A Solo Traveler’s Guide to Canada

Vancouver | © Hayley Simpson
Vancouver | © Hayley Simpson
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer12 May 2017

Canada is a perfect country for solo travelers, thanks to the ease of transport, bustling cities and abundance of hostels. However, it is the second biggest country in the world, so it does take some planning to make the most of your vacation. Keep reading to learn all the tricks in our solo traveler’s guide to Canada.

Stay in hostels

Hostels are fantastic for solo travelers; they’re an excellent way to meet other people and save money on food and accommodation. However, if staying in a dorm room isn’t your style, most hostels also offer private rooms, which are still cheaper than staying in a hotel alone. If traveling across Canada and staying in quite a few hostels along the way, it might also be beneficial to sign up for a Hostelling International membership. Most major cities have several hostels, while tourist centers such as the Rocky Mountains have options too.

Samesun Banff, for budget accommodation | © Hayley Simpson

Stick to the big cities

Canada is a massive country, but 80% of the population lives within 150 kilometers (93 miles) of the Canada-United States border, which means the majority of the country is uninhabited. As a solo traveler, it might not be cost effective or safe to travel alone through these remote areas, unless you participate in a tour. But if visiting the polar bears in Churchill is on your bucket list, for example, definitely look into a tour. However, Canada’s cities are fantastic and unique in their own ways too.

Science World from Olympic Village | © Hayley Simpson

Vancouver has both city and outdoor adventures, as mountains surround the area, plus it’s only a two-hour bus ride from Whistler Blackcomb, which is one of the best ski resorts in North America. Calgary is a quick bus ride from the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park, and Niagara Falls is a day trip from Toronto, which is one of the largest cities in North America. Ottawa is full of historic buildings and is the nation’s capital too. Finally, experience an entirely different side to Canada in French-speaking Montreal and Quebec City. Sticking to the cities allows you to base yourself somewhere and effortlessly explore its beautiful surrounds while feeling safe.

Use all transport options available

A great advantage to traveling solo across a country like Canada is that there are a lot of transport options to get you from city to city and coast to coast. If flying, Westjet and Air Canada are the two national airlines, which sometimes have good specials. Greyhound has services across Canada, while BoltBus operates in British Columbia, and Megabus is in Ontario and Quebec. There is also the option of traveling across the country by train. VIA Rail is the national company and offers free WiFi and comfortable seating. Train travel can also be a very cheap alternative.

Fly with Westjet | © Tomás Del Coro / Flickr

When staying in the big cities, use their excellent public transit facilities. Vancouver has buses and the Skytrain, which is the world’s longest fully automated driverless system. Toronto has the subway, bus, and streetcars. Edmonton has a light-rail, while Montreal has a subway system as well. Fortunately, hostels in most cities are conveniently located close to at least one transport option.

Visit markets for meals

Although you should try some signature Canadian dishes, another option is to visit some of the country’s most popular markets for cheap and delicious meals. In Vancouver in the summertime, check out North America’s biggest night market in Richmond. The Richmond Night Market is open Friday to Sunday from May until October and features mainly Asian-inspired food stalls.

St Lawrence Market | © Hayley Simpson

Toronto is filled with marketplaces such as St. Lawrence Market. National Geographic named it the world’s best food market in 2012. In Ottawa, ByWard Market is a must-see attraction, and it’s also home to one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Visit Old Port Market in Quebec City and enjoy a fresh French pastry too. Markets are also great places to pick up souvenirs, as well as tasty meals.

Check out the best free attractions

If you Google any city name + free things to do, you will be inundated with articles and posts to peruse. Sometimes it is good to spend money on the big tourist attractions, including a Hornblower Cruise at Niagara Falls or a visit to the National Gallery of Canada. But there is also always a lot of fun free things to do in every Canadian city. Check out The Forks in Manitoba; walk around Vancouver’s Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park, and take a lot of photos of Jellybean Row in St. John’s. There are plenty of attractions to keep you busy while traveling solo across Canada.

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