There is more to Canada than polite Mounties. In fact, the country is big enough (almost 10 million square kilometers) to offer it all to the visitor. And it delivers. Sailing, skiing, landscapes, culture, museums, cuisine; whatever your passion, there is no need to look any further.
Currency information: Canadian Dollar (CAD; symbol C$) = 100 cents. The use of credit and debit cards is widespread. There are no restrictions on the import, or export, of local or foreign currency. An amount over C$10,000 should be declared.
Canada’s Must See
Belugas and Bears
Churchill, Manitoba, with a population of just about 1,000, might not seem like a tourist capital. But visitors flock here for the chance to observe up close two fascinating creatures. Each summer, over 3,000 beluga whales feed, socialise and raise their young in the waters of the Churchill River. And in October and November, people return to board tundra vehicles and ride around what’s considered the polar bear capital of the world.
All Falls Down
However you see it—an observation deck at its side, a boat at its foot, a tunnel behind it, a helicopter ride from above— Niagara Falls, Ontario is one of the wonders of the world. Some 4-6 million cubic feet of water go over its crest each minute. For all ages, there’s plenty more to experience in the area, from a local marine theme park to a casino to tours of 19th century forts.
Nature’s Roller Coaster
Twice daily, the mighty Bay of Fundy fills up with and empties 100 billion tonnes of water, creating the highest tides in the world. Spanning Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Bay attracts tourists who marvel at the rich ecosystem and breathtaking coastline—and who seek the thrill of riding atop the crest of the tidal bores.
Besides being in possession of a valid passport and possibly a visa as required by the Canadian Immigration Authorities, visitors also need to satisfy an examining officer at the Port of Entry that they are genuine visitors, in good health, with no criminal convictions, and have sufficient funds to maintain themselves during their stay in Canada and to return to their country of origin, as well as evidence of confirmed onward reservations out of Canada.
Personal health insurance is absolutely vital as hospital charges are very high.
As Canada is such a vast area, condensing the climate into a few words is just impossible. However, as most inhabitants live fairly close to the U.S. border (with two notable exceptions – Calgary and Edmonton), concentrating on those areas, is more manageable. In other words, don’t leave for the Northwest Territories without checking on the weather beforehand www.weatheroffice.gc.ca.
Summer temperatures in southern Ontario and the southern interior of British Columbia can go above 35 °C (95°F). Toronto’s temperatures are not significantly cooler that the cities in northeastern United States. Frequently, summers in the southern parts of Ontario and Quebec can be hot and humid. In winter, temperatures in southern Ontario can plummet to below -20°C (14°F).
Although coastal regions tend to milder than the interior, plentiful rainfall does occur.
When to go
Depends on what floats your boat. Summer (June to August) brings the highest number of visitors to Canada. Spring is the best time to go for those on a very tight budget. It is also the ‘mud season’ (from all the melting snow). Autumn, September and October, is probably the best time to go. The crowds are long gone and with them the higher prices that were being charged. Winter (November to March) is for the snow skiing and winter sports enthusiasts.
Canada has 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 9 Natural and 6 cultural.
Bucket & Spade
Canada has a total of 16 blue flag beaches dotted along its coastlines. (Blue Flag is an International body that grades beaches to a high standard with facilities nearby – for further details: www.blueflag.org). It also has 3 blue flag marinas.
French Canadian joie de vivre meets luxury at Mont-Tremblant. A skier’s paradise since 1939, Tremblant is Eastern Canada’s best-known ski resort. It was the first resort to open in Canada and the second in North America. What makes Tremblant even more special is that it is only an hour away from Montreal.
Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta
Located in the heart of Canada’s Banff National Park, Lake Louise ranks as one of the most scenic mountain resorts in North America, if not the entire world. Banff/Lake Louise has three different ski areas (Mount Norquay/Mystic Ridge, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise) that are roughly 50 kilometers (31 miles) apart. (Apparently, Mount Norquay can be a brute!)
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
These towering mountains provide the best skiing in North America, with the biggest vertical drop. It’s funny what a difference 30 years and $600 million can make. Whistler’s charming village offers everything snowboarders and skiers crave: cafes, international stores and over 100 restaurants that cater to all tastes including Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, and Thai.
- Tornadoes can occur virtually anywhere in Canada, normally from May to September.
- The plant known as Qhat (Khat) is illegal in Canada. Smugglers are regularly caught and do face a term of imprisonment.
- Rabies is present in animals. Should you be at high risk, inoculation prior to arrival is advisable. If bitten, seek medical attention without delay.
- Dial 911 for emergencies.
- Canada has six time zones.