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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 unique 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 resembles her neighbour to the south, the United States, although there are significant differences between the two countries. One should not make the common and embarrassing mistake of assuming everything is more or less the same in the two countries. Canada is perfectly happy with its British heritage and most Canadians are proud of this. Moreover, Canada has always been heavily influenced by immigrants from two European nations, the British and the French. This dual nature is very different to the United States. Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 by an act of the British parliament (making it younger by nearly 100 years), and is still a proud member of the Commonwealth of Nations. By 1931 it was more or less fully independent of the United Kingdom. Though a medium sized country by its population (35 million), Canada has earned respect on the international stage for its strong diplomatic skills as a kind of "Switzerland of North America." Domestically, the country has displayed 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. In contrast to the United States' traditional image of itself as a melting pot, (now also falling out of use), Canada prefers to consider and define itself a mosaic of cultures and peoples. Canadians are 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 rub elbows with one another (although this will be less so in rural areas).
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.
- GMT-3.5 Newfoundland Time (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Canada's official measurements are metric, however some people, especially those aged 40 and over, will still use the imperial system for many things. One of the most common holdovers from the imperial system is the use of feet and inches for measurement of short distances and heights, and especially the use of pounds for masses, even among younger Canadians. However in the province of Quebec, the metric system is used more widely by the population. You will still hear older Canadians use the term 'mile' when referring to informal distances, and may also give temperatures in Fahrenheit when referring to pools and hot tubs. All weather forecasts will be in °C, except for border towns such as Windsor and Niagara Falls where media often give weather forecasts in °F.
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 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 if visiting between October and April, and early and later than this if visiting hilly/mountainous terrain or areas further north. 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.
Canada recognizes and celebrates the following national holidays (some provinces may have minor differences):
- New years day — 1 January
- Family Day — 3rd Monday in February (not observed in all provinces, known as Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, Islander Day in PEI)
- Good Friday — typically sometime during week of April, always on a Friday
- Easter Sunday — typically first Sunday in April
- Victoria Day—Last Monday in May before 24 May (always one week before the U.S. holiday of Memorial Day)
- Canada Day—1 July
- Civic Day — first Monday in August (only applies in some provinces, under different names ie. in Ontario its referred to as Simcoe Day after an early Lieutenant Governor)
- Labour Day — first Monday in September
- Thanksgiving—Second Monday in October (the same day as the U.S. holiday of Columbus Day)
- Remembrance Day —11 November (this day is observed in the U.S. as Veterans Day)
- Christmas — 25 December
- Boxing day—26 December
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 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 David Lloyd Johnston, who carries out her duties. The monarchy serves mostly as a bygone figurehead, though, and in practice the Prime Minister is largely seen to wield political autonomy and power.
Canada is a federal state and 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 four main parliamentary parties at the federal level: the Conservative Party (right of centre), the Liberal Party (left of centre), the New Democratic Party (left), and the Bloc Québécois (a left-wing, Québécois nationalist party that promotes the separation of Quebec from Canada and does not run candidates outside of Quebec). Only the Conservatives (currently) and (more often) the Liberals have ever been the national government, though the NDP have governed various provinces and as of 25 Apr 2013 form the Official Opposition. The Bloc - who are for obvious reasons regarded somewhat negatively in other parts of the country - do not participate in provincial-level politics, but another provincial-level sovereignitist party, the Parti Québécois, has won provincial elections and formed the government in Quebec on several occasions. Compared to American politics, all of these parties trend somewhat more "liberal".
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
This region is well known for unique accents, the origin of the Acadian culture, natural beauty (particularly around coastal areas), the historic beauty of Halifax, and a huge fishing and shipping industry.
When one thinks of this region, one of the first things is usually 'French'. Quebec is one of the most unique regions in Canada, and for that matter, North America. Originally settled as part of New France, this region is very much culturally French-Canadian (English isn't the dominant language here), and is known for great cultural sites like Quebec City's Winter Festival, Montreal's grand classic architecture, and of course, maple syrup and poutine - two of the most commonly known things in Canadian cuisine. It's a great way to see the Old World of Europe without leaving North America! Montreal is also the second largest French speaking city in the world.
Canada's largest province by population, it has endless opportunities of things to see and/or do. From Canada's largest metropolis (Toronto) to the national bi-lingual capital (Ottawa) to glitzy Niagara Falls, to the vast wilderness of Northern Ontario and the Great Lakes, Ontario is full of almost everything that represents Canada.
From the east, this region starts off with rocky terrain and flat farmland, and as one travels westward, eventually ends up at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The region is rich in geographic variety, from rolling hills to rich canola farm fields to forests rich in diversity to outstanding lakes to rather unique rock formations. This region is also one of the fastest growing in Canada, and is well known for mountain resorts like Banff and Canmore. The major cities here are Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Calgary and each offer an array of things to do.
