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Canada

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Travel Guide North America Canada

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Introduction

Golden Night

Golden Night

© All Rights Reserved Good2Go

Proudly different from the United States, Canada's major cities each reveal a unique culture mixing French, British, indigenous and immigrants' cultures. The infusion of American culture into this combination adds yet another dimension and, in cities like Toronto, the mix is about as crazy as they come, with migrants from all over the world bringing their distinctive ways of life to Canada. Away from the cities' unique fusion of cultures, in the desolate reaches of its Northwest Territories and Nunavut regions, the raw beauty of the Canadian Shield is an unforgettable image. The nation's most famous attraction, Niagara Falls, can hardly match the magnificence of Canada's rugged north.

With such distinctive national icons as the Royal Canadian Mounties and the maple leaf, Canada is a "1-of-a-kind" type of place.

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Brief History

Main article: History of Canada

Musician

Musician

© All Rights Reserved Sam I Am

The first settlements in Canada were around in the Yukon approximately 26,000 years ago coming from Asia, with settlement expanding towards the Great Lakes, where modern day Toronto exists, some 9,000 years ago. Though they had known about it since 1000 AD, Europeans did not start settling Canada until the 16th century, when England and France began vying for dominance in the new world. Explorers gradually moved further inland, spurred on by the fur trade. After numerous wars between the British and French during this time, the English took control of all the area of New France, including the modern day provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec.

As the revolution started in USA in the late 1700s, Canada provided a base for the English in North America. Eventually the territories south of the Great Lakes were ceded to the new country to Canada's south, and the modern day boundary between Canada and the USA was created. On July 1st, 1867, the British North America Act brought about Confederation, creating "one dominion under the name of Canada" with four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and also gave control of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory to Canada. Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island joined the Confederation over the next eight years.

To open the west, the government sponsored construction of three trans-continental railways, including the famous Canadian Pacific Railway and established the North West Mounted Police to assert its authority over this territory. European immigrants, drawn by the inexpensive land, settled the prairies, and Alberta and Saskatchewan became provinces in 1905. After World War II in 1949, Newfoundland which had previously been under English control, joined Canada as the 10th province. Nunavut was separated out of the Northwest Territories in 1999 by the Nunavut Act.

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Geography

White Wall from peak of Ozone

White Wall from peak of Ozone

© All Rights Reserved phileas

Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world, offering a wide variety of geography and climate. The southern most parts of Canada in southern Ontario is further south than Rome, Boston or northern California. Canada lays claim (not universally recognized) to all the Arctic region from 60°W and 141°W longitude, which would include the North Pole.

Canada has one of the lowest population densities in the world, with only 3.5 people per square kilometre. Given that the majority of Canadian residents live within a few hundred kilometers of the border with USA, with a heavy population concentration in the "Windsor-Quebec City" corridor which includes the major cities of Toronto and Montreal, much of the Northern area of Canada is almost deserted.

In eastern Canada, the Saint Lawrence River widens into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. The island provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island lie in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. South of the Gulf, the Canadian Maritimes protrude eastward along the Appalachian Mountain range from northern New England and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec.

New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are divided by the Bay of Fundy. Ontario and Hudson Bay dominate central Canada. West of Ontario, the broad, flat Canadian Prairies spread toward the Rocky Mountains, which separate them from British Columbia.

Northern Canadian vegetation tapers from coniferous forests to tundra and finally to Arctic barrens in the far north. The northern Canadian mainland is ringed with a vast archipelago containing some of the world's largest islands.

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Regions

Woods and lakes in Newfoundland

Woods and lakes in Newfoundland

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Provinces

  • Alberta - More than just Canada's wild west, Alberta is a land of strong urban development as well as striking natural beauty. It features both the sparsely populated badlands and prairies to rocky mountains to one Canada's most densely populated corridors in the oil and natural resource rich cities of Calgary and Edmonton.
  • British Columbia - British Columbia's motto, Splendor sine occasu ("Splendour without diminishment") says it all. It has the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the rugged coast along the Pacific Ocean, the history of Victoria and the big city vibe of Vancouver.
  • Manitoba - A chance to see Polar bears is just one of the many amazing outdoor activities available in this province.
  • New Brunswick - Walk the ocean floor and climb the heights of the 400 million year old Appalachian Range in this maritime province.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador - Newfoundland and Labrador offers the natural beauty of the rugged coastline, dotted with "jellybean houses" in beautiful colours, a chance to see whales playing among icebergs, and a chance to drink something called "Screech," kiss a fish and be considered one of the locals.
  • Nova Scotia - Home to the world's highest tides in the Bay of Fundy, the awe inspiring scenery of the Cape Breton trail, the lively culture of Halifax and the charm and hospitality of Lunenburg on the Lighthouse Route.
  • Ontario - From the populous south of Toronto, Ottawa and the Niagara wine growing region to the remote north, Ontario offers a chance to experience Canada at its most urban and its most remote.
  • Prince Edward Island - Cradled on the waves of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Island is home to some amazing beaches, sandstone cliffs and a little obsession known as "Anne of Green Gables."
  • Quebec - Offering a culture and lifestyle that merges the "go-go" free-wheeling individualism of North America with a European attitude, it provides the visitor a unique European experience in North America.
  • Saskatchewan - The Land of the Living Skies, Saskatchewan is Canada's "big sky country."

