So, you've booked your ticket to Canada. Before flying to the land of maple syrup, ice hockey and Justin Trudeau, there are a few things about this diverse and exciting country you should know before you land to make your holiday stress- free.
Whether heli-skiing on untouched mountain peaks, spending a romantic weekend in Niagara Falls, or shopping in the metropolitan city of Vancouver, Canada offers many opportunities for travellers to create memorable holiday experiences. Make sure to have the right gear for your trip, get travel insurance for Canada, and 'keep exploring' as the Canadian tourism slogan says.
It is not an overstatement to call Canada huge. In fact, the distance separating one end of the country from the other is approximately the same as that from London to Lagos, the capital of Nigeria. Along this 5000 km stretch you cross several regions each with their own fauna, flora, culture and sometimes even language.
Canada truly offers something for everyone: whether you want to go shopping in vibrant cities, party with jazz stars, go ski remote peaks and pistes, or explore some untouched wilderness, Canada is definitely the place to go. It is a very safe country to travel through and with 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, one country everyone should visit at least once!
Why Visit Canada?
Canada offers top cosmopolitan cities with Vancouver and Ottawa regularly winning the awards for the highest living quality in North America and Montreal being home to one of the world's largest jazz festivals. Outside of the cities lies harsh wilderness, snow capped mountains, and lots and lots of opportunities for adventures.
Things to do
- Go skiing at Whistler's.
- See amazing fossil sites.
- Hang out with Beluga whales and polar bears.
- Have a romantic weekend at Niagara Falls.
- Hike in the rugged wilderness of the Rockies.
- Listen to Jazz legends play in Montreal.
World Heritage Sites
- Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is the name of the landscape that contains the remains of trails, camps and buffalo hunting practices by aboriginal peoples
- Historic District of Old Quebec is a beautifully preserved example of a fortified colonial town
- Landscape of Grand Pré showing examples of the adaptations of the first European settlers on the North American Atlantic coast
- L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, which is the excavation of the remains of a Viking settlement dating back to the 11th-century
- Old Town Lunenburg, a planned British colonial settlement established in 1753 that has managed to retain its appearance and original layout until today
- Red Bay Basque Whaling Station was the base for hunting, butchering, and rendering of whale fat established in the 16th century by Basque mariners
- Rideau Canal is a slack water canal built during the great North American canal-building era of the early 19th century
- SGang Gwaay, a site commemorating the living traditions of the Haida people
- Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, a collection of national and regional parks that are home to not only the famous Burgess Shale fossil site but some of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet
- Dinosaur Provincial Park, home to fossils dating back 75 million years
- Gros Morne National Park, a visual example of continental drift and the action of plate tectonics
- Joggins Fossil Cliffs, which contain numerous fossils from 354 to 290 million years ago as well as the most complete known fossil record of the time from 318 to 313 million years ago
- Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alesk, home to the largest non-polar ice field in the world
- Mugasha National Park contains the best preserved fossil specimen of the ancestor of the first four-legged, air-breathing terrestrial vertebrates
- Nahanni National Park, a beautiful park along a wild river containing deep canyons, a unique limestone cave system, and massive waterfalls
- Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, an area of breathtaking scenery with highly diverse fauna and flora
- Wood Buffalo National Park is the natural nesting place of the whopping crane, home to a large number of wild bison, and the world's largest inland delta
When is the best time to visit ?
For those wishing to participate in any form of winter sport, the winter months between December and April will be the best time to travel. For hiking, camping or fishing vacations though, the summer months between May to November will prove to be the right time to go.
Occasionally, if there is heavy snowfall during the winter, hiking trails can remain closed well into July.
Should you decide to head to any of the northern areas such as Yukon or Labrador, bring warm clothing with you, even if you go in summer.
Average Annual Temperature
- Overall: 0 degrees
- Northern Territory: -19 degrees
- Alberta and British Columbia: 5 degrees
- Ontario: 7 degrees
Average Annual Rainfall
- Average: 743 mm
- British Columbia Islands: 3295 mm
Travel & Safety Warnings
Canada is a very safe country with minimal crime. The police are trustworthy and hard-working, and Canadians take safety very serious. Drunk driving is taken very seriously, as is the possession of controlled substances. The biggest problem for most travellers are the winter storms, making driving more dangerous as well as being potentially dangerous for hikers and adventurers. Ensure you have travel insurance for Canada before setting off on any adventures!
Key Travel Facts
35, 675, 834
- 9, 984, 670 km²
- 2nd largest in the world
International Calling Code
- 67.3% Christianity
- 23.9% Non-religious
- 3.2% Islam
- 1.5% Hinduism
|January 1||New Year's Day|
|May 18||Victoria Day|
|July 1||Canada Day|
|September 7||Labor Day|
|November 11||Rememberance Day|
|December 25||Christmas Day|
Note: Every region additionally has several holidays that are only observed locally
13 International Airports
135 cross-border airports & 260 domestic airports
Ports & Harbours
1. Rent an RV
If you have the time and enjoy a road trip
2. Remember that in Canada they use the metric system…
Like most countries in the northern hemisphere, Canada predominately uses the metric system. Though they are a mix of both metric and imperial, be mindful of their measuring systems. Might be a good idea to take a crash course or google metric conversion.
3. "Je ne parle pas français?” Bilingual communication is to be expected
Canada is a multicultural country with half of its population speaking French. Many travellers are surprised by the linguistic multiculturalism of Canada, and depending on where you go, they may only speak French! Knowing how to say ‘Hello, my name is’, ‘How much is that?’ and ‘where is the bathroom?’ can go a long way.
4. Canada has its own currency
Canada has its own currency and though they do take American dollars it would be worthwhile purchasing some Canadian dollars before you leave.