Vancouver is the heart of British Columbia. It is perhaps one of the most liberal and culturally diverse cities in North America and offers things from world class skiing to nude beaches. If one travels outside of Vancouver, they could find Victoria, provincial capital, and home to a bustling downtown and stunning Legislature grounds or they might hit Canada's version of Arizona, the Okanagan which is home to wineries, graceful mountains, resorts, and retirement villages or they could get lost in the vast amounts of mountains, lakes, and other natural wonders. Either way, British Columbia is one of the most beautiful regions in Canada, both for those who are looking for nature excursions and those who kick it in the city.
This is where Canada's territories reside. They are some of the most remote regions on Earth, which means plenty of nature to observe. The vast wilderness calls this region home with extremely extraordinary animals and vast landscapes. It is also home to the unique Inuit (native group) culture and as well as the First Nations and is rich in natural resources.
There are many cities in Canada, all of which are distinctive, welcoming to tourists, and well worth visiting. They include...
- Ottawa - Canada's national capital, this city is home to national government monuments like Parliament Hill, many major museums like the Museum of Civilization, cool urban neighbourhoods like the ByWard Market, and great old architecture.
- Calgary - A boom-town without a doubt, Calgary is a major Canadian financial city, but for non-business travelers, it offers world-class Calgary Zoo, the Calgary Tower, the Calgary Stampede, Glenbow Museum, shopping at Chinook Mall and Atlantic Ave, and is only a short distance from the recreation of the Rockies.
- Halifax -home to the second largest natural harbour in the world is rich in history with architecture dating back from English colonialism. See fortress Citadel hill, Canadian museum of the Atlantic, and the active night life where everything is a short walk away.
- Montreal - Once Canada's largest metropolis, Montreal is the core of North America's Francophone culture (you can still get by with English) and is home to some of the finest galleries, museums, venues, and festivals in the country along with great shopping on streets like Saint Catherine and Saint Denis. Don't miss Mount Royal, either.
- Quebec City - The Province of Quebec's capital, well known for its quaint Old city, it's grand winter festival, and gorgeous architecture, like the Chateau Frontenac. The most European feeling and looking city, (outside of Latin America) in the Western hemisphere.
- Toronto - The largest city in Canada, Toronto is the media, entertainment, business, economic and cultural capital of Canada. Toronto is well known for famous landmarks like the CN Tower, but also has many great museums, sports venues, shopping districts, various entertainment districts, beaches, and recreational parks across its great expanse. The city is known for it's support of the performing arts, having the third largest live theatre market in the world after New York City and London.
- Vancouver - The city where West Coast Urbanism and "Vancouverism" started, Vancouver is a city of steel and glass condominiums and outstanding natural beauty. It is unique in that it is a city where one can ski and sit on the beach in the same 24 hours. The city was also the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
- Whitehorse - Midpoint of the Alaska Highway, gateway to the outdoor activities of Canada's far north.
- Winnipeg - This city is near the heart of the continent and has a rich French-Canadian culture, along with well preserved blocks of historic commercial buildings, renowned arts and culture, and the vibrancy of the Forks.
- Algonquin Park
- Banff National Park
- Cape Breton Island
- The Interlake Area
- Jasper National Park
- Saint John River Valley
- Terra Nova National Park
- Waterton Lakes National Park
- Yoho National Park
Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to visit Canada for a stay of (generally) up to six months, provided that no work is undertaken and the traveller holds a passport valid for six months beyond their intended date of departure:
Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Falkland Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Holy See, Hong Kong (BN(O) Passport or SAR Passport), Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel (National Passport holders only), Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania (biometric passports only), Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montserrat, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Poland (biometric passports only), Portugal, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, St. Helena, Sweden, Slovenia, Switzerland, Taiwan (must be ordinary passport including personal identification number), Turks and Caicos Islands, United Kingdom (including British (Overseas) Citizens who are re-admissible to the UK and British subjects with the right of abode in the UK) and United States.
Please be aware that citizens of the above-mentioned countries that "do not need a visa" may need additional visas/permits if they have a criminal record and are thus considered "criminally inadmissible to Canada".
A visa exemption also applies to individuals holding nationalities that are not specified above if they are in possession of a US Green Card or can provide other evidence of permanent residence in the United States. Persons who do not require a visa and who are entering for any reason other than tourism must have a letter of invitation from the individual, business, or organization that they are visiting. (information about letters of invitation and what information they need to contain).
All others will be required to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa to enter the country. This can be done at the applicants' nearest Canadian Visa Office. Applicants are required to submit, as part of their application:
- A valid travel document (such as a passport)
- Two properly-formatted, passport-sized photos for all applicants
- The application fee (The fee per person is $75 for a single entry visa, $150 for a multiple entry visa or $400 for a family (multiple or single entry)
- Reservation confirmation (for tourists) or letter of invitation (for everybody else).
- Proof that you have enough money for your visit to Canada. The amount of money may vary, depending on the circumstances for your visit, how long you will stay and whether you will stay in a hotel, or with friends or relatives. You can get more information from the visa office.
- Other documents as required. These documents could be identification cards, proof of employment, or a proposed itinerary. Check the website of the visa office responsible for the country or region where you live for more information.
