First time in Canada? Know This Before Traveling

Canada perhaps has long been on your bucket list, but now that you have decided to visit the gorgeous country, why not learn more about the county beforehand. Canada is the second largest nation in the world and is the world’s cultural melting pot. It is known for its extraordinary culture and warm people and is indeed one of the most popular countries to visit. The country and its people pride themselves for being home to different races, traditions, and heritage. Although one can still see strong European influences in certain parts like Quebec, today, Canada has transformed into a multicultural mosaic setting. Moreover, Canadians are very friendly and make everyone feel welcomed in their country. If this is your first time in Canada, then you need to keep certain things in mind, like the right time to visit, the general etiquettes, cultural practices and more.


General information about Canada

Canada is a large country comprising of 10 provinces. If you are traveling to Canada as a foreigner, be sure to carry all the essential travel documents like your passport. You might also need Electronic Travel Authorization – eTA, which is mandatory for all nationals except Americans. If you are from one of the visa exemt countrlies like Great Britain, the United States, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, or Japan, you do not require a visa and you can apply for the online travel permit eTA.


Not sure if you are eligible to apply for eTA? Check here the requirements.


Canada is a progressive country where you will find people of all colors and races. Canadians hate being mistaken for Americans and are proud of their identity. They are polite and love the multicultural atmosphere around them. You will find that Canadians are passionate about outdoor activities like climbing, canoeing, hiking, trekking and so on. In case you come across any emergency, all you need to dial is 911 to contact emergency services.


Canada is much varied both in its geography and temperatures based on prairies, mountain ranges, coastal and other areas. Winters are usually extreme with heavy snowfall. However, during the summers the weather is warmer, and this is the time to see the natural beauty of Canada. When travelling in Canada, be wary about the geography, climate, and language as these can vary from one province to another.


Canadian Dollar is the currency used here and is very colourful. It available in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 and$1 and $2 coins. Canadian coins are magnetic unlike the American coins, and thus you cannot use American coins in Canadian machines. As the Canadian bills and coins are easily marked, it is fairly easy to follow the Canadian currency system. If you want to have a drink at a restaurant or bar, you need to have official documentation to prove your age.


Tipping and etiquette to follow in Canada

When using restaurants, bars, and other services, it is customary to tip about 15-20% on the total bill. In most restaurants, one gets an automatic 15-18% gratuity for larger groups. If you want to calculate the appropriate tip, all you need to do is simply tip 5% GST. Depending on the Goods and Services Tax amount, the amount can be between 5% and 15%.


Apply for eTA here and get your approved travel permit by email.

  • Tipping is your choice but always a good idea- Generally, speaking you need to tip 10 percent to 20 percent of the total cost of the services provided in restaurants, beauticians and bars. However, there are different tipping standards for taxi drivers, bartenders, and hotel staff. Tipping at hotels is always a good idea but do not think that it only ends with the hotel staff. For instance, if you use the valet service, you would be expected to a give a tip. It is always appreciated when you leave a ‘Thank You’ note for your hotel room attendant and leave a tip there.


Moreover, if you see your hotel concierge taking extra care of you, you can leave a tip for him too. You are expected to tip your manicurists, hairdressers, and taxi drivers; and in most cases, it is about 10%. You will come across “tip jars” at other counter services like ice cream shops, coffee shops, cafeteria and more. However, it is entirely your choice to tip for such counter services, and it wouldn’t be considered rude if you do not tip. It is definitely not necessary to tip the clerk in retail stores. While tipping is your choice, it is indeed polite to tip for good services at restaurants and hotels. While it is common to tip in restaurants, it is not necessary to offer tips for other service providers.


  • Common etiquettes to follow- Good etiquettes and common courtesies are much appreciated in Canada. Have a friendly approach anywhere you go and show loads of patience and don’t be stingy with smiles. Do not use your cell phones in movie cinemas or theatres. So, keep your phone on silent mode or set it to vibrate. You will find greater acceptance for different nationalities and languages in Canada. For many Canadians, English is not the first language. They carry British or French accents which are different from the United States.  Canadians can be very patient with visitors and tourists who don’t speak their language. If bilingual, they will converse in the language that one seems to be most comfortable. They will always be ready to say “please” and “thank you” and will apologize. However, when compared to American neighbours, they are quieter and reserved, but willing to help out anyone.


Do not use the word ‘Indian’ and ‘Eskimos’ which is considered offensive in most places. One should address the Native, or Aboriginal peoples in the right way. Show your travel etiquette as you come across different provinces and cultures or travel to those remote communities. When in a formal and business situation, go for a handshake to introduce yourself. If it is a woman, wait for her to extend her hand first. Do not be too direct when making eye contact but show respect and sincerity. “How are you?” is a common greeting in Canada and saying” hi” does not mean that you are disrespectful. Wave is a suitable acknowledgement if you see someone known at a distance.