Territories

  • Northwest Territories - Northern territory rising above the arctic circle.
  • Nunavut - The territory of Nunavut was separated out of the Northwest territories in 1999 by the Nunavut Act to settle land claims from the Inuit, the northern indigenous people of Canada. Mostly governed by the Inuit, this territory is becoming a real tourist draw for people who want to see the northern reaches of Canada and touch the Arctic.
  • Yukon Territory - Full of gold rush history, the Yukon still is a draw for the adventure traveller looking for life on the frontier.

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Cities

Calgary

Calgary is one of the main gateways to the Rocky Mountains and home to the worldfamous Stampede held every summer in July. In 1988, it was the host for the Winter Olympics and the nearby mountains prove why this was the perfect location. Still, the city itself has a great vibe and is one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

Edmonton

Edmonton is the second biggest city and the capital of the province of Alberta. A lovely city in summer, it becomes one of the coldest cities in the world during winter when temperatures can drop below -40 °C. It's also home to one of the biggest shopping malls in the world.

Halifax

Halifax is Nova Scotia's economical and cultural centre piece and of importance to the current diversity regarding cultures and immigrants. Those same immigrants arrived by ship from overseas, mainly from many European countries and there is a museum dedicated to this, which is an absolute must-visit to understand more of these long journeys and the reasons behind it.

Montreal

Montreal is the largest city in Quebec, and incorporates a vibrant mix of French, English and immigrant cultures. Montreal is the party capital of Canada, and has the most fashionable and hip population. It also offers amazing historical and cultural sites, and the famous Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches.

St. John's, Newfoundland

St. John's, Newfoundland

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Ottawa

Ottawa is the capital of Canada, and provides the traveller a glimpse at the inner workings of Canadian politics. It's a lot smaller than many of the other main cities, but has a charm of its own.

Quebec City

Quebec City is the capital of the province of Quebec. Founded in 1608, Quebec City is the only fortified city in North America and proud defender of the Francophone culture and language in Canada. Quebec City will celebrate its 400 years in 2008.

St. John's

St. John's, the capital of Newfoundland, is a total world apart from the bigger cities you'll find to the west. It's one of the oldest cities in North America, with some beautiful Victorian architecture and a small but vibrant city centre with some great foreign restaurants and shops.

Toronto

Photo not found

Toronto is the largest city in Canada, providing big city thrills and access to amazing natural wonders nearby. It is slowly trying to live down Peter Ustinov's backhanded compliment that Toronto is like "New York run by the Swiss."

Vancouver

Vancouver is Canada's west coast gem, a glimmering city of shiny skyscrapers with amazing backdrops of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Ocean. A laid back, liberal lifestyle mixed with an outdoorsy attitude makes this a favourite for skiers, boarders, kayakers and mountain bikers. Vancouver is the host for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, starting on February 12.

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Sights and Activities

Algonquin Provincial Park

Located in Ontario between Ottawa and Toronto, Algonquin Provincial Park is Canada's oldest provincial park. It is also one of the countries busiest parks. Over 2,400 lakes and 1,200 kilometres of streams and rivers are located within the park. Some notable examples include Canoe Lake and the Petawawa, Nipissing, Amable du Fond, Madawaska, and Tim rivers. These were formed by the retreat of the glaciers during the last ice age. Algonquin Provincial Park is a popular year-round outdoor destination with a wide-ranging host of activities. In summer, visitors can enjoy activities such as camping, canoeing, hiking, fishing and mountain biking. While in the winter, Algonquin is the perfect setting for cross-country skiing and dog-sledding.

Bay of Fundy

The Bay of Fundy - Discover the highest tides in the world in the Bay of Fundy measuring highs of 16 metres (54 feet). At low tide, comb the beach for amethyst stones and crustaceans. The Bay of Fundy is a favourite destination to many shorebirds and whales, eagles and osprey. The Fundy Coastal Drive is a popular way to see the Bay of Fundy. The route, which runs from Sackville to St. Stephen, through the cities of Dieppe, Moncton, Saint John, and St. Andrews. The map of the drive can be downloaded as a PDF from the Tourism New Brunswick website, and you can get more details on the Bay of Fundy from the Tourism New Brunswick website.

Fishing

Looking for a Summer Run Steelhead

Looking for a Summer Run Steelhead

© All Rights Reserved whiterock

Canada, mainly British Columbia, offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the World for all ages and styles. From the renowned salmon runs of the Fraser River to the superb still water lake fisheries of the BC interior, Spectacular Alpine Lakes, and the Saltwater fishery of the Pacific Coast, the diversity and breathtaking scenery will satisfy the most seasoned angler as well as the first time fisherman/woman. BC Fishing Resorces:

Icefields Parkway

Between Lake Louise and Jasper in Alberta, the Icefields Parkway is one of the world's most beautiful routes to travel by car. It winds its 200 kilometres long way on an average hight of about 1,700 metres, travelling along dozens of glaciers, through an impressive part of the Rocky Mountains. Jasper National Park and Banff National Park are two parks in the region not to be missed either!

