Driving in British Columbia
Driving in a new country can be daunting, so make sure you're clued up on the road traffic system in British Columbia by reading our quick guide.
General Driving Facts and Tips
- Canadians drive on the right hand side of the road.
- Almost every car you come across will be an automatic.
- STOP means STOP. You’ll soon get the hang of this one if you’re anywhere near a city as they’re everywhere.
- Only park on the side of the road facing the correct direction of traffic. You will get a parking ticket for not following this rule.
- Traffic in Canada tends to come to a stop in urban areas to allow emergency vehicles to pass, instead of just slowing down.
Always look out for the parking restrictions. They may not be marked directly next to your parking space, and may prohibit you from parking in certain areas, to the left, or right of a particular sign, or for a certain duration.
In Vancouver for example, the parking area will generally fall under one of the following categories:
- No Parking
- Parking for permit holders only
- Park for 1 hour
- Park for 2 hours
- Unrestricted (It's worth noting that technically you can't park in front of someone's house for more than three hours, though i've never seen this enforced. Just be considerate.)
Yes, you can turn right on a red traffic light, but be very careful of bikes or pedestrians who may be continuing straight ahead on your right hand side.
Be very careful when turning left at a crossroad, as pedestrians may still be crossing. You may be used to a system where either pedestrians move, or vehicles move, but this isn’t the case in Canada or the US. In particular, you may find yourself looking for a gap in the fast approaching traffic directly ahead as you look to turn left. Just when you think you’ve got a gap, you shoot forward to be met with the pedestrians crossing your path, leaving you in the path of oncoming traffic. Make sure both traffic and pedestrian areas are clear before advancing.
You're certain to come across a four-way stop junction. These junctions require an incredible memory, as you get closer and closer to the front of the queue, trying to work out who was there before you in your best attempt to stay polite. Once the queues are too long, just take it in turns.
Be very careful when approaching roundabouts, as there seem to be various interpretations of who has priority.
British Columbia is a big place, therefore your journey may well take many hours. It's really important, particularly in winter to always check weather conditions before you travel. Drive BC provide a great map service that shows all current conditions, variable traffic signage, and accidents etc.
Depending on where you're going, you may be required to have snow tyres at certain times of year. The BC Provincial government website has plenty of information detailing this advice.
The car you drive will almost certainly be unleaded.
Foreign Driving License
You can drive using your foreign driving license for upto three months.
Contact ICBC (Insurance Coorperation of British Columbia) if you have any specific questions.
If you’ve rented a car, your tolls will be charged directly to your credit card. Check out the toll prices on the TREO website, though they won’t cost you much.
If you decide to buy a car, you can register your credit card to automatically pay each time your license plate passes the toll, or you can wait for the letter to come through the post. As usual the quicker you pay, the less you pay.
Preparation & Breakdown
As the size of the country might suggest, it's well worth having breakdown cover to get you home.
If you're going to be driving far, make sure you have supplies to keep you hydrated, fed and warm whilst you wait for help to arrive.
For a guide to travel on British Columbia's Forest Service Roads, read our blog on Intro to Forest Service Roads.
Download MapsMe, a great app that gives you GPS directions without a data connection.
If you're going to be renting a car or camper, it's well worth knowing how insurance works in Canada. Read our car rental guide here.
For anything else, the BC Provincial government website offers a wealth of information for drivers and cyclists.