I’ve finally acquired the remaining essential card of my Canadian Cards Collection! 😀
Oui, mes chers lecteurs de mon blog… Today I received my NB Class 5 driver’s licence! Yay me! 😀 😀 😀
Well, actually… currently I just have the paper (temporary) licence, until the actual driver’s licence card is posted to me. I am hoping that I will receive that in the next few weeks, in Sha Allah. But hey, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ve now (happily) completed both the written and the road test, and have converted my South African licence to my Canadian one.
We had decided when we arrived that we’d have to get a car at least a month before winter starts here because a) obviously we would need a car to get around in the snow, b) getting a car a few weeks before the start of winter would get us used to driving in and around Fredericton, and c) we did not want to be ‘newbie drivers’ on the road in snow conditions.
But we didn’t want to just rush into getting a car, so we looked around at the various dealers, as well as Kijiji, and did some research on which brand and what type of car, etc., before we finally settled on Ford. Originally we wanted to go for Toyota, but weirdly, Toyota is very expensive here, even the used cars. So we decided to get a Ford instead, since it is a North American brand and it will be easier in terms of maintenance and parts replacement if (ever) required.
We knew we wanted a SUV and a 4WD (4-wheel-drive) or AWD (all-wheel-drive) because of the weather conditions we would have to face. We also hope to travel to other parts of Canada from next year, so we definitely wanted a car that would be comfortable enough for that. We weren’t too fussed about the colour, although Z was leaning more towards black (*rolls eyes*) and I wanted a metallic bronze.
We eventually got our smokey grey ( 😀 ) Ford EcoSport from Wood Motors on Prospect Road.
NB Driver’s Licence and Driver’s Test
Since both Z and I already had both South African and UAE driving licences, and had been driving for many years already, we were allowed to drive in New Brunswick for up to 6 months from the day of our landing on those licences. So technically, we had until December to convert our foreign licence to Canadian ones.
Driving licence holders from certain countries are exempt from having to do the vision exam, the written test and the road test to convert their licence to a Canadian one. These include: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Isle of Man, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands (Holland), New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and Wales.
As you can see, neither South Africa nor UAE is listed there, so we had to go through all 3 tests.
The vision test and the written test are done together. In Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John you can walk into the main Service New Brunswick centre anytime between 9am and 4pm on weekdays, and write the test without any prior appointment. You will however need to make a booking for the written test if you go to any other Service NB centres in NB.
The best way to prepare for the written test, especially if you have never had a driving licence before, is to go through the NB Driver’s Handbook. You can buy the physical copy (it’s just CAD $5 + tax), or (like me), you can go through the online version.
A word of advice: even if you have been driving for many, many years, if you have never driven in North America or any country that experiences snow and ice, it’s really essential to go through the handbook. There are certain rules of the road that apply specifically to countries like Canada, and you need to be aware of them.
The written test consists of 20 multiple choice questions and 20 road sign questions. Most of them should be familiar already, and going through the handbook will help you identify signs you may not have seen before as well as certain regulations and rules specific to Canada, as mentioned before. To write the written test the first time, you will need to pay CAD $25 + plus. If you do not pass the test, you can go back the next day and write the test again. For any subsequent attempts at the test, the fee is CAD $15 + tax.
Check all the New Brunswick Driving Licences’ Fees here.
You will be given a Learner’s licence (Class 7-1) when you successfully pass your written test. This test result is valid for 6 months. Any licence insurance or upgrade must be completed within 6 months of starting the process of obtaining your full licence.
Since I already had a valid driver’s licence from another country, I was only given a paper copy of the form saying I had passed my written test. I was told that I will need to surrender my foreign licence once I passed the road test and obtained either a Class 7-2 or Class 5 NB licence.
The next step was to book the road test. The Online Booking Service can be used for both the written test (if you are not writing it in the Fredericton, Moncton or Saint John SNB centres), and the road test.
