Canada

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Canada is the largest country in North America by land area, and the second largest in the world, behind Russia. Renowned worldwide for its vast, untouched landscape, its unique blend of cultures and multifaceted history, Canada is one of the world's wealthiest countries and a major tourist destination.

Population: 34,568,211 people
Area: 9,984,670 km2
Highest point: 5,959 m
Coastline: 202,080 km
Life expectancy: 81.57 years
GDP per capita: $43,400
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About Canada

History

The main wave of prehistoric settlers that came into the Americas from Northeast Asia via Alaska are thought to have arrived around 15,000 years ago, although the first migrants may have arrived around 30,000 years back and the last about 5,000. The present theory as to the expansion of the prehistoric settlers currently is a southward migration along the coast with branching populations moving east and, later on, north. By this theory, the longest established cultures are the pacific coast tribes and the most recently established are the Arctic cultures.

The first confirmed European contact with Canada was just after 1000CE; Vikings under Lief Erikson certainly reached Newfoundland and there are some controversial indications that they also sailed far up the St Lawrence and South along what is now the US coast but were beaten in their exploration by the Irish. The next confirmed group were the Portuguese who had fishing outposts along the Atlantic coast by the early 1500s. However, neither group built permanent settlements.

More permanent settlements were subsequently founded by the English and the French. John Cabot, an Italian working for the English, seems to have reached Newfoundland in about 1497, but the records are neither clear nor complete. The French explorer Jacques Cartier landed on the Gaspé Peninsula in 1534 and claimed it for King Francis I of France. Subsequently, French fishing fleets began to sail to the Atlantic coast, where they traded with the indigenous people. Quebec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608 as the first permanent settlement in New France.

The English explorer Humphrey Gilbert landed at St John's, Newfoundland and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1583 as the first English colony in North America. Under King James I, the English established more settlements in Newfoundland, from which they eventually moved on to establish the colony of Virginia further South in what is now the United States of America. The British took Quebec in 1759 during the Seven Years' War and at the end of that war in 1763, the French ceded most of their colonies in continental North America to the British, though the British agreed to permit the continued official usage of the French language and legal system in the ceded colonies, and French continues to be the dominant language in Quebec province to this day.

After the American War of Independence, during which the thirteen colonies became independent from the British as the United States of America, there was considerable migration to Canada by people who wanted to remain part of the British Empire. They are known in Canada as United Empire Loyalists, though Americans might call them Tory traitors. Other substantial waves of immigration were ex-soldiers, mostly Scots, after the Napoleonic wars and many Irish from about the time of the potato famine onwards.

The British and Americans fought a war in 1812 which saw invasions in both directions between the US and Canada; in some ways the war can be considered a draw, since no boundaries changed as a result. Some of the hotter heads on both sides had quite ambitious goals — drive the British out of North America entirely and annex Canada into the US, or reverse the effects of the American Revolution a few decades earlier and bring the US back into the Empire. Neither side got anywhere near achieving such goals, and both ideas were thoroughly discredited by the end of the war. This change was very important in creating the national identities of both the US and Canada. The US national anthem was written about one of the battles in this war.

The British subsequently established the first colony on the Pacific coast of Canada in 1849, when the colony of Vancouver Island was chartered with Fort Victoria as the capital. The colony of British Columbia was later established in 1858. Subsequently, the colony of Vancouver Island was merged into British Columbia in 1866.

The colonies of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick federated to from the self-governing British dominion of Canada in 1867, with each former colony becoming a province of Canada. Subsequently, the federation was greatly expanded. A huge territory called Rupert's Land — all the land whose rivers drain into Hudson's Bay, much of Canada and parts of a few US states — was granted by the British crown to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670. In 1870, the newly formed Dominion of Canada purchased it. That more than doubled the sizes of existing provinces Ontario and Quebec and led to the creation of new provinces Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Manitoba joined the federation in 1870, followed by British Columbia in 1871, Prince Edward Island in 1873, and Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1905. Following World War II, the former Dominion of Newfoundland became the final province to join the Canadian federation in 1949.

