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Canada travel factsheet

LOCALS

Canada is known for its friendly locals proud of their history, so you are likely to meet some interesting people that will add to the experience of your touring holiday. Canadians usually have a very relaxed dress code so there’s no need to pack smart evening attire.

CURRENCY IN CANADA

The Canadian dollar is made up of 100 cents. All major credit cards are recognised in Canada. Cash machines are found at banks and in retail areas throughout Canada. Most cash machines accept UK-issued Visa and MasterCard cards. We recommend credit cards as the best way to pay for your purchases. You must carry at least one major credit card with you in order to leave a deposit with the motorhome hire company.

WEATHER IN CANADA

The weather in Canada will vary dramatically across the different areas of the country so when touring in Canada we recommend you pack plenty of light, comfortable clothing that can be easily layered, as well as enough warm outdoor clothing. Rain gear is also a good idea to take as a wise precaution against inclement weather. A comfortable pair of shoes for walking and sightseeing is essential.

British Columbia has the most moderate climate of any region in Canada being bathed by currents of warm, humid air from the Pacific.

Vancouver and Victoria enjoy pleasant and relatively dry summers and mild, wet winters. Snowfalls are rare in low-altitude regions and when snow does fall it generally melts the same day.

The Rockies have a much more severe climate. The mountains bring a much colder, longer and snowier winter. Summer, however, is just as warm as on the coast. However, weather can change at a moment's notice, so be prepared.

In Ontario, the presence of the great lakes has a moderating effect on the climate, which is not as continental as might be expected. You should still expect summers to be hotter than in the UK, with week-long heat waves not uncommon. The autumn is a favourite for many, with its long, mild and sunny days and bracing nights. In the winter, temperatures average –5°C with very variable weather.

Climate in Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador; collectively also known as the Maritimes) is very variable. There can be heavy snowfalls that melt completely several times per winter. Summers are warm, but not hot, with temperatures around 24°C. Fog is very common, especially from April to June.

TIME ZONES IN CANADA

A list of the time differences across Canada against Greenwich Mean Time:

British Columbia - eight hours behind

Alberta - seven hours behind

Ontario - five hours behind

Nova Scotia - four hours behind

PASSPORTS & VISAS IN CANADA

ELECTRONIC TRAVEL AUTHORISATION (ETA) FOR CANADA

If you’re visiting Canada by air you are now required to obtain an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) to board your flight unless you’re otherwise exempted (for example, if you have a valid Canadian visa or a permanent resident card). If you have British-Canadian dual nationality you won’t be able to apply for an eTA and you’ll need to present a valid Canadian passport to board your flight. For more information about the eTA system, and to apply online, visit the official Canadian government website.

The cost of the eTA is currently $7 and once approved is valid for 5 years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. You can visit Canada as many times as you wish as long as your eTA remains valid.

ELECTRONIC SYSTEM FOR TRAVEL AUTHORISATION (ESTA) FOR THE USA (INCLUDES ALASKA)

An ESTA is required for UK travellers taking an INSIDE PASSAGE CRUISE from Vancouver in Canada to Alaska in the USA.;

It is very important when travelling to the USA that you have a valid passport with at least six months remaining after your return, the appropriate documentation and Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). Failure to have the appropriate documentation may result in you not being able to travel, so do make sure you have the correct documentation - you can find further information here.

PROHIBITED TRAVEL ITEMS

No sharp objects, including pen knives or nail clippers, scissors or files, must be taken into the plane cabin. All liquids may also be refused in cabin baggage, unless you can prove, with appropriate certification, that they are for essential use (please check your airline’s documentation for its specific policy on this). Such items will be confiscated unless they are in hold baggage.

DRIVING IN CANADA

Canada has an excellent highway system and rules of the road are generally similar to Europe, so with a little concentration it doesn’t take long to get used to the road systems in place and once you’re out on the open roads you are sure to find driving in Canada a real pleasure. There are some rules of the road that are helpful for you to know when planning your touring holiday in Canada, so below are a few pointers.

  • Canadians drive on the right hand side of the road
  • Seat belts are compulsory
  • Right turns on red lights are permitted if your way is clear
  • You should not drink and drive
  • Take extra care on country roads and be aware of possible encounters with wild animals

TRAFFIC LIGHTS

Right turns on red lights are generally allowed, but at some junctions in towns and cities, you can only turn right on a green light. In some parts of Quebec, right turns on red lights are not allowed.

