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Driving in Canada

Whether you rent or drive your own vehicle, Canada's vast network of well-maintained roads and highways will take you anywhere you want to go. A car trip is an ideal way to experience the country's landscape, people and culture on your own terms and at your own speed.

Canadians drive on the right side of the road. Distances and speed limits are posted in metric; usually 100 km/h or 60 mph on highways and 50 km/h or 30 mph in towns and cities. Seat belts are compulsory. Right turns on red lights are permitted in most cities across the country, however there are certain areas of Quebec where this is not yet legal, specifically except on Montreal Island and at intersections where road signs prohibit such turns. Since 1989, Canada has required daytime running lights on all new passenger cars, buses and trucks. If you are bringing your own car and it is not equipped with daytime running lights, you should drive with your headlights on.

Drinking and driving is a big “no-no” in Canada. Each province has a different alcohol level allowance in the bloodstream of drivers. If you are caught driving above such level, you may end up in jail. Check each province authorities or with the Canadian Auto Club of your preference ( to find out about legal maximum alcohol levels in your blood while driving.

An International Drivers Licence obtained in a foreign country can be used in Canada to drive. If you are spending under a year in Canada, an International Drivers Licence is sufficient. If you intend to obtain permanent residency in Canada or stay for several years, you need to get a Canadian drivers licence.

There are different rules for getting a drivers licence in different provinces. In most provinces, there is a Graduated Licensing System, where 3 tests have to be done over a certain time period (usually 2 years) to obtain 3 levels of licence in order to qualify for the full driver privilege. For instance, in Ontario, there are G1, G2 and G levels for automobile drivers. G1 is the written test, G2 is the 15 minute (approximately) test on the city streets and G is the final, city streets and highway test that lasts approximately 45 minutes. There is also a time limit during which a full G licence must be obtained. It is 5 years in Ontario (other provinces it may vary). To obtain any level of licence, you should go to the provincial Ministry of Transportation.

If you come from the USA and have held a full driver licence (not for minors) for a period of two years, you may be eligible to swap your USA licence for a Canadian one. Note that in this case, you will need to surrender your American licence in order to obtain the Canadian one.

If you are from another country, you may be eligible for an automatic G1 or G2 licence depending on the Ministry of Transportation policy.





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