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Canada Country Information
Canada is bound in the west by the Pacific Ocean and Alaska, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the north by the polar ice cap, and in the south by the United States of America.

It is a country renowned for its stunningly beautiful scenery and love of the outdoors. Even the cities have been carefully designed to preserve metropolitan green belts and parklands, ensuring that Canadians are never far from their natural heritage. The country has a French and British colonial heritage, which is reflected in its cuisine, culture and customs, mixed in with the legacy of the country's own enigmatic aboriginal First Nations history.

In the south the Rocky Mountains intrude into Canada across the border with the United States, separating Canada's two main tourist provinces, British Columbia and Alberta. The mountains abound with winter sports resorts. Throughout the nation the most popular venues for outdoor pursuits, year round, are the country's huge national parks. There are more than 41 of these, one of them, Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, being larger than the country of Switzerland. Canadian national parks are unique in that they have cities and towns inside the protected areas, which provide comfortable bases for exploring the natural and manmade attractions of the reserves.

The Basics
Time: Canada covers six time zones, from GMT 8 in the west to GMT -3.5 in the east.

Electricity: Electrical current is 110 volts, 60Hz. American style flat two-pin plugs and one with a third round grounding pin are standard.

Money: The currency used is the Canadian Dollar (CAD), which is divided into 100 cents. One-dollar coins are also known as loonies (due to the picture of a loon, a type of bird, on the coin), and two-dollar coins as toonies. Banks and bureaux de change will change money and travellers cheques, as will some hotels, but the rate will not be as good. Major credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are plentiful. US Dollars are largely accepted, though due to fraud, larger notes might not be and change is usually given in Canadian dollars.

Language: The official languages are English and French (predominantly in Quebec).

Travel Health: No vaccinations are necessary for travel to Canada. The West Nile virus, spread by mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water, poses a threat during summer months in rural areas, so insect-repellent measures are advised for those visiting the countryside particularly in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec. Rabies is a problem and can be spread by a bite from small animals such as racoons and bats. Medical care is excellent, but expensive, so medical insurance is advised.

Tipping: There is no service charge added to restaurant bills in Canada and staff expect a tip of around 15%. Hairdressers and taxi drivers are also usually tipped at the same rate, while bellhops, doormen, porters and similar service providers at hotels, airports and stations are generally paid $1 per item of luggage carried. Tour guides and bus drivers generally receive $3-$5 per day.

Safety Information: Most visits to Canada are trouble-free. The country is politically stable, but does share the common international risk of terrorism. There have been no recent terrorism events. The crime rate is low, but travellers are advised to take sensible precautions to safeguard their belongings as they would anywhere. Canada is prone to tornadoes between May and September.

Local Customs: Smoking bans have been implemented in Canada in enclosed public places such as restaurants, bars and shopping malls.

Business: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal are the main business centres. English is the language of business except in French-speaking Quebec, where all written material and business cards should be in French as a result. Business cards are not traditionally exchanged during an initial meeting, but at some appropriate time thereafter; it is best to wait for the host to offer theirs first. A firm handshake is used by way of greeting, and meetings begin on time so punctuality is taken seriously, as is appearance, which should be conservative and smart; business suits are the norm. Gifts can be given in conclusion to celebrate a deal, but should be understated; taking someone out for a meal is a popular way to conclude business dealings. Hours of business are usually 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Communications: The international access code for Canada is +1. The outgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom); the outgoing code is not necessary for calls to the US and the Caribbean. The area code for Ottawa is (1)613, and (1)416 for Toronto. Internet cafes are widely available. Most international mobile phone companies have roaming agreements with Canadian operators, however it may be cheaper to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card if visiting the country for long periods.

Duty Free: Travellers to Canada are allowed to enter the country with the following items without incurring custom duties: gifts to the value of C$60 per recipient (excluding advertising material, tobacco and alcoholic beverages); 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or cigarillos and 200g of tobacco or 200 tobacco sticks; 1.14 litres of liquor or wine or 24 x 355ml bottles or cans of beer or ale. There are strict regulations governing the import of the following: explosives, endangered animal and plant species, items of heritage, fresh foodstuffs and weapons. The plant Qhat (Khat) is illegal in Canada and prison sentences are heavy.

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USA Entry Requirements

  • Entry requirements for Americans: US travellers should have a valid passport if departing from the USA, otherwise a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, as well as proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, is recommended or a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document. A visa is not required for a stay of up to six months.
  • Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK nationals must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is not required for passports endorsed British Citizen, British Citizen (Overseas), British Overseas Territories Citizen and British National (Overseas). Other British passport holders are advised to check on visa requirements for entry to Canada. Visa exemption is for a stay of up to six months.
  • Entry requirements for Australians: Australians must hold passports valid for period of intended stay. A visa is not required for a stay of up to six months.
  • Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals must be in possession of a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is required.
  • Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealanders require a passport valid for the period of the intended stay. No visa is necessary for stays of up to six months.
  • Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals must hold a passport valid for the period of intended stay. A visa is not required for stays of up to six months.

