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Canada travel guide - Travel S helper

Canada

travel guide

Canada is a nation in North America’s northern hemisphere. Its 10 provinces and three territories stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, spanning 9.98 million square kilometers (3.85 million square miles), making it the world’s second biggest nation in terms of total size and fourth largest in terms of land area. The border between Canada and the United States is the world’s longest land border. The bulk of the nation has very cold winters, while summers are pleasant in the south. Canada is a sparsely populated country, with the bulk of its geographical area covered by forest, tundra, and the Rocky Mountains. Around four-fifths of the country’s 36 million inhabitants reside in metropolitan areas along the southern border. Ottawa is the capital, while Toronto is the biggest city; other important cities include Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec City, Winnipeg, and Hamilton.

Canada has been inhabited by different Aboriginal peoples for millennia. British and French claims to the region began in the 16th century, with the French establishing the colony of Canada in 1537. As a result of numerous wars, the United Kingdom acquired and lost territory within British North America until it was left with what is now largely known as Canada in the late 18th century. On July 1, 1867, the colonies of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia united under the British North America Act to create the semi-autonomous federal Dominion of Canada. This marked the beginning of the accretion of provinces and territories to the largely self-governing Dominion, eventually resulting in the 10 provinces and three territories that comprise contemporary Canada.

Canada gained near-total independence from the United Kingdom in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster, and complete sovereignty in 1982 with the Canada Act, which severed the last remaining legal links to the United Kingdom’s Parliament. Canada is a parliamentary democracy with a federal structure and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. At the federal level, the nation is officially multilingual. It is one of the world’s most ethnically and culturally diverse nations, the result of widespread immigration from a variety of other countries. Its sophisticated economy, which ranks tenth in the world, is based mostly on rich natural resources and well-developed international trade networks. Canada’s long and complicated connection with the United States has had a profound effect on the economics and culture of the country.

Canada is a developed nation with the tenth greatest nominal per capita income and the ninth highest Human Development Index rating in the world. It is ranked among the top countries in the world in terms of government openness, civil rights, quality of life, economic freedom, and education. Canada is a Commonwealth realm member of the Commonwealth of Nations, a Francophonie member, and a member of a number of significant international and intergovernmental institutions and groupings, including the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the G8, the Group of Ten, the G20, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

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Canada - Info Card

Population

38,654,738

Currency

Canadian dollar ($) (CAD)

Time zone

UTC−3.5 to −8

Area

9,984,670 km2 (3,855,100 sq mi)

Calling code

+1

Official language

English - French

Canada | Introduction

Time zones In Canada

Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming was the first to propose time zones for the world in 1876, and Canada, as a continental country, is covered by several time zones from coast to coast.

  • GMT -8 Pacific Time (Yukon, British Columbia)
  • GMT -7 Mountain Time (Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut)
  • GMT -6 Central Time (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, parts of Northwestern Ontario, Nunavut)
  • GMT -5 Eastern Time (Ontario, Quebec, Nunavut)
  • GMT -4 Atlantic Time (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, parts of Labrador and Eastern Quebec)
  • GMT -3.5 Newfoundland Time (Newfoundland and some points in Labrador at the Strait of Belle Isle)

Daylight saving time, when clocks are set forward by one hour, is observed in most of the country (except Saskatchewan) from 2am on the second Sunday in March to 2am on the second Sunday in November; during this period, for example, British Columbia has GMT -7, while Alberta has GMT -6.

In English-speaking Canada, the 12-hour clock system is mainly used, while in French-speaking Canada, the 24-hour clock is usually used. The 24-hour notation is also commonly used in English in contexts such as train and flight schedules.

Units of measurement In Canada

Canada’s official system of measurement is the metric system, but many English-speaking Canadians still use the imperial system for many things in everyday speech. One of the most widespread remnants of the imperial system is the use of feet and inches to measure short distances and heights, and especially the use of pounds for masses, even among young Canadians, although these measurements are given in metric units on official documents. In Québec and other French-speaking communities, however, the metric system is used almost exclusively.

You will still hear older Canadians use the term “mile” to refer to informal distances, and they may also give temperatures in Fahrenheit to refer to the outside temperature, while younger Canadians use Fahrenheit to refer to the temperature of pools and hot tubs, but use Celsius to refer to the outside temperature. All weather forecasts are displayed in °C. Similarly, all road signs will use metric units, meaning that speed limits will be in km/h and distances in km. Note that the terms “gallons”, “pints” and “fluid ounces” are generally used in Canada for the British, not the American, versions of these units.

Weather & Climate in Canada

It is impossible to sum up Canada’s climate in one easy-to-understand sentence, given the country’s size and geographical diversity, but the phrase “frozen north” would be a reasonable first approximation. In most places, winters are harsh, similar to Russia. The most populous region, southern Ontario, has a milder climate, similar to that of the neighbouring Midwest and northeastern United States. Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, lies just south of the Arctic Circle and remains very cold, except in July and August, when the average July high temperature is only 12°C. In contrast, the coast of British Columbia is very mild for its latitude and stays above freezing for most of the winter, but it is not far from some of the continent’s largest mountain glaciers.

Most major Canadian cities are less than 200 km from the US border (Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax and St. John’s are notable exceptions). Visitors to most cities are unlikely to experience the weather that accompanies travel to the more remote northern or mountainous regions often depicted on postcards of Canada. Summers in the more populated areas of Canada are generally short and hot. Summer temperatures above 35 °C are not uncommon in southern Ontario, the southern prairies and the southern backcountry of British Columbia, with Osoyoos being Canada’s hotspot for average daily highs. Toronto’s climate is only slightly cooler than that of many major cities in the northeastern US, and summers in the southern parts of Ontario and Quebec (including Montreal) are often hot and humid. In contrast, humidity in the western interior is often low, even in hot summer weather, and cooling tends to occur at night. In winter, eastern Canada, especially the Atlantic provinces, is sometimes exposed to adverse weather systems from the United States that bring snow, strong winds, rain, sleet and temperatures below -10°C (14°F).

In many inland towns, especially in the prairies, there are extreme, sometimes very rapid, variations in temperature. Due to the dry climate (drier in the west than in the east in the southern prairies) there are many hours of sunshine, in the range of 2300 to 2600 hours per year.

Winnipeg has warm summers with episodes of aggressive humidity, but experiences very cold winters where temperatures around -40°C (-40°F) are not uncommon. The warmest temperature ever officially recorded in Canada was 113°F (45°C) in southern Saskatchewan, while the coldest was -81°F (-63°C) in Snag, Yukon. Summer storms in the Prairies and Ontario can be severe, sometimes bringing high and destructive winds, hail and, rarely, tornadoes. On the west coast of British Columbia, the cities of Vancouver and Victoria are much more temperate with very little snow, low average wind speeds and temperatures rarely below 0°C or above 27°C (32-80°F), but receive heavy precipitation in winter followed by dry, sunny and pleasant summers.

The average temperature in Canada is generally colder than in the United States and Western Europe as a whole. So pack a warm jacket if you are travelling between October and April, and sooner or later if you are visiting hilly or mountainous terrain or northern regions. In most of the country, maximum summer temperatures tend to be well above 15°C and usually range between 20 and 30°C.

Demographic Of Canada

The 2011 Canadian census counted a total population of 33,476,688, an increase of about 5.9% from 2006. In December 2012, Statistics Canada reported a population of over 35 million, the fastest growth rate of any G8 country. Between 1990 and 2008, the population increased by 5.6 million, representing an overall growth of 20.4 %. The main drivers of population growth are immigration and, to a lesser extent, natural increase. Canada has one of the highest per capita immigration rates in the world, largely due to economic policy and, to a lesser extent, family reunification. Both the Canadian public and major political parties support current levels of immigration. In 2010, a record 280,636 people immigrated to Canada. The Canadian government projects 280,000 to 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016, a similar number to recent years.New immigrants are settling primarily in large metropolitan areas such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.Canada also receives large numbers of refugees, accounting for more than 10% of annual refugee resettlements worldwide.

About four-fifths of the population lives within a 150-kilometre (93-mile) radius of the border with the United States. About 50% of Canadians live in urban areas concentrated along the Quebec City-Windsor corridor, while another 30% live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and the Calgary-Edmonton corridor in Alberta. Canada stretches in latitude from the 83rd parallel north to the 41st parallel north, with about 95% of the population living below the 55th parallel north. Like many other industrialised countries, Canada is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. In 2006, the average age was 39.5 years, and by 2011 it had risen to about 39.9 years. In 2013, the average life expectancy of Canadians was 81 years. The majority of Canadians (69.9%) live in a family household, 26.8% report living alone, and 3.7% live with non-relatives. The average household size in 2006 was 2.5 persons.

Ethnicity

According to the 2006 census, the largest self-reported ethnic origin is Canadian (32% of the population), followed by English (21%), French (15.8%), Scottish (15.1%), Irish (13.9%), German (10.2%), Italian (4.6%), Chinese (4.3%), First Nations (4%), Ukrainian (3.9%) and Dutch (3.3%). There are 600 recognised First Nations governments or bands with a total population of 1,172,790. Canada’s Aboriginal population is growing almost twice as fast as the national population, and four per cent of the Canadian population professed an Aboriginal identity in 2006. Another 16.2 per cent of the population belonged to a non-Aboriginal visible minority group. In 2006, the largest visible minority groups were South Asian (4.0%), Chinese (3.9%) and Black (2.5%). Between 2001 and 2006, the number of visible minorities increased by 27.2%. In 1961, less than two per cent of the Canadian population (about 300,000 people) belonged to a visible minority. In 2007, almost one in five (19.8%) were foreign-born, and almost 60% of new immigrants were from Asia (including the Middle East). The main sources of immigrants to Canada were China, the Philippines and India. According to Statistics Canada, visible minority groups could make up one-third of Canada’s population by 2031.

Religion

Canada is religiously diverse and encompasses a wide range of beliefs and customs. Canada has no official church and the government officially professes religious pluralism. Religious freedom in Canada is a constitutionally protected right that allows individuals to assemble and worship without restriction or interference. The practice of religion is now generally regarded as a private matter in society and in the state. With Christianity becoming less and less a central and integral part of Canadian culture and daily life, Canada has become a post-Christian, secular state. The majority of Canadians do not consider religion important in their daily lives, but still believe in God.

According to the 2011 census, 67.3% of Canadians identify themselves as Christians; of these, Roman Catholics are the largest group, making up 38.7% of the population. The largest Protestant denomination is the United Church of Canada (representing 6.1% of Canadians), followed by Anglicans (5.0%) and Baptists (1.9%). Secularisation has been on the rise since the 1960s. In 2011, 23.9% reported not belonging to any religion, up from 16.5% in 2001. The remaining 8.8% belong to non-Christian religions, the most important of which are Islam (3.2%) and Hinduism (1.5%).

Language in Canada

English and French are the only two official languages of Canada at the national level, although many other languages are spoken by immigrants or indigenous people in Canada. All federal government communications and services are required by law to be available in both official languages. However, each province is free to decide which languages it wishes to adopt as official languages at the provincial level, which means that provincial government departments do not necessarily provide services in both languages (for example, British Columbia provides services only in English, while Quebec provides services only in French). Most Canadians are functionally monolingual, although some regions of the country have both English and French speakers. More than a quarter of Canadians are bilingual or multilingual. A majority of Montreal and Gatineau residents and about 40% of Ottawa residents are at least conversationally confident bilingual. New Brunswick is officially bilingual.

English is the predominant language in all regions except Quebec, where French is dominant and actively promoted as the main language. However, there are many French-speaking communities scattered throughout the country, such as :

  • the National Capital Region around Ottawa and various cities between Ottawa and Montreal
  • Parts of eastern and northern Ontario,
  • the city of Winnipeg (especially St. Boniface) and areas to the south,
  • the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood in Edmonton, and several surrounding communities,
  • many parts of the Acadian region of Atlantic Canada, scattered across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island).

Similarly, there are English-speaking communities in Quebec, especially in the western suburbs of Montréal. Most Francophones outside Quebec are bilingual, as are most Anglophones living in Quebec.

Canadian English uses a mixture of British and American spelling, often with American vocabulary (“gas” instead of “petrol”) and British spelling (a “meter” is a measuring instrument, a “metre” is a unit of length). Many British terms that are not commonly understood in the United States are widely used in Canada. Some words are also pronounced British rather than American, but the accents of Canadians and Americans are nevertheless quite similar. The standard Canadian accent differs from the American accent in that it is less nasal and faster (common phrases that normally consist of two words are pronounced as if there is no space between them). Canadian English also tends to have a stronger French influence than other varieties of English, and Canadians are also more likely than other English speakers to pronounce French loanwords in their original French pronunciation.

Atlantic Canada has the greatest diversity of regional accents in English-speaking North America, largely due to the isolated nature of the fishing communities along the Atlantic coast before the advent of modern telecommunications and transportation. A visitor to the Atlantic provinces may have difficulty understanding the strong local accents, which are rich in maritime slang and idiom, especially in rural areas. From Ontario westwards, the accent of English Canadians is more or less the same from region to region and is similar to that spoken by people in the northern border states of the United States.

English-speaking Canadians are generally not required to take French courses after their first year of high school. As a result, many citizens outside Quebec do not speak or use French unless they are closely related to someone who does, or they have chosen to study French for personal or professional interest. Ottawa is an exception, as French is required for many public service jobs. Classes in other languages (e.g. Spanish, German and Japanese) are offered, but only a small minority of students take these courses, and those who do rarely go beyond the basics. As Canada is a popular destination for immigrants from all over the world, you will often hear different languages spoken in the country’s major cities, and you will often find suburbs where the main language is that of the immigrant community in question. Most immigrants learn English or French to speak their native language with family and friends.

In Québec, you can generally speak English in Montreal, Gatineau, the busier parts of Québec City and some traditionally English-speaking rural areas such as the Lower North Shore and the Chaleur Bay area. Elsewhere in the province, however, knowledge of French ranges from very useful to downright essential. Even if you are just passing through, it is useful to know at least enough French to read road signs (especially if you plan to get off the highways and onto back roads). It can also be helpful to know at least a few basic phrases of French in large cities, where an attempt to communicate in French is often appreciated by travellers. The varieties of French spoken in Quebec and the Acadian regions differ from each other and from European French in accent and vocabulary. Some Franco-Europeans have difficulty understanding Canadian French. Nevertheless, all French-speaking Canadians learn standard French in school, so they will generally be able to speak standard French when necessary.

Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are home to large populations of Chinese migrants, and Cantonese is widely spoken in the Chinatowns of these cities. Mandarin is increasingly spoken due to the recent influx of migrants from mainland China and the growing importance of the Chinese tourism industry. Other Chinese dialects are also spoken, but are less common.

There are also dozens of Aboriginal languages spoken by many Canadians of Aboriginal descent. In Nunavut, more than half the population speaks Inuktitut, a traditional Inuit language, and a significant minority speaks Inuinnaqtun. However, most of these people also speak English or French, so it is not usually necessary to learn these languages to communicate, although it would certainly impress your hosts.

Two sign languages are predominant in Canada. American Sign Language, or ASL, is used in English-speaking Canada; Quebec Sign Language, or LSQ, is used in French-speaking Canada. Although these two languages are different, they have some degree of mutual intelligibility. Both belong to the French sign language family, and LSQ is considered a mixture of French sign language and ASL.

Internet & Communications in Canada

The communications infrastructure in Canada is typical of a developed nation.

By phone

Canada, along with the United States and the majority of the Caribbean, is part of the North American numbering scheme and uses the country code +1. The structure for area codes and local phone numbers is the same as in the United States: 1 – three-digit area code – seven-digit local phone number. For local landline calls, the first “1” is removed; for local mobile calls, it is optional. Dial the complete number, including the “1” for long distance calls.

Most localities (even isolated places like James Bay) now have many overlapping area codes as a result of poor local number allocation strategies. This implies that even the most trivial local calls need the use of all 10 numbers. Only seven numbers are necessary in the few regions that still have only one area code (New Brunswick, Newfoundland, a portion of northeastern Ontario, and the three Arctic territories).

Currently, Canada acquires its toll-free numbers from a shared pool located in the United States. The entire eleven-digit international format is used to call these numbers: +1-800-234-5678. Mobile phone numbers are often allocated from the same area codes as landlines; the caller pays for the speak time.

011- is the prefix for an outgoing international call from North America. This prefix does not apply to nations like the United States that share the Canadian +1 prefix.

There are a few payphones in congested areas such as shopping malls, supermarkets, and local and long-distance train stations where you can call toll-free numbers (+1-800 and their overlays) and make local calls for 50 cents, but long-distance calls paid for with coins by incumbents are prohibitively expensive: nearly $5 for the first few minutes for the most mundane long-distance call. A few payphones are owned by obscure rival businesses, and the price for local calls is the same, while long-distance calls are normally $1 each three-minute interval. Incoming calls are usually blocked at payphones. Canadians often avoid coin-operated long-distance calls by utilizing prepaid cards or have abandoned payphones in favor of mobile phones or voice over IP (where Wi-Fi is available).

Unbundled internet telephony typically costs one or two cents per minute, however certain operators may be able to offer it for less.

Mobile phones

Canada, along with China, Hong Kong, and the United States, is one of the few nations where mobile phone users must pay to accept calls. Mobile phones and landline phones utilize the same local geographic codes; all numbers are transferrable. When receiving an incoming call outside of the phone’s local region, call time and long distance costs apply.

While Canadians continue to pay some of the highest rates in the world, three operators (Bell, Telus, and Rogers) control 97 percent of the market and use multiple brands (Fido and Chatr are Rogers, Koodo and Public Mobile are Telus, and Virgin and Solo are Bell) to create the illusion of competition.

In cities and in key transportation routes, network coverage is excellent, but in many isolated locations, it is non-existent. There are several stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway that have no signal at all. Mobile phones only function in a short region surrounding the territorial capitals in the High Arctic.

Regional service providers include MTS in Manitoba, SaskTel in Saskatchewan, and Videotron in Quebec (including Ottawa-Hull). With incumbents having a three-decade head start in establishing networks, an effort to allow new entrants (Wind, Mobilicity, Public Mobile) in 2010 was too little, too late. While almost a million subscribers subscribed to one of the new carriers, Mobilicity was later purchased by Rogers, Telus purchased Public Mobile’s client list and shut down the network (devices make fantastic paperweights), and the fourth network, Wind, was purchased by Shaw.

The three main providers provide UMTS (WCDMA/HSPA) service on the North American 850 MHz/1900 MHz bands (which are not common frequencies in Europe) and LTE in several major cities. Analogue cellular service (AMPS) has been discontinued; GSM is still accessible via Rogers (but not at Bell and Telus, which support CDMA). Wind Mobile runs on non-standard frequencies (a 1700/2100 MHz AWS/UMTS network) in a few urban regions.

Various “virtual mobile” operators purchase access to the major three carriers in order to resell phones (or SIM cards) under their own brand; for example, Loblaws’ prepaid service “PC Mobile” utilizes Bell’s network, while ZtarMobile (“7-Eleven,” “Quickie,” and “Petro-Canada”) uses Rogers.

Anyone may get a Canadian prepaid cellphone number; even blatantly fake individuals (such as “Pierre Poutine, Rue des Séparatistes, Joliette”) have previously subscribed to a prepaid number with no questions asked. On these plans, mobile data is often costly (one penny per megabyte is normal, with a minimum of $2/day for data on PC Mobile or a minimum of $10/month on Petro-Canada), and prepaid long-distance mobile calls may cost up to 40 cents/minute on top of the 20-25 cents/minute for local calls. Ice Wireless charges $19 per month for a SugarMobile prepaid SIM card with 200 MB of data and includes VoIP instead of mobile voice in the package. For a monthly charge, several carriers provide “night and weekend” pricing on local calls.

If a Canadian postal address is given and a credit card is pre-authorized for bill payment, several operators will provide postpaid cellular services to nonresident Americans. Another option for iPad-type tablets is to get a prepaid Visa or MasterCard from a supermarket or post office, which can be registered to any Canadian address (as opposed to vanilla cards, which only allow registration of a postal code) and used for 30-day subscriptions to Bell or Telus data services (both of which require a Visa/MasterCard with a Canadian address for activation, even if it is prepaid). Activation takes place on the device itself; you must enter your payment information and then choose a plan, which is typically $35 for 5GB with one or two smaller possibilities.

Fido, Virgin Mobile, and Koodo all have lower postpaid pricing than prepaid rates; Fido, for example, costs $30 for 1 GB of prepaid data. Wind charges the same pricing for both prepaid and postpaid customers.

To minimize competition, most mobile phones in Canada are sold by network providers (or their resellers), and SIM cards are prohibited. A few computer/electronics stores (for example, Factory Direct and Canada Computers in Ontario) sell non-proprietary products at a higher price (check compatibility; a GSM-only device will only work with Rogers, a device on the wrong frequencies will not work at all). Third-party websites provide unlock codes for many popular smartphones for $10-20; this is the lowest alternative if feasible, since network carriers may charge $50 to unlock a device at the conclusion of a contract.

Prepaid SIM cards are available from all major carriers for travelers who have unlocked handsets that fit local standards and frequencies. A prepaid SIM card with a predetermined amount of talk time typically costs $40. Certain big Loblaws supermarkets sell a $10 SIM card, and some Petro-Canada gas stations sell a $15 SIM card (both on the Bell and Rogers networks), however prepaid talk time must be bought separately. Wind costs $25 for an AWS band SIM card with no minutes; this card may be more cost-effective for heavy data users, since it provides 5GB of 3G data (within Wind’s service region) and unlimited calls and texts for $35 a month. In most cases, a free phone call is necessary to activate the prepaid SIM card (issuing a local Canadian number in a selected city).

New CDMA devices will no longer be available, since Telus and TBayTel have already decommissioned their CDMA networks, and Bell is likely to do the same by the end of 2016.

Prepaid rates do not normally allow for international roaming. Because most roaming plans charge excessive charges (usually $1.50/minute for the top three plans), it’s better to deactivate roaming in the phone’s settings while using a Canadian device near the US border to prevent a pricey surprise. Wind is an exception: for an additional $15 per month (on top of its $35 unlimited Canada plan), it provides unlimited talk and text in the US as well as 5GB of 3G data.

Internet in Canada

There are several methods to connect to the internet, including a number of terminals located in most public libraries.

Most big and medium-sized cities have internet cafés and gaming cafés, however the latter are becoming more scarce since wi-fi is readily accessible in public locations such as libraries, cafés, and hotels.

While some demand high fees, others, such as Blenz’s, McDonald’s, Second Cup, and certain Tim Horton’s and Starbucks, provide free Wi-Fi. Even if the institution charges for internet connection, you are expected to buy their goods. Purchasing a modest coffee or tea typically suffices to meet this need.

Most airports and Via Rail stations have free Wi-Fi in their passenger spaces. Commercial mailrooms (such as The UPS Store) charge a fee for computer time and provide fax, copy, print, and mail services. Ontario provides free Wi-Fi at rest stops along Highways 400 and 401. Wi-Fi is normally available for a charge in Chapters/Indigo bookshops (many have a Starbucks).

Post Offices in Canada

Although delivery timeframes vary based on the shipping method selected and the size of the item or package, Canada Post is quite dependable. A domestic letter costs between 85 cents and a $1 as of April 2014. International package delivery services might be costly. The red and white Canada Post signage are primarily used to identify post offices. Some pharmacies, such as Shoppers Drug Mart, IDA, Pharmaplus, Jean Coutu, and Uniprix, have smaller full-service facilities. These branches are often open longer and on weekends, although post offices are typically open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“General delivery” (poste restante) for incoming mail is offered for a charge at all bigger post offices, but not smaller post offices such as pharmacies. It is seldom utilized since it provides no cost savings over renting a post office box.

There are various courier services available around the nation, such as Purolator. UPS and FedEx, both based in the United States, also service Canada. Some (but far from all) intercity bus operators accept domestic items for delivery to cities along the same bus route. Courier shipments cannot be delivered to post office boxes or stored for public delivery, however they may be held for pickup by some business receiving offices.

Fax transmission services are available in some post offices and commercial receiving offices, however availability varies by region.

Canadian addresses commonly utilize the format shown below, which is quite similar to that used in the United States and Australia.

The recipient’s name

The location and name of the street

(If applicable) Suite, apartment, or building number.

Postcode, city or town, two-letter provincial abbreviation

It should be noted that postal codes in Canada are based on the alphanumeric approach used in the United Kingdom.

Economy Of Canada

Canada is the eleventh largest economy in the world in 2015, with a nominal GDP of approximately US$1.79 trillion. It is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Group of Eight (G8), and is one of the ten largest trading nations in the world with a highly globalised economy. Canada is a mixed economy, ranking ahead of the US and most Western European countries in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, with relatively low income disparity. The country’s average household disposable income per capita is over US$23,900, above the OECD average. In addition, the Toronto Stock Exchange is the seventh largest stock exchange in the world in terms of market capitalisation, listing more than 1,500 companies with a combined market capitalisation of over US$2 trillion in 2015.

In 2014, Canada’s exports totalled more than C$528 billion, while imported goods were worth more than $523 billion, of which about $349 billion came from the United States, $49 billion from the European Union and $35 billion from China. The country’s trade surplus was C$5.1 billion in 2014, compared to a surplus of C$46.9 billion in 2008.

Since the early 20th century, the growth of manufacturing, mining and services has transformed Canada from a largely rural economy into an industrial and urbanised one. As in many other developed countries, Canada’s economy is dominated by the service sector, which employs about three-quarters of the country’s labour force. However, Canada differs from other developed countries in the importance of its primary sector, of which forestry and the petroleum industry are two of the most important components.

Canada is one of the few developed countries that are net energy exporters. Atlantic Canada has huge offshore natural gas reserves, and Alberta is also home to significant oil and gas resources. The vast Athabasca oil sands and other assets mean that Canada has a 13% share of global oil reserves, the third largest share in the world after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Canada is also one of the world’s largest suppliers of agricultural products; the Canadian Prairies are one of the world’s largest producers of wheat, canola and other grains. The Canadian Department of Natural Resources provides statistics on its major exports; the country is a leading exporter of zinc, uranium, gold, nickel, aluminium, steel, iron ore, coking coal and lead. Many of Canada’s northern cities, where agriculture is difficult, are viable because of their proximity to mines or sources of timber. Canada also has a significant manufacturing sector concentrated in southern Ontario and Quebec, with the automotive and aerospace industries being particularly important.

Canada’s economic integration with the United States has increased significantly since the Second World War. The 1965 Agreement on Trade in Automotive Products opened Canada’s borders to trade in the automotive sector. In the 1970s, concerns about energy self-sufficiency and foreign ownership in manufacturing prompted Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government to adopt the National Energy Program (NEP) and the Foreign Investment Review Agency (FIRA). In the 1980s, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives abolished the NEP and changed FIRA’s name to Investment Canada to encourage foreign investment. The 1988 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement eliminated tariffs between the two countries, while the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) extended the free trade area to Mexico. In the mid-1990s, the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien began to run annual budget surpluses and regularly reduce the national debt.

The global financial crisis of 2008 led to a major recession, which resulted in a significant increase in unemployment in Canada. In October 2009, the national unemployment rate in Canada was 8.6%, with provincial unemployment rates ranging from a low of 5.8% in Manitoba to a high of 17% in Newfoundland and Labrador. Between October 2008 and October 2010, the Canadian labour market lost 162,000 full-time jobs and a total of 224,000 permanent jobs. Canada’s federal debt was estimated at $566.7 billion for the 2010-11 fiscal year, up from $463.7 billion in 2008-09. In addition, Canada’s net external debt increased by $41 billion to $194 billion in the first quarter of 2010.

However, Canada’s regulated banking sector (comparatively conservative among G8 countries), pre-crisis federal government budget surpluses and long-term public debt reduction policies have allowed for a less severe recession than in other G8 countries. Since 2015, the Canadian economy has largely stabilised and experienced a modest return to growth, although the country continues to be affected by volatile oil prices, sensitivity to the Eurozone crisis and a higher than average unemployment rate. The federal government and many Canadian industries have also begun to expand trade with emerging Asian markets to diversify exports; Asia is now Canada’s second largest export market after the United States. In particular, the much-discussed pipeline proposals are expected to increase exports of Canadian oil reserves to China.

