Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY SU­SAN MACCAL­LUM-WHIT­COMB

Be­fore trav­el­ling, it is use­ful to have some ba­sic in­for­ma­tion on your des­ti­na­tion. Provin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial agen­cies can pro­vide ma­te­rial cov­er­ing ev­ery aspect of tourism in their re­gion, al­low­ing you to plan ac­cord­ingly. We’ve com­piled our own list of tips— con­sider this Canada 101, a primer to help you prep for your trip.


First im­pres­sions count, so the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency makes en­ter­ing the coun­try com­par­a­tively easy. Va­ca­tion­ing cit­i­zens of Bri­tain and most EU or Com­mon­wealth coun­tries need only a valid pass­port and Elec­tronic Travel Au­tho­riza­tion (ETA). Visas aren’t re­quired; how­ever, a re­turn ticket and proof of suf­fi­cient funds may be re­quested. Amer­i­can cit­i­zens trav­el­ling be­tween the U.S. and Canada must pro­duce a pass­port or other WHTI-com­pli­ant doc­u­ment, such as a NEXUS card ( If in doubt, con­sult Cit­i­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Canada (

There are no lim­i­ta­tions on what per­sonal ef­fects can be brought into Canada. Gifts must be val­ued at $60 or less each. Duty-free lim­its for adults are 1.5 l (53 imp. oz.) of wine, 1.14 l (40 imp. oz.) of spir­its or 8.5 l (287 imp. oz.) of beer or ale. Adults may also bring up to 200 cig­a­rettes, 50 cigars, 200 g (7 oz.) of tobacco or 200 tobacco sticks.

The use of firearms is strictly con­trolled, and the buy­ing or sell­ing of il­licit drugs is se­verely dealt with. When trav­el­ling, pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions should be kept in orig­i­nal con­tain­ers in case cus­toms of­fi­cials want to see them. In the in­ter­est of pub­lic health, re­stric­tions are also placed on the im­por­ta­tion of an­i­mals, plants and foods (­spec­ ).


Flights op­er­ated by Air Canada (www. air­ and car­ri­ers like West Jet ( or Porter (www. fly­ link many Cana­dian cities. In some air­ports, a de­par­ture tax is levied on top of taxes in­cluded in your ticket price. The na­tional train sys­tem, VIA Rail, of­fers cross-coun­try ser­vice, with con­nec­tions to cer­tain U.S. cities ( In­ter-city bus ser­vice is also avail­able in some ar­eas through com­pa­nies such as Grey­hound (www.grey­ Civic buses pro­vide pub­lic tran­sit in many com­mu­ni­ties; Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary, Ed­mon­ton, Toronto and Mon­tréal, more­over, have ex­cel­lent sub­way and lo­cal rail sys­tems. Taxi ser­vice has been a foun­da­tion in cities and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties for many years, how­ever, up­start Uber is avail­able in some ma­jor cities. For many trav­ellers, though, driv­ing is the pre­ferred way to go.

The corner­stone of the na­tional road net­work is the Trans-Canada High­way, which stretches 8,030 km (4,990 mi.) from Vic­to­ria, B.C., to St. John’s, New­found­land, with fer­ries cov­er­ing coastal wa­ters at each end. Cana­di­ans drive on the right and fol­low rules sim­i­lar to those in Bri­tain and the U.S. At in­ter­sec­tions you may turn right on a red light if the way is clear and un­less posted oth­er­wise (ex­cept on the Is­land of Mon­tréal). Speed lim­its, stated in kilo­me­tres, vary but are usu­ally around 100 to 110 km/h (62 to 68 mph) on high­ways and 50 to 60 km/h (31 to 37 mph) in ur­ban ar­eas. Radar de­tec­tors are il­le­gal in most lo­cales. Seat belts are com­pul­sory, and chil­dren weigh­ing less than 18 kg (40 lb.) must be in child re­straint seats. Ev­ery prov­ince and ter­ri­tory, save for Nu­navut, for­bids us­ing hand-held elec­tronic de­vices when driv­ing. Per­mis­si­ble blood al­co­hol lim­its vary, but drink­ing and driv­ing laws are strictly en­forced na­tion­wide.

Bri­tish and U.S. driver’s li­cences are valid in Canada for up to three months. Car rental com­pa­nies are found at air­ports and in many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. In­ter­na­tional ly­ob­served age lim­its ap­ply, and driv­ers should present an ac­cept­able credit card.

All mo­torists must have ac­ci­dent li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance. Amer­i­cans driv­ing across the bor­der should ob­tain a Cana­dian Non­res­i­dent In­ter-Prov­ince Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Li­a­bil­ity Card, com­monly known as a yel­low card (avail­able from their in­surer in the U.S. only) be­fore leav­ing. Driv­ers should also bring their ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion card, a let­ter of per­mis­sion from the reg­is­tered owner or a rental com­pany con­tract stip­u­lat­ing per­mis­sion for use in Canada.


Even in Canada’s largest cities it is gen­er­ally safe to walk the streets and use pub­lic trans­porta­tion at night. Nev­er­the­less, pru­dent vis­i­tors will let com­mon sense be their guide and take the usual pre­cau­tions. Be­long­ings left in parked cars should be stowed out of sight. Purses and wal­lets are best kept be­neath outer cloth­ing; pass­ports and other valu­ables stored in a ho­tel safe. To avoid un­nec­es­sary grief if theft oc­curs, keep a list of credit card and other im­por­tant num­bers in a se­cure place.

In the event of ill­ness or ac­ci­dent, it is re­as­sur­ing to know that Canada’s health ser­vices rank among the world’s finest.