Passport/Visa Note:All visitors must hold a valid passport. Visitors are recommended to hold onward or return tickets, all documents needed for the next destination and sufficient funds to cover the period of intended stay. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA a valid passport will be required by immigration authorities.

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Attractions in Canada
Canada has an abundance of things to see and do within its vast borders. After all, few countries are blessed with such a rich endowment of natural splendour and astounding physical attractions. Complementing these are world-class cities such as the west coast gem of Vancouver, vibrant metropolis of Toronto, and elegant Montreal.

  • Stanley Park - Pride of Vancouver’s network of parks and gardens, Stanley Park, covering 1,000 acres (405 hectares), is one of the largest parks in any urban centre in North America.
  • Gastown - The fascinating little historic enclave of Gastown, in the central core area of Vancouver alongside Chinatown, transports visitors back in time to envision the city in days of old, with its cobbled streets, antique gaslights, Victorian architecture and maze of narrow alleys, courtyards and passages wherein hide boutiques and restaurants.
  • CN Tower - Standing 1,815ft (553m) high, Toronoto’s landmark CN Tower is the world’s tallest building, a celebrated icon, an important telecommunications hub and the centre of tourism in Toronto.
  • Niagara Falls - Straddling the Canadian-United States border and sited between the province of Ontario and the US state of New York, the awesome Niagara Falls attracts about 12 million tourists a year.
  • Museum of Fine Arts - During the past 140 years the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has assembled one of North America's finest encyclopaedic collections, totalling more than 30,000 objects.
  • Nahanni National Park Reserve - Centred on the river valleys in the southwest of the Northwest Territories, and accessible only by air, is the 1,840 square mile (4,766 sq km) Nahanni National Park, an outstanding example of northern wilderness with rivers, canyons, gorges and alpine tundra.
  • British Columbia Parliament Buildings - Built in 1893, the British Columbia Government Parliament Buildings were initially criticised as an unnecessary expense, but now form a major tourist attraction in Victoria, as well as serving as the legislative centre for the province.
  • Green Gables House - Nestled in the Prince Edward Island National Park in Cavendish is the charming and picturesque Green Gables House that, in the early 1900s, inspired author Lucy Maude Montgomery to create her much-loved story about a precocious red-headed orphan Anne Shirley, entitled Anne of Green Gables.
  • Jasper - Affectionately known as the 'little town in the big park', Jasper lies in the middle of Canada's largest mountain park, the Jasper National Park, and makes a delightful base from which to explore the lakes and mountains. The town is 233 miles (373km) from Edmonton and lies among pristine wilderness, surrounded by a necklace of green lakes and majestic waterfalls. Besides exploring the surrounding premiere national park there are one or two attractions in the town itself.
  • Gulf Islands - Tucked in the Strait of Georgia, in between Vancouver Island and the mainland, are the picturesque Gulf Islands. More than a dozen of these long, thin islands, and numerous islets, can be found on Canada's West Coast and each island has its own character and beauty, making them well worth a visit.

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Events in Canada

  • Calgary Stampede - For ten exciting days each July the Wild West wins the day in Calgary when the city comes alive with a celebration of true western hospitality and rousing fun.
  • International Jazz Festival - Montreal's annual jazz festival is one of the best in the world, just celebrating its 25th anniversary. Superstars of jazz, like Oscar Peterson, feature on the programme, which offers more than 400 concerts over about 10 days each summer.
  • Canadian F1 Grand Prix - For more than a quarter of a century the world's top motor racing drivers have been meeting at the demanding Gilles-Villeneuve Circuit to battle out an important race in the Formula One World Championship.
  • Cavalcade of Lights - Toronto's festive season officially kicks off at the end of November each year with the brilliant illumination of Nathan Phillips Square with more than 100,000 lights, spectacular fireworks and a massive Christmas tree, heralding a month of merry-making and fun events in the city centre.
  • Vancouver International Jazz Festival - As one of the biggest musical celebrations in the world, the International Jazz Festival is the most popular cultural event in Vancouver, with performances by more than 1,000 blues and jazz artists from around the world.
  • Illuminares Lantern Festival - Basking hippos, floating fish, dragons and fairies come alive at the annual Illuminares Lantern Festival at the picturesque Trout Lake Park in Vancouver.
  • Quebec Winter Carnival - The world's largest winter carnival was first held in 1894, when French colonists started holding a rowdy get-together before Lent to eat, drink and be merry.
  • Vancouver Pride - The Vancouver Pride Week is a colourful, vibrant affair, celebrating the city's Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender (GLBT) community and its many supporters in a variety of shows, festivals, parties and the ever-popular Pride Parade. Each year, a special team comes up with a theme and specific image for the Pride Week, and in recent years, the focus has been on issues and battles faced by the GLBT community, but in a more celebratory than political manner.
  • Toronto International Film Festival - Toronto's famous film festival is the largest film festival open to the general public. Unlike Sundance and Cannes which see a number of independent features and world cinema, the Toronto International Film Festival has the glamour of Hollywood coated all over it, and is considered by many filmmakers and studio bosses to be a successful launching platform to begin the crazy award season that eventually climaxes with the Academy Awards in March.
  • WinterCity Festival - WinterCity festival offers a two-week, city-wide celebration of Toronto's incomparable diversity of spirit, including delicious culinary experiences, live bands, skating parties and activities throughout the city.

