If you are moving to Canada to study or work there or would love to pay a visit and do so in your own car, you should know that you can drive in Canada with a US driving license. However, there are some limits to consider, as well as some differences that we will cover later on. To avoid issues with the local police and to have a nice holiday, you should go there prepared. 

Besides some regulatory differences and signs that can be different, you should beware that different Canadian provinces may have different regulations, pictograms instead of written signs as well as weather conditions that differ in relation to the US. All of these combined take just a few minutes to learn and a few hours to practice once you hit the road, but they can make the difference between an enjoyable and a ruined visit to Canada. Let’s dive right in. 

Requirements to Drive a Car in Canada

If you are coming from the US and are in Canada only temporarily, you can use your own driver’s license. What you should also have is proof of insurance or ‘auto insurance’ as it is called in some parts of Canada. These two documents will allow driving in Canada for all US citizens, as long as you stick to all the rules, especially limits and STOP signs. This makes up for a seamless driving experience and a hassle-free road trip. 

However, you should know that a US driver’s license is only valid in Canada for a period of time. Depending on the province or territory, this can be as short as 60 days or as long as 90. With this in mind, the initial date from which your driver’s license will be valid will be the date of entry into the country. A common pitfall that confuses many people is that these are 60 and 90 days, not two or three months, so to avoid fines, it is a rule of thumb to deduct 1-2 days in the former and 2-3 days in the latter case when planning your stay. 

License Requirements

If you plan on driving in Canada, it is good to understand what kind of documents you will need to have on you before doing so. If you are coming from the US, you may easily use your existing license for as long as it is valid, has a readable print in English (with Roman alphanumeric symbols), and for as long as you have proof of car or auto insurance. However, if you plan on staying longer than the 60-90 days specified before, you will need an IDP – International Driving Permit or an International License. 

You will need to have an IDP for all those visiting Canada from non-US countries. Driving a car in Canada and on Canadian roads may be a different experience from what you are used to, so you should be able to obtain an international driving license and get accustomed to the language that may be used on signs. You will also need proof of insurance. 

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Car Insurance Rules

When driving in Canada, you must have obligatory insurance. Make sure to check in with your local rental companies, whether they allow driving across the border (specify that you will be driving to Canada), and whether they offer coverage during your stay. If not, your car rental company should be able to offer international insurance for as long as you pay more. 

On the other hand, if you plan on visiting Canada in your own car, you should still contact your insurance company and see what kind of coverage (if any) they allow abroad. To avoid any misunderstandings and possible legal issues down the road, make sure to get the instructions in writing from their official email. With this in mind, make sure to check what the minimum insured amount is in both your insurance house and in the Canadian province you will be travelling to make sure you can enter without any issues. 

Driving Rules in Canada

Driving in Canada is not that different from driving in the US. However, it is still necessary to understand that there are some differences that you should stick to to avoid any issues on the road or with local authorities. This being said, the most striking difference is the limits – although similar to the US limits, in Canada, they are expressed in kmph (kph; km/h), as Canada uses the metric system. 


Seatbelts are mandatory in Canada. Everybody, including the driver and the passengers, must wear their seatbelts for the entire car ride. This is one of the basic rules, so it should not be overlooked when driving a car in Canada. If you have a child under nine or a child shorter than 145 cm (4′ 9″), they will need to use a car seat. 

Road Signs

Canada is a country where two languages are spoken: English and French. For this reason, a lot of signs are bilingual. In French-speaking regions, they are often expressed as pictograms or in French only. For this reason, knowing the language is beneficial, even if you know only the basic words that will be of use to you during driving, to make sure you can stick to road rules. 

Speed Limits

Since Canada uses the metric system (as most other countries do), Canadians express their limit in km/h, or kilometres per hour. This may confuse American drivers, as 1 km/h is not the same as m/h. In general, here is the conversion table that you may study before visiting Canada. 

