Djibouti DJI (unofficial licence plate country code)
Dominica WD (stands for Windward Islands Dominica)
Dominican Republic DOM
East Timor (Timor-Leste) TL (stands for Timor-Leste, unofficial licence plate country code)
Ecuador EC
Egypt ET
El Salvador ES
England ENG (unofficial licence plate country code, GB is the official code)
Equatorial Guinea GQ (unofficial licence plate country code)
Eritrea ER
Estonia EST
Ethiopia ETH
Faeroe Islands FO / FØ (stands for Føroyar, unofficial licence plate country code)
Federated States of Micronesia FSM (unofficial licence plate country code)
Fiji FJI
Finland FIN
Flanders VL (stands for Vlaanderen, unofficial licence plate country code, B is the official code)
France F
Gabon G
Gambia WAG (stands for West Africa Gambia)
Georgia GE
Germany D (stands for Deutschland)
Ghana GH
Gibraltar GBZ (stands for Great Britain Gibraltar, Z was assigned because G was already used for Guernsey)
Greece GR
Greenland KN (stands for Kalaallit Nunaat, unofficial licence plate country code)
Grenada WG (stands for Windward Islands Grenada)
Guatemala GCA (stands for Guatemala, Central America)
Guernsey GBG (stands for Great Britain Guernsey)
Guinea RG (stands for République de Guinée)
Guinea-Bissau RGB (stands for República da Guiné-Bissau, unofficial licence plate country code) / GW (unofficial licence plate country code)
Guyana GUY
Haiti RH (stands for République d’Haïti)
Honduras HN (unofficial licence plate country code)
Hong Kong HK (unofficial licence plate country code)
Hungary H
Iceland IS (stands for Ísland)
India IND
Indonesia RI (stands for Republik Indonesia)
Iran IR
Iraq IRQ
Ireland IRL
Isle of Man GBM (stands for Great Britain Isle of Man)
Israel IL
Italy I
Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) CI (stands for Côte d’Ivoire)
Jamaica JA
Japan J
Jersey GBJ (stands for Great Britain Jersey)
Jordan HKJ (stands for Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan)
Kazakhstan KZ
Kenya EAK (stands for East Africa Kenya)
Kiribati KIR (unofficial licence plate country code)
Kosovo RKS (stands for Republika e Kosovës, unofficial licence plate country code)
Kuwait KWT
Kyrgyzstan KS
Laos LAO
Latvia LV
Lebanon RL (stands for République Libanaise)
Lesotho LS
Liberia LB
Libya LAR (stands for Libyan Arab Republic)
Liechtenstein FL (stands for Fürstentum Liechtenstein)
Lithuania LT
Luxembourg L
Macau MO (unofficial licence plate country code)
Macedonia, Republic of (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM) MK (stands for Македонија or, in the Latin alphabet, Makedonija)
Madagascar RM (stands for République de Madagascar)
Malawi MW
Malaysia MAL
Maldives MV (unofficial licence plate country code)
Mali RMM (stands for République du Mali)
Malta M
Marshall Islands MH (unofficial licence plate country code)
Mauritania RIM (stands for République islamique de Mauritanie)
Mauritius MS
Mexico MEX
Moldova MD
Monaco MC
Mongolia MGL
Montenegro MNE
Morocco MA (stands for Maroc)
Mozambique MOC (stands for Moçambique)
Myanmar (formerly Burma) BUR (stands for Burma, the former name of Myanmar)
Namibia NAM
Nauru NAU
Nepal NEP
Netherlands NL
Netherlands Antilles NA
New Caledonia NC (unofficial licence plate country code)
New Zealand NZ
Nicaragua NIC
Niger RN (stands for République du Niger)
Nigeria WAN (stands for West Africa Nigeria)
Northern Ireland (unofficial licence plate country code, GB is the official code) NI
Norway N
Oman OM (unofficial licence plate country code)
Pakistan PK
Palau PAL (unofficial licence plate country code)
Palestine PS (unofficial licence plate country code)
Panama PA
Papua New Guinea PNG
Paraguay PY
People’s Republic of China CN (unofficial licence plate country code)
Peru PE
Philippines RP (stands for Republic of the Philippines)
Poland PL
Portugal P
Puerto Rico PR (unofficial licence plate country code)
Qatar Q
Republic of Korea ROK
Republic of the Congo RCB (stands for République du Congo Brazzaville)
Romania RO
Russia RUS
Rwanda RWA
Saint Kitts and Nevis KAN (unofficial licence plate country code)
Saint Lucia WL (stands for Windward Islands Saint Lucia)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines WV (stands for Windward Islands Saint Vincent)
Samoa WS (stands for Western Samoa, the former name of Samoa)
San Marino RSM (stands for Repubblica di San Marino)
Saudi Arabia KSA (stands for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)
Scotland SCO (unofficial licence plate country code, GB is the official code)
Senegal SN
Serbia SRB
Seychelles SY
Sierra Leone WAL (stands for West Africa Sierra Leone) / SLE (unofficial licence plate country code)
Singapore SGP
Slovakia SK
Slovenia SLO
Solomon Islands SOL (unofficial licence plate country code)
Somalia SO
South Africa ZA (stands for Zuid-Afrika)
Spain E (stands for España)
Sri Lanka CL (stands for Ceylon, the former name of Sri Lanka)
Sudan SUD
Suriname SME
Swaziland SD
Sweden S
Switzerland CH (stands for Confœderatio Helvetica)
Syria SYR
São Tomé and Príncipe STP (unofficial licence plate country code)
Taiwan RC (stands for Republic of China)
Tajikistan TJ
Tanzania EAT (stands for East Africa Tanzania)
Thailand T
Timor-Leste (East Timor) TL (unofficial licence plate country code)
Togo TG
Tonga TO (unofficial licence plate country code)
Transnistria PMR (stands for Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, unofficial licence plate country code, MD is the official code)
Trinidad and Tobago TT
Tunisia TN
Turkey TR
Turkmenistan TM
Tuvalu TUV (unofficial licence plate country code)
Uganda EAU (stands for East Africa Uganda)
Ukraine UA
United Arab Emirates (UAE) UAE
United Kingdom (UK) GB (stands for United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
United States (USA) USA
Uruguay UY
Uzbekistan UZ
Vanuatu VU (unofficial licence plate country code)
Vatican City V
Venezuela YV
Vietnam VN
Wales CYM (stands for Cymru, unofficial licence plate country code, GB is the official code)
Western Sahara WSA (unofficial licence plate country code)
Yemen YAR (stands for Yemen Arab Republic)
Zambia Z
Zanzibar EAZ (stands for East Africa Zanzibar)
Zimbabwe ZW
Separatists from the Spanish region of Catalonia often cover up the E (España) on their number plates with a CAT sticker
Separatists from the Spanish region of Catalonia often cover up the E (España) on their number plates with a CAT sticker