Those expecting Canada to be a blander version of the USA should check their assumptions at the door. Canada's wild northern frontier, which has etched itself into the national psyche, and its distinct patchwork of peoples have created a country that is decidedly different from its brash neighbour. Read more...
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Those expecting Canada to be a blander version of the USA should check their assumptions at the door. Canada's wild northern frontier, which has etched itself into the national psyche, and its distinct patchwork of peoples have created a country that is decidedly different from its brash neighbour.
Visiting Canada all in one trip is an ambitious endeavour. When speaking of specific destinations within Canada, it is better to consider its distinct regions
Atlantic Provinces-maritime culture, small fishing villages, rich folk traditions
Quebec-French-speaking province, stylish and romantic Montreal, festival culture, lush farmland, quaint villages
Ontario-multicultural and vibrant Toronto, the Niagara wine region, the immense Boreal and Taiga forests, Ottawa Ottawa-the capital, the Great Lakes coastal areas, small rural towns.
Prairies (Canada) Prairies-vast open and flat spaces, rocky mountains, forests, sleepy farm towns, Calgary stampede, and the West Edmonton Mall, RCMP Academy, RCMP Heritage Centre, Winnipeg Folk Music Festival
British Columbia-cosmopolitan Vancouver city, the rocky mountains, ancient temperate rainforest, pristine wilderness, skiing and hiking opportunities abound
The North (Canada) North-subarctic and arctic wilderness, mountains, glaciers and lakes
Geopolitically, Canada is divided into 10 provinces ( British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador ) and 3 territories ( Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut ).
You are likely to arrive to Canada by air, most likely into Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver (the 3 largest cities, from East to West). But other airports in Canada also have international (mostly from the US) flights as well, particularly (from east to west), Halifax (Nova Scotia) Halifax, Gander, Moncton, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Cranbrook, Kelowna and Victoria.
http://www.aircanada.com Air Canada and http://www.westjet.com WestJet and http://www.airtransat.com Air Transatare the country's only national air carriers, covering the entire country and international destinations. There are a few discount domestic companies, which offer flights to all major cities, with connections to smaller ones. As with most airlines, it's cheaper if you book your flight ahead of time, but bookings can be made right up to the last minute if you've got money to spare. You can find these airlines easily online.
Although less likely, you might also enter the country by road from the United States through one of the (literally) hundreds of border crossing points. Obviously, the same rules will apply here, but if your case is not straightforward, expect to be delayed, as the officials here (especially in more rural areas) see fewer international travellers than at the airports. Also expect delays during holiday periods, as border crossings can become clogged with traffic.
Drivers of American cars will need a certificate confirming that they carry enough public liability insurance (generally $200, 000) to meet the requirements of all Canadian provinces and territories. Since many US states permit limits below this threshold, American visitors bringing their own automobiles should check with their automobile insurers and obtain the required certificate.
When driving within Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto keep in mind that these cities are densely populated and parking can be difficult to find and/or expensive. All three cities provide extensive public transit, so it is easy to park in a central location, or at your hotel or lodging, and still travel throughout the metropolitan areas.
Via Rail http://www.viarail.ca is Canada's national passenger rail service. Amtrak provides connecting rail service to Toronto from New York via. Niagara Falls, Montreal from New York and Vancouver from Seattle via. Bellingham. The train is a very inexpensive way to get into Canada, with tickets starting from as low as $43 (U.S.) return to Vancouver. There is also thruway service between Seattle and Vancouver.
Be wary though. Not many private citizens in Canada take the train as a regular means of transportation. Most citizens simply drive to where they want to go if the distance is short (which in Canada can still mean hundreds of kilometres!), or fly if the distance is long.
Greyhound Canada http://www.greyhound.ca serves many destinations in Canada, with connecting service to regional lines and U.S. Greyhound coaches. Be sure to inquire about dicounts and travel packages that allow for frequent stops as you travel across Canada.
In British Columbia, you can enter Canada by ferry from Alaska and Washington (state) Washington. Alaska Marine Highway serves Prince Rupert, whereas Washington State Ferries serves Sidney (near Victoria) through the San Juan islands. There is a car ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles run by Black Ball; there are also tourist-oriented passenger-only ferries running from Victoria to points in Washington.
There is a car ferry from Nova Scotia to Maine run by Bay Ferries (Yarmouth-Bar Harbor).
There is a passenger ferry running from Fortune in Newfoundland to Saint Pierre and Miquelon.