5. Be mindful of the seasons
Canada is known for its unpredictable weather. From warm to cool to snowing to dry, Canada is a diverse country with more seasons in the year than the Southern hemisphere. It’s a good idea to consider packing for all seasons and weather occasions.
6. Drink responsibly!
One of the reasons people love travelling to Canada is because of the lower drinking age compared to other countries in North America. Though it is considered a safe country remember to drink responsibly and, like most countries, don’t leave your drink unattended.
7. Be a patron who tips!
Like America, Canada works on a tipping system. Because wages are quite low compared to Australia, many businesses expect patrons to tip – whether the service was exceptional or not! It is custom to tip 15-20% of the total bill. Though restaurants are the obvious places to tip, you can also show your gratitude at your hotel.
8. Be nice!
Canadians are known for their polite disposition. Hearing ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ will be common when travelling throughout Canada. It is said that Canadians are quiet by nature and more reserved than Americans or Australians. Canadian generosity is a cultural norm and should be reciprocated when travelling in Canada.
9. Research your travel insurance options
And last but not least, have a great time! Canada is known for their sincere hospitality, interesting culture, amazing scenery and opportunities! Many traveller seldom regret going to Canada for their working or leisure holidays.
If you are looking for an extensive guide to tipping etiquette for Canada you can find more information here.
The food in Canada definitely represents its many immigrant populations. From French influenced cooking to excellent Chinese food to the typical North American chain restaurants, you can find good food everywhere. Canadian cuisine on the other hand is a slowly emerging concept and you can sometimes find moose or caribou on a menu.
The Canadian culinary landscape is divided along the country's language borders. English Canadian cooking is similar to the cooking of North America, with specialties being the world famous maple syrup, butter tarts (tarts composed of sugar, butter and eggs), beaver tails (fried dough covered in icing sugar) , and fiddleheads (curled heads of young ferns). French Canadian food on the other hand shows a strong French influence.
Famous dishes include tourtière (a meat pie dating back to the founding of Quebec), oreilles de Christ (fried larding bacon), and poutine (French fries, gravy and cheese curds). There are also various deserts, such as croquignoles (doughnuts fried in shortening) and tarte au sucre (sugar tart). A recent development in Canadian cooking is pride in local ingredients, as such you can also expect to find caribou, venison and moose popping up on the menus.
Apart from local cooking traditions, you will also find a lot of Chinese restaurants, Ukrainian restaurants, Japanese sushi, and around Montreal, Jewish specialties.
City Travel Guides
A great way of exploring Canada is by renting an RV and going on a road trip, and it is also a very typical way of travel for many Canadians. There are several places to rent one of these motor homes, and drivers in Canada are good and considerate. Be aware of snowstorms though and it is advised to have snow chains with you. Before setting off on a big trip, make sure to have Canada travel insurance that covers you for any eventuality.
You’ll have to bring an umbrella, but the coastal seaport city of Vancouver is a great place to visit and walk. It’s been planned with pedestrians in mind and has a great public transportation system. The city is also compact, where things are built up, rather than out, so there is plenty of space for visitors to roam. Check out Granville Island with its food market, galleries and theatres; Stanley Park – a national historic site, with its natural, cultural and historical landmarks; the second largest Chinatown in North America (after San Franscisco); and wander around the national historic site of Gastown (pictured), with its cobbled streets and unique architecture.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The Atlantic Provinces were the first explored by Europeans. The entire region is famous for its seafood, particularly the clam chowder and the mussels, which everyone should try while here. Newfoundland and Labrador are part of this province, and well worth exploring for their natural beauty and cultural uniqueness, being dominated by the aboriginal cultures of the Innu, Inuit, and Mi'kamq. It is in the North of this province that you find the famous Gros Morne National Park - a stunning visual example of the action of the tectonic plates in the form of dramatic peaks and valleys.
Heading west from here you enter the French province of Quebec, which is also home to the second largest French-speaking city in the world, Montreal. Montreal hosts the world's largest Jazz Festival every year in late June and early July. The biggest names in the music industry descend upon this town, and large parts are closed off to make space for music stages. If you are into music, this is one festival you do not want to miss. If you are not into music, it also happens to be an awesome party in its own right!
The other major city of the area is Quebec. Containing the historically protected Old Town, Quebec to this day has maintained its French heritage and has a very European feel to it. Between January and early April, Quebec is also home to one of the world's two ice hotels, a truly stunning site both during the day and a night.
West of Quebec is the region of Ontario.
Toronto, Canada's most populous city is also in this area. Sometimes called the New York City of Canada, Toronto is ethnically and culturally diverse and offers great shopping, restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife. For a more romantic getaway, head to Niagara Falls and spend a few days in the 'honeymoon capital of the world'.
As you head further West, distances start becoming bigger and towns tend to become fewer, a sure sign that you have entered the region known as the Prairies. This area is characterized by vast open spaces and amazing natural attractions. Wood Buffalo National Park and Riding Mountain National Park are located here. Both are nature conservation areas that offer some stunning hikes.
If you are heading to Canada to hit the ski slopes then British Columbia is the place for you. Not only is the ‘BC’ home to the iconic Whistler-Blackcomb area, you also find excellent skiing areas near Nelson, Kelowana and Rossland. The Rockies offer a brilliant opportunity for mountain hiking or rock scrambling, and hardcore climbers will find Squamish to be a place of their dreams with its many very accessible and iconic climbing routes. If you do decide to go climbing, ensure that you have proper travel insurance.
Finally, north of British Columbia is Canada's North, a sparsely populated area with some of the most remote regions on earth. In the Yukon Territory you can still visit some sites of the great gold rush era, but generally this entire area is reserved for adventurers, explorers and madmen.