Earth : North America : Canada
Canada is by size, the largest country in North America, second in the world overall (behind only Russia). Renowned worldwide for its vast, untouched landscape, its blend of cultures and multifaceted history, Canada is one of the world's wealthiest countries and a major tourist destination.
Canada is a land of vast distances and rich natural beauty. Economically and technologically, and in many other ways she closely resembles her neighbour to the south, the United States, although there are significant differences between the two countries. While both countries have a long and continuing history of colonialism over the Indigenous people of their countries, Canada is perfectly happy with its British heritage and many Canadians are proud of this. Much of Canada's current built environment and influence has come primarily from immigrants from two European nations, Britain and France. This dual nature is very different than in the United States, and in some parts of Canada, particularly Quebec and parts of New Brunswick, Canadians primarily speak French. Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 by an act of the British parliament, and is still a proud member of the Commonwealth of Nations. By 1931 it was more or less fully independent of the United Kingdom, although true independence did not occur until 1982. Canada's past and ongoing colonialism is still of some contention between Indigenous people, Canadians, and the Canadian government. Though a medium-sized country by its population (35 million), Canada has earned respect on the international stage for its strong diplomatic skills, peacekeeping efforts, and respect for human rights. Canadians generally enjoy a very high quality of life - Canada consistently scores very well on indices of economic freedom, corruption, respect for civil rights, and more. Domestically, the country has displayed some success in negotiating compromises amongst its own culturally and linguistically varied populations, a difficult task considering that language, culture, and even history can vary significantly throughout the whole country. Similarly to the United States' traditional image of itself as a melting pot, there are many different minorities from all over the world living in Canada, particularly in urban centres. Canadians are, for the most part, used to living and interacting with people of different ethnic backgrounds on a daily basis and will usually be quite friendly and understanding if approached in public. The country is largely urban-based, where peoples of all backgrounds may rub elbows with one another.
The Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming first proposed time zones for the entire world in 1876, and Canada, being a continental country, is covered coast to coast with multiple zones. Canada uses the 12-hour clock system, however the 24-hour clock system is used in the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick where French is an official language and this clock system is used with that language; and where ambiguity must be avoided, such as train or airline schedules when given in both English and French, because they will be indicated in each clock system. Daylight Saving Time, when clocks are moved forward by one hour, is observed in most of the country from 02:00 on the second Sunday in March until 02:00 on the second Sunday in November; during this time, for example, British Columbia is observing GMT-7 while Alberta is observing GMT-6. Saskatchewan does not observe Daylight Savings Time, but the City of Lloydminster does.
Trying to distil the climate of Canada into an easy-to-understand statement is impossible, given the vast area and diverse geography within the country. Overall, in most places, winters are harsh compared to much of the world, on par with northern Eurasia. The most populated region, southern Ontario, has a less severe climate, similar to the bordering regions of the midwestern and northeastern United States. Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, is just south of the Arctic Circle and remains very cold except for the months of July and August, when the July average maximum is only 12°C (54°F). On the other hand, the coastlines of British Columbia are very mild for their latitude, remaining above freezing for most of winter, yet they are not far away from some of the largest mountain glaciers found on the continent.
Most of the large Canadian urban areas are within 200 kilometres (124 mi) of Canada's border with the United States (Edmonton and Calgary being the only exceptions). Visitors to most cities will most likely not have to endure the weather that accompanies a trip to more remote northern or mountainous areas often pictured on postcards of Canada. Summers in the most populated parts of Canada are generally short and hot. Summer temperatures over 35°C (95°F) are not unusual in Southern Ontario, the southern Prairies and the southern Interior of B.C., with Osoyoos being the hot spot of Canada for average daily maximums. Toronto's climate is only slightly cooler than many of the larger cities in the northeastern United States, and summers in the southern parts of Ontario and Quebec (includes Montreal) are often hot and humid. In contrast, humidity is often low in the western interior during the summer, even during hot weather, and more cooling occurs at night. In the winter, eastern Canada, particularly the Atlantic Provinces, are sometimes subject to inclement weather systems entering from the U.S. bringing snow, high wind, rain, sleet, and temperatures in their wake of under -10°C (14°F).
Many inland cities, especially those in the Prairies, experience extreme temperature fluctuations, sometimes very rapidly. Owing to a dry climate (more arid west than east on the southern Prairies), bright sunshine hours are plentiful in the 2300-2600 annual hours range. Winnipeg (also colloquially known as 'Winterpeg') has hot summers with bouts of aggressive humidity, yet experiences very cold winters where temperatures around -40°C (-40°F) are not uncommon and can stay below -15°C (5°F) for long stretches. The official hottest temperature in Canada ever recorded was in southern Saskatchewan, at 45°C (113°F), while the coldest was in Snag, Yukon -63°C (-81°F). Summer storms in the Prairies and Ontario can be violent and sometimes unleash strong damaging winds, hail, and rarely, tornadoes. On the west coast of British Columbia, Vancouver and Victoria are far more temperate and get very little snow, average low wind speeds and seldom experience temperatures below 0°C or above 27°C (32-80°F) but receive high rainfall amounts in winter then in turn dry, sunny, pleasant summers.
The average temperature is typically colder in Canada than in the U.S. and Western Europe as a whole, so bring a warm jacket and other winter clothing if visiting between October and April. The rest of the year, over most of the country, daytime highs are generally well above 15°C (60°F) and usually into the 20s-30s°C(70s-90s°F) range during the day. Most weather forecasts outside border towns are in degrees Celsius (°C), however degrees Fahrenheit (°F) are well known and used by much of the population.
Canada recognizes and celebrates the following national holidays (some provinces may have minor differences):
Note also that Canada's Labour Day is not celebrated on 1 May, as in much of the world, but on the first Monday in September (the same day as the U.S. celebrates its Labor Day).
Canada's government is a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster system inherited from the British and similar to that of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Canada is formally a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. She is represented in Canada by the Governor-General, currently Julie Payette, who carries out her duties. The monarchy serves mostly as a figurehead, though, and in practice the Prime Minister, his or her cabinet, and the Parliament are the source of almost all real political power.
Canada is a federal state, and Canadian provinces have a great deal of autonomy. Each province has its own legislature and provincial government, and the Canadian constitution defines certain areas of exclusively provincial jurisdiction. For example, each province sets its own drinking age, minimum wage, sales tax, labour regulations, and administers their own road, healthcare and education systems. Two of the three territories' legislative assemblies (Nunavut and the Northwest Territories) are peculiar, as they are non-partisan - no political parties are represented.
There are three main parliamentary parties at the federal level: the currently-governing Liberal Party (centre), the opposition Conservative Party (right of centre), and the New Democratic Party (left of centre).
Visiting Canada all in one trip is a massive undertaking. Over 5000 kilometres (3100 mi) separate St. John's, Newfoundland from Victoria, British Columbia (about the same distance separates London and Riyadh, or Tokyo and Kolkata). To drive from one end of the country could take 7-10 days or more (and that assumes you're not stopping to sight see on the way). A flight from Toronto to Vancouver takes over 4 hours. When speaking of specific destinations within Canada, it is better to consider its distinct regions
There are many cities in Canada, all of which are distinctive, welcoming to tourists, and well worth visiting. Just NINE of these are:
Most travellers entering or transiting Canada by air will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) or a visitor visa. (Exceptions include U.S. citizens/nationals and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon residents.) An eTA costs $7 and is valid for five years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Entry requirements for other methods of travel (land, sea) have not changed.
Those who are not eligible for an eTA are required to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa prior to travelling to Canada. This can be done at the applicants' nearest Canadian Visa Office. Applicants are required to submit, as part of their application:
If you plan to visit the United States and do not travel outside the borders of the US, you can use your single entry visa to re-enter as long as the visa has not passed its expiry date.
Working while in Canada is forbidden without a work permit, although Canada does have several temporary work permits for youth from specific countries. See "Work" below.
United States/American Samoan citizens to Canada need only proof of citizenship and identification for short-term visits. In addition to a driver's license, a number of other documents may also be used to cross the border:
Prior to 2009, it was possible to travel across the US-Canada border with just a driver's license. Birth certificates are technically still acceptable to enter Canada, but United States Customs and Border Protection stopped accepting birth certificates when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) went into effect. This is due to the fact that many (especially older) certificates are little more than a typewritten piece of carbon paper with no security. If you try to re-enter the United States with a US birth certificate, you will eventually be let in, but only after significant delays while CBP verifies the information on it with the issuing department, you may also be fined or prosecuted for non-compliance, although anything more than a written warning is unlikely for a first time violator. Since after 2009 a normal driver's license will still get you in Canada but will not be accepted coming back into the US.
Upon entry to Canada, the standard questions will include your intended itinerary, if you have visited Canada before, and if you are in possession of any firearms. Under no circumstance is it a good idea to try to carry weapons over the frontier. If you are driving you should have proof of insurance coverage ready to go and you should have some listed hotels or places to stay ready to present if asked.
Residents of Greenland, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and the United States also benefit from arrangements where 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 an advance Temporary Resident Visa or advance application at a consulate. However, all the paperwork normally needed for such a permit has to be submitted at the port of entry as it would at a consulate, including a letter of introduction/invitation, the appropriate paperwork issued by the institution/employer, and the appropriate fees.
All potential visitors, whether applying for a temporary resident visa or requesting landing permission at the border must be of good moral character, and under Canadian law this means having a completely clean criminal history. Immigration authorities take character concerns of visitors very seriously and any offence, misdemeanour or felony, regardless of how minor or how long ago it took place can exclude you from Canada for a period of time, indefinitely, or permanently. This also includes US citizens, some of whom had to be turned back while attempting to drive across the border. In fact, even former U.S. President George W. Bush needed to apply for a waiver to enter on an official state visit during his term in office because of a conviction for drunken driving. There are a few exceptions, and if you are inadmissible because of a criminal conviction, you do have some options.
