Lumberjacks, beavers, hockey fanatics, Mounties and maple syrup spring immediately to mind. While Canada certainly provides all of these traditional associations in abundance, this awe-inspiring country has so much more to offer than a slew of cliches. With its unrivalled outdoor adventure facilities, its unforgettable natural landscapes and its exceptionally cosmopolitan and progressive cities, Canada has plenty to offer those seeking cutting-edge culture as well as adventure junkies looking for a serious adrenaline kick. Popular tourist destinations include: the magnificent Rocky Mountains around Banff and Lake Louise, high-end luxury ski resorts such as Whistler and Blackcomb, the French-speaking cities of Montreal or Quebec, or the uber-cool and perpetually bustling urban centres of Vancouver or Toronto. Whether visiting an Inuit lodge in Nunavut, taking a dog-sled ride through the Yukon to view the spectacular northern lights blaze across the night sky, or indulging in some lovely high tea on Vancouver Island, you are bound to find plenty of activities to keep you blissfully engaged in this exceptionally diverse and incomprehensibly vast nation.
Banking and Currency
The Canadian dollar is the currency of Canada. It is abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or sometimes C$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies. It is divided into 100 cents. Canada has both paper money and coins. There are currently five coins in circulation – nickel (5¢), dime (10¢), quarter (25¢), 'loonie' ($1 ) and 'toonie' ($2). There is no longer a penny coin (1¢), so amounts are rounded up or down to the closest 5¢. Five bill denominations ($5, $10, $20, $50, $100)
Regular banking hours in Canada are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, with extended hours including weekends at some locations.
Most merchants accept credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are the most popular. American Express is not as widely accepted. Travellers' cheques are less popular — and may be subject to a fee. Although tempting and convenient to exchange funds at your hotel’s front desk, it’s always best to exchange currency at a bank or credit union.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Direct flights connect the major cities with the larger Canadian airports, and frequent connecting flights will help you get to any Canadian destination efficiently. Canada is well serviced by road and rail – take the train to sit back, relax and enjoy the sites, or hire a car and travel at your own pace.
For the most economical mode of transport, jump on a bus – you’ll find that Canada’s system of intercity bus routes spans the entire country and is very efficient. Some cities also offer flexible transit passes so you can enjoy unlimited all-day, multi-day or monthly travel within that city.
You could also catch a ferry to discover beautiful island retreats and coastal paradises, or just get from A to B on a convenient inland ferry service.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Tap water is safe to drink and food safety standards are high. If camping in the backcountry, you should be aware of the risks of giardia, where water in streams or lakes has been contaminated by animal waste. This can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and headaches. Ensure you boil, filter or purify water first; purification tablets are easy to buy in any outdoor equipment store. You should also be aware of the dangers of eating shellfish directly from the sea, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, resulting in illness or death. Check locally before you travel.
An extensive variety of cuisine is available representing the multicultural flavour of Vancouver. Fine dining, casual or family friendly restaurants are easily accessible throughout Greater Vancouver.
Alcoholic beverages in bottles are sold in special 'Liquor' stores. However, alcoholic beverages including beer and wine may be purchased in "Licensed Premises" establishments, such as restaurants, hotel lounges, pubs, and nightclubs. Minors are not admitted into bars. In BC, minors are defined as anyone under 19 years of age.
Climate and Weather
Canada’s climate is not as cold all year round as you might think. Winter temperatures fall below freezing in most of Canada but the South Western coast is relatively mild. Along the Arctic Circle is where it is coldest, the temperatures fall below freezing for around seven months of the year.During the summer the Southern provinces often have temperatures of over 86oF and high levels of humidity. In terms of rainfall, Western and South-Eastern Canada has the most, while the Prairies are dry and only get 250 – 500 mm per year.
The bulk of Canada’s visitors turn up in winter with skis or snowboard in hand, ready to tackle the slopes. The ski season runs from December until late March in the East, and extends to late May (and sometimes even June) in the ski hills of the West. With temperatures throughout most of Canada falling below freezing, the best thing to do is to embrace winter and get yourself along to a winter festival or ice carnival, or you could show off your skills at the world's longest skating rink, the Rideau Canal.
If summer is more your style, then you’ll enjoy the hot weather from late May to late September. Summer starts officially in June and carries on through August, with July often being the hottest summer month. Be at one with nature and go hiking or to the lakes for a spot of fishing.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Winter: warm coat/parka, fleece (pants, tops, etc.), undershirt and long johns (underpants), warm hat, gloves, and scarf, clothes you would wear in early spring or fall
Spring: Sweaters (fleece, wool, cotton, etc.), hoodie, ponchos, leather jacket, long & short sleeved shirts, heavier jeans, rain jacket, umbrella, sun hat, sunglasses, etc.
Summer: thin and light cottons, linens, and sport nylons, shorts, cropped pants, tank tops, skirts, sun hat, sun glasses, light jeans, khaki's, etc. in light colours (white, beige, etc.)
Fall: Sweaters (fleece, wool, cotton, heavy linen, etc.), hoodies, ponchos, long & short sleeved shirts, heavier jeans, etc..
You'll rarely be out of touch by e-mail or without internet access while visiting Canada. Most Canadian cities have cybercafés and coffee shops that offer wireless internet access to their patrons. Hotels often have an internet terminal or wireless internet available for guests and public libraries offer free access to the internet for limited periods of time.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Canadian appliances operate on 110 volts and the cycle is 60Hz, which is identical to the US voltage. Main wall sockets and plugs are two parallel flat prongs, making a universal adaptor necessary for overseas electrical devices.