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Tips for Driving in Canada

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 2 Jul 2018 | comments*Discuss
Tips For Driving In Canada

Canada is a beautiful country to explore and its vast size means that taking a road trip can be an extremely long, tiring experience. The trick with Canada is to plan in advance where you want to go and make continual stops to really enjoy taking in the breathtaking scenery. As Canada has so many different provinces, there are generally road rules and tips specific to each, however overall there are mainly similarities between provinces and you should be able to navigate your way around without too much trouble.

Essential Tips for Driving in Canada

Canadians drive on the right, similar to most other countries in the world. This brings with it it’s own set of issues for most people from the UK. The best way to deal with having to drive on the ‘wrong side of the road’ is to take your time and start out slowly. Allow yourself to get used to how it feels and as your confidence grows, then you can proceed. Safety standards are high on Canadian roads and although their official road death numbers are higher than the UK, the conditions there are excellent in most places and people utilize defensive driving. Seat belts are compulsory and you risk being fined if you don’t wear one or ensure others in your vehicle are wearing them.

If you’re planning to travel through Quebec, it may be helpful to familiarise yourself with some basic French travel phrases before you go. If not, you can take a French phrase book with you as many signs are only in French and you may have difficulty understanding the road rules there.

Road Conditions and Parking

The road conditions in Canada are generally excellent quality, especially near the large cities and suburbs. Like any large country, they suffer from traffic jams and congestion, but overall it’s a pleasant place to drive. Due to the sheer size of Canada and the fact that you cross 6 time zones going coast to coast, you’re likely to traverse over a number of different styles of road. There are the regular highways and expressways, right down to long winding country roads that seem to travel for miles through nothing but space.

You should watch out for a very real threat from wild animals on the road in these conditions. Signs will normally be present to alert drivers to certain wildlife types that are seen nearby, so slow down around these areas. Hitting a deer, elk or moose can be a real hazard for cars, particularly when they run across the road unexpectedly. They are large animals and there’s a high chance that you’ll be killed if you’re unfortunate enough to be involved in a collision with one of these particular breeds.

Certain parts of Canada can be extremely hazardous during winter months so watch out for icy roads, rock avalanches, snow or other extreme conditions. Some roads are very isolated and getting into an accident there could mean being stranded out there for hours with no other cars passing by. Always take a mobile phone if you can and have the number of local emergency services available.

Speeding Laws in Canada

Canadians generally practice defensive driving, however there is a very real danger of collisions from speeding. The wide, open roads mean that some drivers become impatient and will break the speed limits. There are a number of mobile patrols watching for speeders and there are high fines for those that are caught. The general speed limits are:

  • Motorways – 100 km/h
  • Built-up Areas – 50 km/h

Road Rules in Canada

Different provinces in Canada will have their own road rules to familiarize you with, but overall most share similarities. If you can plan ahead and realise that it’s essential to take a break when driving long distances, you should find travelling through Canada extremely pleasurable. Here are some general tips to know about Canadian driving:

  • Points systems are in place in each province, so always be aware of your speed and don’t consider drinking and driving. You’ll get points on your licence as well as a fine
  • Be aware of the speed signs – remember they’re in kilometres and not miles
  • Always give way to pedestrians on pedestrian crossings
  • Take out full insurance if you’re planning to hire a car in Canada. Don’t try to cut costs here, make sure you have the best cover you can get
  • Obtain an International Driving Permit before you go. You can get this from the AA, Green Flag or RAC. This is the accepted licence in Canada when hiring a car there.
  • Fuel is readily available and you can pay with cash or cards.

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[Add a Comment]
Pb - Your Question:
I’m 17 and going to Canada (west from Saskatchewan) and into USA for a little would I be able to drive a Canadian family members car with a full UK license at 17?

Our Response:
Here is more information . The minimum driving age in most US states is 16 or 17.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 5-Jul-18 @ 3:26 PM
I’m 17 and going to Canada (west from Saskatchewan) and into USA for a little would I be able to drive a Canadian family members car with a full UK license at 17?
Pb - 2-Jul-18 @ 7:46 PM
non - Your Question:
Can you drive in Canada with the old fashioned British driving licence?ie British driving licence without a photograph.Regards.

Our Response:
You can drive in Canada on a full driving licence. You should check with the hire company whether they want photo ID.
AboutDrivingAbroad - 10-Nov-16 @ 10:05 AM
Can you drive in Canada with the old fashioned British driving licence? ie British driving licence without a photograph. Regards.
non - 9-Nov-16 @ 9:55 AM
Having just returned from three weeks in BC and the Yukon, here are some further useful points: 1. Always give way to traffic coming from the right. 2. At traffic signals you can turn right on red. 3. Canadian junctions usually have Stop signs and on a series of junctions these might apply in different directions; some cross roads have Stop signs on all four adjoining roads. 4. Owing to harsh winters and regular gritting, zebra crossings are often indistinct; in built-up areas you should assume there are pedestrian crossings at every junction. 5. Typically Canadians will not exceed 20km/h in built-up areas. 6. The Canadians are not as familiar with Diesel cars as we are in Europe and many rural garages don't offer it.
Ian W - 10-Jun-14 @ 5:28 AM
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