As a general rule, a conviction for anything more serious than a speeding ticket will keep you out of Canada for at least five years from the date you finish your sentence. More serious offences (such as felonies) may require you to wait up to ten years, or in the most serious cases obtain a pardon or other civil relief locally before applying for entry. In addition to criminal convictions, certain "summary offences" (which include minor drug possession tickets that are not handled through the criminal system) are considered criminal convictions for the purpose of immigration law, even if you were never arrested, charged with a crime or sentenced. Additionally, you cannot enter Canada if there are current charges pending against you or a trial is underway.
Although unlikely as a visitor who meets all other entry requirements, you may also be refused if you have significant unpaid debt, have an active civil judgement against you, or have recently declared bankruptcy. In these cases, you can regain your ability to enter Canada by either paying the debt in full, showing evidence of a payment plan in good standing or after a bankruptcy showing a history of financial solvency over the period of a few years.
Offences committed before the age of 18, parking tickets, local ordinance violations and crimes of conscience (such as publishing statements critical of the government in China) generally do not result in inadmissibility. Similarly, non-criminal traffic tickets usually do not result in inadmissibility, although if you were ever required to appear in court over a traffic violation (not simply going to court to challenge a ticket) or you accumulated enough points that your license was summarily suspended or revoked, you may be inadmissible and should contact a Canadian embassy or high counsel for advice.
If you have a single misdemeanor or summary offence on your record and it's been at least five years since you finished your sentence, and your offence would be punished with a prison term of 10 years or less in Canada, you can be deemed rehabilitated on the spot by an immigration officer without formally applying in advance. That being said, you have one chance in your entire lifetime at this type of rehabilitation and the border officer has the absolute final decision on your fate. The burden is on you, the visitor, to provide proof that you have indeed reformed and are unlikely to re-offend. Possible proof includes but is not limited to:
Bring everything and anything you have that suggests you're living a stable and crime-free life. The more documentation you have and the less the officer has to rely on your word that you've turned your life around the stronger your case is for being admitted.
If you are turned away, or if your offence makes you ineligible to be deemed rehabilitated, you can apply for individual rehabilitation directly to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). Again, at least five years must have passed since you completed your sentence. An application for individual rehabilitation has onerous documentation requirements, costs between $200 and $3000 depending on the nature of the offence and whether the application requires approval from the Minister of Justice (most do) and can take up to a year to get an answer. While you can compile the documentation and submit the application yourself, both CIC and many who have gone through the process highly advise retaining an immigration attorney to complete and file the application on your behalf. If you are denied rehabilitation, there is no right of appeal, you will not be given specific reasons as to why your application was denied, and you must wait at least one year before applying again.
Temporary resident permits
If you aren't qualified for either type of rehabilitation or are turned down, another option is a temporary resident permit, or TRP, is a one-time waiver for an inadmissible person to enter Canada. This is not the same as a temporary resident visa, but the two can be applied for together if you are from a country requiring such a visa. These used to be relatively easy to obtain with documented good behavior and a good enough reason for traveling besides going on vacation, but today they are only issued for "exceptionally compelling humanitarian grounds" or "reasons of significant national interest." The website of the Canadian Counsel General Office in Buffalo states that temporary resident permits will not be issued for "sightseeing, visiting friends or relatives, attending cultural or sporting events, attending business meetings or conventions, hunting or fishing trips, or going to the family cottage" . Terms of the permit are fairly specific as to duration and purpose. Visitors from the U.S. with a previous DUI often don't realize it's considered a serious offence in Canada and are often denied entry. Thousands are denied entry into Canada each year on the basis of criminality.
Obtaining a pardon or unconditional discharge will generally restore your ability to travel to Canada, and depending on your circumstances you may have much more luck going this route. If the crime was committed in Canada, there's a centralized process you can go through and odds of success are fairly high if you've shown commitment to turning your life around and kept your nose clean since then.
If your pardon or discharge was issued for a crime outside Canada, be sure to bring documentation to that effect with you to the border or when applying for a visa.
Canada may consider your credit history as part of the character and risk assessment when applying for a visa or landing permission at the border. Whether a credit check will occur and what role (if any) it will play into your admissibility decision depends largely on what immigration status you're applying for.
Besides a criminal record, CIC lists a host of other situations that may prevent admission into Canada. While most of these shouldn't be an issue for the average traveller (e.g. previously overstayed or violated visa conditions, human rights violations, involvement with terrorism or organized crime, etc...), there are a few that do occasionally complicate or bar entry for visitors:
As a general rule, admissibility and rehabilitation decisions cannot be appealed beyond a supervisory review at the visa office or border. The only exception is if you can prove the decision was based on wrong information (for example you were acquitted of a crime, but that fact was never properly recorded in Canada's database.) That being said, you are usually allowed to apply again once any specific issues relating to a refusal have been corrected, once the requisite time has passed for rehabilitation, or one year after being denied rehabilitation.
From the United States
If you are travelling to Canada from the United States and you are not a permanent resident of either country you need to be careful to satisfy the U.S. authorities on any subsequent trip that you have not exceeded their limits on stays in North America. Your time in Canada counts towards your maximum allowed United States stay if you are returning to the US prior to your departure from North America.
If you leave Canada to briefly visit the United States and wish to re-enter Canada in a short period of time, you generally may do so without getting a new Canadian visa as long as you return within the initial period authorised by the immigration officer or have a valid temporary residence permit authorising you to re-enter, and you do not leave US soil before returning to Canada (eg, not even during a cruise which begins and ends at a US point but crosses international waters in-between). If you leave US soil for a third country for any reason on a single-entry Canadian visa, you will have to apply for a new visa before re-entering Canada.
You are likely to arrive to Canada by air, most likely into Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver (the 5 largest cities, from East to West). Many other cities have international airports as well, with the following being of particular use to visitors: Halifax, St. John's, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Kelowna, and Victoria.
Air Canada  and WestJet  are the country's only national air carriers, covering the entire country and international destinations (Note that a number of regional domestic airlines also exist as well as charter airlines serving only international destinations).
As a rule of thumb, all Canadian three-letter IATA airport codes start with a "Y".
Note that most of the major Canadian airports have U.S. Pre-Clearance facilities where travelers on United States-bound flights (even if they will be flying to a third country immediately afterward) complete U.S. immigration and customs processions prior to departing Canada. If flying back to the U.S. from such an airport, make sure you get to the airport extra early, so you have time to complete this process (Toronto's and Vancouver's pre-clearance facilities are particularly busy). The good news is that this service spares you the need to complete the formalities upon arrival in the U.S.
Luggage allowance for flights to or from Canada usually operates on a piece-wise in addition to the weight system even for foreign carriers. This means that you are allowed a limited number of bags to check-in where each bag should not exceed certain linear dimensions (computed by adding the length, width and height of the bags). The exact restrictions on weight, linear dimension and number of baggage allowed are determined by the carrier you are flying with and the class of service you are travelling in, usually individual bags may be up to 23 kilos (50 lb) if traveling in economy class.
Additionally, if you are coming from the United States, be advised that Air Canada (on transborder itineraries only - not Canadian domestic service) as well as all US based carriers that operate transborder service (Alaska, American, Delta, United and US Airways) charge checked bag fees. Typically $25 for a single bag of up to 23 kilos/ 50 pounds, and $35-50 for a second bag, unless you qualify for a fee waiver based on elite status or class of service.
Canada has a land border with only one country - the United States. See the "from the United States" subsection for more information on what to do when leaving the US.
You might also enter the country by road from the United States through one of many border crossing points. Obviously, the same rules will apply here, but if your case is not straightforward, expect to be delayed, as the officials here (especially in more rural areas) see fewer non-U.S. travelers than at the airports. Also expect delays during holiday periods, as border crossings can become clogged with traffic.
Drivers of American cars will need to carry a Canadian Non-Resident Insurance Certificate in addition to their standard insurance card and must be prepared to present both documents for inspection. The Certificate comes in the form of a yellow paper card which can only be issued by foreign insurers who are authorized to do business in Canada.
Canada has some of the highest levels of minimum auto insurance coverage in the world: $200,000 in all provinces except Quebec and Nova Scotia (which are $50,000 and $500,000 respectively.)
Since most US states have insurance minimums under $50,000 and some states do not require insurance at all, the non-resident certificate signifies that your insurance company will cover you up to provincial mandatory limits while driving in Canada (which the company was required to agree to as a condition of doing business in Canada). Rules regarding the issuing of this certificate vary widely depending on which carrier you have. GEICO and AAA will issue a certificate valid for the entire term of your policy if you ask for it. Liberty Mutual and Progressive will only issue a certificate with advance approval for a specific date range, and some insurance companies (especially smaller local insurance companies in non-border states) will not cover you in Canada at all. If you are planning on driving into Canada, its very important to talk to your insurance company as soon as you know you'll be going so they can print up the certificate (if they offer it) and mail it to you.
If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and travel to Canada frequently, you may consider applying for a NEXUS card. NEXUS allows pre-approved, low risk travelers to use expedited inspection lanes both into Canada and the United States at many land crossings with minimal questioning. You can also utilize kiosks to make your customs declaration and clear the border at major international airports if you opt for an iris scan. The application fee is $50 and requires being legally admissible to both nations, thorough background investigation, fingerprinting and an interview with both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency. See 
If you intend to enter Canada using a U.S. car, take note that after crossing the border going north, the road signs change into metric units (i.e. distances are in kilometres and speed limits posted are in kilometres per hour). The usual speed limit on U.S. freeways is between 65-75 miles/hour, but you will need to read your speedometer in kilometres for the speed limit (in km/hour) once past the border, ie. 100 km/h = 62.5 mp/h. One mile is equivalent to 1.6 km so divide what you see on the road signs by 1.6 to get its equivalent in miles ie. 40km = 25 miles. If you plan on renting a car from the U.S., be sure to rent one with a speedometer that has both metric and U.S. units (a standard feature on modern U.S. cars); in this case, U.S. units are on top or outward while metric units are below or inward.
