If you have to remember two things about Montreal, remember these two:
1)For the Americans:
First, quebec time works like military time. Aka 17h00 is 5PM, 13h00 is 1PM. So be aware when you things like "No parking between 9 and 2"!!! It means 9 AM and 2 AM, not 9-2 PM!!!
2)Parking quality and prices vary considerably, even within a 3 block area... It is espescially bad for monthly rates. It seems to be the plight of large urban areas to have their parking lots market be devoid of freedom of information.
To avoid just driving around endlessly, it is better to ask a friend, or to do due diligence, make a search on the internet to find where the best parkings are... or you might want to ask the local businessmen or employees where THEY park their cars.
A good website I have found for this is www.mtlparking.com.
Getting a car is the first thing you need when you want to drive around at Montreal.
At the Trudeau Airport forget the Terminal building, all car rental offices moved to the big multistory car park in front. And even than you might have to look foor the booth in stead of the office counter. I expect it will change, because construction is still ongoing.
Driving in Montreal needs some patience and a pair of extra eyes. In my experience I always hit traffic jams on the highways and multiple traffic lights, speed bumps and slow traffic on inner roads.
Besides that, you have to cope with EST (Est) and OUEST (West) as main direction on the signs.
Montreal is hilly in some parts of the city. A nice challenge at winter days.
Once you arrive at the Pierre Trudeau Airport in Montreal, there are lots of options to get to your destination. One of them is renting a car. There should be no problem with this, even if you have not reserved one. Once you pick up your baggage, walk out into the parking lot and then into another building. There are counters for at least 5 major car rental companies: Budget, Avis, Enterprise, Dollar, and National. Show them your driver's license, fill out a form and you should have a vehicle in no time!
You MUST have a map to navigate this city. Even then, it can be daunting to get around. Take your time, get honked at (rare, most folks are too polite to honk), whatever it takes, but get oriented and know where you're going, how to get there, and how to reroute if you need to because traffic jams are frequent but brief.
To get to Montreal from the Boston area, we took US Interstate 89 through Vermont to the Canadian border. At the border, there was a small wait, maybe 15 minutes while the Canadian border patrol and customs inspectors checked all vehicles entering Canada. With a birth certificate or US driver's license, American citizens should have no problems getting through.
At the border, Interstate 89 becomes a puny little two-lane country road in Canada (Route 133), weaving through a few small towns such as Pike River and Henryville on the way to Montreal. Near St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, you will get on Canadian Highway 10 that takes you over the St Lawrence River and right into the city.
The drive from Boston to Montreal is approximately 310 miles and it takes a little over 5 hours.
In between the holidays of Christmas and New Years. If you had to much to drink and have your car with you, you can call Operation nez rouge..It is the for drivers not to driver there cars under the influence of alcohol durnig the holidays. They will drive your car to where you are going for I believe to be free, I think they accept tips not sure...
We only parked two places in Montreal, once at Parc Mont Royal ($6CAD for all day) and at the library near our hotel on St. Denis, $10CAD per 24 hours EXCEPT when you park after library hours and it's $7 for that evening and then $10 per 24 hours. Took the attendant a while to explain that to us and another couple who were equally perplexed. For 48 hours we paid $27CAD instead of the $20 that we thought we should be charged.
At both places we had to use one of the pay parking boxes which accepted credit cards or cash and then display the receipt on the dashboard.
I didn't find driving in Montreal/Quebec at all challenging, maybe because I live in a big city and am used to lots of traffic. One way streets were clearly marked with arrow signs, when you got close enough to the highways, lots of signs to direct you. The French directional words are very similar to English-est (east), ouest (west), sud (south) and nord (north).
I read somewhere that there is no "right on red" in Montreal.
Let me add that there's absolutely no need to rent a car if you are just going to be visiting Montreal, you can get anywhere you need to go via public transport, on foot or by taxi. We decided to rent a car because we were also visiting Quebec City and Montmorency Falls and didn't want to be tied to a bus schedule.
If you're coming north from the US, you will most likely be taking the Pont Champlain into downtown. This bridge can get extremely crowded and you can be sitting in traffice for quite a while (one time over an hour!).
As an alternative, you can continue on Route 20 north about 6 miles and take Pont Jacques Cartier. Stay in the left lane as you exit the bridge and continue north until you reach Sherbrooke. Make a left and this will take you into downtown.
NOTE: Do not take this on Sat and Wed nights in the summer - it will be shut down for the fireworks festival.
Just a few tips if you are from the US and want to drive in Montreal.
- Do not make a right on Red.
- A straight arrow means STRAIGHT. This gives pedestrians time to cross. When it turns to a solid green light you can turn right.
- A flashing green light means you can turn any way you want, left, right or straight.
- The roads are in terrible shape. If you drive, park your car and take the metro. It will take you everywhere you want to go.
In Montreal, our roads are TERRIBLE! I know of people whose airbags deployed because they drove through a BIG pothole... No joke. Our rims get dented, our tires ruined, our backbones hurt! This is NO joke. I am embaressed at the state of our roads! Take the Metro!
The Larentides is full of places that you can only reach by car, and these ones are the special places to see. Pierre and I are very brave men, and we decided to face the winter and spend some days in his chalet in front of Lac Mitchel...you really have to drive with attention because the roads are puer snow and ice!
But for sure you will never forget such a fabulous moment!
January 25th, 2005
It is a nightmarish situation you do not want to be. If you happen to be in the traffic specially at this point during the rush hour, be extra patient particularly when you are taking the 520 exit you have to wait for a free passage. Sometimes it will take you 30 to 45 minutes just for that spot.
The picture tells you all. It is a helluva mess you do not want to be when you are in a rush.
To see the paranoia of the traffic in a panoramic shot, click here.
while it's legal everywhere else in north america (except NYC), and recently quebec signed on, turning right on red is still prohibited in montreal. this is mainly for several reasons... streets are narrow, hard to see and make a right turn cleanly, pedestrians are plentiful and still aren't used to it... and there's rumours of a political reason as well. whatever it is, don't do it.. cops are always looking for out of town cars to tag.
Montrealers tend to have heavy feet when it comes to driving. While the speed limit is 100km'h most locals drive 120km/s on the highway. I don't suggest you brake the law, but going with the flow of traffic generally works and keeps people around you from waving their fists at you.
Montreal is not a "road rage" city so you don't need to worry about :)
You cannot turn right on red lights in Montreal. And the red light means that you must stop. Some people in Montreal seem to not know this either ;)
Getting there was easy, straightforward driving (well, I wasn't driving, lol!). From northern NJ, NY area, it took between 6 and 7 hours up the New York Thruway, Rt 87. We got to the border crossing at about 5pm and waited at customs for about an hour, which was a pain! We plan on returning often~it's so close, but you feel like you are far away on vacation!