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 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:
- United States Passport Card (issued by the Department of State)
- United States Passport Book (issued by the Department of State)
- Enhanced Drivers License or Non-Driver Photo ID card (currently issued by Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Washington State)
- Enhanced Tribal ID Card
- Trusted Traveler Cards issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the Canadian Border (NEXUS and FAST).
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, misdemeanor 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.Rehabilitation
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:
- Police "good conduct" reports
- Character references
- Letters from employers, pay stubs, tax returns or other documentation showing that you have steady employment
- Evidence of any educational, volunteer or treatment experience that you've completed since your conviction.
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, 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" . Unless you're visiting a dying relative, attending a funeral, or can afford to hire a Canadian immigration lawyer, don't even bother applying for one of these. In the unlikely event you're successful in procuring a TRP - it will state exactly where you're allowed to go and for exactly how long (usually a few days to a week - enough time to get in, do what you need to do and leave right away). Unlike visas, immigration authorities are much less forgiving with TRP holders, so don't expect to be granted time extensions or much leeway with your travel plans.Pardons
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.Credit History
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.
- As a temporary visitor (especially from a country that doesn't require a temporary resident visa) merely having bad credit should not affect your entry to Canada as long as you can show means of supporting yourself. If the visa or border officer doubts your ability to maintain yourself whilst in Canada then a credit check can be used to support a decision to grant or refuse entry or a visa for financial reasons based on the totality of the circumstances.
- If you are applying for a work permit, a long term visa of any kind or are immigrating to Canada, expect your financial history to be heavily scrutinized and be prepared to explain any exceptionally bad marks (i.e. chargeoffs, repossessions, etc...) if asked. This does not apply to family stream immigrants (as long as the sponsor is financially solvent), nor does it apply to refugees or asylum seekers.
- Bankruptcy and debt related litigation are public records that will come up in background checks and are considered character concerns - refusal is very likely unless you can make and prove a highly compelling case for it to be set aside (such as if the judgement resulted from identity theft or a disability). If this describes you, and you can afford it - discuss your situation with an immigration attorney prior to making travel plans or applying for a visa. Keep in mind also that depending on the jurisdiction where the bankruptcy or litigation occurred (such as Australia and the United Kingdom) you may not be allowed to travel internationally at all, or may require a waiver or permission from the court.
- In mainland China, most Gulf Cooperative Council nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) as well as a handful of US States (such as Minnesota) certain types of unpaid debt may be treated as a criminal offense punishable with a jail term, and standard rehabilitation procedures would apply prior to entering Canada.
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 traveler (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:
- Purpose of visit. The days when you could simply walk over the Rainbow Bridge with your driver's license, telling customs that you wanted to see the other side of the city are long gone. If you're visiting as a tourist (including day-trip pedestrians from Niagara Falls, NY or Detroit), border officers expect that you have a clear idea of what you plan to do and see while in the country. Vague answers and those such as "I'll see when I get to this city" will only invite further scrutiny of your case. They are going to want a detailed itinerary of the places you'll be visiting. It's a good idea to research the places you intend to tour and have all the pertinent information written down ahead of time, and to include contact information if any of your destinations aren't standard tourist attractions or more off the beaten path. Also be prepared with a physical street address at which you will be staying (a hotel name by itself is not acceptable) if you'll be in the country for more than a single day.
- Letter of invitation. In absence of a visa authorizing employment, long-term residency or study, a letter of invitation (sometimes called a "letter of introduction") is required for persons visiting for any reason other than tourism (including visiting relatives or friends). For business visitors, there is specific information this letter must contain (including a statement of financial support), but for everybody else something in writing (e-mail or hard copy) along with contact information from the person you're visiting is sufficient. You must bring the letter with you to the port of entry, even if you used it to apply for a temporary resident visa. The letter of invitation requirement is strictly enforced. If you are a business visitor and show up without one you will be denied entry. Others may or may not be admitted after significant delays and additional rounds of unpleasant questioning while border officials attempt to verify your story.
- Health concerns. If you are very sick, to the point where the border officer has to consider whether you might burden the healthcare system during your visit, you will be denied entry.
- Support funds . You need to prove you have enough funds to support yourself and dependents while in Canada. For most Western tourists a major credit card (not a debit, ATM or bank card) is sufficient.
- Inadmissible family members. If you have an immediate family member who is deemed inadmissible, you may also be disqualified from entry based on that fact, although this is at the discretion of the border or visa officer. It seems to be a problem more for persons with known terrorists, members of the Mafia, or other high profile criminals in their family, not just a sibling with a misdemeanor conviction.
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 U.S. prior to your departure from North America.
- If you are returning to the U.S. in this trip, keep your visa documents. Do not hand over your US visa or visa waiver card (I-94 or I-94W) to border control. You can enter the U.S. multiple times during the time allocated to your visa (for Western tourists, normally 90 days), but you need to have the immigration document as well to validate the visa. If you come back from the U.S. without that document, you will not only have to apply again for a visa or visa waiver but also will also need to satisfy U.S. immigration of the validity of your trip (meaning to show them that you will not intend on immigrating there).
