Toronto is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Canada. Its close proximity to the United States makes it an ideal location to drive to, which can help decrease your budget or use the funds saved on airfare for more fun exploring the city.
However, there are some key differences when driving in Toronto and Canada at large than driving in the United States. If you’re planning a trip north any time soon, consider the following your guide to driving in Toronto and its surrounding areas.
You still need a driver’s license.
If you don’t have a valid driver’s license in the United States, you won’t be able to legally drive in Canada. Just like the U.S., you need a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance to drive in Canada. Your U.S. driver’s license will work just fine, but drivers from other countries are advised to get an international driver’s license.
Pay attention to minor differences.
Although Canadians drive on the right side of the road just like Americans, there are other minor differences that a driver should be aware of.
- French signs: You may want to brush up on your French before visiting Quebec and its surrounding areas. Throughout Canada, you might encounter road signs in only English; both English and French; or only French.
- Metric units: Remember those conversions you had to learn in elementary school math class? If not, you may want to revisit those as well. Canada uses the metric measurement system to indicate speed limits and distances.
- Common speed limits are: 50 kph (31 mph), 80 kph (50 mph), 100 kph (62 mph), and 120 kph (75 mph).
- Look closely on your speedometer- it likely has kph in addition to mph.
- Right turns: Considering turning right on a red light? It is legal throughout Canada except in Montreal.
The most important tips for avoiding a car accident while driving in Toronto are:
- Always pay attention to your surroundings
- Be sure that you are familiar with the traffic laws of the area
- Avoid aggressive driving.
Be aware of Canada’s traffic laws.
Though the U.S. and Canada have many similar road regulations, the northern neighbor does have some specific variations. It is important to be aware of these laws before traveling across the border.
- Seatbelt laws: In Canada, everyone in the vehicle must wear a seatbelt. Children under 40 pounds must be restrained in a car seat.
- Smoking laws: Many provinces have banned smoking in vehicles if minors are passengers.
- Cell phone laws: Cell phone devices must be used hands-free only while driving
- DUI laws: Driving Under the Influence is a serious offense no matter the country in which it occurs. In Canada, it could result in a driving suspension, the impounding of your vehicle, or arrest. If you are charged with a DUI in Canada, they can deny your reentry into the country should you ever attempt to visit again.
Just like the U.S., Canada has its own share of roadside assistance companies. The most popular roadside assistance company for Americans visiting Canada is the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA). Are you a current American Automobile Association (AAA) member? AAA has agreements with the Canadian Automobile Association that allow members to use AAA benefits in Canada.
Check the Canadian holiday calendar.
The last thing you want to do is schedule a trip to Canada over a holiday. You could face potential crowds or closures.
The following holidays are commonly observed in Canada:
- Family Day (second or third Monday in February)
- Good Friday (Friday before Easter)
- Victoria Day (Monday on or before May 24th)
- Canada Day (July 1st)
- Civic Holiday (first Monday in August)
- Labour Day (first Monday in September)
- Thanksgiving (second Monday in October)
- Remembrance Day (November 11th)
- Boxing Day (December 26th).
Double-check that your credit card will work abroad.
In Canada, both credit and debit cards often have a pin. Double-check with your bank to set up or figure out your credit card pin.
You’ll also want to consider updating your credit card if it does not have a chip or contactless technology, as outside of the U.S., you may not even be able to use the magnetic stripe.
Finally, consider letting them know you will be traveling to avoid any suspicion that your card has been stolen. Just as when you travel out-of-state, many credit card companies will automatically decline purchases in Canada if you haven’t alerted them of your travel plans ahead of time. It’s nice to know they have your back in terms of financial security, but it can cause quite a hassle not to be able to use your card.
For Americans, driving to Canada is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to see another country. Nine states have border crossings into Canada and the country has a wide range of cultural attractions, national parks, exciting cities, and historical points of interest. By ensuring you’ve prepared yourself for the trip, you will be able to fully enjoy yourself and not have to worry while you are there.