When I travel abroad I often hear people say they would like to travel to Canada and would “a few weeks be enough to see the whole country?” Good luck with that! You need a lot of money and time for any visit here. A few weeks may be sufficient to spend in one area of the country but it only gives you a taste of what this country has to offer.
Ironically it is the diversity of the people and land that define Canada but makes Canadian identity hard to pinpoint. The problem in defining something often confines it to a limited description of all that it encompasses. In Canada, the varied weather and terrain, the multicultural makeup of the people and the many languages form the basis of this country. Stay tuned in the next few weeks where I focus on the different travel regions of Canada, my travel recommendations and an insider’s perspective (mine) on the Canada that I know.
WHAT IS IT?
Canada was founded July 1st 1867 and is currently the world’s second largest country by landmass. The government is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen of England still the official head of state of the country and a prime minister as leader. Officially Canada is a bilingual country (French and English) with a multicultural population.
WHERE IS IT?
Canada is in the northern part of the northern hemisphere and part of North America. It is bordered by three oceans: Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic. (If it weren’t for the US blocking the Caribbean Sea, we would be an island.)
WHEN TO GO?
Weather could be considered a Canadian citizen. Infamous by outsiders for its winters Canada does get hot too. Summer (June-September) is expensive and busy but the weather is agreeable in most parts of the country. Winter travel is usually cheaper (depending on region) but travel is often slower due to snow, ice, etc. The shoulder seasons can be cheap as well with a little more reasonable weather than winter. Year-round, though, there is always something happening somewhere in the country. Most tourist sites remain open but with reduced hours during certain times of the year. Always keep an eye on the weather and Canadian dollar to help plan your visit.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE?
The popular narrative is “French, English and Indians are the original inhabitants with recent immigrants from around the world.” Having grown up here and learning more about Canadian history outside the high school classroom, I have come to learn that the First Nations (not Indians!) and Inuit have been here collectively for about 10, 000+ years. The French and English are the dominant European groups who came much later but people of African descent have also settled here since the late 1700s (1783 is considered the first documented and major wave of migration). Canada is essentially a nation of immigrants and the current population (as of July 2017) is about 36 million.
WHY GO THERE?
The varied landscapes, festivals (cultural, arts, food), local history, outdoor activities (eg skiing, canoeing), professional sports spectating, and people. From big cities to small towns come just to experience Canada in its element. Leave your preconceptions at customs. You may be surprised by what you find.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Most visitors to Canada either fly or drive here. Major cities host multiple international flights and airlines and driving across the American border has usually been accessible; however, with current political climate south of the border and international security concerns, expect delays and possible hassles when crossing the 49th parallel (or Alaskan border) into Canada. You can also get here by boat which was the way European explorers came to this land. Transportation has changed somewhat since then.
As of this post (July 2017) there are no health warnings for travel to Canada. Be vigilant with food poisoning, weather related concerns, animal/human contact and mosquito bites. West Nile virus has been a concern of note over the years in parts of Canada.
Yes just about everywhere (restaurants, major tourist sites, coffee shops, hotels) and often free. Mountainous and tree dense terrain and territorial domination by competing companies (Rogers and Bell) can impact connection reliability.
In my experience, nowhere near the stellar public toilet facilities in New Zealand. They do exist, mostly in public businesses, but cleanliness is variable. Many places (eg restaurants) prefer you to be a paying customer to use the facilities. In some parts of the country there is now a push for gender-neutral washrooms. And yes we call public toilets washrooms or bathrooms.
There are numerous magic machines that dispense money in local currency. Often a security camera is installed nearby but for extra security, use an ATM located within a bank during daytime hours when the bank is open. ATMs at tourist sites, including hotels, often charge a service fee in addition to the one your bank charges for international withdrawals.