Driver’s License in Canada: Requirements and How to Apply

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A driver’s license in Canada is one of the first things you need to apply for once you arrive in the country.

That’s because Canada allows those with valid Philippine Driver’s License to drive freely for only 90 days of driving after landing. Also, doing so and successfully passing the driver’s test and obtaining a driver’s license in Canada (regardless of state) entitles you to use it as a license to drive in certain countries.

For example, those with Alberta driver’s license can sit behind the wheel without taking knowledge or road tests in the following countries:

  • Australia (Class 5 and 6)
  • Austria (Class 5)
  • Belgium (Class 5)
  • France (Class 5)
  • Germany (Class 5)
  • Isle of Man (Class 5 and 6)
  • Japan (Class 5)
  • Netherlands (Class 5)
  • Republic of Korea (Class 5)
  • Switzerland (Class 5 and 6)
  • Taiwan (Class 5)
  • United Kingdom (Northern Ireland – Class 5, and 6)
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland & Wales – Class 5)
  • United States (Class 5, 6, and 7)

Though we have established that your Philippines license allows you to drive for 90 days, the matter of driving safely is still of concern. Driving in the Philippines and in Canada are two different situations with different laws and regulations. Ask yourself first if you are confident enough in your skills. Will you be able to travel by car without getting into an accident, causing an accident, or violate traffic rules?

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Even if you are confident enough, you might want to think twice. Being a skillful or careful driver in Manila holds little value in Canada because, one, you are in Canada and not in Manila, the roads rules and the roads themselves are different, two, the drivers are different and follow the traffic regulations differently, three, you might have bad driving habits which might be difficult to break as they are of second nature to your driving and lastly, the road conditions, especially when its winter in Canada might make driving more difficult with all the snow and ice.

Traffic rules in the Philippines vs traffic rules in Canada

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Like the Philippines, Canada is a left-hand driving country. But that might be one of the few similarities between driving in the Philippines and Canada. While rules are similar, how they’re implemented or practiced can be different. Hence, it’s good to be mindful AND execute the proper way of driving in Canada once you start your new life there.

One of the biggest differences in road rules in Canada is that pedestrians get priority. Drivers will have to give way to those who are crossing as well as those who intend to cross and remain in that state until after the pedestrian or pedestrians have reached the other side of the road.

Traffic lights are followed 24/7 as well as street signs such as “STOP” and “YIELD” at street corners. At the “STOP” sign, you have to stop for 2-3 seconds and resume once it is safe and it’s your turn. At the “YIELD” sign, you have to slow down and give way to pedestrians and traffic before proceeding if it’s safe and it’s your turn.

Driver's license in Canada: British Columbia
Driver’s license in Canada

Canada also emphasizes the use of ‘shoulder checks’ to check on your blind spot instead of just the side and rearview mirrors. Another point emphasized is the ‘playground zones’ and ‘school zones’ where you must have a speed limit of 30kph and be on the lookout for pedestrians.

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There are also speed limits for different roads, construction areas, and passing emergency vehicles. You might also want to brush up on your parking and unloading/loading rules.

Most important of all these rules are the “right of way” which means that if you have right of way in an intersection that does not have traffic lights, you are not expected to slow down. Canadian drivers assume this and you might cause accidents if you hesitate or slow down.

How to apply for a driver’s license in Canada

The best and easiest way to get this is to enroll at a driving school. Regulations on obtaining a driver’s license in Canada depend on the state jurisdiction. Please check the details on licenses, lessons, and tests across these provinces or territories linked below.

Knowledge test to obtain driver’s license in Canada

First, you need to pass the knowledge test. You take the test at the registry or government office where you take an online quiz and answer 25 questions out of 30 correctly.

After passing this, you need to take the vision test. For those who have eye problems, you might want to bring your glasses or contacts.

Passing the two tests will earn you a ‘Learner’s license’, the equivalent of a student permit in the Philippines. The estimated costs of the two tests would be $16-$20 and $90-$100 for other fees to get the Learner’s License.

If you already have your Philippine Driver’s license you will be requested to surrender it, because it is illegal to own two drivers’ licenses at the same time. You will also be asked for proof of driving experience to be able to take a road test. If you cannot provide proof, you will have to wait one year to take it.

The best proof of experience would be LTO certification notarized by the DFA. You have to request this at the LTO and claim it at the DFA with a gold seal and red ribbon. Processing is typically 5-10 working days.

Road test to obtain driver’s license in Canada

The road test allows you to have a class 5 driving license which allows you to drive on your own. You are required to take your own vehicle for the test. If it is not possible, there are agencies that offer vehicles for rent at $50-$80 for the half-hour road test.

The GDL 5 or the Graduated Licensing Class 5 license allows you to drive alone but has zero-tolerance for alcohol while driving, does not allow the holder to be the accompanying driver of one who has a Learner’s license, and offers lower demerits for violations. To get the full license you must take an Advanced Road Test though it is recommended that you take at least a year of experience before this. The GDL 5 license costs about $20-$25 and the Basic Road test costs about $80-$90.

If you did in fact want to enroll in a Driving school, the beginner’s course with 15 hours of classroom time and 10 hours of road lessons costs $850 in Alberta though it differs by school and state. If you do think you are ready but wanted to brush up on basic you can take a “2 hour Brush Up course” meant to prepare experienced drivers. Lessons cost $50 – $60 / hour.

Next steps

As different provinces and states may have slightly different requirements and application procedures, select your province/territory location for details of obtaining a driver’s license in Canada.

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