Inuit Activities

Explore the history of Nunavut to learn of tales of ancestors who risked their lives in small skin boats hunting whale in ice packed waters, accounts of the Tariassuit (shadow people), or enchanting memories of lives lived in close-knit Inuit communities. See Drum Dancing, where women sit in a circle and chosen men are coaxed to dance by the messages in the ayaya songs that the women are singing and hear throat singing, usually performed by two women who stand face to face, with one singer leading the song and the other repeating the sound of the first. The cyclic sound mimics the calls of birds and animals and other sounds of nature in a fast rhythm. Qimmiit, Eskimo dogs, or canis familiaris borealis have been pulling qamutiit (sleds) across the arctic ice and snow for more than 2,000 years. Though mostly replaced by snowmobiles, dog sleds are still used as a form of transportation in the arctic, and a variety of dog team adventures are available in many communities throughout Nunavut.

Niagara Falls

One of the most spectacular and biggest waterfalls in the world, the Niagara Falls are spread out on the border between Canada (Ontario) and the United States (State of New York). Although it has become very crowded with tourists, it remains a very special sight to behold. You can walk on either side of the border to watch the American Falls, the massive Canadian Horseshoe Falls and the smaller Bridal Veil. The Canadian and American side are separated by Goat Island. One of the best ways to experience the impact of the falls is to take a boat ride on the Maid of the Mist, which brings you very close and you can view the falls from beneath. If you would rather walk, the Cave of the Winds (on the American side) takes you to the base of the Bridal Veils Falls.

Rocky Mountaineer

The http://www.rockymountaineer.com|Rocky Mountaineer]] is two-day tour through the Canadian part of the Rocky Mountains. The train travels during the day, so you can enjoy the magnificent landscapes in the western part of this country, including canyons, rivers, valleys and glacial lakes. There are several trips possible, including the First Passage to the West route from Vancouver, British Columbia via Kamloops to Banff or Calgary in Alberta. Another one is the Journey through the Clouds route from Vancouver via Kamloops to Jasper, also in Alberta. The Rocky Mountaineer company also offers less popular but also spectacular trips to Whistler and Prince George, north of Vancouver, on the Rainforest to Gold Rush route (travelling via Prince George to Jasper) and Whistler Sea to Sky Climb, the latter being a daytrip from Vancouver.

Rocky Mountains

Stretching more than 4,800 kilometres from northernmost British Columbia, in Canada, to New Mexico, in the United States, the Rocky Mountains are a broad mountain range. In Canada, the Rockies span most of British Columbia and into Alberta, and include some amazing sights and activites. For skiiers, Fernie in British Columbia or Lake Louise and Sunshine Village in Alberta are draws for their powder snow and big verticals. Nature lovers will want to check out national parks like Banff National Park, Jasper National Park or Kootenay National Park.

Trans Canada

There are so many ways to cross the country from east to west or vice versa. One of the best ways is by car, takin the Trans Canada Highway 1, which starts in Newfoundland and ends in Vancouver along the Pacific Ocean. This will give you maximum freedom to visit places along the way or do detours. Another, faster but quite expensive, option is to take the ViaRail train (see below under 'getting around'). It's not possible to exactly travel the entire lenght, but from Halifax to Vancouver is possible. The last one is definately the most inspiring and satisfying one but it takes a few years of your life: hiking the entire Trans Canada Trail which is well on its way to becoming the world’s longest recreational path. Beginning at North America’s most easterly point, the completed length is around 21,500 kilometres. If you’re in a hurry, grab a bike or horse for this multi-use path.

The Canadian

The Curve

The Curve

© All Rights Reserved Lawrance

Running between Union Station in Toronto, Ontario and Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, British Columbia, the The Canadian is the longest part of the trans-continential train journey across Canada. The train travels through the scenic lakelands and boreal forest of northern Ontario, across the western plains of the Prairies and the splendid Canadian Rockies, and finishes its journey on the Pacific coast of British Columbia. The journey takes three days: leaving Toronto on Tuesday morning, you arrive in Winnipeg on Wednesday afternoon, Jasper on Thursday afternoon, and Vancouver on Friday morning.

Wildlife

Polar Bears
Every year from late September until early November, dozens of polar bears visit the area near Churchill, Manitoba. After the last ice has melted away in the Hudson Bay in June, the bears come ashore. Around October, the area near Cape Churchill is one of the first areas to have new ice. The polar bears know this and visit the area near Churchill for this reason and through October they pass by this Manitoba town.
The best way to visit them is to go by tundra buggy. You can take day tours in purpose-built buggies, or you can stay in transportable ‘tundra lodges’. It is not cheap to see the polar bears, as a trip to Churchill can only be made by train or plane, and accommodation prices are higher in October as well. Where you hope not to see a polar bear is in town itself. Local authorities maintain a 24-hour vigil from September to November, with gunshots fired at night to shoo away any town-bound bears. Nuisance makers and repeat offenders are taken to cinderblock cells of an old military base, aka ‘Polar Bear Jail’, until winter!

