Canada is a country that is known for its stunning landscapes, polite people, and prosperous cities. The country rests in the very north of North America and is quite large.
There are ten provinces and three territories with borders along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Artic Ocean. For tourists, there are over 9.8 square kilometers to explore, which makes Canada the second largest country based on land area. Canada is also home to a population of 37.06 million people, many of which are described as “ridiculously nice” by nature.
Welcome to Canada, Eh
Ottawa is the capital of the country and it is located in southeastern Ontario on the Québec border. The city rests along the Ottawa River and is known for its grand Victorian architecture. The diverse city is also where you will hear a blend of English and Canadian French spoken on the streets by the locals and tourists. With rich culture Ottawa is also alive with a modern cosmopolitan vibe too.
Culture and Language
Canada has a unique blend of indigenous and European culture, as well as influence from immigrant populations. The indigenous people of Canada are called the First Nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples. Their culture has existed for thousands of years and is deeply rooted in oral tradition. But with colonization, the British and French also started to bring their own culture and influence Canada.
British culture is dominant in Canadian society because Queen Elizabeth II is officially the head of state. The Queen is also featured on Canadian money and they celebrate the Queen’s birthday. The more reserved, polite, and good-mannered culture of Britain has also made its way to Canada. But in the province of Québec, French culture dominates and the people from the area are called French Canadians. The Francophone culture is alive and well in Québec, where tourists can experience French architecture, cuisine, and lifestyles.
Canada is also unique because many of the population are bilingual and the country has two official languages: English and French. The vast majority of French speaking Canadians do live in the province of Québec, where the rest of the country predominantly speaks English. However, Canada is also home to a diverse immigrant population and there are many different languages spoken throughout the country on the streets.
For tourists, many are eager to set off on their vacations, but it is important that you first learn the requirements needed to obtain a tourist visa. For US citizens who are looking to visit Canada for a short trip, no visa is required before you arrive at the border or airport. However, to be cleared for entry into Canada, you must have a valid US passport at the time of your entry and one blank page is required. Most tourist visas are valid for up to 180 days but that does not allow you to earn any money or study while you are in the country.
If you are traveling to Canada and then plan on departing for Europe, you should be aware that European requirements will need to be meet for you to be cleared for entry into the country of your destination. For tourists who are transiting via Canada to the Schengen area, your passport must be valid for 3 months past your departure date and you may need to apply for a short-stay visa before you arrive.
You may be daydreaming of your trip to Canada, but before you hit the road, it is important to consider your spending budget for the trip. Canada is an absolutely massive country, which makes traveling around harder and more expensive. And to top it off, Canada has a 15% sales tax, which will be added at the end of any of your purchases. These two factors can make a trip to Canada quite expensive. There are two big portions of your budget that you’ll want to pay for first; your method of transportation to the country and accommodation.
For US tourists, traveling to Canada is easier because the countries are neighbors. But the US is a big place and Canada is even bigger. A few locations in Canada are not that far across the border, which means that people will travel by car or bus. This is certainly an affordable way to see Canada but would likely only allow you to see one part of the country. Plus, you may want to go further into Canada and driving could take you days to reach your destination.
Most people will choose to fly to Canada. Most plane tickets are relatively affordable, and you can purchase a flight from Los Angeles to Toronto for about $300 US dollars. If you are looking to travel between Canadian cities, plane tickets are also relatively affordable. A flight from Vancouver to Toronto will cost about $240 US dollars. However, you can also take a bus. Greyhound is a well-known company that provides excellent rates for short journeys across the border. A bus ticket from New York to Toronto can cost as little as $40 US dollars, which is great for backpackers on a budget.
Once you’ve decided how to travel, you need to think about your accommodation. Most people will choose to travel on a moderate budget, but in Canada that still allows you to stay in nice hostels and hotels. The average price for a hostel in Canada is about $25 US dollars per night, whereas a clean hotel would cost about $100 US dollars per night. If you are looking to stay in 3 or 4-star hotels and want more luxurious accommodations, prices can be as little as $200 US dollars per night or easily reach over $500 US dollars. As with any country, luxury options can easily exceed $1000 US dollars per night.
A great way to keep accommodation costs down is to look into options like Airbnb. The average cost of a rental, per night, in Toronto is $178 US dollars. For people staying in a large group and who like their privacy, it can be more cost effective to stay in an apartment or house booked by Airbnb.
For travelers who are looking to relax in nature, camping is an extremely affordable way to stay in Canada. Most campsites cost about $40 US dollars per night. But there are a few locations around Canada where you can camp for free.
