Driving in - an international driver's guide
Driving in - An international driver's guide.

Driving in Canada

Driving in Canada might be quite different from driving in the USA. In Canada people drive on the right hand side of the road. Canadian roads are quite long (Canada is a country that spans six time zones!) and therefore always carry food and water with you while traveling long distances. Accidents due to fatigue and drowsiness are common.


Winter travel can be dangerous due to heavy snowfalls and hazardous icy conditions. Some roads and bridges are subject to periodic winter closures. Snow tires are required in some Provinces.

Speed Limits

Speed limits vary depending on where you are driving in Canada. The speed is measured in kilometers per hour (kph), which might be a bit confusing for someone who's not used to the metric system. Unless otherwise posted, the maximum speed limit in Canada is 50km/hr in cities and 80km/hr on highways. On rural highways, the posted speed limit may be 100kph. Speed laws violated can be caught on speed cameras and radar traps.

It is illegal to take automobile radar detectors into Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, the Yukon or the Northwest Territories, regardless of whether they are used or not. Police there may confiscate radar detectors, operational or not, and impose substantial fines.


Seat belt use is mandatory for all passengers, and child car seats must be used by children under 20 Kg (40 pounds).

School Bus

In Canada, if a school bus stops and flashes red lights, traffic in both directions must comply and stop.

Road Signs

Signs and symbols are very similar to those used in most countries around the world, so they display symbols instead of text. In Quebec, most of the signs are in French only, so in certain areas knowledge of French can be important.

Mobile Phones

Talking on mobile phones while driving in Canada is illegal.


Always carry important documentation while driving in Canada like your driver’s license, vehicle registration, certificate of motor insurance and passport. U.S. auto insurance is accepted as long as an individual is a tourist in Canada. U.S. insurance firms will issue a Canadian insurance card, which should be obtained and carried prior to driving into Canada.

If you do not own the car you are driving, you must carry a letter from the owner giving you permission to drive. Any foreign driver’s license is valid and therefore an International Driving permit is not required.

Drinking and Driving

Driving while impaired is a criminal offense in Canada. Penalties are heavy, and any prior conviction (no matter how old or how minor the infraction) is grounds for exclusion from Canada.

The Police

If you are stopped by the police while driving in Canada, stay seated in your car and switch the engine off. Wait for further instructions form the police officer. Do not attempt to do anything yourself. Always be polite and well mannered. Never try to bribe the police officers, or try to pay the fine directly to him. Attempting to bribe a police officer is a very serious crime in Canada.


Depending on which province you are driving in, you will need to switch on your headlights even during the day. Always keep dipped headlights on during low visibility.

Traffic Lights

In Montreal and Quebec City, it is prohibited to turn right on red. At intersections, directional signs will indicate only which turn is allowed; any other turn is prohibited.

Animals Crossing

Signs alerting drivers to beware of certain wildlife that roam nearby may be seen on some roads. It's not just to protect the animals; deer, elk and moose can be a real hazard for cars and their drivers. They often get mesmerised by car lights and stand frozen in the path of your car, or can bolt across the road out of nowhere. If you hit one of these large animals, especially a moose, you can be killed.

With all these rules and regulations in mind, you will definitely have a smooth ride through Canada. Although the rules might be a bit different from the United States, it will not take time to get used to driving in Canada.

Additional Information

(Latest Update: 20/09/2013)

All information on this page is provided as a service to our users. It is not meant to be a comprehensive document, though we try to keep it as updated as we can. We cannot be held responsible in any way for any consequences arising from any inaccuracies.
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