Transport & Travel
Travelling around Canada
Due to Canada’s large size, travel between regions and major cities is often done by airplane. All main cities have airports with regularly scheduled flights to and from many destinations. Two airlines, Air Canada and West Jet, have the largest network of routes. Smaller airlines offer flights between airports within more limited regions of the country. If you are travelling to a location that does not have a main airport (for example, a town or rural area), then you will need to fly to the nearest main airport and either rent a car or take a bus to your final destination. To fly in Canada, you need a piece of photo identification issued by the federal, provincial or territorial government in Canada, or a foreign passport.
You can get more information and buy tickets by consulting airline websites or at most travel agencies (consult the Yellow Pages or search the Internet for listings) and at airports.
Canada has an extensive network of highways, making long distance travel by car possible between most destinations. Remember that car travel can sometimes be very long.
Depending on where you are in Canada, taking the train might be the best way to travel. Canada’s rail network extends across the country, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the east to Vancouver and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, in the west. The train is a particularly good option when travelling in Ontario and Quebec along the tracks that link Windsor-Toronto-Ottawa-Montréal-Québec City because there are many trains each day and distances are short. Trains in Canada are safe and comfortable. A variety of essential services are available on trains and at train stations. It is often cheaper to buy train tickets in advance.
You can get more information and buy tickets from Via Rail Canada by visiting www.viarail.ca, calling 1-888-842-7245 or going to a train station in person.
Catching a bus is generally the cheapest way of travelling between cities and is often the only way of getting to smaller towns if you are not driving a car. Remember that bus travel can be very long due to the great distances involved. Most buses have air conditioning and a washroom on board. On longer trips, stops are made from time to time so that passengers can buy food and other necessities. The largest network of bus routes is run by a company called Greyhound and its affiliates. Other bus companies offer service between destinations in particular regions.
You can get more information and buy tickets by calling or visiting your local bus station or contacting a bus company that operates in your area (search the Internet).
In coastal areas of Canada such as British Columbia and the Atlantic Region, ferry boats are a common mode of transportation. Many ferries transport both passengers and vehicles.
You can get more information and buy tickets from ferry companies that operate routes in your area. Visit a local ferry terminal or search for ferry companies in the Yellow Pages or online.
All cities and most major towns in Canada have a public transportation system with one or more modes of transportation (bus, subway, train, etc.). Routes generally reach most parts of a city or town, but service is usually more frequent in central areas. If you plan to use public transportation to move around every day, you should research transportation options before deciding where you will live.
The bus is the most common form of urban transportation in Canada. In addition to bus networks, some cities also have streetcars (trams), light-rail trains or subways. In most cases, you can easily transfer from one mode of transportation to another.
To use public transportation, you must purchase a ticket or a transit pass. Transit passes allow you unlimited use of public transportation for a specific period (one month or more). They are usually cheaper than buying many tickets if you plan to use public transportation often.
You can get more information about public transportation in your city or town by visiting an information kiosk at a main transit station, calling a transit information line (see the Blue Pages under “Transit”) or visiting the website of your municipal government. In most cities, you can buy tickets at major transit stations, convenience stores or directly from the bus driver (you will need to provide the exact amount).
Public transportation often has features to assist people with physical disabilities. In many cities and towns, there are also transportation services available specifically for people with limited mobility, such as specially equipped buses. Etiquette on public transportation
All cities and towns have one or more companies that offer taxi service. Taxis have automatic meters that use set rates to calculate the cost of your trip. This cost is based on a combination of travel distance and travel time. The rates are fixed and cannot be negotiated. You simply pay the amount indicated on the meter at the end of your trip. If you want to have an idea of how much your trip will cost, ask the driver before the trip starts. Many drivers will also hope for a tip, especially if they help you with lots of bags. Taxis are quite expensive, so most people only use them when they do not have another option. Taxi drivers have an official identification card to indicate that they are licensed by the city. This card should be displayed on the dashboard of the taxi.
Walking and cycling
Walking and cycling are healthy and cheap ways of getting around Canadian cities and towns. Cycling is permitted on most streets. However, many cities also have specific lanes and paths for cyclists. When you leave your bicycle unattended, make sure to lock it to a bike rack on the sidewalk in order to prevent it from being stolen.
You can generally get a map of bicycle networks from local bike shops or from the municipal government (at information kiosks or online). Bikes are available new and used. To buy one, consult the Yellow Pages or search the Internet for bicycle shops in your area. Cyclists can usually get information on the rules of the road from the same provincial or territorial government department that regulates cars and driving.
Driving in Canada
To drive a car in Canada, you will need a driver’s licence. It is illegal to drive without a licence and the penalties for doing so are very high. In Canada, a driver’s licence is issued by provincial and territorial governments. You must get a licence from the province or territory in which you live. This licence will allow you to drive anywhere in Canada. You must have it with you whenever you are driving.
If you have a valid licence from your country of origin, you will probably be able to use this to drive in Canada for a short period after arriving. Check with your provincial or territorial government department responsible for cars and driving for details (see Table 13.1 for contact information). If you plan to use a foreign driver’s licence in Canada, you should get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your country of origin. An IDP provides a translation of your licence into a variety of languages, including French and English.
The process for getting a driver’s licence in Canada depends on the province or territory in which you live and on your driving background. You may need to pass a written examination on the rules of the road (study guides are available) and one or two driving tests. You may choose to pay for driving lessons to prepare for the driving tests (see the Yellow Pages or search the Internet). Once you have a licence, it will have to be renewed periodically (see the expiry date on your licence).
You can find more information on driver’s licences from the department that regulates cars and driving in your province or territory. This information is available on the Internet or in person at a service centre (see government website for locations).
Buying or Leasing vehicle
You can buy a car new or used from a car dealer. You can also buy a used car from another person who is selling his or her car. In most provinces and territories, used cars must pass a safety certification before they can be driven. If the car is not sold with a valid safety certificate, it is your responsibility to arrange certification from a licensed mechanic. You are also responsible for paying for any repairs that are necessary for the car to pass the certification. After you buy a car (new or used), it must be registered with the department that regulates cars and driving in your province or territory. At the time of registration, you will also need to get a licence plate.
As an alternative to buying a car, many people in Canada lease a car from a car dealer. A lease is a legal agreement between you and the dealer in which you agree to pay them a fee to use the car for a specific period of time (usually several years). After this period ends, you must return the car to the dealer in good condition.
Since a lease is a legal agreement, make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the lease before signing. If you only need a car occasionally or for short periods, it is always possible to rent a car from one of the many car rental agencies that operate in Canadian cities and towns. Make sure that car insurance is included in your car rental agreement.
In some cities, there are car-sharing programs that allow you to use a car without buying, leasing or renting one. You may want to research this option to see if it meets your needs.
You can get further information and guidance on the process of buying or selling a car from the department that regulates cars and driving in your province or territory. For information on consumer issues related to buying a vehicle, consult the Canadian Consumer Handbook produced by federal, provincial and territorial governments at www.consumerhandbook.ca or contact your provincial or territorial consumer affairs office.