Canada car hire - long distances in a large car
Canada is the world’s second largest country after Russia in terms of area, having a land border with only one country, United States.
In many respects Canada and USA can be considered ‘sister-countries’, although there are also considerable differences. For example, Europeans will frequently feel more at home in Canadian cities, as they resemble the European urban layout much more than the American cities.
Ford Explorer - a popular hire car in Canada (4x4).
Car hire is, however, a very similar experience in Canada and in the States, mostly due to a very comparable car fleet. Much like in the U.S., in Canada you will be able to hire large vehicles and full-size minivans with powerful engines. In fact, many American cars are assembled in factories in Canada.
Canada - the country of large distances
With the land area of over 3 500 000 square miles Canada is about 25% larger than the whole of mainland Australia. When travelling in Canada, especially between its eastern and western coast, you will have to cover considerable distances.
The two major cities of Canada, Toronto and Montreal, are located relatively close from each other, in the neighboring provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
See below the approximate road distances form Canada’s three largest cities (province’s name in the brackets):
Distance Toronto - Vancouver (British Columbia): 4500 km/2800 mi
Distance Toronto - Ottawa (Ontario): 400 km/250 mi
Distance Toronto - Edmonton (Alberta): 3450 km/2140 mi
Distance Toronto - Calgary (Alberta): 3440 km /2140 mi
Distance Toronto - Montreal (Quebec): 540 km/335 mi
Distance Toronto - Quebec City (Quebec): 810 km/500 mi
Distance Montreal - Quebec City (Quebec): 270 km/170 mi
Distance Montreal - Vancouver (British Columbia): 4800 km/2990 mi
Distance Montreal - Toronto (Ontario): 540 km/335 mi
Distance Montreal - Calgary (Alberta): 3750 km/2330 mi
Distance Montreal - Quebec City (Quebec): 270 km/170 mi
Distance Montreal - Edmonton (Alberta): 3770 km/2340 mi
Distance Montreal - Ottawa (Ontario): 190 km/120 mi
Distance Vancouver - Montreal (Quebec): 4800 km/2980 mi
Distance Vancouver - Toronto (Ontario): 4500 km/2800 mi
Distance Vancouver - Quebec City (Quebec): 5070 km/3150 mi
Distance Vancouver - Ottawa (Ontario): 4610 km/2860 mi
Distance Vancouver - Edmonton (Alberta): 1250 km/780 mi
Distance Vancouver - Calgary (Alberta): 1060 km/780 mi
Distance Vancouver - Ottawa (Ontario): 4610 km/2900 mi
The North of Canada is sparsely populated and consists mostly of forest, tundra plains and arctic areas. The road network in northern Canada is not well developed and some of its most remote areas can be only reached by air.
The distances to cover are sometimes extreme and drivers on the road - very few. It is usually a long drive between petrol stations, so, when heading north in Canada, make sure to fill the tank. Bringing extra fuel may sometimes be a good idea, too.
See map of Canada.
Car hire companies in Canada
Most of the global car hire providers offer their services in Canada, amongst them: Alamo, Avis Rent A Car, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise Rent A Car, Hertz and Thrifty.
Car rental in Canada is usually cheap. Although the price of petrol has increased significantly in the last years, visitors from Europe will most likely find it still rather low. In mid-2013, the average retail price of petrol (gasoline) in Canada was approx. £0.80 per litre.
Diesel cars in Canada are not very common and, certainly, not in the Canadian car hire fleet.
A large part of the tourist traffic to Canada arrives by plane, via international airports of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary, where car hire services are widely available.
Alternatively, some international flights are also received at the smaller airports of Edmonton, Ottawa, Halifax, and Winnipeg.
All of the above airports are equipped with U.S. border pre-clearance facilities.
Flights to Canada from the UK
Direct flights from the UK, with departures from London (Heathrow or Gatwick, depending on the airline) are available to all of the large airports in Canada. Some of the airports receive also flights from Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham.
Major airlines to fly from the UK to Canada are: British Airways, the Canadian flag carrier Air Canada and Air Transat airline.
See below routes from UK to Canada in mid-2013:
Toronto Pearson Airport: receives flights from London-Heathrow (operated by Air Canada), London-Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham (seasonal) Glasgow International (Air Transat), London-Heathrow (British Airways).
