Canada

Maple Leaf   Niagara Falls

Why Canada?                                                Click here to view video (Toronto)
                                                                      Click her to view video (Vancouver)

From Banff to Baffin Island, from Tofino to Toronto, Canada is a remarkable country. Whether you’re a hard-core adrenaline junkie looking for a backcountry adventure, an explorer heading out on a big road trip, a city-lover hunting for cutting-edge culture and fine cuisine or a combination of all the above, Canada ticks all the boxes. Stretching 5,500km (3,400 miles) from the Atlantic to the Yukon-Alaska border, the world’s second largest country boasts an astonishing diversity of landscapes: rugged, unspoilt coastline abuts immense forests and emerald lakes containing a startling array of wildlife; vast, seemingly endless prairies become jaw-droppingly beautiful mountain ranges; laid-back, cosmopolitan cities are complemented by remote, quirky outposts.

Canadians are enormously varied, from the indigenous Inuit in the Arctic to First Nations communities, 1960s and 70s British expats, fiercely proud Francophone peoples and a burgeoning Asian population. Their genuine friendliness and warmth is immediately apparent to visitors. Canadian cities are progressive, vibrant and regularly feature on ‘best places to live’ lists - Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal have all at some point featured on Mercer’s Quality of Life Survey, usually scoring in the top 30. Toronto, a veritable patchwork of diverse neighbourhoods, sits in an enviable location on the shore of Lake Ontario whilst Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, contains a clutch of great museums and the pretty Rideau Canal for ice skating in winter. Montreal’s skyscrapers belie its French heritage, but look closer and you’ll stumble upon historic, cobbled streets and centuries-old customs. A stone’s throw from the Canadian Rockies, booming Calgary oozes oil wealth and flaunts its cowboy traditions; chilled-out Vancouver, meanwhile, seems to have it all: mountains, beaches, an incredible downtown park and terrific food. Whilst you’re out and about enjoying the cities, don’t forget about the experiences Canada delivers. You can ski steep chutes in British Columbia, kayak secluded bays in Nova Scotia or learn to lasso at an Albertan ranch. You can capture grizzlies on camera in the Yukon, watch open-mouthed as mammoth icebergs drift past the Newfoundland coast or listen in awe to the deafening roar of Niagara Falls. You can tour vineyards, dig for clams or slice through a succulent steak.

Canada is a nation of immigrants and thus truly cosmopolitan – around 20% of the population are foreign-born (rising to 45% in Toronto). While other countries have eschewed immigration, Canada has recognised its importance to economic and social development, and continues to welcome vast numbers of young, skilled and highly educated workers from overseas each year. Indeed, in 2010, over 280,000 new permanent residents came to Canada, the largest number in more than 50 years. And contrary to the waves of migration from Europe in the first half of the 20th century, the majority of recent immigrants come from Asia. Thanks to its cautious fiscal policies, Canada’s economy has remained reasonably buoyant during the global financial crisis, and it remains one of the world’s wealthiest nations and a highly desirable place to work and do business. With its staggeringly beautiful scenery, multitude of outdoor activities, forward-looking cities and huge swathes of uninhabited wilderness, Canada offers countless opportunities to travellers.

  • When should I travel?
If you’re planning on skiing or enjoying winter sports, the best time to visit Canada is between December and April, though some resorts open as early as November and extend their seasons as late as June (or even July on Whistler’s glacier). If you want to enjoy the great outdoors without the snow, travel between May and September. Be aware however, that if there’s been heavy snowfall during the winter, some high-altitude hiking trails may be closed well into July. May, June and September are typically cheaper than July and August, but you’ll get the best of the weather in the latter two months.

Summer thunderstorms are common throughout Canada. Occasionally, these may become severe. Tornados also occur throughout Canada, with May to September being prime months. The peak season is June and early July in southern Ontario, Alberta, southeastern Quebec, and a band stretching from southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, through to Thunder Bay. The interior of British Columbia and western New Brunswick are also tornado zones. Earth tremors occur in the western mountains. Forest fires can occur at any time, regardless of the season, particularly in the grasslands and forests of western Canada.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Canada is overall a safe place to live and travel. Violent crime does occur, of course; Saskatchewan posts Canada’s highest rates, Québec posts its lowest. But all rates are much lower than in the USA. While smash-and-grab thefts are uncommon, it’s always wise to keep valuables out of view in your parked car, especially in the cities.

  • What money should I take?
Currency is the Canadian Dollar (CAD). Major credit cards are widely accepted. Use of debit cards is widespread, although many stores impose a C$5 to C$20 minimum per debit card purchase, and service charges may apply. ATMs are easy to find in populated areas but are less common in remote regions such as rural parts of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Labrador. Use a machine affiliated with a major bank to reduce service charges; independent machines in locations such as casinos and convenience stores may carry high charges and do not always accept international cards. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Canadian Dollars; these are negotiable primarily in banks, hotels and tourist facilities. Their use has declined somewhat in recent years as more visitors rely on ATM cards, but travellers should bring at least some emergency currency in traveller's cheques in case their ATM cards do not work.

  • What language will they understand?
Canada is officially bilingual (English and French). The use of the two languages reflects the country's mixed colonial history - Canada has been under both British and French rule. However, while the federal government must operate in both languages as much as is practical, use of each language outside government varies widely across the country. In almost all of the province of Québec, as well as parts of New Brunswick and Ontario, French is the dominant language; in most of the rest of the country, English predominates. Montréal, Ottawa and Moncton have large concentrations of fluently bilingual people.

  • How about my health?
Private health insurance is absolutely essential as hospital charges are very high. Health facilities are excellent. Travellers to more remote northern areas should carry personal first-aid kits.

  • Public Holidays

2012
01 January New Year's Day
06 April Easter
21 May Victoria Day
01 July Canada Day
03 September Labour Day
11 October Thanksgiving Day
11 November Remembrance Day
25 December Christmas

2013
01 January New Year's Day
29 March Good Friday
31 March Easter Sunday
20 May Victoria Day
01 July Canada Day
02 September Labour Day
14 October Thanksgiving Day
11 November Remembrance Day
25 December Christmas Day
26 December Boxing Day

  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders require a visa for Canada.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
No innoculations are required for entry into Canada.