Ottawa in Canada
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The newly renovated and expanded MacDonald-Cartier International (airport code YOW) is Ottawa's main airport with regular arrivals and departures from most major Canadian and many American cities. Services outside North America, however, are limited to a daily flight to London Heathrow with Air Canada, less frequent flights with Zoom Airlines to London Gatwick and Glasgow (via Halifax NS). Air France, KLM, and Swiss International Airlines provide shuttle bus service between Ottawa and Montreal that facilitate connections with their flights operated from Trudeau International Airport. This trip takes about two hours. Via Rail also operates a shuttle bus from the Dorval train station to nearby Trudeau International Airport. This free service allows one to travel from Ottawa to Dorval (a suburb of Montreal) by rail, and then transfer directly to the airport on a dedicated on-demand bus.
MacDonald-Cartier is easily reached by public transit or taxi and most of the major car rental agencies have a presence at the airport terminal in the parking garage. A taxi to downtown hotels should cost between $20 and $30, while a taxi to nearby hotels should not cost more than $10. YOW Airporter operates a mini-bus shuttle to most downtown hotels for $14 one-way and $24 return.
To reach downtown via public transit, take the #97 bus (the only bus at the airport) and get out at the MacKenzie King transitway stop (approx. 14 stops) at the Rideau Centre. If you take this route before 6:00am you will likely follow the more meandering early morning route, but will still get to MacKenzie King. To get to the train station you also take the #97 bus, but get out at Hurdman station and transfer to the #95 eastbound bus to the next stop which is the train station. Bus fare is $3 ($1.90 with pre-purchased tickets) which gives you 1.5 hours of unlimited bus travel, or $7.25 ($6 pre-purchased) for an all-day pass. Remember to ask the bus driver for a transfer, even if you do not intend on transferring to another bus-OCTranspo security personnel may get on the bus at any given stop and ask passengers for proof of payment. You will be required to show your transfer or else you will be fined. This happens frequently and is not a one-in-a-million chance.
There is a Voyageur/ Greyhound terminal in Ottawa with regular service to Montreal (departure on the hour from 6 a.m. to midnight), Toronto and all other cities in North America. The bus terminal is downtown on the corner of Catherine Street and Kent Street, between Bronson Avenue and Bank Street. Though the bus terminal is downtown, a 15-20 minute walk will get you to most hotels and downtown attractions. Alternatively, a 5-10 minute local bus ride will do the same. (Bus #4, with its stop around the corner from the terminal on Kent St., is the bus you'll want to take.)
A taxi to most downtown hotels should cost between $8 and $15, and buses are $3 one-way, ($1.90 with pre-purchased tickets) or $7.25 ($6 pre-purchased) for an all-day pass.
Passenger train service is run by VIA Rail http://www.viarail.ca/ in Canada and the main train station in Ottawa, Union Station, is less than ten minutes from downtown by car, taxi or bus. There are six trains daily leaving for Montreal and intermediate points, with five trains daily to Toronto and points in between. Service is reduced on Saturday, Sundays and holidays.
Ottawa has two train stations, the main or Union Station near downtown, and a secondary station, Fallowfield, in the western suburb of Barrhaven, convenient for Nepean and Kanata points. All trains to Toronto stop at Fallowfield; two of the six weekday trains to Montreal originate or terminate at Fallowfield.
Union Station is on a high frequency bus route (#95) and takes only 5 minutes to get you downtown, heading west. Fallowfield station is also on the #95 bus route, but at the far south-west end.
It is possible to get downtown from the main train station on foot, although it requires a bit of navigation. This path should not be taken alone after dark and may be flooded after periods of intense rain or snow melting. Have a street map with you so you can locate yourself once you have reached :wikipedia:Strathcona Park (Ottawa) Strathcona Park. The station to Strathcona Park takes about half an hour (2.5km). Another half hour from the Park to downtown. A map is available online http://www.stepwhere.com/maps/route/Pedestrain-route-from-Ottawa-train-station-to-downtown.On exiting the station, walk along west (left) arm of the exit.Before reaching Tremblay road, take the bike path to your left going west.The path will take you along the bus lanes and will pass over a street called Vanier ParkwayYou will merge with a path coming up from the parkway; continue walking west, away from the parkway.Shortly after that, you will come to a fork; go right (north) and continue until you see a pedestrian bridge on your left.Take the pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River.Immediately after the pedestrian bridge, turn right towards the north.Take the paved bike path, go under the bridge and keep following the Rideau River northward for about 1 km.Once you reach the end of of the path, you are in Strathcona Park.Use a street map or an on-line map service to find your way from Strathcona Park to your downtown destination; at the north end of the park is Laurier Avenue, a major east-west street; parallel to it and several blocks north is Rideau Street.
to the Ottawa River at Ottawa where it empties via a series of locks. It is possible to dock at Dow's Lake Pavilion and at points along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River near downtown.
By car, Ottawa is about a 4.5 hour trip from Toronto via the 401 and 416 highways, or via highway 7. Montreal is 2 hours away via highway 417. The American border at Ogdensburg, NY is only 45 minutes away to the south, and the border at I-81 is a little further west at an additional 1 hour drive.
The city's public transit is run by OC Transpo and includes the bus service as well as the O-Train light rail system. The network includes the Transitway, a bus rapid transit system running through and out of downtown, with frequent service (on the order of 1-2 minutes at rush hour).
Standard bus fare is $3.00 CAD cash or 2 tickets. Tickets cost 95¢ CAD each and are available from local stores in sheets of 10. Children 6-11 require only one ticket. Upon boarding you will be given a transfer which allows you to ride any number of buses or trains until its expiry (in roughly 1.5 hours). A day pass can be purchased on any bus for $7.25 (or $6 if pre-purchased at a vendor) and is good for both buses and the train. On Sundays, families (up to 2 adults and 4 children, age 11 and under) can share a day pass.
