Travel guide for Canada
Capital city: Ottawa
Form of Government: Parliamentary Monarchy
Citizen Count: 36.503.097
Emergency calls: 911
Canada country code for calls: +1
Circuitry voltage: 120 Volts
Canada is a part of the North American continent. It is the second larges land in the world, covering a surface area of 9.984.670 kilometers squared. There are also 6 different time zones within this country due to its size. Canada's trademark is the breadth of natural areas and uninhabited lands which cover almost 70% of its surface. Some of the biggest sight seeing locations are the Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains and the Niagara Falls at the border between Canada and the USA.
The country's culture is influenced by European immigrants from Great Britain, France and Ireland. There have also been large waves of immigration from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean in recent years. These immigrant brought traditions from their countries of origin to Canada. Foods, languages, superstitions, holidays and sports were some of the traditions that were introduced into Canada after the arrivals of the immigrants. This is why Vancouver celebrates the Chinese new year for example or why the Caribana is celebrated in Toronto.
Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal and Quebec are the largest states in Canada besides its capital city Ottawa. There are also 18 UNESCO-World Heritage Sites. We have compiled the most important information that you will need to know about before traveling to Canada, so that you can have an unforgettable travel experience and adventure.
General information about Canada
The country's surfaces reaches until the Atlantic Ocean in the East, the Pacific Ocean in the West and the Arctic Ocean in the North. You can also reach the border of the USA in the South and Northwest parts of Canada. It also touches the border of the USA in the South and the North of the continent.
Canada has 6 different time zones, which causes various parts of the country to have time differences from anywhere between 4 ½ hours to 6 hours, depending on your location. The time difference in Ottawa, Toronto and Montréal is 6 hours, 8 hours in Calgary and 9 hours in Vancouver and Victoria if you are flying from within the GMT+2 time zone.
Climate and travel seasons
Canada has many different climate zones as well, because it stretches across such large masses of land. There are areas with polar climate conditions, maritime climate, continental climate and moderately cold climate, which means that there are varying amounts of precipitation and average temperatures.
It is hard to determine when it would be the best time for traveling to Canada, due to the fact that the precipitation varies continuously. In the Northern parts of Canada temperatures can decrease down to -40 degrees Celsius in the winter. You can however expect the temperatures to rise up to 30 degrees in the Summer. The Okanagan wine valley is located in the British Columbian state and is also one of the warmest regions of Canada.
Climate chart for Ottawa (in degrees Celsius)
Hours of sunlight per day
Climate chart for Vancouver (in degrees Celsius)
Hours of sunlight per day
Preparing your journey
Requirements for entering Canada
If you do not require a VISA to enter the country you will need to apply for the online based travel permit "eTA" (Electronic Travel Authorization). We recommend that you obtain your travel permit at least 72 hours before your flight to Canada. The Canadian authorities can not guarantee that your application will be processed in time for your arrival in the country, if you complete your application later than 72 hours before your flight. The application cost for the "eTA" is 7 CAD per person, which gives you a travel permit to Canada that is valid for 5 years. You will need a valid travel ID or passport, an email address and a credit card (Master Card, Visa, American Express) in order to complete your application. The online application form is currently available in English and French.
In case you do need a travel VISA in order to enter Canada it is advised to apply for this well in advance of your trip in order to ensure your successfully entry into the country.
The Canadian currency is called 'Canadian Dollar' (CAD).
One Canadian dollar equals 100 cents or 56 pence. There are 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar bank notes, 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cent coins, and 1 and 2 dollar coins. There used to also be a 1000 dollar bank note, but this has since been discontinued. The 1000 dollar notes that still exist can also still officially be used for making payments. The currency conversion rates between CAD and your own currency are decided by the current global exchange rates and can vary, depending on international financial changes. You can calculate your currency's exchange rate.
Canada's health care system is very professional and offers a large amount of medical facilities and well trained medical specialists. The country has a more than sufficient supply of medicine. If you require medical support at a hospital, you will either get charged at a daily rate or based on the type of illness and the length of your stay at the hospital. Hospital fees are however very high for visitors who are not Canadian residents. You should make sure that your travel health insurance is valid within Canada. Should this not be the case, it is advisable to apply for a travel health insurance that will cover your needs and potential injuries and accidents during your stay in Canada.
Our hint is to pay by card, take the bill with you and hand it to your insurance once you are back at home so that they can handle the payment(s). This can save both you and the hospital staff a lot of time. The option to do so if only possible if your insurance back at home covers such medical bills.
The West Nile Fever Season is due to begin in June. This flu-like virus is transmitted by mosquitos. You should be prepared to take any possible precautions against mosquitos, as getting infected with this virus can cause many issues to those that are affected.
Getting a Meningitis vaccination before entering the country is also strongly recommended as it is one of Canada's standard vaccination procedures that is meant to prevent meninx infections.
Please also make yourself familiar with the health information provided on the website of the Canadian government.
We have compiled a packing checklist so that you can be perfectly prepared for your journey!
Society and every day life in Canada
Canada does not have an overall state religion. Three quarters of the population are Christian and the remaining quarter of the population hold the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist faiths. Up to 16% of the population are non-religious.
Canada is officially seen as a constitutional monarchy, as it is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, which belongs to the head of state, Queen Elisabeth II. Canada is however also a representative parliamentary democracy, which is organized as a large federal state. The constitution consists of written law sources and unwritten habitual and customary laws.
