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Driving in Canada Information for International Students

Do you plan to school in Canada or are you currently schooling here? Do you also plan on driving a car? If so, you need to learn about what it takes to be allowed to drive without restrictions. You also need to familiarize yourself with safety regulations and rules that are peculiar to the province where your school is. This article provides driving in Canada information for International Students and more. Read on to ensure you are on the right side of the law when driving.

International Driving Permit

Before making your trip down to Canada, you want to first apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP). This is a document that authorizes you to drive a vehicle in Canada. To be eligible for this permit or license, you need to already have a valid license from your home country. That license will then be translated into English or French.

The IDP cannot be applied for from within any of the provinces of Canada; it has to be done from your country. It is, however, noteworthy that the validity of the IDP varies from province to province and you should be aware of the individual requirements.

Provincial Regulations for International Students

There are myriads of driving regulations in Canada, all of which have provincial disparities. For international students who intend to drive, the following driving conditions apply to these set of provinces:


For international students in Alberta, you are allowed to use the driving license from your home country plus the IDP for a one-year duration. After this time frame, you will be required to apply for an Alberta license. But here’s something: if you leave the country and return, the one-year timeline starts again.


Ontario has a shorter grace period for international students who plan to drive in the province. You are allowed no more than 60 days to drive unrestricted with your valid foreign license after which you must either exchange it for an Ontario license or apply for a new one. Ontario has an exchange program with select countries, which include Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, United States, the Isle of Man, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, Taiwan.


In Quebec, international students are not mandated to have a Quebec driving license for the duration of their schooling. Students are however required to have their foreign license as well as the International Driving Permit, especially if the foreign license is not in French.

British Columbia

If you are an international student going to study full-time you don’t need a BC license; your foreign license would suffice here. But if you’re a part-time schooler you will only be permitted to drive with your foreign license for a period of 90 days. During this time, you should obtain a British Columbia license.

For all provinces in Canada, it is recommended to get the IDP before coming to Canada especially if you don’t have a U.S license. Also, for those provinces that require you to obtain a local license, keep in mind that application success is hinged on:

  • How long you have been driving
  • The country where you were licensed before
  • Driving tests

General Driving Regulations

As an international student, Canada driving regulations also apply to you. It is important to learn them by heart as ignorance never counts as an excuse. Also, the rules have provincial peculiarities so it helps to find out how the province you are in or intend to be interpret the law. You can get your hands on a copy of the full list of driving laws and safety requirements from the appropriate department that regulates driving in the province.

Meanwhile, here are a few general regulations to be apprised of:

License, registration and insurance

To legally drive a car in Canada, you must have these 3 things. First is that you should have a license that shows you are qualified to drive a car – any of the licenses mentioned above should do. The car you plan to drive should also be duly registered with the government; you don’t want to be accused of stealing someone’s car.

And lastly, insurance. It is illegal to drive any car in Canada without insurance. Get an insurance plan that covers you in case of an accident that leads to injury or death, and one that covers damage done to your car. It also helps to get insurance that covers damage to other people’s cars where you are the one at fault.

Alcohol and Drug Use

Generally, Canada frowns at cases involving drivers who ply the road under the influence. As an international student, you risk forfeiting your school program as offenders are charged for Driving Under the Influence. And conviction automatically results in such a person being labelled “criminally inadmissible” to Canada. So, for the entire duration of your study and indeed your stay in Canada, endeavour to be sober before taking the wheel.

Winter Tires for Driving in Winter

Driving in Canada during winter is potentially dangerous, this is why winter tires are highly recommended. Winter tires have a better grip than regular tires and can withstand the freezing temperature. You can easily get these put in at an auto body shop. In Quebec, it is mandatory to have these tires attached to your vehicle. Failure to do so will attract a penalty.

Road signs in Quebec are in French

Take note that Quebec is a predominantly French-speaking province and that road signs and information are in French. If Quebec is your destination, do well to familiarize yourself with the French language. Although most of the road signs use internationally familiar pictograms (aka pictographs) so it shouldn’t be so difficult to figure things out.

As an international student, you should have no problem at all driving in Canada as long as you meet the legal requirements and follow safety rules. Canada is one of the safest places to drive in the world and they intend to keep it that way – for their citizens as well as international students like you.

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