“The Great White North” is an accurate description of what Canada is. Not only is it great in the quality of life it offers, but it’s also the second-largest country in the world, which is exactly the reason why you need to learn about how to get around once you move to Canada.
When in Canada, there are many things you must consider right before you move, including accommodation, work, and if you have a family, schools, and activities for your children. However, perhaps one of the most important things people tend to forget about is how they will manage to get from one place to another.
Will you be able to travel from point A to B? How about where you will live? If it’s not based in the city, how will you get around? As you can imagine, there is a lot of public transport in Canada, yet there is no transport that covers the country’s area of 9,985 million km². Needless to say, before you move, or even if you’ve arrived recently, it’s time to arrange a solution for you.
What Can You Do with a Foreign Driver’s License?
When it comes to your driver’s license in another country, it’s very important to be informed about the steps you must follow to be allowed to drive. In Canada, all driver’s licenses and permits are under the Provincial jurisdiction, which must be checked out based on the province you want to live in.
For instance, if you choose to live in Ontario and have been driving for over two years elsewhere, you can drive in Canada with your foreign license, provided that you are from a specific list of countries, including the United States, Japan, Korea, Austria, France, Belgium, Great Britain, and Switzerland. If you are immigrating from any of these countries to Ontario, you can exchange your driver’s license for a Canadian license without having to take a road test. All you have to do, however, is to pass the vision and knowledge tests for the province you live in, in Canada.
For information about every province and territory, and to find out whether you are eligible to exchange your driver’s license, review the transportation department in your province or territory to find out more about driver’s licenses that are specific to where you want to live. You can also find information on writing exams and getting driving lessons in your province of choice here:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
To obtain a new license in Canada, you will require you to present a valid foreign driver’s license and pass a written knowledge test about the province or territory traffic rules. You must also pass a vision test, pay all the fees required, and provide proof of identity. While undergoing this process with an existing foreign license, you can drive anywhere you like in Canada, yet you must always have your license on you. During the period that you must wait to exchange your license, you will be allowed to drive with your foreign license for a short period in Canada, which will depend on where you reside and if you meet the provincial and governmental laws.
If you are yet to arrive in Canada, you can obtain your International Driver’s License or Permit in your own country, which will enable you to drive in certain provinces. This international license can allow you three months to drive with an international license and includes anyone that would like to rent a car in Canada.
Rent a Car in Canada
Getting your driver’s license as an immigrant in another country is a priority before you look at rental cars in Canada. Before you arrive in Canada, you must obtain a copy of your driving history in your home country from the relevant licensing authority or insurance provider. This is necessary to exchange your license in Canada, or could help you get a new one. Your documentation can either be in French or English.
If you haven’t obtained any driver’s license from your home country yet, you can do so when you arrive in Canada. To do this, you will have to undergo the same process as anyone else living in Canada and have to follow the country’s graduated licensing rules. This requires you to take a written test for a permit that will allow you to drive with restrictions.
Driving in Canada may seem much more different than what most people are used to, which is particularly because Canada gets very cold in the winter. During the colder months, it snows in Canada. You can also expect to drive on icy cold roads, which is why you will have to get the car you rent ready with antifreeze and winter tires. You must also prepare yourself to drive slower than usual and drive at a much further distance from other cars to prevent skidding on the road. Anyone that lives in a rural area must also consider getting studded tires for more traction. In Canada, you can also take a driving instruction class for winter to prepare yourself if you have never driven on ice or snow before.
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To get access to car rentals in Canada, you must be at least 21 years old and have had driving experience for a minimum of 12 months. If you are between 21 and 24 years old, Canada will charge you a ‘Young Renter Fee’, which will get applied to your car rental. This makes owning a car expensive until you are at least 25 years old. 21 to 24 year olds are also restricted to specific car classes.
Apart from your minimum age and driving experience, you will require the following:
- Valid driver’s license and international driver’s permit (English or French)
- Credit card for your deposit
- Car insurance for the rental car
- Show a passport and return airline ticket when picking up your car (if applicable)
- Children weighing under 18kg require a child seat with a seat belt, which must be fastened every time you drive. (some car rental companies can supply you with one if you give them notice. This comes at an additional charge.
To drive a car in Canada without insurance is illegal, which means that you must arrange to get car insurance with your car rental company in Canada.
Most Canadian car rental companies offer collision damage waivers (CDW) and personal accident insurance at an additional charge. There are credit card companies in Canada that include CDW insurance on car rentals when using their cards for paying for the rental. For more information, check the credit card’s terms and conditions.
Cost and Taxes
Extra charges for a rental car include:
- One-way drop-off fee
- Provincial Sales Tax (where applicable)
- 5% of Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- per kilometre charge (if not limited)
- Fee for renters aged between 21-25 years old
- Fee for an additional driver
- Premium location fee (e.g. 10-15 at airports)
Fuel and Service Stations
When it comes to gasoline, you can opt for either unleaded gas or diesel. When you rent a car, car companies in Canada provide you with a full tank on your departure in exchange for returning the car with a full tank as well. If you do not return the rental car with a full tank of gas, you will have to pay for it.
Compared to the U.S., fuel prices are cheaper in Canada. However, the driving distances in Canada from one place to another are generally further. When you fill your tank in cities, you will pay less compared to small towns. Most gas stations are self-service and are open 24 hours a day, except for in rural areas, which closes at 6 pm.
Start Driving in Canada
If you don’t drive currently, the best thing to do when you arrive in Canada is to get your Canadian driver’s license as soon as possible. If you already have a foreign driver’s license and more than 1 year of driving experience, you can get a one to three-month temporary driver’s license that can either be exchanged for a Canadian one, accompanied by a couple of tests to see if you are eligible to drive in Canada. If you cannot exchange your foreign license, you can start the process of redoing it in Canada.
To move to Canada is an exciting step in the right direction. While you’re on your way to living in one of the best countries in the world, don’t forget to sight-see when you do for the very first time.
If you have not applied for permanent Canadian residency yet or are yet to complete your paperwork and process your application, why not consult a professional? Our Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) are approved by the Canadian government and ready to help you to become a real Canuck.