Getting a Driver’s Licence in Canada
Canada is a massive country, but learning to drive can help you get acquainted with the beauty of your new home.
Brace yourselves, because winter is coming! Welcome to the colder end of the world. Canada is a country that takes pride in its hospitality and diversity, boasting a cultural mosaic of expats, new arrivals, and Canada-born people. It is a country that has something to offer nearly everyone. That said, change is never easy. Moving to a whole new country poses many challenges for immigrants and easing into them requires a lot of time, effort, and support. Even if you’re in a locale that offers the magnificent Niagara Falls, you will still feel homesick and miss the local spots and charms of your own hometown.
The best way to get acquainted and fall in love with a new place is to explore it. Though public transport is readily available for that, it can sometimes make you feel like a tourist. That’s why we want to provide you with all the information necessary to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations in Canada, so you can acquire a driver’s licence of your own. Make sure you follow the rules before you set out on your adventures, big or small.
Driver’s Licence in Canada
The basic rules and conditions for getting a driver’s licence mostly depends on the territory or province you live in. You must have a driver’s licence issued by the government with you at all times when driving in Canada.
The rules are lenient for newcomers, with plenty of room for adjustments. So, if you have a licence issued from your home country, you can use it for a brief period (usually 60 to 90 days depending on the region) for driving. But make sure you get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to back it up. This translates your licence in English and French, and gives you the leverage to use it while you obtain a new licence issued by the Government of Canada.
The main component of the driving test is a written exam on the laws and regulations of traffic and the road, accompanied by one or two practical driving tests. An eye test and hearing test will also be carried out. You will find numerous online websites that have road tests and knowledge tests provided by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to help with your preparation. You may also opt for paid driving lessons or join classes. Once issued, this driving licence can be used in various other regions and countries that fall under Canada’s international agreement and treaties.
You will need the following documentation in order to get your licence:
- Documents backing up your original identification, such as legal name, signature, date of birth, place of birth, and nationality
- Proof of your right to stay in Canada, a visa, or proof of citizenship
- A driving licence issued from your home country or any other previous place of residence
- Translation of previously owned driving licence
- Any supporting documents that prove your experience with driving a vehicle
- The completed application form provided by the institute or government
- Any applicable fees
The Learner and Novice Driving Licences can unfortunately not be exchanged, but you might receive credit for it. Also, less than two years of driving experience comes with additional laws and restrictions, such as no driving between midnight and 5 am and maintenance of zero blood alcohol levels at all times. With more than two years of experience, you can apply for a full licence.
You must renew your license every so often, keeping in mind the expiry date printed on it. The transportation department in your province can further aid you in lessons and exams.
Guidelines and Protocols
You can’t play fast and loose when it comes to Canadian roads. You will find that most drivers are not aggressive, but be mindful of using swearwords, as our beavers take offense! The moose and elks might be out for a stroll too, owing to the remarkable wildlife in Canada. Make sure you plan your routes, especially if you are out to explore, and plan your rest and refueling spots in advance.
These are the basic driving rules that must always be followed strictly:
- Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers and you can be fined up to $500 if you are found without one
- Drunk driving is taken very seriously, and you may be charged up to $1000 in fines along with a yearlong suspension if your blood alcohol levels exceed 50-80 mg per 100 ml (depending on the province)
- You must always carry the necessary documentation, namely your driver’s licence, photo ID, and insurance
- You must follow the speed limits, which are 50 km/h within town boundaries, 80 km/h on highways, and 100 km/h on rural highways and freeways. This is very important and is as much about your own safety as that of others
- In Alberta, you can drive at 14 years of age, whereas the legal age everywhere else in Canada is 16. If you wish to rent a car, you must be over the age of 21.
- You are not allowed to use any warning devices for a safety camera and can be fined up to $650 in some regions
- Make sure your car has a child safety seat for your infants and toddlers
- Third party insurance is mandatory
- If you’re driving in Quebec, you will see road signs in French and you’re expected to know what they mean
- Make sure you have a hands-free kit for your mobile phones if you wish to use your phone while driving
- In case of a road traffic accident, it is considered a very serious crime to leave the spot without calling 911 for police, firemen, or an ambulance. You must wait until the relevant authorities arrive before leaving the scene
It is illegal not to have car insurance while driving in Canada. Your car must be insured, and if you’re using a relative or family member’s car, you must be listed under their car insurance plan.
These insurance packages cover two basic types of damages:
- Damage to your car or yourself
- Cost of injuries and damage to others caused by you
There are many different insurance plans depending on the driver’s age, location, experience, and driving record. Make sure you completely understand the coverage and policy for the insurance company you opt for. Generally speaking, Canada is a very safe country where you can keep your junk in the garage and car worth thousands of dollars out in the open without a single worry!
Leasing and Buying a Car
If you need to get a car for a brief period of time, you can rent one from a local rental agency along with its car insurance documents. You may also opt for car-sharing programs which are available in many cities in Canada. These allow you to use a car without renting, leasing, or buying one.
For permanent use, it is of course advisable to buy a car from a trusted dealer or seller. The local car regulatory departments of your province or territory will help you with this. Contact the consumer affairs office for all the necessary information before buying a vehicle from any dealer.
Leasing a car is another good option. Leasing involves settling on an agreement with the dealer to pay a specific monthly fee to use the car over a given time period and return it back in good condition once that period is up. Make sure you explore the terms and conditions thoroughly before signing the lease, as it is a legally binding document.
Exploring Canada Safely
Finally, make sure you explore the beauty and splendor of Canada safely. Winter driving can be very tricky, as snow and ice are one of the major driving hazards. Try not to be on the road at zero visibility conditions, and always buy special winter tires for your car.
With a car, you can feel at home in the land of the maple leaf, with its idyllic landscapes of lakes and mountains. Discover the endless grasslands, savannahs, and lush orchards. Take in the beauty of the thawing lakes during the summer and make a new home for yourself in this beautiful, sprawling country.