Vancouver Airport: London-Heathrow (Air Canada), Glasgow International (seasonal), London-Gatwick, (Air Transat), London-Heathrow (British Airways), London-Heathrow (seasonal) (Virgin Atlantic)
Montreal Airport: London-Heathrow (Air Canada), London-Gatwick (Air Transat), London-Heathrow (British Airways)
Calgary Airport: London-Heathrow (Air Canada), London-Gatwick, Glasgow-International (seasonal) (Air Transat), London-Heathrow (British Airways)
Edmonton Airport: London-Heathrow (seasonal) (Air Canada), London-Gatwick (seasonal) (Air Transat)
Ottawa Airport: London-Heathrow (Air Canada), London-Gatwick (Air Transat)
Halifax Airport: London-Heathrow (Air Canada)
Driving in Canada
Unlike in many other Commonwealth countries, in Canada you drive on the right. Pedestrians have priority in Canada on zebra crossing.
In most areas of Canada traffic regulations allow right turn on the red light, provided that there are no signs indicating otherwise and that the vehicle has come to a complete stop. Turning right on a red sing is illegal, however, on the Island of Montreal.
When driving on long distances, please remember that there are six different time zones in Canada. See map of time zones Canada.
Generally, western Canada is characterized by rather mountainous terrain, while in the eastern part, around the Hudson Bay, the differences in height are not so accentuated.
The Canadians themselves enjoy exploring the great outdoors and weekend or holiday roadtrips are a popular way of spending free time with family and friends. When visiting Canada, do not miss out on the opportunity to experience the unique and diverse natural beauty of this country.
In the big cities, such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, the road traffic can be very heavy and long queues on the motorways during the peak hours are often hard to avoid. In Vancouver the city traffic gets jammed especially during the periods of heavy rain in the months of November, December and January.
Motorways in Canada are known as highways, or expressways. There are over 25 000 km of highways in total. The longest Canadian motorways is over 7000 kilometers long (nearly 4350 miles).
It is recommended to plan longer trips in Canada in advanced with a special focus on weather conditions. See current weather in Canada.
Drive through the Canadian wilderness
When driving on motorways in the more populated areas of Canada you can expect to find, at regular intervals, petrol stations equipped with all the necessary facilities. However, if you venture ‘into the wild’, in the more remote zones, it is always a good idea to bring warm clothes, food and water supplies and a mobile phone.
Please, note that large wild animal, such as moose, caribou and deer can frequently be met crossing the road. A close encounter with an animal of this size, even when driving slowly, can be fatal to both the animal and the car – take the warning signs seriously.
Speed limits in Canada
The speed limits in Canada vary in different provinces. In most areas of Canada the default speed limits are:
- expressways (grade separated): 100 km/h (62 mph)
- urban areas: 50 km/h (31 mph)
- rural areas: 80 km/h (50 mph)
4-wheel drive cars for hire in Canada
As a tourist you can expect to find reasonably priced four wheel drive (4WD) hire cars in Canada. However, ask yourself if the off-road ability is what you need the most from your rental vehicle; frequently the comfort of driving a four wheel car is compromised when compared to a regular passenger car and the fuel consumption - much higher.
However, if you are looking to experience the feeling of total freedom behind the wheel and the ability to drive in (almost) any terrain, Canada is a cheap place to rent a four wheel drive. Canada is also one of the few places in the Western world where you can easily find areas allowing to utilize the full potential of a 4WD vehicle.
On the other hand, the excellent condition of motorways in Canada does not require a 4-wheel drive to move between major cities across the country.
When choosing the right rental car in Canada, it is often a good idea to prioritize comfort over price. Frequently there is not much difference in price between small and larger hire car classes and, given the considerable distances to cover in Canada, you will appreciate to have opted for a vehicle that provides comfort and space during long trips.
Canada car hire - prices
Prices of car hire in Canada vary, but generally you will be able to find offers of large, comfortable cars, such as Ford Taurus, Honda Accord or similar with room for 5 people and luggage, starting from approx. £240 for a week.
Canada car hire - Ford Taurus.
Should you need a minivan (MPV) in Canada, it is usually possible to hire a 5-7-seater Dodge Grand Caravan or similar for about £300 per week.
The price of one week rental of a large 4-wheel drive vehicle, such as Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Explorer or similar frequently start from approx. £335.
Please note, that practically all hire cars in Canada are equipped with automatic transmission.
British in Canada - Expat communities
Amongst British expats, Canada is considered one of the best places to live in.
Immigrants in Canada point to the stable economic situation, high standards of healthcare and education systems and, last but not least, the beautiful nature as the main factors contributing to the high quality of life in Canada.
In mid-2013 there were over 600,000 British immigrants in Canada. The numbers of UK citizens applying for permanent resident visa in Canada are constantly growing, despite the fact that Canadian Immigration Office has recently lowered the preferred age of applicants to up to 35.
British expat communities spread across the whole of the country, but three Canadian cities - Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary - are the top ranked on the list of favourite destinations for UK immigrants.