One of the next things we did after getting our new home was to get ourselves a Canadian driver’s licence. The amount of time you can drive on a UK licence in Canada depends on the province. In Ontario you only have 60 days, but in BC for example it’s 90 days.
Fortunately for us the UK has an exchange agreement with Ontario, which as the name suggests meant we were able to literally swap our licence over for a shiny new one. They also have an agreement with a few other countries; you can see the full list here. We just needed the following things:
– A valid UK driver’s licence and the annoying paper counterpart
– Documents to prove your driving experience* (paper counterpart counted as this for us – finally, it has a purpose!)
– Some dollar because sadly it’s not free!
So off we went one Thursday evening to the ServiceOntario centre in downtown Toronto, armed with our documents and ready to sit in the queue. Once our numbers were called it was just a case of taking an eye test and having our photos taken before handing over our UK licences. OK, so the photo part wasn’t that easy, firstly I was told off for laughing, then my second photo was apparently awful, then I had my eyes closed due to the ridiculously bright flash but I got there in the end. We were then given a temporary licence to use whilst we waiting for our new ones to arrive in the post.
This is another example of Canadian services being so much better than the UK, no faffing around trying to get a passport sized photo and no navigating an overly complicated form and then worrying that because you posted it to just ‘DVLA, random Swansea postcode’ it will get lost in the mail. Fortunately we have plenty of time to worry about getting our old ones back when we get home as you can drive in the UK with a Canadian licence for a year.
What about an international driving permit?
The alternative would have been for us to get one of these before we left the UK, which allow you to drive in certain countries (Canada included) for a year; you can pick these up from the Post Office for £5.50. However, as highlighted by Gemma in the comments, technically these are for visitors. So for those who are residing and working in Canada, an international driving permit may not be suitable as you are more than just a visitor. Since we are here for a year, and might be staying longer and a lot of jobs I’m looking at want you to have an Ontario licence, it made more sense for us to get a local one.
The final bonus is that we now have our very own piece of Canadian Government issued ID with our new address on!
*For anyone wondering why you need to prove your driving experience, it’s because in Ontario and I think most of Canada, they have what they call ‘graduated licencing’. This quite sensible approach is designed to give new drivers time to practice and gain experience driving over time. So you start off on a G1 Licence, which you use to practise driving for 12 months, a bit like a provisional licence in the UK. Once you have practised for a year you then take a road test in order to get a G2 licence. Another year on, you take a second road test which covers more advanced driving skills before you finally get a full G licence. Luckily we were able to prove we had enough years experience to skip these steps and get a full G licence straight away.