KM/H limitM/H limit Type of Road/Applicable Area
3018Nunavut Urban Area
4024Ontario Urban Area
4527Northwest Territories Urban Area
5031Other Urban Area (for example, Nova Scotia),
Nunavut Undivided Roads Rural Areas, Freeway Urban
6037Undivided Roads Rural Areas, Freeway Urban
7043Divided Highway (Yukon Territory only) 
8050Undivided Roads Rural Areas, Divided Highway Rural, Freeway Urban
9056Undivided Roads Rural Areas, Divided Highway Rural, Freeway Rural, Freeway Urban
10062Undivided Roads Rural Areas, Divided Highway Rural, Freeway Rural, Freeway Urban
11068Freeway Rural
12075Freeway Rural

Please bear in mind that these speeds are descriptive. Always abide by traffic or road signs and pay attention to signs on all types of roads. In case there are police on the road or light signs/signals, abide by all means, especially in areas/weather with reduced visibility or when there is road work underway. 

If your rental car has both km/h and m/h expressed on the speed meter, you are much better off sticking to it than remembering conversion tables. In addition, it is useful to know that the maximum speed limit in built-up areas is 50 km/h, and outside of built-up areas, it is 100 km/h. 

Hands-free From Cell Phones

If talking on the phone, you should always be able to use a hands-free device. This will help you focus better on the road and obey the driving laws in Canada or its provinces. There is no reason to use a cell phone for any other purpose when on the road. 

Carpool/HOV Lanes

Some provinces have HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) or carpool lanes. These lanes are meant to be used by vehicles with at least two people. Doing otherwise is illegal. 

Toll Roads

Canada is not known for many toll roads. However, when planning a road trip to Canada from the US, you should know that some international roads and bridges may be tollways. However, most highways are toll-free. If you have to pay anything, cameras will take a photo of your car and send you the bill directly or even send it to the rental company. 

No Smoking

Smoking in the car is not allowed, but you should never smoke while driving. Cigarettes can reduce your attention span, and not being able to use both hands can seriously compromise your ability to drive. In addition, fallen cigarette ash may cause sudden pain and burns, all of which can compromise driving safety. 

In addition to this advice, you should know that Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory, Ontario, Manitoba, and New Brunswick made it illegal to smoke in your car – when a minor is present. 

No Alcohol

It is always best to avoid driving with any alcohol in your system. However, in Canada, this is a serious offence, and driving with more than 0.08% (BAC = Blood Alcohol Concentration) of alcohol in your system is a serious criminal offence. This equals about four drinks, but maybe even fewer depending on your weight. The general rule of thumb is never to drink and drive, especially abroad. 

No Right Turn On Red Traffic

Although most countries allow for a right turn at the red light, this is not allowed in Canada for as long as the road is clear. Red lights on stoplights here mean that all vehicles have to stop. This is especially important to follow when driving with an International Driving Permit – IDP. As you are considered a temporary visitor, not following traffic rules can shorten your current stay in Canada and even reduce the chances of receiving the visa again. Always abide by the rules. 

Other Important Rules

Besides these, it is always good to know that more rules should be followed. Most of these are valid in the US as well, but let us repeat them for the sake of good practice. They include right-hand side driving, full stops and how to act in front of them, and pedestrians’ right of way. 

Right-hand Side Driving

Right-hand side driving is used in most of the world. If you have a US license or even a temporary license, you are aware of this rule, as this is the way that the US drives as well. However, Canada expands on this rule and states that the right-hand lane is the driving lane, while the left lane is to be used only to pass vehicles slower than yours and to take a left turn in an intersection. 

Ensure always to have your left signal lights turned on for the duration of the passing to signal that you are not driving in the left lane. Once the overtake/passing is finished, return to the right lane and turn off the signal lights. This is obligatory in both rural and urban driving settings. 