Canada's relation with the UK is somewhat complex. It was the British parliament's British North America Act in 1867 that officially established the country and the British monarch is still King or Queen of Canada, with a Governor General representing him or her on the ground. However, this is a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch "reigns but does not rule"; the real governing power is Parliament. There were changes in 1931 which made Canada more-or-less fully independent of the United Kingdom. One notable difference was that in World War I, there were Canadian regiments in the British Army under British generals, but by World War II there was a Canadian Army with its own generals; Canadians and Newfoundlanders made significant contributions in both wars. Another significant change is that since the 1960s all the Governors General have been Canadians; prior to that they were all British and often noblemen.

In 1982, the UK passed the Canada Act, with Canada simultaneously passing the Constitution Act, ending any residual power the British parliament may have had to pass laws for Canada.

Climate

Trying to distill the climate of Canada into an easy-to-understand statement is impossible, given the vast area and diverse geography within the country, but "Frozen North" would be a reasonable first approximation. In most places, winters are harsh, on par with Russia. The most populated region, southern Ontario has a less severe climate, similar to the bordering regions of the midwestern and northeastern United States. Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, is just south of the Arctic Circle and remains very cold except for the months of July and August, when the July average maximum is only 12°C (54°F). On the other hand, the coastline of British Columbia is very mild for its latitude, remaining above freezing for most of winter, yet it is not far away from some of the largest mountain glaciers on the continent.

Most of the large Canadian urban areas are within 200 kilometres (124 mi) of Canada's border with the United States (Edmonton and Calgary being the only exceptions). Visitors to most cities will most likely not have to endure the weather that accompanies a trip to more remote northern or mountainous areas often pictured on postcards of Canada. Summers in the most populated parts of Canada are generally short and hot. Summer temperatures over 35°C (95°F) are not unusual in Southern Ontario, the southern Prairies and the southern Interior of BC, with Osoyoos being the hot-spot of Canada for average daily maximums. Toronto's climate is only slightly cooler than many of the larger cities in the northeastern United States, and summers in the southern parts of Ontario and Quebec (including Montreal) are often hot and humid. In contrast, humidity is often low in the western interior during the summer, even during hot weather, and more cooling occurs at night. In the winter, eastern Canada, particularly the Atlantic Provinces, is sometimes subject to inclement weather systems entering from the US, bringing snow, high wind, rain, sleet, and temperatures in their wake of under −10°C (14°F).

Many inland cities, especially those in the Prairies, experience extreme temperature fluctuations, sometimes very rapidly. Owing to a dry climate (more arid west than east on the southern Prairies), bright sunshine hours are plentiful in the 2300–2600 annual hours range.

Winnipeg has hot summers with bouts of aggressive humidity, yet experiences very cold winters where temperatures around −40°C (−40°F) are not uncommon. The official hottest temperature in Canada ever recorded was in southern Saskatchewan, at 45°C (113°F), while the coldest was in Snag, Yukon −63°C (−81°F). Summer storms in the Prairies and Ontario can be violent and sometimes unleash strong damaging winds, hail, and rarely, tornadoes. On the west coast of British Columbia, Vancouver and Victoria are far more temperate and get very little snow, average low wind speeds and seldom experience temperatures below 0°C or above 27°C (32–80°F) but receive high rainfall amounts in winter then in turn dry, sunny, pleasant summers.

The average temperature is typically colder in Canada than in the US and Western Europe as a whole, so bring a warm jacket if visiting between October and April, and earlier and later than this if visiting hilly/mountainous terrain or Northern areas. For most of the country, daytime highs in the summer are generally well above 15 °C (60 °F) and usually into the 20s–30s°C(70s–100s°F) range.

Activities

Canada is a country with a rich cultural heritage. In Canada, festivals and events are held annually to celebrate the multicultural landscape of this great nation. Each festival represents a single cultural facet belonging to the diverse population of Canada. These festivals are easily identified by season.

Spring

In some parts of the country, April and May mark the beginning of Canadian music festival season. Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories celebrates spring with the Cariblues Festival, Halifax showcases chamber music with the Scotia Festival of Music and Ottawa highlights concerts, flowers and history at the Canadian Tulip Festival.

Canada is also renowned the world over for its theatre festivals such as Ontario's Stratford Festival [18] in beautiful Stratford Ontario and the Shaw Festival [19] in scenic Niagara on the Lake, both of which begin at this time and continue through to the fall. There are also a number of children's festivals including the Calgary International Children's Festival and the annual Saskatchewan International Film Festival for Young People.