Most hospitals are pub­licly man­aged, their fees set by provin­cial au­thor­i­ties. Non­res­i­dents hos­pi­tal­ized in Canada are charged a daily rate. These dif­fer by prov­ince and can be cost pro­hib­i­tive, so it is im­por­tant to pur­chase travel health in­sur­ance be­fore leav­ing home.

Cana­di­ans trav­el­ling do­mes­ti­cally can typ­i­cally rely on their provin­cial health cov­er­age. All provinces and ter­ri­to­ries ex­cept Québec have a co-op­er­a­tive agree­ment al­low­ing physi­cians to sub­mit claims for ser­vices in­volv­ing out-of-prov­ince res­i­dents to the lo­cal med­i­cal plan; these are then charged to that res­i­dent’s home plan. Res­i­dents who are re­quired to pay for health ser­vices can sub­mit re­ceipts to their lo­cal min­istry of­fice for pos­si­ble re­im­burse­ment. Ser­vices not cov­ered while trav­el­ling out of prov­ince in­clude am­bu­lances and pre­scrip­tion drugs from phar­ma­cies.

Buy­ing sup­ple­men­tary med­i­cal in­sur­ance can al­le­vi­ate these costs.


Canada’s pa­per cur­rency comes in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1,000 dol­lar bills, which dif­fer in colour but not size. Coins are in 5¢, 10¢ and 25¢ de­nom­i­na­tions; there are also $1 and $2 coins, dubbed the loonie and toonie. U.S. cur­rency is widely ac­cepted at the pre­vail­ing ex­change rate, though you should ex­pect to re­ceive change in

Cana­dian funds.

Sales taxes are added to the price of vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing meals and lodg­ings. For starters, there is a fed­eral 5 per­cent Goods and Ser­vices Tax (GST). Ex­cept in Al­berta and the ter­ri­to­ries, there is also a provin­cial sales tax (PST), which is some­times com­bined with the GST to cre­ate one Har­mo­nized Sales Tax (HST). This means you’ll pay an ex­tra 10-15 per­cent on top of most ad­ver­tised pur­chase prices.

Au­to­mated teller ma­chines (ATMs) that ac­cept in­ter­na­tional debit cards are plen­ti­ful, and many are ac­ces­si­ble around the clock. Just bear in mind that four-digit PIN codes are con­sid­ered stan­dard—if yours has more, change it be­fore leav­ing home. To min­i­mize trans­ac­tion fees, choose an ATM af­fil­i­ated with your home bank; users of Cir­rus or PLUS net­works can re­search lo­ca­tions on-line. Amer­i­cans who’d rather pay by credit card should note that chip & PIN cards are com­mon­place here; how­ever, trans­ac­tions can of­ten be pro­cessed us­ing the old swipe and sign method, too.


Most com­mu­ni­ties have branches of ma­jor banks which are open, at min­i­mum, from 10 to 3 on week­days. Banks are closed on le­gal hol­i­days, but ex­change bu­reaus in cities, air­ports and at bor­der cross­ings usu­ally re­main open. Mu­se­ums and sim­i­lar sites are typ­i­cally open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; some close on Mon­day but have evening hours (and of­ten re­duced prices) once a week.

Store hours are gen­er­ally 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon­day through Satur­day, though these may be ex­tended on Thurs­day and Fri­day nights; times vary on Sun­day. Shop­ping cen­tres are typ­i­cally open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on week­days, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Satur­day, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sun­day. Su­per­mar­kets of­ten have longer hours. Drug­stores may re­main open un­til mid­night with some 24-hour lo­ca­tions, and con­ve­nience stores some­times op­er­ate 24/7.

Canada’s liquor laws vary be­tween provinces and ter­ri­to­ries, and liquor store hours vary ac­cord­ingly. The sale of spir­its, wines and beer in provinces dif­fer, with most be­ing sold in provin­cially-owned or su­per­vised stores, as well as some avail­able in pri­vate shops. In Al­berta pri­vately owned liquor stores are al­lowed to sell al­co­hol.


The Cana­dian tele­phone sys­tem is iden­ti­cal to the U.S. one and shares the same in­ter­na­tional coun­try code (01). Tele­phone num­bers have a 3-digit area code fol­lowed by the 7-digit lo­cal num­ber. Toll-free num­bers are pre­fixed by 1-800, 1-888, 1-877, 1-866, 1-855 or 1-844. For emer­gen­cies, dial 911; for direc­tory as­sis­tance, dial 411; for the op­er­a­tor, dial 0.

Pub­lic phone booths, while in­creas­ingly rare, can be used for lo­cal or long-dis­tance calls. The cost of the for­mer is 50¢; you can pay for the lat­ter with coins, a phone card and some­times a credit card, or by re­vers­ing the charges. In­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors can typ­i­cally use their own multi­band cell phone but should be mind­ful of high roam­ing and data charges. One way to avoid these is to ask your provider to tem­po­rar­ily add Cana­dian ac­cess to your ser­vice plan be­fore ar­riv­ing. Rent­ing a travel phone or bring­ing an “un­locked” cell phone and then buy­ing a lo­cal SIM card are other al­ter­na­tives.

On-line op­tions such as Skype, Face Time or Whats App of­fer cheaper ways to keep in touch. Most ho­tels pro­vide broad­band con­nec­tions or WiFi, at least in com­mon ar­eas. Many air­ports, bus and train sta­tions, ferry ter­mi­nals and li­braries also of­fer WiFi; ditto for count­less cof­fee shops and fast food fran­chises, in­clud­ing those ubiq­ui­tous Tim Hor­tons out­lets. If you are bring­ing a phone charger, lap­top, or any other elec­tri­cal de­vice, be ad­vised that Canada (like the

U.S.) has a 110-V, 60-Hz cur­rent. To use 220-V Bri­tish equip­ment, you’ll need a power con­verter plus a plug adap­tor.



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