Entry Requirements For Canada

Visa & Passport for Canada

Citizens of the following countries do not require a visa to visit Canada for a stay of (usually) up to six months, provided they are not working or studying and the traveller has a passport valid for six months beyond the date of intended departure:

Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Chile, Denmark, Estonia, Falkland Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Holy See, Hong Kong (BNO passport or SAR passport), Iceland, Ireland, Israel (national passport holders only), Czech Republic, Hungary, Cyprus, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania (biometric passports only), Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montserrat, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Poland (biometric passports only), Portugal, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, St. Helena, Sweden, Slovenia, South Korea. Helena, Sweden, Slovenia, Switzerland The United Kingdom (including British citizens (overseas) who are allowed to re-enter the United Kingdom) and the United States.

A visa waiver also applies to persons whose nationality is not indicated above if they hold a US Green Card or can provide other proof of permanent residence in the United States. Individuals who do not require a visa and are entering the US for reason other than tourism must have letter of invitation from the person, business or organisation they are visiting (information on letters of invitation and what they must contain).

Foreign nationals entering Canada by air without a visa must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) in order to fly. The ETA is issued by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and is similar to the US ESTA, but the fee is lower ($7) and it is valid for the same length of time as a passport or up to five years. US citizens (but not permanent residents) and French citizens of St Pierre and Miquelon are exempt. The eTA is not required if you are entering by land or sea.

Canada is very strict about admitting people with criminal records, and even people who would not need a visa may be refused entry or require additional documentation if they have a criminal record, even if it is a long-standing or minor conviction. A drunk driving conviction also counts, as it is considered a criminal offence under Canadian law. Anyone with a criminal record, including US citizens, should contact a Canadian diplomatic mission for advice before making travel plans.

All other persons require a temporary resident visa to enter the country. This can be done at the Canadian visa office closest to the applicant. Applicants must submit the following documents as part of their application

  • A valid travel document (e.g. a passport)
  • Two properly formatted passport photos for all applicants.
  • Application fee (The fee per person is $75 for a single entry visa, $150 for a multiple entry visa or $400 for a family (multiple or single entry).
  • Booking confirmation (for tourists) or invitation letter (for everyone else).
  • Proof that you have enough money for your visit to Canada. The amount depends on the circumstances of your visit, the length of your stay and whether you are staying in a hotel, with friends or relatives. For more information, contact the visa office.
  • Other documents, if applicable. These documents can be identity cards, proof of employment or a travel proposal. You can find more information on the website of the visa office responsible for the country or region where you live.

If you are planning a visit to the US and are not travelling outside the US borders, you can use your one-time visa for re-entry as long as the visa expiry date has not passed.

It is illegal to work without a work permit while in the country, although Canada has several temporary work permits for youth from certain countries.

Quebec has been given limited autonomy by the federal government to select immigrants. While immigration regulations differ slightly from the rest of Canada, these differences in regulations do not affect short-term visitors (such as tourists and business travellers) who do not intend to work or immigrate.

US citizens entering Canada by land (vehicle, train, boat or on foot) only need proof of citizenship and identification for short visits. In addition to the passport, a number of other documents can be used to cross the border:

  • U.S. Passport Card (issued by the Department of State)
  • Enhanced driver’s licence or non-driver’s licence photo ID (currently issued by Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington).
  • Improved tribal identity card
  • Trusted Traveller cards issued by the US Department of Homeland Security for the Canadian border (NEXUS and FAST).

Mexican Border (SENTRI) and International Air Traveler (Global Entry) cards issued by DHS cannot be used for entry into Canada, but are acceptable for re-entry into the U.S. and can be used in special NEXUS lanes in the U.S., if available.

Before 2009, it was possible to cross the U.S.-Canada border with a simple birth certificate or driver’s licence. Birth certificates are technically still acceptable to enter Canada, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped accepting birth certificates when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) went into effect. This is because many certificates (especially older ones) are little more than a typewritten sheet of carbon paper with no security. If you try to re-enter the US with your birth certificate, you will eventually be admitted, but only after significant delays while CBP verifies the information on the certificate with the agency that issued it. You may also be fined or prosecuted for non-compliance, although it is unlikely that you will receive more than a written warning for a first offence.

Residents of Greenland, St Pierre and Miquelon and certain Caribbean states do not need to present a passport if they can prove their nationality and identity by other means.

Residents of Greenland, St. Pierre and Miquelon and the United States also benefit from arrangements whereby applications for work and study permits can be made upon arrival in Canada at the immigration office at the port of entry without the need for a prior temporary resident visa or application at a consulate. However, all documents normally required for such a permit must be presented at the port of entry as if at a consulate, including a letter of invitation, the relevant documents from the institution/employer and the relevant fees.

Passage

Like the US, Canada requires an entry permit even if you are transferring between two international flights at the same airport. The exception to this rule is if you are transferring between another international flight and a flight to the US (but not vice versa) at an airport with US border pre-clearance, and if the connection is made in the same terminal. If you do not qualify for a visa waiver to enter Canada, you will usually need to apply for a free transit visa to pass through Canada. While Canada’s visa policy is generally a little more flexible than that of the U.S., making it a popular route for people who want to avoid transit through the U.S., it should be noted that Canada’s felony inadmissibility rules are even stricter than those in the U.S. In other words, if you have a criminal record or even a conviction for drunk driving, you will likely be denied permission to transit Canada and will need to plan alternative routes.

Customs office

Canada has very strict biosecurity laws. As in the USA, Australia and New Zealand, all food imported into Canada must be declared to customs on arrival and inspected. Failure to declare food can result in a heavy fine, even if the products are permitted.

Note that Canadian drug laws are much stricter than American laws, and attempting to bring illegal drugs into Canada is a very serious offence, punishable by heavy prison sentences. In particular, while medical marijuana is legal in much of the United States, it is illegal to attempt to bring marijuana into Canada, even if you have a prescription. If you are coming from the United States, please also note that it is illegal to bring firearms and explosives into Canada without declaring them to customs.

Although there are no limits on the amount of money that can be imported or exported to Canada, Customs requires you to declare if you are carrying $10,000 (Canadian) or more or the foreign currency equivalent. Failure to declare can result in prosecution and possible confiscation of the money.

From the United States

If you are a US citizen or permanent resident and travel to Canada frequently, consider applying for a NEXUS card. NEXUS allows pre-approved, low-risk travellers to use expedited inspection lanes at many land crossings to enter Canada and the US – with just a few questions. You can also use kiosks to clear customs and border crossings at major international airports if you opt for an iris scan. The application fee is $50 and you must be legal in both countries, undergo a thorough background investigation, a credit check, fingerprinting and an interview with US Customs and Border Protection and the Canada Border Services Agency.

Participants in other DHS trusted traveller programmes, such as Global Entry (expedited clearance at airports), SENTRI (expedited clearance at the U.S.-Mexico border) and FAST (for truck drivers), cannot use the NEXUS lanes to enter Canada, but are eligible to use their Global Entry, SENTRI or FAST card as a travel document to prove their identity and citizenship. In addition, these cards can be used in the NEXUS lanes for entry into the United States.

If you are travelling to Canada from the US and are not a permanent resident of either country, you must ensure that you satisfy the US authorities that you have not exceeded the North American limits for each subsequent trip. Time spent in Canada will count towards the maximum stay in the US if you return to the US before leaving North America.

  • When you return to the United States on this trip, keep your visa documents. Do not surrender your U.S. visa or Visa Waiver Card (I-94 or I-94W) at border control. You can enter the U.S. several times during the validity period of your visa (usually 90 days for Western tourists), but you must also have the immigration document to validate the visa. If you return from the US without this document, you will not only have to reapply for a visa or visa waiver, but also convince the US immigration authorities of the validity of your trip (i.e. show them that you do not intend to immigrate there).
  • If your standard US visa expires while you are in Canada and you want to return to the US directly from Canada, you will need to apply for a longer-term US visa (e.g. a B-1/B-2 or C-1 transit visa) before your first trip to the US. For example, if you intend to stay in Canada for six months and travel through the US on a visa waiver, the US will assume that you cannot return to the US after the six months in Canada without first leaving North America because you have been in North America for more than 90 days in total. Note that in this scenario you have done nothing wrong by visiting the US and then staying in Canada for a long time, only that the US will not allow you to return directly from Canada, you will have to reset their clock by leaving North America. Visa-exempt travellers can avoid this situation by returning their I-94W (green) form to their airline when leaving the US or to the Canadian immigration inspector when entering Canada by land; there is no immigration checkpoint in the US when leaving, so it is up to the traveller to remember this.
  • If you intend to leave North America completely without returning to the United States on this trip, surrender all visa documents when you leave the United States for Canada. This means handing over your I-94 or I-94W card to the airline staff at the check-in counter if you are leaving by air, or to the Canadian immigration inspector if you are leaving by land. If you do not do this, you will need to prove to the US that you have not overstayed in order to be approved for future travel (see the US CBP website for information on how to correct this error).

If you leave Canada to visit the US for a short period of time and wish to return to Canada within a short period of time, you can usually do so without applying for a new Canadian visa, provided you return within the period originally approved by the immigration officer or have a valid temporary resident permit authorising you to return, and you do not leave US soil before returning to Canada (i.e. including during a cruise that begins and ends at a US point but crosses international waters in between). If you leave the US for any reason on a one-time Canadian visa to a third country, you must apply for a new visa before returning to Canada.

How To Travel To Canada

Get In - By air

You will probably arrive in Canada by plane, most commonly in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver (the five largest cities, from east to west). Many other cities also have international airports, of which the following are particularly useful for visitors: Halifax, St. John’s, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Kelowna, Victoria and Quebec City.

Air Canada and WestJet are the only domestic airlines in the country, covering the entire country and international destinations (note that there are also a number of regional domestic airlines as well as charter airlines serving only international destinations).

With few exceptions, the three-letter IATA codes for Canadian airports begin with a “Y” and the corresponding ICAO codes are “CY”; the last two letters of the two codes must match.

The baggage allowance for flights to and from Canada usually works on the extra weight system, even on foreign airlines. This means that you are allowed to check in a limited number of pieces of luggage, each of which must not exceed certain linear dimensions (calculated by adding the length, width and height of the pieces of luggage). The exact restrictions on weight, linear dimensions and number of pieces of baggage allowed are determined by the airline you are flying with and the class of service you are travelling in. Generally, individual pieces of baggage may weigh up to 23 kg (50 lbs.) if you are travelling in Economy Class.

If you’re flying from the US, you should also note that Air Canada (on cross-border routes only – not on Canadian domestic flights) and all US airlines that offer cross-border flights (Alaska, American, Delta and United) charge a checked baggage fee. They are typically $25 for a single bag weighing up to 50 pounds (23 kg) and $35-50 for a second bag, unless you have elite status, are flying first or business class, or qualify for a fee waiver (e.g. US military personnel). Since 2014, airlines (Westjet, Air Canada, Porter) have introduced tighter restrictions for passengers travelling between Canada and the US or within Canada in “economy fare”, resulting in a $25 fee for the first checked bag.

Get In - By car

Canada has a land border with only one country: the United States. In fact, there are two land borders, Canada’s southern border with the 48 contiguous states and another between Western Canada and Alaska. See the subsection “From the United States” for more information on what to do when you leave the United States.

You can also enter the country overland from the US via one of the many border crossings. Of course, the same rules apply here, but if your case is not straightforward, expect a delay as officials here (especially in more rural areas) see fewer non-US travellers than at the airports. Also expect delays during the holiday season, as border crossings can be clogged with traffic.

In Canada, traffic laws are set by the provinces. They can vary from one place to another. For example, turning right on a red light is legal in Ontario if there is no oncoming traffic, but illegal in some parts of Quebec (including Montreal).

After crossing the Canadian border, road signs change to metric units; distances are given in kilometres and speed limits in kilometres per hour. One mile is equal to 1.609 km, so multiply what you see on the road signs by 5/8 to get the equivalent in miles, for example 40 km = 25 miles and 100 km/h = 62.5 mph. If you drive an American model vehicle in Canada, the speedometer will usually show American units on the top or outside, while metric units are on the bottom or inside. If only U.S. units are displayed, there is a switch that allows you to change the speedometer to metric units; see your owner’s manual for its location.

Since 2013, drivers of US registered vehicles in Canada are no longer required to carry a separate Canadian insurance document. It is your responsibility as a driver to ensure that your US policy covers you in Canada and meets the minimum coverage level for the province (s) in which you will be driving. Liability coverage of $200,000 CAD is standard in all provinces except Nova Scotia, where the minimum is $500,000 CAD, while most U.S. states have a statutory minimum of $50,000 USD or less. Most U.S. insurance policies will cover you fully in Canada, but some require pre-registration and/or payment of an additional premium. Call your agent before any cross-border car trip to discuss requirements and procedures.

Get In - By train

Via Rail is Canada’s national passenger train service. Its American counterpart, Amtrak, offers train services to Toronto from New York via Niagara Falls, Montreal from New York and Vancouver from Seattle via Bellingham. Their trains are a cheap way to travel to Canada, with tickets starting at $43 round trip between Seattle and Vancouver.

Few people use the train as a regular means of transport for cross-country travel. Most just drive where they want to go if the distance is short (which in Canada can still mean hundreds of kilometres!), or fly if the distances are long.

Important: If you are travelling on Amtrak on international routes, you must have your tickets validated before boarding. Pick up your tickets at the ticket counter (not at the Quick-Trak kiosk) and show the agent your passport or travel document (travel document information is sent in advance on a manifest to border authorities to facilitate passage). Some stations, such as New York, have a dedicated counter for international passengers.

Since 2014, Hostelling International members receive a 10% discount at Viarail.

Get In - By bus

Greyhound Canada serves many destinations in Canada, connecting to regional routes and US Greyhound buses. Ask about discounts and travel packages that allow frequent stopovers when travelling in Canada. Greyhound no longer offers round-trip privileges on a single ticket within Canada: each travel segment must be purchased separately (confirmed 16 January 2015). Many routes connect major Canadian and American cities, including Montreal – New York City operated by New York Trailways, Vancouver – Seattle operated by Greyhound, and Toronto – New York City via Buffalo, this particular route is operated by several coach companies: Greyhound, Coach Canada, New York Trailways and two new discounted services: Megabus and Ne-On. There are also many local bus companies across Canada.

Get In - With the boat

Several cruise lines offer cruises between the eastern United States and Halifax. Most cargo lines serve Montreal on the east coast and Vancouver on the west coast. International passengers must clear customs at the port of arrival.

