If you are visiting Canada and you want to have the most breathtaking views of the magnificent sceneries the country has, then the best way would be to explore by road. The blue depths of the beautiful lakes, the peaks of the Canadian Rockies and the expanses of prairie lands are best explored when you drive on the well-maintained highways and roads. One thing you will appreciate about driving in Canada is that Canadians are very disciplined and extremely patient while on the road. This is unlike their counterparts in the south or in part of Europe.
Therefore, if you consider yourself a decent and responsible driver, you’ll find driving on the Canadian roads a very enjoyable experience. At the same time, it won’t be wise to feel overconfident when traveling by car in a foreign country, because complications may arise when least expected. To help you out, here are a few tips for driving safely on the Canadian roads :
Learn the requirements
The requirements to drive in Canada are not as strict as in most European countries or the United States. It’s allowed to use the UK or US issued license when driving on the Canadian roads, so make sure to carry this with you in case you come from one of these countries. Otherwise, you’ll need an International Driving Permit and a valid license from your home country. It saves you the trouble of submitting additional applications when sending in your Canada ETA form.
Know something about the language
Canada has two official languages – English and French. French is predominantly used in Quebec, while the rest of the country uses English as the first language. As such, and depending on what part of Canada you’re going to explore, you may find road signs in either English or French and it is highly recommended to know how to read and understand them in both languages. If you don’t understand French, it will be a good idea to get a small pocket guide in order to learn some of the most common words and phrases that can help you out on the road. Speaking a bit of French may come handy when communicating with a traffic policeman or other drivers.
Know the road rules
No one would like the idea of being arrested in another country, especially after taking all the trouble to fill in the Canada ETA form for a trip. One important thing to remember is that Canadians drive on the right side of the road. It may take you a while to adjust in case you get used to driving on the left.
You should also know that it is compulsory to wear a seatbelt when driving in Canada. Remember to buckle up to avoid big fines. The speed limits in the country in are in kilometers per hour and will vary depending on the kind of road you will be using. Most motorways have limits set to 100km/h except for highways in British Columbia where the limits are set to 120km/h. In built-up areas such as around institutions like hospitals and schools, the limits drop down to 50km/h or even lower.
Every Canadian vehicle has daytime running lights, and in some provinces it’s required to keep these lights on when you drive during the day. Make sure to check this for the place you’re going to.
One more important thing to keep in mind is that talking or texting while driving is strictly prohibited. Bad habit of talking on the phone or texting while driving has caused (and keeps causing) a lot of accidents across the world, and if you are caught doing that in Canada, do expect to pay heavy fines and get your demerit points subtracted.
Know about the highway etiquette
Generally speaking, Canadians are very polite and friendly – it’s pretty evident from the way they behave on the road. Following the common rules of traffic etiquette is highly recommended in order to enjoy a trouble-free experience on the road. For a start, if you need to pass, then you have to do it from the left. If you are stopped at the red light, you should stick to the left lanes so that you can allow other cars to turn right as you wait for the light to change into a green. You should also know that Canadians consider it rude to pass stopped trams or streetcars when they are loading or unloading passengers. It makes you appear as if you are in a hurry and have no regards for those using the trams.
Canadian signage on the roads
The road signs used in Canada are pretty universal and if you’re an experienced driver, you won’t find it difficult understanding them. However, you should be aware that there are also roads with very few signs and Canadians often use GPS tracking devices to help them find the way around and drive within speed limits. If you are new on the roads, perhaps you’d like to invest in one of such devices, too.
Driving in cold season
Canada is known for its harsh weather conditions in winter, and if you have no experience driving on the icy roads, you may prefer to choose warmer season to travel around the country. A lot of accidents have been caused by black ice on the roads and it is advisable to take necessary precautions in order to avoid winter-related accidents. You need to have winter tires as they offer a better grip under such conditions. Note that in places like Quebec, winter tires in winter are a must, and if you’re caught without them… yes, you’ve guessed it right, be ready to pay for your lack of vision.