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Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

Melbourne, Australia
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Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

I am looking at travelling to Canada (Niagra region) in Sept/Oct this year. I have friends in Fort Erie so will be staying there some of the time but planning to use it as a base at other times. My daughter will possibly be with me for part of this trip too... I would like to go to New York city and we thought of travelling up to Montreal also and perhaps going back to Fort Erie via Ottawa. We are looking at bus travel, however we also like road trips. I would love to hire a car and drive.. but we are Aussies, therefore don't know if this a good idea, given we drive on opposite sides of the road and the road rules I'm sure would vary greatly. Any advice would be appreciated on mode of travel and places that are 'must see's'. We are looking at doing things the cheapest way possible but enjoyable.

Melbourne
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1. Re: Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

I've driven in the US and not really had any problems with driving on the "wrong" (aka right) side of the road. I found where I really had to concentrate was when making a turn across a dual carriage way. Not sure where in Melbourne you're from, but an example is North Road where it splits into dual carriage near Monash Uni.

If there was little or no traffic then my instint for a left-hand-turn was to turn into the lanes immediately in front of me (i.e into oncoming traffic!!) and not to cross the centre median. When there was plenty of traffic I found it made it easier because you have people to follow. I didn't come across any but I suspect roundabouts might have caused me similar grief.

At first you need to concentrate more than at home but I think you would get used to it pretty quickly. I'd also suggest a GPS as a must-have, I can read maps and signs but it makes life much simpler.

Caveat: Didn't attempt driving in New York city, but most of it's a grid like Melbourne CBD (just much, much bigger) but it does have challenges of one-way streets that aren't an issue on foot. It doesn't have hook turns though!

Portland, Maine
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2. Re: Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

One thing that will make the transition less difficult is that virtually all American and Canadian rental cars have automatic transmissions.

If you change from driving on the left to driving on the right (or vice versa) in shift cars you have to get accustomed to shifting with the other hand as well as everything else that's changing. With automatic transmissions that isn't an issue.

If you drive to Montreal get familiar with at least the basic French of road signs. This isn't just an issue of keep right, slow down, etc. I was once driving in Montreal and there was a huge directional sign that said, "E-U." At first I didn't have a clue as to what it meant and then it dawned on me that it was pointing me toward the road leading to the Etats-Unis!

Melbourne, Australia
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3. Re: Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

Thanks aussiegirl86.. food for thought. I wouldn't even attempt to drive in NY city....definitely do tours whilst in city.I can definitely see how turning left could be an issue too anywhere you would drive.

I am in Melbourne but out the west side.

I would consider perhaps getting a bus from Buffalo to New York city then maybe... just maybe...hiring a car from the outskirts of NY city and driving upstate NY to Montreal and then perhaps a day trip to Quebec city and back to Fort Erie via Ottawa.

Edited: 10 May 2012, 04:48
Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

Thanks AudenHoggart for your reply too. Haha..I wasn't even considering the transmission of the car but when I read your reply, I realised that I also needed to consider the steering wheel and everything else is on the opposite side of the car too!! Hhhm....

And the French language.... ah gee... well I wouldn't have even considered that as an issue... but you're right.

Thanks for your input.

Portland, Maine
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5. Re: Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

You're very unlikely to be able to rent a car in the U.S. and drop off in Canada, or vice versa. Even within the same country there will be high drop off chargs if you don't return the car to the same city you rented it from.

The bus would be a long, dull, and uncomfortable ride to New York City. Most people think the plane is best, and Jet Blue has relatively inexpensive flights from Buffalo to JFK.

The train is also OK, although long. The last few hours going down the Hudson from Albany are beautiful, so if you take the train try to ensure that this portion of your trip will be in daylight. Sit on the right hand side, at least after Albany.

Melbourne, Australia
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6. Re: Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

Thanks again AudenHoggart .. the train had crossed my mind but hadn't thought much more about it. I will definitely look into it too now.

Sounds like hiring cars is not as easy in the US or Canada as it is here in Oz. Also great info for me... thank you.

Greater Sydney...
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7. Re: Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

"Sounds like hiring cars is not as easy in the US or Canada as it is here in Oz."

Mmmm. You were asking about a US registered car being dropped in Canada. That is not like Vic & NSW. But as mentioned a O/W drop-off fee between different locations within the same country is most often the norm.

"everything else is on the opposite side of the car too"

The foot pedals are in the same order as here. I will be in both Montreal and QC in a few weeks but will not be driving. Our daughter lived in Montreal for 11 years and she will do the driving for us in Montreal and we will not need a car in QC.

I drove in Alberta and BC a few years ago and it does take more concentration. The biggest problem I had was walking to the side of the car with keys in hand, then opening the door to find there was no steering wheel there. I will also be renting a car in Denver on this trip to get up into the US Rocky Mountains.

8. Re: Driving in the USA/Canada for an aussie?

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