Canada Travel Tips
Brewster Vacations Canada would like to ensure you have the best possible experience while in Canada. In this section we’ve provided helpful information that our visitors have appreciated. If you know of a tip we should add here, please let us know using the feedback form on our Contact page.
Climate and Clothing
The climate in Canada varies across the country, and according to the season. There are four distinct seasons in all regions, but actual temperatures and humidity vary.
The Maritime provinces, Ontario and Québec are more humid than the western provinces. Temperatures in Halifax, Nova Scotia range from 0 °C in January to a very temperate 24 °C in July. Plan on wearing a sweater and light raincoat in the summer. Québec and Ontario are usually a little colder in the winter and slightly warmer in the summer.
Rockies and other Mountain Areas
The greatest variation of temperatures is to be found in the mountains. Mountain temperatures average from -16°C in the winter to 24°C during the summer. However, when visiting the Rockies, be sure to have layers of comfortable clothing available in case of a sudden change in weather conditions (in the mountains, even summer evenings tend to be cool).
If you are planning on walks or hikes, bring sturdy shoes and a warm jacket. If you plan to visit the Rockies in the winter, come dressed for snow – make sure your outer clothing is warm and wind/water repellent.
Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island
Vancouver and Victoria rarely experience temperatures below freezing. These cities enjoy the mildest weather in Canada, averaging 5°C in the winter and 23°C during the summer. However, an umbrella and raincoat are recommended for Vancouver year-round – just in case it rains.
Currency and Credit Cards
The currency used in Canada is the Canadian dollar. Canadian bills are accepted in denominations of $100.00, $50.00, $20.00, $10.00 and $5.00. Coins are in denominations of $2.00 (called a “toonie”), $1.00 (called a “loonie”), $0.25 (called a “quarter”), $0.10 (called a “dime”), $0.05 (called a “nickel”), and $0.01 (called a “penny”).
We recommend carrying Canadian dollar travalers cheques, as they are accepted as currency at most hotels, stores and restaurants. Most major credit cards are widely accepted across the country – principally Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
Currency and travelers cheques can be exchanged at airports or foreign exchange services, but the best exchange rate is to be found at any of the Canadian chartered banks. The major banks are: Bank of Montréal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank, CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce), and Toronto Dominion Bank. Minimum hours of operation will be from 1000 hours to 1500 hours, Monday to Friday. Extended hours can be found in some cities.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) are common throughout Canada, and as well as being located at banks, they can be found in some grocery stores, gas stations, variety stores, shopping centres, bus depots, train stations and elsewhere.
Electricity is supplied at an alternating current of 110 volts. Plugs in Canada are either two flat, parallel prongs, or one cylindrical and two flat parallel prongs.
A regular-sized letter or postcard mailed within Canada costs $0.63, to the United States $1.10, and $1.85 to other international destinations (subject to change). International mail can take up to two weeks for delivery from Canada.
Advance notice and details of any disability will ensure the best possible assistance from airlines, hotels or transport companies. Many cinemas and restaurants are happy to assist although not all can cater for several disabled people or wheelchairs.
Most new buildings provide wheelchair access. Many of the national and provincial parks have accessible interpretive centres and some of the shorter nature trails and/or boardwalks have been designed with wheelchairs or self-propelled mobility aids in mind.
Guides to facilities for the disabled are available from the Canadian Paraplegic Association. The National Office is located in Ottawa. For further information, please contact directly – phone: (613)723-1033 or 1-800-720-4933, fax: (613)723-1060.
Goods and Services Tax - The Canadian Government applies a Goods & Services Tax (currently 5%) on the sale of all products and services in Canada; this tax is commonly referred to as "GST". There are allowable rebates of the tax on all short-term accommodations provided to non-resident guests. Please inquire with your Travel Agent.
Provincial Sales Tax - In almost every Canadian province an additional Provincial Sales Tax (PST) is applicable. It is added to the advertised price of consumer goods, restaurant meals and drinks in bars. It appears as a separate item and is not a service charge or gratuity.
Harmonized Sales Tax - A single, blended combination of the PST and GST which is used in British Columbia, Ontario, and the Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. Current applicable taxes as of April 2011 are:
Provincial Sales Taxes
British Columbia 12%
New Brunswick 13%
Nova Scotia 15%
Prince Edward Island 15%
Alberta, Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories do not currently have taxes of this kind.
Service charges usually are not included on bills in restaurants or bars in Canada. It is standard practice to tip service personnel 12% to 15% of the bill. Customary gratuity to tour guides and motorcoach drivers is $1.00 to $2.00 per person per day. This should be handled on a voluntary, individual basis.
Meter-operated taxicab service is available in all major cities and towns; at transport terminals; major hotels, and can be hailed in the street. Refer to the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory. Fees include a minimum charge and then a charge for the distance travelled. It is customary to tip taxi drivers 10% to 12%. Passengers must wear seatbelts.
Airport Customs and Immigration
All international visitors must clear Canadian Customs and Immigration at the arrival airport. Visitors will receive customs documents from in-flight personnel to complete before landing. Once on the ground, retrieve luggage and follow the directions to the Customs Hall. Visitors will be required to state what articles they are bringing into Canada, country of origin, their Canadian destination and their duration of visit in Canada.
When leaving Canada, the regulations of the destination country will apply. Check with the airline customer service desk if uncertain about any of these regulations. Pre-clearance facilities for United States-bound travellers are available at the Vancouver International Airport, Calgary International Airport, Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Montréal’s Dorval Airport and Halifax International Airport.
Click here for updated passport information for travel between the U.S. and Canada