How to get around in Prince George Are you new in town? The city may be small, but it is also spread out and you will need a proper transportation to get around. Riding a bike in the spring days is awesome, but doing that during winter time can be quite a bit more difficult. So, you'll have to rely on the bus system or a car to service your needs.
I arrived in the city at the end of the autumn. It didn’t take too much time to start to snow. I had a driver’s license from my country, Brazil, but no car yet. So I had to learn how to use the public transportation. Even though I bought a car after some weeks here, I found out that all immigrants and people who have a Work Permit Visa are allowed to use the document from their country, in British Columbia, for just 3 months after arriving in the province (there are exceptions for people from some countries). The result? I had no choice but to discover how to get a BC driver’s license.
I know that there are many new students at UNBC this April. So I thought that information about how to explore the city by bus or car would be useful.
Using the public transportation:
Routes: The main way to get around is by taking the bus. There are 16 lines in town, but not everyone runs after 6pm or 7pm, so you will need to be aware of the schedule and when the latest bus will pass. Some other things to pay attention is that there are places that the bus runs every 30 minutes. In others they run every 1 hour.
Schedule: On the BC Transit website, you can find a map of Prince George to see all the routes available and see the schedule by bus stop: https://bctransit.com/prince-george.
Fares: In the same website you can check the fares. The cost per adult is $2.50. The drivers do not carry change, so be prepared to have the exactly amount when stepping on a bus.
Places to buy passes: It is possible to purchase a day pass or a monthly pass, which can be a good deal if you'll be using the bus every now and then. You can buy them at some drugstores, the UNBC Bookstore, the Prince George City Hall, and some other places that you can check on BC Transit website.
Getting a driver's license:
Step 1: The first thing to do is to go to the ICBC Office in town to talk to someone and ask if your driver's license works in BC or not. I know that immigrants from some countries don't need to have a local license. They can continue to use their home country's. Those that have a Student Permit Visa also don't need to get a BC license. When you go to the Service BC office, you’ll have to show your valid driver’s license from your country, passport and visa. The office’s address is: 1044 - 5th Ave, Prince George. It is open weekdays from 8am to 5pm.
Step 2: If you are like me and need to get a BC driver’s license, you will have to pass a knowledge and a road test. To take the first one you have to study the local transit legislation. The book with all information can be given to you in the ICBC Office or you can access it online: http://www.icbc.com/driver-licensing/driving-guides/Pages/Learn-to-Drive-Smart.aspx. Something that helped me a lot during this process was practice the test several times online: http://practicetest.icbc.com/#/. When you feel ready, just go to the office again to do the thing for real. The fee is $15. In the same day, you’ll have your eye exam.
Step 3: When you pass the knowledge test you’ll receive a learning license (a yellow paper with your driver’s number on) that you can use to drive around town, so long as you have an experienced driver with you in the car all the time. You can use that document until you pass the road test, or until it expires. It expires one year from the date of the knowledge test. Remember to carry your passport too.
Attention! If you get the learning license, you will have to give your home country driver’s license that will be taken and destroyed. That way, you will not be able to have it back if you need.
Trust me, as I learned this the hard way!
I thought that they just kept the document until the person passed the road test, and then they would give it back to us. But I was wrong. I didn’t pass my first road test, then had a trip back to Brazil to stay with my family for a month. I went to ICBC to get my original document, so I could use it during this period. I almost fell down when the employee explained to me that this wouldn’t be possible, because there was no Brazilian driver’s license anymore. Yep, I don’t’ know what I’m going to do in Brazil to get around…
Step 3: All you need to do now is pass the road test to have, finally, your BC driver’s license. You can book it online: http://www.icbc.com/driver-licensing/visit-dl-office/Pages/Book-a-road-test.aspx. The test takes 45 minutes and costs $50. To do that, you have to take your own car or rent one. The address is: 4001 15th Ave.
If you are an experienced driver in your home country, you'll probably not have to take driving lessons in Prince George. I said "probably" because, after failing my first road test, I discovered that it was a good idea to have a couple of classes to know the city traffic better and some rules that were very different from where I come from. One hour cost around $120 and I received great tips.
Good luck with this whole process!