Oh, Canada! Travel to Canada will show you a vast country that is home to fabulously friendly people, diverse nature and cityscapes, yet for some reason is vastly underestimated as a travel destination. However, you shouldn’t overlook what the Great White North has to offer!
As you travel to Canada, you will see icy tundra, rocky coastlines, mountain, rainforests, and waterfalls. Yes, it is more than maple leaves and hockey here! There are so many more reasons to visit, whether you are taking a ski trip in Whistler or hiking in the Rocky Mountains.
Here is everything you need to know about traveling to Canada, whether you live in the country or you are on a working holiday!
Accommodation in Canada
When you travel to Canada, you will learn it is not one of the most budget friendly locations, even when trying to peg down decent lodging. Hotels aren’t cheap, and neither are Airbnb rooms and rentals, since those rates are often the same as a hotel or hostel. Rates also tend to vary based on which city or region you find yourself in.
When you travel to Canada, the average cost for a dorm room at a hostel is around 30 CAD a night. Budget hotel rooms are around 65 CAD per night. In popular destinations like Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa, you can expect those daily rates to rise exponentially. As mentioned before, going with Airbnb is going to be around the same price—30 CAD a night for a shared room, and about 65-80 CAD a night for an entire home or apartment. That’s the minimum, by the way.
However, there is a way around this conundrum. Do you like camping and couchsurfing? If camping sounds like a dream, then travel to Canada is going to be paradise. Though prices depend on where you want to pitch a tent, most grounds only charge around 10-30 CAD a night and have facilities to use. Just keep in mind that most campgrounds will sell out early, so you need to book well in advance to ensure you get a spot during peak season (June through August).
Transportation in Canada
Talking about how to get around when you travel to Canada basically comes down to whether or not you plan on going the distance. Cities are easy—there are multiple public transportation options, especially the metro systems that cost around 3 CAD for a one-way ticket. Though this might seem a bit expensive for some people while they travel to Canada, it can be a huge time saver if you use the service correctly.
Though it might not be the cheapest way to travel to Canada, there is also the VIA Rail, which runs from coast-to-coast, taking you through the most scenic sections of the country. You might want to save up a little for that option, as a one-way ticket is quite the splurge.
When traveling between cities, Megabus is the cheapest way to go between Ontario and Quebec. If you book before you travel to Canada, you can sometimes get tickets almost for free! There are places where Megabus doesn’t operate, however. Use Red Arrow, Coach Canada, and Greyhound to shuttle you around to other cities.
The best way to travel to Canada would be by car. Those who plan on staying in the country for a long time, renting a car is going to be the wisest choice. For about 30-85 CAD a day, you can take the car from one coast to another in a transcontinental road trip!
Internet and wifi
Many cities started getting free WiFi areas in 2010 and as of 2018, you can find downtown areas in Montreal, Toronto, Ontario, and Vancouver with free WiFi zones. You can’t expect the best connection on these public WiFi areas, though, so only connect to them if you have a decent VPN on your phone and only need to check your Facebook or upload a picture on Instagram.
Otherwise, you should use the free WiFi at your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb while you travel to Canada. Larger campgrounds may also have WiFi, especially the ones with RV and Motorhome facilities. Fast food chains obviously have free access to the internet as well, but you should definitely spend your money on a much healthier food option, such as Starbucks, Second Cup, or Tim Hortons (Canada’s favorite coffee shop) while you travel to Canada.
But, if you are itching for a good book on a cold day, why not check out Canada’s awe-inspiring public library system? All public libraries offer computers that allow free access to the internet, and many of those libraries also have free, reliable WiFi for you to use.
Food and drink
Yeah, lakes and mountains are nice—but wouldn’t you rather experience the mountains of traditional Canadian food instead? You can always burn off the calories with a hike in the mountains or skiing, after all. To help you decide which Canadian foods and drinks are a must, here are some of the best foods to try as you travel the country:
You will see bannock done a number of ways while you travel to Canada, but in its simplest form, bannock is a bread made by Canada’s Aboriginal people. Modern recipes included baked bannock topped with bacon and other treats or fried versions. Don’t miss the chance to try it!
These little tarts are simple but addicting. Flaky pastry shells are filled with butter, sugar, and egg. It’s traditional Canadian at its finest.
Looking for something to stick to your ribs? Look no further than the French Canadian tourtiere, a meat pie that is mostly eaten during the holidays but can be sampled any time of the year. Recipes vary by region, but the popular choices for the pie filling are game meat, veal, beef, and pork.
