Useful Information on Living in Canada

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The Language Barrier in Canada

In the majority of Canada, English is the primary language. However in Quebec province – which comprises almost 1.7 million km² of the northeast of the country – French is the official language. Around 20% of Canada’s citizens speak French.

Expats who will be living anywhere in Quebec, including Quebec City, Montreal, or even Ottawa on the border, should endeavour to learn some French words and phrases. The language is generally the same as European French; however Quebecois has its own nuances that will likely take time to understand.

Weather & Climate

Canada makes up just over 6% of the world’s land mass, and is the second largest country after Russia. Considering its size, it will come as no surprise to learn that Canada sees a vast array of different weather types. The warmest areas are in Ontario, with cities like Toronto averaging temperatures of around 21°C in the summer. On the other hand, colder areas such as Alberta reach lows of -37°C in the winter.

The extreme cold temperatures in Canada have been known to cause avalanches and ice storms, and the country has also seen landslides, earthquakes and flooding in the past.

British Embassy in Canada

Address:British High Commission Ottawa
80 Elgin Street
K1P 5K7
Phone:(+1) 613 237 1530
Office hours:Local Time
Mon-Fri: 9am – 4pm

Emergency Services Contact Information in Canada

Emergency ServiceContact Number
Police Service911
Fire Service911
Ambulance Service911

Health in Canada

There are currently no vaccination requirements for travelling to Canada, and there are no existing recommendations for any injections or medication to prepare for travel – aside from standard UK vaccinations.

While Canada does offer a high quality health care system, this is not available to non-residents for free. Health care in Canada can be highly expensive for expats; therefore it is recommended that appropriate, comprehensive insurance is taken out. Depending on an individual’s situation, this could be local medical insurance or travel insurance obtained in the expat’s home country.

Driving while Living in Canada

Most roads in Canada are wide and well-maintained, and many offer some incredible views of surrounding Canadian countryside. Canadians drive on the right hand side and due to the huge size of the country, roads can be vast and petrol stations not that frequent. For this reason, drivers should fill up their tank when they get the opportunity, and keep provisions such as snacks and blankets in the car just in case.

Other things to note about driving in Canada include:

  • Speed limits are in kilometres per hour and not miles per hour. They are displayed on all roads
  • It is legal to turn right when you have stopped at a red light, as long as there is no oncoming traffic and there is no sign telling the driver otherwise
  • Anyone caught blocking the left lane (the fast lane) can be fined $167 and receive three licence demerit points. Trucks are barred from this lane.
  • In towns with trams (locally known as streetcars) it is frowned upon to pass them while passengers are climbing off or on board
  • There are several toll roads, most of which are located close to the US border

In general, driving around Canada is simple and enjoyable. The country’s citizens are known for being kind and polite; two qualities that helpfully extend to their driving style.

Getting your Driving Licence

The rules for getting a driving licence in Canada differ in each province. It is advisable that expats moving to Canada obtain an International Driving Permit in their home country before moving. This should be presented along with your original driver’s licence. Depending on the origin country of your licence, it might not be necessary to complete all the tests to get a Canadian license.

To obtain a Canadian driving licence, applicants must:

  • Pass a theory test and possibly an eyesight test to get a Learner’s Permit
  • Take driving lessons for one year and pass a driving test to get an Intermediate Permit
  • Continue to drive for another year, and then apply to take a road test to get a full licence

Each province has legislation that dictates when an expat must apply for a Canadian licence. In Ontario, for instance, a foreign licence must be exchanged within 90 days of residency.

Legal Requirements

Each province in Canada has different a law pertaining to the legal driving age. The average legal age for a Learner’s Permit is 16, however drivers can be as young as 14 to apply for a Leaner’s Permit in Alberta.

Other driving laws in Canada are similar to those in the UK. Seatbelts are a legal requirement, and drivers cannot take calls or text while driving. Blood alcohol levels must be below 0.08 – which is the same as in the UK.

Drivers should also be aware that some provinces ask that car lights are kept on during the day, and in Ontario any driver caught speeding at 50km/h (31mph) over the speed limit could have their car confiscated, and impounded for up to seven days.