Here’s a list of the most common mistakes people make when visiting Canada. Don’t let any of these pitfalls ruin your next vacation!
01. Rack Up Cell Phone Charges
This is a mistake no one makes twice.
Though many cell phones will work just fine in Canada, roaming charges and other data plan fees for using a cell phone that doesn’t have a Canadian or international plan can easily add up to hundreds of dollars.
Before arriving in Canada, contact your local cell phone carrier to get information about special pricing plans for calls, text messaging and Internet usage outside your home country.
And remember, phone calls and data are two separate things. Be sure to adjust your cell phone’s data settings if you don’t have a plan that covers international emails, texting and such. You can always find hot spots and enable data use only at these times.
02. Misjudge Weather Conditions
Weather across Canada ranges dramatically. Whereas Vancouver has a moderate climate with not much snow in winter, Toronto and Montreal have hot, humid summers and freezing cold, snow-filled winters. In addition, evenings—even in the summer—can see temperatures drop significantly.
Layered clothing fits the bill for almost any Canadian destination, but be assured, if you are visiting Canada between November and March you will need proper winter clothing, including waterproof boots, parka, gloves, and hat. We’re talking -45 ℃ kinda temps in places like Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Quebec City.
And don’t judge by latitude alone. Winnipeg, for example, even though south of Edmonton, gets comparably severe winter weather conditions.
03. Underestimate the Size of Canada
When outlining your itinerary, be sure to factor in travel times, so you can actually enjoy the places you visit instead of rushing from one to the next.
Coast to coast, Canada covers five time zones and a whopping 8,893 kilometers (5,526 miles) from the most easterly capital, St. John’s, Newfoundland to the most westerly BC capital of Victoria. Driving from Canada’s most popular destination (Toronto) to the second most visited city (Vancouver) would take 40 hours non-stop—and the fastest route isn’t even through Canada.
Just driving to the next province west from Toronto takes a full day.
Toronto to Montreal is a six-hour drive and if you want to continue on to Tadoussac for whale watching, plan on staying in the car another four hours.
04. Think the Border Guard Will Be Easygoing If You Don’t Have the Right ID
Canadians are a friendly, helpful lot, but the border guards take their jobs seriously and there’s not a whole lot of gray area when it comes to the proper travel documents. Long gone are the days when just your driver’s license gets you across the border. Today, necessary ID includes a passport—for everyone—and possibly additional papers, including a travel visa, custody documents or note of permission if traveling with a child or veterinary papers if your pet is in tow.
05. Get Dinged With Unnecessary Banking Costs
You can use your debit cards and credit cards in Canada but like traveling with your cell phone, educate yourself on what extra charges you may incur by your cards in a foreign country. For example, when you withdraw money using your debit card, you may not only pay a transaction fee, but also an exchange rate fee.
06. Visit Only Cities
As nice as the big cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are in Canada, much of what makes Canada such a special place is found outside city limits in small towns and the countryside. Historic hamlets, fishing villages, First Nations reserves, animal sanctuaries, lakes, and protected backcountry, mountains and more are just some of the discoveries that are often less than an hour away from a big metropolis.
Slow down your pace and meet some fine people by adding at least a day trip out of the city to your Canada itinerary.
07. Hang on to Your Coins
Those Toonies and Loonies (the Canadian two dollar and one dollar coins) can really add up, so scour your pockets and the bottom of your purse for them before you head home. Banks will only exchange bills, so they’re worthless once you take them out of Canada. However, you may want to hang on to a Toonie as a souvenir for kids. Children seem to dig this bi-metallic coin with an image of a polar bear.
08. Forget You’re in a Foreign Country
This one goes out especially to our U.S. friends and is just a gentle reminder that though the overall impression of Canada is very much like that of the U.S., we are indeed a separate country that has its own laws, currency, languages, foods, climate, customs, and cell phone carriers.
Be sure to read up on laws that may be relevant to your visit, such as those regarding driving or hunting.