6 Tips for Visiting Canada

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

If you’ve never visited Canada before, you’re in for quite a treat. But before you arrive, there are a few things you’ll want to square away and learn ahead of time. 

6 Canada Travel Tips for First-Timers

Whether you’re from the United States, Great Britain, Eastern Asia, or anywhere in between, Canada is a unique and exciting experience.

1. It’s a Loooong Country

You won’t see all of Canada in one trip. It stretches thousands of miles and spans an incredible six different time zones. There are 10 provinces and three territories. This means you need to plan accordingly. If you only have a limited amount of time, it’s recommended that you stick to a particular region. This prevents a feeling of being rushed. 

2. Get Your eTA in Advance

Many travelers need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) in order to enter the country. (It’s required for all visa-free nationals, except for Americans.) Make sure you know exactly what documentation you need.

For example, an eTA is not a Canada visitor visa. They are separate documents. An eTA is much more cost-effective and time-efficient. If you live in a visa-exempt country, it’s highly recommended that you utilize the benefits of the eTA. Just make sure you get in far enough in advance!

3. Prepare for the Weather

Late spring and summer can be delightful in most parts of Canada. The winters, however, can be downright frosty. (Canada’s western coastline, known as the British Columbia Coast, is one of the few exceptions. It can get cold there, but the temperatures are milder than in other parts of the country.) 

If you’re traveling during the winter, come prepared with lots of layers, thick gloves, and a scarf. And, please, read the forecast in advance! The weather conditions can change dramatically from one week to the next.

4. Tipping is a Must

If you’re coming from the United States, the Canadian tipping culture won’t be much of a change. But if you’re coming from another part of the world, such as Europe, you’ll need to brush up on proper tipping etiquette. 

While not mandatory by law, tipping is considered expected and proper when interacting with a waiter, cab driver, hairdresser, hotel employee, etc. Somewhere between 15 to 20 percent is normal for good service. (Even if your service is considered poor, you may still feel inclined to tip a couple of bucks just to avoid ruffling any feathers.)

5. You May Need Canadian Currency

Most border towns and large cities will accept U.S. dollars. However, if you’re venturing into small towns and more remote regions further from the border, don’t automatically assume that U.S. currency will be accepted. In fact, most smaller towns will only deal in Canadian currency. 

It’s best to exchange some of your paper money for Candian currency before visiting. If you’re forced to exchange money at a tourist attraction or other location, you could pay an excessively high exchange rate. 

6. Taxes are Steep

Finally, expect to pay a lot of taxes in Canada. The price you see quoted on the “tag” or “menu” isn’t always the amount you’ll end up paying. (It often costs significantly more.)

Tax rates differ based on province, but there are a few different categories to be aware of:

  • GST: Every province in Canada charges a 5 percent GST tax on goods and services. This includes nearly every product and service – like hotels and restaurant bills. 
  • PST: This is an additional province-based sales tax, which can range from 5 to 10 percent. 
  • HST: This is a blend of PST and GST, which applies in certain territories.

Because of these steep taxes, you can often expect to pay significantly more on an item that is displayed. (Usually an additional 15 percent total.) And if you’re eating in a restaurant where tipping is necessary, you could spend somewhere between 25 and 30 percent more. Be prepared!

Make Your Canadian Vacation a Success 

Whether you’ve always dreamed of traveling to Canada, or you just so happen to have a random opportunity to visit, you can make your trip far more successful by preparing in advance. 

Hopefully, this article has given you some useful food for thought!