Summer

June 21 to July 1 marks 10 days of celebrations in Canada. The festivities begin on 21 June with National Aboriginal Day and celebrations across the country continue on 24 June with Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, in honour of the patron saint of French Canadians, on 27 June with Canadian Multiculturalism Day, and culminate with Canada Day with parties everywhere on 1 July.

In addition, there are many musical and cultural summer festivals taking place across the country. Here is just a taste: Yellowknife’s Summer Solstice Festival, Calgary’s Reggaefest, Windsor's International Freedom Festival (with Detroit), the Calgary Stampede, Winnipeg’s Folklorama, Toronto’s Caribana, Les Francofolies de Montreal, as well as Montreal's Jazz and Comedy festivals, New Brunswick’s Festival acadien de Caraquet, London's Rib-fest, Bayfest in Sarnia, the Jazz and Blues Festival in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and the Collingwood Elvis Festival in Collingwood, Ontario. Edmonton is also known as the "Festival City" due to the large amount of festivals (such as North America's largest Fringe Theatre festival).

Autumn

The autumn is traditionally a time for literary festivals and film festivals. Lovers of the written and spoken word may like the Trois-Rivières’ bilingual Festival International de la Poésie, Halifax’s Atlantic Canada Storytelling Festival, and Toronto’s International Festival of Authors. Film lovers can choose from the Toronto International Film Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Montreal World Film Festival, the Atlantic Film Festival, and St. John's International Women's Film Festival in Newfoundland, among many others.

Kitchener-Waterloo hosts the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside Bavaria. This nine-day festival features numerous cultural and entertainment activities. Many local venues are converted into biergartens (Beer Gardens) and take on Germanic names for the duration of the festival. Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest attracts over 700,000 visitors annually.

Fall is also a time for families to enjoy the autumn splendour of nature in fall festivals or in simple activities where one enjoys the beautiful countryside.

Winter

Winter is the time when Canadians and their families take to the slopes and hit the ice at ski resorts and community hockey rinks across the country. Canada’s world-famous winter festivals take place in late January and February including Carnaval de Québec in Quebec City and Winterlude/Bal de neige in Ottawa and Gatineau. There are also winter events that pay homage to Canada’s hardy pioneers such as the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg and the Yukon Sourdough Rendez-vous Festival set in Whitehorse.

In Calgary, the month of January is devoted to showcasing challenging national and international theatre, dance, and music in The High Performance Rodeo, one of Canada’s leading festivals of new and experimental theatre.

Especially popular in British Columbia and Alberta, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are practiced and enjoyed regularly during the winter. British Columbia and Alberta are home to many of the world's top ski resorts, including Whistler Blackcomb (a two-hour drive from Vancouver). Skiing in the Banff and Jasper National Parks (130 km from Calgary and 370 km from Edmonton, respectively) is also popular.

Food

English Canadians may be mystified if you ask where you can get Canadian food. Although you will find some regional specialties, especially at the Eastern and Western edges of the country, in English Canada there isn't much food known as "Canadian" except for maple syrup, nanaimo bars (chocolate-topped no-bake squares with custard or vanilla butter filling and crumb base), buttertarts (tarts made with butter, sugar and eggs), beaver tails (fried dough topped with icing sugar), fiddleheads (curled heads of young ferns), and a few other examples. They are an important, if somewhat humble, part of the Canadian culinary landscape. In other respects, English Canadian cuisine is very similar to that of the northern United States. Canadians may be unaware that they even have national dishes, especially in the more urbanized areas, such as Toronto, and if you ask for a beaver tail or fiddlehead, you may receive nothing but a strange look or a polite giggle. That being said, there is a rising trend among Canadian chefs and restaurateurs to offer locally-produced ingredients, and most major cities have bistros which specialize in local cuisine. This can even include game meat dishes such as caribou, venison, moose, grouse or wild turkey prepared in a variety of European styles.

French-Canadian cuisine is distinctive and includes such specialties as tourtière, a meat pie dish that dates back to the founding of Quebec in the 1600s, cipaille (meat and vegetable pie), cretons (mince of pork drippings), ragoût de pattes (pigs' feet stew), plorine (pork pie), oreilles de Christ (fried larding bacon), poutine, a dish consisting of French fries, cheese curds and gravy (its popularity has spread across the country and can be found from coast to coast), croquignoles (home-made doughnuts cooked in shortening), tarte à la farlouche (pie made of raisins, flour and molasses), tarte au sucre (sugar pie), and numerous cheeses and maple syrup products. Staples include baked beans, peas and ham. French-Canadian cuisine also incorporates elements of the cuisines of English-speaking North America, and, unsurprisingly, France.