Ferries run from Alaska and Washington State to British Columbia. The Alaska Marine Highway serves Prince Rupert, while Washington State Ferries calls at Sidney (near Victoria) via the San Juan Islands. Black Ball operates a car ferry between Victoria and Port Angeles; passenger-only ferries for tourists connect Victoria with points in Washington State.

A car ferry from Sonra, Ontario, serves Marine City, Michigan (halfway between Windsor-Detroit and Sarnia-Port Huron). A truck ferry connects Windsor-Detroit, primarily to transport hazardous materials that are not allowed on the Ambassador Bridge. A small car ferry runs from Pelee Island and Kingsville, Ontario, to Sandusky, Ohio, depending on ice and weather conditions. The CAT car ferry between Rochester, New York and Toronto was discontinued in January 2006 due to low ridership. A small car ferry operates seasonally between Wolfe Island, Ontario (near Kingston) and Cape Vincent, New York.

There is a seasonal ferry service (1 May to the end of October) between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine. A ferry between Bar Harbor, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, was discontinued in 2010.

A seasonal birding cruise from Cutler, Maine, to Machias Seal Island, New Brunswick, has a strictly limited capacity.

There is a passenger ferry from Fortune, Newfoundland, to St. Pierre and Miquelon; there is no car ferry.

Small boats are also an option to reach Canada from St. Pierre and Miquelon or the US border towns on the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the St. Clair River in New Brunswick and on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The captain of a small boat arriving in Canada must contact Customs at +1-888-CANPASS (226-7277) before passengers disembark.

How To Travel Around Canada

Canada is huge – the second largest country in the world after Russia. This means that you will need several days to get to know even a part of the country. In fact, St. John’s, Newfoundland, is geographically closer to London, UK, than to Vancouver.

Get Around - By air

The best way to travel around the country is by plane. Air Canada is the main national airline with by far the largest network and most frequent schedules. For travel between major centres, WestJet offers competitive fares. Unfortunately, due to the protectionist policies that favour Air Canada and the high taxes imposed by various levels of Canadian government, fares tend to be more expensive than for flights over similar distances in the United States, Australia or China, and sometimes transit via the United States can be cheaper than a direct domestic flight. Most major airports are served by public transport. These are feeder buses that run at intervals of five to fifteen minutes or less at peak times (Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Ottawa). If you are outside the major centres, service may be irregular or non-existent late at night or on weekends. To get downtown, one or more connections are required in all cities except Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg and Ottawa. Taxis or shuttles are therefore preferable for large groups or people with a lot of luggage.

Hitchhiking

Seaplanes flying from lake to lake in northern Canada are another way to travel. You can do it for free. You can fly across the Arctic Circle from any airport, but the trick is to have access to pilots. This can be easier at the Abbotsford Air Show near Vancouver, Canada in the summer.

If you are further north, for example via Prince George, you will need to contact pilots who often deliver mail from lake to lake. There are often general shops and post offices near the lakes. Many flight attendants meet pilots when they stop for a meal or coffee, just as they do with truckers. At major and regional airports, pilots can be seen entering or leaving Environment Canada weather offices.

Italy apparently offers a free flight to Italy for foreign citizens and their children. Contact the Italian embassy. France offers free or subsidised flights to mainland France via Montreal to citizens residing in overseas territories, such as St Pierre and Miquelon near Newfoundland.

Airmail

Airmail is a dying phenomenon. It used to be common practice to deliver urgent documents and parcels faster on frequently travelled routes (e.g. Paris-Montreal) with the baggage allowance of a passenger ticket; since checked baggage must have a corresponding passenger, space with a carry-on was only offered to a discounted traveller. With few exceptions, any time advantage has been eliminated by airlines that have improved their cargo operations and by major parcel carriers (such as FedEx and UPS) that shift most of their cargo to their own aircraft.

If you take a job in Canada’s far north, many employers will pay your way. Because it pays so well and there is little work in places like Newfoundland, many Canadians commute from the North Atlantic to the well-paying jobs in Canada’s north and Alberta.

Get Around - By bus

Intercity buses run between most of Canada’s major cities. Service is best on the busy Windsor-Quebec City route, which passes through Toronto and Montreal and the capital Ottawa. Service on this corridor is provided by a number of companies. The main ones are Coach Canada, whose main route is the busy Toronto-Montreal route; Greyhound, which serves the Toronto-Ottawa route, the Montreal-Ottawa route and routes between Toronto and southwestern Ontario; and Orleans Express, which serves the Montreal-Quebec City route in modern, leather-upholstered buses equipped with North American and European power outlets at each seat.

West of this corridor, most routes are operated by Greyhound. To the east, routes are now operated by Maritime Bus, a company that recently replaced the longstanding Acadian Bus line. In Canada, only one company is licensed to operate a particular route, so there is little or no competition between operators. Fares can be exceptionally high and can be increased without notice. The only exception to this rule is the Toronto – Niagara Falls route, which is operated by many American bus companies and continues to Buffalo and eventually New York City. The fares of American bus companies are usually somewhat lower than those of their Canadian counterparts.

Journeys can sometimes be extremely long, some lasting several days, so passengers need to be sure they can cope with sitting in one seat for 48 hours or more, with only infrequent stops for food and toilet breaks. Intercity buses in Canada are generally very safe; however, travellers should be mindful of their belongings at all times and ensure they have valuables with them if they intend to sleep. Unlike the United States, most Canadian bus stations are not operated by the bus companies that serve them, but are usually managed by the municipality or, in the case of Montreal and Ottawa, by a separate third-party company. Also, unlike in the United States, Canadian bus stations are not typically located in the worst areas of the city. In fact, Toronto’s bus station is located between a large theatre and shopping district and a neighbourhood full of large, affluent, research-oriented hospitals.

Get Around - By car

Of course, many people choose to rent a car. Although it is a bit expensive if you are travelling alone, it can make economic sense if you share the cost with others. However, there are many limitations and disadvantages to renting a car in Canada. To name a few:

  • Dropping off the vehicle at a location other than where it was collected can result in very high additional costs.
  • Unlimited kilometres are usually only available for the province you rent it in. As soon as you enter another province, even if only for a few kilometres, your entire journey is limited (usually to 200 km per day).
  • Riding is generally only allowed on paved roads.
  • There are no rental cars with manual transmission available in Canada.

In some cases, frugal travellers can “earn” a discounted car ride by delivering a car across Canada. This option is not common. It also does not offer the opportunity to spend a lot of time making stops along the way. However, it can be a cheap way to drive across Canada and visit the interior. Canada Drive Away and Hit the Road are possible options.

Although Canada is a former British colony, traffic drives on the right side of the road and most cars are left-hand drive (as in the United States and France).

Driving in Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto is not always convenient; these cities are densely populated and parking can be difficult and/or expensive. All three cities have extensive public transport systems. It is best to park in a central location or at your hotel or accommodation and then use public transport. Public transport maps are usually available at airports, metro stations and train stations.

In 2011, petrol cost between $1.30 and $1.40 per litre in most Canadian cities; by 2015, this price had fallen below $1 per litre in many areas. Debit and credit cards without a “chip and PIN” are not recognised at the pump, although most shops accept cards when presented at the register.

Ontario’s Highway 407/ETR (Express Toll Route), which circles the north side of Toronto, is one of the most expensive toll roads (per kilometre) in North America. It is an electronic toll road (the only private highway in Canada) where the toll is charged to the vehicle owner based on the licence plate number or number of transponders. Be sure to check your car rental company’s policy regarding the use of this road, as some companies have been known to charge fees and surcharges that can easily be double or triple the original toll.

Generally, foreign visitors are allowed to drive for up to 90 days on their foreign driver’s licence if it is in English or French. After that, they must obtain a Canadian driver’s licence from the province or territory in which they reside. Foreign driver’s licences in other languages must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (IDP). Most foreigners must pass a written and practical test before obtaining a Canadian driver’s licence, although some provinces have reciprocal agreements that exempt some foreigners from this test; check with the appropriate provincial government to be sure. Driver’s licence and traffic laws vary slightly from province to province.

Many jurisdictions also have red light and speed cameras that issue fines by mail to the registered owner of the vehicle, again via the number plate, if the vehicle is automatically photographed running (disobeying) a red light or exceeding the speed limit. The above warning about the rental agency’s policy also applies to these cases. Because the ticket is sent to the vehicle owner (rather than the driver) long after the alleged offence, it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain due process or a fair trial, making these traps a lucrative source of revenue for local and provincial governments.

Get Around - In VR

If you are planning a road trip, an alternative to renting a car is to rent an RV (motorhome or camper). This gives you the opportunity to explore Canada at your own pace and is ideal if your trip is focused on enjoying Canada’s natural environment. The cost can also be lower than a combination of car rental and hotel.

Traffic rules to be observed

  • Canadians drive on the right side of the road.
  • In the province of Quebec, street signs are written only in French, but their meaning is generally obvious.
  • Canadians use the metric system to measure traffic (i.e. speed is measured in kilometres per hour and distance in kilometres).
  • In many parts of Canada (with the exception of the island of Montreal), it is legal to turn right at a red light (after stopping). Drivers are also allowed to turn left after stopping at a red light when entering a one-way street from another one-way street.
  • Pedestrians have the right of way at crossings and pedestrian crossings unless they are crossing against a signal.
  • In Canada, you must always yield the right of way to a police car, fire truck or ambulance if their emergency lights are flashing – if they are coming from behind, you must stop and pull over.
  • Private vehicles flashing green lights in Ontario are volunteer firefighters responding to emergencies and common sense dictates that they be given the right of way.
  • In many jurisdictions, including British Columbia, motorists must also slow down and move to a non-adjacent lane when overtaking a stopped emergency vehicle. Slowing to 60 km/h is the norm on the highway.
  • The use of portable mobile devices while driving is prohibited in all provinces. Yukon is also considering such a ban. The use of hands-free devices while driving is legal throughout Canada, although the Canadian Automobile Association is currently (January 2011) lobbying for such a ban. Some provinces, such as Alberta, extend this basic ban with laws that also prohibit other activities such as map reading, face painting and programming GPS systems in cars while driving.
  • In some provinces, the blood alcohol limit is 0.05%. The national Criminal Code limit is 0.08% – a foreigner who exceeds this limit faces a heavy fine and deportation – see Respect below. In some provinces, such as British Columbia and Alberta, police can temporarily impound vehicles if the driver has a blood alcohol level between 0.05% and 0.08%, even if this does not violate national laws. Most provinces have “checkstop” programmes – random police stops, usually at night, where an officer asks motorists if they have been drinking and assesses whether further sobriety tests or breathalysers are appropriate based on their answer and other factors. If you encounter one while driving, and assuming you have not been drinking, you will usually be allowed to pass after a few seconds, but you may be asked to show your licence (also have your rental agreement ready in case you are asked).
  • In winter, a blue flashing light usually identifies a snow removal vehicle. In the four western provinces, snow removal vehicles use yellow lights.
  • In BC, a flashing green (slow) light means that the traffic light is green (you can drive) but is regulated for pedestrians. The light will flash green until a pedestrian presses the button to cross the road; if you see a flashing green light, oncoming traffic will also see a flashing green light. In Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, a green (fast) flashing light indicates an early turn and signals that the driver can turn left across oncoming traffic because oncoming traffic has a red light.
  • In British Columbia, vehicles must be equipped with winter tyres or chains on many roads, especially on mountain passes, from 1 October to 30 April.
  • In Québec, winter tyres are mandatory for all taxis and passenger vehicles from December 15 to March 15. (Note that this only applies to vehicles registered in the province; tourists travelling to the province may use all-season tyres).

Get Around - By train

In Canada, passenger rail travel, while safe and convenient, is often an expensive and inconvenient alternative to other modes of transport. The corridor between Windsor and Quebec City is an exception to this generalisation. The roughly three-day train journey from Toronto to Vancouver also traverses the splendour of the Canadian prairies and the Rocky Mountains, with passengers in dome cars enjoying the magnificent views. Unlike in Europe or East Asia, there are no high-speed lines in Canada and the Canadian rail network is mainly used for freight transport.

Make arrangements in advance to get cheaper fares. Via Rail is Canada’s leading passenger rail company and often offers 50% off or last-minute discounts.

Some tourist trains can also get you from A to B, but they focus mainly on sightseeing rather than transport and are usually much more expensive than travelling by plane, car or bus.

Get Around - Hitchhiking

Canada can be a great place to hitchhike, which is still practised by young travellers who are short on cash or looking for adventure. It is most common in the western provinces, although its popularity is declining. Hitchhiking in the urban areas of Southern Ontario and Montreal is not a safe thing to do, as many drivers in these areas do not pick up hitchhikers.

In densely populated areas, such as Toronto and Montreal, the original highway was a surface street that ran as a main road through each city. These were completely bypassed by a highway in the 1960s, leaving three options: hitchhike on the old bypass (which is problematic because most remaining traffic is local or goes to a single town), stand on the shoulder of the highway itself (which is technically illegal but not uncommon), or stand at the on-ramp and hope that someone coming up that turnoff will take your way. In less populated areas (such as the vast stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway in northern Ontario), the surface street remains the only highway, so pedestrians (and hitchhikers) have free access to anywhere.

It is best to avoid hitchhiking in winter (except as a last resort) as it gets dark early and motorists cannot see you well in snowstorms or dangerous weather conditions.

Like everywhere else in the world, you should use common sense when taking a taxi.

Get Around - Carpooling

Carpooling is becoming increasingly popular among users of the website Craigslist and specialised rideshare sites such as Kangaride, LiftSurfer and RideshareOnline. This mode of transport works best between major centres, such as Toronto-Montreal or Vancouver-Calgary. In general, anything along the Trans-Canada Highway corridor (Victoria, Vancouver, Banff, Canmore, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, St. Johns, Halifax, PEI) should be no problem if your dates are flexible. Allo-Stop offers long-distance ridesharing in Quebec, but is not licensed to operate in Ontario.

Some tourist destinations, especially those popular with young people, can also be reached by carpooling, for example: Vancouver-Whistler or Calgary-Banff. Carpoolers usually have to contribute to the fuel costs and may have to drive part of the way themselves for longer journeys.

For best results, make a list of requests at least a week before your planned travel date and start looking for deals. Hostel notice boards are also a good source for carpooling.

As with hitchhiking, it is advisable to use common sense and discretion.