A small car ferry operates between Wolfe Island, Ontario (near Kingston) and Cape Vincent, NY.
The CAT car ferry between Rochester, NY and Toronto, Ontario was discontinued in January 2006.
Canada is large-the second largest country in the world after Russia. This means that you will need several days to appreciate even a part of the country. St. John's, Newfoundland is geographically closer to London, England than it is to Vancouver.
The best way to get around the country is by air. Air Canada is the main national carrier, and has by far the largest network and most frequent schedules. For travel between major centres, no frills carrier WestJet offers competitive fares. In general, airports are poorly connected to public transportation and railway transportation; expect to leave airports by road on a rental car, taxi or a privately operated bus.
You can also travel between most cities in Canada, small and large, by bus. Greyhound Canada provides much of the service, with smaller operators covering local routes. For some popular tourist routes, guided bus tours are also available.
GO Transit has more frequent and convenient stops in the Greater Toronto area. Its main station of operations, Union Station, lies metres away from many of Toronto's main attractions (such as the Air Canada Centre, Hummingbird Centre, Royal York Hotel) and provides bus and train access to many rural towns and larger suburbs surrounding Toronto and Hamilton.
Of course, many people choose to rent a car. Although somewhat expensive if you are travelling alone, this can be an economically reasonable alternative if you are sharing the costs with others. However, beware of the high surcharges associated with dropping off the car at a different location than where it was picked up. In Montreal and Toronto, public transit is a strongly recommended alternative to driving.
Furthermore, for Americans, Canadian gas prices are very high, ranging from $3.50-$4.50 a gallon. Try to fill up before the border
If you are set on a road trip, an alternative to car rental is to hire an RV (motorhome or campervan). This gives you the flexibility to explore Canada at your own pace and is ideal if your trip is geared around an appreciation of Canada's natural environment. Costs can also be lower than combining car rental with hotels.
Traffic rules to be aware of
Canadians drive on the right-hand side of the road.In many areas of Canada (with the exception of Montreal island) it is legal to turn right (after stopping) on a red light, so be careful when crossing the street on foot. Many secondary (less busy) intersections that are four (or three) way stops have no traffic lights, but have stop signs instead. You have to bring your car to a complete stop and let everyone that stopped before you go first. If two cars arrive at the intersection at the same time, the car to the right has precedence.In Canada, you must always yield to a police car, fire truck, or ambulance when their emergency lights are flashing--if they are approaching from behind, you must pull to the right and stop. In many jurisdictions, motorists are also required to slow down and move into a non-adjacent lane when passing a stopped emergency vehicle. In rural Ontario, private vehicles displaying flashing green lights are being operated by volunteer firefighters and medical first responders on their way to calls. While there is no legal requirement to pull to the right and stop, as with emergency vehicles, doing so for those displaying green flashers is considered to be both courteous and 'common sense'.It is illegal to park in front of a fire hydrant.In many cities across Canada, laws against jaywalking are often more strictly enforced by police and bylaw officers.Beware, in British Columbia, a (slow) flashing green light means the traffic light is green (you can go) but it is controlled by the pedestrian. The light will remain flashing green until a pedestrian pushes the button to cross the street. When you see a flashing green light, traffic coming towards you will also see a flashing green light. In Ontario, Québec and Nova Scotia, a (fast) flashing green light indicates advanced turn, signalling the driver can make a left hand turn across oncoming traffic because oncoming traffic has a red light.At crosswalks and corners, the pedestrian has the right of way. If you are a driver, there are often hefty fines for not giving them this right of way. If you are a pedestrian, though, don't always expect people to stop for you. This law is not as widely respected or enforced in Toronto, Quebec, and Windsor (Ontario) Windsor (Canadian city bordering Detroit ) as it is in other regions of Canada.Some provinces have drink-drive limits of 0.05%. The national Criminal Code limit is 0.08%-a foreign national exceeding this can expect to be deported.During winter, a flashing blue light usually identifies a snow removal vehicle (e.g. snowplow) and drivers should stay far back when following. While it is legal to pass one of these vehicles, it may be safer to stay behind and travel on the cleared road.Canada uses kilometres per hour.
Passenger rail service in Canada, although very safe and comfortable, is often an expensive and inconvenient alternative to other types of transport. The corridor between Windsor (Ontario) Windsor and Quebec City is a bit of an exception to this generalization. Also, if natural beauty is your thing, the approximately three-day train ride between Toronto and Vancouver passes through the splendour of the Canadian prairies and the Rocky Mountains, with domed observation cars to allow passengers to take in the magnificent views.
