Canada travel guide

Where to go and what to see: your Canada travel guide

Why visit Canada?

With its mix of beautiful epic landscapes, diverse wildlife and cool cities, Canada is like the USA’s trendy older brother. And at 9,984,670 sq km, it’s slightly larger too, yet has fewer than 36m people living in it, compared to the USA’s 291m people inhabiting 9,833,517 sq km. 

Canada is often thought of as two countries: East and West.


Western Canada

The western side of Canada is the wild side of Canada. With cold, sparkling mountain lakes, snow-tipped mountains, wildlife on land and shore, and crisp clean air, Western Canada is a wilderness trip beyond compare. This is where you go to see bears, eagles, elk, cougars, wolves... all the storybook creatures of North America live here! It’s also packed with rich heritage, history, and culture. In the far southwest sits Vancouver, a bustling and vibrant city sheltered by stunning mountains and the great Pacific Ocean. With endless things to do, Vancouver is the Cosmopolitan part of any Western Canada holiday.

 

Just next door is Victoria – a serene spot on the globe known for its lush gardens and quaint city streets. On the Canadian mainland, the majesty takes over and everything is larger than life. Whistler Mountain is a perfect destination for adventurers – biking, touring by helicopter, or hiking, are just some of the ways to see this amazing mountain city, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics. While in Whistler, the chance to visit the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Center is a chance to experience some of the First Nations People of Canada, a tremendous source of pride for the native residents. National Parks abound, whether visiting Glacier National Park, Jasper, Banff, or Yoho. You can walk across an ice field, drive over the Continental Divide, or see the agricultural regions of Okanagan Valley, Penticton, and Kelowna, where the Fraser Valley showcases grand vistas of vineyards and orchards. Along the journey, witness moose, deer, bears, and a variety of bird species. Near the water, see spouting whales, barking seals, and bald eagles.


Eastern Canada

While the western side of Canada maintains miles of rugged, untouched wilderness and endless territories to be discovered, the coast opposite possesses a uniquely different world. Still steeped in natural beauty, Eastern Canada provides its visitors with a touch of class, old and new-world architecture, adventure and cosmopolitan style.

 

Romantic Québec City (pictured) is the only walled city in Canada and it is known for its beautiful landscapes, royal French-style architecture, and a culture graced with a spirit of the French. Until the British victory of 1759, Old Québec was the centre of New France, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is considered the cultural capital of Canada, packed with cultural sites and museums, world-famous landmarks, and home to the third largest live theatre market in the world. Sitting 80 coastal miles south of Toronto are the mighty Niagara Falls, blending the territories of Ontario, Canada and New York State. Whether aboard a sightseeing cruise near the base of the falls or hovering over the waters in a helicopter, Niagara Falls is a sight to behold!

No visit to Eastern Canada would be complete without a city-stay in cosmopolitan Montreal, and a visit to the Notre Dame Basilica – considered the pinnacle of French architecture and history. Just west of Montreal, sits Ottawa, a lively city and Canada’s capital. With dozens of monuments, historical museums, and government establishments, there is no shortage of things to do in this city. One icon of Canada is without a doubt the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Visit the museum and learn about the rich history of this unique band of protectors and a world-renowned organization.

Weather and climate in Canada

When is the best time to visit Canada?

Summers  (particularly July and August) are warm, but many time their visit with autumn (September and October) to experience that stunning fall foliage, especially in the east. National parks have variable opening seasons, but if you travel between June and October, you’re most likely to have access to everything you want to see. November to March brings sub-zero temperatures, and many national park roads are closed off during this period. We recommend checking the opening times of the parks you wish to visit before you travel to make sure that you’ll be able to explore them.

Weather in Canada

When travelling to Canada, keep in mind that the temperature can vary greatly between destinations. On average, the farther north you travel, the cooler the destination. East Coast cities such as Toronto tend to get humid in the summer months, whereas the westerly cities enjoy the cool breezes that come in off the Pacific Ocean. Some of the western destinations we visit are higher in elevation, therefore the sun will be more intense but the temperature may be substantially cooler than that of lower ground. We recommend checking local weather in each of your destinations prior to travel to ensure you are adequately prepared for the conditions.

To help you plan, below are average low and high temperatures for Canada.