When driving within Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto keep in mind that these cities are densely populated and parking can be difficult to find and/or expensive. All three cities provide extensive public transit, so it is easy to park in a central location, or at your hotel or lodging, and still travel in the metropolitan area. You can usually obtain maps of the public transit systems at airports, subway kiosks, and train stations.
Via Rail  is Canada's national passenger rail service. Amtrak  provides connecting rail service to Toronto from New York via Niagara Falls, Montreal from New York and Vancouver from Seattle via Bellingham. The train is an inexpensive way to get into Canada, with tickets starting from as low as US$43 return to Vancouver. There is also thruway service between Seattle and Vancouver.
Be wary though: Not many private citizens in Canada take the train as a regular means of transportation. Most citizens simply drive to where they want to go if the distance is short (which in Canada can still mean hundreds of kilometres!), or fly if the distance is long.
Important: If you're traveling cross-border on Amtrak service, you must have your tickets validated prior to boarding. Pick up your tickets from the window (not the Quick-Trak kiosk) and show your passport or travel document to the agent (your travel document information is sent ahead of time on a manifest to border services to facilitate crossing procedures). Some stations, such as New York City have a dedicated window for international passengers.
See also: Rail travel in Canada
Greyhound Canada serves many destinations in Canada, with connecting service to regional lines and U.S. Greyhound coaches. Be sure to inquire about discounts and travel packages that allow for frequent stops as you travel across Canada. Many routes connect major Canadian and American cities including Montreal - New York City which is operated by New York Trailways , Vancouver - Seattle operated by Greyhound and Toronto - New York City via Buffalo, this route in particular is operated by a number of bus companies: Greyhound, Coach Canada , New York Trailways, Megabus , and Ne-On .
Note: in July 2018, Greyhound announced it was ending bus and freight service to the western provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia) as well as some routes in Northern Ontario, as of October 2018. Some regional carriers have been established or will be picking up some, but not all, of the routes, and mostly only within provinces.
In British Columbia, you can enter Canada by ferry from Alaska and Washington. Alaska Marine Highway serves Prince Rupert, whereas Washington State Ferries serves Sidney (near Victoria) through the San Juan islands. There is a car ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles run by Black Ball; there are also tourist-oriented passenger-only ferries running from Victoria to points in Washington.
There is a passenger ferry running from Fortune in Newfoundland to Saint Pierre and Miquelon.
A small car ferry operates between Wolfe Island, Ontario (near Kingston) and Cape Vincent, NY.
A small car ferry operates between Pelee Island Ontario, Kingsville Ontario and Sandusky Ohio when ice and weather allows.
The CAT car ferry between Rochester, NY and Toronto, Ontario was discontinued in January 2006 because of poor ridership. The Bay Ferries route from Bar Harbor in Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, also called the CAT, was discontinued in 2010 due to a lack of funding. (Bay Ferries does still run a New Brunswick to Nova Scotia ferry.)
Several cruise lines run cruises between the eastern United States and Halifax. Most freight routes run to Montreal on the east coast and Vancouver on the west coast. International passengers will be required to pass through customs in their port of arrival.
Canada is large - the second largest country in the world after Russia. This means that you will need several days to appreciate even a part of the country. In fact, St. John's, Newfoundland, is geographically closer to London, UK, than it is to Vancouver.
The best way to get around the country is by air. Air Canada  is the main national carrier, and has by far the largest network and most frequent schedules but WestJet  also offers a very similar service. For travel between major centres, no-frills carrier WestJet  offers competitive fares. Unfortunately, due to protectionist government policies favouring Air Canada, fares tend to be more expensive than flying similar distances in the United States, Australia or China, and sometimes, transiting in the US could be cheaper than a direct domestic flight.
Another reason for why air fares are so high in Canada is that the Canadian federal government is notorious for using airports as a cash cow and levying higher-than-average fees and taxes upon airports. They can do that because traditionally the federal government expropriates land for airports and then leases it back to local governments to operate them, which contrasts sharply against the US model where local governments own and operate airports, then contract with the federal government for particular services like security and immigration. While most industrialized governments hit airport travelers with a lot of fees and taxes, the ones imposed by Canada are unusually severe. To save money, many Canadians often drive to US airports just across the border to save hundreds of dollars per flight. Unless they are enrolled in the NEXUS trusted traveler program, they have to put up with long lines to enter the US.
Most major airports are served by public transit. This consists of feeder buses running at peak frequencies ranging from five to fifteen minutes or less (Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Ottawa). Service may be spotty or nonexistent late at night or on weekends if you are outside the major centres. To travel to the city centre/downtown, one or more connections are required in all cities except Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg and Ottawa, making a taxi or shuttle a better idea for large groups or those with a lot of luggage.
Float planes, lake to lake in northern Canada is another way to travel. It is possible to do this for free. One can Air Hitch above the Arctic Circle by flying out of any of the airports, but the trick is getting access to pilots. This can be easier at the Abbotsford Air Show, near Vancouver, Canada, in the summer.
When one gets further north, above Prince George say, one needs to hook up with pilots, often delivering mail lake to lake. Often there are general store and post office type places near the lakes. Many air hitchers catch up with the pilots when they stop for a meal or coffee as one does with truck drivers. In the major and regional airports, one can catch the pilots going in or out of the Environment Canada weather offices.
Often professionals like lawyers need to transport documents urgently between cities and countries. Most use FedEx or UPS these days, but sometimes it is possible to wangle free air transportation, as an Air Courriers, a category of traveler recognized by IATA. Air Courriers negotiate either directly with a professionals or through a broker or courrier agent. In this way many Air Hitchers travel for free between Paris and Montreal, the main difficulty being that one may only travel with carry on luggage.
If one accepts work in Canada’s high north, many employers will pay one's passage. Because it pays so well and there is little work in places like Newfoundland, many Canadians commute from the North Atlantic provinces to well-paid jobs in Northern Canada and Alberta.
Travel by intercity coach is available between most major cities in Canada. Service is best in the densely packed Windsor - Quebec City corridor which includes the major cities of Toronto and Montreal as well as the national capital, Ottawa. Service in this corridor is provided by a number of companies, chief among them being: Coach Canada  and Megabus  whose main route is the heavily used Toronto - Montreal route, Greyhound  who runs the Toronto - Ottawa route, the Montreal - Ottawa route and routes between Toronto and southwestern Ontario and Orleans Express  who runs the Montreal - Quebec City route using modern, leather-upholstered coaches with North American and European electrical sockets at every seat. To the west of this corridor most routes are operated by Greyhound and to the east routes are operated by Acadian  a subsidiary of Orleans Express. In Canada, only one company is given a license to run a particular route, as a result there is little to no competition among providers and fares can be unusually high and can be raised without notice. The only exception to this is the Toronto - Niagara Falls route, which is run by many American coach companies, who continue on to Buffalo and ultimately New York City. Prices on a U.S. bus company are usually slightly less than their Canadian counterparts.
Routes in the prairies can be extremely long, some of them taking several days; as a result, passengers should be sure they will be able to bear sitting in a seat for 48 or more hours with only rare stops for food and toilet breaks. Despite a recent violent murder on a bus in the prairies, intercity buses in Canada are generally very safe, however travelers should be aware of their belongings at all times and make sure that their valuables are on their person if they intend to sleep. In contrast to the United States, most Canadian bus stations are not owned or run by the coach companies serving them, they are generally run by the municipal government or, in the case of Montreal and Ottawa, a separate third-party corporation. Also unlike the United States, bus stations in Canada are not generally in the worst parts of the city, in fact, in Toronto, the bus station is located between a major theatre and shopping district and a neighbourhood full of large, wealthy, research-intensive hospitals.
Canada is one of the only two countries (the other being the United States) to have the world's lowest set driving age. But the legal driving age varies between 14 and 16 throughout the country. Alberta is among the places in the world with the lowest set driving age (14).
Of course, many people choose to rent a car. Although somewhat expensive if you are travelling alone, this can be an economically reasonable alternative if you are sharing the costs with others. However, there are many limitations and drawbacks on car rentals in Canada. To name a few of them:
Basically, if you really want to get around in Canada, except in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, or places where there are few or no roads, it's best to have a car.
In some cases, frugal travellers may be able to "earn" budget travel by delivering a car across Canada. The option is not common. Nor does it offer the opportunity to spent much time stopping along the way. However, it can be a cheap way to cross Canada while seeing the interior. CanadaDriveAway and HitTheRoad.ca are two options.
In Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, public transit is a strongly recommended alternative to driving.
Unlike the US, gas is sold by the litre and as of March 2014, it cost CAD1.30-1.40 per litre (CAD4.92-5.29 per US gallon) in most urbanized areas in Canada (closer to CAD1.20 per litre in Alberta), and the price typically escalates in March, just in time for summer driving season. Year round, prices tend to be about 50% higher than those in the US after converting litres into gallons and factoring in higher taxes and the currency exchange rate. American drivers will generally find that their credit and debit cards do not work in gas pumps in Canada (due to US cards generally not having "chip and PIN" functionality), although many of the larger chains (such as Petro-Canada and Esso) can run US cards via magnetic stripe if you bring the card inside to the cashier. (This is becoming a non-issue however, as of 2015 the US has made the switch to chip and PIN debit and credit cards.)
Of particular note is highway 407/ETR (Express Toll Route) in Ontario, which circles around the northern flank of Toronto. The 407 is an electronic toll road (the only privately owned road in Canada), in that tolls are billed to the vehicle's owner based on license plate number, or transponder account. Be sure to check your rental agencies' policy regarding use of this road as some firms have been known to add fees and surcharges that can easily double or triple the original toll.
