Car Travel

DESTINATIONS canada quebec car-travel-122


Car Travel

Montréal is accessible from the rest of Canada via the Trans-Canada Highway, which crosses the southern part of the island as Autoroute 20, with Autoroute 720 leading into Downtown. Autoroute 40 parallels Route 20 to the north; exits to Downtown include St-Laurent and St-Denis. From New York, take I–87 north until it becomes Autoroute 15 at the Canadian border; continue for another 47 km (29 miles) to the outskirts of Montréal. You can also follow U.S. I–89 north until it becomes the two-lane Route 133, which eventually joins Autoroute 10, an east–west highway that leads west across the Champlain Bridge and into Downtown. From I–91 through Massachusetts via New Hampshire and Vermont, you can take Route 55 to Autoroute 10. Again, turn west to reach Montréal.

At the border you must clear Canadian Customs, so be prepared with your passport and car registration. On holidays and during the peak summer season, expect to wait a half hour or more at the major crossings. Border wait times can be checked on the Transport Québec website.

Montréal and Québec City are linked by Autoroute 20 on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River and by Autoroute 40 on the north shore. On both highways, the ride between the two cities is about 240 km (149 miles) and takes about three hours. U.S. I–87 in New York, U.S. I–89 in Vermont, and U.S. I–91 in New Hampshire connect with Route 20, as does Highway 401 from Toronto.

Driving northeast from Montréal on Route 20, follow signs for Pont Pierre-Laporte (Pierre Laporte Bridge) as you approach Québec City. After you've crossed the bridge, turn right onto boulevard Laurier (Route 175), which becomes the Grande Allée.

The speed limit is posted in kilometers; on highways the limit is 100 kph (about 62 mph), and the use of radar-detection devices is prohibited.

In Québec the road signs are in French, but the important ones have pictograms. Signs with a red circle and a slash indicate that something, such as a left or right turn, is prohibited. Those with a green circle show what’s permitted. Parking signs display a green-circled "P" with either the number of hours you can park or a clock showing the hours parking is permitted. It's not unusual to have two or three road signs all together to indicate several different restrictions. Keep in mind the following terms: centre-ville (Downtown), arrêt (stop), détenteurs de permis (permit holders only), gauche (left), droit (right), ouest (west), and est (east).

Drivers must carry vehicle registration and proof of insurance coverage, which is compulsory in Canada. Québec drivers are covered by the Québec government no-fault insurance plan. Drivers from outside Québec can obtain a Canadian Non-Resident Inter-Provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card, available from any U.S. insurance company. The card is accepted as evidence of financial responsibility in Canada, but you're not required to have one. The minimum liability in Québec is C$50,000. If you are driving a car that isn't registered in your name, carry a letter from the owner that authorizes your use of the vehicle.


Gasoline is always sold in liters; 3.8 liters make a gallon. As of this writing, gas prices in Québec fluctuate considerably, ranging from C$1.10 to C$1.30 per liter (this works out to about $3.30 to $4.00 per gallon U.S.). Fuel comes in several grades, denoted as regulière, supérieure, and prémium.

Major credit cards are widely accepted, and you can often pay at the pump with your debit card as well. Receipts are provided if you want one—ask for a reçu.


Expect on-street parking in Montréal to be hard to find; your best bet is to leave the car at your hotel garage and take public transportation or a cab. If you must drive, ask your concierge to recommend a garage near your destination. Be extra careful where you park if it snows, to avoid getting towed. Parking in Québec City is much less stressful, although it's also advisable to leave the car at the hotel and walk—especially if you're heading to Vieux-Québec.

Road Conditions

In Montréal and Québec City the jumble of bicycle riders, delivery vehicles, taxis, and municipal buses can be chaotic. In the countryside at night, roads are lighted at exit points from major highways but are otherwise dark. Roads in the province aren't very good, especially during the spring pothole season—be prepared for some spine-jolting bumps and potholes, and check tire pressure once in a while.

In winter, Montréal streets are kept mostly clear of snow and ice, but outside the city the situation can deteriorate. Locals are notorious for exceeding the speed limit, so keep an eye on your mirrors. For up-to-date reports on road conditions throughout the province, go to Transport Québec's website.


Transport Québec.

Roadside Emergencies

Dial 911 in an emergency. Contact CAA, the Canadian Automobile Association, in the event of a flat tire, dead battery, empty gas tank, or other car-related mishap. Automobile Association of America membership includes CAA service.

Emergency Services

CAA. 800/222–4357; 514/861–1313;

Insurance Information

Insurance Bureau of Canada. 514/288–4321; 866/422–4331;

Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec. 800/361–7620; 514/873–7620; 418/643–7620;

Rules of the Road

By law, you’re required to wear seat belts even in the backseat. Infant seats also are required. Radar-detection devices are illegal in Québec; just having one in your car is illegal. Speed limits, given in kilometers, are usually within the 90 kph–100 kph (50 mph–60 mph) range outside the cities.

Right turns on a red light are allowed in most of the province, the island of Montréal being the notable exception, where they're prohibited. Driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08% or higher is illegal and can earn you a stiff fine and jail time. Headlights are compulsory in inclement weather. Drivers aren’t permitted to use handheld cell phones. The laws here are similar to the rest of North America; to consult Québec's Highway Code go to the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec's website.


Ministère des Transports du Québec. 888/355–0511;

Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec. 800/361–7620; 514/873–7620; 418/643–7620;

Car Rental

Rates in Montréal run from about C$30 to C$60 a day for an economy car with air-conditioning and unlimited kilometers. If you prefer a manual-transmission car, check whether the rental agency of your choice offers stick shifts; many agencies in Canada don't.

You must be at least 21 years old to rent a car in Québec, and some car-rental agencies don't rent to drivers under 25. Most rental companies don't allow you to drive on gravel roads. Child seats are compulsory for children ages five and under.

Rentals at the airports near Québec City and Montréal are usually more expensive than neighborhood rentals.

Major Rental Agencies

Alamo. 888/233-8749;

Avis. 800/331–1084;

Budget. 800/268-8900; 800/218–7792;

Hertz. 800/654–3001;

National Car Rental. 877/222–9058;


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