General Info about Canada

The currency used in Canada is the Canadian dollar. At the moment it is worth around US$0.60 which is good news for anyone travelling across the border from the States into Canada. The reason for this is that although changing American money gives you almost fifty per cent more Canadian dollars, the price of most goods in Canada is the same as in the US, in other words a book which costs US$10 in the States will also cost ten Canadian dollars. The only catch with this is that sales taxes are extremely high. There are no dollar bills, the lowest note is five dollars, so dollars and two dollars come in coins known as the loonie and the twoonie respectively.

The principal languages spoken in Canada are English and French although 53 native languages exist. You don’t need to worry, however, as you won’t need to use any of them.
New Brunswick is the only official bilingual province in the country but you will find both languages on maps, brochures and product labels. In Quebec, most of the population is of French descent but their local language is known as Quebecois. They do understand formal French, however, so you will not be left standing.

The good news for all of you who enjoy being outdoors in the snow is that Canada is renowned for its long and cold winters. This makes it one of the world's most popular destinations for snowsports so it this is the type of holiday you are after you will not be disappointed.

For those of you looking for a warmer type of holiday fear not. The summers can be quite hot in several parts of the country and with so many lakes, rivers and coastal regions you too will find plenty to occupy your time.

Depending on where you are in the country, spring arrives between March and May and is a really nice time to visit as it signifies the end of the long winter. Days are much longer and the weather can be quite warm.

Regardless of which part of Canada you are in, when autumn arrives it is impossible to miss it. The colours are visible all over and because the days are starting to cool, attractions tend to be less crowded.

Time Zone
Before travelling, it is worth knowing that there are six different time zones in Canada. In winter, when it is 7.30pm Newfoundland standard time, it is 6.00pm Atlantic standard time in Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; 5.00pm eastern standard time in Quebec and most of Ontario; 4.00pm central standard time in western Ontario, Manitoba and most of Saskatchewan; 3.00pm mountain standard time in northwestern Saskatchewan, Alberta, eastern British Columbia and the Northwest Territories and 2.00pm Pacific standard time at the Yukon and most of British Columbia.

Also, every year on the first Sunday in April, daylight saving time comes into effect in most of Canada and clocks are put forward by 1 hour. On the last Sunday in October, Canada reverts to standard time. During these summer months, all of Saskatchewan observes the same time zone as Alberta.

Opening Hours
The majority of shops and supermarkets in Canada are open from 9.00am until 5.30pm. In bigger towns and cities supermarkets and shopping centers or malls sometimes open as early as 7.30am and remain open until 9.00pm. Also, in cities many shops open late on Thursdays and Fridays and you will usually find chemists and grocery stores that are open twenty four hours a day.

Up until recently, enforced Sunday closing which applied to shops, bars and restaurants operated in almost all of the country. Now, however, an increasing number of provinces open for limited amounts of times on Sunday, usually between 9.00am and 5.00pm. This generally applies in the areas which are popular among tourists. For reference, between British Columbia and Quebec there is limited Sunday opening but east of Quebec you will not find shops which open on a Sunday.

With regard to tourist offices, museums and other tourist attractions, opening hours are highly dependent on the time of year. Those in remote areas which have really short days during winter either close early or close altogether from late September to mid-May.

In cities, the more upmarket restaurants usually open from 12.00pm until 11.00pm during the week and later at weekends. Diners and similar type places, however, close at around 8.00pm as do restaurants in the smaller towns.

The electrical current used in Canada is the same as that in the US, 110 to 115 volts.

Since 1991, there has been a 7% tax (GST) on virtually all goods and services in Canada. In certain shops and hotels this tax is included in the stated price, others add it on separately. The good news for visitors is that you can eventually claim back this tax once it is over $C7 and you file the claim within a year of purchase. To do this, you need to submit your receipts with an application form which you can get in some of the larger hotels and duty free shops or by calling 613 991 33 46 from outside Canada or 800 66 VISIT if you are still in the country. Once you have the necessary information in order you can make claims for under C$500 at designated duty free shops in international airports, or you can post them to Revenue Canada Customs and Excise, Visitors Rebate Programme, Ottawa, ON K1A 1J5.