Make arrangements ahead of time to get lower fares. VIA Rail is the main Canadian passenger rail company.
Tips for hitchhiking Hitchhiking Canada is a great place for hitchhiking, and is still quite common among younger travellers strapped for cash, or seeking adventure. Its most common in the far western provinces, where there are generally more travellers. As anywhere in the world, use your common sense when taking a ride.
When to go
Safety in Canada is not usually a problem, and some basic common sense will go a long way. Even in the largest cities, violent crime is not a serious problem, and very few people are ever armed. Firearm-related violence is on the rise in southern Ontario, however, but this needn't worry the average traveller, as it is generally confined to particular neighbourhoods and is rarely a random crime. Even though major urban areas are experiencing higher than average rates it should be noted that these rates still remain extremely low compared to similiar sized urban areas in the United States and the rest of the world.
If you are unfortunate enough to get your purse or wallet snatched, the local police will do whatever they can to help. Often, important identification is retrieved after thefts of this sort. Visitors to large cities should be aware that parked cars are sometimes targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, so try to avoid leaving any possessions in open view. Due to the high incidence of such crimes, motorists in Montreal and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or for leaving valuables in view. Auto theft in Montreal, including theft of motor homes and recreational vehicles, may occur in patrolled and overtly secure parking lots and decks. Bike theft can be a common nuisance in metropolitan areas.
Possession, purchase, and use of b any /b firearms requires proper licenses for the weapons and the user, and is subject to federal laws. Firearms are classed (mainly based on barrel length) as non-restricted (subject to the least amount of training and licensing), restricted (more licensing and training required) and prohibited (not legally available). Most rifles and shotguns are non-restricted, as they are used extensively for hunting, on farms, or for protection in remote areas. Handguns or pistols are restricted weapons, but may be obtained and used legally with the proper licenses. Generally the only people who carry handguns are Federal, Provincial, and Municipal Police, Wildlife Officers in most provinces, private security guards and people who work in remote wilderness areas who are properly licensed. It is possible to import non-prohibited firearms such as most types of rifle and shotgun for sporting purposes like target shooting and hunting, and non-prohibited handguns for target shooting may also be imported with the correct paperwork. Prohibited firearms will be seized at customs and destroyed. Travellers should check with the Canada Firearms Centre and the Canada Border Services Agency before importing firearms of any type before arrival.
Illicit Drug Use
Marijuana use is common in the western province of British Columbia where the attitude towards it is very relaxed. Outside of B.C. use is less obvious as there is more social stigma attached to its use, particularly with older generations. Because of its popularity, easy availability and allowances for medical purposes, many visitors (and even some Canadians) believe that its use is legal. While it is illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada, Ontario courts has declared possession of up to 30g legal back in 2003 (British Columbia, PEI, and Nova Scotia have also struck down the laws against possession of up to this amount). In other parts of the country any possession are still illegal, though enforcement varies (in Montreal, you probably will only get a warning and have your weed confiscated, while even possessing a joint in Alberta and Saskatchewan will lead to arrest). Several cases in 2007 in Ontario have upheld this ruling.
However, cocaine, heroin, and other hard drugs WILL lead to prosecution.
Canadians take drunk driving very seriously, and driving while under the influence of alcohol is not a mere traffic violation in Canada. It is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada and can involve jail time, particularly for repeat offenses. If you blow over the legal limit of blood alcohol content (BAC) on a roadside breathalyzer machine test, you will be arrested and spend at least a few hours in jail. Being convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) will almost certainly mean the end of your trip to Canada, a criminal record and you being barred from re-entering Canada for at least 5 years. 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (0.08%) is the legal limit for a criminal conviction. Many jurisdictions call for fines, license suspension and vehicle impoundment at 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, or if the officer reasonably believes you are too intoxicated to drive. Note this difference; while having a BAC of 0.07% when tested at a police checkpoint ('Checkstop', which is designed to catch drunk drivers) will not result in arrest, having the same BAC after being pulled over for driving erratically may result in being charged with DUI.
Hate speech-communication that may incite violence toward an identifiable group-is illegal in Canada and can lead to prosecution, jail time and deportation.
You are unlikely to face health problems here that you wouldn't face in any other western industrialized country. Furthermore, the health care system is very effective and widely accessible. In the past two summers, Canadians in some provinces ( Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta ) have faced a few cases of West Nile virus, an occasionally fatal infection transmitted by mosquitoes. Also, in spring 2003, an outbreak of SARS scared some visitors into changing their plans, but since only visitors to hospitals in Toronto were ever at serious risk, the fear was greatly overblown.
