Canada is an incredibly beautiful country with endless things to do and see. That’s why it’s so important to plan your visit. You can’t see everything, especially when you’re not organised, which is why we have put together this short but precise list of the most important things to consider for your visit. This guide will help you prepare for your visit and make sure you haven’t missed any important information which could complicate matters when you arrive. Planning a holiday to Canada can be complicated due to the pure size of the country so it’s good to understand how to get around and the key areas within the country. You’ll also benefit from knowing general etiquette, languages, currency and visa information which we’ll cover in this first section.
Visas for visiting Canada
Before visiting Canada you’ll need to apply for a visa or an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization). The visa will determine how long you can stay in the country for your holiday. In most cases, if you are visiting the country for a holiday you will be granted up to 6 months, which is plenty of time for most holidays.
In case your stay is prolonged and if you’ll be interested in working in Canada as a foreign worker, the process and requirements are different. Canada has various programs and streams that allow employers to hire foreign workers to meet their labour needs. If you are looking to explore job opportunities in Canada. If you can want to find more information and resources click here for hiring a foreign worker in Canada (cliquez ici pour embaucher un travailleur étranger au Canada), which will provide you with the necessary details about work permits, labour market impact assessments, and other essential information you need to know before considering employment in Canada.
Most British citizens will only need an eTA (costing $7 Canadian dollars) but to be sure you can find out which you require here:
The best place to find out all the relevant information about the visa process is through the official Visit Canada website here:
COVID-19 Update for visiting Canada
Please note that COVID-19 emergency border measures have now ended in Canada as of the 1st October 2022.
Travelling to Canada
If you’re planning a trip to Canada you will likely be travelling via plane, especially from the UK. You can currently book flights from these major British airports:
- London Heathrow
- London Gatwick
If you are thinking about booking flights to Canada check which cities your local airport is flying to. Not all destinations will be available so it’s important to plan your journey well in advance. If you are roaming around the country whilst you’re there then your return journey may differ. Careful planning is required to get the best prices and direct flights.
The major international airports in Canada include:
From the main international airport in Canada, you will find a host of domestic travel options including flights, buses and taxis. Car hire is also an option but since Canada is such a large country it isn’t advisable to try and cross without a flight.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any alternative ways to travel to Canada, like on a ferry for example. So if you’re not keen on flying then you will struggle to get there.
Canadian geography, languages and currency
Languages in Canada
Canada has a population of 34 million people who predominantly speak either English or French. In total just over three in four Canadians speak English as their first official language. French-speaking Canadians are known as French-Canadians or Francophones and make up a smaller percentage of the country. They are mostly found in Quebec (The East) but can also make up smaller pockets of communities across other territories in Canada.
Currency in Canada
The currency used in all of Canada is the Canadian dollar ($) CAD
You’ll need to check current exchange rates but at the time of writing this article one British pound is equivalent to 1.59 Canadian Dollars. £1 GBP – $1.59 CAD
Most of you will recognise the face on the Canadian $20 note, that of Queen Elizabeth II. But why is a British monarch on the Canadian $20 dollar note? Simply because Canada is a British Commonwealth country sharing the same monarchy.
Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories as depicted in the following map. The capital city of the country is Ottawa which is located in Ontario but sits right on the border of Quebec.
Here are some more interesting geographical facts about Canada.
The majority of the population lives in the south, nearer the border with the United States. These account for 9 out of 10 Canadians. The country is the second largest in the world, second to Russia. It has the longest coastline in the world measuring 202,080 km / 125,567 miles.
Toronto is the largest metropolis in Canada with a population of over 6 million. Montreal is the second largest city with over 4 million people and is also the second largest French speaking city in the world, after Paris in France.
The bay of Fundi on the East coast has the highest tides in the world and has recorded some of the largest waves at more than 12m / 42ft high! The tallest mountain in Canada is Mount Logan which is 5,959m / 19,551 ft nd is located in the Yukon Territory. The river McKenzie is the longest river measuring 4,241 km / 2,635 miles.