 

Western Canada temperatures

 

 

 Vancouver

 Banff

 Calgary

 January

 0/6°C

 -16/-5°C

 -16/-3°C

 February

 1/8°C

 -14/1°C

 -12/-1°C

 March

 5/13°C

 -8/6°C

 -8/3°C

 April

 5/13°C

 -4/11°C

 -2/11°C

 May

 8/16°C

 1/16°C

 3/17°C

 June

 11/19°C

 5/21°C

 7/21°C

 July

 13/22°C

 8/24°C

 9/23°C

 August

 13/22°C

 7/23°C

 9/23°C

 September

 10/18°C

 4/19°C

 4/17°C

 October

 6/14°C

 -1/12°C

 -1/13°C

 November

 3/9°C

 -7/3°C

 -9/3°C

 December

 1/6°C

 -14/-4°C

 -14/-2°C

 

Eastern Canada temperatures

 

 

 Toronto

 Montreal

 Quebec City

 January

 -10/-2°C

 -14/-5°C

 -17/-8°C

 February

 -10/-1°C

 -13/-3°C

 -15/-6°C

 March

 -4/4°C

 -6/2°C

 -9/0°C

 April

 1/12°C

 1/11°C

 -1/8°C

 May

 6/18°C

 7/19°C

 6/17°C

 June

 11/24°C

 13/23°C

 12/22°C

 July

 14/27°C

 15/26°C

 14/24°C

 August

 13/26°C

 12/25°C

 13/23°C

 September

 9/21°C

 9/20°C

 8/17°C

 October

 4/14°C

 4/13°C

 2/10°C

 November

 0/7°C

 -1/5°C

 -4/3°C

 December

 -6/0°C

 -10/-2°C

 -13/-5°C

 


 

 

 

 

Canada food and fun facts

Food in Canada

With its French colonial heritage combined with First Nation and settler traditions, Canadian cuisine has a good pedigree – and it varies from east to west. Local favourites of Western Canada include fresh salmon and halibut, farm-raised beef, sweet corn pancakes, and fresh berry preserves. Don’t miss the chance to taste the wines from British Columbia. Vancouver and Calgary have thriving foodie scenes, so you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out.

In the east, Montreal and Québec are home to classic French food, fresh pastries, local maple syrup products and traditional poutine (French fries with cheese curds and gravy). Savoury meats, cheeses, bagel, and tourtière (meat pies) are all staples in this part of the world. Toronto, the largest city in Canada has many choices for food. Enjoy a variety of ethnic restaurants from Indian, Italian, Greek, and Chinese. And don’t forget the Canadian bacon and fiddlehead greens!

Canada fun facts

  • The Great Horned Owl is Alberta’s official bird
  • British Columbia is larger than every US state except Alaska
  • 90% of the total land in British Columbia is owned by the government
  • The emerald colour water of Lake Louise is due to the rock flour deposited by the melting of glaciers
  • Niagara Falls is comprised of three waterfalls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls
  • Québec is Canada’s second largest province by land area but has a much larger population of 8.2 million
  • The CN tower in Toronto was the world’s tallest tower until 2007
  • Canada’s coastline is longer than that of any other country in the world at 151,600 miles

Things to consider before you visit Canada

Visas and passports

British Citizens don't usually need a visa to visit Canada for short periods, but you'll need to get an Electronic Travel Authorisation before you travel. We work with CIBT, a visa service with more than 50 years' experience. You can see full details along with the significant discounts in CIBT handling fees our customers enjoy when you apply.

Apply for a visa through CIBT

 

How to call Canada: country code

The country code for Canada is +1. When calling to Canada from overseas, dial your international access code (00 from the UK), followed by the country code, area code, and phone number. Phone numbers in Canada are seven digits in length. Dialling from the UK: 00 1 ### ####.

 

Canada’s currency

Although credit cards are widely accepted in Canada, we recommend our passengers carry some cash ( around $50) to use in circumstances when credit cards are not accepted or in destinations where ATMs are not readily available.

 

Shopping in Canada

In Western Canada, look for smoked salmon, maple syrup products, and First Nation crafts including jewellery, carvings, and paintings. You also might want to bring home a bottle of British Columbia wine, some of the best in the world. Vancouver offers a wide variety of specialty stores and boutique shops. It’s an “artsy” town and you'll want to visit some of the one-of-a-kind shops in Downtown Vancouver.

In Montreal and Québec, look for locally made pottery, carvings, maple syrup products, apple ice wine, made-in-Québec creations, fur hats, handmade glass, Amerindian and Inuit handicrafts, and Canada themed books. Toronto features some of the best shopping in North America. For the fashion minded to the bargain hunters, it has something for everyone. There is a large artistic and craft community so look for art galleries, custom jewellers, and designer clothes. Regional specialties include glass sculptures and Inuit art.

 

When and how much to tip in Canada

Canadian tipping mirrors the US – staff rely on tips to subsidise their low wages. Tip between 15-20% (before tax) in restaurants.

 

Plugs, sockets and electricity in Canada

Canadian plugs sockets are of type A and B. Voltage is generally 120 V, frequency 60 Hz.