- If your default U.S. time is going to run out while you are in Canada, and you want to return to the US direct from Canada, you need to apply for a U.S. visa with a longer time period (eg B-1/B-2, or a C-1 transit visa) before your first trip through the U.S.. For example, if you are going to stay in Canada for six months, and you transit through the US on a visa waiver, then the U.S. will regard your six months in Canada as not allowing you to return to the U.S. without leaving North America first, as you have stayed more than 90 days in North America in total. Note that in this scenario, you have not done anything wrong by visiting the U.S. and then staying in Canada for a long time, simply that the U.S. will not allow you to return directly from Canada, you have to reset their clock by leaving North America. Visa waiver travelers may be able to avoid this by returning their I-94W (green) form to their airline upon departing the U.S., or to the Canadian immigration inspector if entering Canada by land; since the U.S. has no outbound immigration check, it's up to the traveler to remember this.
- If you are intending to leave North America entirely without returning to the U.S. on this trip, return any visa documents at the time of leaving the U.S. for Canada. This means handing over your I-94 or I-94W card to airline staff at the check-in counter if departing by air, or to the Canadian immigration inspector if departing by land. If you do not, you will need to prove  to the U.S. that you didn't overstay to be admitted on future trips (the US CBP website has information on how to correct this mistake).
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 (i.e. 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: 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".
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 a Canadian Non-Resident Insurance Certificate in addition to your standard insurance card. Canada has some of the highest auto insurance minimums 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 the mandatory limits while driving 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.
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 .
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 protectionism policies favouring Air Canada from the Canadian government, 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. 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.
Italy apparently offers expatriot citizens and their children one free flight to Italy. One should make application to the Italian Embassy. France offers citizens who are resident in the overseas territories like Saint-Pierre et Miquelon near Newfoundland free or subsidized flights via Montreal to Metropolitan France.
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 ones passage. Because it pays so well and there is little work in places like Newfoundland, many Canadians commute from the North Atlantic 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.
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:
- there can be very high surcharges associated with dropping off the car at a different location than where it was picked up.
- Unlimited km are usually offered for the province you rent it in only. As soon as you enter another province, even for a few km, your entire trip gets limited (mostly to 200 km or 124 mi a day).
- Driving is usually permitted on paved roads only.
- There are no manual transmission rental cars available in Canada. Don't bother searching.
Basically said, 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 is best to have or buy your own car.
In some cases, frugal travellers may be able to "earn" budget automobile 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 U.S., Gas prices are sold by the liter and as of May 2011, it cost CAD$1.30-1.40 per litre (CAD$4.92-5.29 per US Gallon) in most urbanized areas in the country, but that is typical and usually goes up in March, just in time for summer driving season. Year round, prices tend to be about 50% higher than those in the U.S. 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.
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.Traffic rules to be aware of
- Canadians drive on the right of the road.
- In the province of Quebec, roadsigns are written solely in French but for the most part their meaning is obvious.
- Canadians use the metric system for traffic measurements (hence speed is quoted in kilometres per hour, and distances in kilometres).
- In many areas of Canada (with the exception of the Island of Montreal) it is legal to turn right (after stopping) on a red light. Drivers may also turn left after stopping at a red if they are turning onto a one-way street from another one-way street.
- Pedestrians have the right of way at intersections and crosswalks, provided they are not crossing against a signal.
- In Canada, you must always yield to a police car, fire truck, or ambulance when their emergency lights are flashing. If they are approaching from behind, you must pull to the right and stop. And when passing any emergency vehicle (including tow trucks in many provinces) you must slow down to 60 km/h or below in any lane directly beside the responding vehicle.
- Private vehicles displaying flashing green lights in Ontario are volunteer fire fighters responding to an emergency, and should be yielded to as a matter of common sense.
- In many jurisdictions, including British Columbia, motorists are also required to slow down and move into a non-adjacent lane when passing a stopped emergency vehicle. Slowing to 60 km/h is the norm on a highway.
- The use of hand-held mobile devices while driving is banned in all provinces; the last holdout, New Brunswick, passed a ban that took effect in early 2011. Yukon is considering such a ban as well. Use of hands-free devices while driving is legal throughout Canada, although the Canadian Automobile Association is currently (January 2011) lobbying for such a ban. Some provinces such as Alberta expand upon this basic ban with Distracted Driving laws that also forbid other activities such as reading maps, doing makeup, and programming on-board GPS systems while driving.
- Some provinces have blood alcohol limits of 0.05%. The national Criminal Code limit is 0.08% - a foreign national exceeding this can expect to be fined heavily and deported - See respect below. Police in some provinces such as B.C. and Alberta may impound vehicles temporarily if the driver is between 0.05% and 0.08%, even though this doesn't violate national laws. Most provinces have "Checkstop" programs in place -- these are randomly placed police checkpoints, usually set up at night, during which an officer will ask motorists of they've been drinking and gauge based upon their response and other factors whether to initiate further roadside sobriety or breathalyzer tests. If you encounter one while driving -- and assuming youhaven't been drinking -- in most cases you'll be let through after only a few seconds, though you may be asked to show your driver's license (have your car rental agreement handy too, if it's requested).