Many jurisdictions also have red light and speed cameras that issue fines via mail to the car's registered owner, again via license plate when the car is automatically photographed running (disobeying) a red traffic light or going above the speed limit. The above warning regarding rental agency policies applies to these as well. Your best bet to avoid this nasty surprise is to simply not run any red lights or speed.
If you are set on a road trip, an alternative to car rental is to hire an RV (motorhome or campervan). This gives you the flexibility to explore Canada at your own pace and is ideal if your trip is geared around an appreciation of Canada's natural environment. Costs can also be lower than combining car rental with hotels, however RV rentals usually apply milage charges while car rentals usually don't.
Traffic rules to be aware of
Metric Conversions 50 mph = 80 km/h
Passenger rail service in Canada, although very safe and comfortable, is often an expensive and inconvenient alternative to other types of transport. The corridor between Windsor and Quebec City is a bit of an exception to this generalization. Also, if natural beauty is your thing, the approximately three-day train ride between Toronto and Vancouver passes through the splendour of the Canadian prairies and the Rocky Mountains, with domed observation cars to allow passengers to take in the magnificent views.
Make arrangements ahead of time to get lower fares. VIA Rail is the main Canadian passenger rail company.
Hitch hiking is quite common among younger travellers strapped for cash or seeking adventure.
In the mountainous regions of Alberta and B.C. hitching is accepted and safe. Hitch hiking in the urban areas of Southern Ontario, and Montreal is not a sure thing as many drivers will not pick up hitch hikers in these regions. Further east, in the maritimes, it is easier and somewhat more common.
Paying for a hitch is not normal, and most trucking companies prohibit their drivers from taking passengers.
As anywhere in the world, use your common sense when taking or offering a ride.
By ride sharing
Ride sharing is increasing in Canada, as well as the United States, due in large part to the internet website Craigslist  and dedicated ridesharing sites such as LiftSurfer  and RideshareOnline . This method of transport works best between major centres, for example Toronto-Montreal or Vancouver-Calgary. Generally 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.
Some tourist destinations, especially those popular with young people, can be accessed via rideshare as well, for example: Vancouver-Whistler or Calgary-Banff. People sharing a ride will usually be expected to pay for their fair share of the fuel cost, and may also be asked to do some of the driving on long hauls.
For best results be sure to post a request listing, and start checking for offer listings at least one week prior to your anticipated ride date. Backpacker's hostel notice boards are also a good resource for ride sharing.
Like hitchhiking, some common sense and discretion is advisable.
English and French are the two official languages in Canada. All communications and services provided from the federal government are available in both languages. Most Canadians are functionally monolingual, although some parts of the country have both English and French speakers. Over a quarter of Canadians are bilingual or multilingual. Many people in Montreal, Ottawa, and Quebec City are at least conversationally bilingual.
English is the dominant language in all provinces except Québec, where French is dominant and actively promoted as the main language. However, there are numerous francophone communities scattered around the country, such as:
Likewise, there are anglophone communities in Québec, such as some of the western suburbs of Montreal.
Canadian English uses a mixture of British and American spellings, and many British terms not usually understood and employed in the United States are more likely to be understood in Canada. Certain words also follow British instead of American pronunciations, but the accents of Anglo-Canadians and Midwestern/Northeastern Americans are nonetheless still quite similar.
Atlantic Canada is reported to have the greatest variety of regional accents in English-speaking North America, largely as a result of the isolated nature of the fishing communities along the Atlantic coastline prior to the advent of modern telecommunications and transportation. A visitor to the Atlantic provinces may have some difficulty understanding strong local accents rich in maritime slang and idiom, particularly in rural areas. From Ontario westward, the accent of English Canadians is more or less the same from one region to another and is akin to that spoken by those in northern US border states.
English-speaking Canadians are generally not required to take French after their first year of high school, and thus many citizens outside of Québec and Ottawa do not speak or use French unless they are closely related to someone who does, or have chosen to continue French studies out of personal or professional interest. Education in many other languages is available, such as Spanish, German, Japanese, etc. However, these are rarely taken. Most immigrants learn English or French in addition to speaking their native tongue with family and friends.
In Québec, one can get by with English in the major cities and tourist destinations, but some knowledge of French is useful for reading road signs as well as travels off the beaten path, and almost essential in many rural areas. It may also be useful to know at least a few basic French phrases in the larger cities, where some attempt by travellers to communicate in French is often appreciated. The French spoken in Québec and the Acadian regions (Southern Gaspe and Northern New Brunswick) differs in accent and vocabulary from European French, although if you speak European French you will get by with few problems.
Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are home to large Chinese migrant populations, and Cantonese is commonly spoken in the Chinatowns in these cities.
There are also dozens of aboriginal languages spoken by Canadians of aboriginal descent. Almost all first nations inhabitants that speak their native communities tongue are still bi-lingual in either English or French depending on what province you are in. In Nunavut more than half the population speaks Inuktitut, the traditional language of the Inuit.
Two sign languages are predominant in Canada. American Sign Language, or ASL, is used in Anglophone Canada; Québec Sign Language, or LSQ, is used in Francophone Canada. While the two are distinct languages, they share a degree of mutual intelligibility. Both are part of the French Sign Language family, and LSQ is believed to be a mix of French Sign Language and ASL.
See also: French phrasebook
Bear Watching, Whale Watching and Wildlife Viewing
Canada is a country with a rich cultural heritage. In Canada, festivals and events are held annually to celebrate the multicultural landscape of this great nation. Each festival represents a single cultural facet belonging to the diverse population of Canada. These festivals are easily identified by season.
In some parts of the country, April and May mark the beginning of Canadian music festival season. Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories celebrates spring with the Cariblues Festival, Halifax showcases chamber music with the Scotia Festival of Music and Ottawa highlights concerts, flowers and history at the Canadian Tulip Festival.
Canada is also renowned the world over for its theatre festivals such as Ontario's Stratford Festival  in beautiful Stratford Ontario and the Shaw Festival  in scenic Niagara on the Lake, both of which begin at this time and continue through to the fall. There are also a number of children's festivals including the Calgary International Children's Festival and the annual Saskatchewan International Film Festival for Young People.
June 21 to July 1 marks 10 days of celebrations in Canada (though not all parts of Canada participate in each celebration). The festivities begin on 21 June with National Aboriginal Day and celebrations across the country continue on 24 June with Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, in honour of the patron saint of French Canadians, on 27 June with Canadian Multiculturalism Day, and culminate with Canada Day with parties everywhere on 1 July (Ottawa has the best Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill).
In addition to this, summer is peak season for festivals of any kind in Canada. Cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, and Winnipeg often pride themselves on their diverse summer festivals. Some festivals are music-orientated, such as Ottawa's Bluesfest, Montreal's Jazz Festival and Piknic Elektronic, Toronto's NXNE, and both Calgary and Edmonton's Folk Fests. Others are cultural (or multicultural) events, such as Caribana in Toronto, Folklorama in Winnipeg, and Caraquet's (New Brunswick) Acadian Festival, along with the many well-attended gay pride festivals across the country. Others still are driven by the arts, such as the Toronto International Film Festival, Montreal's Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, Edmonton's Fringe Theatre Festival, and Vancouver's Khatsalano Festival. Summer is also when the Calgary Stampede takes place, one of the most popular festivals in all of Canada, which showcases the Canadian ranching culture of Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Fall is traditionally a time for literary festivals and film festivals. Lovers of the written and spoken word may like the Trois-Rivières’ bilingual Festival International de la Poésie, Halifax’s Atlantic Canada Storytelling Festival, and Toronto’s International Festival of Authors. 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 St. John's International Women's Film Festival in Newfoundland, among many others.
Kitchener-Waterloo hosts the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside Bavaria. This nine-day festival features numerous cultural and entertainment activities. Many local venues are converted into biergartens (Beer Gardens) and take on Germanic names for the duration of the festival. Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest attracts over 700,000 visitors annually.
Fall is also a time for families to enjoy the autumn splendour of nature in fall festivals or in simple activities where one enjoys the beautiful countryside.
If you go bowling in Canada, you will find that small ball bowling games such as candlepin, five-pin and duckpin are more dominant in Canada. Tenpin bowling is available in larger metropolitan areas. Across western Canada, most of Ontario and Newfoundland, five pin bowling is the dominant type of bowling. Candlepin is the dominant type of bowling in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Duckpin bowling is common in Quebec. Tenpin bowling is dominant in Sault Ste. Marie, select areas of Southern Ontario and select areas in Quebec. Some bowling alleys offer tenpin on a convertible lane, which uses a specialized string-type pinsetter. Depending on the city, prime rates for tenpin bowling can be up to 40% higher than the small ball equivalent.
Winter is the time when Canadians and their families take to the slopes and hit the ice at ski resorts and community hockey rinks across the country. Canada’s world-famous winter festivals take place in late January and February including Carnaval de Québec in Quebec City and Winterlude/Bal de neige in Ottawa and Gatineau. There are also winter events that pay homage to Canada’s hardy pioneers such as the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg and the Yukon Sourdough Rendez-vous Festival set in Whitehorse.
In Calgary, the month of January is devoted to showcasing challenging national and international theatre, dance, and music in The High Performance Rodeo, one of Canada’s leading festivals of new and experimental theatre.
Especially popular in British Columbia, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are practiced and enjoyed regularly during the winter. British Columbia is home to many of the world's top ski resorts, including Whistler. The 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics took place in Whistler and Vancouver. Vancouverites can easily access smaller ski resorts, such as Cypress Mountain, Mount Seymour, and Grouse Mountain. This is typically a 15-30 minute drive from Downtown Vancouver.
