Top tips for travelling to Canada for a summer holiday
- Sun cream – I hadn’t expected the sun to be so strong – and consequentially got sunburnt on my first day in Canada. I spent a lot of time on boats so a high factor was a necessity to help prevent further occurrences.
- Cool clothing – as per the point above, it was a lot hotter than I expected in the summer – up to 35 degrees some days and with limited air conditioning, you need to keep clothing cool and rely on layers
- Bug spray and long sleeves – I had been told that the mosquitos could be a nuisance, but this was only really an issue when we went bear watching in Quebec, and the team instructed us all to wear long sleeves for the trip so we were prepared. The real nuisance elsewhere in Ontario were the deer flies, which pack a painful bite, and seem to be attracted to wet or moist skin and not so bothered by repellant, no matter what its claims.
- A waterproof – The weather can turn quickly, but showers disappear as quickly as they arrive, so a lightweight waterproof jacket is useful. It can also come in handy if heading to Niagra Falls and heading onto the water or behind the falls, or when heading out whale watching.
- Casual clothes – Canada is not really a place for the fashionistas, particularly out of the cities. I only brought one pair of heels (outside of my bridesmaid outfit) and I can’t see me wearing them at all! In the summer, people here live in flip flops, shorts and active wear, with a hoodie for cooler days. Bring these and you’ll be sure to fit in.
- A water bottle – tap water is safe to drink here and people offer free water at every cafe and restaurant, but it’s not as easy to get small bottles of water which you can take with you on your travels. My advice would be to get a bottle and just refill at every opportunity to ensure you keep hydrated.
- Hay fever tablets – Another thing I hadn’t really expected – that my hay fever would play up here, but I guess it’s not surprising given all of the pollen flying around. Luckily I was forewarned and therefore arrived armed with Clarityn, which I’ve had to use every single day.
Other essential info:
- The price you see is not what you pay in Canada, there is either the HST (Harmonised Sales Tax) or a PST (Provincial Sales Tax) added at the till for almost all purchases, this can be anything from 15%-20% so be warned, that bargain may not be as good as you think!
- If you’re driving, remember at traffic lights you can turn right on a red if there is nothing coming – except in Quebec where for some reason that rule doesn’t apply! Also, the four way junctions and three way junctions can be confusing as there are stop signs and give way lines on the road but no traffic lights, basically every vehicle must stop at these, even if it’s clear, and whoever arrives first at the junction has right of way – if you arrive at the same time, you gesture your way out (politely)! And don’t forget that pedestrians and non motorised vehicles have right of way on any road.
- Driving is generally easy in Canada where people are incredibly courteous and polite, lane discipline is generally observed and I only heard a horn beep a couple of times, and both in Toronto
- Talking of Toronto, whatever you do, absolutely DO NOT under any circumstance, plan to drive to/from Toronto during rush hour or on Friday or Sunday afternoons, especially if you’re heading down to Toronto from cottage country where people have spent their weekends. Yes I am talking from experience, no I don’t want to talk about it, those nine painful hours are currently being erased from my mind!
- Weather forecasts don’t mean much in Canada – the weather can turn so quickly, I generally found that the forecasts were not really very helpful! But do bear in mind in the summer, it’s going to be hot (see above)!
- Tipping in Canada is generally expected unless mentioned on the bill, if paying by card, the tip option will be presented with a choice of a percentage of the total bill or a set amount. How much tip should you leave in Canada? It’s up to you, but the general consensus is 10-15% of the total bill
- Talking of costs, if you’re driving and planning on visiting any cities, make sure your accommodation has free or affordable parking. So far in all the cities I have visited the car parking has cost me a small fortune, even in car parks owned by the hotel
- Canadians are super friendly and can talk the hind leg off a donkey! They love their country and the minute they hear an accent they are keen to know where you’re from, what you’re doing in Canada and how they can help you do it! Share your stories and you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from their two minute chat!
- Don’t worry about carrying large amounts of cash, you can pay by card everywhere in Canada and for small amounts too, so just keep your cards handy!
I’m sure I’ll have plenty more things to add to this list by the end of the trip, but for now these are my initial observations, which would hopefully come in handy for anyone like me who was looking for the key things you need to know before visiting Canada.