Northwest Travel Planning
Transportation - Car

Car Rental
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Driving across the border
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To go beyond the big cities, including Vancouver, British Columbia with its well deserved reputation for having one of the best public transport systems in the world, you will find having a car offers the most flexibility for getting around. This is especially the case if you are wanting to visit a variety of towns, where distances can be greater compared with the US east coast.

Despite the congestion in urban areas like Seattle and Vancouver, there is a culture of minimal use of car horns. Special use of car lanes, including car pools and ferry queues is taken seriously here, so you will might find yourself under scrutiny if you cheat. Drivers in Canada tend to be more "pedestrian friendly" than drivers in the USA.

Driving in North America is on the right.

Throughout the Go Northwest! web site we use the following conventions for highway numbering:
I-5 = Interstate 5 (United States)
TC 1 = Trans-Canada Highway
US 2 = United States Federal Highway 2
C 3 - Canadian AutoRoute
BC11 = State or Provincial Highway (In this case British Columbia 11)

In the USA, understanding the system of interstate highway numbering and mileage markers found along the interstates will make navigating a lot easier. All interstates in the USA are numbered, for instance I-5. Even numbers (I-90) indicate a east-west route and odd numbers (I-405) indicate a north-south route.

The measuring of the mileage starts either at the starting of the interstate or at the state border (whichever comes first). The mileage is always measured from west to east or from south to north. So if the mileage shown on the markers increases as you are driving, you are either eastbound or northbound.

Exits are named according to the mileage at that exit, (when there are two exits close together the are called exit 25A and exit 25B), or after the road that exit leads to. Directions to tourist attractions or motels are often based on the exit number/name.

Seatbelts are to be worn by drivers and passengers as required by law.

One of the notable laws in the USA and most of Canada including British Columbia, is that cars are allowed to turn right at a red light after coming to a complete stop, checking traffic carefully, and yielding to all conflicting traffic and pedestrians before proceeding.

The flashing green traffic light has a particular meaning in British Columbia. It indicates that the light is pedestrian-controlled and will only change when a pedestrian presses a button to request a walk signal. Drive as usual but be prepared for the light to change if pedestrians are around.

In Canada, highway speed limits are normally 90-100 km/h = 55-60 mph. In the city, speed limits are typically 50-60 km/h = 30-35 mph.

Overseas visitors may wish to investigate obtaining an International Driving License (IDL). An IDL is basically just a translation of your original License, and as such is most useful for those who have licenses which could not be understood by English-speakers. It is used in conjunction with your original license. IDL's can only be obtained from your country of origin. You will probably need to supply passport photos and pay a small fee.

Winter Driving Tips
Lots of good information by longtime Mountaineer, Chuck Gustafson. Covers chains, tires, windshield wipers, and the engine.

*See also each state or province for more on transportation.

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