Buckle up, folks! It is time to learn more about one of the loveliest countries in the world, namely, Canada. In fact, it is a dream country for many, including myself. Canada is in the North American continent; it borders the USA and three oceans, which are the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific. Canada is the second-largest county, right after Russia, spanning 9,984,670 square kilometers. Despite its immense size, the country is only populated by around 37 million people. The fact that it is not populated that much makes Canada’s wilderness so popular. Whether you are looking for a short holiday, temporary work or study, or permanent residence, Canada is an amazing place to consider. In this article, I will do my best to inform you about 15 things you should know and consider when traveling to Canada.
It is a huge country
As I mentioned before, it is the second-largest country on earth. It is enough just to say that it is bigger than the whole continent of Australia. So, if you are traveling to Canada as a tourist for a short period of time, don’t expect to be able to visit many cities and places. From the east to the west, there are six time zones in the country. Instead of rushing to see as many places in Canada as possible, I would recommend you choose one or two provinces to explore while chilling out. For example, if you would like to see the main cities of Canada, such as Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa, you better arrange your trip mostly within Ontario. Otherwise, if you are more into nature, you may visit Alberta or Saskatchewan.
Beware of weather and climate
You better travel to Canada in summer, if you are visiting as a tourist. As Canada is huge, the weather can be different depending on the region. The western coast has a climate akin to the one in the UK, so it doesn’t get too hot in summer. Close to the border with the US, the weather can go above +30 degrees Celsius in summer. But if you are traveling to Canada for a longer period of time to work or study, then bring layers, sweaters, and all other clothes that can keep you warm. The weather can get down to -20 degrees Celsius in most cities during winter.
Depending on your nationality, you may enter Canada visa-free. But, except for the US citizens, other visa-free travelers, say, from Europe need to get eTA (Electronic Travel Authority). You can easily get it online for 7CAD by answering a few questions. For most of the other countries, the Canadian visa is mandatory, though. The fun part starts if you are planning to visit Canada for more than six months. You will go through a lot of detailed document preparation process. For example, in my case, I gathered more than 60 pages of documents (e.g., letter of explanation, support letters from my parents, documents about my property, etc.) when I was applying for a Canadian study permit. It took me about 25 days to collect and prepare all these documents. It was a time-consuming and tiring process. In your case, if you would like to get comprehensive assistance regarding your visa application process, check out Pickvisa.com, an online platform run by visa professionals.
Money and payments
Usually, the payment in Canada happens mostly cashless through bank cards. So, you should definitely have your credit or debit card to make safe and very convenient payments. The country’s official currency is Canadian Dollars (CAD). Unlike the US bills, you will feel like holding money from the “Monopoly” game, as Canadian money is colorful. Each piece of paper money has a different color. When it comes to tipping, just like the USA, it is a norm to give a tip around 15-20% of the total bill when receiving service from a waiter/waitress, a barber, etc.
People are extremely friendly and polite. Especially in the suburban areas, Canadians will be very kind and caring for you, if they get to know that you are a newcomer. Whenever you ask for help from a Canadian, he/she would not miss the opportunity to help you and ask how you are doing. They are very tolerant and apologize basically for anything. However, make sure that you are not acting rude, littering, loitering, cutting in line, all of which are frowned on.
How about Couchsurfing?
Finding cheap accommodation in Canada is difficult. Even though there are hostels in big cities, they will still eat up a lot of money. One way to travel to Canada on a tight budget would be through Couchsurfing. As I said before, Canadians are very helpful and polite. I am sure you will find many kind people ready to provide a couch for you in major cities of Canada.
Two official languages
As per Canada’s history, it was colonized by the French first and then by the English. These historical events had their effects in Canada in terms of its official language, meaning both French and English are spoken. The majority of the country (80%) speaks English, and mostly, people in Quebec speak French. So, when traveling to Quebec, it is a good idea to know some French.
Get brief knowledge on history
It is always a good idea to learn a bit about the history of Canada before traveling there. The origin of the word “Canada” is assumed to be the Huron-Iroquois word “Kanata” meaning settlement. Canada is no doubt, a settlement community. It was originally inhabited by Indigenous Peoples, such as Inuit, Mohawk, and Cree people. Unlike the USA, Canada’s relationship with the First Nations was more friendly and cooperation oriented.
Be ready to pay sales tax
Unlike other countries in Europe and Asia, it is the customers who are paying sales tax. It is around 5% on most goods. This type of tax-paying is similar to the one in the USA. For example, you go to a store and buy a soda, which is, say, $3CAD on the price tag. But you will be charged more as they will add sales tax on the product.
Make sure that you have travel insurance when visiting Canada. If you are not a citizen and get injured, it will cost you a significant amount to get healthcare services. If you really like skiing and hiking outdoors, make sure that your health insurance is quite comprehensive to cover any possible injuries.
Drinking ages are 18 and 19
At the age of 18 and 19, you are legally allowed to drink in Canada. Yaay! Unlike the USA, where the legal drinking age is 21, young people in Canada are allowed to drink at earlier ages. The use of alcohol is allowed at the age of 18 in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. For the rest of the provinces, a person should be 19 years old to be legally able to consume alcohol.
Different power outlets
In Canada, people use the North American type of plugs. That is usually two-pronged plugs. Also, as for voltage, the power outlets in Canada use 120 volts. So, if you are someone traveling from Europe, you should bring an adapter for power outlets. Besides, your electronic devices may be meant to be working with 220-240 volts. In that case, you should buy a new one in Canada, of course, if you are about to live for a long time.
Take a camera!
This is the type of advice that I followed myself. Recently, I got a Nikon camera and watched some YouTube videos to prepare myself to take amazing shots in Canada. It is a country full of beautiful cities and scenic nature. I am sure most of you have seen the pictures of Moraine Lake in Alberta on your social media feed. That’s what the camera is for, to take unforgettable pictures in places like Moraine Lake.
Meet Tim Hortons!
Tim Hortons, aka Timmies, is a place Canadians go for their coffee, donuts, and sandwiches. It is very Canadian, just like maple syrup. No matter how small a town is, there is Tim Hortons. It is a very good place to get snacks and coffee at a reasonable price. It is the country’s largest quick-service restaurant chain.
Just like the US, Canada’s one of the main differences with European states is public transportation. In most European countries, public transportation is so developed that you don’t need a car at all. But this is not the case in Canada. The country is very big, that’s why people cannot make it without a private car. So, outside Canada’s major cities, public transportation is almost non-existent.
A quick summary
Today, I have written about one of the loveliest countries in the world, Canada. With beautiful nature, this second-largest country is a mesmerizing place to live and visit. I have highlighted 15 things you should know and consider when traveling to Canada, which are the following: too large to visit for a short period of time, cold weather, getting a visa or eTA, money, and payments, polite people, expensive accommodation, two official languages, settlement history, paying sales tax, travel insurance, lower drinking ages, different power outlets, a need for a camera, Tim Hortons chain, and poor public transportation.