Destinations in Canada

Regions in Canada

Visiting Canada in one trip is a major undertaking. More than 7,200 kilometres separate St. John’s, Newfoundland, from Victoria, British Columbia (about the same distance as between London and Riyadh or Tokyo and Calcutta). Driving from one end of the country to the other can take 7-10 days or more (assuming you don’t stop to see country along the way). A flight from Toronto to Vancouver takes over 4 hours. When talking about specific destinations in Canada, it is best to look at the different regions:

  • Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island).
    This region is proud of its history, including the founding of Canada as a sovereign nation. Atlantic Canada is known for its unique accents, the origins of Acadian culture, natural beauty (especially in the coastal areas), the historic beauty of Halifax and St. John’s, and a huge fishing and shipping industry. It is also home to the distinctive culture of Newfoundland and Labrador, which was both the first part of what is now Canada to be explored by Europeans and the last to join Confederation.
  • Quebec
    Quebec is unique in that it is the only province with a French-speaking majority. Originally part of New France, the region is culturally distinct from the rest of Canada and is known for its cultural landscape, such as the Quebec Winter Festival, Montreal’s classical architecture and maple syrup and poutine (two staples of Canadian cuisine). Montreal is also the second largest French-speaking city in the world, although thanks to centuries of British and French influence, it is also a very bilingual city and its residents have developed a strong, self-proclaimed sense of identity.
  • Ontario
    Canada’s most populous province is geographically vast, allowing for a wide range of activities. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is eclectic, multicultural and vibrant, with 140 unique neighbourhoods. Ottawa is Canada’s charming bilingual capital and has many art galleries and museums showcasing Canada’s past and present. Further south are Niagara Falls and to the north is the untapped natural beauty of Muskoka and beyond. All these things and more make Ontario what foreigners consider quintessentially Canadian.
  • Prairies (Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan)
    The Canadian Prairies are known for their vastness and wealth of resources. They are a dynamic collection of provinces with some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in the world. The region is rich in geographical diversity, from the rolling hills and canola fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the diverse forests and rather unique rock formations of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. This region is also one of the fastest growing in Canada and is known for its mountain resorts such as Banff and Jasper. The major cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg are modern cities with great rodeos, museums and amazing architecture.
  • British Columbia
    Vancouver is the heart of British Columbia. It’s known as one of the most liberal and culturally diverse cities in North America, with activities ranging from world-class skiing to nude beaches. Travelling outside Vancouver, you’ll find Victoria, the provincial capital, with a bustling downtown and a magnificent Palace of Parliament; the Okanagan, home to vineyards, graceful mountains and resorts; and retirement communities. Lose yourself in the expanse of mountains, lakes and other natural wonders. The province also has the mildest winters on average in Canada (though often cloudy), especially in the coastal areas, making it popular with Canadians less fond of winter.
  • The North (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon)
    The Territories are among the most remote regions in the world and make up most of Canada’s land mass. Although the Territories are best known for their wildlife and unique landscapes, there are also some interesting settlements, including Dawson City, a town that seems almost untouched by the 1898 gold rush, and Iqaluit, Canada’s newest territorial capital, which has interesting architecture adapted to the harsh northern climate.

Cities in Canada

There are many cities in Canada that are all distinctive, tourist-friendly and worth seeing, including

  • Ottawa – Canada’s national capital, this city is home to national government monuments like Parliament Hill, many important museums like the National Gallery, cool neighbourhoods like the Byward Market and remarkable old architecture.
  • Calgary – A boomtown without a doubt, Calgary is a major Canadian financial city, but for the non-business traveller it offers the world-class Calgary Zoo, Calgary Tower, Calgary Stampede, Glenbow Museum, shopping at Chinook Mall and Atlantic Ave and is just a short distance from Rocky Mountain Recreation.
  • Home to the second largest natural harbour in the world, Halifax is rich in history with architecture dating back to the English colonial period. Visit the Citadel fortress, the Canadian Museum of the Atlantic and the active nightlife where everything is within reach.
  • Montreal – Once Canada’s largest metropolis, Montreal is the heart of North America’s French-speaking culture (you can still communicate in English) and home to some of the country’s best galleries, museums, theatres and festivals, as well as excellent shopping on streets like Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Denis. Don’t miss Mount Royal either.
  • Quebec City – Founded in 1608, the capital of the province of Quebec is known for its picturesque old town, its great winter festival and its magnificent architecture such as the Château Frontenac.
  • Toronto – Canada’s largest city and the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is the media, entertainment, business, economic and cultural capital of Canada. Toronto is known for its famous landmarks such as the CN Tower, but it is also home to many museums, theatres, sports venues, shopping and entertainment districts, beaches and recreational parks.
  • Vancouver – One of the most densely populated cities in Canada, Vancouver is a city of steel and glass condos and extraordinary natural beauty. It is unique in that it is a city where you can ski and sit on the beach in the same 24 hours. The city also hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and is often ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world.
  • Whitehorse – Central point of the Alaska Highway, gateway to Canada’s far north.
  • Winnipeg – This city in the heart of the continent has a rich French-Canadian and First Nations culture, as well as well-preserved historic commercial buildings, renowned arts and culture, and the vibrant neighbourhood of The Forks.

Other destinations in Canada

  • Algonquin Park
  • Banff National Park
  • Cape Breton Island
  • Jasper National Park
  • Terra Nova National Park
  • Waterton Lakes National Park
  • Yoho National Park

Accommodation & Hotels in Canada

Prices for accommodation in Canada vary considerably depending on the time and place. In most cities and many tourist areas, expect to pay $100 or more for a good hotel room. When inquiring, always ask if taxes are included; most of the time they are not and can often add 15% to the cost when local, provincial and federal taxes are included.

Hotels are an integral part of Canada’s history, as some of the country’s most famous landmarks are hotels. The Canadian Railway Hotels are a series of large hotels built in the early 1900s in major cities (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Windsor, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, St. John’s and Halifax). Most are still standing and are owned by companies such as Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. The Grand Railway Hotels are all four-star hotels with rates ranging from $150 to $400 per night, depending on the city and room size. These architecturally stunning and lavishly designed hotels are not only great places to stay, but tourist attractions in their own right. Even if you’re not staying at a Grand Railway Hotel, it’s worth exploring the main lobby or dining in the hotel restaurant.

In rural areas, motels (short for motor hotels) are small, simple hotels where you can pay between $40 and $60 for a night (especially in the low season). There are fewer and fewer of them as international chains have largely saturated the lower end of the market with limited-service budget hotels along the main roads. Most villages have B&Bs (bed and breakfasts), individual houses with guest suites whose personalities are as varied as their owners. Prices vary widely – from $45 to $140 a night – and include breakfast in the morning. Try bbcanada.com for deals.

Other options include renting holiday homes on lakes and in the countryside, and renting flats in cities. Prices are comparable to hotels and motels and this type of accommodation allows you to feel at home during your trip.

Hostels are a good choice and offer accommodation in shared dormitories ($20-40) or private rooms ($45-80). Hostelling International Canada/Backpackers Hostels Canada and SameSun are useful resources. Most hostels in Canada meet very high standards.

Some universities rent out their dorm rooms (better known as “residences” or “res”) outside the academic season, from May to August. You can find more information on the universities’ websites.

Some hunting and fishing outfitters rent out cabins or lodges, primitive rooms that provide access to a remote rural spot on a lake.

Finally, there are a large number of campgrounds in Canada. These range from private RV parks to public campgrounds in national and provincial parks and are almost always well maintained and generally very nice. Almost every city has at least one campground, but due to the Canadian climate, these activities are seasonal.

Things To See in Canada

Canada is a nation with many interesting places throughout the country. Each province and territory is unique and each contains its own special attractions.

British Columbia has much to offer, including Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), an eco-paradise of untouched wilderness, and Vancouver Island. In the Yukon, you have the majestic Northern Rocky Mountains and the relatively unknown Tombstone Territorial Park. Alberta is one of the most geographically diverse provinces in all of Canada, with the famous Rocky Mountains in the west, the “greatest outdoor show on earth” in Calgary (the Calgary Stampede), the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta’s capital, the barren badlands near Drumheller and the wild frontier forests of northern Alberta. The relatively unknown Northwest Territories are a true “fisherman’s paradise” with thousands of pristine lakes teeming with big fish, including the mighty sturgeon. Nunavut has some of the most beautiful pristine Arctic areas in the world, hidden in hard-to-reach corners like Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island.

Ontario and Quebec encompass the Windsor-Quebec City corridor, which runs through the country’s two largest metropolises, Toronto and Montreal, as well as vast rural areas and many remote places where there are simply no roads. As the nation’s capital, the Ottawa-Gatineau region has an unparalleled number of museums. Quebec City (1608) and Montreal (1640) are famous for their old towns and architecture, with Old Quebec retaining the original fortifications of the “walled city” of old.

In many provinces, pioneer villages and historic sites recall the daily life of early settlers before the arrival of machinery. The memory of the exodus of United Empire Loyalists and the War of 1812 is still present in many frontier communities in Ontario and New Brunswick. Atlantic Canada has retained much of its Acadian heritage. Nova Scotia showcases its maritime heritage with a famous lighthouse perched on the rocky shore of Peggys Cove, historic shipyards in Lunenburg and a sea fort the size of a small colonial village in Louisbourg. The sandy beaches of Prince Edward Island are instantly recognisable to literary travellers looking for the birthplace of Anne of Green Gables.

Newfoundland’s coastline is dotted with small fishing villages called “outports” and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Gros Morne National Park, the archaeological Viking site of Anse aux Meadows on the Great Northern Peninsula and a Basque whaling camp in Red Bay, Labrador.

Spectator sports

  • Ice hockey – The national sport of Canada, where it is known as “hockey”, and perhaps the only uniting factor between English and French Canadians. The sport’s biggest professional league is the National Hockey League (NHL), which Canada shares with the United States. Seven of the thirty NHL teams are based in Canada, in the cities of Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Although the last time a Canadian team won the NHL was in 1993, most players on all NHL teams, including those based in the United States, are Canadian. The season finale is known as the Stanley Cup, which consists of a series of games between the two finalists in May and June to determine the NHL champion. The Canadian national team also dominates international competition, having won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics nine times.
  • Canadian Football – Very similar to American football played south of the border, but with more than insignificant differences in rules that make them different codes. In Canada, the term “football” generally refers to Canadian football, while association football is referred to as “football”. The highest professional level is the Canadian Football League (CFL) with a total of 9 teams, with the season finale to determine the champion being the Grey Cup.

Things To Do in Canada

Canada is a country with a rich cultural heritage. Festivals and events are held in Canada every year to celebrate the multicultural landscape of this great nation. Each festival represents a unique cultural facet of Canada’s diverse population. These festivals are easily identified by the time of year.

In Spring

In some parts of the country, the Canadian music festival season kicks off in April and May. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, celebrates spring with the Cariblues Festival, Halifax presents chamber music with the Scotia Festival of Music and Ottawa highlights concerts, flowers and history at the Canadian Tulip Festival.

Canada is also known around the world for its theatre festivals, such as the Stratford Festival in beautiful Stratford, Ontario, and the Shaw Festival in picturesque Niagara on the Lake, both of which begin around this time and continue into the autumn. There are also a number of children’s festivals, including the Calgary International Children’s Festival and the Saskatchewan International Film Festival for Young People.

In Summer

From 21 June to 1 July, Canada celebrates for 10 days. The celebrations begin on 21 June with National Indigenous Peoples’ Day and continue across the country on 24 June with St. Jean Baptiste Day in honour of the patron saint of French Canadians, on 27 June with Canadian Multiculturalism Day, and culminate in Canada Day with celebrations across the country on 1 July.

There are also many musical and cultural summer festivals throughout the country. Here is a selection: Yellowknife’s Summer Solstice Festival, Calgary’s Reggaefest, Windsor’s International Freedom Festival (with Detroit), Calgary Stampede, Winnipeg’s Folklorama, Toronto’s Caribana, Les Francofolies de Montréal, and the jazz and comedy festivals in Montreal, the Festival acadien de Caraquet in New Brunswick, Rib-fest in London, Bayfest in Sarnia, the Charlottetown Jazz and Blues Festival in Prince Edward Island and the Collingwood Elvis Festival in Ontario. Edmonton is also known as the “City of Festivals” because of its many festivals (such as North America’s largest Fringe Theatre Festival).

In Autumn

Autumn is traditionally the time for literature and film festivals. For lovers of the written and spoken word, there is the Festival international de la poésie de Trois-Rivières, the Atlantic Canada Storytelling Festival in Halifax and the International Festival of Authors in Toronto. Film lovers can choose from the Toronto International Film Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Montreal World Film Festival, the Atlantic Film Festival and the St. John’s (Newfoundland) International Women’s Film Festival, among others.

Kitchener-Waterloo hosts the largest Oktoberfest outside of Bavaria. The nine-day festival offers a wide range of cultural and entertainment activities. Many venues are transformed into beer gardens for the duration of the festival and given Germanic names. Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo attracts over 700,000 visitors annually.

Autumn is also a time for families to enjoy the autumnal splendour of nature through autumn festivals or simple activities that take in the beauty of the landscape.

In Winter

Winter is the time when Canadians and their families hit the slopes and ice at ski resorts and community ice rinks across the country. Canada’s world-renowned winter festivals take place in late January and February, including the Quebec Winter Carnival in Quebec City and Winterlude in Ottawa and Gatineau. There are also winter events that pay tribute to Canadian pioneers, such as the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg and the Yukon Sourdough Rendez-vous Festival in Whitehorse.

In Calgary, January is all about showcasing exciting national and international theatre, dance and music at High Performance Rodeo, one of Canada’s leading festivals of new and experimental theatre.

Winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are particularly popular in British Columbia and Alberta and are regular activities during the winter months. British Columbia and Alberta are home to some of the best ski resorts in the world, including Whistler Blackcomb (a two-hour drive from Vancouver). Skiing in Banff and Jasper National Parks (130 km from Calgary and 370 km from Edmonton respectively) is also popular.

