10 May 2020

Sonia on Sundays: Becoming a driver in NL

After arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador newcomers may realize that there aren’t many public transport options available. There is no tram, no trains, no metro, and the largest public bus service (called Metrobus) travels between St. John’s, Mount Pearl and Paradise, while most communities have no public transit at all. After a while, new residents of NL will most likely look into purchasing their own vehicles. It is the most reliable method of getting from one place to another in such a vast province where sidewalks are often buried under meters of snow, and wind makes it hard to walk or to wait for the bus.

This week, let us look into important factors which we need to consider when driv

Sonia Krajewska is the ANC’s Community Settlement and Integration Counsellor (Permanent Residents).

ing in NL. To operate a vehicle in NL people are required to have a valid provincial driver’s license and to have their vehicle registered.

Getting your licence

You will need to exchange your existing driver’s licence for an NL driver’s licence within 3 months of relocating here.

If your original driver’s licence was issued in: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, France, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan or the United States – you will be able to exchange the licence without passing the driving test again.

If your original driver’s licence was issued in any other country, you will need to pass the test again at the Motor Registration Division. It will include a written test, a vision test and a road test.

Contact your local Motor Registration Division to book your test and inquire about fees.

Note that because of distancing requirements, it is strongly recommended that you call to book an appointment any time you are going to the Motor Registration Division.

Locations are listed below:


Avalon Area

Mount Pearl

149 Smallwood Drive
Motor Registration Building
P.O. Box 8710
St. John’s, NL
A1B 4J5



Central Region

Grand Falls-Windsor

3 Cromer Avenue
Provincial Building
Grand Falls-Windsor, NL
A2A 1W9



Labrador Region

Happy Valley-Goose Bay

163 Hamilton River Road
P.O. Box 3014
Station B,
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL
A0P 1E0



Western Region

Corner Brook

Mount Bernard Avenue
Sir Richard Squires Building
Corner Brook, NL
A2H 6J8


Eastern Region


8A Myers Avenue
Suite 102




Purchasing your vehicle

Once you get your provincial drivers’ licence you will most likely purchase your vehicle.

There are number of car dealerships in our province. Many of them sell both new and used vehicles. Popular car brands in NL are Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Kia, Ford, GMC and Chrysler.

If you have sufficient funds or are able to get a car loan from a Canadian bank, you might want to consider purchasing a brand new car. You might want to look into obtaining a second-hand vehicle. If you buy from an individual seller, you should be cautious, as the rule of “Buyer Beware” prevails. You do not necessarily have legal recourse if the vehicle you purchase is faulty. The provincial government advises getting a thorough inspection, covering both the required safety components and other important vehicle systems: brakes, transmission, etc. Find more information here.

Remember that when you move to Canada you will not have any credit history here, and therefore you might find it challenging in the beginning to obtain loans and credit cards. Newcomers often start with buying a used vehicle, and only after a while are able to receive a credit or a loan to purchase a brand new vehicle. Another option is leasing a vehicle for a specified amount of time. You will need to speak to a car dealership to obtain more details on this option and whether this is available for you.  

After buying your vehicle don’t forget to register it at the local Motor Registration Division!

 To be able to register your vehicle in NL you will require:

  • Bill of sale (containing VIN number, date of sale and sale price)
  • NVIS (New Vehicle Information Statement issued by the manufacturer)
  • A vehicle registration application (including VIN number, description of vehicle, drivers licence number)
  • Insurance information (Name of insurance company, policy number, expiration date, signatures).

If you buy from a dealer, they can often do this for you. Only after the vehicle is registered will you be legally able to drive it in our province.

Now that you have your own vehicle which is registered you can start getting to know your community.

Things to remember when driving

  • We drive on the right side of the road in our country.
  • Downtown St. John’s is known for one-way streets, as is Lower Townsite in Corner Brook and other neighbourhoods in the province’s towns and cities. Make sure to look at all the signs before entering any street you’re not sure about
  • Parking meters are also common. Remember to pay for your parking; this may be with cash, credit card or through an app on your phone – look for signs if no parking meters are evident. Fines for unpaid parking are up to $100.
  • Seat belts are mandatory in Canada, so always remember to buckle up.
  • Do not use a phone while driving, you might get a fine. Penalties for distracted driving include fines up to $1000 and up to 4 demerit points from your license.
  • Be careful when driving near wooded areas, especially at dawn, dusk or night. It is not uncommon to see moose on the road. You want to avoid any accidents with this animal as it is very dangerous.
  • In a 4-way stop situation: the first one to stop is the first to go, with others at the intersection proceeding in clockwise order.
  • When you see a yellow school bus you need to use caution and fully stop your vehicle if bus’s red lights are flashing

Enjoy your travels but remember that Canada is enormous. Interestingly, if there was a bridge over the Atlantic Ocean it would be closer to drive from St. John’s to Paris in Europe than from St. John’s to Vancouver in BC. Therefore, when you decide to drive all the way to the West Coast of Canada, ensure you are prepared for a long haul.


Do you have any questions or need assistance with settlement in Newfoundland & Labrador?
Contact me at skrajewska@ancnl.ca

Read all of Sonia’s blog posts here.