Canada Travel Tips
Canada is a country filled with wonderfully friendly people, classy cities, and a diverse, beautiful landscape. From the ice in the Yukon, to beaches on the east coast, the mountains of Calgary to the rainforests of Vancouver, Canada is a country that is often skipped over on many world trips, and doesn’t get as much attention as it should. It’s a tremendously beautiful country with a lot to offer—I love our friendly neighbor to the north, and believe it’s underrated. Added bonus: It’s easy to get a working holiday visa here.
Destination Guides for Canada
Accommodation – Rates can vary a lot depending on what city you’re staying in. On average, you’ll wind up paying about $30 USD for a dorm room at a hostel while you should expect to pay around $50 USD for a budget hotel room.
Food – Food can be inexpensive as long as you stick to cooking for yourself or hit pubs. Conversely, a meal out at restaurant will cost you around $20-25 USD! Cheap sandwich shops and fast food are your best bet and will be less than $10 USD per meal. If you are going to cook your own food, expect to pay between $50-75 USD per week.
Transportation – This is a big country, and it’s hard to get around without a car. Within the city limits, you’ll find great public transportation networks. However, going between provinces will require a car or the bus. You can fly, but since the country has only two major airlines (WestJet and Air Canada) prices are often very high. There is a train service (VIA Rail) that runs from coast to coast and is very scenic, though not cheap. Companies like Greyhound and Red Arrow offer long-haul bus service across the country. These are decent, but don’t make for the comfiest of conditions. There have been numerous reported instances of theft, so be on your guard and watch your belongings.
Activities – Canada has a lot of outdoor activities. No matter what part of the country you are in, there is always something to do. Costs range from $20-over 100 USD depending what you are doing and if you need a guide.
Money Saving Tips
Use coupon sites - If you know your stops ahead of time, monitor sites like Living Social and Groupon for local deals and saving. There are always good listings on some top restaurants and attractions.
Outdoor summer festivals - Since Canadians are stuck indoors all winter, they love to make the most of hot days by packing in lots of festivals into the short summer. Many of these, like Heritage Days (Edmonton), Kits Days (Vancouver), and Caribana (Toronto), are free. Check out upcoming events online in every city you visit.
Outdoor activities - A vast country with a relatively minuscule population leaves lots of potential for outdoor exposure here. Rent a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes in the winter, enjoy the free use of many trails (versus expensive downhill lift passes), bike, hike, kayak, or canoe in the summer. The cost of most equipment rental will be under $60 USD for a day, and you can explore many areas at no further cost.
Top Things to See and Do
The Calgary Stampede – During July, thousands of people descend to Calgary for this multi-day rodeo, drinking event, and carnival. It’s where everyone pretends to be a cowboy for a few days. It’s a lot of fun, and you’ll meet tons of people from around the world. It’s one of Canada’s premier events.
Hit the slopes – The mountains in Canada offer great skiing and snowboarding during the winter. You can visit popular Banff for a great mountain town and excellent trails. It’s quite busy during the winter months with all the snowbirds. Banff is just the most popular place to go but there are tons of other good skiing destinations in the country.
Vancouver – Vancouver is one of my favorite cities in the world, and in my opinion, the best in Canada (sorry, everywhere else!). I love how you can be downtown in a thriving metropolitan city, and then ten minutes later be hiking the mountains. Vancouver blends nature and civilization very well. Add in good weather, great Asian food, friendly people, and a great music scene, and the city becomes a must see destination in my opinion. Plus, it’s located in British Columbia, one of the prettiest regions in Canada. Double bonus.
Visit Vancouver Island – Take a few days off from the city to explore this western island. Try the delicious seafood, go for a hike, spot some whale, shop, and lounge on the beach. This a a place to just sit and relax. Since it is so close to Vancouver, it’s a popular getaway with the locals during the summer.
Hike the Rainforest – Hike the Pacific Rim National Forest for a wonderful look at some temperate rain forests. It’s one of the most popular parks in Canada, but if you can’t make it here, there beautiful forests all over British Columbia just waiting to be discovered.
Visit the Galleries of Toronto – Toronto has some of the best exhibits in the country, so take a day or two just to admire the art of the city. On Wednesdays, galleries will often give a discount.
Montreal – This beautiful city in Quebec offers people a look at the French side of the country. Beautiful streets, an underground mall, jazz clubs, and amazing cuisine make this the hippest and most romantic city in all the country. After Vancouver, it’s my second favorite spot in Canada.
Take a Road Trip – This huge country is best explored by car. You can see tiny little towns, majestic mountains, amazing countryside, and plenty of off-the-beaten-track places. If you have a lot of time, this is your best and cheapest option to see the country.
Quebec City – There is more to Quebec province than Montreal and Quebec City’s Old Town offers cobblestone walkways, well-preserved 17th century architecture, café culture and the only North American fortress that still exists.
The Atlantic Provinces – Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia are great places to go explore, especially during the summer. If you want to spend your days hiking, kayaking, relaxing by the ocean, and whale watching, this is the place to do it. This is where you’ll find some of the best seafood and shellfish in Canada as the Grand Banks are just off the coast. Plus, these provinces are said to have the friendliest people in all of Canada.
Toronto - While this isn’t my favorite spot in Canada, it’s worth a visit if you’re in the area to hit the many museums and enjoy delicious Asian food.
Kelowna – Go where the Canadians spend their vacation. Warm in the summer and mild in the winter, this glacial valley has some of the best weather in the entire country. There is a marina and many golf courses. Nearby is a great wine district.
Churchill, Manitoba – This might be a small town in the middle of nowhere, but it also happens to be the Polar Bear Capital of the World, the Beluga Whale Capital of the World, and one of the best places to view the Aurora Borealis. Mother nature is alive and thriving here.
Niagara Falls – This is one of the most highly visited attractions in the entire continent. You never imagine how big it is until you see it up close and you never envision so much mist either. I really enjoyed seeing it. The town is a touristy, cheesy dump though.
The Yukon – The Yukon is the perfect place to fill your nature desires. The chances of seeing a bear, elk, or deer. Hardly anyone ever visits the Yukon as visitors tend to stick to the major cities and park in the south of the country. But definitely consider visiting because you’ll find yourself and nature in perfect harmony.
Jasper and the Columbia Icefield - If you’re in Alberta and heading to Banff or Calgary, why not move a bit further north. The Icefields Parkway connects Banff and Jasper, and this mountain highway must be one of the most scenic drives in the world. Stop along the way at the Columbia Icefield, an enormous (325 square km) icefield that feeds into eight glaciers. Once in Jasper, visit Maligne Canyon for some beautiful hiking and (frozen) waterfalls or hit Marmot Basin for some great skiing.