Learning to Drive in Toronto

I spent about 40 hours getting my driving license in England. Learning to drive manual (or stick shift, as it’s called in North America) seemed like a never-ending and insurmountable task at the time. I spent months traipsing out to meet my instructor every Monday at 10 am. I struggled through the theory test, failing it the first time because I didn’t realize how the new theory test worked. It simulated country and city roads on the screen, and you had to click when you saw something on the road that was potentially a risky situation, and you had to click at the time you thought you would slow down to avoid it. Apparently, I’m far too cautious and kept clicking too early, which is why I failed the attempt.

I passed my actual driving test with flying colors, though, three days before I was due to leave for New York before heading on to Canada. Once I arrived in Canada, I realized I could only use my English license for three months before it either became invalid here or I had to swap it for a Canadian one. I did the latter and swapped it, but because I hadn’t had my UK license for a year, I got a G2, the second in 3 stages of licenses that Canadians living in Ontario (each province has a slightly different system) have to go through before they have a full license.

How to get a driver’s license in Toronto?

Documents Required:

  • Proof of identity and legal status in Canada (e.g., passport, work permit, study permit).
  • Proof of Ontario residency (e.g., utility bill, rental agreement).
  • If you have a driver’s license from another country, you may need to provide an official translation or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

For my non-Canadian readers, here is a quick summary of each stage of the Ontario license program:

G1 – essentially your driving theory, to pass you need to do a written test, and once passed, you can now drive with an adult in the car

G2 – To pass, you do a 15-20 min (approx) road test, where you prove you can drive without hitting anything; highway driving is not included. You cannot drink any alcohol and then drive while using a G2 license. There are also some other rules I’ve never really paid attention to.

G – Full license, to pass you have to practice highway driving, and do a 30 minute road test, showing off 3 maneuvers and changing lanes on a busy highway.

3 years from passing my test in England, and I’m not much further on, except that two weeks ago, I phoned a number I found at the bus stop, and knew I was ready to begin my learning to drive in Toronto journey.

It seemed totally normal at the time; I saw the number, and I knew I had a couple of minutes to wait for the bus; I wanted to see what would happen. So I called it. Voicemail. I left a message, and by the time I was on the bus, my phone was ringing, and a man who sounded like he’d just woken up hoarsely asked me what license I currently had and told me he’d charge me $35 an hour for a lesson. He said he’d pick me up at my address (which I was to text him), and he would assess my driving, and we’d go from there. Perfect!

I forgot about our call until 2 weeks later, when I woke up early after a night out with Kieran and a friend, and remembered my lesson. My friend laughed as I told her about my driving lesson, but then grew serious.

'Lindsey, you know there are proper places to go in Toronto to get lessons?'
'Erm, are there? I looked online first, it seemed complicated, this guy seemed to know what he's doing.'

She stared at me, freaking me out; what if you end up in some old man’s basement?

Hadn’t thought of that. I considered the risks; he was coming to pick me up outside my building, I had my phone, and I didn’t have to get in the car if it seemed weird. My friend came downstairs with me to wait, but there was no instructor waiting. I texted him, and he texted back, saying he’d be a minute or two.

Then, around the corner, I drove this shabby grey car. It was dirty and perfect at the same time. It had ‘A+ Teen’ written across the side and had a ‘Teen Driving’ top light on the roof. My friend and I laughed at the irony; after all, I’m too old to pretend to be a ‘teen’ of any kind. She hugged me and told me to message her later, and I walked over to the car. A young girl (I suppose you’d call her a teen!) got out of the driver’s seat. She introduced herself as ‘Nata’ and got in the back. I gingerly sat down in her place and introduced myself to Sam, my new instructor.

I signed his instructor form, showed him my license, and we were off! First, we dropped Nata off at home, and then we went on the big, bad highway.

I was nervous at first, but soon remembered I know how to drive, and it became slightly less awkward. Sam is from Afghanistan, and has a wonderfully soothing voice. He talked to me about how he came here 20 years ago, and had a young family to support, and how when he was told he had to re-take the test to get a Canadian license, he discovered he could become an instructor. Classic newcomer to Canada story, which of course I loved.

I quickly realized I needed to remember nothing from my UK test, especially after asking if I needed to know how to check the oil, or if the examiner would ask me to open the hood, Sam said ‘Karin! You are not studying to be a mechanic, just drive the bloody car!’ I got the message and shut up, and like he said, drove the car.

My test is in a month; I am doing two more lessons with Sam just to make sure I know all the Canadian lingo (acceleration lane, information sign, truck passing lane, etc.) He booked my test for me while I was doing a flawless parallel park, using his iPhone and my credit card, so we’re all set. I’m slightly nervous because driving in Toronto (like any city) can be a bit nerve-wracking, but I trust Sam, and he seems to think I’ll be okay.

I guess if its interesting enough I’ll do a follow up post on how it goes! Wish me luck!

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About the author
Growing up in Detroit, Lindsey is a Michigan State University alumnus. She feels incredibly lucky to live in Detroit, and much more, to spend her days promoting the Detroit area as a travel destination.