Food & Drinks in Canada

Food in Canada

English Canadians may be puzzled when you ask them where to find Canadian food. English Canadian cuisine varies greatly from region to region. Specialities include maple syrupNanaimo bars (unbaked squares with chocolate, custard or vanilla butter filling and a breadcrumb base), butter tarts (tarts made with butter, sugar and eggs), beaver tails (deep-fried, dough sprinkled with icing sugar), fiddleheads (curly fern heads), pork bacon (a type of back bacon made from lean, boneless pork loin that is thinly sliced, water-dried and rolled in cornmeal; It’s eaten for breakfast with eggs or as a sandwich for lunch), and Halifax Donairs (slices of ground beef wrapped in pita bread and topped with onions, tomatoes and a sweetened condensed milk sauce). They are an important, if somewhat humble, part of the Canadian culinary landscape. In other respects, English-Canadian cuisine is similar to that in the northern United States. Canadians are sometimes unaware that they have national dishes, especially in more urbanised areas; however, there is a growing trend among Canadian chefs and restaurateurs to offer locally produced ingredients, and most major cities have bistros that specialise in local and national cuisine. These specialities include game dishes such as caribou, grouse, elk, venison or wild turkey, prepared in a variety of European styles.

French-Canadian cuisine is distinctive and includes specialities such as turtière, a meat dish that dates back to the founding of Quebec in the 16th century. Century, Cipaille (meat and vegetable pie), Cretons (bacon hash), Ragout de Pattes (braised pigs feet), Plorine (pork pie), Oreilles de Christ (fried bacon) Poutine, a dish of French fries, cheese curds and gravy (its popularity has spread across the country and can be found from coast to coast), croquignoles (homemade doughnuts baked in shortening), farlouche pie (a pie made with sultanas, flour and molasses), sugar pie and many cheese and maple products. Acadian regions have different dishes, such as knitted chicken and poutine râpée (potato dumplings with meat inside). Baked beans, peas and ham are staples. French-Canadian cuisine also contains elements of English-speaking North American and, not surprisingly, French cuisine.

One particular tradition that can be seen in almost every small town is the Chinese-Canadian restaurant. This is mainly due to the historical role that Chinese immigration played in the settlement of Canada, especially in the building of the railway. These places sell the usual Chinese fast-food cuisine. American visitors will find this cuisine familiar, as it paralleled an almost identical version in the United States. In Toronto and Vancouver, two major centres of Chinese immigration, you can find authentic Chinese food that rivals that of Hong Kong and Shanghai. In Toronto, visit Spadina-Dunda’s Chinatown; if you’re north of the city, consider visiting the Markham area, which has recently seen an influx of new Chinese immigrants.

Montreal is known for its Central and Eastern European Jewish specialities, including local varieties of bagels and smoked meats. The Prairie Provinces have excellent Ukrainian dishes, such as pierogies, due to the many Ukrainian immigrants.

If you’re more adventurous, you’ll find a wide variety of ethnic flavours from all over Europe, Asia and beyond, especially in the bigger cities. You can find pretty much every taste and type of food in Canada, from a 20 oz. T-bone with all the trimmings to Japanese sushi (in fact, much of the salmon used in Japanese sushi comes from Canada). Check out the local tourist brochures when you arrive. They are available in almost every hotel and free of charge at any provincial or municipal tourist information office.

Americans will find many distinct types of cuisine and brands with subtle differences, as well as many products unique to Canada, such as chocolate bar brands and the availability of authentic maple syrup.

National franchises

You will find that many American chains are well established here.

Canadian channels include:

  • A&W. It can be found across Canada; it is not related to the American A&W as the two chains were sold separately years ago. Menu items often resemble the American version, but the Canadian chain abandoned the “drive-in” model in the 1980s as too seasonal (understandable, given the Canadian climate). The company, which primarily targets baby boomers (and tends to portray 1950s “car-hop” service as nostalgia in its marketing), arguably offers higher quality than most American chains. Prices can approach those of cheaper restaurants, with a combination menu (a “trio” in Quebec) usually costing no less than $7.
  • Boston Pizza. Founded in Edmonton, the table-service restaurants serve pizza, pasta and burgers. Casual family dining, lounge and take-out available.
  • Cora’s. It was launched in Quebec and is now expanding across the country. Cora’s only serves breakfast and lunch.
  • East Side Mario’s. American Italian-style restaurants with a New York theme.
  • Harvey’s. A fast food chain common in Ontario and present in almost all provinces, offering burgers and other sandwiches made to order.
  • The Cask. Steakhouses, mostly with tables and booths for 4-6 people. In addition to steaks, salads and starters are also offered. The Keg Mansions in Toronto and Ottawa are worth a visit.
  • Kelsey’s. Casual family restaurant, very similar to Applebees or T.G.I. Friday’s in the United States.
  • mmmuffins. Coffee, muffin and doughnut retailer belonging to Timothy’s World Coffee Inc. and operated as an independent brand.
  • Montana’s. A family restaurant with an outdoor and wilderness theme. Montana’s promises hearty portions of home cooking and friendly, efficient service in a lodge setting.
  • Mr. Sub. Submarine sandwich chain.
  • New York Fries. Fast food restaurant serving mainly fries and hot dogs at locations in several provinces in Canada.
  • Robin’s Donuts. A café that also serves a variety of soups, sandwiches and donuts.
  • Second Cup. Serves coffee and cake. This chain is very similar to Starbucks in terms of atmosphere and product range.
  • Swiss chalet. Specialising in roast chicken and ribs. Table service restaurants operated by Cara, which includes Harvey’s. The Swiss Chalet brand has been withdrawn from Quebec, which is served by the very similar St. Hubert’s chain.
  • TimHortons. Canada’s largest coffee chain and a cultural icon. Soups, sandwiches and doughnuts; their Timbits are like doughnut holes.
  • Timothy’s World Coffee (aka “Timothy’s”). The third largest Canadian-owned coffee chain, behind Tim Hortons and Second Cup.
  • YogenFruz. Leading frozen yogurt chain offering probiotic frozen yogurt, a staple in malls across Canada.

Note: This list contains mainly national channels. Each region also has its own regional chains, which may be of interest to those who want to try local dishes. See also Fast Food in North America.

Drinks in Canada

The drinking age in Canada varies from province to province. In Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec the age is 18, while in the rest of the provinces and territories it is 19. A special feature in many Canadian provinces is that alcohol and beer may only be sold in licensed shops, which usually excludes supermarkets. In Ontario, alcoholic beverages can only be sold in licensed restaurants and bars and in shops operated by the provincial Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), although you can also buy wine in some supermarkets in a special section called the “Wine Rack”.

Beer shops in Ontario are owned by Brewers Retail, a group of large brewers. Supermarkets in other provinces usually have their own liquor shops nearby. Quebec has the fewest restrictions on the sale of alcohol, and alcohol is usually available in convenience stores, in addition to the government-owned Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) shops. Alberta is the only province where alcohol sales are completely decentralised, so many supermarket chains have separate liquor shops near the supermarket itself. Prices may seem high for Americans in some states, but it is advisable to bring alcohol into Canada (up to 1 litre of liquor, 1.5 litres of wine or a 24-pack of beer). American cigarettes are also very popular as they are not sold in Canada.

Beer

Canadian mainstream beers (e.g. Molson’s, Labatt’s) are usually light golden lagers with an alcohol content of 4-6 %. This alcohol content can be higher than that of popular beers in the United States or the United Kingdom. Like most mainstream beers, they are not very distinctive (although Americans will note that some beers from these companies are not sold in the US), but Canadian beer drinkers are known to support local breweries. In recent years, the number and quality of beers from microbreweries has increased significantly. While many of these beers are only available close to where they are made, many mid-range and upscale bars offer locally brewed beers. Many cities have brewpubs that brew and serve their own beers, often with a full kitchen behind the bar. These places offer a great opportunity to try different beers and enjoy selected dishes to go with them.

Wine

The two largest wine-growing regions in Canada are the Niagara region in Ontario and the Okanagan in British Columbia. Other wine-growing areas include the shores of Lake Erie, Georgian Bay (Beaver River Valley) and Prince Edward County in Ontario, as well as the Similkameen Valley, the southern Fraser River Valley, southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in British Columbia. Wine is also produced on a small scale in southern Quebec, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

Ice wine, a (very) sweet dessert wine made from frozen grapes, is a Canadian speciality. In particular, the products of the Inniskillin winery can be found in airport duty-free shops all over the world. Unlike most other wine regions in the world, Canada, especially the Niagara region, experiences constant winter frost and has become the largest producer of ice wine in the world. However, due to its minimal yield (5-10% of normal wine), it is relatively expensive, with half bottles (375 ml) starting at $50. It should be noted that Canadian icewine is slightly sweeter than the German varieties.

Distilled spirits

Canada is known in other countries for its distinctive rye whisky, a drink that Canadians love to drink. Popular brands include Canadian Club, Wisers, Crown Royal, to name a few. In addition to the abundant selection of inexpensive blended ryes, it may be worth exploring the premium blended and unblended ryes available in most liquor shops. Alberta Premium is one of the best known unblended whiskies. It was named “Canadian Whisky of the Year” by the well-known writer Jim Murray.

Canada also produces a small number of distinctive liqueurs. One of the best known, and an ideal winter drink, is Yukon Jack, a whiskey-based liqueur with citrus notes. It is the Canadian equivalent of the American Southern Comfort, which tastes similar but is made from corn (bourbon) whiskey rather than rye.

Cape Breton Island is home to North America’s first (and Canada’s only) single malt whisky.

Other drinks

You can find most non-alcoholic drinks that you would find in any other country. Soft drinks (called “pop”, “soda” and “soft drinks” in different regions) are very popular. Clean, safe drinking water is available from the tap in every city and town in Canada. Bottled water is widely available, but its quality is no better than tap water. Coffee is a very popular drink in Canada, usually drunk with breakfast or in the morning. Tim Hortons is the most ubiquitous and popular coffee shop in the country. Starbucks is also very popular in most medium and large cities. Other national chains such as Second Cup, Timothy’s, mmmuffins, Country Style, Coffee Time can be found across Canada. Tea is available in most coffee shops, with at least half a dozen varieties (black, green, mint, etc.).

Money & Shopping in Canada

Currency in Canada

Canada’s currency is the Canadian dollar (symbol: $; correct abbreviation: CAD), often referred to simply as “dollar”, “buck” (slang) or “loonie” (nickname for the $1 coin, now also a slang term for currency). One dollar ($) is made up of 100 cents (¢). Rising oil prices tend to increase the value of the Canadian dollar relative to its American counterpart. During the Arab-American oil embargo in the 1970s, the Canadian dollar was worth more than the US dollar; it fell to about 66 US cents in the mid-1990s before recovering as oil prices rose after the turn of the millennium. During the US subprime mortgage collapse, the US dollar again fell below its Canadian counterpart. At the end of 2013, the Canadian dollar was trading slightly below the US dollar, as it had been for several years; at the end of 2014, with the fall in crude oil prices, it was trading just above 85 US cents and in 2015 it is below 80 cents. The Canadian dollar is considered one of the most important currencies in the world and is available at banks and currency exchanges around the world.

Canadian coins are 1¢ (penny, discontinued in early 2013 but still accepted as legal tender), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), 25¢ (quarter), $1 (loonie) and $2 (toonie). (The penny, nickel, dime and quarter are roughly the same size, shape and colour as their American counterparts, but not in metallic composition. Therefore, they are often accepted equally by people on both sides of the border, but not necessarily by machines.) Canadian notes come in denominations of $5 (blue), $10 (purple), $20 (green), $50 (red) and $100 (brown). The $1,000 note (pink) was discontinued in 2000 as part of the government’s efforts to more closely monitor the transfer of large sums of money. Although it is still legal tender, banks are withdrawing it from circulation. In addition, the 1-dollar (green/black) and 2-dollar (terracotta) notes are no longer in circulation but are still legal tender.

Traditionally, a strong US dollar meant that goods in Canada had a higher dollar price than south of the border. When the Canadian dollar was high (e.g. when oil prices rose or when the US economy hit a major hurdle, such as the 1970s oil embargo or the 2008 housing market collapse), Canadians living near the border flocked to the US to make large purchases at lower costs. This enthusiasm, already dampened by the restrictive and arbitrary post-9/11 border controls in the US, evaporated just as quickly when the exchange rate returned to a point where the real cost of goods was finally similar.

In Canada, fuel (gasoline, diesel) is sold in litres, as opposed to gallons. Canadian fuel taxes are high by US standards, a problem compounded by double-digit sales taxes in many provinces.

Tipping in Canada

Tipping in Canada is similar to the United States due to the cultural proximity of the two countries, but tends to be slightly lower due to the higher minimum wage and publicly funded medical care. Restaurateurs in Canada typically receive 10-15% of the total before tax. Tipping is not appropriate in cafeterias, fast food places and takeaways; hotel maids do not expect tips. When you add double-digit Canadian VAT and a generous tip to the cost of a restaurant meal, the bill can often exceed the menu price by 25% or more.

While tipping was originally a way to reward above-average service, today we see an attitude of entitlement in most restaurants, bars, hotel rooms, hair salons and taxi companies. Don’t be surprised if the local pizzeria that advertises “free delivery” sends someone who, as soon as he arrives at your doorstep, holds out his hand for a tip or wants to keep the change.

Some provinces (including Quebec and Ontario) allow employers to pay a lower minimum wage to workers who can reasonably be expected to receive tips. Employers routinely abuse this privilege by distributing all tip income among large groups of workers, each of whom then receives a low wage in the hope that the customer will somehow make up the difference. The restaurant does not tell the customer that the individual operator is not allowed to keep the entire tip. Large groups and customers paying by credit card should be especially careful, as it is not uncommon for a bar or restaurant to add a generous 15% tip on top of the actual bill – sometimes even in buffet-style establishments where customers are expected to help themselves.

There are also tax considerations; if the restaurant were to admit that the extra 15% is part of the base price, those dollars would be subject to Canada’s infamous double-digit sales taxes. Governments also tend to make blanket assumptions about tips for income tax purposes (in Ontario, if you charge a large tip on a credit card, the tax office assumes the server’s cash customers were equally generous; in Quebec, the government can blindly assume that servers collect a 15% tip on every transaction – even if the food was served an hour late and was ice cold). This is rather frowned upon by waiters, especially since the unemployment insurance payout when the restaurant closes is based solely on the basic wage (below the minimum wage).

Haggling in Canada

Haggling is extremely rare in normal retail in Canada, and attempts to get a retail clerk to lower prices will do nothing (except test the clerk’s patience). This is rarely a problem as most retailers in Canada price fairly and do not try to extort their customers due to the highly competitive market and prosperous economy. For larger items, especially electronics and high-end vehicles, many employees work on commission, so haggling can occur on these items and sellers may offer you a lower price than what was quoted upfront. Some large retail shops will offer you a discount if you can prove to them that one of their competitors is selling the same product at a lower price. However, in some establishments such as flea markets, antique shops, farmers’ markets, etc. you may be able to negotiate a lower price, although again it is often unnecessary to try too hard.