Full Stops

A full stop at stop signs and red lights is mandatory. You are not allowed to slow down or almost come to a full stop before speeding back up. You must bring your vehicle to a full stop whenever a stop sign, a red light, or by a police officer indicates this. 


Pedestrians have the right of way. Even if there are no zebras, there are traffic lights that always let pedestrians cross. If there is a peace officer, follow their instructions when they tell you to stop for pedestrians to cross. 

Driving During Winter in Canada

Once in Canada, it is important where you go to know how speed limits, minimum insurance, and other peculiarities differ. However, knowing when to go is as important, especially as Canada is a very cold country. Winter driving can be challenging, so always follow the signs and do not venture alone on a road trip, especially if you’ve had your valid license for a short time. 

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Heavy snow, sleet, black ice, high winds, and low visibility are just some of the issues that you encounter both in rural and urban areas. Always follow the signs and speed limits and recommendations. Whenever possible, rent or drive an all-wheel drive (four-wheel drive), and make sure you take all other preventive measures, such as: 

  • Knowing the road or checking it beforehand 
  • Checking the state of the road on appropriate websites (every province has one), 
  • Renting a car from a trusted rent-a-car company (check online reviews)
  • Driving only cars that have winter tires (for better grip on the surface), and chains (in the trunk)
  • Keep your cell phone/smartphone fully charged for emergency calls, and do not drain the battery without a need
  • Check the numbers of emergency and tow services, 
  • Drive slowly, but do not obstruct the traffic – remember, driving slowly on the highway is as dangerous as speeding
  • Stay flexible with your schedule to account for possible bad weather conditions
  • Dress warm and keep spare clothes at hand

Tips When Renting a Car in Canada

When renting a car abroad, it is always a rule of thumb to start getting informed a long time before the trip. This will give you a good chance to compare different offers and know what is the best for you. For the most valuable and affordable service, here are our suggestions. 

Rent When Still in the US

Check-in with your local rent-a-car companies. It may be cheaper to rent a car in the US and then drive to Canada than to rent in Canada. However, you should specify that you will drive abroad, as some companies may not let their cars leave the country. 

Home Booking

Even if you decide to rent a Canadian vehicle, you should know that it may be cheaper to book from home online. Usually, when you show up at a rent-a-car, they may upcharge you or even try to sell additional perks and benefits at an additional cost. To avoid this, you will only need your license and a way to pay – your debit or credit card will be just enough. 

Rethink one-way rentals

If you only need a car for a single, one-way trip, this may prove to be a costly option. Since you would be returning the car to another country, you may even have to pay extra for this service, as if your car rental bill was not high enough. With this in mind, you should always ask and consider leaving out this option from your plan. 

Review Insurance Necessities

Before making a long trip abroad, always make sure that you check your travel insurance and car insurance. Your insurance house may not provide insurance for driving in Canada. However, your credit card may. Always check your options before venturing and ensure that your driving license is also up to date. 

Use Canadian Dollars in Renting

When paying, you can use Canadian dollars or American dollars. However, you should know that the exchange rate may not always work in your favour. For this reason, consider paying in Canadian dollars and make sure that you get a good exchange rate – calling a few banks in your area will ensure you get the best exchange rate. 

Check Your Driving Speed

To avoid speeding tickets or even a driving suspension with serious offences, always double-check for the speed limit and make sure to understand the km/h to m/h conversion: 

1 m/h = 1.609 km/h

So, to know how fast you can go in m/h (if your car does not already come with km/h), simply divide the number on the speed sign by 1.6 to get its equivalent in m/h. 

Make Use of Your US License

US licenses are generally accepted in Canada for as long as your license is readable and in English. Many provinces allow up to 90 days of driving on their territory with a US license, although some may allow only up to 60 days. So, it is a bad idea to use a US license for any other uses than temporary visits. 

