Canada comprises most of the North American continent, sharing the longest national border in the world with the United States (5,525 miles). From the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans and north to the Arctic, its land and water area form the second largest country in the world after Russia. The nation boasts 60% of all the world’s lakes, numbering around 31,700. This astonishing figure makes Canada home to much of the world’s fresh water. Its population density is among the lowest, at 8.5 people on average per square mile.
Canada is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy overseen by the British Crown. In this bilingual nation, you are as likely to hear French as English being spoken. Canada’s capital is Ottawa.
The official languages of Canada are English and French. Outside of Québec, English is predominantly used, with French used on signs and on some menus. While knowledge of the French language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases to use during your walking tour. The effort seldom goes unappreciated and by trying some greetings and salutations with a smile, your interactions are likely to grow into rewarding exchanges. See BBC Languages for helpful tips. Country Walkers also recommends a phrase book or two in our Reading Guide that you’ll receive after you reserve.
Life in Canada
Shopping and banking hours: Shops and stores are generally open Monday to Saturday between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets are open all day, every day of the week, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (or later; check locally). Banks are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, and from 9:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Meal times: Breakfast is served at hotels from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. In restaurants, lunch is between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., and dinner is usually served from 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., but with substantial local variation.
Tipping: In restaurants and bars, leave 15 to 20 percent of the total. Taxi drivers receive 10 to 15 percent of the fare. For luggage assistance, offer from $2 to $5 depending on the service provided.
Canada public holidays: Canada public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events may affect your travel planning. For an official list, see this site.
A Canadian perspective: Before you travel, check out cbc.ca, the official website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio Canada, for a Canadian view on the news and to learn what Canadians are reading, watching on television, and listening to. A wide number of links to audio and video programming are available.
Canadian food is North American in its standard repertoire, as well as in its inclusion of regional dishes and seasonal harvests. Quebec combines North American dishes with traditional French cuisine; regional specialties include local meat and game, such as rabbit, seafood such as mussels, many local cheeses, and tempting French or maple syrup-based desserts. Nova Scotia offers fresh lobster, Acadian-style cod, and Scottish-influenced baked goods. In Western Canada and the Rockies, menus include hearty items such as the region’s local beef steaks and game meats such as venison.
Quebec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, supplying more than 80% of the syrup consumed worldwide. As hard as it is for a Vermont-based company like Country Walkers to admit, it’s just as tasty as Vermont syrup. The Canadian classification system has three categories (1, 2, and 3) and five grades (extra light, light, medium, amber, and dark). For nutritional information, recipes, and interesting maple lore, visit ilovemaple.ca.
During the months of June through September, the weather is ideal for active vacations in the Canadian Rockies, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. In general, daytime temperatures range from the 60s to low 70s, with chillier nights and mornings, perhaps even around freezing in the higher elevations of western Canada. Occasional precipitation can occur at any time.
U.S. citizens: Passports are required to enter Canada by air, land, or sea. Visas are not required for U.S. citizens. For more information, see travel.state.gov.
Starting March 15, 2016, visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to or transit through Canada will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travelers with a valid visa. Cost approximately $7.00CAD. For current rate and to apply for your eTA, please see cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta-start.asp
Canada uses the Canadian dollar (CAD). The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 1 CAD. Exchange rates can vary greatly month to month, so we recommend you visit oanda.com. for the latest.
Contact your bank or your credit-card company for details on fees and card use when travelling, and to inform them of your travel destination and dates so they do not freeze your accounts when they see charges appear from a foreign country.
We recommend having a variety of payment options readily available to help you start your trip: ATM card(s) and credit card(s).
No immunizations are required to enter Canada. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.
Electricity: Alternating current of 120V and 60Hz is used in Canada, as in the U.S. The majority of plugs are Type B, with two square and one round prong. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see electricaloutlet.org. If you are visiting Canada from outside North America and bringing your own hair dryer or other electrical device, you will need a travel converter, available at most hardware, travel, or consumer electronic stores. For laptops or an electronic device with a dual voltage switch, you will only need the adapter plug, not the converter.
Phone: Canada’s country code is “+1.” Cell phone coverage throughout Canada is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post.
Internet: Internet access is generally widely available; however, all of the hotels used on our tours do not necessarily provide it, or they provide it at an additional cost. Details regarding Wi-Fi availability in each hotel are available in the Itinerary Overview that you’ll receive once you’ve reserved.
Canada spreads out over several time zones. Find the official time at your Canadian destination here.
A wealth of travel information is available at caen.canada.travel.
Canada has an extensive international and domestic air network with many airlines and airports. For travel to all regions and airports, see caen.canada.travel; for Western Canada, visit travelalberta.com and hellobc.com; and for Quebec, see bonjourquebec.com.
International Airports in Canada
- Calgary International Airport
- Edmonton International Airport
- Gander – Gander International Airport
- Halifax – Halifax Stanfield International Airport
- Hamilton – John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport
- Kelowna International Airport
- Moncton International Airport
- Mont-Tremblant – Rivière Rouge – Mont Tremblant International Airport
- Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
- Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport
- Quebec City – Quebec/Jean Lesage International Airport
- Regina – Regina International Airport
- Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International Airport
- St. John’s – St. John’s International Airport
- Sydney, Nova Scotia – J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport
- Toronto/Mississauga – Toronto Pearson International Airport
- Vancouver International Airport
- Victoria – Victoria International Airport
- Whitehorse – Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport
- Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport
VIA Rail: Canada’s national train company is viarail.ca. You may book your train travel directly with them.
Other local transportation
Long-distance bus travel can also be a convenient way to reach a destination. The largest national company is Greyhound; check locally for smaller regional long-distance bus companies.
Major car rental agencies are available at airports, city centers, and train and bus stations. Taxis are available at all major airports, cities, train and bus stations, and in smaller towns, and can be reserved in advance (your hotel can usually provide assistance).
For more information, contact Country Walkers.