Currency exchange

In all cities, Canadian dollars can be exchanged for most major currencies at many banks. In addition, some retailers in Canada accept US currency at face value or at a slightly reduced value. All Canadian banks offer currency exchange services at the current rate. In some areas, private currency exchange offices offer better rates and lower fees than banks. If you have time to consult one during your trip, you may be able to save money on currency exchange on arrival and before departure, as Canadian dollars may not be worth as much in your home country, especially the coin.

Private companies are not required to exchange foreign currency at international rates. Even in the most rural areas, converting between Canadian and US dollars should not be a problem, although travellers expecting to be able to exchange other currencies at a Canadian bank may need to be patient. In fact, most destinations accept US dollars themselves and are likely to offer a very good exchange rate. This is especially true in regions where tourism is the cornerstone of the local economy.

Since Canadian banks cash travellers’ cheques in Canadian dollars free of charge, so do most businesses. This makes traveller’s cheques a safe and convenient way to transport money within Canada.

Many shops in Canada accept US currency based on their own exchange rate for general purchases. Banknotes are taken at the current rate. However, US and Canadian coins are similar in size and are therefore used interchangeably; it is quite common for change to be given in a mixture of Canadian and US coins. Almost all vending machines do not accept US coins.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted, with Visa and MasterCard accepted in most places, American Express somewhat less frequently and Diners Club only in the more upscale restaurants and hotels. Discover is generally accepted in establishments that cater to Americans, such as hotels and car rental agencies. Generally, you will also get a better exchange rate when using a credit card, as your bank will automatically convert the currency at the current rate.

Electronic banking/purchasing

The banking system is well developed, secure and technologically advanced. ATM usage is very high in Canada. There is a secure and extensive network of automated teller machines (ATMs) where you can withdraw money directly from your home account using your bank card, but the fees incurred may be higher than for credit cards. If possible, try to use the ATMs of licensed banks, as the fees are often lower than those of independent ATMs.

All Canadian banks are members of the national financial transaction network Interac. Most retailers and restaurants/bars allow ABM purchases through Interac, although they do not accept major credit cards. Many Canadians rarely use cash and prefer electronic means of payment.

Other ATM networks are widely (but not universally) supported. In general, institutions that issue Visa cards (RBC, TD, CIBC, BNS, Desjardins) accept PLUS cards, while institutions that issue Mastercard cards (BMO, many credit unions) accept Mastercard cards (Cirrus or Maestro).

Die “großen fünf” Retail-Banken in Kanada sind Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), Bank of Montreal (BMO) und Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

Taxes in Canada

Be aware that (unlike many other countries where what you see is what you pay and where “hidden costs” are prohibited by law) you will almost always pay more than the prices shown. They usually do not include VAT and a number of very imaginative extras and/or more or less obligatory tips. So don’t have your loonie ready when you go to the checkout at a thrift shop, because the receipt might well show $1.13. The cash price is rounded up to the nearest nickel ($0.05). Now that the penny is out of circulation, you have to pay $1.15 in cash!

Taxes are added to the price displayed at the checkout. Exceptions where the price shown includes all applicable taxes are fuel (the amount you pay is the amount shown at the pump), parking fees, vending machines and medical services such as eye examinations or dental treatment.

A 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) is levied on most items. In addition to the GST, most provinces impose an additional provincial sales tax (PST) on purchases. Ontario and the four Atlantic provinces (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island) have combined or “harmonised” the PST and GST. In these provinces, consumers are no longer charged two separate taxes on a purchase, but a single tax called the Harmonised Sales Tax (HST). In French-speaking Quebec, the PST is known as the QST (Quebec Sales Tax) and the GST is known as the GST (Goods and Services Tax).

While GST and PST or HST are levied on most goods and services, some items are currently exempt. While this list may vary by province and tax, some common examples are: Basic food (unprepared), prescription drugs, housing accommodation, medical and dental services, education services and some childcare services. The list of items exempt from the GST/HST is usually shorter than the list of items exempt from the PST in provinces with a separate provincial exemption list.

The VAT rates (in 2008) are as follows:

  • Alberta – no PST, only full GST (total 5%)
  • British Columbia – adds a 7% PST and a 5% GST. A politically disastrous attempt to introduce a harmonised sales tax (HST) in 2010 was reversed in 2013.
  • Manitoba – PST increased to 8% in 2013; 5% GST brings total to 13%.
  • New Brunswick – levies 13% on all taxable purchases in the form of Harmonised Sales Tax (HST) (13% in total).
  • Newfoundland and Labrador – adds 13% in the form of harmonised sales tax (HST) to total taxable purchases (13% in total).
  • Northwest Territories – no PST, full GST only (5% total).
  • Nova Scotia – adds 15% as harmonised sales tax (HST) to the total amount of taxable purchases (15% in total).
  • Nunavut – no PST, only full GST (total 5%).
  • Ontario – PST and GST were abolished and replaced by a harmonised sales tax of 13% on 1 July 2010 (13% in total).
  • Prince Edward Island – adds 14% to total taxable purchases in the form of Harmonised Sales Tax (HST) (14% total).
  • Quebec – as of 2013, 9.975% is added to the total taxable purchase plus GST/GST.
  • Saskatchewan – adds 5% to total taxable purchase plus GST (total 10%).
  • Yukon – no PST, only full GST (total 5%)

Some products (e.g. alcohol and petrol) are subject to additional taxes that vary by province; however, these taxes are often included in the displayed price of the product. The displayed price of fuel at the pump includes all taxes.

Festivals & Holidays in Canada

In Canada, the following national holidays are recognised and celebrated (there may be minor differences in some provinces):

  • New Year’s Day – 1 January
  • Family Day – 3rd Monday in February (not celebrated in all provinces, known as Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, Islander Day in PEI).
  • Good Friday – Friday before Easter (some facilities also close on Easter Monday)
  • Easter Sunday – late March or early April, the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
  • Victoria Day – Last Monday in May before 25 May (known as Fêtes des Patriotes in Quebec; always one week before US Memorial Day).
  • Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Quebec) – 24 June (also called Fête Nationale)
  • Canada Day – 1 July
  • Recreational holiday – first Monday in August (applies only in some provinces, under different names; not in Quebec).
  • Labour Day – first Monday in September
  • Thanksgiving – Second Monday in October (the same day as the American holiday Columbus Day).
  • Remembrance Day – 11 November (holiday only; same day as US Veterans Day)
  • Christmas Day – 25 December
  • Boxing Day-26 December

Also note that Labour Day in Canada is not celebrated on 1 May, as in most countries around the world, but on the first Monday in September (the same day as Labour Day in the United States).

Traditions & Customs in Canada

Canada is a very multicultural country, especially in the big cities. A survey showed that about 50% of the population of Toronto (the largest city) was born outside Canada, and about 20% had at least one parent born outside the country. Immigrants came from all parts of the world, and many cities have entire neighbourhoods dominated by one immigrant group, Chinatown, Little Italy, etc. Various authors have argued that Canada, unlike the American “melting pot”, aspires to a “cultural mosaic”.

It is also generally a tolerant society. A few decades ago, Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau (later Prime Minister and father of the current Prime Minister) repealed laws against homosexual acts, famously saying that “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation”. There are laws against various kinds of discrimination and hate crimes, same-sex marriage is now legal, and half the cabinet is female. Most Canadians treat overt manifestations of racism, sexism or homophobia with a fair amount of contempt.

However, not all Canadians are as tolerant as they pretend to be. There is a long history of racism, especially against indigenous people and various immigrant groups (Chinese and Irish in the 19th century, later mainly blacks and South Asians, now mainly Muslims). In the 2015 election, the Conservative Party used attacks on Muslim customs as a campaign tactic, apparently with some success. However, they lost that election quite significantly.

It is equally important to avoid making assumptions about positions or cultures based on identifiable characters. For example, some native English speakers do not have a British or Scottish background, or the Chinese woman you may meet does not speak a word of Chinese and may never have been anywhere near China. The first point is especially true in the Prairie Provinces and the second for people from areas of ethnic conflict – do not assume that the people you meet are personally connected to their homeland or share its views.

Although Canada has close cultural ties with the United States, the relationship between the two countries can be controversial. Calling Canadians “Americans” is no better than calling the Irish “English” or New Zealanders “Australians” and can be seen as an insult. Do not treat Canada as part of the United States or make fun of its status as a separate nation. The same applies to references to British, Scottish or (in Quebec) French relations, which are either in decline or subject to potential faux pas.

Be aware of the politics – there is a strong degree of regionalism in Canada, and the learning curve is steep when trying to explore these differences. In particular, Quebec’s somewhat strained relationship with the rest of Canada – the result of a still-active secessionist movement – can be a tricky subject. Also be aware that not all French-speaking Canadians are secessionists, and that most French-speaking communities outside Quebec, like the Acadians in New Brunswick, are proud to be both French-speaking and Canadian.

When you enter a private home in Canada, you are generally expected to remove your shoes unless the host specifically asks you not to.

Canada is generally considered a very polite society where apologies, excuses and thank-yous are very common, even in large cities. Canadians follow a relatively standard “Western” system of politeness and manners that is very similar to that of the United States.

Gay and lesbian traveler’s

Canada is very open to all forms of LGBT travellers. Same-sex marriage is recognised across the country. Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are all known for their LGBT communities. Outside of these metropolitan areas, expressions of affection should generally not be a problem despite more conservative attitudes, although some rural areas can be more problematic. As always, be discreet.

Human rights codes protect against discrimination in all areas, including housing, access to health care and employment. If you encounter negative reactions, including violent or threatening episodes, the police are available to help.

Indigenous Peoples

The terms “Aboriginal” or “First Nations” are used to refer to all Aboriginal peoples in Canada, although “First Nations” by definition does not include Inuit and Métis. Most Aboriginal communities are rural and not used to tourists. Some reserves may restrict access to residents or guests – look for signage at the entrance to these areas, which can range from official notices to crude handmade “no trespassing” signs. Most of the time, non-local visitors are accepted or welcomed; in many reserves, heavily taxed goods (such as petrol or cigarettes) are offered to the public at reduced prices. Visitors to Canada who are interested in Aboriginal culture should look for an Aboriginal cultural centre in a city. Be aware that there is tension between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in some areas, although open violence is extremely rare.

First Nations traditions, languages, history and way of life vary according to origin and location. Some will be offended by the term “Indian”, even if they use it themselves (note that this is different from the United States, where the term “Indian” seems to be much more widely accepted). The term “indigenous people” may also offend some. The term “First Nations” is the safer and more politically correct term.

The Métis (pronounced MAY-tee) are the descendants of European (mainly French) fur traders and Aboriginal women. They live mainly in the prairies and especially in Manitoba and have a distinct culture and history. In the late 19th century, they rose up in two rebellions under Louis Riel (the closest thing to a full-blown civil war Canada has ever seen), but were defeated and Riel was hanged, an event that led to tensions between French and English Canadians.

The Inuit are the smallest group found mainly in Nunavut, with smaller populations in Quebec, Labrador and the Northwest Territories. Historically, they were known as “Eskimos”, but this term is no longer politically correct in Canada and should not be used. The Inuit are only one group of Eskimos, and using the term Inuit as a general term is offensive to some. The term Eskimo is therefore still accepted in the United States, where it does not cause offence.

Culture Of Canada

Canada’s culture is influenced by its wide range of nationalities, and measures to promote a ‘just society’ are protected by the Constitution. Canada has emphasised equality and inclusion for all its people. Multiculturalism is often cited as one of Canada’s greatest achievements and a key distinguishing feature of Canadian identity. In Québec, cultural identity is strong, and many commentators speak of a Québec culture that is distinct from English-speaking Canadian culture. However, Canada as a whole is theoretically a cultural mosaic – a collection of many regional, Aboriginal and ethnic subcultures.

Canada’s approach to government, with its emphasis on multiculturalism, selective immigration, social integration and suppression of far-right politics, enjoys broad public support. Government policies such as public funding of health care, increased taxes to redistribute wealth, the ban on the death penalty, strong efforts to eradicate poverty, strict gun control and the legalisation of gay marriage are other social indicators of Canada’s political and cultural values. Canadians also identify with the country’s health facilities, peacekeeping, national park system and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Historically, Canada has been influenced by the cultures and traditions of the British, French and Aboriginal peoples. Through their language, art and music, Aboriginal people continue to influence Canadian identity. In the 20th century, Canadians of African, Caribbean and Asian nationality have enriched Canadian identity and culture. Canadian humour is an essential part of Canadian identity and is reflected in folklore, literature, music, art and media. The main characteristics of Canadian humour are irony, parody and satire. Many Canadian comedians have achieved international success in the American television and film industries and are among the most recognised in the world.

Canada has a well-developed media sector, but its cultural output, particularly English-language films, television programming and magazines, is often overshadowed by imports from the United States. Consequently, the preservation of a distinct Canadian culture is supported by federal government programmes, legislation and institutions such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Symbols in Canada

Canada’s national symbols are influenced by natural, historical and Aboriginal sources. The use of the maple leaf as a Canadian symbol dates back to the early 18th century. The maple leaf is depicted on the current and former flag of Canada, as well as on the coat of arms of Canada. The Canadian Coat of Arms is closely based on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, with distinctive French and Canadian elements replacing or supplementing those derived from the British version. The Great Seal of Canada is a government seal used for government purposes.

It is affixed to letters patent, proclamations and commissions, for the Queen’s representatives and for the appointment of cabinet ministers, lieutenant-governors, senators and judges. Other important symbols include the beaver, the Canada goose, the common loon, the crown, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and, more recently, the totem pole and the inuksuk. Canadian coins feature many of these symbols: the loon on the one-dollar coin, the Canadian coat of arms on the 50-cent coin, the beaver on the five-cent coin. The penny, which was withdrawn from circulation in 2013, featured the maple leaf. The image of the Queen appears on the $20 note and on the obverse of all current Canadian coins.

Literature in Canada

Canadian literature is often divided into English-language and French-language literature, which have their roots in the literary traditions of France and Britain respectively. Four major themes are found in historical Canadian literature: nature, life on the frontier, and Canada’s place in the world, all of which are linked to the garrison mentality. In the 1990s, Canadian literature was considered among the best in the world. Canada’s ethnic and cultural diversity is reflected in its literature, and many of its most prominent modern writers are concerned with ethnic life.