Canada's currency is the Canadian dollar (symbol: $ proper abbreviation is CAD), commonly referred to simply as a "dollar", "loonie" or "buck" (slang). One dollar ($) consists of 100 cents (¢). In the 1970s, the Canadian dollar was worth more than the U.S. dollar, but it slipped to about 66 cents U.S. by the mid-1990s. Currency traders made jokes about the "Hudson's Bay Peso". As of August 2017, the Canadian dollar is roughly at $0.80 for every American Dollar.
Canadian coins are of 1¢ (penny; phased out, but still accepted as legal tender), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), 25¢ (quarter), $1 (loonie) and $2 (toonie). The purchase total is rounded to the nearest nickel if you pay with cash. (Most coins roughly match their U.S. counterparts in size, shape, and colour, but not in metallic composition.) Canadian notes come in $5 (blue), $10 (purple), $20 (green), $50 (red) and $100 (brown) denominations. Although paper notes remain legal tender, banks have been taking them out of circulation in favour of plastic bills.
Note: Due to the physical similarity between Canadian and American 5, 10 and 25 cent coins, it is common to receive US coins in change in Canada, especially in major tourist destinations or communities close to the US border. Generally speaking, these US coins are accepted at face value and are treated like Canadian coinage because merchants and consumers rarely bother to look. This also applied to the 1-cent coin, however few merchants accept them anymore since the phasing out; although still legal tender, they are generally only accepted at banks. The American 50 cent and $1 coins are not similar to the Canadian equivalents and are not accepted in the same way. Note however that American coins, especially the quarter, may not always be accepted by Canadian vending machines, parking meters and video lottery terminals that have been calibrated for the lighter Canadian coins.
In comparison to the United States, Canada can be more expensive with some things (fast food, certain groceries, apparel, etc.) costing ~25-50% more than what they would in the United States, due to higher sales taxes (see below), higher tariffs on certain goods, and the cost of importing certain goods from the US, among other reasons.
In general, you should focus on buying brands or specific goods that are available only in Canada or are manufactured there (e.g., Canadian souvenirs). International tourists visiting the US and Canada on the same itinerary should plan to do most of their shopping in the US, where they can get much more for their money. For most international tourists, it makes sense to splurge in Canada only if they can't or don't want to enter the US.
Be aware that Canada sells fuel (gasoline, diesel, etc.) in liters, as opposed to gallons. Alcohol and cigarettes are much more expensive in Canada than in the US, due to higher taxes on these goods. There are now many microbreweries across the country, many with restaurants and pubs on premises; some of these are permitted to sell beer and cider on site.
Bargaining is extremely rare in ordinary retail shopping in Canada and attempts to talk a retail worker down in price will result in nothing (besides testing the employee's patience). This is rarely a problem, as most retailers in Canada price their items fairly and do not look to extort their customers due to the highly competitive market and well-off economy. For larger-ticket items, especially high-end electronics and vehicles, many employees work on commission, so bargaining is sometimes possible for these items, and sales-people may offer you a lower price than what is ticketed right from the get-go. Some large retail stores will offer you a discount if you can prove to them that one of their competitors is selling the same product for a lower price. However, in certain establishments such as flea markets, antique stores, farmer's markets, garage sales (see below) etc, you may be able to negotiate a lower price, although it is, again, often unnecessary to put forth the effort.
Like the US, many homes in Canada host garage sales (also known as yard and basement sales depending on the venue; block sales occur when entire groups of homes take part) where household goods, and other items are sold privately. Most often held on Saturdays and Sundays during the warmer months (spring to fall), these sales are not only a good way to find unique items, but offer a chance to explore the neighbourhoods of a community (useful for those considering relocation). Prices vary widely from extremely low to "antique store", though bargaining (see above) is common. As private sellers, people hosting garage sales do not charge tax. There is a risk for those who expect to cross a border and go through customs returning home, however, as the providence of items found at a garage sale cannot be verified and garage sales generally do not give out receipts that can prove that an as-new item with a retail value of $50 was actually purchased at a garage sale for a mere $1.
In all cities and towns, it is possible to convert between Canadian dollars and most major currencies at many banks. In addition, many retailers in Canada will accept US currency either at par or at slightly reduced value, and many Canadian bank branches allow users to withdraw USD cash instead of CAD. All Canadian banks provide currency exchange at the daily market value. In some areas, private exchange bureaus will give better exchange rates and lower fees than banks, so if you have time during your travels to look one up. It might save you some money on the exchange both when you arrive and before you leave, because Canadian dollars may not be worth as much in your home country, particularly the coin.
Private businesses are under no obligation to exchange currency at international rates. Even in the most rural areas, converting between Canadian and American dollars should not pose a problem, although travelers expecting to convert other currencies at a Canadian bank may need to be patient. In fact, most tourist destinations will accept American dollars as such, and are most likely to give a very good exchange rate. This is particularly true of regions that rely on tourism as a cornerstone of their local economy.
As Canadian Banks cash Canadian dollar travellers cheques free of charge, almost all businesses will do the same. This makes travellers cheques a safe and convenient way to carry money in Canada.
Many businesses across Canada accept U.S. Currency based on their own exchange rate for general purchases. Bills are taken with the current exchange rate. Most U.S. coins are similar in size to Canadian coins and are accepted at equal value; it is quite common for change to be given in a mix of Canadian and US coins, however most vending machines will reject U.S. coins.
Credit cards are widely accepted, with Visa and MasterCard being accepted in most places, and American Express somewhat less frequently and Diners Club only in the more upscale restaurants and hotels. Discover is usually accepted at places geared towards Americans such as hotels and car rental agencies. Generally, using a credit card also gets you a better exchange rate since your bank will convert the currency automatically at the prevailing daily rate.
The banking system is well developed, safe and technologically advanced. ATM usage in Canada is very high. There is a safe and widespread network of bank machines (ATMs) where you may be able to use your bank card to withdraw money directly from your account at home, but the fees involved can be more than for credit cards. If possible, try to use chartered bank ATM machines as the fees are often cheaper than the independent ATM machines. All Canadian banking institutions are members of the Interac international financial transaction network. Most retailers and restaurants/bars allow purchases by ATM card through Interac, even if they do not accept major credit cards, and many Canadians rarely use cash at all, prefering electronic forms of payment. Other ATM networks, including PLUS are widely supported and will be indicated on the ATM screen.
Taxes will be added on top of the displayed price at the cashier. Exceptions where the displayed price includes all applicable taxes are gasoline (the amount you pay is as it appears on the pump), parking fees, liquor bought from liquor stores, some groceries, and medical services such as eye exams or dentistry.
A Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 5% is applied to most items. In addition to the GST, all provinces except Alberta and Canada's 3 territories charge an additional Provincial Sales Tax (PST) on purchases. Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador have joined or "harmonized" the PST and GST. In these provinces, instead of being charged two separate taxes on a purchase, consumers will see one tax called the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).
While the GST and PST or HST are charged on most goods and services, some items are currently exempt from taxation. While this list can vary by province and tax, some common examples are: basic groceries (not prepared foods), prescription drugs, residential housing, medical and dental services, educational services and certain childcare services.
The sales tax rates (as of January 2014) are:
Additional taxes have been placed on some goods (such as alcohol and gasoline) and vary by province; however, these taxes are often included in the displayed price of the good.
Many large US retail chains such as Walmart, Costco, and Best Buy are also found throughout Canada, and the country's shopping malls feature dozens of US and European boutique chains. However, for many decades, Sears was the only major US department store that had a major Canadian presence; after several years of planning, US luxury department store Nordstrom finally opened its first Canadian stores in 2015. The dominant Canadian department store companies are Hudson's Bay, Holt Renfrew, and La Maison Simons.
The dominant Canadian pharmacy chain is Shoppers Drug Mart; the big three US pharmacies (Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens) do not operate in Canada.
Many US retail chains have attempted to enter the Canadian market, but ultimately exited after they were chewed up and spat out by ferocious local competitors. The latest examples of this are Target (closed all stores in 2015) and Safeway (sold all stores to Sobeys in 2013).
Like the US, Canada's supermarket chains operate under multiple legacy brands specific to particular regions and market segments. The major supermarket operators are Sobeys, Loblaw, Metro, and Jim Pattison, but they operate under many different local brands.
Other retail chains that are unique to Canada and not found anywhere else include Canadian Tire (automotive/hardware), RONA (hardware), Winners (clothing), Mark's Work Wearhouse (clothing), Urban Behavior (clothing), West 49 (clothing), Home Outfitters (Home Goods), The Brick (Furniture/Home Goods), Sport Chek (sporting goods), Chapters (bookstore), and Indigo Books and Music (bookstore), among others.
English Canadians may be mystified if you ask where you can get Canadian food. English Canadian cuisine varies from region to region. Some specialties include maple syrup, Nanaimo bars (chocolate-topped no-bake squares with custard or vanilla butter filling and crumb base), butter tarts (tarts made with butter, sugar, and eggs), beaver tails (fried dough topped with icing sugar), fiddleheads (curled heads of young ferns), peameal bacon (a type of back bacon made from lean boneless pork loin, trimmed fine, wet cured, and rolled in cornmeal; eaten at breakfast with eggs or for lunch as a sandwich), and Halifax donairs (sliced beef meatloaf wrapped in pitas and garnished with onions, tomatoes, and a sweet 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 of the northern United States. Canadians may be unaware that they even have national dishes, especially in the more urbanized areas; that said, there is a rising trend among Canadian chefs and restaurateurs to offer locally produced ingredients, and most major cities have bistros that specialize in local and national cuisine.