I had passed my written test near the end of September, but was only able to get a booking for a road test at the end of October (today). This was all right by me, as it gave plenty of time to drive around in our new Ford EcoSport, getting used to the roads and the drivers on the road, and to practice parallel parking, which has been the bane of my driving experience. 😥
Driving in NB is not that different from driving in the UAE, since both places are left-hand drive. The main differences are the number of lanes and the number of cars. My main problem when driving was slowing down to admire the beautiful autumn colours everywhere. Lol.
If you have never driven before, or you have only driven right-hand drive cars, I would recommend that you take some lessons with any of the driving schools available. Most driving schools have different options depending on your experience. There are New Drivers courses that includes classroom training and in-car training of a combined 25 hours. This can cost you anywhere between CAD $550 and CAD $700. You can also take per hour classes (around CAD $50-70 per hour) and a road test preparation class (3 hours including the actual road test, for about CAD $175).
To qualify for the road test, you must have:
1. A valid NB Driver’s Licence, Class 7 – Level 1 (received when you pass the written test)
2. Held a Class 7 – Level 1 licence for at least 1 year OR 8 months if a recognised driver education course has been completed (the green course completion certificate required). This is especially for all drivers with no previous driving experience anywhere.
Note: This waiting period is waived if you have proof of being previously fully licenced in any jurisdiction e.g. your foreign licence or an International Driving Licence (hence I was able to book my road test within a month of completing my written test).
3. A road worthy vehicle, along with proof of it’s valid registration and insurance, appropriate for Class 7- Level 2 or Class 5 licence.
The road test starts from the Service NB offices at Queen Street in Fredericton. When you arrive, you need to pay the CAD $25 + tax for the road test, and an additional CAD $90 for the NB licence. You will also need to surrender your foreign (‘non-resident’) licence at this point. Since I had 2 licences, I surrendered my South African licence.
For the actual road test, once it’s your turn, the officer checks the vehicle registration and insurance, and the receipt of payment for the test. You also have to sign a form stating you understand the terms and conditions of taking the road test.
The officer then asks you to go to your vehicle and start it up while you wait for them to come through. Usually the test officer is there a couple of minutes after you. First they check if everything in your car is in working order (lights, brakes, wipers, horn, etc.). You are then taken through various streets and tested on changing lanes, going through a roundabout, indicating, stopping, starting, turning, and parking (parallel, reverse, and hill parking).
The time allotted for the road test is 30 minutes. Depending on your driving test officer and your driving, this can be less. Mine literally took about 10 minutes from start to finish. I honestly thought I had failed my test because the officer only took me through the streets and made me do hill parking before we returned to the Service NB parking lot. But alhumdulillah, once I had parked off, he congratulated me warmly, and we went back to the office to complete the process.
Once at his desk, he printed off the paper version of the Class 5 licence and signed it. This is valid for 30 days. The actual card licence is expected to mailed to me within 14 days. But we’ll see. After that, it was off to another counter to get my photo taken for the licence.
And I was done. I was officially a NB Class 5 licence holder.
One of the things that can cause you headaches is car insurance.
As a newcomer to Canada, it’s pretty hard to get car insurance. Some insurance companies don’t accept newcomers, and those that do, charge us a high insurance rate per month, since we are seen as new drivers with no driving experience, even if we have had many years of previous driving experience in other countries.
One way to get your insurance premium down a little is to complete the driver training course and be awarded the green completion certificate.
Our dealer at Ford Wood Motors gave us the names of three insurance companies,and in the end we went with TD insurance (part of TD bank group) because we found that their quote was the least expensive, and also because, if we buy a house in a few years, we will be able to bundle the house and car insurance together and receive a lower rate, than if we had to do them separately.
Note that the insurance premium does go down every year, obviously depending on whether or not you are involved in any road violations (like speeding ticket) or accidents. Also our current premium will drop once Z completes his written and road test and gets his NB Class 5 licence.
So that’s it for getting your NB Driver’s licence. It’s quite a straight forward process if you have all the necessary documents and have prepared yourself.
For all those attempting to get or convert their licences, all the best!