- During winter, a flashing blue light usually identifies a snow removal vehicle. Snow removal vehicles in the four western provinces use amber lights.
- Beware: In British Columbia, a (slow) flashing green light means the traffic light is green (you can go) but it is controlled by the pedestrian. The light will remain flashing green until a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street; when you see a flashing green light, traffic coming towards you will also see a flashing green light. In Ontario, Québec and Nova Scotia, a (fast) flashing green light indicates advanced turn, signaling the driver can make a left hand turn across oncoming traffic because oncoming traffic has a red light.
- In British Columbia there are many roads, mainly in mountain passes, which require vehicles to be equipped with winter tires or carry chains from October 1 - April 30.
- In Quebec, winter tire use is mandatory for all taxis and passenger vehicles from December 15 to March 15. (Note that this applies only to vehicles registered in the province; tourists driving into the province can use all season tires.)
- Speed limits vary per province anywhere from the relatively low 100 km/hr to 110 km/hr and are enforced by radar. Don't be fooled to think you can speed as many native drivers across eastern Canada will speed.
By trainMain article: Rail travel in Canada
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.
While never advisable, hitch hiking is still quite common among younger travellers strapped for cash or seeking adventure. It's most common in the far western provinces, where there are generally more travellers. 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.
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 only 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 and Quebec City are at least conversationally bilingual.
English is the dominant language in all regions 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:
- the national capital region around Ottawa,
- some parts of eastern and northern Ontario,
- the city of Winnipeg and areas to the south,
- the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood in Edmonton,and several surrounding communities,
- many parts of the Acadian region of Atlantic Canada, scattered across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the French Shores of Newfoundland).
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 widely used in Canada. Certain words also follow British instead of American pronunciations, but the accents of Anglo-Canadians and Midwestern 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 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 usually get by with English in the major 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 many 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
- In Manitoba, Churchill is known for its Polar Bears and Belugas and Riding Mountain National Park and adjacent Parkland area for its abundant population of Black Bears that vary in color from blond, cinnamon and chocolate to black. Riding Mountain National Park is known for its "watchable" wildlife.
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. 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, there are many musical and cultural summer festivals taking place across the country. Here is just a taste: Bluesfest in Ottawa which features a range of very well known and current artists (mostly isn't blues music). Yellowknife’s Summer Solstice Festival, Calgary’s Reggaefest, Windsor's International Freedom Festival (with Detroit), the Calgary Stampede, Winnipeg’s Folklorama, Toronto’s beer festival, summerlicious, gay pride parade, Veld electronic festival, and Caribana, Les Francofolies de Montreal, as well as Montreal's Jazz and Comedy festivals, New Brunswick’s Festival acadien de Caraquet, London's Rib-fest, Bayfest in Sarnia, Brantford Kinsmen Ribfest, the Jazz and Blues Festival in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and the Collingwood Elvis Festival in Collingwood, Ontario. Edmonton is also known as the "Festival City" due to the large amount of festivals (such as North America's largest Fringe Theatre festival).
The autumn 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.
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 April 2012, the Canadian dollar is at par with the U.S. dollar.
Canadian coins are of 1¢ (penny; phased out, but still accepted as legal tender), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), 25¢ (quarter), 50¢ (rarely seen/never used), $1 (loonie) and $2 (toonie). (The penny, nickel, dime, and quarter 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. The $1,000 (pinkish) bill has not been issued since 2000 as part of the fight against money laundering and organized crime. Although it remains legal tender, banks have been taking them out of circulation. In addition, the $1 (green/black) and $2 (terra-cotta) bills no longer circulate but are still considered legal tender.
In comparison to the United States, Canada may seem to be more expensive with some things costing almost double as to what they would in the United States. Be aware that Canada sells fuel (gasoline, diesel, etc.) in liters, as opposed to gallons. However, as of August 2009, many of the goods on sale in Canada have a price equivalent to that of the United States when the exchange rate is taken into account. While many Canadians are under the impression that shopping south of the border is less expensive, as of late, it has been cheaper to shop in Canada. Beer is generally stronger in Canada than in the States, but in some provinces such as Quebec, it can be cheaper than neighbouring U.S. states such as New York. 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 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, etc, you may be able to negotiate a lower price, although it is, again, often unnecessary to put forth the effort.
In all cities and towns, it is possible to convert between Canadian dollars and most major currencies at many banks. In addition, some retailers in Canada will accept US currency either at par or at slightly reduced value. 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. U.S. and Canadian coins, however, are similar in size, so they are used interchangeably; it is quite common for change to be given in a mix of Canadian and US coins. Almost all automatic vending machines will reject U.S. coins.
Credit cards are widely accepted, with Visa and MasterCard being accepted in most places, 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.
