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How To Visit Canada (3/10)

Welcome To Canada! Wel­come to my new “How To… Canada” series! In this series, I’ll try to put my knowl­edge to good use and shed some light on my new coun­try: Canada. You will learn how some immi­gra­tion tips and tricks, how to improve your pro­fi­ciency in both offi­cial lan­guages, how to find a job, how to set­tle in Canada etc. I’ll pub­lish a new “How To… Canada” post every Saturday.

Even if you’re not ready to apply for a work per­mit or to get the Per­ma­nent Res­i­dence in Canada, you may want to visit the coun­try. Why not? Canada is a beau­ti­ful place!

Okay, let’s tackle the myths:

  • Canada is cold: yes, it’s cold…in the win­ter. Yet, you will sur­vive. We do.
  • Canada is bor­ing: well, well…so is your country!
  • I don’t speak French: nor do my students.

All set now?

When to visit?

The weather will influ­ence your decision:

  • Win­ters are harsh in most of the coun­try, aver­ag­ing –22C to 12C (and it’s more likely to be below 0C…). It’s very cold but except when it’s snow­ing, the weather can be dry and sunny. This sea­son is great to expe­ri­ence all the good sides of the leg­endary Cana­dian win­ter: win­ter fes­ti­vals (like the Win­ter­lude in Ottawa); activ­i­ties such as dog sled­ding, skat­ing (Ottawa has the longest skat­ing rink in the world), ski­ing, eat­ing maple tof­fee and just expe­ri­enc­ing a big snow storm (promise, we won’t let you shovel alone!).
  • Springs are very short and the weather is unpre­dictable. It could still be a lot of snow on the ground (this year, in most of North­ern Ontario and Que­bec, the snow only melted in May) or already very hot. It’s always amaz­ing to see nature alive again after months of star­ing at a white landscape.
  • Sum­mers are usu­ally very nice and rather hot. Tem­per­a­tures range from 10C to 30C. West­ern and south-eastern Canada expe­ri­ence high rain­fall (sum­mer storms… and high humid­ity) but the Prairies are fairly dry. There are a lot of fes­ti­vals in the sum­mer and you can also enjoy the out­doors fully.
  • Fall is a great sea­son to visit Canada. Tem­per­a­tures are mild and the leaves slowly turn orange, and then red. It’s the Indian sum­mer: no snow, no humid­ity, just per­fect weather.

Canada is a big coun­try and this weather sum­mary is mostly for South­ern Canada. Along the Arc­tic Cir­cle, tem­per­a­tures are below freez­ing for seven months a year…!

How to get there and how to get around

To find cheap plane tick­ets can be chal­leng­ing, but you can check out Zoom Air­lines (low-cost air­lines which flies between Europe and Canada), Air Transat (flights to Canada from the USA or Europe), Cor­sair (To Que­bec from France).

In Canada, you can either take the bus, the train, or drive from one place to another. Depend­ing on where you want to go, you may also con­sider flying.

The Grey­hound is prob­a­bly the cheap­est way to get around and it worth con­sid­er­ing for rel­a­tively short trip (Mon­tréal — Ottawa — Toronto etc.). You can also take the Grey­hound for longer trips (I took it from Ottawa to Texas! Yes, it took three days…): the bus ser­vice oper­ates in eight of Canada’s provinces and ter­ri­to­ries. But this is more a back­packer option… as the say­ing goes: “Greyhound’s buses are clean and safe but other pas­sen­gers might not be”. Buy your ticket in advance to get really good deals.

Via Rail is another option. The train crosses the coun­try from East to West, from Atlantic to Pacific. How­ever, even though it must be a great trip, tak­ing the train in Canada isn’t cheap nor very efficient.

You may also rent a car or flight long dis­tance (for that, check out West­jet (a Cana­dian low-cost air­line) or even Air Canada.

Visa, cus­toms etc.

You should first check if you need a visa to visit Canada. If you do, you should apply for a tem­po­rary res­i­dent visa. Allow enough time for pro­cess­ing before plan­ning your trip.

Even if you don’t need a visa, you should be pre­pared to go through the immi­gra­tion upon your arrival. The immi­gra­tion offi­cer will ask you a few ques­tions (where are you going, where will you be stay­ing, will you be vis­it­ing friends or rel­a­tives etc.) and will stamp your pass­port. The date below the stamp indi­cates how long you can stay in Canada (usu­ally 3–6 months). Should you wish to stay longer, you can apply for a visa exten­sion. If you give good rea­sons to extend your stay, the visa will usu­ally be extended with­out troubles.

What to do in Canada?

A lot of things!

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, Canada is big on out­doors activ­i­ties: camp­ing, hik­ing, climb­ing, kayak­ing etc. . Park Canada has an impres­sive list of National Parks in all provinces, includ­ing the Nunavut ter­ri­tory! Win­ter sports and activ­i­ties are also pop­u­lar: ice fish­ing, dog sled­ding, snow­board­ing, ski­ing, ice skat­ing etc.

Tourists usu­ally enjoy vis­it­ing the biggest cities: Que­bec, Mon­tréal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

The province of Que­bec has a very Euro­pean feel, plus Que­bec city cel­e­brates its 400th birth­day this year, so it’s a great place to be to cel­e­brate. Ontario is the most pop­u­lated province, and home to the nation’s cap­i­tal, Nia­gara Falls, the Thou­sand Islands and numer­ous other attrac­tions. The Atlantic provinces boast a strong mar­itime cul­ture and are home to small fish­ing vil­lages which have rich folk tra­di­tions. The Prairies have vast open and flat spaces, rocky moun­tains, forests, sleepy farm towns and host the Cal­gary stam­pede, and the Win­nipeg Folk Music Fes­ti­val. There are a lot of hik­ing and ski­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties in British-Colombia and the province has both the Rocky Moun­tains and rain­for­est. You may also ven­ture North to spot auro­ras bore­alis and expe­ri­ence the arc­tic wilderness.

So, what are you wait­ing for?

20 comments

  1. Hey you are tempt­ing me to come to Canada. If I will keep read­ing your this blog series; I might will change my route ;)

  2. Why don’t you find VIA Rail very effi­cient? I had a very bad expe­ri­ence with their web­site, so I was won­der­ing what what expec­ta­tions one should have with the actual train service?

    VIA Rail Canada, Bad Experience

  3. hola Zhu!!

    Está muy chida tu página..oye yo quisiera tener más infir­ma­ción a detalle sobre cómo ir a Canada en plan de tra­bajo, pues soy Inge­niero Indus­trial y hablo un poco de inglés y francés…necesito de tu ayuda .. espero y me respondas..gracias!!

  4. Your Blog has been so inspir­ing. I love it!

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