Tips for Driving an RV in Canada

Photo: NWTT/Terry ParkerPhoto: NWTT/Terry Parker

Driving in Canada can be both a pleasure and a challenge. For people from smaller countries, it can be an adjustment to drive an RV in a country that spans six time zones – some places are just really far away! But with long, open roads and some seriously incredible scenery, driving in Canada can be a really liberating feeling.

Canada 's roads are of fairly good quality, although the ice and snow in the winter and heat and humidity in the summer can wreak havoc on the roads of some of the busier cities, resulting in perpetual road works. City roads are fairly wide, apart from in Quebec City and parts of Halifax that may be too narrow for an RV. Most roads are well marked, although if you don't read French, you may have difficulty in Quebec where French-only signs exist.

Most cities are planned on a grid system making them fairly easy to navigate. At the same time, downtown sections are usually made up of one-way streets, which can leave you going in circles. Rush hour (from about 7am to 9am, and 4pm to 6pm) can be extremely frustrating, especially when there are road closures due to ongoing repairs. Some cities, such as Toronto, are busy at all hours except the very early morning.

Some country driving, like that in the Prairies, is flat, straight and very boring, but in other parts roads can wind endlessly. Either way, it's important to pay attention and stay alert. Wildlife, poor visibility and other sleepy drivers can make rural roads treacherous for RVers.

The main routes in and out of the big cities are usually high-speed, multi-lane freeways (also called expressways or highways). In Britain, Australia and New Zealand these routes are called motorways, and in Europe they are known as autobahns, autoroutes and autostradas. A few of Canada 's expressways charge a toll, the incentive to use them being less traffic.

Canada has about 24,500 km of highways. The Trans Canada Highway, which runs from St John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia, is 7,306 km, the longest in the world. Along most main highways are service stations with restaurants, rest room facilities and a gas (petrol) station. But for driving in remote areas, RVers should bring extra gasoline, food, water, warm clothing and a cellular phone.

Certain parts of Canada can be hazardous during winter months from icy roads, rock avalanches, snow or other extreme conditions. Some roads are very isolated, and an accident or a breakdown in your motorhome could mean being stranded for hours with no other cars passing by. Always take a mobile phone if you can and have the number of local emergency services available.

In some areas, alongside the usual road signs warning of sharp bends or rock avalanches, there are signs alerting drivers to beware of certain wildlife that roam nearby. It's not just to protect the animals; deer, elk and moose can be a real hazard for RVs and their drivers. They often get mesmerised by vehicle lights and stand frozen in the path of your motorhome, or can bolt across the road out of nowhere. If you hit one of these large animals, especially a moose, YOU can be killed, not just the moose!

  • In contrast to the other Commonwealth countries, Canadians drive on the right-hand side of the road
  • Seatbelt-wearing is compulsory.
  • Speeding is a big problem in Canada where drivers take advantage of the wide, open roads. If you are used to the imperial system, it might take some time to get used to the metric system in Canada. Don't make the mistake of interpreting a sign that says `90' to mean 90 mph! The speed limit on highways is usually 100 km/h (60 mph) and in cities and towns it is usually 50 km/h (30 mph) or less.
  • Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the road.
  • Always give way to pedestrians on pedestrian crossings.
  • If you’re planning to travel through Quebec, it may be helpful to familiarise yourself with some basic French travel phrases before you go. If not, you can take a French phrase book with you as many signs are only in French and you may have difficulty understanding the road rules there.

Be aware of the speed signs – remember they’re in kilometres and not miles. The general speed limits are:

  • Motorways – 100 km/h
  • Built-up Areas – 50 km/h

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