No more GST rebates
Until 2007, travellers to Canada could claim back their GST on leaving the country, but this is no longer possible.
Be aware that (in contrast to other countries where what you see is what you pay and so called "hidden costs" are forbidden by law) you will almost always pay more than the prices displayed. They usually exclude sales tax and any number of very inventive extras and/or more or less mandatory tips. So don't get your dollar ready when you to the cashier in a thrift shop, because he may well ask you for $1.12...
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, and medical services such as eye exams or dentistry.
A Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 5% is applied to most items. In addition to the GST, most provinces charge an additional Provincial Sales Tax (PST) on purchases. British Columbia, 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), prescription drugs, residential housing, medical and dental services, educational services and certain childcare services.
The sales tax rates (as of 2008) are:
- Alberta - no PST, GST total only (5% total)
- British Columbia - The 7% PST and 5% GST (12% total) were re-introduced on April 1st 2013 after the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) was defeated in a referendum
- Manitoba - adds 7% to the total taxable purchases plus the GST total (12% total)
- New Brunswick - adds 13% to the total taxable purchases as the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) (13% total)
- Newfoundland and Labrador - adds 13% to the total taxable purchases as the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) (13% total)
- Northwest Territories - no PST, GST total only (5% total)
- Nova Scotia - adds 15% to the total taxable purchases as the Harmonised Sales Tax (HST) (15% total)
- Nunavut - no PST, GST total only (5% total)
- Ontario - The PST and GST were eliminated and replaced with a 13% Harmonized Sales Tax on July 1st 2010 (13% total)
- Prince Edward Island - adds 10% to the total taxable purchases plus the GST total (15% total)
- Quebec - adds 9.5% to the total of taxable purchases and the GST - the GST is taxed (14.975% total)
- Saskatchewan - adds 5% to the total taxable purchases plus the GST total (10% total)
- Yukon - no PST, GST total only (5% total)
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.
English Canadians may be mystified if you ask where you can get Canadian food. Although you will find some regional specialties, especially at the Eastern and Western edges of the country, in English Canada there isn't much food known as "Canadian" except for maple syrup, nanaimo bars (chocolate-topped no-bake squares with custard or vanilla butter filling and crumb base), buttertarts (tarts made with butter, sugar and eggs), beaver tails (fried dough topped with icing sugar), fiddleheads (curled heads of young ferns), and a few other examples. They are an important, if somewhat humble, part of the Canadian culinary landscape. In other respects, English Canadian cuisine is very similar to that of the northern United States. Canadians may be unaware that they even have national dishes, especially in the more urbanized areas, such as Toronto, and if you ask for a beaver tail or fiddlehead, you may receive nothing but a strange look or a polite giggle. That being said, there is a rising trend among Canadian chefs and restaurateurs to offer locally-produced ingredients, and most major cities have bistros which specialize in local cuisine. This can even include game meat dishes such as caribou, venison, moose, grouse or wild turkey prepared in a variety of European styles.
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 (meat and vegetable pie), cretons (mince of pork drippings), ragoût de pattes (pigs' feet stew), plorine (pork pie), oreilles de Christ (fried larding bacon), 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 U.S. 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:
- A&W  Found all over Canada; although unrelated to the American A&W, many menu items are similar if not identical. It's targeted mostly to the boomer demographic, and as such has offerings of an arguably higher quality than most American chains, but prices can approach those of cheaper sit-down restaurants, with a combo meal (a "trio" in Québec) usually setting one back no less than $7.
- Boston Pizza  was founded in Edmonton. Pizza and Pasta. Casual family dining. BP's lounges are usually a popular local watering hole.
- Cora's  started in Quebec, and is expanding across the country. Cora's serves only breakfast and lunch. If you want a hearty, North American style breakfast that makes you feel that you started your day right, Cora's is the place to go.
- East Side Marios  are American Italian restaurants with a New York theme.
- Harvey's  is a fast food chain, common in Ontario and found in almost every province, that features made-to-order hamburgers and other sandwiches.
- The Keg  steak houses, usually with tables and booths for 4-6 people. Apart from the steaks they also have good salads and starters. The Keg Mansion in Toronto is worth a visit.
- Kelsey's  provides casual family dining, very similar to Applebees or T.G.I. Friday's in the United States.
- Lick's Homeburgers & Ice Cream  is a restaurant chain famous for its fresh, thick, juicy burgers, which are called "homeburgers".
- mmmuffins  is a coffee, muffin and doughnut retailer. Currently owned and operated by Timothy's World Coffee Inc. as an independent brand.
- Montana's  is a family oriented, outdoor wilderness themed restaurant. Montana's promises hearty portions of home-style cooking and friendly, efficient service in a lodge setting.
- Mr. Sub  is a submarine sandwich store chain.
- New York Fries  is a fast food restaurant that mainly serves french fries and hot dogs. There are locations in several provinces throughout Canada.
- Second Cup serves coffee and cakes. This chain is very similar to Starbucks, in terms of atmosphere and product offerings.
