Visiting Canada for the first time is exciting and very unique, and the country itself has a reputation for everything from the kindness of its people to the beauty of its landscape. It can also be somewhat of an overwhelming experience simply because the country is so massive and encompasses so much that eager travelers likely want to see. In all the planning chaos, there are often things that travelers overlook when it comes to visiting the Great North for the first time - so here are some things to think about.
The Weather Can, And Will, Impact A Trip: Choose Destinations Wisely
It obviously comes as no surprise that Canada, like any other country of its size, has different weather patterns depending on the region. Québec, for example, has similar weather as that of the northeastern U.S. with more snow and ice. Meanwhile all the way north, up in Yukon, the temperatures are arctic. On the opposite coast, western Canada, such as British Columbia, experiences a somewhat mild winter thanks to its proximity to the Pacific. So, where should one choose to go based on their preferred climate?
Don't Mind The Cold?
Seeking Warmth Or Something Close To It?
- Sunshine Coast
- St. John's
Depending On Where You Go, There Could Be A Language Barrier
There are two main languages in Canada and while many people are bilingual, it doesn't mean that travelers won't have a barrier in some places. Especially throughout Québec, visitors to Canada will find that French is the dominant language. In Montreal, many signs are in both French and English but outside of the city, visitors shouldn't depend on this to be a fact.
While it's pretty easy to figure out what certain things mean, a basic understanding of the French language and having popular phrases in one's back pocket will make things that much easier. Some great apps to consider before visiting are:
- Learn French with Busuu
- Classics2Go Collection
- French Translator Dictionary (helpful for translating signs and menus)
- Spotify (great for learning French through podcasts and music)
- Tandem (for those who want to practice their newly-learned language with another person)
Tipping, Sales Tax, And Money Conversions
Those familiar with tipping in the U.S. will be familiar with the tipping system in Canada, as it's very similar. Customers should anticipate leaving a tip that's anywhere between 15%-20% (or more for exceptional service - this is personal preference) for a meal or service. This is a standard tipping percentage, and these are services for which it's customary:
- Servers after a meal
- Hairdressing and styling
- Taxi rides
- Hotel services
Something that many might not expect on their bills, however, are two separate tax charges. Canada charges a federal tax on all sales, and many provinces also include their own taxes on top of that. The most one can expect to pay in taxes is roughly 15% of their total bill, which can be quite a lot - therefore, travelers should research federal and province tax before deciding where to go. Sales tax is added to both goods and services, which includes restaurants meals and even hotel services. Since sales tax is added at checkout, it's very much like it is in the U. S. - the price on the tag is not what visitors will end up paying, and the actual price is slightly higher.
Random Tips & Advice
- Visit a Tim Horton's. It's one of the most notable chains in the country and is well worth the stop.
- Spend some time in nature. Canada is known for its unbridled beauty, and it would almost be a waste not to take advantage of it. No matter where one goes in Canada, there's always a park or scenic landscape to enjoy.
- Be polite. Canada is famous for its good-hearted population, many of whom avoid confrontation and genuinely enjoy one another's company. If someone happens to be social, don't be afraid to extend a hand (metaphorically, of course!) - friendliness is a large part of Canada's culture.
- Driving in Canada is different. Speed limits vary from place to place, and the weather can also change rapidly at higher elevations. Check weather reports and pay attention to speed limits on backroads and highways.
- The drinking age varies. Before allowing anyone under the age of 19 to order an adult beverage, be clear on the laws for that specific province. Some drinking ages are as young as 18, while others require a few more years under one's belt before ordering that brewski.