French Canadian cuisine is distinctive and includes such specialties as tourtière, a meat pie dish that dates back to the founding of Quebec in the 1600s, cipaille (vegetable pie), poutine, a dish consisting of French fries, cheese curds and gravy (its popularity has spread across the country and can be found from coast to coast), croquignoles (home-made doughnuts cooked in shortening), tarte à la farlouche (pie made of raisins, flour and molasses), tarte au sucre (sugar pie), and numerous cheeses and maple syrup products. Staples include baked beans, peas and ham. French-Canadian cuisine also incorporates elements of the cuisines of English-speaking North America, and, unsurprisingly, France.
One peculiar tradition that you may notice in nearly every small town is the Chinese-Canadian restaurant. A lot of the reason for this is the role Chinese immigration played historically in the early settlement of Canada, particularly in the building of the railroad. These establishments sell the usual fast food Chinese cuisine, adjusted for Western ingredients and tastes. Most American visitors will find this cuisine very familiar, since the Canadian cuisine developed in parallel with a virtually identical version in the States. In Toronto and Vancouver, two large centres of Chinese immigration, one can find authentic Chinese cuisine that rivals that of Hong Kong and Shanghai. In Toronto, visit the Chinatown area of Spadina-Dundas; if north of the city, consider a visit to the Markham area, which has recently seen an influx of newer Chinese immigrants.
Montreal is well known for its Central and Eastern European Jewish specialties, including local varieties of bagels and smoked meat. In the prairie provinces you can find great Ukrainian food, such as perogies, due to large amounts of Ukrainian immigrants.
If you are more adventurous, in the larger cities especially, you will find a great variety of ethnic tastes from all over Europe, Asia and elsewhere. You can find just about any taste and style of food in Canada, from a 20 oz T-Bone with all the trimmings to Japanese sushi (indeed, much of the salmon used in sushi in Japan comes from Canada). Consult local travel brochures upon arrival. They can be found at almost any hotel and are free at any provincial or municipal tourist information centre.
Americans will find many of their types of cuisine and brands with subtle differences, and many products unique to Canada, such as brands of chocolate bars and the availability of authentic maple syrup.
You will find that many American chains have a well-established presence here.
Canadian chains include:
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 peculiarity of many Canadian provinces is that liquor and beer can only be sold in licensed stores and this usually excludes supermarkets, corner stores, etc. In Ontario alcoholic beverages can only be sold in licensed restaurants and bars and "Liquor Control Board" (LCBO) stores that are run by the Province; although you can also buy wine in some supermarkets in a special area called the "Wine Rack". Supermarkets in other provinces generally have their own liquor store nearby. Québec has the least restrictions on the sale of alcohol, and one can usually find alcohol at convenience stores (depanneur), in addition to the government-owned Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) stores. Alberta is the only province where alcohol sales are completely decentralized, so many supermarket chains will have separate liquor stores near the actual supermarket. Prices may seem high to Americans from certain states, bringing alcohol in to Canada (up to 1L of hard liquor, 1.5L of wine, or a 24 pack of beer), is advisable. American cigarettes are also quite popular to bring in as they are not sold in Canada.
Canadians are known for their love of beer, although wine and hard alcohol or spirits are also popular.
Like neighboring United States, some places in Canada are dry communities. Which, just like in the dry counties in the U.S., means that the sale of alcohol is either prohibited or restricted.
Canadian mass-market beers (e.g., Molson's, Labatt's) are generally a pale gold lager, with an alcohol content of 4% to 5%. Like most mass-market beers, they are not very distinctive (although Americans will notice that there are beers made by these companies that are not sold in the States), however, Canadian beer drinkers have been known to support local brewers. In recent years, there's been a major increase in the number and the quality of beers from micro-breweries. Although many of these beers are only available near where they are produced, it behooves you to ask at mid-scale to top-end bars for some of the local choices: they will be fresh, often non-pasteurized, and have a much wider range of styles and flavours than you would expect by looking at the mass-market product lines. Many major cities have one or more brew pubs, which brew and serve their own beers, often with a full kitchen backing the bar. These spots offer a great chance to sample different beers and to enjoy food selected to complement the beers.
The two largest wine-producing regions in Canada are the Niagara Region in Ontario and the Okanagan in British Columbia. Other wine-producing areas include the shores of Lake Erie, Georgian Bay (Beaver River Valley) and Prince Edward County in Ontario, and the Similkameen valley, southern Fraser River valley, southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in British Columbia. There are also small scale productions of wine in southern Quebec and Nova Scotia. Imported wines from France, Italy, the US, Australia, and others are also popular and available in large varieties
Ice wine, a (very) sweet dessert wine made from frozen grapes is a Canadian specialty, with products made by Inniskillin vinery  in particular found at airport duty-free stores around the world. In contrast to most other wine-producing regions in the world, Canada, particularly the Niagara Region, consistently undergoes freezing in winter and has become the world's largest ice wine producer. However, due to the tiny yields (5-10% compared to normal wine) it's relatively expensive, with half-bottles (375 ml / 13 fl oz) starting at $50. It is worth noting that Canadian ice wine is somewhat sweeter than German varieties.
Saké, or Japanese rice wine, is also growing in popularity. Most market share goes to imported brands, but Ontario Spring Water Sake Company in Toronto's Distillery District and Artisan SakeMaker of Vancouver's Granville Island are some of the most distinctive locally produced variants.
Cider, sometimes called "hard cider" in Canada to distinguish it from non-alcoholic apple cider, is growing in popularity in Canada. Many imported brands such as Somersby, Magners, and Strongbow can be found in many parts of the country. But "craft cider" is also growing to the same extent as "craft beer" during it's earlier revival. Examples of these include Merridale, Dukes, Spirit Tree, Thornbury, and County Cider/Waupoos. Québec also has a distinctive and well established estate cidery industry, with many prominent smaller producers with lower production.
Canada is famous in other countries for its distinctive rye whiskey. Some famous editions include Canadian Club, Wisers, Crown Royal to name just a few. In addition to the plentiful selection of inexpensive blended ryes, you may find it worth exploring the premium blended and unblended ryes available at most liquor stores. One of the most-recognized unblended ryes is Alberta Premium, which has been recognized as the "Canadian Whiskey of the Year" by famed whiskey writer Jim Murray.
Canada also makes a small number of distinctive liqueurs. One of the most well-known, and a fine beverage for winter drinking, is Yukon Jack, a whiskey-based liqueur with citrus overtones. It's the Canadian equivalent of the USA's Southern Comfort, which has a similar flavour but is based on corn whiskey (bourbon) rather than rye.
Ungava Gin is also distinctive in that it uses botanicals found in Québec's far north, including Labrador tea, crowberry, and cloudberry. There are many other local distilleries producing distinctive spirits, including (among others) Dillon's in Ontario, Victoria Gin in British Columbia, Lucky Bastard in Saskatchewan, etc.
You can find most nonalcoholic beverages you would find in any other country. Carbonated beverages (referred to as "pop", "soda" and "soft drinks" in different regions) are very popular. Clean, safe drinking water is available from the tap in all cities and towns across Canada. Bottled water is widely sold, but it is no better in quality than tap water, so you'll save a lot of money by buying a reusable water bottle and filling it up from the tap.
A non-alcoholic drink one might drink in Canada is coffee. Tim Hortons is the most ubiquitous and popular coffee shop in the country. Starbucks is massively popular in Vancouver and becoming more so in other large centres such as Calgary (where it is larger than Tim Hortons), and Toronto. There is a Starbucks in most every city, along with local coffeeshops and national chains such as Second Cup, Timothy's, mmmuffins (currently owned by Timothy's Coffees of the World but operated under original trade name), Country Style, Coffee Time. Tea is available in most coffeeshops, with most shops carrying at least half dozen varieties (black, green, mint, etc.)
Accommodations in Canada vary substantially in price depending on time and place. In most cities and many tourist areas, expect to pay upwards of $100 or more for a good hotel room. If inquiring always ask if taxes are included, because some offer it with taxes included, some not.
Hotels play an integral part of Canadian history, with some of the country's most well known landmarks being hotels. The Canadian Railway Hotels are a series of grand hotels that were constructed in major cities (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Windsor, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, St. John's and Halifax) in the early 1900s. Most of these are still standing and owned by corporations such as Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. The Grand Railway Hotels are all four star franchises, with prices ranging from $150-400 a night depending on the city and the size of the room. These hotels are architecturally stunning and sumptuously decorated, and in addition to being exceptional places to stay, are tourist attractions in their own right. Even if you are not staying in a Grand Railway hotel, it would be more than worth it to explore the main lobby or dine at the hotel restaurant.
In rural areas, motels (short for "motor hotel") are small, simple hotels where you might pay as little as $40-60 for a night's accommodation (especially in the off season.) In many areas, a B&B (bed and breakfast) is a nice option. These are normally people's homes with suites for guests. The price - anywhere from $45 a night to $140 a night - usually includes a breakfast of some kind in the morning. Visit the official Bed and Breakfast Niagara website  for listings.
Other options include cottage rentals on the lakes and in the countryside and apartment rentals in the cities. Prices compare to hotels and motels and this type of lodging provides some comfort of home while you are traveling.
Youth hostels are a good choice, offering lodging in shared dorms ($20-40) or private rooms ($45-80). Some useful resources are Hostelling International Canada , Backpackers Hostels Canada , SameSun Backpacker Lodges  and Pacific Hostel Network  (which also covers Alaska and the Northwestern U.S.). Most hostels in Canada meet very high standards.
Some universities will rent their dormitory ( more commonly called "residence" or "rez") rooms in the academic off season -May- August. Check university websites for more information.
Finally, there is a huge number of campgrounds in Canada. These range from privately owned R.V. parks to the publicly operated campgrounds in national and provincial parks, and are almost always well-kept and generally very beautiful.
