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Canada

Driving

As one of the planet s largest countries, Canada presents travellers with enough scenery to last a dozen trips. Stretching between the Pacific and the Atlantic are 13 diverse provinces, from the wilds of British Columbia and Vancouver to the cosmopolitan marvels of French-speaking Quebec and Ontario s Toronto. The sheer size of Canada almost demands a car to get the most out of any visit.

Driving Tips for Canada

The relatively small population of Canada means that traffic is a rarity except within major cities like Toronto and Vancouver. Most driving will be on scenic country roads and excellent highways that are signed in English and sometimes English and French, but only in French in Quebec. There are some truly remote areas in Canada so always equip your vehicle with spare kit and make sure the mechanics are in tip-top shape.

Driving licences: visitors to Canada may use their valid driving license from their home country unless it is a language other than English. If that is the case, an International Driving Permit is also required.

Which side does Canada drive on: the right.

Speed limits:

Highways and freeways: 60mph (100kph)

Major roads and small highways: 50mph (80kph)

Outside built-up areas: 35-45mph (60-70kph)

Built-up areas: 25-30mph (40-50kph)

School zones: 20-25mph (30-40kph)

Alcohol limits: nine of the 13 provinces have a limit of 0.05 per cent, while the official national level is 0.08 per cent, which is on par with the UK limit. Canada has some of the toughest drink-driving laws in the world, with stiff fines, licence suspension and potential jail time for offenders.

Driving age: each province has its own laws, but most allow solo driving at age 17. To rent a car, the age ranges from 21 to 24 years old depending on supplier.

Seatbelts: are required to be worn by all passengers at all times. Infants must be restrained in a front-facing safety seat, while young children must sit in a special booster seat often until age nine. The exact ages for child seating varies with each province, so check online.

Mobile phones and GPS: using either a mobile phone or GPS device while driving is prohibited in Canada and carries a hefty fine. Drivers are allowed to use hands-free kits with their mobile phone when driving, but should enter all GPS information prior to setting off.

Cost of fuel in Canada: around half the price per litre for petrol or diesel compared to costs in the UK.

Car hire and fuel payment: major credit cards are typically accepted at all petrol stations though some provinces in Canada require fuel payment up front before they turn on the pump. Car hire companies require a credit card in the renter s name to pre-book a vehicle, but cash or credit can be used for the actual payment.

Insurance: Canadian law requires third-party insurance, which is included in the cost of the rental car. Additional cover is recommended by purchasing collision damage waiver.

Traffic and parking: parking on Canadian city streets is tightly controlled, so always check for signs or curb markings that indicate if parking is allowed. A safer bet in large cities is to follow the green P signs to one of the municipal car parks. Traffic congestion in Canada is limited to major cities like Toronto and Vancouver during rush hours. The rest of the country is a real pleasure to drive though rough winter weather can make road conditions dangerous.

Transport

The train is a great way to move around Canada as the government-operated VIA Rail connects nearly all of the country s major cities except Regina and Calgary. If time is not an issue, the scenery will be the reward. Train cars are comfortable, with roomettes, bedrooms, parlour coaches and sleeping cars available. Travel on a luxury line like ‘The Canadian’ for panoramic dome cars, dining cars and hot showers. Cities in the west of Canada have less frequent service, but the Canrailpass (around 362 low season / 581 peak season) offers 12 days of travel within a 30-day period on the entire rail network. Major cities like Vancouver have inner-city light rail networks, with single rides costing around 1.50 for one zone.



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