Canada Weather and Climate
Being such a large country, Canada's climate varies depending on which area one visits. It also has very distinct seasons. The warmest months are July and August, and in winter (December, January and February) it is very cold with heavy snowfalls in most provinces. Autumn is a beautiful season with crisp air and brilliant fall foliage, while in some areas spring brings the emergence of carpets of wild flowers.

Canada is a vast country and therefore the climate is varied according to region. In general though Canada has four very marked seasons, with a big extreme of temperatures between winter and summer. The hottest months are July and August, when shirtsleeves are the order of the day, while in the depths of winter, December, January and February, it can be bitterly cold with blanketing snowfalls. Autumn is a lovely time to travel to Canada, the country-side decked in colourful leaves, the lakes sparkling in the crisp air. Springtime in Canada is also magnificent as the snow melts away revealing new blooms and carpets of wild flowers.

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Provinces of Canada

Alberta New Brunswick Manitoba Ontario Quebec
British Columbia Newfoundland & Labrador Nova Scotia Yukon


Canada Driving Information

Driving licences are very frequently used as means of identify (ID) in various contexts in the USA and Canada, for example when checking into a motel or when using a traveller's cheque. They are almost universally required to be shown if you are stopped by the police while driving.

An international permit is required if your licence is not readable to Canadians (i.e. not in English or French). If your licence clearly states the class of your licence, birth date, expiry date and conditions of your licence, you may use it in Canada for up to six months. An international driving permit may be used for up to one year as long as you do not set up residency in Canada.

Road Rules

  • In contrast to the other Commonwealth countries, Canadians drive on the right-hand side.
  • Seatbelt-wearing is compulsory throughout the country.
  • Each province enforces a point system whereby certain driving offences result in the loss of a specified amount of points from a base amount.
  • Speeding is a big problem in Canada where impatient drivers take advantage of the wide, open roads. There have been numerous graphic advertising campaigns launched as an attempt to point out the tragic results of speeding. Nevertheless, it continues to happen and there are stiff fines for those who are caught. If you are used to the imperial system, it might take some time to get used to the metric system employed in Canada. Don't make the mistake of interpreting a sign that says `90' to mean 90 mph! The speed limit on highways is usually 100 km/h (60 mph) and in cities and towns it is usually 50 km/h (30 mph) or less.
  • Unlike in some countries, where at unmarked crossways pedestrians run hurriedly to get out of a car's way, Canadians take their time crossing a road. It's not because they're trying to provoke you; it's because pedestrians have the right of way.

Safety

  • Most U.S. safety precautions apply. Seat belts and child safety seats are required by law.
  • Canada requires daytime running lights. Turn your headlights on whenever you hit the road, regardless of the time of day.
  • There's no right turn on red in some locations, notably Montreal and Quebec City.
  • DWI offenses are severe in Canada, and the country takes offenders seriously. If you have a DWI record in the U.S., you will need to apply for a special waiver to enter Canada. The process takes a few weeks, so contact your nearest Canadian consulate and plan ahead.

Emergencies
If you break down or get into a traffic accident, remember your U.S. insurance and motor-club memberships. Call the local authorities, your insurance providers, or, in the event of a serious accident, your nearest U.S. consulate. 911 works for emergency assistance as well, just like in the States.

Take special caution if you travel Highway 401 between Detroit and Montreal. This is one of the busier thoroughfares on the continent, and it's subject to rapid changes in weather. Add all of the commercial traffic, and you can see why the 401 has been subject to some horrific accidents in the recent past.

Fuel types available in Canada

  • Unleaded Petroleum (gasoline)
  • Diesel
  • Check carefully before filling whether your rental car uses petrol or diesel. If you make a mistake do not start the vehicle as severe damage may result and you will be liable for repair costs. Inform service station staff who will assist in arranging for the tank to be drained and refilled with the correct fuel
  • Gas stations are generally open 24 hours a day and most are self-service. Times vary particularly in rural areas.

© 2004 US and Canada Travel - A Division of BTEC Travel Pty Ltd.
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