Useful tips

In this section, we present useful tips for international travellers planning a first trip to Canada. Please browse the following topics:

Booking a trip

If you are using a credit card that is not Canadian, please confirm with your financial institution before booking. Your transaction will then be valid and accepted right away by your credit card company.

Climate and weather

In most parts of the world, Canada is associated with snow and extremely cold weather. In fact, the Canadian climate varies greatly from one region to another and from one season to another.

To help you plan your trip, please refer to the Canadian Weather Office web site for detailed information on Canadian climate and weather.

An important detail: temperatures are shown in degrees Celsius (°C). Don't confuse these with degrees Fahrenheit (°F) used in the United States and elsewhere! A winter temperature of 0°C is the same as 32°F. And if meteorologists forecast 32°C in summer, that's the same as 90°F!

Currency, exchange, banking

The legal currency in Canada is the Canadian dollar, which is divided into 100 cents. Be careful not to confuse it with the American dollar. All fares and prices indicated on our web site are expressed in Canadian dollars.

For information on the current value of the Canadian dollar compared with your home country currency, check out our currency converter.

In Canada, you may convert your home country currency into Canadian dollars at most banks and foreign exchange outlets. You may also use your bank debit card to make withdrawals at the majority of automatic teller machines (ATMs) located in banks and public places across Canada. Travellers' cheques are also accepted in most department stores and hotels. Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are honoured almost everywhere.

Distances

Canada is a vast nation, larger in area than the entire European Community! It is therefore important to plan your itinerary carefully. For example, the train trip between Toronto and Vancouver takes four (4) days, during which you will travel through forest wilderness, open prairie that stretches for kilometres on end, and the mountain majesty of the Canadian Rockies.

Time zones

Canada stretches across a total of six times zones. Localities in Newfoundland and Labrador are five hours and thirty minutes ahead of towns and cities in British Columbia.

For example, when it is noon in Paris, clocks read 6:00 a.m. in Montréal and 3:00 a.m. in Victoria.

Business hours

Generally speaking, stores and offices are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. On Thursday and Friday, many stores are open until 9:00 p.m. Most stores are open Saturday and in some provinces, on Sunday too. Actual business hours vary from one province to another.

Languages spoken

English and French are the country's two official languages. French is spoken mainly in Quebec, New Brunswick and parts of northern and eastern Ontario, including the nation's capital, Ottawa.

Weights and measures

Although Canada has officially adhered to the metric system, many Canadians still use the Imperial system when expressing length, weight and volume. Following is a table of standard system equivalents. The use of both systems can be confusing from time to time. When in doubt, ask the person with whom you are dealing, which system he or she is using. Weather reports across the country are in Celsius degrees. Road signs and distances are all metric.

Electrical current

The electrical current in Canada is 110 volts, 60 cycle AC. An adaptor must be used with appliances from Europe or elsewhere that operate on a different voltage.

Tipping

Tipping and service charges vary between 10% and 15% for taxis, restaurants and nightclubs. Hotel and airport porters expect $1 per bag carried. On trains, you are free to tip your server in the dining car and the individual responsible for your room or berth in the sleeper car. Do remember, however, that the crew will change several times on long journeys.

Spirits and wine

The sale of spirits and wine is regulated and is generally limited to specialty shops open until 7:00 p.m. Actual business hours will vary from one province or territory to another. The minimum age required to consume an alcoholic beverage in a public place varies between 18 and 21 years depending upon the province or territory.

Tobacco

Smoking is prohibited on board all VIA Rail trains and in public places in all major Canadian cities. Those who wish to smoke while travelling with VIA may be able to do so at certain station stops.

Pets

Although practice varies from one province to the next, dogs are rarely allowed in restaurants. On trains, pets must travel in a cage in the baggage car, unless they function as service animals.

Lodging

A vast choice of lodging and accommodation is available to visitors: hotels, motels, chalets, campgrounds, home-style bed and breakfasts, etc. It is always preferable to book ahead, especially during peak season.

Plan your holiday on the Internet with the help of these links!

VIA and its travel partners offer a number of short or longer-term vacation packages, including train travel, hotels and activities. See for yourself To learn more about number of short or longer-term vacation packages here.