When you don't have your own car, hopping on a bus or flying into Canada might seem to be the only option – but that's not always the case. It's ultimately up to the car rental agency whether or not you can drive a rented car into another country, but in many cases, you can drive into Canada with one.
Talk to the Company
Rental companies, including Hertz, Dollar and Budget, will allow you to drive a rental car into Canada. However, the companies want to know about your plans when you check out the car. Hence, the first step is to ask the company from which you're renting whether it allows Canadian travel. If the company says yes, book your car, and then let the agency know when and where you're planning to go.
Documents You'll Need
Before you can rent the car, the rental agency may ask to see that you have the necessary documentation. If you have a U.S. driver's license, you can drive in Canada. To cross the border, most people will also need a passport -- though people living in states bordering Canada can also get a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative enhanced driver's license that works for crossing the border. Native Americans may also use a tribal ID card, and members of the military who are traveling on military orders may also use a military ID.
Proof of Insurance
The rental car agency will also address insurance coverage when you rent the car. Whether you use the agency's insurance or you rely on your own insurance, the agency will likely issue you a Canadian Non-Resident Insurance Card. This is a basic document that shows Canadian authorities that you are insured. U.S. auto insurance is allowed in Canada, so long as the person driving is a tourist and not a resident of Canada. If you're using your own insurance, also check with the insurance company to make sure your coverage extends into Canada. If not, you may have to pay for supplemental coverage through the rental agency.
Driving in Canada
While you're driving in Canada, you'll be responsible for adhering to the traffic laws of the country and the specific provinces in which you're traveling. As a general rule, the traffic rules and traffic patterns are similar to what you'll find in the U.S., though there are a few differences. For example, you can't turn right on a red light in some places, and in Quebec, all signs will be in French. Distances are also calculated in kilometers instead of miles. Before you go, take some time getting familiar with the driving rules for the province where you're headed. The last thing you'll want is to get into an accident in a foreign country with a vehicle that is not yours; that could set you up for months of financial and legal headaches.