Whales
Whale Watching in the Bay of Fundy offers the potential to see 12 different spieces of whales: Beluga Whale (Delphinapterus leucas); Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus); Finback Whale (Balaenoptera physalus); Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena); Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae); Long-Fin Pilot Whale (Globicephala melaena); Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata); Northern Bottlenose Whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus); Orca (Orcinus Orca); Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis); Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis); and Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus). More details can be found at Tourism New Brunswick website.
In Nunavut, the three Arctic whales most likely to be sited include the snowy white beluga, the unicorn-like narwhals, and the massive bowhead. The coasts of Baffin Island, with countless inlets, fjords and bays, are ideal for whale watching. Newfoundland offers some good whale watching opportunities as well, combined with the occasional icebergs which float down the coast from Greenland.

Other Sites and Activites

  • Northern Lights - see the Aurora Borealis light up the winter night skies. Well possible to see even in the southern regions of Canada, best viewing is in the northern areas of Canada like the Yukon, Northwest Territories or Nunavut
  • Winter sports - Top notch ski resorts can be found in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, including 2010 Winter Olympic co-host Whistler in the Fitzsimmons mountain range in British Columbia, and Mont Tremblant in the Laurentians in Quebec. Dog sledding, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing is available across the country during the winter.
  • Get Outdoors - Canadians love the summer, probably because we get so little of it. Outdoor activities like mountain biking, kayaking, white water rafting or hiking can be had at Canada's many national parks as well as through private operators.

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Events and Festivals

Canada has numerous internationally renowned festivals that are well worth planning your stay around.

Montreal International Jazz Festival

Montreal Jazz Festival Parade

Montreal Jazz Festival Parade

© All Rights Reserved Taffski

The Montreal International Jazz Festival is the largest jazz festival in the world, a title it earned in 2004 according to the Guinness World Record book. The first one was in 1980 and since then it kept on growing and growing until its current proportions. It is held in the summer season, usually at the beginning of July and every year features over 3,000 artists from several dozens of countries. There are a whopping 650+ concerts and welcomes no less than 2.5 million visitors, of which about a third are tourists, some of them planning their holiday around this incredible event. The festival takes place at 10 free outdoor stages and 10 indoor concert halls. As the free outdoor shows are scattered around the city, much of the city comes to a complete stop during those days, as frequently 100,000 people attend one of the free shows, and sometimes even twice that many!

Quebec Winter Carnival

The Quebec Winter Carnival, held in Quebec City since 1894 is the world's largest winter carnival and has given the natives and thousands of visitors a reason to celebrate and indulge in merry-making during cold and snowy winters. This annual event lasts for 17 days and is normally held between the end of January to mid-Febraury.
The carnival takes place in various locations of Old Quebec. The opening and closing ceremonies take place in the legendary Ice Palace in front of thousands of visitors and the mayor of Quebec. 'Bonhomme' , a large snowman sporting a red cap and black buttons, is the official symbol and ambassador of the festivities. Some of the attractions and activities popular at the carnival are the Arctic Spa Village, Snow slides, Giant Table Soccer games, Ice palace, Ice tower, snow rafting and skating, Bistro, Zipline, snow sculpture and canoe races.
Kiosks and other outlets in the city sell the traditional Bonhomme effigy tag for around $10 that gives access to many of the carnival events, however some activites may cost extra.

Toronto International Film Festival

The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the world's top film festivals held annually in Toronto, drawing the biggest stars and films from around the world. It is the world's largest film festival open to the general public.[1] The festival commences on the Thursday after Labour Day (which is on the first Monday in September in Canada). It lasts for eleven days, although closing night is celebrated on the tenth evening (the second Saturday).

North by Northeast

North by Northeast is Canada’s #1 showcase for new independent music, where fans can catch great local and international performers about to break out as well as super-cool veteran acts at intimate venues. A film festival where music is the star, featuring music-related features, documentaries, and shorts. An industry conference for those just starting and those who have seen it all, featuring celebrity interviews as well as panels and information exchanges for artists and music-biz professionals. Catch it for three days in mid June.

Other Events and Festivals

Wine festivals include:

  • Niagara Grape and Wine Festival - beginning of June
  • Okanagan Wine Festivals - there are 4 festivals a year to celebrate the wines from the Okanagan Valley nestled between the mountains in the interior of British Columbia. The spring festival runs in late April/early May, a summer festival in the early part of August, a fall festival in late September/early October and an Icewine festival in January.

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Weather

Average winter and summer high temperatures across Canada vary widely depending on the location. Winters can be harsh in many regions of the country, particularly in the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba and eastern Alberta and provinces and territories to the north like the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon, where daily average temperatures are between -15 °C and -25 °C, but can drop below -40 °C or even -50 °C with severe wind chills. Generally Ontario and Quebec and further to the west it's slightly milder especially more to the south. Coastal British Columbia is the real exception though and enjoys a temperate climate with a mild and rainy winter.

On the east and west coast average high temperatures in summer are generally between 20 °C and 25 °C, while between the coasts the average summer high temperature ranges between 25 °C to 30 °C.

Precipitation in general is higher along the coastal areas and the central areas are even relatively arid. Snow is common in 90% of Canada from November to March and some areas receive up to several metres of snow annually.

More details can be found at the Environment Canada website, or in the individual city and region articles.

