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.
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.
Visa, customs etc.
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?