Last Updated on May 7, 2021 by Pamela
COVID UPDATE: As of May 10, 2021, many regions in Quebec will be in the orange zone, with a 9:30pm – 5am curfew. Restaurants may be open for dine-in, as well as salons, museums, and shops. Bars remain closed. Travel to Quebec at this time is not advisable. In the meantime, I hope you will utilize this site for travel inspiration and future travel planning!
Are you thinking of driving to Quebec City? We love going on road trips, especially within the province of Quebec; so much beauty to be found, foods to enjoy, and quaint French towns to discover.
If you enjoy road trips and adventure, we highly recommend creating a couple of playlists, hopping in your car, and driving to Quebec City – where a French-Canadian adventure awaits you.
IMPORTANT ROAD RULES/LAWS
Whether you’re Canadian, American, or from another part of the world, it is important to know (and remember) Quebec’s road rules/laws.
- Cell phone use: It is illegal in the province of Quebec to hold a cell phone while driving. You can, however, use your phone hands-free through a Bluetooth device.
- Driver’s license: If you are driving to Quebec City, but you are not Canadian, you need to have a valid driver’s license in your home country. If you are planning to drive in Quebec for six consecutive months or more then you must have an international driver’s permit. See here for more information.
- All passengers must wear a seatbelt: This is a law that carries a fine if you are pulled over by police. Learn more about fines here.
- Move-Over Law: In the province of Quebec it is mandatory for drivers to move over as far as possible or stop when emergency vehicles are present and display flashing lights/arrow. More info here.
DRIVING LAWS THAT ARE ONLY IN QUEBEC
- You’re not allowed to drive on private property to avoid a red light – this means you cannot cut through parking lots.
- The left lane is for passing only.
- If you’re driving below the speed limit, you must turn on your four-way hazard lights. You’ll notice this a lot during the winter months, especially during a snowstorm.
- Motorcycles cannot ride side-by-side in a single lane.
- There cannot be more than 15 cyclists in a row. So if there is 16, one of you is cycling solo.
Police in Quebec tend to be more serious than in other provinces, where you may be able to reason with a police officer in Ontario, it is very difficult to do so when driving in Quebec.
Our best advice if you are pulled over is the be respectful and be honest – arguing rarely works, believe us, we have tried!
Speed limits change depending on the type of road. Signs are posted clearly, and regularly so pretending you didn’t see the speed limit will be a hard sell if you’re pulled over while driving to Quebec City.
- On highways and major provincial roads, the speed limit is 100 km/hr (60 miles/hr), with a minimum speed of 60 km/hr (36 miles/hr).
- On minor provincial roads, the speed limit is 80 km/hr (48 miles/hr)
- When driving in villages, towns, and city streets the speed limit is 50 km/hr (30 miles/hr) unless posted otherwise. For example, school zones are 40 km/hr (24 miles/hr)
Should you have an emergency while driving to Quebec City, the following information may be of use:
CAA Quebec: Provides roadside assistance 24/7. Call 1.800.222.4357 if you need assistance with changing a tire or if your car should suddenly break down.
911: Call to report an accident or any emergency that may require the police, fire department, or paramedics.
How to change a flat tire: Not everyone knows how to change a flat tire, nor do they want to spend money on roadside assistance. If that’s the case, this YouTube video is very helpful.
DRIVING FROM WITHIN CANADA
Whether you’re driving from the east coast or coming from the west,
Using a paper map of Quebec (my favourite) or apps like Google Maps to plan your driving route is a good place to start. Apps like Quebec 511 offer a little insight into construction zones, as well as traffic cameras and photo radar locations (speeding).
Here are some driving route suggestions from Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto.
There are several routes to choose from when planning your route for driving
Note: It’s important to note that this highway runs through downtown Montreal, so be sure to look for signs stating HWY 138 or Chemin du Roy.
Also known at Chemin du Roy (King’s Highway), this major provincial highway runs along the Saint-Lawrence River from Elgin, Quebec (near the New York border), all the way up to Kegashka in Côte-Nord, Quebec’s northeastern coast. This route is perfect for those who want to admire Quebec’s pretty countryside and take their time getting to Quebec City.
