Straight road through Canadian mountains

Roads in Canada

Canada’s roads stretch over one million kilometres, including the Trans-Canada Highway, the fourth longest road in the world. Roads in Canada are maintained to a high standard by provincial governments and there are few toll roads (most of which are found on a handful of bridges and near the US border).

Given the size and geography of the country, the road network is much denser in the south of the country and around major cities like Toronto. Outside of major cities, you’ll often be the only vehicle on the road for miles.

Here are the main types of roads in Canada:

Local roads

Canada’s local roads are intended to provide access to private property and are usually found in suburban and rural areas. They have low traffic speed and must have at least one sidewalk.

Collector roads

Collector roads are designed for connecting traffic to larger arteries. They will be signalled at intersections with arterial roads and will have sidewalks on both sides of the road.

Minor arterial roads

This kind of road is principally designed for facilitating traffic movement, although will provide access to some types of property. They do not have ‘stop’ signs – instead, intersections are controlled by traffic lights. They also have sidewalks on both sides of the thoroughfare.

Major arterial roads

These roads are primarily designed for traffic movement and are subject to access controls (meaning you’ll have to wait at light or at a line before you can enter the flow). The speed limit is normally 50-60km/h and there are usually sidewalks on both sides of the road.

Expressways

Expressways are the equivalent of British motorways. The speed limit is typically 80-100 km/h. There is no property access and cyclists and pedestrians are prohibited from entering them.

How to drive in Canada

Canada is relatively easy to navigate by car. Canadians are well known for their politeness and this extends to their driving habits too. They have a strong focus on safety and defensive driving, meaning you’re unlikely to encounter much erratic behaviour.

You’ll be likely to end up hiring an automatic transmission car in Canada rather than the kind of manual vehicle you’d be used to in Europe (that said, it’s possible to find manual cars, and you might prefer one if driving in winter). However, most drivers get used to automatic driving without too much trouble and it can make life easier when you’re travelling long distances.

If you’re planning on road-tripping across Canada, do not underestimate the distances involved. Make sure you’ve planned a sensible route, have enough fuel, food and water. If you’re driving in winter, you’ll want to take even more precautions in case of a breakdown (more on winter driving below). It’s also important to remember that wild animals like moose and elks wandering onto the road is a real issue in Canada, especially at night - so drive cautiously.

Canada driving rules

Canada’s driving rules are similar to what you’re used to in the UK. That said, Canadian cities follow a grid system – like much of Northern American – and roundabouts are much less common than they are in the UK. This means you’ll have to get accustomed to a more ‘stop-start’ kind of driving.

What side of the road does Canada drive on?

Like most of the world, Canadians drive on the right-hand side of the road. If this is your first time driving on the right, spend some time getting used to it on smaller side roads.

Who has right of way?

There are some differences in how the right of way works in Canada. Firstly, lights at intersections: when you’re at a red light at an intersection, you are allowed to turn right – but must proceed with caution and watch out for pedestrians (this is true for everywhere except Montreal). There are also two types of green light in Canada: a steady green light means the same as in the UK, whereas a flashing green light means you have the right of way to turn left.

If you come to a four-way crossroad or an intersection without traffic lights – which is common in rural areas – it is the driver to the right who has the right of way.

What is the speed limit in Canada?

Speed limits in Canada are measured in kilometres per hour, rather than miles per hour. Speed limits signs are posted on all roads (although not always as frequently or clearly as in the UK).

Driving in adverse conditions in Canada

Canada is famous for its cold, snowy winters – it can drop as low as -40°C in some parts of the country. So, if you plan on driving in Canada in winter, it’s essential to take extra precautions:

‘Safety first’ is the rule

Canadian driving law is heavily focused on safety, so bear in mind that:

Driving hazards in Canada

As noted above, winter is the most difficult time for driving in Canada and you should take precautions for snow, ice and glare.

That said, most tourists will likely to visit Canada during the warmer months. While summer is much safer for driving, you should still take precautions:

If you do get into any trouble while driving in Canada, check if anyone is injured. If so, call the emergency services on 911. Otherwise, you should immediately get in touch with your car rental company, who will advise you on what to do next.

Canada driving tips

While driving in Canada is not so different to driving in the UK, it’s worth preparing for some of the country’s other idiosyncrasies. These include:

More information about driving in Canada

Canada offers some of the most dramatic and jaw-dropping driving opportunities in the world. By making sure you take sensible precautions and are familiar with the slight differences between Canadian and UK driving laws, you’ll be able to enjoy its wonders without a hitch.

For more information, visit:

Don’t forget your excess insurance

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Supplementary Liability Insurance (SLI) can cost as much as $30 a day if you buy your cover from your rental company. Save money and protect yourself with car rental excess waiver before you flight out by purchasing an annual Worldwide Plus Car Hire Excess Insurance policy from insurance4carhire.com.

This is a marketing article from insurance4carhire.