One peculiar tradition that you may notice in nearly every small town is the Chinese-Canadian restaurant. A lot of the reason for this is the role Chinese immigration played historically in the early settlement of Canada, particularly in the building of the railroad. These establishments sell the usual fast food Chinese cuisine. In Toronto and Vancouver, two large centres of Chinese immigration, one can find authentic Chinese cuisine that rivals that of Hong Kong and Shanghai. In Toronto, visit the Chinatown area of Spadina-Dundas; if north of the city, consider a visit to the Markham area, which has recently seen an influx of newer Chinese immigrants.

Montreal is well known for its Central and Eastern European Jewish specialties, including local varieties of bagels and smoked meat. In the prairie provinces you can find great Ukrainian food, such as perogies, due to large amounts of Ukrainian immigrants.

If you are more adventurous, in the larger cities especially, you will find a great variety of ethnic tastes from all over Europe, Asia and elsewhere. You can find just about any taste and style of food in Canada, from a 20 oz T-Bone with all the trimmings to Japanese sushi (indeed, much of the salmon used in sushi in Japan comes from Canada). Consult local travel brochures upon arrival. They can be found at almost any hotel and are free at any provincial or municipal tourist information centre.

Americans will find many of their types of cuisine and brands with subtle differences, and many products unique to Canada, such as brands of chocolate bars and the availability of authentic maple syrup.

National franchises

You will find that many American chains have a well-established presence here.

Canadian chains include:

  • A&W. Found all over Canada; although unrelated to the American A&W, many menu items are similar if not identical. It's targeted mostly to the boomer demographic, and as such has offerings of an arguably higher quality than most American chains, but prices can approach those of cheaper sit-down restaurants, with a combo meal (a "trio" in Québec) usually setting one back no less than $7.
  • Boston Pizza. Was founded in Edmonton and serves pizza, pasta, and burgers. Casual family dining, lounge, and take-out available.
  • Cora's. Started in Quebec, and is expanding across the country. Cora's serves only breakfast and lunch.
  • East Side Marios. Are American Italian restaurants with a New York theme.
  • Harvey's. Is a fast food chain, common in Ontario and found in almost every province, that features made-to-order hamburgers and other sandwiches.
  • The Keg. Steak houses, usually with tables and booths for 4-6 people. Apart from the steaks they also have salads and starters. The Keg Mansions in Toronto and Ottawa are worth a visit.
  • Kelsey's. Provides casual family dining, very similar to Applebees or T.G.I. Friday's in the United States.
  • mmmuffins. Is a coffee, muffin and doughnut retailer. Currently owned and operated by Timothy's World Coffee Inc. as an independent brand.
  • Montana's. Is a family oriented, outdoor wilderness themed restaurant. Montana's promises hearty portions of home-style cooking and friendly, efficient service in a lodge setting.
  • Mr. Sub. Is a submarine sandwich store chain.
  • New York Fries. Is a fast food restaurant that mainly serves French fries and hot dogs. There are locations in several provinces throughout Canada.
  • Robin's Donuts. Is a coffee shop which also serves a variety of soups, sandwiches and doughnuts.
  • Second Cup. Serves coffee and cakes. This chain is very similar to Starbucks, in terms of atmosphere and product offerings.
  • Swiss Chalet. Specialize in rotisserie chicken and ribs. These sit down restaurants are operated by Cara, the company that runs Harvey's.
  • Tim Hortons. Is the largest Canadian coffee chain and a cultural icon. They sell soups, sandwiches and doughnuts.
  • Timothy's World Coffee (a.k.a. Timothy's'). Is the third-largest Canadian-owned chain of cafés, behind Tim Hortons and Second Cup.
  • Yogen Früz. Is a leading frozen yoghurt chain featuring Probiotic frozen yoghurt. Yogen Früz is a staple in malls all over Canada.

