Canada is a big country and we get visitors from all over the world. If you’ve never been to Canada and want to know what to do and what not do to do here are some general tips visiting Canada.
Don’t make the assumption that Canada is like the US, or that Canadians are like the British.
I love the US and I love the British, but Canada is its own country and we are our own people. Furthermore there is a lot of variety from one region of Canada to the next. A trip to British Columbia is going to be different than a trip to Quebec, which will be different than going to Nunavut. There will even be difference within each province or territory. Don’t assume all Canadians are the same. Except apologizing, we do tend to apologize when we don’t need to. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
Don’t say eh all the time.
- I think there’s this perception (for some people) that Canadians say eh all the time, that every sentence we say ends with with eh. That’s not true. The key to a good eh is to have it flow into the sentence naturally. Don’t force it in to try and sound Canadian, or to prove you like Canada. The only time I hear people constantly say eh is when they’ve been drinking, or when they’ve been doing a Bob and Doug Mackenzie impression, eh.
Don’t just visit Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver.
- Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver are wonderful, but there is more to Canada than these three cities. Some people may want to brush off smaller cities and towns as being boring, not having culture, etc but that’s not true. Each town and city has their own history and things to explore. For example, one of the best museums in Canada is the Royal Tyrell Museum, a palaeontology museum outside the small town of Drumheller, Alberta. You never know what you will find in smaller urban areas and towns, until you get out there and see for yourself.
Don’t come here in the winter.
- That’s pretty strong, perhaps “I strongly advise that you don’t visit in winter” would be better. The weather is cold, snowy, and sometimes wet (if you’re on the coast). Maybe if you really like winter sports (like skiing or snowboarding) you’ll want to visit. Or if you’ve never seen/experienced snow/ice/sleet/cold/getting your tongue stuck to a metal post before you’ll want to come to Canada in winter. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if you decide to visit in the middle of January, when there’s a blizzard, and it’s -30C with a windchill factor making it feel like -55C, or worse.
Do come prepared, if you visit in the winter.
- If you won’t my warning to avoid winter then at least be prepared. Bring warm clothes, a good outer jacket, mitts, toque, scarf and boots. If you’re going to be driving make sure to get your vehicle prepared for winter. Make sure the vehicle has winter tires, snow chains (for the mountains), a good block-heater and that all fluids are topped up. If it’s colder than -15C you should plug in, and don’t let your gas tank get below half. Also know that there are some attractions and sights that may be closed in winter. Make sure to verify if an attraction you want to visit is open in the winter.
Do go to a hockey game.
- It’s not technically our national sport (that’s lacrosse) and not every Canadian is a hockey maniac, but hockey is loved in Canada. Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal all have teams in the National Hockey League (NHL). If you’re not in an NHL city there’s a good chance there’s a smaller league team, a University team, or even some locals playing pond hockey (also known as shinny). If you can’t see a game in person go to a bar to catch a game on tv. Make friends with the locals by finding what’s the local and/or favourite team and complaining about the other team right away, especially if it’s a big rival team. For example if you’re in Edmonton just go into a bar and lament about how “Calgary sucks” or “The Flames suck” and you’ll probably find some good drinking buddies right away.
Do get outside.
- Many people come to Canada because we have some spectacular outdoor scenery. Even if you’re not much of an outdoor person I still recommend that you spend some time outdoors. You don’t need to do some sort of extreme survival routines in the wilderness (actually don’t do this unless you’re really experienced in outdoor survival skills). You can go camping for a few days at a park, Canada has 42 national park, plus provincial and local parks. If a few days is too overwhelming just do a day trip or a few hours. Whether you plan to go hiking, or you just enjoy a few hours at a beach it would be really sad if you came to Canada and you didn’t get outside.
Do take a road trip.
- A road trip is the best way to see Canada. By taking a road trip you can see towns and sights that you would miss by flying (like the world’s largest Bunnock in Macklin Saskatchewan). Taking a train sure you see the landscape, but you don’t have the freedom to get out and stop whenever, and wherever you want. A complete cross country road trip is pretty epic, but if that’s overwhelming just take a road trip for a day or two. Rent a car or consider checking out Hit The Road, grab a map (or GPS/Smartphone), fill up the gas tank, turn on the radio and drive.
Do accept the fact that you probably won’t see all of Canada.
- That is unless you have the time and money for to spend a few months (or more) here. I’ve lived in Canada for 27 years and I still haven’t made it to the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland, and I’ve never been to any of the territories; Yukon, Northwest, and Nunavut. Plus all the place I have been to I’d like to go back and explore them some more. If you have limited time/money you might want to try a focus on seeing one area in depth. If you can’t see all of Canada in one trip don’t worry, you can always come back and visit again, eh.
This post was written by me as a submission for the Blog Your Backyard Contest with World Nomads. The contest has closed and I was chosen as one of the lucky winners. Thanks to World Nomads and Urban Adventures for the very cool prize, which I ended up using in Houston. If you want to know more about winning contests check out my post How To Win Travel Contests – Amazing Tips From A Multiple Contest Winner