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Getting There

By Plane

There are a number of international airports in Canada, servicing major destinations in the USA, Caribbean, Central America, Europe and Asia and the Middle East, with limited service to Australia (most services fly through the USA or Asia) and Africa (most services fly through Europe). A large number of international airlines service Canada. Air Canada is the national carrier.

The main international airports are:

There are, however, also airports in Halifax, Moncton, St. John's, Gander, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria, Kelowna, Cranbrook and Charlottetown.

Upon arrival, international travellers will have to clear Canadian customs and immigration. This will require filling out a form indicating their name, address, purpose for travel and expected duration of stay in Canada. Travellers will need (in most cases) to produce a passport good for the length of stay in Canada. Some travellers will need a Visa. See the Red Tape section for more details.

By Car

Canada only shares a land border with one country, the USA. There are over 20 official land crossings between the two countries, the busiest ones between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, Detroit and Windsor and Blaine (Washington State) to British Columbia. Travellers entering from the USA will face Canadian customs and immigration officers, and should be prepared to answer all the questions and have all the same documentation as required for those flying in.

By Bus

Greyhound and Greyhound Canada offer numerous routes between the United States of America and Canada and there dozens of border crossings to choose from. Popular routes include:

By Train

Although both Canada and the United States have extensive rail connections, especially the latter, there are surprisingly few international connections between the two. In the northeast of the continent however, several train rides might be of some use to overland travellers. Also in the west, between Washington state and British Columbia in Canada, there is a pleasant ride as an alternative to the bus.

Amtrak operates the several cross-border train services between Canada and the US.

Adirondack
(68, 69)
New YorkAlbanyMontrealDaily10h
Maple Leaf
(63, 64, 7097, 7098)
New York – Albany – SyracuseRochesterNiagara FallsTorontoDaily12h 30m
Amtrak Cascades
(500, 501, 504, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 513, 516, 517, 3504)
Vancouver, BCSeattleTacomaPortlandSalemEugeneMultiple Departures Daily10h 25m

By Boat

There are several ferry services between Canada and the United States.

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Getting around

Canada is a BIG country! Remember this when working out travel costs and allocating time for getting from place to place.

By plane

There are a large number of airports in Canada servicing the entire country. Major domestic carriers include Air Canada and Westjet. Air Canada Jazz offers many flights on shorter routes as well while Air North is specialized in Yukon.

By train

Via Rail offers train service across Canada, but other than service in the corridor from Windsor to Quebec City, including Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, service is limited.

Other passenger rail services exist within Canada, serving smaller regions. Details on these are available in the city and provincial articles.

Check out the North America Travel Pass on either the Via Rail Website or the Amtrak Web site. This pass gives you 30 days unlimited travel in both the USA and Canada (You must complete a sectors travel in each country though. Via Rail also offer the Canada Rail Pass. This pass provides you with 12 days travel in 30 days on any trains in Canada. You can purchase up to 3 additional days if required.

The passes are quite expensive, but if you don't want to spend a long time on a bus and don't want to skip out the middle of Canada by flying, then these are a great alternative option.

Cost Saving Tip:
Buy your North American Rail Pass in the US as it's about 10% cheaper than in Canada!!!

By bus

Bus services are frequent and inexpensive, and road conditions are generally quite good.

The following bus companies provide services across Canada, or are larger regional carriers:

Note that many communities in northern Canada have no road access, so travelling in northern Canada may require you to travel by plane.

Greyhound offers a bus pass valid for 7, 14, 30 and 60 days respectively. You can use this pass in Both Canada and America and the prices vary during peak and off peak times.

Hostelling International Members get 25% off Greyhound tickets (which isn't much use if you buy your ticket more than 1 day in advance; they give you 25% off anyway) however, if you're booking a last minute ticket on the day you wish to travel it can come in very handy!

Cost Saving Tip:
Buy your Greyhound Pass in the US, it's about 10% cheaper than in Canada!!!

By boat

There are numerous ferry services, mainly in British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland/Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and parts of Quebec.

For an overview of almost all possible ferry routes check the Youra website.

By Car

Canada has a vast network of well maintained roads and highways. Canada's highway system includes the Trans-Canada Highway, which will take you from coast to coast for 7,821 kilometres. Roads in the northern areas of Canada may be in rough shape, and a four wheel drive vehicle for those heading to the north could be recommended. Many communities in the far north do not have road access.

Canada has several car rental companies found at airports and in major towns and cities, including:

Apart from these there are many more local companies as well, offering sometimes better rates but service tend to be less.

Rates vary depending on the season, type of vehicle and length of rental. The minimum age to rent a vehicle ranges from 21-25 years old, with most companies require renters be at least 25 years of age, or may charge additional fees for those under 25. You must also possess a major credit card. Requirements may vary from province to province. Be sure to reserve your car ahead of time during peak travel times, from mid May to summer.

Car rental costs are extortionate if you require a one-way hire (say from Toronto to Vancouver, for example, with only Hertz and Avis really offering anything and they will add on around $1,000 one-way charge!!!!). Shop Around but bear this in mind if you are thinking about crossing the country from east to west.

Canadians drive on the right hand side of the road. Speed limits are set by the government and depend on the road you are driving on. Watch for signs. Usually speed limits within the city will be 50 km/h maximum and 100 km/h maximum on highways.