Drinks

The drinking age in Canada varies from province to province. In Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec the age is 18, while in the rest of the provinces and territories it is 19. A peculiarity of many Canadian provinces is that liquor and beer can only be sold in licensed stores and this usually excludes supermarkets. In Ontario alcoholic beverages can only be sold in licensed restaurants and bars and "Liquor Control Board of Ontario" (LCBO) stores that are run by the Province; although you can also buy wine in some supermarkets in a special area called the "Wine Rack". Ontario beer stores are owned by Brewers Retail, a group of major breweries. Supermarkets in other provinces generally have their own liquor store nearby. Québec has the least restrictions on the sale of alcohol, and one can usually find alcohol at convenience stores (dépanneurs), in addition to the government-owned Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) stores. Alberta is the only province where alcohol sales are completely decentralized, so many supermarket chains will have separate liquor stores near the actual supermarket. Prices may seem high to Americans from certain states, bringing alcohol in to Canada (up to 1L of hard liquor, 1.5L of wine, or a 24 pack of beer), is advisable. American cigarettes are also quite popular to bring in as they are not sold in Canada.

Canadian adults enjoy beer and other alcoholic beverages quite often.

Beer

Canadian mass-market beers (e.g., Molson's, Labatt's) are generally a pale gold lager, with an alcohol content of 4% to 6%. This alcohol level may be higher than popular beers in the US or Great Britain. Like most mass-market beers, they are not very distinctive (although Americans will notice that there are beers made by these companies that are not sold in the States), however, Canadian beer drinkers have been known to support local brewers. In recent years, there's been a major increase in the number and the quality of beers from micro-breweries. Although many of these beers are only available near where they are produced, many mid-scale to top-end bars carry locally brewed beers. Many cities have brew pubs, which brew and serve their own beers, often with a full kitchen backing the bar. These spots offer a great chance to sample different beers and to enjoy food selected to complement the beers.

Wine

The two largest wine-producing regions in Canada are the Niagara Region in Ontario and the Okanagan in British Columbia. Other wine-producing areas include the shores of Lake Erie, Georgian Bay (Beaver River Valley) and Prince Edward County in Ontario, and the Similkameen valley, southern Fraser River valley, southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in British Columbia. There are also small scale productions of wine in southern Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan.

Ice wine, a (very) sweet dessert wine made from frozen grapes is a Canadian specialty, with products made by Inniskillin vinery in particular found at airport duty-free stores around the world. In contrast to most other wine-producing regions in the world, Canada, particularly the Niagara Region, consistently undergoes freezing in winter and has become the world's largest ice wine producer. However, due to the tiny yields (5-10% compared to normal wine) it's relatively expensive, with half-bottles (375mL / 13 fl oz) starting at $50. It is worth noting that Canadian ice wine is somewhat sweeter than German varieties.

Distilled spirits

Canada is famous in other countries for its distinctive rye whiskey, a beverage commonly appreciated by Canadians. Popular brands include Canadian Club, Wisers, Crown Royal to name just a few. In addition to the plentiful selection of inexpensive blended ryes, you may find it worth exploring the premium blended and unblended ryes available at most liquor stores. One of the most-recognized unblended ryes is Alberta Premium, which has been recognized as the "Canadian Whiskey of the Year" by famed whiskey writer Jim Murray.

Canada also makes a small number of distinctive liqueurs. One of the most well-known, and a fine beverage for winter drinking, is Yukon Jack, a whiskey-based liqueur with citrus overtones. It's the Canadian equivalent of the USA's Southern Comfort, which has a similar flavour but is based on corn whiskey (bourbon) rather than rye.

Cape Breton is home to North America's first (and Canada's only) single malt Whiskey, Glen Breton [20].

Other beverages

You can find most non-alcoholic beverages you would find in any other country. Carbonated beverages (referred to as "pop", "soda" and "soft drinks" in different regions) are very popular. Clean, safe drinking water is available from the tap in all cities and towns across Canada. Bottled water is widely sold, but it is no better in quality than tap water.. Coffee is a very popular beverage in Canada, usually drunk with breakfast or through the morning. Tim Hortons is the most ubiquitous and popular coffee shop in the country. Starbucks is also quite popular in most mid and large sized cities. Other national chains such as Second Cup, Timothy's, mmmuffins, Country Style, Coffee Time are found all over Canada. Tea is available in most coffee shops, with most shops carrying at least half dozen varieties (black, green, mint, etc.)

