In the second largest country in the world, the distances between the various sights and cities are enormous. In order to see as much of Canada as possible in as short a time as possible, it is therefore advisable to rent a car in Canada. This way you are not dependent on public transport and you can explore the country at your own pace. In fact, certain remote areas and national parks cannot even be reached by public transport to begin with. Read here what you need to arrange for a car trip through Canada, for example applying for an eTA Canada.
Canadaʼs road network
Due to its well-maintained road network, Canada is relatively easy and safe to drive in by car. The Trans-Canada Highway is a network of motorways and provincial roads that runs through all ten provinces of the country. Only the three territories in the north of the country - Yukon, Northwest Territory and Nunavut - are not connected to this road network. The southern route of the Trans-Canada Highway runs from Victoria on Vancouver Island in western Canada to Newfoundland and Labrador in the north-east. The northern route, called Yellowhead Highway, a branch of the Trans-Canada Highway, starts at Prince Rupert in British Columbia and ends at Winnipeg in the province of Manitoba.
As only the larger cities in Canada are connected by buses and trains, it is recommended to travel through Canada with your own transportation. This way you can visit Canadaʼs national parks on your own, and you are not dependent on a booked excursion.
Traffic rules and distances in Canada
In Canada, people drive on the right. The maximum speed limit in urban areas is 50 km/h, 80 km/h outside urban areas and 90 to 120 km/h on motorways. The text on road signs is generally in English and French. Take note that in certain provinces, including British Columbia, Newfoundland and Ontario, wild animals - such as an elk or reindeer - can cross the road.
Travellers should bear in mind that distances in Canada are enormous by European standards. What may appear to be only a section on the map can in reality take several hours of driving. Avoid mistakenly believing you have enough time for your journey based on a map. In addition, make sure that your tank is always at least half full at departure, to prevent yourself from being stranded in a remote area without gas stations.
There are few toll roads in Canada, and they can cost quite a bit. For example, the toll road Highway 407 in Ontario near Toronto. This is an electronic toll road, which means that the carʼs number plate is digitally registered and the bill is sent later. The car rental company will add this amount to the cost of renting the car and possibly send an invoice for this after the trip.
Renting a car in Canada
Most regular passenger cars are suitable for driving through Canada because the roads in all provinces are generally in good condition. For a visit to the northern territories, it is advisable to rent an off-road or four-wheel drive vehicle, as there are gravel roads, and roads sometimes even run through shallow streams or rivers.
The minimum age for renting a car in Canada is 21 years. People between 21 and 24 years old can rent a car, but usually have to pay a surcharge. Because the distances in Canada are so long, it may be nice to travel with someone who is also allowed to drive the rental car, so that people can alternate who drives. When renting a car, it is also wise to check if it is possible to return the car at a different location.
A British or Irish driving licence is also valid in Canada, so in theory it is not mandatory to apply for an International Driving Permit. However, many car rental companies in Canada ask for an international driving licence. It is therefore recommended getting one before departure and bringing it with you alongside your regular driving licence.
The best routes for a road trip
The Icefields Parkway (Promenade de Glaciers in French) in Alberta is one of the most beautiful panoramic routes in the world. The road connects the Jasper and Banff national parks and is known for its beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains. The road runs along many natural wonders: canyons, glaciers, rivers and lakes like Lake Louise. Each turn, a new, beautiful view can be admired. Because the road is only about 230 kilometres long, travellers who do not have too much time can also take this route.
This also applies to Highway 99, the road from Vancouver to Whistler, which is also known as the Sea to Sky, as it starts at sea level and leads to a higher part of British Columbia. From Vancouver, one drives into the interior of Canada and sees the landscapes change. A beautiful car route in Eastern Canada is the Cabot Trail, a route in the north of Nova Scotia along the coast of Cape Breton. Along the way one passes steep cliffs and small, picturesque villages.
eTA Canada or Canada visa
An eTA or a visa is required for a flight to Canada. The eTA Canada is easily applied for online and is normally approved within three days. It is therefore easier and quicker to apply for than a visa for Canada. Persons travelling to Canada by air must have received their etA approval prior to check-in for the flight. Airlines only take passengers with them who have a valid eTA, otherwise they may receive fines from the Canadian government.
This requirement does not apply to British and Irish tourists travelling overland to Canada from the United States. If you rent a car in the USA and travel to Canada, you do not have to apply for an eTA or a visa for Canada. However, you do have to apply for an ESTA or a US visa if you travel to the USA by plane or boat.
Take note: this news article about the eTA for Canada is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the eTA for Canada.