Perhaps the best-known living Canadian writer internationally (especially since the deaths of Robertson Davies and Mordecai Richler) is Margaret Atwood, a prolific novelist, poet and literary critic. Many other Canadian writers have won international literary awards, including Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro, named best living author of short stories in English, and Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje, perhaps best known for the novel The English Patient, which was adapted into the film of the same name that won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Visual arts in Canada

Canadian visual art was dominated by figures such as Tom Thomson – the country’s most famous painter – and the Group of Seven. Thomson’s career as a painter of Canadian landscapes spanned over a decade until his death in 1917 at the age of 39. The group was composed of nationalist and idealist painters who first exhibited their distinctive works in May 1920. Although there were supposedly seven members, five artists – Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley – were responsible for articulating the group’s ideas. They are briefly joined by Frank Johnston and commercial artist Franklin Carmichael. A. J. Casson joined the group in 1926. Another prominent Canadian artist, Emily Carr, known for her landscapes and depictions of the aboriginal peoples of the Pacific Northwest, was associated with the group. Since the 1950s, Inuit art has been presented as gifts to foreign dignitaries by the Canadian government.

Music

The Canadian music industry is the sixth largest in the world, producing internationally renowned composers, musicians and ensembles. Music broadcasting in the country is regulated by the CRTC. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presents the Canadian Music Industry Awards, the Juno Awards, which were first presented in 1970. The Canadian Music Hall of Fame, founded in 1976, honours Canadian musicians for their lifetime achievements. Patriotic music in Canada goes back more than 200 years as a distinct category of British patriotism, predating the first legal steps towards independence by more than 50 years. The oldest, The Bold Canadian, was written in 1812. Canada’s national anthem, O Canada, was originally commissioned by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, for the St. Jean Baptiste Day celebrations in 1880 and was officially adopted in 1980. Calixa Lavallée wrote the music, which was a setting of a patriotic poem by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The text was originally only in French, but was translated into English in 1906.

Sport

The roots of organised sport in Canada go back to the 1770s. Canada’s official national sports are ice hockey and lacrosse. Seven of Canada’s eight largest metropolitan areas – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg – have National Hockey League (NHL) franchises, while Quebec City had the Quebec Nordiques until they moved to Colorado in 1995. Canada has one Major League Baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, one professional basketball team, the Toronto Raptors, three Major League Soccer teams and four National Lacrosse League teams.

Canada has participated in almost every Olympic Games since its founding in 1900 and has hosted several major international sporting events, including the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the 1994 Basketball World Cup, the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Other popular and professional spectator sports in Canada include curling, Canadian football and rugby league; the latter is played professionally in the Canadian Football League (CFL) and League One (Toronto Wolfpack). Golf, tennis, baseball, skiing, cricket, volleyball, rugby union, Australian rules football, football and basketball are widely played at youth and amateur levels, but professional leagues and franchises are not widespread.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Canada

Stay Safe in Canada

Security in Canada is generally not a problem and a little common sense goes a long way. Even in big cities, violent crime is not a serious problem and very few people are armed. Violent crime should not worry the average traveller as it is usually confined to certain neighbourhoods and is rarely committed indiscriminately. Overall crime rates in Canadian cities remain low compared to most urban areas of similar size in the United States and much of the rest of the world (although violent crime rates are higher than in most Western European cities). Overall, crime is higher in the western provinces than in eastern Canada, but is even higher in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Recently, there have been several high-profile shootings in public/tourist areas – for example, the June 2012 shootings at Toronto’s Eaton’s Centre and Edmonton’s HUB Mall; the fact that these incidents receive such extensive media coverage is related to the fact that they are considered very rare events.

Police

Police officers in Canada are generally hardworking, honest and trustworthy people. If you have any problems while you’re here, even if it’s just getting lost, it’s a good idea to talk to a police officer.

There are three main types of police forces in Canada: federal, provincial and municipal. The federal police force is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP or “Mounties”), which has a large presence in all regions of the country except Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, which have their own provincial police forces. These are the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. All other provinces and territories (and some rural parts of Newfoundland and Labrador) rely on the RCMP for their provincial duties.

As federal police, RCMP officers usually wear regular police uniforms and drive police cars while on duty. However, a minority of RCMP officers may appear in their iconic red uniforms in tourist areas and at official events such as parades. Some RCMP officers participate in elaborate ceremonies, such as the Musical Ride horse show. When in full uniform, their main function is to promote the image of Canada and Canadian Mounties. RCMP officers in full uniform are not usually responsible for investigating crimes or enforcing the law, although they are still police officers and can make arrests. In some tourist areas, such as Ottawa, both types of RCMP officers are common. This dual role and appearance of the RCMP, both as federal police and as a tourist attraction, can cause confusion among tourists about the function of the RCMP. Remember that all RCMP officers are police officers and have a duty to enforce the law.

Cities and regions often have their own police forces. Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are three of the largest. Some cities also have special transit police with full police powers. Some quasi-governmental bodies, such as universities and electric utilities, also employ special private police forces. Canadian National Railways and Canadian Pacific Railway each have their own police forces. Some First Nations reserves also have their own police forces. Canadian Armed Forces military police are located on military bases and other government defence-related facilities.

All three types of police forces can enforce any type of law, whether federal, provincial or municipal. Their jurisdictions overlap, with the RCMP able to make arrests anywhere in Canada and the OPP and municipal police officers able to make arrests anywhere in their own provinces. The arrest powers of federal, provincial and municipal police in Canada apply to both on-duty and off-duty officers.

You will find more police jurisdictions in the Ottawa-Gatineau National Capital Region than in any other part of Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (in uniform and street clothes), the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ottawa Police, the Sûreté du Québec, the Gatineau Police, the Military Police and OC Transpo Special Constables all operate in the region, each with a different style of uniform and police car.

Do not under any circumstances attempt to bribe a police officer as this is a criminal offence and they will enforce the laws against it.

Luggage theft

If you are unlucky enough to have your wallet or purse stolen, the local police will do everything they can to help you. Often important identity documents are recovered after such thefts. Visitors to major cities should be aware that parked cars are sometimes the target of opportunistic thefts, so avoid leaving your belongings in plain sight. Due to the high incidence of these crimes, motorists in Montreal and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or valuables in plain sight. Try to memorise your number plate number and make sure your plates are still attached before you drive anywhere, as some thieves steal plates to avoid arrest. Car theft in Montreal, including theft from motor homes and caravans, can occur in gated and openly secured car parks and courtyards. Bicycle theft can be a common nuisance in urban areas.

Winter storms

Canada is very susceptible to winter storms (including ice storms and blizzards) between November and February. Eastern Canada is where these storms are most common, but smaller storms can also occur west of northwestern Ontario, where wind-driven snow is the main hazard. Reduce your speed, watch out for other drivers and be alert. It’s a good idea to carry an emergency kit in case you have no choice but to spend the night stuck in the snow on the highway (yes, this sometimes happens, especially in remote areas). If you are unfamiliar with winter driving and decide to visit Canada during the winter months, consider using another mode of transport to explore the country. Note that the vast majority of winter weather naturally occurs during the winter months, but some areas of Canada, such as the Prairie Provinces, the North and the mountain regions, can experience severe, albeit brief, winter conditions at any time of the year.

If you are walking, it is best to layer up as much as possible, with thick socks, thermal underwear and gloves. Winter storms can bring extreme winds and freezing temperatures, and frostbite can occur within minutes.

Firearms and weapons

Unlike the United States, there is no constitutional right to possess firearms in Canada. The possession, purchase and use of any firearm requires appropriate licences for both the firearm and the user and is subject to federal laws. Firearms are classified (primarily by barrel length) into three categories: unrestricted (requiring minimal training and licensing), restricted (requiring more licensing and training) and prohibited (not legally available). Most rifles and shotguns are not restricted because they are often used for hunting, on farms or for protection in remote areas. Handguns or pistols are restricted weapons, but can be legally purchased and used with the appropriate permits. Generally, the only people who carry handguns are federal, provincial and municipal police officers, border guards, wildlife protection officers in most provinces, sheriff’s officers in some provinces, private security guards carrying cash, people working in remote “wilderness” areas who are properly licensed, and pistol sport shooters. Non-prohibited firearms, such as most types of rifles and shotguns, may be imported for sporting purposes such as target shooting and hunting, and non-prohibited handguns for target shooting may also be imported with the appropriate documentation. All firearms must be declared to Customs upon entry into Canada, even if they are not restricted, and failure to do so is a criminal offence punishable by fines and imprisonment. Prohibited firearms will be confiscated at customs and destroyed. Travellers should contact the Canada Firearms Centre and the Canada Border Services Agency before bringing in any type of firearm prior to arrival.

Be aware that it is unusual for civilians to openly carry weapons in urban areas. Although it is not illegal, openly carrying a weapon is likely to be viewed with suspicion by the police and civilians.

Locking knives, butterfly knives, spring-loaded knives and all other knives that open automatically are classified as prohibited and are illegal in Canada, as are nunchucks, tasers and other stun weapons, most knife-hiding devices such as belt buckles and knife combs, and clothing or jewellery that can be used as a weapon. Stimulant gas and pepper spray are also illegal unless sold specifically for use against animals.

Illegal drug use

The use of marijuana is illegal in Canada (with the exception of medical marijuana). However, importing marijuana into Canada is strictly prohibited, even if you have a prescription.

Due to its popularity, easy accessibility and medical licenses, people found in possession of small amounts of marijuana are rarely arrested. However, possession of large amounts of marijuana or other controlled substances can lead to serious legal action, regardless of the amount.

Driving under the influence of drugs (including marijuana and even legal “sleeping pills”) is a violation of the Penal Code and is treated the same as driving under the influence of alcohol, with severe penalties. Do not attempt to drive under the influence of alcohol; visitors can expect to be deported after serving a prison sentence or paying very heavy fines.

Be aware that khat is illegal in Canada, unlike many other countries, and you will be arrested and deported if you try to pack it and get caught by customs.

It goes without saying that under no circumstances should you attempt to bring any amount of anything remotely resembling a controlled substance into Canada. This includes marijuana. The penalties in Canada for smuggling drugs can be very severe, with prison sentences ranging from 20 years to life for trafficking.

Driving under the influence of alcohol

Canadians take drinking and driving very seriously and in most circles it is a social taboo to drink and drive. Driving under the influence of alcohol is also a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and can result in jail time, especially for repeat offenders. If you exceed the legal blood alcohol limit on a roadside test, you will be arrested and spend at least a few hours in jail. A drunk driving conviction almost certainly means the end of your trip to Canada, a criminal record and a ban from re-entering Canada for at least 5 years. 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (0.08%) is the legal limit for a criminal conviction. Many jurisdictions provide for fines, licence suspension and vehicle impoundment at 40 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood (0.04%), or if the officer has reason to believe you are too drunk to drive. Note this difference: while a 0.03% BAC during a police stop (“check-stop” or “ride-stop” to catch drunk drivers) does not lead to an arrest, the same BAC after being stopped for erratic driving or after being involved in an accident can lead to a drunk driving charge.

People who cross the land border between Canada and the United States while driving under the influence of alcohol are arrested by border officials.

Refusing to take a breathalyser test is also an offence under the Criminal Code and carries the same penalties as if you had been involved in an accident. If you are asked by a police officer to give a breath sample, it is best to take your chances with the device.

Hate speech and discrimination

Canada is a very multicultural society and the vast majority of Canadians are open-minded and accepting. As a result, you are very unlikely to encounter ridicule based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation in major cities. Hate speech – that is, communications that may incite violence against an identifiable group – is illegal in Canada and can lead to prosecution, imprisonment and deportation. Similarly, Canadian law prohibits all forms of discrimination in education and employment.

Stay Healthy in Canada

You are unlikely to encounter health problems here that you would not find in any other western industrialised country (despite claims about long waiting lists and substandard care, which often vary from hospital to hospital and are usually exaggerated). The health system is generally very efficient and widely accessible.

In the last two summers, some cases of West Nile virus, a sometimes fatal mosquito-borne infection, have occurred in some Canadian provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta). In addition, various diseases such as whooping cough are common in rural and urban Canada. Visitors should note that while Canada has a universal health care system for residents, health care is not free for visitors. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you are covered by your insurance when travelling in Canada.

Note that most Canadian provinces have banned indoor smoking in public places and near entrances. Some bans apply to places like bus shelters and outdoor patios.

Food preparation

Canada has fairly high standards for cleanliness in restaurants and grocery shops. If you have a problem with the food you bought, talk to the manager to report it. It is unlikely that you will get sick from contaminated food.

Health care

Health care in Canada is generally comparable to other Western nations. Almost all Canadian citizens and permanent residents receive health insurance from their provincial government, and reciprocal agreements between provinces provide Canada-wide coverage. Eligibility for health insurance coverage for people on student or work visas varies by province, but no province provides coverage for visitors. Hospitals are usually owned by government agencies or non-profit organisations, while doctors’ offices and small clinics are for-profit entities that bill directly to the provincial health system.

According to the WinnipegFreePress, medical care in Canada offers savings of 30 to 60 per cent compared to the United StatesMedical tourism companies help visitors receive medical care such as cosmetic surgery and joint replacements in major cities like Vancouver and Montreal. After treatments, patients can enjoy a holiday and relax in a cottage in the Canadian Rockies, explore the colourful city of Montreal or engage in other activities.

Although less expensive than prices in the United States, healthcare in Canada can be very expensive for visitors. A small visit to the emergency room can easily cost $1000, especially if an ambulance is needed. Visitors to Canada should therefore have overseas health insurance that is valid for the duration of their stay.

In remote areas, especially in communities without road access, such as Churchill, patients with serious medical problems or trauma may be evacuated by air ambulance to a larger centre. The cost of the air ambulance flight alone can be as high as US$10,000, and even people with provincial health insurance may not be covered if they are outside their home province. Anyone, including Canadian residents, travelling to remote or rural areas should ensure that they have adequate insurance cover for such an incident.

Birth tourism is also reported in Canada and the US as a way for prospective parents to circumvent the “one-child policy” in mainland China.

Drinking water in the wilderness

When travelling in the hinterland, it is advisable to take a water purification system with you, as giardia can be present in open water sources such as lakes or rivers; this can cause gastrointestinal illnesses such as diarrhoea or vomiting. This can be avoided by boiling the drinking water or using filter systems or tablets to disinfect the water before drinking.

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