Shopping

Canada's currency is the Canadian dollar (symbol: $ proper abbreviation is CAD), commonly referred to simply as a "dollar", or "buck" (slang). One dollar ($) consists of 100 cents (¢). Increases in oil prices tend to increase the value of the Canadian dollar relative to its US counterpart. During the 1970s Arab-US oil embargo, the Canadian dollar was worth more than the US dollar; it slipped to about 66 cents US by the mid-1990s, recovering as oil prices rose after the turn of the millennium. During the US sub-prime mortgage collapse, the US dollar again dropped below its Canadian counterpart. As of late 2013, the Canadian dollar is trading slightly below the US dollar, as it had been for several years.

Canadian coins are of 1¢ (penny, phased out in early 2013 but still accepted as legal tender), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), 25¢ (quarter), $1 (loonie) and $2 (toonie). (The penny, nickel, dime, and quarter roughly match their US counterparts in size, shape, and colour, but not in metallic composition.) Canadian notes come in $5 (blue), $10 (purple), $20 (green), $50 (red) and $100 (brown) denominations. The $1,000 (pinkish) bill has not been issued since 2000 as part of government efforts to more closely monitor transfers of large sums of money. Although it remains legal tender, banks have been taking them out of circulation. In addition, the $1 (green/black) and $2 (terra-cotta) bills no longer circulate but are still considered legal tender.

Traditionally, a strong US dollar had meant that goods have a higher dollar price in Canada than south of the border but with the exchange rate, the actual cost ended up being similar. With the recent equalization of the two currencies, the exchange rate no longer offsets the higher dollar cost, so Canadians living near the border often travel to the US to make major purchases. Be aware that Canada sells fuel (gasoline, diesel, etc.) in litres, as opposed to gallons. Canadian fuel taxes are high by US standards, an issue only aggravated by double-digit sales taxes in many provinces.

Beer is generally stronger in Canada than in the States, but in some provinces such as Quebec, it can be cheaper than neighbouring US states such as New York. There are now many microbreweries across the country, many with restaurants and pubs on premises; some of these are permitted to sell beer and cider on site.

Tipping

Tipping is widely practised in Canada, and tipping customs are essentially the same as in the United States. Once Canada's double-digit sales taxes and a generous tip are factored into the cost of a restaurant meal, the tab may often be 25% or more above the price indicated on the menu.

Bargaining

Bargaining is extremely rare in ordinary retail shopping in Canada and attempts to talk a retail worker down in price will result in nothing (besides testing the employee's patience). This is rarely a problem, as most retailers in Canada price their items fairly and do not look to extort their customers due to the highly competitive market and well-off economy. For larger-ticket items, especially high-end electronics and vehicles, many employees work on commission, so bargaining is possible for these items, and sales-people may offer you a lower price than what is ticketed right from the start. Some large retail stores will offer you a discount if you can prove to them that one of their competitors is selling the same product for a lower price. However, in certain establishments such as flea markets, antique stores, farmer's markets, etc., you may be able to negotiate a lower price, although it is, again, often unnecessary to put forth the effort.

Currency exchange

In all cities and towns, it is possible to convert between Canadian dollars and most major currencies at many banks. In addition, some retailers in Canada will accept US currency either at par or at slightly reduced value. All Canadian banks provide currency exchange at the daily market value. In some areas, private exchange bureaus will give better exchange rates and lower fees than banks, so if you have time during your travels to look one up. It might save you some money on the exchange both when you arrive and before you leave, because Canadian dollars may not be worth as much in your home country, particularly the coin.

Private businesses are under no obligation to exchange currency at international rates. Even in the most rural areas, converting between Canadian and American dollars should not pose a problem, although travellers expecting to convert other currencies at a Canadian bank may need to be patient. In fact, most tourist destinations will accept American dollars as such, and are most likely to give a very good exchange rate. This is particularly true of regions that rely on tourism as a cornerstone of their local economy.

As Canadian Banks cash Canadian dollar travellers cheques free of charge, most businesses will do the same. This makes travellers cheques a safe and convenient way to carry money in Canada.

Many businesses across Canada accept US Currency based on their own exchange rate for general purchases. Bills are taken with the current exchange rate. US and Canadian coins, however, are similar in size, so they are used interchangeably; it is quite common for change to be given in a mix of Canadian and US coins. Almost all automatic vending machines will reject US coins.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted, with Visa and MasterCard being accepted in most places, American Express somewhat less frequently and Diners Club only in the more upscale restaurants and hotels. Discover is usually accepted at places geared towards Americans such as hotels and car rental agencies. Generally, using a credit card also gets you a better exchange rate since your bank will convert the currency automatically at the prevailing daily rate.