Canada is generally a good place to work. The minimum wage varies by province, from as low as $10.20/hour in Yukon Territory and $13.60 ( 2017 ) in Alberta to $11/hour in Nunavut and $14/hour in Ontario. As with most of the developed world, the economy is shifting from one dominated by manufacturing to one dominated by services. Thus, factory and manufacturing work is becoming scarcer every year and is highly sought, with most factories requiring a high school education or trade certificate. Minimum wage jobs are becoming more common every year, however with the housing market booming there is still a fair number of good construction jobs to be had.
Hiring practices are similar to those in the US.
Working Holiday Visas
A Working Holiday Visa (also referred to as an "International Experience Canada / Working Holiday Visa") enables young citizens from certain countries to spend 1 or 2 years in Canada and to legally gain employment while in the country. The eligibility and length of stay rules vary by nationality. The standard rule used to be that a 1-year stay would be issued to nationals of participating countries who were between 18-30 years of age, however, some countries (Australia) now get a two-year visa, and applicants from some other countries can now apply up to age 35. Some countries' nationals (eg citizens of Mexico) need to be post-secondary students at the time the application is made.
The full official list of participating countries and their associated eligibility requirements is available on the Government of Canada's website for this program. As of May 2011, Canada had working holiday agreements with the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
United States citizens can also participate in a Working Holiday program through SWAP without requiring a Temporary Resident Visa prior to entry, but the work permit is limited to six months and the program is limited to post-secondary students at the time of the application.
Safety in Canada is not usually a problem, and some basic common sense will go a long way. Even in the largest cities, violent crime is not a serious problem, and very few people are ever armed, especially when compared to the United States. Violent crime need not to worry the average traveler, as it is generally confined to particular neighbourhoods and is rarely a random crime. Drug-related crimes also happen. Street battles between gangs happen rarely but have made national headlines, these outbreaks of violence usually happen in bunches over a given area because of a turf war or drug supply shortage. Overall crime rates in Canadian cities remain low compared to most similar sized urban areas in the United States and much of the rest of the world (though violent crime rates are slightly higher than most western European cities). Crime is higher in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Recently there have been several high-profile shootings in public/tourist areas - i.e. the June 2012 shootings at Toronto's Eaton's Centre and HUB Mall in Edmonton; the fact these incidents are so heavily covered by the media is related to the fact that they are considered very rare events.
Law enforcement in Canada
Police in Canada are almost always hardworking, honest, and trustworthy individuals. If you ever encounter any problems during your stay, even if it's as simple as being lost, officers will be able to help you.
When you are in Canada there are several different types of law enforcement. . The federal police force for Canada is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Gendarmerie royale du Canada. (RCMP/GRC) or mounties. Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland have their own provincial police force and are not patrolled by RCMP/GRC.
Provinces/territories that have contract by RCMP/GRC British Colombia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Nova Scotia PEI Yukon territories Northwest territories Nunavut territories Provinces that have their own police force Ontario Quebec New Foundland
In their capacity as a federal police force, RCMP officers typically wear regular police uniforms and drive police cruisers while performing their duties. However, a minority of RCMP officers may appear in their iconic red dress uniform (Known as the Red Serge) in tourist areas, and for official functions such as parades. Some RCMP officers participate in elaborate ceremonies such as the Musical Ride horse show. While wearing their full dress uniform, their main function is to promote the image of Canada and Canadian Mounties. RCMP officers in full dress are generally not tasked with investigating crime or enforcing law, although they are still police officers and can perform arrests. In some tourist regions, such as Ottawa, both types of RCMP officers are commonly encountered. This dual-role and dual-appearance of the RCMP, both as federal police, and as a tourist attraction, may create confusion among tourists as to the function of the RCMP. Keep in mind that all RCMP officers are police officers, and have a duty to enforce the law.
Cities, towns and regions often have their own police forces, with the Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal forces being three of the largest. Some cities also have special transit police who have full police powers. Some quasi-government agencies, such as universities and power utilities also employ private special police. The Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway each have their own police force.
Canadian Forces Military Police can be found at military bases and other defence-related government facilities.
All three types of police forces can enforce any type of law, federal, provincial or municipal. Their jurisdiction overlaps, with the RCMP being able to arrest anywhere in Canada, the OPP and municipal police officers being able to arrest anywhere within their own province. Powers of arrest for Federal, Provincial and municipal police agencies in Canada exist for officers on or off duty.
In the national capital region of Ottawa-Gatineau, one can encounter more police jurisdictions than in any other part of Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (both regular uniformed and full dress), the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ottawa police, the Sûreté du Québec, the Gatineau Police, Military Police, and OC Transpo Special Constables, all operate in the region, each with a different style of uniform and police cruiser.
Snatching of Luggage
If you are unfortunate enough to get your purse or wallet snatched, the local police will do whatever they can to help. Often, important identification is retrieved after thefts of this sort. Visitors to large cities should be aware that parked cars are sometimes targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, so try to avoid leaving any possessions in open view. Due to the high incidence of such crimes, motorists in Montreal and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or for leaving valuables in view. Try to remember your license plate number and check that your plates are still in place before you go somewhere as some thieves will steal plates to avoid getting pulled over. Auto theft in Montreal, including theft of motor homes and recreational vehicles, may occur in patrolled and overtly secure parking lots and decks. Bike theft can be a common nuisance in metropolitan areas.
Canada is very prone to winter storms (including ice storms and blizzards). Reduce speed, be conscious of other drivers, and pay attention. It's probably a good idea to carry an emergency kit in your car, in case you have no choice but to spend the night stuck in snow on the highway (yes, this does happen occasionally, especially in more isolated areas). If you are unfamiliar with winter driving and choose to visit Canada during the winter months, consider using another mode of transportation to travel within the country. Make note that while the vast majority of winter weather occurs, naturally, during the winter months, some parts of Canada such as the prairie provinces and north and mountain regions may experience severe, if brief, winter-like conditions at any time during the year.
If you are touring on foot, it is best to bundle up as much as possible in layers with heavy socks, thermal underwear and gloves; winter storms can bring with them extreme winds alongside frigid temperatures and frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes.
Firearms and Weapons
Unlike the U.S., Canada has no constitutional rights relating to gun ownership. Firearm regulation in Canada is significantly more restrictive than its Southern neighbor. Possession, purchase, and use of any firearms requires proper licenses for the weapons and the user, and is subject to federal laws. Firearms are classed (mainly based on barrel length) as non-restricted (subject to the least amount of training and licensing), restricted (more licensing and training required) and prohibited (not legally available).
Generally the only people who legally permitted to carry handguns in public are Federal, Provincial, and Municipal Police, Border Services Officers, Wildlife Officers in most provinces, Sheriff's Officers in some provinces, private security guards who transport money and people who work in remote "wilderness" areas who are properly licensed. It is possible to import non-prohibited firearms such as most types of rifle and shotgun for sporting purposes like target shooting and hunting, and non-prohibited handguns for target shooting may also be imported with the correct paperwork. Prohibited firearms will be seized at customs and destroyed. Travellers should check with the Canada Firearms Centre  and the Canada Border Services Agency  before importing firearms of any type before arrival.
Be aware that it is unusual for civilians to be seen openly carrying weapons in urban areas. While generally not illegal, openly carrying a weapon will likely be treated with suspicion by the police and civilians, as opposed to some areas of the US where it is more commonplace.
Switch blades, butterfly knives, spring loaded blades and any other knife that opens automatically are classified as Prohibited and are illegal in Canada. As are Nunchucks, Tasers and other electric stun guns, most devices concealing knives, such as belt buckle knives and knife combs, and articles of clothing or jewelry designed to be used as weapons. Mace and pepper spray is also illegal unless sold specifically for use against animals.
Forest fires usually occur in summer and are possible across a wide swath of the country, most frequently in the western Provinces. Always check the news for info on forest fires and if you must go through them, be very cautious. Often the roads are impassable; alter travel plans accordingly and be prepared for evacuation if forest fires are on your doorstep.
Fires in British Columbia are particularly vicious because of steep mountainous terrain. The combination of dry summers, dry lightning strikes and large forested sections are all factors. The province had serious issues with forest fires in the summers of 2003 and 2009, with many thousands having to be evacuated.
Because of its popularity, easy availability and allowances for "medical purposes", many visitors believe that the use of marijuana is legal. Indeed, on October 17 2018, the possession, consumption and sale of recreational marijuana was legalized. Those over the age of 19 (18 in Alberta and Quebec, but the latter may change to 21 in 2019) may now possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public, share up to 30 grams with other adults, purchase cannabis products from a licenced provincial or territorial retailer, and grow up to 4 plants per residence (not per person) for personal use from licensed seeds or seedlings.
The laws relating to the usage of cannabis vary at the provincial and territorial levels. For example, Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Ontario and Quebec generally allow cannabis to be smoked in public in areas where tobacco may be smoked, whereas all other provinces and territories do not allow the public consumption of cannabis. Be sure to check the local laws before consumption.
When entering or exiting Canada, make sure you do not possess any marijuana or marijuana related products as it still remains illegal to import and export . This is especially important if you plan to visit the United States as you risk a lifetime US travel ban that may complicate your future travels to any country.
Driving while impaired by drugs (including marijuana and even legal "drowsy" drugs) is a criminal offence and is treated similarly to driving under the influence of alcohol, with severe penalties. Do not attempt to drive while under the influence of drugs; visitors can expect to be deported after serving jail time or paying very large fines.
Be advised that unlike many other countries, Khat is illegal in Canada, and will get you arrested and deported if you try to pack it in your luggage and get caught by customs.
Needless to say, under no circumstances should you attempt to bring any amount of anything that even resembles a controlled substance into the United States from Canada, or vice versa. This definitely includes cannabis; despite legalisation, it remains highly illegal to take cannabis out of Canada, even if it is to a region where it is legal. Penalties in the U.S. for smuggling even small amounts of drugs are more severe than in Canada, with prison sentences being 20 years to life for trafficking.