Beware of Extreme Weather

The weather in Canada is quite different from the weather in the US. This is predominantly because Canada is much further north and experiences longer winters that are much colder and with more precipitation. Understanding the dangers of being stuck out in the cold with a broken car or the danger of black ice is necessary, so avoid visiting during the winter months unless you are a very confident driver. 

Inspect the Rented Car

When opting for a rental car, you should always inspect it and document any damages that you can spot on the car. This is especially true for any minor scratches and indentations, as these could be charged to you upon returning the car. Use your smartphone to take pictures and check the car’s interior as well. 

Tips for Driving During Your Canada Trip

Driving abroad is a great experience, especially when you are with your friends or family. Being on an open road has its charm, and enjoying the spectacular Canadian nature is an experience that cannot be matched. However, staying cautious and preparing for a long-haul drive is a necessary step to making sure your trip does not turn into a bad experience. 

Familiarize Yourself With the Language

As Canada is a bilingual country, it is no surprise that the signs can also be bilingual. For this reason, before a long trip, familiarize yourself with some common phrases in French and make sure to practice them to be able to recognize them in a real-life scenario. 

Here are some common phrases used in French road signs and their English translation: 



Prepare for Long Distances

Canada is a huge country. It may take you many days to go from one cost to another. Compare it to the distance between New York and San Francisco – and a 43-hour drive between the two. How fast you will get there depends on how many hours a day you can drive safely. Plan your trip and all the stores and planned stops. Check the weather forecast a few days in advance and check it out at least once daily. When you think the weather is becoming unstable, it is probably better to revise your plans. 

Know Roadside Assistance Numbers

Knowing metric units and provincial rules is one thing, but knowing the emergency services and their numbers can also help. Make sure you have them in your phone and be ready to dial. Check with your mobile operator to make sure you will have reception in Canada as well as in the US. 

Slow Down for Pot Holes & Construction Crews

Since Canada is a cold country, the cold weather can damage the road in more than one way. For this reason, potholes are a common occurrence, so you may need to pay attention, especially on rural roads. With this in mind, it is always best to stay some 10-20% below the speed limit to make sure you can slow down and swerve in time and check the road conditions before venturing out. 

Stay Aware of Large Animals

Canada is full of large animals. These can cause traffic accidents and even injuries, so being aware of them and their presence is essential. Always make sure to pay attention to signs warning you of animals and their crossing paths, especially during the migration seasons (spring and autumn), and during dusk, since this is when these animals are most active. In Canada, you can expect to see bears, moose, deer, elk, and even some smaller animals, such as foxes and wolves. Beware that your own pets can attract some predatory animals in Canada. 

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How does a US citizen Get a Canadian Driver’s License?

If you are a US citizen and have been driving for more than two years, you can get a Canadian driver’s license without taking the driving license test. If you have been driving for less than two years, you may be able to exchange your driving license for a Canadian one, but only under special conditions different in each province. 

What is a G license in Canada?

A class G driver’s license allows you to drive a car, a van, or a small truck in Canada. This is equivalent to the ‘B’ category license in Europe. Most drivers apply for this type of license. 

How Long Can I Drive in Canada with a US License?

You can drive in Canada with a US license, but only for some time. In most provinces, this period is 90 days. In some, it is 60 days. The days are counted from the day you enter Canada. 

Does a Canadian Speeding Ticket affect my US License?

Your speeding ticket may be reported to the US authorities when you are caught speeding in Canada with a valid driver’s license from the US. In any case, it pays off to be cautious and never speed. A speeding ticket will also be reported to the rental car company, which may increase your insurance. 

Final Thoughts

Driving safely is something we should strive for. This is especially true if you are driving in Canada, as the slight differences in motor vehicles’ speed and other regulations may bring in more tickets than usual. For this reason, always check your car, your car sears for anyone younger than 9 or shorter than 145 cm, and always obey the law. Never forget that your seat belt should be fastened whenever you are in your car, and avoid right-hand turns: combined with alcohol, they may be seen as an offence.