No travel to Canada is complete without trying a beavertail. No, it’s not the actual tail of the animal but a slab of deep-fried dough slathered in Nutella and other sweet stuff.
French fries, cheese, rich gravy…that is the popular French Canadian food that has taken the world by storm. However, no poutine will ever taste like it does while you travel to Canada. Try the classic recipe or go for something more hearty, such as poutine topped with Montreal meat or pulled pork!
The Caesar is Canada’s national cocktail. The ingredients are vodka, Clamato juice, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce, making it the Canadian take on the Bloody Mary. A lot of restaurants are stepping up the cocktail game and garnishing the Caesar with more than celery salt and stalk with other goodies like fried shrimp, burgers, hot dogs, onion rings, and more. Yep, this is the breakfast of champions.
Surprisingly, Montreal has quite the Mexican food scene. Make sure you check out this list of the best Mexican restaurants in Montreal if you plan on visiting!
LGBT Safety In Canada
Behind Spain and Germany on the list of gay-friendly countries in the world, you’ll be pleased to learn when you travel to Canada that is one of the safest places in the world for LGBT travelers to go!
The top cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, have been repeatedly rated as the best places for LGBT couples to not only travel but to live. You won’t have any problem finding LGBT neighborhoods throughout Canada, including places like Toronto’s Gay Village and Queer West Village, and Vancouver’s Davie Street Village.
Make sure you always have a sexual safety kit with you when you travel – you never know what might happen. I love this discreet one from Amazon – Amity Jack essentials bedroom box.
General Safety In Canada
Like most traversed places in the world, when you travel to Canada you will find that it is not without cases of petty crime. Thieves will often target tourist attractions and hotels because, let’s face it, most tourists are so in awe of where they are, they let their guard down. Play it safe by leaving your passport in the hotel lock box and carry only a photocopy with you. Also, keep your luggage out of sight, and don’t leave any valuables laying around.
Some neighborhoods should also be avoided. In Vancouver, steer clear of the Downtown Eastside, a region known for drug problems and poverty. Since Downtown Eastside is close to Gastown, the foodie mecca of Vancouver, try to be aware of the area you are wandering into to avoid any trouble. In Toronto, locals have recommended to stay faraway from Parliament Streets and Sherbourne once the sun goes down.
Though there are incidences of pick-pocketing and the like, what you truly have to be careful of in Canada would be inclement weather and wildlife—especially if you plan on venturing into the Canadian wilderness. While you travel to Canada, you will find that it can have some intense weather conditions, so be sure to keep a close eye on the country’s weather patterns. Sometimes there will be unexpected road closures due to avalanches and storms.
Across Canada, you also have to keep your eyes open for wildlife. On the highways, there will be Wildlife Warning Signs that remind you to stay cautious. You might not be used to random deer jumping out into the road! If you plan on traveling through the Rockies or other areas, consider completing the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program. You will definitely be better prepared while you travel to Canada.
As always, it is a very good idea to have travel insurance whenever you plan to leave your county, just incase anything happens to you, your belongings, or your flights. I could not recommend World Nomads for their outstanding insurance plans enough. Click here or check out the link below to get a quote!
Budget Tips For Travel to Canada
1. Travel Off-Season
Avoid backpacking through Canada during peak season (June through August) and instead visit in the fall (September to November). During this time, summer crowds have left and the weather has yet to get too cold to enjoy the outdoors fully. If you really want a taste of Canadian winter while you travel to Canada, avoid coming during December and January. Wait until the end of February. Many ski resorts are still open and will have plenty of snow, but the crowds will be significantly smaller!
2. Take Free Walking Tours
Many major cities in Canada have free walking tours arranged by volunteers. Wherever you find yourself in Canada, there will definitely be free tours for visitors that can show you the local haunts, great places to get some food, and hidden gems that the guidebook won’t tell you about.
3. Buy Gas on Native Reserves
When you’re driving around the country, keep your eyes wide open for more than just natural splendors. There are a number of native reserves, and these places are where you will find the cheapest gas in Canada. Additionally, you get to experience the culture of Canada’s indigenous First People.
4. Use A Park Pass
You plan on venturing through the wilds of Canada? Then save some money while you’re at it. By purchasing a Parks Pass, you get discounted access to various national parks.
