Canada is a popular traveling destination, especially during the summer. However, because of its long and bitterly cold winters, Canada is also a popular destination for winter sports lovers, such as those who want to go skiing or snowboarding. Canada has thriving, modern cities and rich culture along with plenty of wilderness and nature. Here are some things you might want to know about Canada before you visit:
Passport and Visa Requirements
Travelers to Canada require a valid passport and may also require a visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), depending on their country of origin. It’s important to check the requirements before you plan your trip. Each country has different requirements and these can change frequently, so make sure that you understand what documents and forms of identification you need to have, both for entry into Canada and also to return to your own country.
Getting to and from Canada usually means flying. You will probably fly into a large international airport in a large city such as Toronto, Quebec, or Montreal. Once you have gotten into town, you may need to rely on rental cars and buses in smaller towns or to get from one city to another. For example, If you need to move from Toronto to Montreal, you could fly, ride the train, or rent a car Toronto. You could also take the bus but that could take much longer.
Large cities in Canada usually have some forms of public transportation, such as trains, subways, and city bus systems. Smaller cities may only have local bus routes. In order to travel around in some cities, you may need to rely on buses and taxi services if you don’t want to drive. This is especially true if your hotel is located away from the city center, where there may not be public transportation available.
Understand the Languages
Canada has two official languages: English and French. While most Canadians speak English, it’s always helpful to have some basic French phrases handy, especially if you plan to visit Quebec or other French-speaking areas. If you don’t know any French, be prepared with a translator app just in case you need it. If you don’t speak English, you should learn basic phrases and bring a translation app and a dictionary.
Canada is Big
Don’t come to Canada expecting to spend a week or two and see all the main attractions, visit several national parks, and spend time in multiple cities. Canada is the second largest country in the world and measures almost 5000 miles from east to west! That said, although Canada is huge, it has a very sparse population given its size, so there are many areas that won’t hold any interest to the average tourist. Your best bet is to choose 2-3 areas and center your visit in those locations.
Canada has six time zones, so it’s important to check the time difference between your location and your destination. If you are traveling between time zones during your visit, make sure that you understand the differences in time so you won’t accidentally miss flights or reservations when you are traveling.
In addition to the size of the country and provinces, you should be aware that Canadian cities are also large and sprawling. This means that the distance to the center of the city from your hotel may be a lot farther and take a lot more time than you expect. In many places, you won’t be able to walk to attractions, and if you plan to use public transportation, you should make sure that it is available in your area. In general, you should try to get a hotel near the center of the city if possible.
Customs and Etiquette
Canadians are known for being polite and courteous, so it’s important to be respectful of their customs and etiquette. For example, it’s common to say “sorry” even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Being disruptive, cutting in line, making a scene, or being confrontational may be considered to be rude by many Canadians.
Tipping is normal for people who provide a service, especially waiters, hotel staff, and taxi drivers. Most people tip 15-20% for these services. In many cases, tipping is expected and not tipping is considered rude unless the service was unacceptable.
Attractions You Should Consider
Canada has many attractions and activities, from visiting the stunning Niagara Falls to skiing in the Rocky Mountains, experiencing the cultural festivals in Montreal or Toronto, and exploring the natural beauty of Banff National Park. Your best option is to choose a few things that are characteristic of the areas that you are visiting so you can get a feel for the culture, history, and nature in each area. Examples include famous local restaurants, historical monuments, science museums, public land, and cultural centers for the location. You can also add some attractions that you might visit on any vacation, such as amusement parks and shopping.
Because Canada is a vast country with a relatively small population, there are huge tracts of unbroken wilderness. Even in the eastern, more populated areas of the country, you can easily find places to get out into nature. It would be a shame to visit this beautiful land and spend all your time in a city. Instead, make sure that you leave time in your itinerary for a visit to a national or regional park. Go hiking, look at the amazing views, or try an outdoor sport such as kayaking, skiing, or mountain biking.
Remember, much of Canada is still wild and unless you understand how to stay safe in the wilderness, what to do when you are lost, and how to respond when you are confronted with wildlife, it’s best to stay near the main areas of the park and enjoy guided activities.
If you plan ahead, pay attention to the weather, honor cultural differences, and treat people with respect, you are sure to have a wonderful, relaxing, and enjoyable visit to Canada.