Local language and communication
There are two official languages in Canada: English and French. According to the charter of Funadamental Rights, the official law and the federal languages edict, bilingualism is officially decreed. All Citizens of Canada have the right to access any services of the federation in either English or French. All provinces guarantee for students to be taught in their mother tongue, which means that there are schools that teach all subjects in French and others that teach all subjects in English.
When in Canada you should always adapt to the polite social etiquette by saying "please" and "thank you" whenever these are due. It is common to be asked "Hi, how are you?" as a greeting. You do not need to respond to this by saying how you actually feel, as it is said to be polite instead of meaning to ask how you feel. It is appropriate to responding by saying "I'm fine, thank you. And you?"
The main Eastern travel route connects the large cities of Toronto, Montréal, Québec and Ottawa with each other. This route runs along the Saint Lawrence River and passes through Ontario and Québec. The entire North is mostly undeveloped as this is not required. The large cities near the West of the country, which are located near the border of America, are connected by transportation systems. Canada's government wanted to connect the provinces that lay quite far apart from each other. This was implemented by building three transcontinental railways and multiple branch terminal lines. Flights through Canada are also available from 75 different airlines, in case people need to travel across even greater distances.
Culture and history of Canada
Native Americans were the first inhabitants of Canada. They inhabited the land in 12000 BC. After them, the Inuit came into the land at around 5000 BC. Vikings were the first Europeans to live on this land, also known as Newfoundland, at around 1000 BC. The Frenchman Jacques Cartier first claimed ownership over regions of Canada in 1534. These regions then became French land. The city Québec was founded by Samuel de Champlain in the 16th Century. Many French people then began to migrate to Canada and create settlements in the years to come. British settlers also came to the land in 1670.
After a few peaceful centuries, seven years of war between the English and the French people began. In 1763 France gave their ownership rights to Great Britain, due to the Treaty of Paris. Canada experienced its first British loyalists' immigration wave after the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). The war between Britain and America followed in 1812 and lasted until 1814. This war went unresolved and was ultimately ended by the Treaty of Ghent.
Great Britain declared that Canada is a confederation in 1867, which meant that it was now independent from the Great Britain. All provinces (apart from Newfoundland in 1912) had joined the confederation until 1912. Canada voluntarily became a member of the commonwealth in 1931.
After the second world war, Canada experienced a large wave of immigration from Europe, India, the far east, Arabia and the Caribbean. This wave caused a financial boost and brought a certain level of wealth to Canada. Original inhabitants gained back some areas of land in the north after completing contracts for the change of land ownership. There were however still some conflicts between the English speaking parts of Canada and the French province Québec, because Québec demanded more independence. This ambition was however thwartet because English people had a slight majority vote in this decision.
Winterlude: (January to February) This is a yearly festival that is always celebrated in the winter. It attracts about 600000 visitors every year. This festival is also free of charge.
Canadian Music Week: (March) One of the largest and most influential music festivals and conferences within Canada takes place in Toronto for 10 days. More than 1000 live bands perform on stages in Downtown Toronto, regardless of whether this stage happens to be in a pub, in a bar, in a cafe or even inside clothing stores. Beside the Music Festival, conferences also take place in which the music industry is discussed. There will also be Award Shows in which the best musicians will be announced and awarded prizes.
Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival: (June) This is the largest Dragon Boat Festival in North America with over 200 teams, 5000 paddlers and 75000 audience members and viewers. Concerts and cultural performances also occur during this festival. The best thing about all of them is that they are completely free of cost.
Fireworks Festival:(June) You can get the best view on the international Fireworks Festival from the Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montréal. The park itself has plenty of entertainment to offer on its own as well though. Some of the events found there are the music, dance and theatre shows, the sports events and the free time activities that people can participate in. With so much going on you will never have a boring moment.
Beaches International Jazz Festival: (July) The Beaches Jazz Festival presents a multitude of different concerts and events, such as the 'Streetfest' or the 'Sounds of Riverside'. Salsa, Swing, Afro-Cuban, Fusion, Soul and many more music styles are also playing during this festival. You may find it hard to resist the temptation to dance along!
Just for Laughs Festival: (July) Do you feel like laughing really hard? If so, coming to Montréal to visit the world's largest comedy festival since 1983 is a very good idea! The event's Motto is "Make People Happy". A selection of the most famous comedians and new comers perform at this event with said motto in mind and at heart.
International Chalk Art Festival: (September) The largest street art festival in Canada showcases the cultural diversity of Downtown Victoria at the port of Victoria. You can admire chalk artworks (even in 3D!) made by professional artists for free. You will also be able to enjoy live music outdoors whilst viewing the artists' work.
Eastside Culture Crawl: (November) 25000 visitors come to the Cultural Crawl every year, to see designs and crafts made by over 480 artists and crafts people. The goal of this festival is to promote and support the artists, whilst also creating further public awareness of these arts by hosting various workshops and seminars about them. This Festival is also completely free of charge!
Everything worth knowing about Canada
Hints & tricks
If you are familiar with the tipping rules in the USA, then you will know that tips are not included in payments that you make. You should give a tip of around 15 percent of the original payment price that you had to pay.
Common prices for a coffee is about 1.50 to 2 Euros and a beer can be bought for about 3 to 5 Euros. By knowing this you can avoid getting ripped off by places that offer these beverages for more than the prices stated above.
How are you?
Good, thank you
How about you?
Thank you (so much)
See you later
À plus tard!
I am lost
Je suis perdu
Can I help you?
Can you help me?
Where is the toilette/ the pharmacy?
Où se trouvent les toilettes? Où se trouve la pharmacie?
Do you speak (English)?
My name is…