Canada is an outdoors paradise both in the winter and the summer and rivals the like of New Zealand, South Africa and Brazil for spectacular natural beauty. It is a popular skiing and winter sports destination with loads of possibilities and winter festivals. In the summer, there are endless hiking, mountain biking, rafting, canoeing, and camping sites. With a rich history and multi-ethnic population, any traveler will feel right at home when travelling within the country.
Off the beaten track
Canada can be considered liberal, tolerant and without doubt, very tourist-friendly. Several aspects of Canada will appeal to the independent traveler. From coast to coast, there is an extensive range of hostels and budget accommodations. There are also campsites all around that are popular among Canadians and tourists. It is also affordable and safe. Canada is sparsely populated outside the big cities and getting off the beaten track is not difficult at all.
Fun Canadians, eh!
Nevertheless, don’t get to enthusiastic and think you can tour the entire length of the country at one go (unless you have about 6-8 weeks & a healthy budget). Whether you visit during the summer or winter, it is guaranteed your long flight will be worth it as you meet fun Canadians who will be proud to show what the country has to offer.
Typical tourist trail:
There are (however many) regions: Western Canada is comprised of the provinces ofBritish Columbia (Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Whistler, Okanagan Valley, Kootenays, etc.), Alberta (Banff, Jasper, Calgary, Edmonton, etc.), Saskatchewan (Regina, Saskatoon, Athabasca, etc.) and Manitoba (Winnipeg/St-Boniface, Churchill, etc.), and Eastern Canada is comprised of the provinces of Ontario (Toronto, Ottawa, Great Lakes, etc.), Québec (Montréal, Québec City, Gaspésie, etc.), New Brunswick (Moncton, Bay of Fundy, etc.), Nova Scotia (Halifax, Cape Breton, etc.), Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown, Cavendish, etc.) and Newfoundland (St. John’s, L’Anse aux Meadows, etc.). North: Dawson Highway, Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqualuit
Very similar to New Zealand/Australia with many backpacker buses and cheap train tickets for students. Please see “How to get around Canada” for bus routes and VIA Rail offers rail travel. Travel times are long so be prepared. Air Canada Jazz and West Jet are best bets for getting around by air.
Examples of travel costs – 1-way fares (fares subject to change):
Ebus Bus: CAD$85 fare from Enderby, BC to Vancouver, BC which is 422 miles / 679 km (10.5 hrs)
Airplane: $217 fare from Kelowna BC to Calgary AB which is 375 miles / 603 km (1 hr)
Greyhound Bus: Fares are only within Ontario
Via Rail: CAD$441 fare from Toronto, ON to Edmonton, AB which is 2164 miles / 3483 km (2+ days)
Greyhound Bus – www.greyhound.ca (Ontario only)
WestJet Air – www.westjet.com
Air Canada – www.aircanada.com
Via Rail – www.viarail.ca
7/10, 8/10 in major cities. Many, many backpackers (book hostels, etc. weeks ahead). Expect many Japanese, Australasian, Scandinavian, British tourists.
Vancouver Island, Whistler, Canadian Rockies (Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper), Okanagan Valley, West Edmonton Mall, Churchill (Polar bear capital of the world), Quebec’s Old City, Rideau Canal, Cape Breton Island (& other coastal areas in the Atlantic), and many places in between.
Whale watching, outdoor activities. Extensive hostelling network, transportation (hop-on/off busses in most provinces). More adventurous travelers should head north to watch the finest Aurora Borealis or to Athabasca for sand dunning (yes there is a desert in Canada). Once the snow clears, patios come alive during the day and Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and many Canadian cities offer some of the best nightlife.
It gets cold during winters. Unless you are American, getting in is expensive and getting around is long and strenuous.
Commonwealth nationals, US, Mexicans, Cubans, EU nationals among others who can enter without a visa.
Use common sense when out in the wild. Make sure you have travel insurance!!! Canadian healthcare system is designed for Canadians only, so if you (a tourist) end up with a broken leg or a skiing accident, you must deposit around $500 to receive any sort of medical attention.
Drugs, cigarettes and alcohol:
Drinking laws vary from province to province, but usually cost is average. Cigarettes are heavily taxed and smoking is banned in public gatherings, nightclubs (again differs in provinces). Cannabis is legal with restrictions. Please visit “Cannabis Legalization and Regulation” for more information.
Costs & Money:
Hostels range from CAD$45+ for dorm rooms to CAD$140+ for privates. Entry to campsites around CAD$10-20. Food is no different from other western countries. Overall, money for value is quite fair. E.g. Montreal is far cheaper than Paris, so is Vancouver to L.A, and Banff in comparison to Aspen or Vail. Money: ATMs, Credit and Debit cards.
Weather & Dangers:
Cold in the winters, but can be tolerable with the right gear. It only gets extreme in the far north. Rains frequently in western Canada. Few dangers, just use common sense when in the wild or out in mountains.
Common, many working holidays on offer (like WWOOF!). Commonwealth members can get insurance, work permits, accommodation very easily. Not uncommon to find travelers from Oz or UK who work from winter-spring and spend the earnings during the summer.
Internet easily accessible via WIFI at many public places. Affordable mobile phone plans can be obtained for longer visits.
Something for everyone. From Hosteling Internationals to high-end hotels, cheap campsites and backpacker lodges. Prices from CAD$45+ (dorms) to CAD$140+ for singles.
Nothing out of the ordinary, unless you end up going to Yukon or Nunavut and indulge in Arctic cuisine, vegetarians: no problems. Plentiful supermarkets, fast food joints and possibilities to cook your own.
Staying at a campsite, cooking own food and getting around on foot/hitchhiking will run you less than $50/day. Stay at a hostel, cook in the kitchen and get around on a backpacker bus for CAD$100+/day. Long term discounts are of course available.