If you are travelling from Toronto, you’ll notice that the 401 turns into Highway 20 once you cross the border into Quebec. You can stay on this highway all the way to Quebec City, but we recommend taking the bypass as HWY 20 cuts through downtown Montreal and it is very easy to get stuck in traffic, lost, or both.
After crossing into Quebec stay on HWY 20 until you see a sign for HWY 30 Sorel/Tracey, then take that exit and follow the signs for Quebec City. This is a bypass, as well as a toll road. The cost is $3.10. Stay on HWY 30 until you see signs again for HWY 20 Quebec City, then return to HWY 20.
Many people driving from Ottawa will choose to cross the bridge into Gatineau, Quebec, then drive along Highway 50 east to Highway 15 south towards Montreal. Before reaching the city, we suggest taking 640 east which will turn into Highway 40 – and bypass the city!
Highway 40 is probably one of the busiest highways in Quebec while you’re within Montreal’s city limits. Once you are outside of Montreal through the drive can be quite pleasant. You can stay on HWY 40 all the way to Quebec City, or if you want to slow things down you can pop down to HWY 138 and drive along the Saint-Lawrence River.
If you are travelling from Toronto, the 401 is the fastest route to the Quebec border. Depending on the time of year, this highway can become quite congested, especially if there is a lot of construction along the way. In winter, the section between Kingston and Cornwall can be quite dangerous due to low visibility, drifting snow and truck drivers who do not have the sense to slow down.
Once you cross the border into Quebec, HWY 401 becomes HWY 20.
If you are travelling from Halifax, take NS-102 to Trans-Canada Highway 2 at the New Brunswick border (part of this road has a toll, so have change ready). Once you cross into the province of Quebec the highway changes to Highway 85 and will take you all the way up to Rivière-du-Loup. From there take Highway 20 East to Quebec City.
The drive through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick is gorgeous, it is hard to resist stopping along the way to have a picnic or a nap or snap photos, or all of the above.
DRIVING FROM THE UNITED STATES
We adore our American neighbours, many of whom make the trip up to Quebec City throughout the year. The roads from the United States into Quebec (and Canada) are beautiful – we definitely enjoy them when we decide to visit you!
As a foreign driver, you do not need an international driver’s permit to drive in Quebec, unless you plan to stay for six consecutive months. The only ‘hoop‘ you will need to jump through on your drive to Quebec City is clearing customs at the Canada-United States border.
Here are some route suggestions for driving to Quebec City from Portland (Maine), Boston, Hartford and New York City.
Distance to Quebec City: 275 KMs (171 miles)
Distance to Quebec City: 429 KMs (267 miles)
New York, NY
Distance to Quebec City: 518 KMs (322 miles)
Route: I-87, HWYs 30 & 20
Most routes from the Eastern United States travel through New Hampshire and Vermont; unless of course, you want to take the long way through Maine to New Brunswick and up to Quebec.
I-295, US-201 & HWY 73
The shortest route from Portland, Maine is the I-95 north to US-201 north. Follow US-201 to the Canada-United States border near Sandy Bay township. Once you cross the border into Canada the highway changes to HWY 73, which takes you all the way into Quebec City. There are tolls on part of this route.
I-95, HWYs 2 & 20
Probably the longest route to Quebec City; and a beautiful one as well. Follow I-95 to the Canada-United States border near Houlton, Maine. Once you cross the border into Canada take HWY 2 north to Rivière du Loup, then take HWY 20 west to Quebec City.
I-93, I-89 & HWY 20
A beautiful route through New Hampshire and Vermont, take I-93 to Concord, New Hampshire, then switch to I-89 at the Vermont border. From there travel north to the Canada-United States border near Highgate, Vermont. Once you cross the border into Canada drive HWY 133 to Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge, then take HWY 235 north to the junction with HWY 211 (where HWY 235 ends), turn left, then take HWY 20 to Quebec City.
I-93, I-91, HWYs 55 & 20
This is, by far, our favourite route from Boston. Hop on the I-93 north and take it through New Hampshire, then continue onto I-91 when you cross into Vermont. Once you cross the Canada-United States border in Stanstead, take HWY 55 through Quebec’s quaint Eastern Townships to HWY 20. Once you reach HWY 20, travel east to Quebec City.
