About Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport (YOW)
Address: 1003 Airport Parkway Private, Ottawa, K1v2c1 , On, On
Home to the Royal Canadian Air Force's 412 Transport Squadron, Ottawa Macdonald—Cartier International Airport (YOW) is 10 km (6 mi) south of downtown Ottawa. All airport car rental companies are located on Level 1 of the Parkade (airport parking garage). Look for the big names: Avis, Alamo, Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise.
Although most major tourist attractions are located in downtown Ottawa, and within walking distance of each other, for anything other than museums and Parliament Hill, you will need to rent a car. Ottawa — and all of Canada, for that matter — is nothing if not spread out.
Fortunately, getting around Ottawa by car hire is refreshingly straightforward and efficient for a major metropolitan area. Rush hour traffic from the suburbs to central Ottawa? Check. Drivers not using their turn signals and making sudden lane changes? Check. Variable street parking restrictions? Yes, those, too. But aside from these typical challenges, you shouldn’t have any issues driving Highway 417 (Queensway) to places near and far. Of course, GPS is essential for driving in any foreign city, so ask your airport car rental provider if your car is pre-equipped with a navigational device.
Choosing your car
Getting a good deal on a car at (YOW) is a lot like driving in Ottawa — it’s pretty easy. Choosing your car comes down to one question: How much car do you need? If you’re traveling alone with a money-saving mindset, look to the Kia economy and Nissan compact car. For several passengers and a couple of suitcases, you’re in the market for an intermediate Chevrolet or a standard Ford sedan. With more than 5 people in the group, a Dodge Grand Caravan has your name written all over it. And for great handling in winter, a Jeep SUV with 4WD is ideal for slippery surfaces.
Tips and advice
A total of seven bridges cross the Ottawa and Gatineau Rivers that bisect Ottawa city — five of which only go to the city of Gatineau — offering a less than ideal conveyance of traffic between surrounding areas.
Unlike most Canadian cities, a right turn on a red light is permitted after a complete stop.
Gas prices in Ottawa are volatile to the point that you can drive all the way across town and never see the same price repeated. Meanwhile, it’s common for fuel prices to spike during the day, prompting stations to have two or three different prices over the course of a 24-hour period. Monday and Tuesday are generally the best days to fill up.
On-street parking in downtown Ottawa is almost as expensive as a parkcade. If traveling to the Byward Market area consider parking in the business district to the east, and entering on foot. It is also a good start for a tour of Parliament Hill.
Toronto is roughly 5 hours (405 km / 252 mi) by car, depending on your route. Highway 7 is mostly two-lanes, but a shorter driving distance. Meanwhile, Toronto via Highways 401 and 406 adds 50 km to the trip, but saves about 30 minutes in drive time.
Ottawa city is in Ontario, but neighboring Gatineau is in Quebec, so that means all its road signage is in French.