Another large portion of your budget will be food, drink, and entertainment. Canada has a diverse food culture, thanks to the indigenous, British, and French people. There are many tasty dishes that you can try, and you will find that the cuisine culture varies by region. A few of the most famous Canadian dishes include poutine, bannock, Montreal style bagels, and maple syrup (of course).
Poutine is a popular dish made of crispy fries and cheese curds, all topped with a tasty gravy. The dish is internationally a symbol of Canada and can be upgraded with a few extras like pulled pork or bacon. Bannock was a key part of the indigenous people’s diets and it is a sweet bread that is constantly being reinvented and changed with a variety of toppings. If you love bagels, the Montreal-style bagels are denser and are baked in wood fired ovens. The delicious bread is then topped with poppy or sesame seeds. Finally, maple syrup is possibly Canada’s most famous food or condiment. Maple syrup is featured in cuisine throughout the country, but a famous dish is the tire d’érable sur la neige. The dish is made by pouring hot maple syrup over snow where it is then hardens into a taffy like texture and is then stuck on popsicle sticks.
As much as eating all day sounds nice, you may also be interested to experience the nightlife and go out for drinks. Canada is full of bars that all have their own unique vibe and scene. A few of the most popular bars include Bar Raval in Toronto, The Keefer Bar in Vancouver, and Coldroom in Montreal.
While we’ve broken down a few different spending budget categories, it might be nice to get an overall picture too. For a tourist on a budget, you should plan to spend a minimum of $100 US dollars per day. Your budget would consist of affordable housing and eating food from local places, as well as buying your own food from supermarkets and cooking. A more moderate budget would be to spend about $250 US dollars per day on accommodation, food, drink, and entertainment. However, personal budgets have big ranges and you can easily spend hundreds in a single day as you explore the country.
How to Get Around
To reiterate, Canada is big and getting around the entire country can be challenging when you want to stay on a budget. If you are looking to travel throughout the country, the best ways to go are by plane, bus, or even a train.
As we said before, most plane tickets between Canadian cities are relatively affordable with prices around $300 US dollars. But while the cost of a plane might seem steep, you should remember that if you are on a tight schedule and want to see as much as possible in the time frame that you have, taking the time to bus or go by train might be too restrictive for your taste.
However, if you are willing to take the time to save on your budget, buses are relatively affordable methods of transportation. If you are going a big distance, like from Vancouver to Toronto, you should expect your bus ticket to cost about $175 US dollars. But for shorter distances, like from Vancouver to Calgary, a bus ticket will be about $70 US dollars. But a bus isn’t for everyone and one of the most unique ways to travel Canada is by train.
Canada has a decent train system that crosses the country and has become a popular way to travel throughout the country. The trains are more convenient, comfortable, relatively affordable, and provide a unique experience. With the popularity of trains increasing, there are a variety of tours that can be booked for excursions that will take a week or more to complete. For train travelers, the budget can range from $400-$10,000 US dollars per person.
The largest difference in price will be for how long you are traveling on the train and whether you are traveling with luxury or deluxe accommodations. But there are also entire tours offered by specific businesses and you may find a complete tour package for about $3,900 US dollars per person.
If you are not traveling around the country, but are staying in a specific city, the cost of travel will be significantly reduced. Many cities have reliable and affordable public transportation systems, which are a great way to get around. Walking is another option if you are staying in a concentrated area. However, there are taxi and Uber services available too. Taxis are fairly affordable for short distances. Uber might be the most affordable if you are taking a quick trip and can be accessed using the phone app.
Top Places to Visit: Cities
With such an immense country, there are a lot of cities that tourists are eager to visit. Here, we will give you a brief overview of the most popular city destinations throughout the country.
Ottawa is Canada’s capital city and a popular destination among tourists because of its blend of cultures. The city is located on the border with Québec, which means that English and French are spoken on the streets. Ottawa is also home to a variety of national sites and famous landmarks like the Rideau Canal. Art culture is also dominant here and there are many world class galleries and museums. A few popular attractions include Parliament Hill, which has neo-gothic architecture and is the home of Canada’s legislature. The city is deeply ingrained in war history, as well, and many sites are open to visitors.
Toronto is the capital of the Ontario province and sits along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. The city has an impressive skyline, which includes the infamous CN Tower. But Toronto is also a blend of urban and green space. Queen’s Park and High Park are popular outdoor spaces that have sport facilities, trails, and a zoo. For the art inspired, there are also numerous museums and galleries to explore. Plus, Toronto is a close by to Niagara Falls so that you can take a quick day trip to see the impressive cascades.