The O-Train operates on a Proof of payment (POP) system. Valid proof of payment is a bus transfer (see above), or an O-Train ticket purchased from the automated vending machines for $2.25 CAD. Note that the vending machine does not accept bus tickets, nor are bus tickets acceptable proof of payment. Children 11 and under can ride the O-train for free. Some high-occupancy buses use this same POP system as well, where rear boarding is available to those holding passes or transfers.
Although the downtown is very walkable, if you are within the downtown area (Lebreton station to campus station), you can take any bus going East-West. If you are going to the Byward Market from the transitway (95, 96, 97, 85, 86, 87), get off at Rideau Centre and walk through the mall to the other end. To go North-South, take the 4 (to Catherine Street, edge of Centretown), the 7 (edge of Old Ottawa South) or the 1 (all the way down Bank Street to Ottawa South).
The Ottawa transitway (dedicated roads on which only buses are allowed) offers speedy travel to various regions, then transfer over to local buses, if walking is not an option.
Although not designed as a tourist route, it so happens that the #3 route will take you to some special parts of Ottawa, such as the Experimental Farm, Dow's Lake, the War Museum & Lebreton flats, Wellington/Rideau street, Byward Market, and within a block of Rideau Hall.
Taxis are easy to find downtown. Elsewhere, phone for a cab or go to a cab stop (Greyhound, airport, and other places). All taxis should have a meter and the base charge is C$2.45. A ride from downtown to the airport will be costly, running between C$25 and C$35. Cabs won't take credit cards for fares below C$10. Most cab drivers know Ottawa well, but have clear instructions if you're going anywhere in the suburbs as many developments in the outskirts are relatively new. Ottawa cabs aren't supposed to pick up customers off the street on the Quebec side; the converse applies to Quebec cabs in Ottawa. You may phone a Quebec cab if you are in Ottawa and vice versa.
Parking at most attractions is convenient, though on-street parking in downtown areas is sometimes at a premium. If you are driving to downtown on the weekend, parking is free in the garage at the World Exchange Plaza. There are entrances to the garage on both Metcalfe Street and Laurier Street. A map is useful if you are going to be driving around downtown as many of the streets are one-way and more than one visitor has complained about navigating the downtown core.
Most major car rental companies have several offices in Ottawa with all of them represented downtown and at the airport.
Ottawa is a great city to explore on foot. With pedestrian-friendly streets and the density of attractions, a car is expensive and unnecessary for the most part. An excellent place to start any tour of Ottawa is the Capital Infocentre, located directly opposite Parliament Hill on Wellington Street. They have maps and brochures for most tourist attractions in Ottawa, many of which are within walking distance.
A popular pedestrian area, especially during spring and summer months, are the various streets in the Byward Market. Sparks Street, running through downtown parallel to the Parliament Buildings, is a popular pedestrian area during the day and night, particularly in the spring and summer months.
Guided walking tours are available with Around About Ottawa http://www.aroundaboutottawa.com. There is so much to see and do in the Nation's Capital that a tour guide will maximize a visitor's time and experience in this beautiful city. Around About Ottawa has designed a choice of four 2-hour walks that take guests to the most popular areas of downtown Ottawa. Famous landmarks and tourist sites include Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, the ByWard Market, and Elgin Street. All tours include some history as well as other tidbits of trivia not commonly known. Also popular is the Haunted Walk of Ottawa http://www.hauntedwalk.com that provides a walking tour of the city's darker past.
Remember, during the summer months, the temperature and humidity can be oppresively high so definitely bring water if you're doing any amount of walking. If you are near the public pathways near the canal or the river, there are drinking fountains to refill your bottles.
There are usually a few options for renting bicycles downtown, and of course you can always bring your own. Ottawa is very accessible to cyclists. Again, you may want to start immediately opposite Parliament Hill to pick up a map of the area or find a bicycle rental. Cycling to the attractions around downtown Ottawa is a great way to get around, but don't ignore the Gatineau side of the river. They have several attractions along the river including the Museum of Civilization and if you want to really stretch your legs, Gatineau Park has many kilometers of great cycling paths.
The city is criss-crossed by over 170km of bicycle paths, some of which are shared with motorists, and some are shared with pedestrians. The city provides Interactive Pathways and Other Maps.
OC Transpo has bicycle racks on the front of many buses. You can load your bike on the rack and then ride the bus for the normal passenger fare. The O-Train will take bikes as well.
When to go
Ottawa is a very safe place to live and visit, so if you use common sense it is at least as safe as any other city. There are many tourists in the city, especially in summer months, and there are very few incidents of robbery or assault. Buses and transit stations have had issues in recent years with violence and swarmings/robberies, even during daytime hours. OC Transpo has hired new constables and placed plainclothes security as well as cameras on select buses and trains to counter the problem. Use common sense, especially when riding at night, every transit station has multiple emergency call boxes. Recent numbers released suggest Ottawa is the 6th most dangerous of the major Canadian cities for violent crime, with a homicide rate of 1.81/100, 000 people in 2006, while on the other side of the river, Gatineau was one of the most dangerous in Canada with 3.10/100, 000. It should be added that there are not many more than six large cities in Canada! (For perspective, New York City's same rate stands at approximately 6.6/100, 000, and New Orleans a staggering 57.4/100, 000). After dark, take extra care in areas near downtown such as Lowertown, Hintonburg, and Vanier. Ottawa is generally very safe, but like any other city it has bad apples. Ottawa is one of the world's coldest capitals. Summers are humid and hot. Dress for the weather!