SCHOOL BUSES

If you see a school bus (normally yellow) with its red lights flashing, this means it has stopped to allow children to get on or off the bus and traffic travelling in both directions must stop and pull over tothe side. This rule is strictly enforced and you will be heavily fined if you do not obey this.

Some roads in Canada are toll roads and these work on a vehicle number plate recognition basis. If you use one of these roads the bill will be sent to the rental company who will in turn charge these to your credit card, unless you inform them that at the end of your rental you will settle the bill with them directly.

SPEED LIMITS

Always obey speed limits. Typical limits (always pay attention to local signage) are:

  • Mall entrances 15-20kmh
  • School and playground zones 30-50kmh
  • Built-up areas 40-50kmh
  • Major arterial urban roads 50-80kmh
  • Major arterial roads, arterial highways 70-90kmh
  • Expressways / freeways 80-110kmh

DRIVING LICENCE

A full UK driving licence is accepted. For hire vehicles, the named driver must usually be at least 25 years old and all nominated drivers at least 21 years old, and all must hold valid driving licences. Any driving licence endorsement, other than for speeding or parking offences, must be declared to hire companies.

In practice, many hire companies, as well as many police officers in the event of an accident or a routine check will not be content unless you can produce an IDP, so we strongly recommend that all drivers obtain one. This must be done before travelling. An IDP costs £5.50 and is easily available from the Post Office click here to find out more.

VEHICLE INSURANCE

On individual, tailor-made holidays, basic public liability coverage is included in your vehicle rental fee with a maximum excess of several thousand dollars (the exact amount depending on the rental company) for damage to your vehicle or the property of a third party. You can reduce the excess considerably (usually to a few hundred dollars, again depending on the rental company) by adding a Collision Deductible Reducer (CDR).

On Escorted Tours, your vehicle rental includes vehicle insurance with CDR, unless otherwise stated. An imprint of a major credit card is required while the vehicle is rented and some rental companies may deduct a deposit (typically CA$ 750-1500) from your card, refundable on return of your clean and undamaged vehicle.

FUEL

Fuel is known as gasoline or gas. It is always unleaded and generally costs far less than fuel in the UK, depending on area and fuel grade. The price can vary depending on whether you use a ‘full-service’ or ‘self-service’ garage. Visit www.gasbuddy.com for price information. Credit cards are widely accepted. You will be expected to return any hire vehicle with a full tank of petrol, unless otherwise stated by the hire company.

ALCOHOL WHEN DRIVING

Although regulations pertaining to the driver and the vehicle are essentially a provincial responsibility, the Canadian Federal Government has legislated laws against drinking and driving under the Criminal Code. The maximum amount of alcohol allowed in the blood of a driver is 80mg per 100 ml of blood or 0.08%. However, all the Provincial authorities apart from Quebec have set a lower limit (usually 0.05%).

It is illegal to carry an open alcohol container in a moving vehicle or in a public place, but alcohol may be open in a parked vehicle if kept away from the driving area and the driver. The legal drinking age is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Québec, and 19 elsewhere in Canada.

HEALTH & SAFETY IN CANADA

HEALTH

The Department of Health does not make any specific health recommendations for visitors to Canada; however we recommend you check with your doctor before departure. Canada has no reciprocal health agreement with the UK, so you must have full medical insurance to cover the cost of any possible treatment required. For example, if hospitalised, charges are typically CDN$1000-CDN$2000 per day. If you are planning on taking any medications with you on your holiday it is advised that you also carry a doctor’s certificate in order to avoid any problems with customs. Worldwide Motorhoming Holidays offer fully comprehensive medical and personal holiday insurance for peace of mind while you’re away. Enquire about our insurance

SAFETY

As with anywhere in the world, it is good practise to be vigilant about your property, both in terms of your motorhome and personal belongings, take sensible precautions to protect yourself from petty crime. Don’t leave your handbag or luggage unattended. Leave copies of important documents with family and friends in the UK. Carry a photocopy of your passport for ID.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office may make specific travel related recommendations for visitors to Canada. 

CANADIAN WILDLIFE

If you are hiking or camping, be considerate and cautious of local wildlife. Keep a safe and legal distance from any wildlife including marine animals and birds and closely follow any park regulations.

Take particular care if you’re touring an area where bears have been sighted. Bears are powerful, unpredictable, and potentially dangerous and can move as fast as horses. Most bears will try to avoid people, but some have been fed by visitors and have become “food-conditioned”. This means that they have lost their natural fear of people and so can become a threat to visitors.

