Traveling to a new country is always an exciting thing. The unfamiliar is something that experienced travelers always look forward to. Being able to discover a new culture, experience, or location is one of the best things about travel. But that doesn’t mean you have to jump in unprepared. In this ever expanding list of things you need to know about traveling to Canada, hopefully I can save you some trouble and problems before you run into them. Check out my other “Things you Need to Know” country series by going to Destinations > Continent > Country that you are traveling to. Don’t see a “Things you Need to Know” list for a particular country? Drop me a comment or DM me on Twitter or Instagram and let me know what country you’d like me to do next.
My first time in Canada was almost straight out of a fairy-tale. Those of you who have been to Banff and Jasper understand exactly what I mean. I grew up next to incredible mountain landscapes and absolutely beautiful vistas. But nothing, nothing, is quite like your first experience driving into Banff from Calgary. The glacial-carved canyon is unlike any place you’ve ever been, I guarantee it.
But despite all its beauty, Canada has its quirks. Here are some things I wish I had known before traveling to Canada for the first time. If any of these help you, be sure to leave a comment or tag me on Twitter or Instagram! I love hearing about how you are using tips and tricks for better travel!
1. The speed limit might be slower than you’re used to
This one is especially for people from large countries who are used to driving long distances, like me. In Canada, the max speed limit varies between 90 and 120 km/h depending on the province that you’re in. Here’s a handy little list:
- 120 km/h (75 mph)
- British Columbia
- 110 km/h (68 mph)
- New Brunswick
- Nova Scotia
- 100 km/h (62 mph)
- 90 km/h (56 mph) yikes!
- Prince Edward Island
Handy little trick for you by the way. If you’re used to doing speed limits in miles per hour but in a km/h country, take the kilometers per hour and divide by 1.6. If you’re used to kilometers per hour but are in a mph country, just do the opposite and multiply by 1.6. Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are all pretty fast (Sorry Bixby users) and can do it for you if you’re in a pinch.
Now remember, that list above is only the max speed limit, so often times it is much slower than that. If you’re anything like me, you are used to driving on highways at least 120 km/h (75 mph), not having that be the max. So just be careful. You don’t want to get a ticket!
2. Your debit card probably won’t work
Now this one is interesting. It may not even be a problem anymore depending on what happens in the next few years, but as of 2019, this is still a problem for people traveling to Canada.
If you have a VISA DEBIT card (any other brand or if you have a credit card instead you can skip this section), there is a high chance it will not be accepted at smaller stores in Canada. My Visa debit did work at large, international places like McDonalds and Walmart, but wouldn’t work for most other places. I’m pretty sure it is because of the rates that Visa charges every time a transaction takes place, but I could be wrong. In any case, either use a MasterCard, American Express, or just use a Credit Card (You should be using that CC to earn points anyway, see Travel Tips for more details)!
Now, as far as I can tell, this DOESN’T apply to Visa debit cards issued by a Canadian Bank. Something about international rates being higher and corporate greed and yadda yadda, etc etc. So if you’re a Canadian reading this having just bought a delicious coffee from Tim Hortons (haha, I think I’m hilarious) with your Visa Debit, you can drop that skeptical eyebrow.
3. Things seem way more expensive, but they’re just a little more expensive
This one is always changing just because that’s how the global economy works, but in general the Canadian dollar (CAD) is almost always worth less than the other major currencies, like the United States Dollar (USD), the Euro (EUR), and the UK Pound (GBP). Note to self: You should probably update this once Boris finally figures out if he’s actually going to lead the country out of the EU. Wait a second, this isn’t the notes section!
So when you are swing by McDonald’s (which I don’t approve of btw, but I get it, sometimes you just need that delicious, familiar taste) and see that a burger costs $3 when in America it’s $2, don’t freak out too hard (looking at you, woman with the Pixie cut and Crocs). But, you may have already done the math and are as you read this, typing out a comment telling me, “But Brax! The current exchange rate should make it $2.50, not $3!!) Well, my dear reader, fear not. Your concerns do have an answer.
Things in Canada are more expensive than what you’re used to, especially if you’re around popular tourist locations. But that should be obvious. No matter where you go, if it’s a popular tourist destination, you’re going to pay a premium. But even in the non-touristy locations you’ll be paying more than you would in America or Europe. That’s because, if you hadn’t noticed, Canada is not always a super warm place. Sometimes it can be! But in general, it can get stupid cold. That means for anything that needs warm climates to grow or live, they have to import it. And importing things means extra $$$.
But we’re frugal travelers, so we survive! Right?
4. Weather changes extremely quickly
This one is more for West Canada and the mountain regions, but it does apply in the East too, especially near the Great Lakes.
The weather changes stupid fast sometimes. You’ll go out in the morning for breakfast and coffee and it’ll be bright, sunny, and warm. There might be some darker clouds in the sky off in the distance, but that’s fine. But by lunch time, the sun is completely blocked off and it all of a sudden starts POURING rain. Trust me on this one, it isn’t fun when you aren’t ready for it. But then by dinner, it’s sunny again, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. No sign of what had happened in the middle of the day except a slight smell of ozone.
The moral of this section is to just be prepared. Before you go out in the morning, check the forecast. Better yet, check multiple forecasts. If it says it might rain, plan on it. If you’re driving, throw an umbrella in the car or a long sleeve shirt or jacket in case the temperature drops. If you’re hiking, wear clothes that can dry quickly (not denim. I repeat: NOT DENIM. Jeans suck to hike in anyway).
Those are a few tips about how to make traveling to Canada easier. If you have another tip you’d like me to add, be sure to drop a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.
And as always, thanks for reading.