It is a common courtesy to hold the doors for the person behind you regardless of their gender. Stand up patiently in the queue when you line up in stores, movie theatres and in other public areas. One can expect aggressive driving behaviour in urban areas, but there are strict zero-tolerance laws in most cities. Fines for breaking traffic rules can be heavy. When entering the home of any Canadian, do remove your shoes. When sitting down for a meal, you are expected to ask for items instead of just reaching out and grabbing them.


Getting the best value for accommodation in Canada

Canada offers many kinds of accommodation and the costs involved. You will come across the most luxurious and expensive resorts and hotels to the least expensive options like hotels, dormitories, and camping. The prices start at around $25 to an average of $100 or even higher.  It is very important to check the availability of accommodation, especially if you headed for the remote areas. At most places, you will find a 24-hour-notice cancellation policy. Room taxes can vary and can be the lowest at nine percent or the highest at thirteen to fifteen percent.


Before you look for accommodation, check out with the local tourist offices to get information as well as recommendations.


  • Hotels in Canada: There are three categories of Canadian hotels, high-class, simple downtown places, and roadside motels. Top-notch hotels in the cities focus more on the corporate and business travellers, and a night there could cost you between $150 to $250 or more. The mid-range hotels offer comfortable accommodation and essential facilities at a lower price. The hotels in the lower bracket will cost less than $100.


  • Motels in Canada: Motels are referred to as resorts, lodges, inns, and these accommodations are reasonably priced and driver-friendly. The basic rooms at around $75 and the further you move away from the cities; the prices drop further. In case you plan to stay at a motel for a couple of nights, you can negotiate to lower the prices and get cheaper deals.


  • Bed and Breakfasts: Also known as B&Bs, there is a steady rise in the demand and popularity of these accommodations in cities, towns, and villages. Standard prices are around $85, and the rooms are excellent and include breakfast.


  • Hostels and accommodation for students: There are plenty of hostels and accommodations for students, and these can vary from small dormitory-type hostels, budget guesthouses, and private rooms. Students can also look for discounts, and the rates can start at as low as $15-$20. YMCA and YWCA too offer accommodation in many cities.


  • Farm housing and vacations: During farm vacations, you can stay as a paying guest on a working farm. This is your chance to learn more about the locals and the cither as you mingle with them. You can eat with them and even work at the farm.


  • Camping: Many urban areas feature campgrounds where one can pitch their camp wherever they please. Majority of the camping sites are located in wilderness areas and government-run sites. Remember to read the fine print and check with campground if they are serviced or un-serviced. You need to pay a fee to camp, typically $5 per tent. However, the prices can go higher for full amenities like sewage, water, electricity, and showers.


See also: What to expect at the border control when travelling to Canada with your eTA

Exploring Canada

It sure can be overwhelming to know what to do and see in such a vast country with varying geography of the most beautiful country in the world.  Blessed with nature, Canada is famous for those towering crags, turquoise waters, deep green forests, and snow-capped peaks. It is a thrilling experience to explore its wilderness. As a first timer in Canada, you should be aware of some of the most favourite spots with spectacular landscapes and scenic distractions. You should also know that July and August are the busiest and most expensive time to visit Canada.


The Canadian Rockies are an all-time favorite with the tourists and the locals.  Other compelling spots are the mountains of the Yukon and the Moraine Lake. Newfoundland is known for its distinctive Anglo-Irish heritage and pristine, wild landscape. The Maritime Provinces are gentler with superb seascapes and forested countryside. Ontario and Quebec, located on the country’s eastern side are hard to ignore. One of the region’s main sights is the dynamic Toronto and Niagara Falls. Ottawa is a city known for outdoor activities and extraordinary landscapes. Another prettiest spots are the Gatineau Park and Georgian Bay Islands. You can explore the diverse landscapes of the Laurentians or go island hopping around the Mingan Archipelago. Tourists love to drive and hike through the Parc National Forillon and the Gaspé Peninsula in particular.


The Prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan are famous for the polar bears and the rippling grasslands. From Calgary, one can take two-day excursions to the outstanding Royal Tyrrell Museum and Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump, which is a World Heritage Site. At Calgary, you can take a tour of the Rockies.

Vancouver is a medley of mountains, glittering skyline, and ocean. Another of the highly recommended destinations are the Yukon that boasts of mountains, rivers, forests.  If you have time and are willing to put in efforts and money, you can get set to explore Canada’s final frontier, the great Arctic hinterland. Here you will come across immense landscapes, polar bears, whales, and wildlife.


Traditional Canadian Foods

Canada is not just about that mind-blowing landscapes and cool mountains. There are loads of traditional Canadian foods that are a must try when you visit the country. French Canadian food, Poutine is very popular, and it is hard to resist the crispy fries. Bannock is a simple bread but very delicious and versatile. Nova Scotian Lobster Rolls and Butter tarts are so good and available in new twists and variations. Montreal’s bagels are much denser and thinner and baked in wood fire ovens. Another hot favorite is Saskatoon berry pie well- known for its sweet almond flavour. You will love Montreal-style Smoked Meat, which is smoked to perfection. Some of the other must have traditional Canadian foods include Peameal Bacon, Beavertails, Split Pea Soup, Nanaimo Bars and more.