Five Things First Time Travellers To Canada Should Know
- Canada has shared bathrooms. To prevent long lines and accommodate the LGBT community, it's not uncommon to find unified restrooms in restaurants and bars.
- Canada's currency is the Canadian Dollar, and it has a few strange nicknames. You might hear locals call the CAD 1 coin a "loonie" and the CAD 2 coin a "toonie".
- Tip 15% - 20% of your total bill. Tipping is expected at restaurants, hair and beauty salons as well as for bell boys. If you're unsure about tipping, observe those around you or ask your hotel's concierge.
- The country's two official languages are English and French. In the city of Quebec, French is the dominant language, but you'll be able to speak English in all the major cities. In fact, you can expect to hear an array of languages thanks to Canada's multiculturalism.
- Sales tax isn't included in the price on the shelf. This means that you'll pay more than what is advertised, but no one is trying to rip you off. While it can be annoying, it's just a quirk of life in Canada.
Best Time To Visit Canada
The best time to visit Canada is during the summer months. From July to August, the weather is warm and perfect for the country's many outdoor activities.
But it's also Canada's high season. Book a few months in advance to lock in lower prices and expect camping grounds to be more crowded than usual.
If you prefer cooler temperatures during this season, head to the northern territories like Newfoundland. Or visit Canada during winter.
From December to March, Canada transforms into the ultimate destination for thrill seekers, boasting some of the best ski resorts. As the colder months aren't as popular, you'll also score on airfare and hotel discounts.
Plus, you'll be in time for the world's biggest winter festival, the Quebec Winter Carnival. Just be sure to pack enough warm clothes so you can brave the sub-zero temperatures.
Fall is an excellent time to visit if you want to avoid the summer crowds and the freezing winter temperatures. Not only are there loads of fall celebrations, but prices are low, and it's easy to find great airfare deals.
Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and the country's cultural capital. It's home to the largest French-speaking community outside of France, and its skyline is a blend of old meets new.
18th-century houses set the stage for the city's best restaurants, and Montreal's nightlife scene continues until the wee hours of the morning.
Make sure you explore its world-class museums and grab a coffee at one of the traditional French cafes along Saint-Laurent.
Toronto is a bustling cosmopolitan city and Canada's biggest city. It's considered to be one of the most diverse cities in the world, with more than half the population born abroad.
Over 200 ethnic groups call Toronto home, and its streets are filled with chatter from over 140 different languages.
Its impressive landmarks include the castle of Casa Loma, the Toronto Islands, the world's largest underground shopping mall and the iconic CN Tower.
Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Vancouver is a nature lovers' paradise.
The city's hiking trails, mountain biking routes, white water rafting and 11 miles of beaches are some of the best ways to experience this natural playground.
But Vancouver is also an epicentre of pop culture. Several major movie pictures and television shows have used the city as a backdrop. Visit the filming locations for "The Twilight Saga", "Supernatural" and more.
No visit to Canada would be complete without a visit to the city of Quebec.
It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is full of the smells, tastes and sounds of France. Spend your days wandering past the 17th-century houses, nibbling on freshly baked croissants and learning about Quebec's unique history.
Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. It's full of beautiful architecture, interesting museums and quirky boutiques.
It's also a city of festivals. If you're looking to experience Canadian culture at its finest, plan your trip around Winterlude or the Tulip Festival.
If you can handle the cold temperatures, visit the city during its winter months. Ottawa's Rideau Canal freezes and transforms into the largest ice skating rink in the world.
Top Attractions in Canada
The Bay of Fundy
Located between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy boasts the highest variation between high and low tide in the world.
Twice a day, you can witness 160 billion tonnes of seawater flow in and out. The best place to appreciate this phenomenon is within the World's Highest Tides Ecozone.
Visit the Bay at low tide and return six hours later for high tide to get the full experience of this natural wonder. There are loads of hikes in the area to explore as well, plus the impressive rock formations at Hopewell Cape and the nearby Grand Manan Island.
Canada's most famous natural attraction is Niagara Falls. Located an hour away from Toronto, it attracts more than a million visitors each year.
One of the best places to view the falls is on the Ontario side in Queen Victoria Park. The falls are illuminated at night, and during the summer months, firework displays add to Niagara's magical atmosphere.
But there's more to do here than just look at the falls. Spend a day hiking through the wilderness, visiting the interactive exhibits or hop on board the Maid of the Mist to visit the basin of the falls.
Polar Bears of Churchill
Each year, the small town of Churchill welcomes tourists from near and far to witness the polar bear migration. It's one of the most accessible places in the world to view these creatures in their natural habitat.
Join a tour and head out to Hudson Bay where you can watch the bears make their way out onto the ice. The best time to go is in October and November as the bears make their way to seal-hunting territory.
It's a unique experience that will get you up close with these endangered animals. Take a ride in a local tundra vehicle or go on a guided walk along the bears' migration route.
Banff National Park
In the heart of the Rocky Mountains, lies one of Canada's most impressive national parks. Inside Banff, you'll find 6,641 square kilometres of pristine green lakes, snow-capped mountains and beautiful scenery.
Its most famous attraction is Lake Louise. The green waters reflect the surrounding mountains, creating an unforgettable sight.
The national park boasts beautiful day hikes. Take the Iceline Trail if you want something challenging or trek to the nearby Takakkaw Falls. Banff also offers world-class golfing, and an exhibit where you can view the ancient fossils discovered in the park.
But if you don't have a lot of time, take the Sightseeing Lift for a bird's-eye view of the Canadian Rockies.
Whistler is home to one of Canada's best ski resorts. Only two hours from Vancouver, you'll find world-class skiing, beautiful mountain scenery and so much more.
Since hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the village of Whistler has gained international fame. Once a sleepy town, it's developed into a bustling destination with a range of summer and winter adventure activities.
Go kayaking, try ice climbing or get your adrenaline pumping by bungee jumping off the Cheakamus River bridge.
Once you're tired yourself out, you can relax at the luxurious spas and indulge your taste buds at Whistler's best restaurants.
Major International Airports in Canada
- Toronto Pearson International Airport
- Vancouver International Airport
- Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
- Calgary International Airport
- Edmonton International Airport