I-91, HWYs 55 & 20
Whether we are travelling from Hartford or Boston back to Quebec City, this is one of our favourite routes. Talk about nature porn! Take I-91 to the Canada-United States border in Stanstead. Once you cross into Canada take HWY 55 through Quebec’s quaint Eastern Townships to HWY 20. Once you reach HWY 20, travel east to Quebec City.
I-91, I-89 & HWY 20
This route is a little longer and doesn’t travel through as many small towns. Travel on I-91 to Lebanon, New Hampshire, then drive I-89 north to the Canada-United States border. Once you cross the border into Canada, drive along HWY 133 to Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge, then take HWY 235 north to the junction with HWY 211 (where HWY 235 ends), turn left, then take HWY 20 to Quebec City.
I-87, HWYs 30 & 20
We love driving to Quebec City from New York City as it gives us a chance to explore Upstate New York. For somewhat obvious reasons, this is our favourite trip to make in autumn. This route is fairly direct and does include some toll roads. Travel I-87 north to the Canada-United States border near Champlain, NY. Once you cross the border into Canada drive HWY 15 north to HWY 30 east. HWY 30 bypasses Montreal and takes you to HWY 20 east, which will take you all the way to Quebec City.
CROSSING THE BORDER INTO CANADA
US citizens need to have a valid ID and proof of citizenship to enter Canada, however, they will need a valid US passport or another Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative document to cross the border back into the United States. Minors aged 16 or older will be required to present a passport or another WHTI document.
If you are travelling with minors, but you are not the guardian, you will need a notarized document signed by the guardian giving you permission to take the minors across the border. This document should have the contact information (address and phone number) of the guardian. If you share custody of your children and wish to cross the border, you will need the notarized document from the other parent or guardian, as well as a copy of the custody order.
Before leaving home, make sure you have valid documentation for your vehicle including registration and insurance. Border patrol will sometimes ask to see your registration to ensure you are not bringing a stolen car into Canada.
Items you are allowed to bring into Canada:
- Dried and packaged food
- 11 pounds of fresh beef, per person
- A few eggs
- Processed or canned potatoes
- 1.5 litres of wine, 40oz of liquor, 24 12oz cans of beer
- 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars
Bringing Pets into Canada
The process is fairly easy for bringing cats or dogs into Canada, all you need is a letter signed by your veterinarian stating your pet’s breed and physical description, as well as proof that their rabies shots are up to date.
Note: You cannot bring dog or cat food into Canada if it contains beef or lamb by-products.
DRIVING A RENTAL CAR INTO CANADA
It is possible to rent a car in the United States and bring it into Canada for your vacation. Companies like Hertz, Budget, and Dollar usually allow cars to cross the border into Canada, but it’s a good idea to contact car rental companies in your area and ask before you book a car. Once you’ve booked your rental, some rental companies will want to know your itinerary, including dates and locations, so be prepared to offer that information.
Before leaving, you will need to get a Canadian Non-resident card from the rental company, this will let Canadian authorities know you’re an insured driver. If you plan to use your own insurance company, make sure your policy extends into Canada.
Before leaving the rental company parking lot make sure:
- There is a spare tire in the trunk, in good condition
- The car comes with a jack and jumper cables
- A note has been made of all marks, dents, scratches
- Tires are in good condition
- Write down the starting mileage, in case it comes into question later
DRIVING TO QUEBEC CITY IN WINTER
Driving to Quebec City in winter can be quite a challenge, no matter which direction you are travelling from at the time. Snowstorms, icy roads, high winds and whiteout conditions are a regular occurrence – which everyone is legally required to drive with snow tires on their vehicles in Quebec in winter.
Here are a couple of tips for driving to Quebec City in winter.
- Slow down!
- Always have proper winter gear in your vehicle – that includes hats, gloves and scarves
- Never drive too closely to snowplows. If the wind picks up you’ll experience a complete whiteout which can make it impossible to see beyond your vehicle.
- During a snowstorm and whiteout conditions, it is a good idea to turn on your hazard lights so other vehicles know where you are on the road.
- If you get into an accident, stay with your vehicle and call 911.
- If the weather gets truly horrible, consider stopping in the nearest town/city and staying in a hotel for the night, until the storm passes. We often use apps like Booking.com to look for hotels in Quebec (and wherever we are travelling).