About Canada (CA)
Canada is the world’s second largest country by land area, and a massive expanse of varied topography spanning six time zones and an array of regional climates. With most of its population residing in urban areas within 200 km of the U.S. border, many of Canada’s top attractions include the cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City. However, many popular destinations are found in the wide-ranging and picturesque wilderness found in each of the country’s 10 provinces and 3 territories.
The Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1) is the mainline of Canadian ground transportation and runs virtually from coast to coast — Newfoundland in the east and Vancouver in the west — but it’s only one of several routes that spans the entire country. Generally speaking, driving in Canada is one of the more straightforward and reliable behind-the-wheel experiences you’re likely to find. Established roads are in fair to good condition, most cities are laid out on a reasonable grid (with few exceptions), and the vast majority of travel flows in a logical north-south-east-west orientation. Meanwhile, Canadian drivers have a reputation for patience and fair play, and sharing the roads has a sense of community.
The essential foundation of driving in Canada is distance. With the exception of certain historical city centers, the bulk of popular destinations and attractions are spread out by kilometers of increasing magnitude. Public transportation may often be adequate in urban areas, but the most flexible and economically viable way to explore the vast terrain is to rent a car.
Choosing your car
All the major car rental companies are doing business in Canada, so you’ll see trusted names of Alamo, Budget, National, Europcar, and Thrifty — among others. Your choice of cheap car rentals leaves nothing to be desired, staring with minicars and economy 3-door hatchbacks. The sedan class covers standard, intermediate, fullsize, premium and luxury vehicles. You’ll find plenty of estate wagons, 7-12-seater minivans, and all-wheel drive SUVs.
Tips and advice
Avoid surcharges on Canadian car rentals by returning the vehicle to the same location you picked it up from.
Read the fine print of your car hire agreement — and read it again. Unlimited kilometers may only apply to the province in which you rented the car.
Be advised that your Collision/Loss Damage Waiver (CDW/LDW) and roadside assistance plan may not be valid when driving on remote routes outside of the Canadian classification system — i.e. unmarked and unpaved roads.
Cars with manual transmission are exceptionally difficult to rent in Canada. Some say these vehicles are not available at all. Meanwhile, economy and compact hybrid cars are increasingly available for rental.
It’s always a good idea to discuss your travel plans with your car rental provider in order avoid after-the-fact surcharges that may be incurred, for instance, by unknowingly driving on a electronic toll road, for instance, Highway 407 (Express Toll Route) near Toronto.
Traffic cameras are increasingly prevalent across Canada, particularly in places where you might not expect to see them. Many cameras are dedicated to speeding, but a growing number can catch you running red lights, making illegal U-turns, and handling a mobile device behind the wheel (although hands-free use is generally accepted).