Drivers turning right or left must yield to pedestrians crossing the street. All passengers within a vehicle are required to wearing seat belts. No alcoholic beverages are allowed while driving, and driving while intoxicated is illegal.

Traffic signals, such as a flashing green light, do not mean the same thing across all provinces and territories.

Drivers must carry proof of insurance in Canada at all times. US residents with a state issued drivers license do not need an international drivers permit, but other nationalities will need to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) from the Automobile Association in your country of residence before you leave to be able to drive in Canada and rent a car.

For driving directions, maps are available for sale in most gas stations and book stores, or online can be obtained from Google, mapquest or MSN maps.

Winter Driving Tips:
If winter conditions are prevalent, always reduce your speed and leave plenty of distance between your car and others. Road conditions may be icy, snowy, and clear in parts, differences that may not always be visible to you. Roads that looks dry can be covered with "black ice," which is not visible to the naked eye. Always slow down to account for this unseen slickness factor in winter weather. On wintry roads, it's best to avoid using cruise control. If you feel your car start to slide and don't have anti-lock brakes on your car, gently pump the brakes rather than slamming the brake pedal to the car floor. In cars with ABS (Anti-lock brakes), you can just depress the brake pedal, and the car will "pump" the brakes for you. If you can't stop and have almost lost control of your car, remember that no one is typically fatally injured from hitting a snow bank. If you slide off the road and get stuck in the snow, impatiently gunning your motor is one surefire way to get really stuck. Try and use higher gears to get out. Higher gears apply less power to the drive wheels, meaning that your wheels spin less. If you car is stuck in a snowbank, ensure that the tailpipe is not blocked by snow. If it is, turn off your vehicle, otherwise the cabin may start to fill with deadly carbon dioxide. If stuck in the snow in a remote area, it is best to stay with your vehicle rather than leaving it. Your chances of survival are much higher by staying with your car.

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Red Tape

Visas

Tourists:
Most foreign visitors to Canada will need a valid passport. Upon arrival, a Canadian customs officer will stamp your passport or advise you how long you may stay in Canada. Visitors from certain countries will need a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV). Check out the Citizenship and Immigration Canada page for the list of countries that require Visas to enter Canada. For information on how to apply, check if the closest Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate.

Students:
Visitors who wish to study in Canada may need to apply for a Study Permit, allowing them to take classes in the country. To determine if you need a study permit, check the CIC's study permit page, and find the forms to apply online.

Workers:
Visitors wishing to work in Canada will almost certainly need a work permit. This will require three steps:

  • An employer must first offer you a job.
  • HRSDC (Human Resources and Social Development Canada) must normally provide a positive labour market opinion of your job offer.
  • After HRSDC confirms that a foreign worker may fill the job, you apply to CIC for your work permit.

There are a small number of jobs that still require a work permit but do not need a HRSDC labour market option, information on which can be found on the CIC's Jobs that require a work permit but no labour market opinion page.

Working Holiday Visas:
There are a number of countries to which Canada offers Working Holiday Program (WHP) Visa. For more details, check out the Canada's Working Holiday visa article.

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Money

See aslo Money Matters

Canada uses the Canadian Dollar, symbolized with the dollar sign ($), or occasionally with C$ to differentiate it against the US Dollar. It is not equavilent in value to the US Dollar, which can be confusing to the traveller. The value of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar fluctuates according to international trading. In 2002, the Canadian dollar set a record low, where C$1.00 was worth only US$0.6192. The Canadian dollar has rallied in the past few years, and as of July 2010, is worth just slightly less than the US$.

Dollars are divided in units of 100, called "cents," and symbolized with the cent symbol (¢). The value of the cents will often be shown as a decimal amount of a dollar, for example $0.36 is the same as 36¢.

The current exchange rate can be found at the Bank of Canada website. Note that this is the official exchange rate, and travellers exchanging money at banks or money-exchange stores will probably get a slightly different rate.

Canadian banknotes are currently issued in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations. All notes are identical in size, but each denomination has a different predominant colour: $5 is blue; $10 is purple; $20 is green; $50 is red; and $100 is brown. Coins are minted by the Royal Canadian Mint, and currently issued in denominations of 1¢ penny, 5¢ nickel, 10¢ dime, 25¢ quarter, 50¢ 50-cent piece (although rarely used), $1 loonie, and $2 toonie. Canadian banknotes incorporate a braille-like feature, allowing the blind to determine the value of the note.

ATMs are widely available in Canada on both the PLUS and CIRRUS networks. Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express credit cards are all widely accepted. For general tips on how to exchange and carry your money, check out the money matters page.

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Work

Worker Visa:
Visitors wishing to work in Canada will almost certainly need a work permit. This will require three steps:

  • An employer must first offer you a job.
  • HRSDC (Human Resources and Social Development Canada) must normally provide a positive labour market opinion of your job offer.
  • After HRSDC confirms that a foreign worker may fill the job, you apply to CIC for your work permit.

There are a small number of jobs that do not require a work permit, information on which can be found on the CIC's exempt worker categories page.

Working Holiday Visas:
There are a number of countries to which Canada offers Working Holiday Program (WHP) Visa. For more details, check out the Canada's Working Holiday visa article.