- Swiss Chalet  sit down restaurants are operated by Cara, the same company that runs Harvey's, Kelsey's, and Montana's. They specialize in rotisserie chicken and ribs.
- Tim Hortons  franchises are spread across the country. Started by a hockey player as a chain of doughnut shops, their coffee has become an obsession for many Canadians, and are actually starting to make inroads in the United States, particularly border states such as New York and Michigan. A common joke holds that if a Tim Hortons was placed on every corner of every street, there would still be a lineup out the door. Even though coffee is what they are famous for, their menu is worth considering, offering a variety of very inexpensive sandwiches, soups, bagels and baked goods. Their doughnuts are very popular, as are the 'Timbits', small balls of doughnut. Tim Hortons is so popular that visitors from other countries are often shocked and amused by the Tim Hortons franchises (and coffee cups) found nearly everywhere. You will probably find it very hard to avoid a Tim Hortons while in Canada. The 'double double' - two cream and two sugar - is a common coffee.
- Timothy's World Coffee  (a.k.a. Timothy's) is the third-largest Canadian-owned chain of cafés, behind Tim Hortons and Second Cup.
- Yogen Fruz  is a leading frozen yogurt chain featuring Probiotic frozen yogurt, which was founded in Canada in 1986. Yogen Fruz is a staple in malls all over Canada.
The drinking age in Canada varies from province to province. In Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec the age is 18, while in the rest of the provinces and territories it is 19. A peculiarity of many Canadian provinces is that liquor and beer can only be sold in licensed stores and this usually excludes supermarkets. 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.
Canadian adults enjoy beer and other alcoholic beverages quite often. Watching sports, especially hockey, is a popular time to consume these type of drinks.
Canadian mass-market beers (e.g., Molson's, Labatt's) are generally a pale gold lager, with an alcohol content of 5% to 6%. This alcohol level may be higher than popular beers in the U.S. or Great Britain, so it pays to be careful if you're a visitor. 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.
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.
Canada is famous in other countries for its distinctive rye whiskey, a beverage widely known to be too commonly appreciated by Canadians. 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.
Alberta Pure is a Vodka.
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. Try  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 $10.25/ hour in British Columbia, $9.25/hour in Yukon Territory and $9.40/hour in Alberta to $10.25/hour in Ontario and $11/hour in Nunavut. 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 (i.e. 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 here: . 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. Violent crime needn't 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 higher than most western European cities). Crime is higher in overall in western provinces than in Eastern Canada, but is even 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.
Police in Canada are usually hardworking, honest, and trustworthy individuals. If you ever encounter any problems during your stay, even if it's as simple as being lost, approaching a police officer is a good idea.
There are three main types of police forces in Canada: federal, provincial and municipal. The federal police force is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP or "Mounties"), with a widespread presence in all parts of the country other than Quebec, Ontario, and Newfoundland & Labrador, which maintain their own provincial police forces. These are the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Sûreté du Québec and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. All the other provinces and territories contract their provincial duties to the RCMP.
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 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, be it 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 both on, and 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). In Eastern Canada, they are the most likely, but the occasional small one will pop up west of Northwest Ontario usually there it is wind-whipped snow that is the main hazard. Reduce speed, be conscious of other drivers, and pay attention. It's best to carry an emergency kit, 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. 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). Most rifles and shotguns are non-restricted, as they are used extensively for hunting, on farms, or for protection in remote areas. Handguns or pistols are restricted weapons, but may be obtained and used legally with the proper licenses. Generally the only people who carry handguns 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 not illegal, openly carrying a weapon will likely be treated as suspicious by the police and civilians.
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 summer's of 2003 and 2009, with many thousands having to be evacuated.
Illicit Drug Use
Marijuana use is illegal in Canada (with exception to medical marijuana). Under the present Conservative government the tide is turning back toward stricter penalties for drug offenses.
Because of its popularity, easy availability and allowances for "medical purposes", many visitors believe that its use is legal, however being found in possession of marijuana or other controlled substances can result in deportation.
Driving while impaired by drugs (including marijuana and even legal "drowsy" drugs) is a criminal code offense and is treated in the same way as driving under the influence of alcohol, with severe penalties. Do not attempt to drive while high; 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. This includes marijuana. Penalties in the U.S. for drug smuggling are much 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 in most circles to drink and drive. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is also punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada and can involve jail time, particularly for repeat offenses. If you "blow over" the legal limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) on a roadside Breathalyzer 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 while driving under the influence will get arrested by the Border Services Officers.
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.
Canada is a very multicultural society, and the vast majority of Canadians are open minded and accepting. Thus, it is very unlikely to meet ridicule in major urban centres on the basis of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, as most Canadians (from major urban centres) have encountered every type of person imaginable.
Hate speech - communication that may incite violence toward an identifiable group - is illegal in Canada and can lead to prosecution, jail time and deportation.
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 are common in rural and inner city 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, medical care in Canada is available at about 30 to 60 percent savings, according to the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper.  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.