Simple precautions you must take to avoid dangerous bear encounters:

  • Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife.
  • Store food in air-tight containers in your motorhome, and treat any food items with great care to avoid attracting animals to your site.
  • Store your rubbish out of reach of bears before taking it away and disposing of it correctly.
  • Never leave cooking utensils or washing-up lying around after cooking.
  • Perfumed items such as cosmetics, toothpaste and insect repellent should be stored out of reach with your food and rubbish.
  • Walking alone is not advisable.
  • When walking, check ahead for bears and if you see one make a wide detour and leave the area.
  • Walk ‘noisily’ – make warning noises and loud sounds.
  • Watch for bear signs such as tracks, droppings, rotten trees torn apart, fresh diggings or trampled vegetation. Stay clear of dead wildlife as carcasses attract bears, and if you come across any leave the area immediately and report the location of the dead wildlife to park staff.
  • If you encounter a bear, leave the area immediately and report it to park staff as soon as possible.
  • Obey all park regulations, stay on designated trails and comply with posted warnings.
  • Detailed information is also available from BCParks.

Other wildlife may also pose a threat to park visitors. Animals with nearby young or nests will be particularly aggressive when protecting their territory. Research the region and learn how best to deal with the local wildlife you might encounter. Elk can become very agitated and aggressive if approached too closely, and this is especially true of cows nurturing calves, which are born during the springtime. Please use binoculars and telephoto lenses for wildlife viewing. As is the case anywhere, if you feel threatened by any situation, simply move on.

TAXES & CUSTOMS IN CANADA

LOCAL TAXES

Whilst local taxes will normally be applied automatically to any goods or services you use while you are away, it’s good to be aware of what these are as you may see reference to these on your travels. Below is a short summary of each:

  • GST (goods and services tax) is a 5% federal tax applied to most goods and services provided in Canada.
  • PST (provincial sales tax) is an additional tax of between 5-10% applied in all provinces except Alberta, it also applies to purchases and financial transactions. Territories do not add PST.
  • HST (harmonized sales tax) is a 13% tax that replaces the PST and GST in the provinces of Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
  • GST or HST may be either included in prices, or added separately.

The above rates may be subject to change.

CANADA PROHIBITED ITEMS

Certain animal products, fresh fruit, plant materials or animal pests may not be allowed into the country. Do not attempt to bring meat, animal or any dairy products in to Canada without declaring them to the customs authorities. Banned food products will be confiscated and you could be fined.

For more information visit Canada Border Services.

BRINGING GOODS INTO THE UK

For limits on what you can bring back into the UK from abroad, please see the up to date information at www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs.

SHOPPING IN CANADA

Canada has excellent shopping, particularly enjoyable are the markets and native craft shops. Many stores open from 9-10am to 6pm, seven days per week.

City stores and suburban shopping centres are often open until 9pm on several weeknights, particularly on Thursday and Friday. There is also a growing number of shops which are also open on Sundays.

Vancouver and Toronto in particular are a shopper’s paradise. Whether you are looking for fashion items, native arts and craft, antiques, ceramics or simply souvenirs, you’ll find everything you want there, you will also see plenty of other items to take your fancy when you are on the road.

Shopping for food and drink is easy, with supermarkets that are very similar to home. You may also find that fresh produce is often sold at roadside stands in fruit and vegetable growing areas.

Bottled mineral water can be bought, however tap water is drinkable unless marked otherwise.

TIPPING IN CANADA

As service charges are not normally added to bills, a tip of about 15 per cent on the pre-tax total is standard practice in restaurants and bars (both at the bar and at the table) and for taxi drivers, barbers and hairdressers. At the customer’s discretion porters, room service and doormen at hotels and airports generally get $1-$2 per baggage item carried.

Credit card receipts for meals or other services usually have a space in which you can write the value of a tip. You are advised to write either an amount, or ‘nil’ or ‘zero’ if you aren’t leaving one. This will avoid the unlikely case of someone writing an amount in afterwards if you leave it blank.

It is a very good idea to take some currency in small bills with you to cover tips on arrival.

It is also standard practice to tip tour guides, so you might like to have some small bills to hand as you leave excursion buses.

Not yet booked your Canadian motorhome holiday? Take a look at our Canada destination inspiration including Escorted Tours and suggested routes.