Finding a Job:
Monster Canada and Workopolis are two of the more popular job search engines.

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Study

Visitors who wish to study in Canada may need to apply for a Study Permit, allowing them to take classes in the country. To determine if you need a study permit, check the CIC's study permit page, and find the forms to apply online.

The government of Canada maintains a list of Canadian post secondary educational institutions, with their programs, at the CANLEARN website.

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Language

There are two official languages across all of Canada: English and French. Spoken French is mostly limited to the province of Quebec, although even in Quebec, especially in Montreal, travellers will find English is widely spoken.

In the nothern territory of Nunavut, additional official languages include the Inuit languages of Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun, although travellers should be fine with English.

In some ethnic regions within Canada's cities, travellers will find other languages spoken. Non-English-speaking natives looking for a taste of home might be able to find familiar food and a familiar tongue in Canada's ethnic neighbourhoods.

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Eat

Canada is not generally known to have a unique cuisine, but there are regional cuisines that offer something of interest to the culinary traveller.

The Atlantic provinces offer a wide array of seafood, from fish to the maritime lobster. Quebec offers french food with a Canadian twist, including Poutine, a mixture of french fries, cheese curds and gravy that can stop your heart, but tastes so good. Northern Canada offers the chance to eat moose and the Inuit staple of raw seal. Canada's symbol is the maple leaf, and as is to be expected from a country that with that leaf on it's flag, maple syrup is widely available. The sugary liquid made from the sap of the maple tree can be poured on pancakes, used in cooking or made into fudge. The west coast offers more excellent seafood, including chinook salmon.

Canada is a multicultural and diverse country, and travellers will find many varieties of international food available, especially in larger urban centres.

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Sleep

Accommodations in Canada vary substantially in price depending on time and place. In large cities, hotels will generally cost $80 and upwards. Dorm accomodations can be gotten for $25 - $35, generally. In many areas, a B&B (bed and breakfast), generally small establishments that are either people's homes with suites for guests or converted houses, offer accomodations from $45 a night to $140 a night with breakfast provided. For a good overview of what's on offer regarding B&B check the B&B Canada website. There is a huge choice of places all over the country.

In smaller cities, outer suburbs or rural areas, motels are small, simple hotels where you might pay as little as $40 for a night's accommodation. They usually come without a breakfast, but sometimes they include a simple one with coffee and a muffin.

Generally camping is not allowed unless in a private or government run campground, however there are many campgrounds in Canada. Camp Canada provides links and information to camp grounds in Canada. Remember that humans cause approximately half of all forest fires, do your share to help and prevent this needless damage to our forests and environment. Help prevent them by ensuring your camp fires are extinguished and not dropping cigarettes in wilderness areas.

Check the individual regional and city sections for details on lodging.

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Drink

Canada is a beer drinking nation. Labatt and Molsons, the two largest breweries dominated the landscape for many years, but now a growing number of unique micro-breweries are popping up, offering a wide variety of beers. With the addition of imports from around the world, beer drinkers will find everything they might want in Canada.

Though not generally thought of as a wine making country, Canada has over 400 wineries spanning all 10 provinces. More attention is starting to Canadian wines, and The Ice House Northern Ice won Grand Gold at the 2007 Monde Selection in Brussels. Larger wine growing regions include the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario. Canada is one of only a few regions in the world that produces ice wine, a sweet, thick dessert wine produced by picking grapes naturally frozen on the vines. Many wineries offer tours (and free samples), and most restaurants will offer a selection of Canadian wines.

Canadian or rye whisky, named such as historically much of the content was from rye, is one of Canadians additions to the hard liquor pantheon. Today, however, most Canadian rye whisky is blended with only a small portion, if any, coming from rye. Popular brands are Canadian Club and Crown Royal.

The legal age to consume alcohol is set individually by each of the provinces. Currently, 18 year olds can purchase alcohol in Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta. In all other provinces, the drinking age is 19.

Tap water is generally safe to drink in larger cities. Water from lakes and rivers should be considered suspect, and should be boiled prior to consuming.

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Health

See also Travel Health

Canadian hospitals and medical services are generally very good. However, the cost of medical treatment can be very expensive and there are no special arrangements for foreign visitors. Travellers should consider medical insurance to cover these costs. No special vaccinations are required to enter Canada. If you are going to work intensively with animals or possibly have other high risk reasons, it would be wise to get your rabies vaccination in order before you go. In most areas, in case of an emergency, police, fire and ambulance services can be contacted by dialing 911 on any phone.

Visitors intending to stay in Canada for more than six months, either as tourists, students or employees, may be required to take a medical examination. Visitors working in an occupation in which protection of public health is essential may be required to undergo a medical examination even if employment is only temporary.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

Crime

Tourists are not targeted specifically for crimes, but tourists should remain alert when visiting Canada. Maintain an awareness of your surroundings. Do not leave your handbag, backpack or luggage unattended. Pick pockets and muggings are possible.

Violent crime is rare. If you are a victim of a violent crime, police and ambulance can be reached by dialing 911 on any phone. The call is free.

Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco

The purchase of tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco) is restricted to people 18 years of age or older. Providing tobacco to people under this age, even as gifts, is illegal. Tobacco products are widely available in corner stores.