5. Hit Up Free Festivals
Canada might be the butt of many culture jokes, but the country has a wealth of culture—and the sheer volume of festivals proves it. During the warmer months, Canadians celebrate outdoors as much as possible. Vancouver, for example, has a number of firework festivals, live music and dance performances, weekly markets, and much more. In Ontario, you can check out a free tulip festival in May. Each summer, Ontario also lights up with the biggest, admission-free street party in the whole country.
6. Eat Street Food
As you will read more about below, every major Canadian city has at least one famous street food and vendors who sell that delicacy abound. From the traditional poutine to succulent veggie dogs, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The best part is that every item usually costs around 2.50 CAD, which is a true steal. You won’t find a cheaper meal, while you travel to Canada, guaranteed.
Places to go and things to do in Canada
When you travel to Canada, you’ll find that it has something to satiate wanderlust in travelers from near and far. Whether it’s cities you want to explore or untouched wilderness, Canada has something special to make your holiday worthwhile—but you start with my favorite spots to visit in Canada listed below!
Experience the nightlife in Vancouver
All over the city, Vancouverites come to life when the sun goes down. There is fabulous nightlife in Vancouver. Check out Granville Street, Canada’s Las Vegas strip, where there are plenty of bars, clubs, and live music music venues catering to the university-age crowd. Or you can try Yaletown, a place for well-dressed attire and designer cocktails. Gastown is foodie’s heaven but also has a glut of Irish pubs, wine bars, and beer halls. Lastly, there’s Davie Village, a gay-friendly “come-as-you-are” neighborhood that has something for everyone—literally, everyone—to enjoy.
I have a full nightlife guide to Vancouver available if you would like to know all of the fabulous details of going out in this city!
Go Wine Tasting In the Okanagan
The wine country of the Okanagan Valley is thriving. The valley itself stretches over 250 kilometers, lending it soil perfect for growing a number of different grape species. In the area, there are 172 licensed wineries. You don’t even have to go it alone if you don’t want to, because you won’t have to look far for wine tasting tours either.
See The Film Festival In Montreal
The oldest film festival in Canada would be Montreal World Film Festival (also known as the Montreal International Festival). It is a huge event that attracts people from all over the globe from August 24th to September 4th each year. There are competitive sections where films duke it out to see which entertains or educates the best, as well as non-competitive cinema. If you love movies and film, check out the MWFF.
Visit Beautiful Newfoundland
A misunderstood section of Canada would be Newfoundland. St. John’s is the quaint capital of the state, full of brightly colored houses and steep hills. Just outside of St. John’s is the charming fishing village called Quidi Vidi Village, where you will find Quidi Vidi Brewery. Beyond that is Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is part of the Long Range Mountains. But what you really want to go for is the lighthouses in all shapes and sizes along the coast!
Attend The Ice Festival In Quebec
Known as “Winter Carnival” or “Carnaval de Quebec,” this festival of winter is similar to the Sapporo Ice Festival and happens around the first week of February. Massive monuments of ice are erected in the middle of winter, and you can walk the grounds in awe. The activities available are diverse and family friendly.
Explore the Lakes Of Banff, Alberta
Banff National Park is mostly known for the Canadian Rockies mountain range; but you probably can’t imagine those mountains without the famous reflections on still lakes. Yes, the lakes of Banff are just as mesmerizing as the mountaintops. For example, Lake Minnewanka has breathtaking views and is perfect for canoeing. Peyto Lake has water in a unique shade of blue, and from above it is shaped like a wolf. Lake Louise is a must for pictures and hiking. The most famous, though, is the Vermillion Lakes, where sunrise and sunset paint the water a bright orange that creates some of the most iconic photographs to date.
Learn To Surf In Tofino
Located in beautiful British Columbia, Tofino happens to be one of the best places in the country for the sea. The sand, sunsets, and seafood makes Tofino a paradise for those who simply want to soak in the ocean. Or, you can learn how to surf. In fact, you should definitely check out Tofino for surfing because it’s the surf capital of Canada. Check out the Pacific Surf School, Tofino Surf School, and other places for lessons and rentals to catch serious waves.
Tofino has some great campsites too, if you are looking to save a pretty penny. Check this article out for more information on the campsites in Tofino!
Canada is great in a number of unexpected ways. There is awesome culture, bountiful adventures in both urban and rural zones, a long history, diversity, and so much more. Whether you are coming from the maple syrup, the performing arts, to watch a Toronto Blue Jays game, or are hoping to find a gay-friendly neighborhood to party with friends without judgment, Canada has something special in store for you. Though the country is not the most budget-friendly, it is certainly an experience worth every Canadian Dollar!