Montreal is the largest city in the Québec province and has the banks of the Saint Lawrence River on its edges and Mt. Royal at its heart. The city is steeped in French culture and many of the neighborhoods have cobblestone streets. Now, the architecture is a beautiful reminder of old Europe with a mix of contemporary flair. The city also enjoys hosting festivals and events for the art and culinary lovers. The city is most well-known for its diverse cuisine where guests can taste Kamouraska lamb, Arctic char, poutine, and delicious patisseries.
Vancouver sits on the West Coast of Canada and is a seaport city. The coastal location also makes this city one of the most diverse in all of Canada. With the influence of different cultures, Vancouver is a hub of diverse foods, entertainment, and neighborhoods. Some of the best dine-out places are located in the city and have popular Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. The city has an easy layout for urban exploration including destinations like Main Street, Kitsilano, and Gastown. But Vancouver’s placement along the coast also means that you can ski in the morning and hit the beach in the afternoon. The unique landscape is great for people who want to live the urban life but have incredible natural wonders just a short drive from the city.
Québec City is the heart of the Québec province, where French culture dominates. French is spoken widely throughout the city and is the dominant language. But aside from the language, Québec City also has impressive stone buildings and narrow streets. The city is America’s oldest French speaking city and it is often described as historical. The Saint Lawrence river frames the city, while the picturesque Old Town hosts the famous Château Frontenac. But entertainment is rich and the people eagerly welcome visitors with their Winter Carnival.
Nova Scotia is a unique place in Canada because it is one of the country’s three maritime provinces. The province is mostly known for its beautiful oceanside landscapes and fresh seafood. Cape Breton is a famous destination in the province that is home to a national forest full of forests and rugged coastlines.
Points of Interest
Cities are often popular destinations, but you may find that there is a specific point of interest that you want to see.
Niagara Falls is arguably one of Canada’s most famous natural attractions for tourists to visit. There are several viewpoints along the falls, which border with America and visitors can awe at the 187-foot cascades. The area has remained popular throughout the years with daredevil stunts taking place at the falls, but for the normal tourist, you can simply book a boat tour and get up close to the water.
Banff National Park
The Banff National Park is in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and it is home to an absolutely stunning landscape. The park is located in the Alberta province and is filled with snowcapped peaks, turquoise lakes, and grand glaciers. Moraine Lake is one of the most photographed locations within the park because of its dramatic landscape views.
Located in Toronto, the CN Tower is perhaps, the most famous building in all of Canada. The tower is extremely tall with a full stature of 1814.3 feet. The tower is an icon in Toronto’s skyline and has become a popular point of interest. At the top of the tower there is a 360-degree revolving restaurant and just below you can visit the LookOut and Glass Floor.
Whistler is located two hours outside of Vancouver and is a world-famous ski resort. In 2010, the resort hosted the Winter Olympic Games and every season it provides tourists with adventurous skiing, world-class dining, and gorgeous mountain views. But don’t let the melting snow get you down. Whistler is also open in the summer and has a variety of outdoor recreational activities like golf, mountain biking, and hiking.
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is unique to Canada and the world because it has the most extreme variation between high and low tide. The tides have been recorded to drastically change their depth from 0 to 62 feet deep. But when the tides are low, the land is exposed and reveals stunning cliff and rock formations.
The Yukon is infamous for being wild and remote. The mountains of the area are sparsely populated but home to a variety of national parks. The Yukon is also home to Canada’s tallest peak, Mount Logan. While the Yukon is remote, the year-round beauty of the landscape continually draws tourists in. The uncrowded areas are ideal for visitors who want to break away from the tourist groups and have the chance to experience mountains, glaciers, abundant wildlife, and even a chance to see the Northern Lights.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is an eastern maritime province in Canada that is famous for red sand beaches, rolling farmland, and historical lighthouses. The seaside villages are idyllic and a popular destination for families to visit in the summer. The island boasts a variety of beaches, trails, and the Prince Edward Island National Park so that visitors can explore the natural landscape. But what may inspire you to visit the island is its infamous depiction in the book, Anne of Green Gables.
Get Out and Go
While Canada is vast and there are hundreds of places to visit and explore, it is probably safe to say that there isn’t a bad destination. With such a diverse landscape, there is a trip for everyone. The urban explorers can navigate the cities and the nature lovers can head out into the remote and stunning wilderness destinations. The diversity of the country from the culture, people, and landscape is what makes Canada unique and ever so popular amongst tourists. With endless adventures to choose from, you can be certain that you’ll fall in love with Canada.