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Bow Lake in Banff National Park | © Gregsu / Flickr
Bow Lake in Banff National Park | © Gregsu / Flickr
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17 Canada Travel Tips That Might Save Your Life

Picture of Hayley Simpson
Writer
Updated: 6 March 2017
When traveling in Canada, there are many things to remember to ensure you have the best and safest vacation possible. For example, it’s important to know which areas to avoid, emergency numbers, and how to be prepared for all weather conditions. Here are some travel tips for visiting Canada, which might just save your life.

Know what to wear

Temperatures and climates differ across Canada, so it’s important to do research before traveling. For example, a visit to Vancouver in winter will be very different than winter in Winnipeg. Winter weather essentials, no matter where you go, include good-quality snow boots, woolen accessories, and a waterproof jacket.

Dressed for winter | © Pixabay
Dressed for winter | Pixabay

Protect yourself against petty crime

Petty crime is, unfortunately, rife in most large cities around the world. Many thieves target tourist attractions and hotels, as they believe vacationers are easy targets. Handy tips include leaving your passport in the hotel safe and carrying a photocopy with you. It’s also helpful to try and keep luggage out of sight in cars and not to leave any valuables behind, even in a locked vehicle.

Prepare for weather conditions

Canada is known for its intense winter weather conditions, so it’s important to keep a constant eye on the country’s rapidly changing weather. The Weather Network is a good website to track conditions. In winter, be prepared for road closures due to avalanches and snowstorms. If driving in winter, ensure your rental vehicle is equipped with snow tires.

Snowy driving conditions in Alberta | © Dave Bloggs007 / Flickr
Snowy driving conditions in Alberta | © Dave Bloggs007 / Flickr

Visa on arrival

Before you even begin traveling in Canada, you need to successfully enter the country. Many nationalities need an eTa (electronic travel authorisation) visa to gain entry into Canada. It’s inexpensive and must be purchased online prior to your arrival in the country.

Visiting national parks

Canada is the world’s second-biggest country and is home to many stunning national parks. But each park poses a different threat, depending on the wildlife that calls it home. Parks Canada lists visitor safety tips for most national parks on its website, so it’s a great resource.

Bow Lake in Banff National Park | © Gregsu / Flickr
Bow Lake in Banff National Park | © Gregsu / Flickr

Travel insurance

No matter your country of origin, travel insurance is always imperative. Most insurance companies have an extra policy you can select if skiing and snowboarding are on the travel agenda. These fun, yet somewhat risky, winter activities are two very important reasons why you should purchase travel insurance before visiting Canada.

Bear safety

Grizzly and black bears are found in Canadian parks in the summertime and can be potentially dangerous. When visiting national parks, always ensure no food products are visible to bears. Dispose of garbage, use airtight containers for storage, and cook away from campsites. Get knowledgeable on bear safety too. If visiting Churchill and its polar bears, be extra vigilant as polar bears are the only animals to actively stalk humans.

Polar bears in Canada | © Emma Bishop / Flickr
Polar bears in Canada | © Emma Bishop / Flickr

Transport

Canada’s major cities have different public transport options. In Vancouver, the SkyTrain is the world’s longest fully automated driverless system, whereas Toronto uses a subway, bus, and streetcar public transport network. When traveling in rural areas, it’s safest to rent a car, as it may be difficult to get from point A to point B otherwise. Taxis and Ubers are also available in urban areas.

Water safety

Canada has the world’s longest coastline, so there’s a lot of places to swim in summer. It’s also home to many freshwater lakes. But remember to not enter the water unless you’re a confident swimmer. Be aware of the ocean’s strong currents, and don’t dive off head first into any of Canada’s rocky oceanside cliffs. Adult supervision of young swimmers is also paramount.

Beachside on BC's Sunshine Coast | © James Stewart / Flickr
Beachside on BC’s Sunshine Coast | © James Stewart / Flickr

Emergency numbers

It’s always important to know the number for emergencies in every country you visit. In Canada, it’s the same as the United States: 911. For non-emergencies, visitors can call 311 in some areas, such as Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax, and Winnipeg.

Animal awareness when driving

Across Canada, there are Wildlife Warning Signs reminding drivers to be cautious while driving. The country also has a Wildlife Collision Prevention Program, which provides helpful hints to avoid hitting wildlife and what to do if striking an animal is inevitable. Reading up on safety tips could save your life. In the Rockies, there are unique animal overpasses to avoid such accidents.

Animal crossing in Banff National Park | © m01229 / Flickr
Animal crossing in Banff National Park | © m01229 / Flickr

Tipping

It might not save your life, but it’s important to know that tipping is expected in the hospitality, tourism, and services industries. The standard amount is between 15–20%. At most places, they bring an Eftpos machine to you, where you can easily select a dollar or percentage tip when paying with a card.

Ski and snowboard safety

Many visitors to Canada come for the skiing and snowboarding opportunities, but these outdoor activities do have their dangers. People hitting the slopes should always stay in control, respect their limits when it comes to choosing a run, and remember that people ahead have the right of way.

Snowboarding in popular Whistler | © Camp of Champions / Flickr
Snowboarding in popular Whistler | © Camp of Champions / Flickr

Avoid bad areas

Most cities around the world inevitably have unsafe areas or neighborhoods. In Vancouver, the Downtown Eastside is an area known for its homelessness and drug problems. However, it’s next to Gastown, one of the city’s best foodie neighborhoods. So avoiding it is difficult, but it’s important for visitors to be aware of their surroundings. In Toronto, locals recommend staying away from Sherbourne and Parliament Streets after dark.

Learn a little French

In Quebec only, French is the official language. Although many people speak English, it could be useful to know a few key words and phrases in French, especially for conversing with locals outside of the hospitality and tourism industries.

French-speaking Montreal | © Yves Ouellette / Flickr
French-speaking Montreal | © Yves Ouellette / Flickr

Manitoba is all about snakes

Manitoba actually has the world’s largest concentration of snakes. In May, around 70,000 snakes, particularly red-sided garter snakes, come out of hibernation. There are even snake dens, where visitors can stand on a viewing platform and see the snakes emerge in springtime. So if you’re afraid of snakes, May might not be the best time for visiting Manitoba.

Always carry cash

Canada is a vast country with many rural towns, islands, and campgrounds. It’s always worthwhile carrying some spare cash when traveling around the country, as you never know where the next ATM may be. However, in the bigger cities, it isn’t necessary as ATMs are prevalent.