What you need to know before traveling to Canada

Canada, the second largest country in the world, spans from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, from the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay. This vast landscape offers something for every taste, from the rugged maritime wonders of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to the cobblestone streets and French delicacies of Old Montreal to the vibrant theater district of Toronto to the majesty of Niagara Falls and the Canadian Rockies to the world-class skiing in British Columbia. Affordable, friendly, intriguing and diverse, Canada is a country you'll want to visit again and again.

  • Key facts
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    Canada is divided into 13 provinces--British Columbia, the Yukon, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Major tourist centers include Nova Scotia, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Windsor, Ottawa, Calgary, Banff, Vancouver/Victoria and Edmonton. Canada is officially bilingual. English is understood and spoken in virtually all of the country. However, French is the preferred language in Quebec Province, which includes the cities of Quebec and Montreal as well as the Laurentians ski area.
    Canada uses the Canadian dollar as its official currency, although the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas.
    To call telephone numbers in Canada from overseas, dial "001" plus the three-digit area code and the local number.
  • Weather & when to go
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    Since Canada spans from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Circle, you'll find a variety of climates within the country. The average temperatures in some of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada include:

    • Quebec City -- Average January high 18/-8 F/C -- average July high 77/25 F/C

    • Montreal -- Average January high 22/-6 F/C -- average July high 75/24 F/C

    • Toronto -- Average January high 29/-1 F/C -- average July high 77/25 F/C

    • Niagara Falls -- Average January high 28/-1 F/C -- average July high 78/25 F/C

    • Calgary -- Average January high 26/-4 F/C -- average July high 74/23 F/C

    • Vancouver -- Average January high 42/6 F/C -- average July high 71/22 F/C

    The best time to visit Canada depends on what you like to do on vacation and where you're visiting. Ski season in British Columbia and the Rocky Mountain resorts ranges from October to March. The most popular time for visiting the major cities of Ontario and Quebec is during the summer. Of course, the area surrounding the St. Lawrence River is also popular around fall foliage season, from August through early October. Quebec City also hosts one of the most popular winter festivals each January and February and the Calgary Stampede, held each July, draws more than 1.4 million visitors annually.
  • Getting around
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    It's not difficult to get around the vast expanses of the Canadian landscape. Air Canada provides regular service between Canadian airports and between major airport like Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto and Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport in Montreal and points throughout North America and the world.
    Via Rail and the Canadian National Railways offer regular service between major cities as well as overnight accommodations and dining cars on their coast-to-coast service. Via Rail also offers a Canrail passes, both system-wide and in the Ontario/Quebec corridor. These passes allow for unlimited rail travel within a specified time period for a single price. Of course, Canada's highway system is one of the most extensive in the world.
    Within the major cities, such as Toronto and Montreal, subway and light rail transportation is the way to go. Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary all have well-developed public transportation systems.
  • Know before you go
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    Canada has a number of public holidays throughout the year. Government offices, post offices, some museums and attractions and many retailers are closed on these days. Canada's holidays include:

    • New Years Day -- January 1st

    • Victoria Day -- The last Monday in May before May 25th

    • Canada Day -- July 1st

    • Labour Day -- The first Monday in September

    • Thanksgiving Day -- The second Monday in October

    • Remembrance Day -- November 11th

    • Christmas Day -- December 25th

    • Boxing Day (Ontario only) -- December 26th

    Some provinces also have other regional holidays where banks and attractions may be closed.
    Emergency services, such as the fire department or EMS, in Canada are summoned by dialing 911.
    All international visitors to Canada are required to have a valid passport. Citizens of the United States, British Commonwealth countries and most EEC countries do not need to obtain a visa. Visitors from countries outside these are will need to apply to a Canadian embassy or consulate for a visa.
  • Travel tips & recommendations
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    • Canada is the second largest country in the world (behind China). It's impossible to see everything in one visit.

    • Canada is divided into 13 provinces. The most popular for visitors are Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

    • The Maple Leaf is the national symbol of Canada.

    • Canada is home to approximately 33.5 million people. The majority of these (80 percent) live in urban areas and within 100 miles of the U.S. border.

    • The word, "Canada" comes from the Iroquoi word for "village".

    • Toronto is Canada's most populous city, with more than 2.6 million residents.

    • Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario, is Canada's capital city.

    • Favorite Canadian foods include maple syrup; poutine, fries layered with gravy and cheese curds; wild-caught salmon (particularly in the Pacific northwest); blueberries from Quebec; oysters and other shellfish from the Atlantic Ocean; beef from Alberta and tourtiere, a meat and pasty pie native to Quebec.

    • Canadian store hours vary widely by region. Most areas have 24-hour groceries and big box stores as will as traditional 10AM to 5PM retail hours. The exception to this is stores in Quebec, which often close for two hours mid-day.

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