Canadians take drunk driving very seriously, and it is a social taboo to drink and drive. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is also punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada and can involve lengthy jail time, particularly for repeat offenders. If you "blow over" the legal limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) on a roadside Breathalyser machine test, you will be arrested and spend at least a few hours in jail. Being convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) will almost certainly mean the end of your trip to Canada, a criminal record, and you being barred from re-entering Canada for at least 5 years. 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.08%) is the legal limit for a criminal conviction. Many jurisdictions call for fines, license suspension and vehicle impoundment at 40mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.04%), or if the officer reasonably believes you are too intoxicated to drive. Note this difference; while having a BAC of 0.03% when tested at a police checkpoint ('Checkstop' or 'ride-stop', which is designed to catch drunk drivers) will not result in arrest, having the same BAC after being pulled over for driving erratically, or after getting involved in an accident may result in being charged with DUI.
Those crossing the land border into Canada from the USA or visa versa while driving under the influence could get arrested by the Border Services Officers and be subject to lengthy interrogation in addition to the above punishments
Refusing a Breathalyzer test is also a Criminal Code offense, and will result in the same penalties as had you blown over. If a police officer demands that you supply a breath sample, your best option is to take your chances with the machine.
Hate Speech & Discrimination
Canada is a very multicultural society, and the majority of Canadians are open minded and accepting. Thus, it is unlikely to meet ridicule in major urban centres on the basis of race, gender, religion,as a large amount of Canadians (from major urban centres) have encountered every type of person imaginable. Certainly, if racial minorities do encounter discrimination, it almost never results in violence, and when it does the police are generally very tough on assaults against racial & sexual minorities. Canada was one of the first countries in the world, and consequently many Canadians are tolerant and good people. In big cities, especially Toronto and Montreal, and a majority Canadians will not be bothered by, or even interested in, this. Canada is known around the world, and many Canadians are mostly proud of this. Hate speech that incites violence is illegal in Canada and can lead to prosecution, jail time and deportation.
Buying sex services is illegal everywhere in Canada. Expect to be fined at least 300C$. Sometimes, the police may raid brothels and arrest you.
You are unlikely to face health problems here that you wouldn't face in any other western industrialized country (despite claims of long waiting lists and inferior care, which often varies by hospital and is usually exaggerated). Furthermore, the health care system is one of the best on the planet, and is very effective and widely accessible. In the past two summers, Canadians in some provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) have faced a few cases of West Nile virus, an occasionally fatal infection transmitted by mosquitoes. Also several diseases like whooping cough, diphtheria, and measles are common throughout Canada. Visitors should note that, while Canada has universal health care for residents, health care is not free for visitors, therefore it is important to make sure you are covered by your insurance while traveling in Canada. It should also be noted that, while large hospitals in major cities can be very good, hospitals in mid-sized cities without a large medical school tend to be chronically underfunded and understaffed; hospitals in working class neighbourhoods of large cities tend to suffer from the same problems.
Be aware that most Canadian provinces have banned all indoor smoking in public places and near entrances. Some bans include areas such as bus shelters and outdoor patios. See Smoking.
Canada has quite high standards for restaurant and grocer cleanliness and such if there is a problem with the food you have bought then talk with the manager to report it. You will usually be compensated for the meal, and many managers appreciate patrons who are willing to come forth as opposed to staying silent about it (as long as you aren't rude). Getting sick from contaminated food is unlikely.
Compared to the United States, some medical care in Canada is available about 30 to 60 percent cheaper. Medical tourism firms help visitors to obtain medical care such as cosmetic surgery and joint replacement in major cities including Vancouver and Montreal. After their treatments, patients can enjoy a vacation and relax in a cabin in the Canadian Rockies, explore colourful Montreal, or other activities.
Condoms and other barrier forms of birth control are widely available in drug stores, grocery stores, and corner stores. Hormone-based forms such as oral contraceptives ("the birth control pill"), "the patch", and "the ring" are available from pharmacies only with a prescription.
Canadians in general are welcoming and friendly folk. Most of them take pride in their nation's reputation for being progressive and culturally diverse.
Social Etiquette and Gestures
Quebecian Etiquette and Gestures
Although Quebec is a part of Canada, it has a distinctive language and culture that sets it apart from the rest of the country, and thus some important cultural considerations are worth bearing in mind.
Things to avoid
Environmentalism and animal protection
Canada is very much into animal and nature protection and has many protected areas used solely for nature and animals. You should be considerate of this. Don't litter, cut down trees, hunt animals offseason, shoot endangered species, or trespass on lands that are reserved for plant and animal life.
The communication infrastructure of Canada is what you would expect for an industrialized country. However, the cost of voice and data communication tends to generally be more expensive compared to most European countries.
The international country code for Canada is 1. Area codes and local phone numbers are basically the same as used in the United States. (Three-digit area code, seven-digit local phone number). Some cities only require a seven-digit local phone number to place a call, but in most major cities you must use ten digit dialing even for local calls. For example, in Vancouver, if you look up the phone number for a business or friend across the street or across town as 987-6543, then you must dial 6049876543 to call it. This is a local call. Add the "1" if you are dialing a long distance call, or 16049876543. Knowing what constitutes a long distance call is part art, but if your number is for a place more than 50km away from your position, it most likely would be a long distance call. Always check area codes, some cities have more than one, such as Vancouver which could be (604) or (778).
Due to the extremely high cost of cell phones, Canada has one of the lowest cell phone ownership rates in the developed world and highest landline retention rate. This is especially the case in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Pay phones are much more widely available than in the United States, and provide a considerably cheaper way of making lengthy phone calls than cell phones. Local calls cost $0.50; for long distance calls, a prepaid long distance card is recommended and will provide calling to Canadian numbers for around $0.05-0.07 per minute.
Cell phones are widely used, but due to Canada's large size and relatively sparse population, many rural areas that are not adjacent to major travel corridors have no service.
Of the major national carriers, Bell Mobility and TELUS operate national CDMA networks and a more modern UMTS (WDCMA/HSPDA) network. Rogers Wireless operates a GSM network. All of these networks operate on the 850MHz/1900MHz bands and phones from outside North America are unlikely to work unless they are specifically marketed as World Phones, or Quad-Band. Note that quad-band/world phones may still not be compatible with Bell and TELUS's HSDPA network, but they should work on Rogers.
Both Rogers and TELUS operate separate discount brands using the same infrastructure as their main networks. For Rogers this is the Fido and Chatr services, and for TELUS it is Koodo Mobile. These brands typically aren't really much cheaper (the parent company is obviously not going to undercut itself), but the plan options may be better suited for some people.
In addition to the major incumbent networks noted above there are several regional carriers and some new start-up carriers servicing limited geographical areas. One of these new carriers is Wind mobile, operating a 1700/2100MHz GSM network in a half dozen or so metropolitan areas.
All of the major national carriers offer pre-paid SIM cards with start-up packages in the range of $75 with a specified amount of airtime included. Prepaid plans usually have a per minute rate of $0.25, but many have "evenings and weekends" add-ons for around $30/month.
Visitors from outside North America will be surprised to learn that Canadian carriers charge for incoming calls, either by using a plan's included minutes, or at a rate of $0.25 to $0.35/minute. In addition, if you are outside of your phone number's local calling area when answering a call, you will be charged long distance on top of the air time charge. This means that answering an incoming call outside of the phone's local calling area can cost you up to $0.70/minute.
Internet via GSM is prohibitively expensive. Due to the nearly complete dominance of three companies, mobile rates in Canada are among the highest in the world. The Canadian government continually promises to open up the market and help smaller companies compete and continually fails to do so. However, the recent entry of WIND Mobile, a smaller player with substantial overseas ownership was recently approved and may signal a change in the official government stance.
If entering with an iPad, be aware that Bell and Telus will NOT offer local iPad plans without some form of Canadian ID.
There are many ways to access the Internet, including a number of terminals at most public libraries.
Most large and medium-sized towns will have Internet and gaming cafes.
Wi-Fi access is common in cities and can be found at most coffee shops, public libraries, and some restaurants. Although some locations charge an excessive fee for its use, others provide free WiFI, including Blenz coffee houses, McDonalds, Second Cup, Tim Horton's, and Starbucks. Note that purchasing the establishment's product is expected, even if they are charging for internet access. Buying a small coffee or tea typically meets this requirement. Most airports and certain VIA Rail stations also offer free Wi-Fi in passenger areas. See wififreespot.com for a partial listing of establishments offering free WiFi.
It is worth noting that if you are staying at a private residence, please be considerate and go easy on your usage. Unlike most other countries, Canada's fixed-line internet plans prescribe a data allowance (e.g. 40GB, 80GB, 100GB). The amount your hosts pay a month will depend on the amount of data they wish to subscribe to and they will pay additional charges if they exceed their allowance or wish to do so. A $48/month plan will get 40GB of internet.
Of course, there is always the postal system. While its delivery times can be hit or miss (as quick as the next day in the same city to two weeks across country), Canada Post's domestic rates and service are more expensive (85 Canadian cents for domestic letter) than its American counterpart's. International parcel postal services can be costly. Sending a parcel from Canada to the United States is generally more expensive than sending the same parcel to Canada from the United States, although, strangely enough, sending a parcel within Canada will often be more expensive than sending the same one to the United States. Ordering items online is generally prohibitively expensive for this very reason; a handful of hardcover books, for instance, may cost hundreds of dollars to ship. Postal offices are usually marked by the red and white Canada Post markings. Some drug stores, such as the Shopper's Drug Mart chain, Jean Coutu, Uniprix, etc., feature smaller outlets with full service. Such outlets are often open later and on weekends, as opposed to the the standard M-F 9AM-5PM hours of the post offices.