Electronic banking/purchasing

The banking system is well developed, safe and technologically advanced. ATM usage in Canada is very high. There is a safe and widespread network of bank machines (ATMs) where you may be able to use your bank card to withdraw money directly from your account at home, but the fees involved can be more than for credit cards. If possible, try to use chartered bank ATM machines as the fees are often cheaper than the independent ATM machines. All Canadian banking institutions are members of the Interac domestic financial transaction network. Most retailers and restaurants/bars allow purchases by ATM card through Interac, even if they do not accept major credit cards, and many Canadians rarely use cash at all, preferring electronic forms of payment. Other ATM networks, including PLUS are widely supported and will be indicated on the ATM screen.

Taxes

Be aware that (in contrast to many other countries where what you see is what you pay and so called "hidden costs" are forbidden by law) you will almost always pay more than the prices displayed. They usually exclude sales tax and any number of very inventive extras and/or more or less mandatory tips. So, don't get your loonie ready when you go to the cashier in a thrift shop, because the till roll may well show $1.13. With the cash price rounded to the nearest nickel ($0.05), now that the penny is no longer in circulation, you'll have to stump up $1.15 in cash!

Taxes will be added on top of the displayed price at the cashier. Exceptions where the displayed price includes all applicable taxes are gasoline (the amount you pay is as it appears on the pump), parking fees, vending machines and medical services such as eye exams or dentistry.

A Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 5% is applied to most items. In addition to the GST, most provinces charge an additional Provincial Sales Tax (PST) on purchases. Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador have joined or "harmonized" the PST and GST. In these provinces, instead of being charged two separate taxes on a purchase, consumers will see one tax called the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

While the GST and PST or HST are charged on most goods and services, some items are currently exempt from taxation. While this list can vary by province and tax, some common examples are: basic groceries (not prepared), prescription drugs, residential housing, medical and dental services, educational services and certain childcare services. The list of exempt items for GST/HST is typically shorter than that for PST in provinces where the provincial exemption list is separate.

The sales tax rates (as of 2008) are:

  • Alberta – no PST, GST total only (5% total)
  • British Columbia – adds 7% PST and 5% GST. A politically disastrous attempt to introduce a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in 2010 was reverted in 2013.
  • Manitoba – PST was increased to 8% in 2013; the 5% GST brings the total to 13%
  • New Brunswick – adds 13% to the total taxable purchases as the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) (13% total)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador – adds 13% to the total taxable purchases as the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) (13% total)
  • Northwest Territories – no PST, GST total only (5% total)
  • Nova Scotia – adds 15% to the total taxable purchases as the Harmonised Sales Tax (HST) (15% total)
  • Nunavut – no PST, GST total only (5% total)
  • Ontario – The PST and GST were eliminated and replaced with a 13% Harmonized Sales Tax on July 1, 2010 (13% total)
  • Prince Edward Island – adds 10% to the total taxable purchases plus the GST total (15% total)
  • Quebec – as of 2013, adds 9.975% to the total of taxable purchases plus the GST
  • Saskatchewan – adds 5% to the total taxable purchases plus the GST total (10% total)
  • Yukon – no PST, GST total only (5% total)

Additional taxes have been placed on some goods (such as alcohol and gasoline) and vary by province; however, these taxes are often included in the displayed price of the good. The displayed pump price for fuel includes all taxes.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Canada on Wikivoyage.

Popular cities in Canada

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Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. It is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. Toronto, with a population of 2.6 million, is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) which contains 6.2 million people. The city is the anchor of the Golden ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Metro Toronto Convention Centre
  • Harbourfront Centre
  • Toronto Eaton Centre
  • Roy Thomson Hall
  • CN Tower
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Downtown is a district of Montreal.

Interesting places:

  • Notre Dame Basilica
  • Place d\'Armes
  • Bonsecours Market
  • Montreal City Hall
  • Chateau Ramezay Museum
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Calgary, Alberta's largest city, is a product of oil culture, and is situated where the prairies end and the foothills begin. As such, it is the eastern gateway to the Rocky Mountains and an important centre of trade and tourism for the western prairies. It is your most likely point of access for Banff and ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Calgary Tower
  • Olympic Plaza
  • Petro-Canada Centre
  • Devonian Gardens
  • Glenbow Museum
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Whistler is near Vancouver in British Columbia. Boasting the largest ski area in North America, Whistler is a popular winter skiing and outdoor sports destination. The official name for the municipality is the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Interesting places:

  • Whistler Village Gondola
  • Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort
  • Blackcomb Excalibur Gondola
  • Fitzsimmons Express Ski Lift
  • Whistler Mountain Bike Park
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Niagara Falls, Ontario, is the self-proclaimed "Honeymoon Capital of the World". For over a century the grandeur of the waterfalls of the Niagara River have attracted tourists to this destination.

