Once in Canada, drivers will find that roads are generally in good condition. There are two major highway routes that cross Canada east to west. Highway 1 -- the Trans-Canada Highway -- which is largely four-lane, travels from Victoria on the Pacific to St. John's in Newfoundland a total of 8,000km (4,971 miles) -- with some ferries along the way. The Yellowhead Highway (Hwy. 16) links Winnipeg to Prince Rupert in BC along a more northerly route.
Gasoline -- As in the United States, the trend in Canada is toward self-service stations, and in some areas, you may have difficulty finding the full-service kind. Though Canada (specifically, Alberta) is a major oil producer, gasoline isn't particularly cheap. Gas sells by the liter and pumps for anywhere from about C95¢ to C$1.50 per liter, or about C$4 to C$6 per U.S. gallon. (Note that the term "gallon" in Canada usually refers to the imperial gallon, which amounts to about 1.2 U.S. gal.) Gasoline prices vary from region to region, with prices highest in northern regions.
Driving Rules -- Canadian driving rules are similar to regulations in the United States. Wearing seat belts is compulsory (and enforced) in all provinces for all passengers. Children under 5 must be in child restraints. Motorcyclists must wear helmets. Throughout the country, pedestrians have the right of way, and crosswalks are sacrosanct. The speed limit on the auto routes (limited-access highways) is usually 110kmph (68 mph). In all provinces but Québec, right turns on red are permitted after a full stop, unless another rule is posted. The use of handheld cellphones while driving is prohibited in most jurisdictions. Drivers must carry proof of insurance in Canada at all times.
Sample Driving Distances Between Major Cities -- Here are some sample driving distances between major Canadian cities. The distances are calculated based on a particular route, possibly the fastest, but not necessarily the shortest: Montréal to Vancouver, 4,910km (3,051 miles); Vancouver to Halifax, 6,295km (3,912 miles); Toronto to Victoria, 4,700km (2,920 miles); Winnipeg to St. John's, 5,100km (3,169 miles); Calgary to Montréal, 3,710km (2,305 miles); St. John's to Vancouver, 7,625km (4,738 miles); Ottawa to Victoria, 4,810km (2,989 miles). To get driving directions online, check MapQuest (www.mapquest.com), Google Maps (http://maps.google.com), or Yahoo! Maps (http://maps.yahoo.com) and select Driving Directions.
Getting around Canada by air is easy, with two major airlines serving the country from coast to coast and dozens of smaller airlines linking out-of-the-way places to larger population centers. For information, contact Air Canada (tel. 888/937-8538; www.aircanada.com) or WestJet (tel. 888/937-8538; www.westjet.com).
In the last decade, Canada has undergone a renaissance in domestic air-travel pricing. It's usually cheaper to fly between Canadian cities than take the bus or train.
Most of Canada's passenger rail traffic is carried by the government-owned VIA Rail (tel. 888/842-7245 or 514/989-2626; www.viarail.ca). You can traverse the continent very comfortably in sleeping cars, parlor coaches, bedrooms, and roomettes. Virtually all of Canada's major cities (save St. John's, Regina, Calgary, and Victoria) are connected by rail, though service is less frequent than it used to be. Some luxury trains, such as the Canadian, boast dome cars with panoramic picture windows, hot showers, and dining cars. Reduced regular fares are available for students, seniors, and children traveling with adults.
The problem with traveling on VIA Rail, particularly in western Canada, is that the train runs only 3 days a week. If you want to link your visit between destinations in Alberta and British Columbia with a train journey, you may be out of luck unless your schedule is very flexible. Also, if sightseeing and not just transport is part of your vacation agenda, then you may also find that your train journey takes place overnight. Because of the way the train is scheduled in many parts of rural Canada, there's just one schedule per train, so the leg between Winnipeg and Edmonton, for instance, will always be overnight, no matter which train you take.
You can buy a Canrailpass, C$941 in high season and C$588 in low season, giving you seven one-way trips in economy-class in one 21-day period throughout the VIA Rail national network. Seniors 60 and over, students, and children 17 and under receive a 10% discount on all fares. Class upgrades are available for a fee each time you ride. A similar but less expensive package is available for seven one-way trips on the Québec-Windsor corridor (Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montréal, and Québec City) within a 10-day period.
While many visitors may not relish the option of traveling by bus while in Canada, in fact, Greyhound Canada (tel. 800/661-8747; www.greyhound.ca) offers far superior service and coverage than does Greyhound in the U.S. Not only are the buses newer and cleaner, and the bus stations better kept up than in the U.S., Greyhound is often the only option for public transport in many parts of Canada due to the relatively minimal coverage by VIA Rail.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.