Country Profile: Canada
Currency: Canadian Dollar (Roughly $1 CAD = $1 USD)
Languages: English, French, and several indigenous languages
Visa required?: Americans can cross into Canada with a valid passport. Check here for other country listings.
When to visit?: Visit Canada during the summer if you enjoy outdoor activities and festivals. The winters can be quite cold. If you do not mind the cold, there can be activities in Canada like skiing for snowbirds.
Random Fact: Canada is one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth. In fact, some of the northern regions have very little to no people for very great distances.
Overview: Canada is one of the largest countries in the world. As one might imagine, there are many opportunities for people with different interests. The population of Canada is quite small relative to its physical size, which gives plenty of opportunity for people interested in the great outdoors. However, Canada has its fair share of nice cities as well.
Although Canada may seem somewhat identical to the United States to any foreigner, there are actually a good deal of differences. Despite the historical ties that the countries have and their close geographical proximity, Canada has a different feel to it. For instance, one only has to travel from the city of Vancouver to somewhere in the Quebec region to see the diversity that exists even within its own borders.
How to get around Canada?
Because Canada is so large, a traveler will likely use multiple methods of transportation if they plan to see a lot of Canada.
Canada by bus:
- One of the larger operators in Canada is Greyhound Canada. This is the same company that operates in the United States, but it also has many routes throughout Canada. Some of the routes cross international borders, which could be an aid to you in your travels.
- Megabus has recently began to service several cities in Ontario and even Montreal.
- Other regional companies exist like Coach Canada or Acadian lines.
Canada by Train:
- The best passenger rail company is VIA Rail Canada. Your best bet is to stick with them if you plan to use the train.
- Rocky Mountaineer is a tourist company that offers several tours through the mountains between various cities, but it is not for someone on a budget.
- You can get to Canada by the US or Europe fairly cheaply by plane, however crossing Canada can be expensive. Plan for around $250-300 for a flight from Vancouver to Montreal (One way). Other domestic flights will cost at least a couple of hundred for one way tickets.
- Flying across Canada will save you time if you are in a hurry, but may not fit into your immediate budget.
- Carpooling in Canada is somewhat common. Especially if you are looking for a commute between two major cities. If you wish to carpool/ride-share check sites like Kijiji.
- I have not hitchhiked in Canada, however, I have been told that it is possible. The first problem though is that you need to find people who are going in the direction that you are going, and secondly the distance between cities can be substantial so you need to be flexible and you may need multiple hikes. Check Hitchwiki for more details.
Canada on a budget
Canada is much like the United States price wise, occasionally more expensive. If you stick to the smaller things, use grocery stores, and middle of the road restaurants, then you will be alright. Just like anywhere else though, you can easily blow you budget if you are not careful.
Plan for around $20-30 a night for accommodation. Another $20 for food and drinks. Cost with traveling will vary depending on your distances.
How to get to Canada
Getting to Canada is obviously the easiest from the United States. There are several major metropolitan areas where you can cross the border; namely, the northwest (north of Seattle), the midwest (near Chicago, Detroit, or Buffalo), and New England (near Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire).
If you plan to visit Canada and are coming from Europe, look into Air Transat. They offer great deals from Lisbon and Porto in Portugal, and even a few destinations in Spain, assuming that you are willing to fly to Montreal or Toronto. I used them once, and will likely again.
Tips for Canada
- Canadians usually do not appreciate being compared to America. Canada is a separate country that has many differences, which the people of Canada are proud of. They want you to know that they are distinctly different, which is why most of the Canadian backpackers will wear a Canadian flag attached to their backpack.
- People in the Quebec region of Canada are very proud of their French heritage. The primary regional language there is French and not English. The people appreciate you speaking with them in French first.
Additional Links for Canada