Visa Requirements
Visa requirements for visitors to Canada have become stricter in recent years. All people entering Canada must have proof of citizenship. For US citizens and permanent US residents, a passport is not required but it is the easiest way to prove cititizenship. IF you do not have a passport you will need to carry other proofs including a social security card, a birth certificate with a photo ID or a certificate of citizenship.
For most European residents and citizens of certain other countries including Korea and Japan, you do not need a visa but you must have a passport. Entry visas are required, however, for citizens of more than 130 countries so it is worth checking this out with the Canadian consulate in your home country. They will be able to tell you if you require a visa or not and if you do, it is also here that it must be applied for and received.

Tourist Office
Please see below list of tourist offices for each particular Canadian province:

Alberta Tourism City Centre
3rd Floor
10155 102nd St
Canada T5J 4L6. Phone 800 661 8888

Tourism British Columbia
1117 Wharf Street
British Columbia
Canada V8W 2X2 Phone 800 663 6000

Travel Manitoba
Department 20
155 Carlton Street
Canada R3C 3H8 Phone 800 665 0040

Tourism New Brunswick
Post Office Box 12345
New Brunswick
Canada E3B 5C3 Phone 800 561 0123

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Branch
Post Office Box 8730
St. Johns
Canada A1B 4K2 Phone 800 563 6353

Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture
Post Office Box 130
Nova Scotia
Canada B3J 2M7 Phone 800 341 6096

Post Office Box 1320
Northwest Territories
Canada X1A 2L9 Phone 800 661 0788

Ontario Travel
Queen's Park
Canada M7A 2E5 Phone 800 668 2746

Prince Edward Island Department of Tourism and Parks
Post Office Box 940
Prince Edward Island
Canada C1A 7M5 Phone 800 565 026

Tourisme Quebec
C.P. 979
Canada 83C ZW3 Phone 800 363 7777

Tourism Saskatchewan
1919 Saskatechewan Drive
Canada S4P 3V7 Phone 800 667 7191

Tourism Yukon
P.O. Box 2703
Canada Y1A 2C6 Phone 800 667 5340

Currency Exchange
Most tourist haunts in Canada will take US dollars, but you will probably only get an exchange rate of about twenty five percent. For the best exchange rate you are recommended to change your money into Canadian currency at a bank.
Traveller's cheques are also widely accepted in almost all areas. Several agencies sell them and refund you if the cheques are lost or stolen so remember to hold on to your receipts.

ATM cards which are part of the Cirrus or Plus network can be used in machines which contain the relevant sign. This service is particularly useful not only because it means you do not have to carry large sums of cash around, but the ATMs often offer exchange rates up to 5% better than the exchange rate of banks and other financial institutions. You will, however, pay a minimum charge each time you withdraw cash.

Finally, if you have a credit card, it is useful to know that all the major cards including Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted and can be used to withdraw cash from ATMs if you have the pin number.

To call Canada from abroad you first dial 00, followed by 1 and the local number. If you wish to call abroad from Canada you need to dial 001, followed by the international calling code for your particular country and then the local number. It is worth noting that you also need to drop the first zero from the local area code for both types of call.

When using public telephones in Canada, a calling card is your most convenient and cheapest option. If you do use coins be aware that for long distance and international calls, you will be surprised at how quickly they are used up.

To make calls within the country, prepaid calling cards again are the best method. Phone rates are highest in the morning but they do get lower in the evening and at the weekend. To make the cheapest calls, however, you need to wait until Sunday or late at night, as these times offer the best rates.

Tips or service charges in Canada are not usually added to restaurant bills and salary levels in many places are based on the assumption that their staff will receive a large part of their income from tips. The amount depends on the quality of the service but the usual tip is an average of fifteen percent and a minimum of ten. This also applies to hairdressers and taxi drivers. Porters, bellhops and similar staff at hotels, airports and railway stations are usually paid one dollar per item of luggage carried.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Canada they take place on January 1st, Good Friday, May 21st, July 1st, September 3rd, October 8th, November 11th and December 25th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.

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