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Tips for Expats Driving in Calgary

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Calgary.

1. Understanding Calgary’s Driving Conditions

Calgary’s driving conditions can be quite challenging, especially in winter. The city experiences heavy snowfall, which can make the roads slippery and visibility poor. Therefore, it’s essential to be comfortable driving in such conditions. Also, Calgary has a grid system for its roads, which can be confusing for newcomers. However, once you get used to it, it’s quite straightforward.

2. Recommended Car Type

Given the harsh winter conditions, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is highly recommended. This will provide better traction and control on snowy and icy roads. Additionally, vehicles with good ground clearance can be beneficial due to the occasional heavy snowfall.

3. Parking in Calgary

Finding parking in Calgary can be challenging, especially in the downtown area during peak hours. However, there are numerous parking lots and garages available. The cost of parking can vary greatly depending on the location and time of day, but generally, it can be considered moderately expensive.

4. Driving with an International License

Foreigners can drive in Alberta, where Calgary is located, with a valid international driving permit for up to one year. After that, they will need to obtain an Alberta driver’s license.

5. Obtaining a Driver’s License

To get a driver’s license in Alberta, you will need to pass a knowledge test and a road test. The knowledge test is based on the Alberta Driver’s Guide, which you can study beforehand. If your license is from a country with a reciprocal agreement with Canada, you may be able to exchange it for an Alberta license without taking the tests.

6. Be Aware of Speed Limits

Speed limits in Calgary are strictly enforced. Residential areas typically have a speed limit of 30 km/h, while major roads and highways can have limits up to 110 km/h. Be sure to always check the posted speed limit signs.

7. Be Prepared for Wildlife

Especially if you’re driving outside of the city, be aware that you may encounter wildlife on the roads. Deer, elk, and even bears can be common, particularly in the mountainous areas to the west of the city. Always be vigilant, particularly at dawn and dusk when animals are most active.

Joshua WoodJoshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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