Ontario is a large province and, as a result, the car is nearly the most convenient way to explore it. If you are arriving by plane initially, cars are easily rented if you are over 23, but easiest if you are over 25 years of age. Despite what you may have been led to believe, there is more to Ontario than Southern Ontario and Toronto (orHamilton, or Niagara, or whatever), and driving to and through the vast and varied regions of Ontario can be an adventure. Coming from the USA, your options are numerous.
In Northern Ontario, the car is a must if you wish to get from place to place. In most cases, you will be driving the TransCanada Highway (a cross-Canada network of highways, often offering more than one route), either on Highway 17 or Highway 11. 17 follows a more Southerly route hugging Lake Superior, while 11 ventures Northward at North Bay and heads through a slightly less populous region of the province before heading southwards. Do note that 11 and 17 come together in theThunder Bay region. To the west, 11 heads to its end at Rainy River and the USA, while 17 heads up to lead to Manitoba.
Even by car, you will be unable to access the Northern half of Ontario. Roads are the exception, not the rule, and you will rely on plane and train nearly anywhere north of Lake Nipigon.
Speed limits are posted in metric. Roadways are usually in good condition. On major highways, drivers routinely exceed the speed limit by 20 to 49 km/h despite the threat of hefty fines. Anyone caught exceeding the speed limit by 50 km/h or more, or making certain undesirable driving manoeuvres such as racing, preventing others from passing or rushing to turn left on a fresh green light before the oncoming lanes have moved, can be hit with an automatic fine between $2000 and $10,000, a seven-day license suspension and a seven-day vehicle impound.
Lane discipline by drivers is considered mediocre at best. Although it is widely known that passing should be only done on the leftmost lanes, drivers routinely pass on the rightmost lanes, mostly due to slower drivers failing to change lanes to the rightmost lanes.
Ontario has High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on Highway 403 and 404. Cars and even motorcycles require at least two occupants per vehicle to use them around the clock. If you are coming from the USA, remember that motorcycles without passengers are banned from Ontario HOV lanes. It is different from most USA HOV lanes allowing motorcycles, even if without passengers.
Within the Greater Toronto Area (which includes a large portion of the area around Toronto), GO Transit is an option. Fares are calculated by distance, much like regular intercity transport. This is the best mode of public transit between cities and towns in this region. GO Transit mostly serves daily commuters into Toronto, and service is most frequent during the early morning and late afternoon. Some routes are served by train during certain hours.
Ontario contains many excellent recreational waterways including: the Great Lakes, the Rideau Canal, the Trent-Severn Waterway, the Ottawa and St Lawrence Rivers. The St Lawrence River includes the Thousand Islands region as well as the St Lawrence Seaway system.
The Niagara River is one of the wonders of our natural world although it is most definitely not a recreational waterway! The River includes the great cataract we know as Niagara Falls and is bypassed for navigational purposes by the Welland Ship Canal.
VIA Rail services many areas of Ontario, from small towns to the largest cities. Many of the larger stations are served by several trains each day. Stations are often located in the downtown area of some cities, and are sometimes served by local public transit. In Toronto, car rentals are available from within the station.
Within the Golden Horseshoe, GO Transit is a convenient and fast way to travel, if you can do so either in the early and late rush hour periods. In the summer months, GO Trains travel special express trains between Toronto and Niagara Falls, ON
The big exception to the above is if your destination is Northern Ontario (such as Moosonee or Lake Superior Provincial Park). There are train services to these areas that are your only options, excepting planes.
Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport (IATA: YYZ), is the province’s largest airport and a major hub for most Canadian air carriers. Regular service is available to regional airports throughout Ontario. More locations are served by Toronto’s City Centre Airport.
Ottawa has an international airport for destinations in Eastern Ontario and the Ottawa Valley.
In Southern Ontario, there are airports at Windsor, Sarnia, London, Hamilton, Kingston, and Kitchener.
If you plan to travel to Northern Ontario or the North of Superior region, airports include Thunder Bay, Sudbury (Ontario), Timmins, Sault Sainte Marie (Ontario), as well as many smaller airports. The larger carriers serving Northern Ontario from airports in Toronto and Ottawa include Air Canada Jazz, Bearskin Airlines, and Porter Airlines.
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