CANADA TRAVEL GUIDE
Hello, my name is Gwen, and here are my Canada travel insights, experiences, tips, photographs, and fascinating posts for your Canada travel planning.
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WELCOME TO CANADA!
Canada – meaning “Village” in Iroquoian, is the second largest country in the world (behind Russia) with the largest coastline. Canada is considered the most educated country – more than half of residents have college degrees. It is also home to maple syrup, Niagara Falls, Toronto, the northern Rocky Mountains and Banff National Park, hockey, Vancouver, legal marijuana, Old Quebec, Montreal, the CN Tower, Whistler skiing, Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, Kids in the Hall and SCTV, beer, Tim Hortons, polar bears, glaciers, and more lakes than the rest of the world combined.
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LANGUAGES IN CANADA
The official language is English, although French is the official language of Quebec.
How's Your French?
Brush up on your French before your trip to Canada.
The culture is European-influenced – mostly by the English and French – and its indigenous people. Canada is considered progress and diverse, as it provides nationalized health care and a great education and national park system; it legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage; it has strict gun laws and outlawed capital punishment; and it accepts many immigrants – all to promote a just society under a national constitution. Oh, and when they travel they are not afraid to display their Canadian flag on their luggage or bags (probably so others don’t mistake them for Americans).
POPULAR CANADIAN ACTIVITIES
Being such a large country under a multi-cultural identity, Canadians enjoy diverse set of activities, such as watching and playing a lot of hockey, hiking, skiing, fishing, rodeo, sailing, football, ice skating, whale watching, gambling, producing great comedy, music and film, drinking beer, and enjoying fine dining or eating weird things like cheese curds on top of fries and gravy – just to name a few.
The Canadian dollar (CAD or C$) – exchange rates are usually favorable for U.S. citizens. Check throughout your travel planning phase on any exchange rate changes.
Canada has all modern forms of transportation, including Uber and Lyft (research in advance if they are in your destination area), and other regional ridesharing services and apps, so getting around and booking transportation in advance or working on the fly, is no problem.
TIPPING IN CANADA
Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules. That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated.
What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc. For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.
Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.
A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays. It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday. It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So take just a few moments to look at Canada’s holidays.
CANADA ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS
Besides money, required ID and your ticket, Canada’ voltage is 120V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz, so they use both Type A and Type B adapters, like the U.S. Although you don’t have to bring an adapter, check your electronics – if you have one requiring a 3-prong outlet you may want to bring a Type B adapter just in case. Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home. If you are going to another country on your trip other than Canada, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided suggested global adapters below for your convenience!
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR CANADA
From the U.S., you will need a valid passport. Visa’s are not required if your stay is less than 6 months. Make sure your passport expiration date is greater than 3 months from your return to the U.S if you are transiting in route to Europe from Canada. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Canada. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
VACCINATIONS FOR CANADA
There are normally no vaccinations required for Canada. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to Canada. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
SOLO / FEMALE TRAVEL TIPS
CANADA TRAVEL SAFETY
For the most part, Canada is considered a safe place to visit. Depending where you go in the Canada can affect your “safety factor”. Larger cities, of course, may require being street wise. Smaller towns, not so much. Whatever the Canada destination, please just keep in mind my standard tips for female and solo travelers are:
- always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
- always be “street wise”.
- always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
- never leave your food or drink unattended.
- keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
- be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
- research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
- if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
BEST TIME TO VISIT CANADA
Similar to the U.S., Canada’s summer season is July to August – this is when school is out and many Canadian families take vacations as well. This can drive up the prices and crowds. However, depending on where you go in Canada, snow can begin as early as October and last through April. So, the heavy winter months, December to March, may provide the best prices, except around the Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s holidays. Travel in the Canada could be crazy at these times, and if the weather is bad, flights can be delayed. Additionally, Canadian taxes can add to travel costs overall. In general, the best and less expensive times to visit Canada are when kids and college students are back in school, which would be September to early November and late April to May. Don’t forget to check the weather of where you’re going – that may also impact where and when you decide to go.
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SUSTAINABILITY / ECO TRAVEL TIPS
It is very easy to do your part for the planet and implement environmental sustainability into your travel. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement environmentally sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel measures into your travel, please see my 10 Easy Eco-Travel Tips and suggested 15 Eco-Friendly Travel Products.
Additionally, if you are flying to or within Canada, consider purchasing carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change through your travel. Check it out!
Considering my country borders Canada, it’s amazing how little time I’ve spent in Canada. I’m not big on cold weather so perhaps that’s the reason? I do have to say that most Canadians I meet are just down right friendly and great people. They do know how to place importance on good living. Montreal is a beautiful city, especially Old Montreal. They have built their metro underground accompanied by much underground shopping. I don’t blame them – I’ve been in Montreal during Christmas and “cold” is an understatement. I’ve been to Niagara Falls and consider Toronto a kick-ass town. In Toronto, definitely go to the top of the CN Tower – you can feel tower sway slightly in the wind and the clear, Plexiglas floor sections do provide for a frightening view.
My Canada bucket list items are Vancouver and Nova Scotia. I also wouldn’t mind taking a train across the country.