There are a variety of modes of transportation to and within Canada. Nova Scotia in particular is easily accessed by air and sea. When planning your trip to Nova Scotia, decide how and when you would like to arrive, and then consider the following travel tips and information.
Airports in Nova Scotia
There are two commercial airports in Nova Scotia. The Halifax Stanfield International Airport is the largest with direct connections to 16 Canadian, 12 US and 17 international cities. With connecting flights, Stanfield International is able to bring passengers to Nova Scotia from almost anywhere in the world, welcoming over 3.5 million passengers each year. If you’re traveling to Cape Breton, the JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport provides links to major domestic and international centres.
Air Travel & Security in Canada
Transport Canada Airlines Division oversees the safety of Canada’s major scheduled and charter airlines. Their website offers information and links to the airlines servicing Nova Scotia’s airports, as well as the regulations they must follow.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) website provides information on airport security and screening procedures, a packing check list and tips for getting through the security line faster.
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The train has a special place in the heart of many travelers; it’s a relaxing way to admire the sights as you roll along to your destination. Canada's national passenger rail service, VIA Rail, services Nova Scotia along its Montreal-Halifax route. Appropriately named The Ocean, the train includes dining and sleeping cars, taking passengers on an overnight trip from Montreal to Halifax, with many stops in between.
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Public Transit Systems
Several Nova Scotian municipalities and regions have public transit systems that make it easy and affordable for visitors to get around town.
All of these public transportation systems – Metro Transit in the Halifax Regional Municipality, Kings Transit in the Annapolis Valley and Transit Cape Breton in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality – use buses as their primary vehicles. Metro Transit also operates ferries across Halifax Harbour.
Fares vary by region and distance covered but range from $1.25 to $5.00 per adult; check the websites of each transit operator for exact prices. Buses accept cash or transit tickets, which can be purchased from authorized dealers. Metro Transit also offers flexible transit passes so you can enjoy unlimited all-day, multi-day, or monthly travel.
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Intercity Bus Travel
Intercity buses are an economical and comfortable way to travel to and within Nova Scotia. The main bus company operating is Maritime Bus, which connects the province to New Brunswick and Quebec, and travels to many cities and towns across Nova Scotia.
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Auto and RV Travel
Nova Scotia is well connected by highways and roads, including multi-lane freeways, rural highways and bridges of all sizes. The country’s national highway system, the Trans Canada Highway, stretches from the border with New Brunswick to the ferry to Newfoundland in Cape Breton. Drivers can literally follow the Trans Canada from one end of the country to the other!
The Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal website includes a number of links on road safety in Nova Scotia, road conditions and traffic cameras at key points throughout the province. You’ll find additional road condition reports at the Weather Network.
Nova Scotia Car Rentals
Nova Scotia has several car rental companies found at airports and in major towns and cities. Rates vary depending on the season, type of vehicle and length of rental. The minimum age to rent a vehicle in Nova Scotia is 25. Some companies may charge additional fees for those under 25. You must possess a valid driver’s license from your home state or country and a major credit card. Be sure to reserve your car ahead of time during peak travel times, from mid-May through the end of September.
Nova Scotia RV Rentals
Camper and motor-home rentals are also available at various locations in Nova Scotia. As with car rentals, be sure to reserve your RV well ahead of your visit, especially during the summer. Many provincial parks and both Kejimkujik National Park and Cape Breton Highlands National Park allow RVs and campers in designated areas. There are also many private campgrounds in Nova Scotia that allow you to camp with your RV.
For great advice on RV rental in Canada, visit Go RVing. You'll find travel advice and resources including links to RV parks and campgrounds as well as tips to help you enjoy the journey.
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Driving Rules in Canada
If visiting from the US, you’ll find the driving rules in Canada to be very similar. For example, Nova Scotians – as do all Canadians – drive on the right side of the road. However, distances and speed limits are measured in kilometers per hour. If your vehicle doesn’t have kilometers on its speedometer, remember that 110 kilometers is roughly equal to 68 miles (the speed limit on most major highways), while 50 kilometers is equal to about 30 miles (the speed limit on most residential streets).
Before driving in Nova Scotia, it’s a good idea to review the province’s driving laws and regulations by visiting the Registry of Motor Vehicles website. Here are some other tips and safety advice to consider before your visit:
- Seat belts/safety seats are mandatory for all vehicle occupants.
- Infants must be secured in a rear-facing seat until at least 1 year old and 10 kg (22 lb).
- A child must be at least one year and 10 kg (22 lb) before he/she can be placed in a forward facing seat.
- A child must remain in a forward facing seat until they are a minimum of 18 kg (40 lb).
- A child must be a minimum of 18 kg (40 lb) before they can move to a booster seat. The child stays in the booster seat until they meet one of the following criteria: 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) or 9 years old.
- If your car is not equipped with daytime running lights, you must drive with your headlights on.
- Right turns on red lights are permitted across Nova Scotia.
- Radar detection devices are illegal in Nova Scotia.
- Motorcyclists must wear helmets.
- Pedestrians have the right-of-way and you must yield to pedestrians at crosswalks.
- The speed limit on most limited-access highways (in Nova Scotia, these are designated as 100 series highways, such as the 102, 104, etc.) is usually 100 kmh/62 mph. The speed limit on most residential streets is 50 kmh/30 mph.
- Drivers must possess a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance with the vehicle.
Driver's Licenses & Permits
US Citizens Driving in Canada
Make sure to bring along proof of insurance by asking your insurance company for a free "Non-resident Inter-Provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card", or carry the policy itself. If driving a borrowed car or trailer, bring a letter of permission signed by the owner. If driving a rented car, carry a copy of the rental contract.
All other visitors to Canada - Applying for the International Driving Permit (IDP)
If you are visiting from outside the United States, you must apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) from the Automobile Association in your country of residence before you leave. This will allow you to drive in Canada and rent a car here.
The IDP is a special license for tourists, authorized by UN treaty, which is printed in 10 languages and recognized in over 150 countries around the world.
To determine the approximate driving distance between US and Canadian cities and get directions to destinations in Nova Scotia, visit Google Maps and select its ‘Get Directions’ option.
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Boating and Ferry Travel
As Canada’s seacoast province, many travelers come to Nova Scotia by water. There are seasonal ferry links between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Private craft can also easily visit, with many ports of call dotting the province’s coast.
Canada’s Boating Safety Regulations and Requirements
All private vessels must report to the Canadian Border Services Agency upon arrival – it is illegal to stop or anchor anywhere in Canadian waters before doing so. You and your passengers will be required to have a valid passport, as well as your boat license or registration information.
For information on boating safety regulations and requirements for non-resident boaters, visit the Transport Canada Visitor Information page. Pat's Boating in Canada is a useful source of information for pleasure craft operators.
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Travelers with disabilities will be pleased to know there are a number of transportation options and resources when it comes to visiting Nova Scotia.
Visit Canada's Persons with Disabilities Online website for information on visiting Nova Scotia, including links to the accessibility options available in specific cities and towns.
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