Interesting places:

  • Journey Behind The Falls
  • Horseshoe Falls
  • Rainbow Bridge
  • Skylon Tower
  • Niagara SkyWheel
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It's not hard to argue that Vancouver occupies a pretty enviable spot in the world. Blessed with miles of coastline, lush vegetation and crowned by the North Shore Mountains, it's hard to be there and not stop at some point and be amazed by what you see. But scratch beneath that setting and you find a ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Canada Place
  • Vancouver Convention Centre
  • Harbour Centre
  • Waterfront Centre
  • Marine Building
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Victoria is the capital of the province of British Columbia, Canada located near the southern tip of Vancouver Island. It's a medium sized city with approximately 350,000 in Greater Victoria, including the Saanich Peninsula. Nicknamed the Garden City for the Butchart Gardens and the abundant green space ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Pacific Undersea Gardens
  • Victoria Harbour
  • British Columbia Parliament Building
  • Miniature World
  • Royal BC Museum
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Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta, Canada. Its metro area is home to 1.1 million people and is the northernmost city in North America of at least one million people. Edmonton is famous for its beautiful river valley park system, the North Saskatchewan River Valley, which offers over 100 kilometers of ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • University of Alberta
  • Citadel Theatre
  • Edmonton City Hall
  • Sir Winston Churchill Square
  • Alberta Legislature Building
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Mississauga is a city southwesten Ontario, Canada. It is Toronto's largest suburb and Canada's sixth largest city.

Interesting places:

  • Living Arts Centre
  • Playdium
  • Mississauga Civic Centre
  • Dixie Outlet Mall
  • Jack Darling Memorial Park
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Ottawa is the capital of Canada. The city is situated on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, opposite Gatineau, Quebec. The metropolitan population of Ottawa is 1.1 million and it is currently the fourth largest city in Canada, and the second largest in Ontario after Toronto. Unique as a North American ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Bytown Museum
  • Major\'s Hill Park
  • National War Memorial
  • Embassy of the United States
  • Parliament Hill
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States in Canada

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Popular cities:

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Popular cities:

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Points of Interest in Canada

Canada is a nation with many places of interest all across the country. Each province and territory is unique with each one containing its own special attractions.

British Columbia has much to offer including Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), an ecologist's paradise of pristine wilderness, and Vancouver Island. In the Yukon, you have the majestic Northern Rocky Mountains and the relatively unknown Tombstone Provincial Park. Alberta is one of the most geographically diverse provinces in all of Canada, with the world famous Rocky Mountains in the west, the "greatest outdoor show on earth" in Calgary (the Calgary Stampede), West Edmonton Mall in Alberta's capital, the arid badlands near Drumheller, and the wild frontiers of Alberta's northern forests. While the Northwest Territories are relatively unknown, they are the real "fisherman's paradise", with thousands of untouched lakes loaded with big game fish, including the mighty sturgeon. Nunavut was a recent addition to the Canadian confederation, and it has some of the most beautiful untouched Arctic land in the world on islands like Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island. There is also much to see on the east coast as well.

Price Tower - Quebec

Journey Behind The Falls - Niagara Falls

Pacific Undersea Gardens - Victoria

Canada Place - Vancouver

Metro Toronto Convention Centre - Toronto

Notre Dame Basilica - Montreal

Bytown Museum - Ottawa

Quebec City Town Hall - Quebec

Parks Canada\'s Dufferin Terrace - Quebec

Maison Chevalier - Quebec

Seminary of Quebec - Quebec

Museum of French America - Quebec

Church Notre-Dame-des-Victoires - Quebec

Horseshoe Falls - Niagara Falls

Vancouver Convention Centre - Vancouver

Harbour Centre - Vancouver

Place d\'Armes - Montreal

Waterfront Centre - Vancouver

Bonsecours Market - Montreal

Tourny Fountain - Quebec

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