Alcohol policy is set individually by each province or territory. Check the provincial articles for more information on the alcohol laws of the region you are travelling in.

Despite many internet rumours to the contrary, the cultivation and possession of cannabis is currently illegal in Canada, with exceptions only for medical usage (which requires Health Canada permission). Many jurisdictions within Canada will tolerate personal possession and many police departments will not charge people with a small amount of marijuana. However, there is no guarantees.

All other illicit drugs are not tolerated, and penalties can be very strict.

Road and Pedestrian Safety

Canadians drive on the right hand side of the road. Seat-belt usage is required when driving. In all provinces except Quebec, right turns on red lights are permitted. Cars turning either left or right need to yield to pedestrians in the cross-walks at intersections. Drinking and driving is illegal and punishment is severe.

Natural Disasters

Summer thunderstorms are fairly frequent in most parts of Canada, and though extremely rare a small number of these intensify becoming severe and causing property damage, and threaten lives.

Tornadoes can occur almost anywhere in Canada. May to September are the main tornado months with the peak season in June and early July in southern Ontario, Alberta, south eastern Quebec, and a band stretching from southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba through to Thunder Bay. Still, tornadoes are much less of a problem in Canada compared to the famous tornado alley in the USA.

Forest fires can break out at any time, regardless of the season, though are more likely during warmer summers. In the grasslands and forests of western Canada the fire hazard is frequently higher. Lightly populated forest areas in British Columbia and Alberta have been particularly badly affected in recent years and you should heed local warnings and monitor news bulletins for latest details on local outbreaks.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet usage is wide-spread in Canada. Wi-fi is available in many locations in larger cities, sometimes free and sometimes at a cost. You will find Wi-Fi in coffee stores, some restaurants and also hotels and motels more and more offer this service for free, but with a code usually. Internet cafes are common along major streets, and and in larger cities, charge between $3 and $4 for an hour, usually in 20-minute increments.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Canada is: 1. To make an international call from Canada, the code is: 011. Emergency services can be reached by dialling 911. This number will give you free access to Police, Fire and Ambulance services and can be used from landlines, phone booths and cell phones.

The populous areas of Canada along the border with the USA have excellent cellular and wired telecommunications, meaning that travellers are never fair from an international phone call home, a WIFI connection or an internet cafe. Depending on the mobile phone provider, coverage could be either CDMA and GSM coverage. Travellers wishing to purchase SIM cards for GSM phones should look for Rogers Wireless, Telus Mobility and Bell Mobility, which all offer nationwide availability.

Turn yourself and start heading north, and it's not long until the traveller will find themselves in the vast and sparsely populated lands that make up the majority of Canada. With no phones and no cellular coverage, and probably pretty sparse on power, it provides a great opportunity to unplug and get away from it all. In the northern reaches of Canada, above the arctic circle, and you may even find that satellite devices might not work without a clear view of the sky over the equator.

Post

Postal service is provided by Canada Post, a crown corporation owned by the government but run as an independent business. Most post offices keep hours from 9:00am to 5:00pm though in bigger places longer hourse might be available.

To format the envelope of a letter sent within Canada, put the destination address on the centre of its envelope, with a stamp, postal indicia, meter label, or frank mark on the top-right corner of the envelope to acknowledge payment of postage. A return address, although it is not required, can be put on the top-left corner of the envelope in smaller type than the destination address.

The lettermail service allows the mailing of a letter. The basic rate is currently set at $0.63 for one standard letter (30 grams or less). The rates for lettermail are based or weight and size and determine whether the article falls into the aforementioned standard format, or in the oversize one. The rate is the same for a postcard. Mail sent internationally is known as letterpost. It can only contain paper documents. The rate for a standard letter is of $1.10 if sent to the United States, and $1.85 if sent to any other destination. Oversize or overweight letters may be charged a higher fee. Larger parcels can be shipped via Canada post both domestically and internationally, the rate is dependent on the weight and destination. [2]

Federal Express, TNT, UPS or DHL also provide interntional shipping from Canada and are usually very quick and reliable though might cost a little more compared to Canada Post.

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References

  1. 1 Water opens Toronto Film Festival(9 September 2005). BBC News. Retrieved on 2007–05–25.
  2. 2 Canada Post prices

Quick Facts

Canada flag

Map of Canada

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Capital
Ottawa
Population
31,600,000
Government
Confederation with Parliamentary Democracy
Religions
Christianity (Catholic, Protestant)
Languages
English, French
Calling Code
+1
Nationality
Canadian

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Canada Travel Helpers

  • Utrecht

    I travelled to Canada 4 times, to various parts of the country: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in the east and British Columbia in the west. Been to Toronto and the Niagara Falls and the southern area of Ontario, to Montreal, Quebec City and surroundings, to Halifax and Cape Breton, and to St. John's and much of Newfoundland including Gros Morne NP. Vancouver to Whistler and Vancouver Island I have visited as well.

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    Lived in Canada for 38 years (before moving overseas). Know a lot about Toronto and Southern Ontario, and little bits about other places in the country like Quebec and BC.

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This is version 143. Last edited at 11:41 on Jul 18, 13 by Utrecht. 235 articles link to this page.

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