Be aware that most Canadian provinces have banned all indoor smoking in public places and near entrances. Some bans include areas such as bus shelters and outdoor patios. See Smoking.
Well before Columbus sailed the ocean blue back in 1492, prehistoric tribes from Asia had come to Canada across the Bering Strait. The first European visitors were the Vikings, who arrived about 1000 AD and tried to settle in northern Newfoundland. Eventually, however, they grew tired of hostilities with the indigenous tribes and withdrew, leaving Canada's aboriginal population to develop a multitude of languages, customs, religious beliefs, trading patterns, arts and crafts, laws and governments. European interest in Canada only heated up again in the 15th century, when various monarchs sponsored expeditions in search for the Northwest Passage, gold and various other things. They found none of them but that didn't deter explorer Jacques Cartier, who made the first claim on the area surrounding the St Lawrence River for France in 1534.
Another French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, founded Québec City in the early 1600s. In 1663 Canada, now home to about 3000 French settlers, became a province of France. Just as the French started to thrive on the fur trade, the British entered the scene, founding the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670 to add a bit of 'friendly' competition. For a while, the two European cultures coexisted peacefully. But the hostilities of the Seven Year's War, which pitted France and Britain against one another in Europe, spilled over into North America in 1754. After several years of fighting the British captured Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. The turning point in the war arrived when the British defeated the French at Québec City in 1759. At the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France handed Canada over to Britain.
By the end of the American Revolution (1775-83), a migration of about 50, 000 British 'Loyalists' from the USA created a more even balance between the French and British populations. Still, the two factions continued to quarrel for almost another century, until fears of being annexed by the increasingly self-confident USA made them realise that they needed to join forces. In 1867 the British North American Act (BNA Act) gave birth to modern, self-governing Canada-the Dominion of Canada-and essentially became Canada's equivalent of a constitution. By 1885 the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway-one of Canada's great historical sagas-joined the country's east and west coasts. By 1912 all provinces had become part of the central government except Newfoundland, which didn't join in until 1949.
After WWI Canada grew slowly in stature and prosperity; it managed to formalise its independence from Britain in 1931 with the passage of the Statute of Westminster. With the onset of WWII, though, Canada once again fought alongside Britain against Germany, though this time it also entered into defense agreements with the USA, declaring war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In the years after WWII, Canada experienced a huge wave of European immigration, with a further influx of Asians, Arabs, Indians, Italians, Hispanics and Caribbeans arriving in the 1960s. The postwar era was a period of economic expansion and prosperity. In 1967 Canada celebrated its 100th anniversary with Expo, the World's Fair in Montreal, as one of the highlights. Since 1975, a series of land rights agreements has been signed with Canada's aboriginal peoples, giving them some control over vast swathes of the northern portion of the country.
The social upheavals of the 1960s brought to the surface the festering resentments that French-speaking Québec had with English-speaking Canada. In 1976 the Parti Québecois (PQ), advocating separatism, won the provincial election in Québec, though sentiments on the issue have since waxed and waned. In the 1980 sovereignty referendum, the separatists were defeated by 60% of the vote. A second round of voting in October 1995 brought the country within a few thousand votes of breaking up. The prime minister, Jean Chrétien, has since attempted to appease the Quebeckers by recognising the province as a 'distinct society'.
In the early years of the new millennium, Canada was focused on maintaining social programs, dealing with high taxes, and tackling national security in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA. Canada played the friendly neighbour part by graciously accommodating grounded planes and passengers during the aftermath. The oversight of President Bush, who neglected to thank the nation until after his re-election years later, only added to the reasons for him becoming the least popular of recent US presidents in Canadian eyes.
The Canadian national elections in January 2006 brought a major change as the Liberal party, which had been governing for a dozen years, lost its power to the Conservative party. To push through his legislative agenda, though, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is required to work with other parties, most particularly the Bloc Québecois (the federal equivalent of the Parti Québecois). The movement for Québec independence championed by the Bloc, meanwhile, has lost some steam, and support for the party within Québec has dropped to a new low of 42%. Most Québecois, it seems, don't feel that forming a sovereign nation is ultimately to their advantage.
Articles and Stories about Canada
Quick Facts about Canada
33,390,141 (July 2007 est.)
English 59.3% (official), French 23.2% (official), other 17.5%
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Canadian dollar (CAD)