About 1.4 million people refer to themselves as Aboriginal people (or indigenous people), meaning they are descendants of the earliest known inhabitants of the country. They celebrate ‘National Aboriginal Day’ on the 21st June. A national holiday called ‘Canada Day’ is celebrated on the 1st of July each year.
Canada is mostly visited by citizens from the United States, United Kingdom and France. Canada’s most popular sport is football followed closely by Ice Hockey. About half of Canada is covered by forest and timber is one of the main exports from the country.
Travel checklist for Canada
What should you take to Canada from the UK?
Obvious things like your passport, eTA, debit and credit cards and if you are renting a car don’t forget your driver’s license. Further to this list, you’ll not want to forget travel documents, booking information, personal medication, toiletries, phone and charger. You will also need travel insurance and the relevant documents.
Other essentials will include sun cream, a sun hat, sunglasses, water bottle, a backpack and money.
If you are travelling in the summer temperature can reach 25 degrees or more in the southern regions. (even 40 degrees in some places) The coastal areas will tend to be cooler with stronger winds so it’s good to pack some warmer gear. Walking is a given in Canada with so many places to explore on foot so be sure to pack a good variety of socks and footwear. Sturdy hiking shoes or boots are essential as are water shoes or flipflops. Don’t forget a waterproof jacket, some short sleeve shirts as well as a jacket and sweater to keep warm on cooler days and areas.
You might also want to invest in a portable phone charger. You’ll likely be taking a lot of pictures and using your phone for navigation which can drain your battery quickly. A portable charge can help prolong your battery life by giving you an extra full charge or two.
The power sockets in Canada are different from the UK so be sure to take a power socket adapter. They are the same as the US and run on 120v so some of your electrical equipment might not run efficiently on them. Dual-voltage items like laptops will generally work fine on a standard travel adapter.
Travelling in the springtime will generally mean more rain so don’t forget a raincoat and windproof umbrella. Winter is another story as it brings snow, ice, sideways rain and a combination of the three so be prepared for harsh conditions, especially the further north you travel where specialist equipment might be required.
Canadian etiquette and important information
As with visiting any other country in the world, there are a few things worth noting that you might not think of. You could easily offend someone without understanding some of these simple etiquettes.
- Tipping is considered normal at most restaurants, just as it is in the US. It is reasonable to tip between 15-20% for your meals. Tipping can also be promoted in other scenarios such as taxis, tour operators, cafes and hair stylists.
- Rural areas of Canada are home to large wild animals and as such you should stick with tour guides or paths. Canada is known for bears, wolves, mountain lions, moose and some other less dangerous species such as deer, beavers and caribou that you won’t find in the UK.
- Canada tends to follow normal western cultural traditions like greetings, rude gestures and gift-giving. Middle finger raising, yawning and talking with your mouth full are all generally considered rude.
- Politics is generally a subject that is talk about privately and not in open conversation. The same applies to sex and religion.
- The international stereotype that Canadians are overly or excessively polite is well-known in Canada.
- Speed limits in the country are measured in meter units. (km/h) Not mph as in the UK. So if the road sign says 100, stick to 100km/h.
- The legal drinking age (for alcohol) is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec and 19 in all other territories.
Budgeting for food in Canada
Food prices aren’t too different to that in the UK.
You can expect to pay between $28 and $100 per person, per day assuming you are eating out for each meal. Breakfast will cost anything between $7 and $25, lunch between $9 and $25 and dinner between $12 – $50. You can save money on food when buying from supermarkets and grocery stores.
Hopefully, this has given you enough information to successfully plan your trip to Canada. It is a large country with plenty of national parks, cities, wildlife and tourist attractions to visit. It’s impossible to see everything so create a list of your favourites and plan a trip to see as much as possible in the time you have.
Canada is well known for its hiking trails, mountains, lakes, rivers and waterfalls so come prepared to enjoy all of these things. In general, the people are friendly and welcoming with Canada being known to be one of the safest countries in the world. But this doesn’t mean there is no crime. Always be aware of your surroundings and be vigilant. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and don’t overstay your visa or you could be barred from entering the country again.