As emphasized in many places Canada is a multicultural country - as such the paramount point of respect to embrace this attitude as much as possible. Outward displays of racism, sexism, or homophobia will be met with extreme hostility. Even slight preferences may be noticed and noted.
Of equal importance is to avoid assuming positions or cultures based on identifiable signs. For example the Chinese girl you might meet may not speak a word of Chinese and may never have been anywhere near China. This point is especially true for individuals from areas with ethnic strife - don't assume that anyone you meet is either personally connected to or shares the viewpoints of their ethnic-origin Nation.
Beyond that be aware of the complicated Canadian-American relationship. Canadians can wax and wane about the U.S. for hours but rarely invite opinions, or comparisons to the U.S. Mentions of "The 51st State" and "America's Hat" will be considered grave insults, as well as any derision of Canada's status as a distinct nation. Equal to that is references to British or (In Quebec) French relationships as those are either in decline or rife with potential faux pas.
Be aware of politics—there is a large degree of regionalism in Canada, and the learning curve is steep when you attempt to explore these differences. In particular, Quebec's somewhat strained relationship with the rest of Canada—the result of a still-active secession movement—may be a sensitive topic.
When entering a private home in Canada it is expected that you take off your shoes.
Gay and lesbian travelers
Canada is very open to all forms of LGBT travelers, indeed Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are all famed for their LGBT communities. Even smaller cities are very open and liberal, although not to the same extent. Outside these Metropolitan areas, open displays of affection shouldn't generally present a problem despite a more conservative outlook. However certain rural areas may be more problematic; as always use your discretion. Human Rights Codes protect against discrimination in all areas; including accommodation, access to health care and employment - should you encounter any negative responses, especially violent or threatening episodes immediately phone the police and they will be glad to help you. Same-sex marriage is legal.
The terms "Aboriginal" ("Autochtones" in French) or "First Nations" are used as catch all terms for all indigenous people of Canada. Most Aboriginal communities are rural and not used to tourists (note that some so-called reserves may restrict access to residents or invited guests - watch for signage at the entrances to these areas, which can range from official advisories to crude handmade signs saying "Stay out". Visitors to Canada with an interest in Aboriginal culture should seek out an Aboriginal cultural centre in a city. Be aware that tension exists between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations in some areas, though outright violence is extremely rare.
The largest aboriginal group are the Indians, found throughout Canada and divided into various ethnic groups ("tribes"); traditions, language, history and way of life will vary based on background and location. Some will be offended by the term "Indian", though they may use it themselves (note this differs from the U.S. where "Indian" appears to be much more widely accepted). The term "Native" may also cause offense among some. "First Nations" is the safer politically-correct term.
The Métis (pronounced MAY-tee) are descendants of European (mostly French) fur traders and Aboriginal women. Found mostly in the Prairies and especially Manitoba, they have their own distinct culture and history. Back in the late 19th century, they rose in rebellion under Louis Riel (the closest thing to a true civil war Canada has yet experienced) but they were defeated and Riel hanged.
The Inuit are the smallest group, found mostly in Nunavut, with smaller populations in Quebec, Labrador and the Northwest Territories. Historically they were known as "Eskimos", but the term is no longer politically correct in Canada ( but it still is in much of America) and should not be used. The Inuit are only one group of Eskimos, and using Inuit as a blanket term is offensive. As a result, Eskimo is still the accepted term in all of the U.S. bar Alaska, where the native Inuit-derived tribes (such as the Inupiaq and Yupik) find the term offensive as well. The term "Alaska Native" is generally the safe term there.
The communication infrastructure of Canada is what you would expect for an industrialized country.
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 all major centres except Halifax require the three-digit area code.Mobiles
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.
WiFi 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 Hortons (select locations) 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 WiFi in passenger areas. See wififreespot.com  for a partial listing of establishments offering free WiFi.
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 ( 61 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.
- Canada's southern neighbour, the United States, can become a side trip from Canada or even a major part of your vacation. Places like Niagara Falls, New York State, New York City, Detroit, and Seattle are easily reached on public transportation or on foot in some cases. See the main article on the U.S. for entry requirements - if you need a visa be sure to apply well in advance.
- Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are two relatively small islands off the coast of Newfoundland. Despite their small size and relative proximity to the Canadian coast line, they are overseas Departments of France and the only vestige of French colonialism in North America. To step into this charming French seaside community, take the car ferry from Fortune, Newfoundland during the summer, or scheduled flights from Montreal, Halifax, and St. Johns year round.
- Greenland, Canada's major eastern island neighbour, despite being separated by less than 50km of water in some locations is not easily accessible from North America. The flag carrier Air Greenland flies from Iqaluit in Nunavut (YFB) to the capital Nuuk (GOH) twice a week from June through September. Seasonal flights are also available from Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF) and year round via Copenhagen (CPH). Another, albeit more expensive option are the summer cruise ships originating in both the U.S. and Canada. Despite the relative difficulty of reaching the island, the untouched natural Arctic beauty of one of the most remote places on earth makes it well worth the effort.