The changing colours of forested valleys and national parks, the freeze and flow of glacial lakes, the light and shade of the Rockies’ snow-capped mountains – Canada is North America’s natural masterpiece. Summer is for surfing and whale-watching off Vancouver Island, seeing Lake Louise in all its blue-hued glory or chilling at a hip Gastown bar in Vancouver. Winter is for ice hockey and festivals in the big cities, snowshoeing and ice walking in Alberta, and soaking in Columbia Valley's hot springs. Whatever the season, you’ll be able to find friendly locals, First Nations cultures, pristine landscapes and a hot plate of poutine.
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Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport – which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in Canada, you may find yourself travelling by:
Find your sea legs and enjoy a mode of transport that offers scenic views and a dose of fresh air. A ferry ride to Vancouver Island is the ideal way to get acquainted with the west coast.
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in Canada you may find yourself staying in a:
Travel deep into Wells Gray Provincial Park in British Columbia by canoe and set up camp at a secluded beach site on the banks of the pristine Clearwater Lake. This is Canadian wilderness at its finest, and it’s all yours to explore.
Canada's vast land mass makes for beautiful scenery and varying climate conditions. December, January and February are the coldest months and travelling can be difficult at times thanks to the occasional road closure or snowstorm. That said, this time of year is ideal for skiing, snowboarding and all your winter delights.
June, July and August are the warmest months. They’re perfect for outdoor activities like rafting, hiking, camping and canoeing. Tourist hotspots and other popular places will be much busier than in other months due to warmer temperatures. While not typically as warm as the summer months, May and September still offer great conditions for travelling and sightseeing without the crowds.
Many nationalities are able to travel to Canada without a visa, provided they obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) before arriving. This includes citizens of Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Japan, France and many others. Like most countries, visitors to Canada must hold a valid passport with at least six months’ validity.
Canada recently introduced a requirement for any nationalities that did not previously require a visa to apply for an eTA if arriving by air. This entry requirement is mandatory and will need to be obtained before boarding a flight to Canada, even if you are just transiting through a Canadian airport. There is a fee of CAD 7 for this service. Most travellers get eTA approval within minutes via email, but it may take several days if supporting documentation is required. Visit the Government of Canada’s official website for more details and information on how to apply.
Travellers who do not require a visa and are arriving via a land border (i.e. travelling from the US by road) do not need an eTA. They may, however, still need to present relevant documentation, like a valid passport and evidence of a lawful entry into the US.
Travellers from South Africa, China, Malaysia, Russia and other countries need a visa to travel to Canada regardless of their method of entry. Processing these visas may take upwards of three weeks. Visit the Government of Canada’s official website to find out if you will need to apply for a visa.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Check the Essential Trip Information section of the itinerary for more information.
Tipping is very much a part of the culture in Canada. It's expected in restaurants, cafes and bars, and usually won’t be included in the bill.
People typically add 15 per cent to the bill but feel free to tip a higher amount if you’ve enjoyed your experience. Tipping taxi drivers and valet attendants is also customary. Many bills in Canada do feature a tipping indicator under the subtotal, which is a handy method for choosing how much to leave. It's your choice, just remember that tipping in North America is culturally ingrained and wait staff are usually paid minimum wage, so understanding this and tipping accordingly is appreciated.
Canada’s internet is very good and it's easy to get access in most cities and towns.
Hotels, hostels and cafes are usually the best places to access the internet. It may be included with a booking or available at a small fee. Some fast food chains, cafes and restaurants have open wi-fi networks available, which are often accessible with a code from a purchase receipt. Be sure to keep an eye out for the international wi-fi symbol to connect.
Internet cafes are becoming less and less common in Canada, but some computer facilities (including in public libraries) are available in larger tourist areas.
Mobile phone coverage is generally very good in Canada, but it may be patchy in remote areas such as national parks. Depending on the service provider, coverage in remote areas can sometimes be non-existent.
Your best bet, if you have an unlocked phone, is to purchase a prepaid SIM card when you arrive in Canada for all your calling, texting and data needs. Canada has a few network providers including Bell, Rogers and Telus. Bell is said to have the best data coverage. While voice coverage can be patchy, mobile data is generally good in tourist areas, so using internet calling apps like Skype and WhatsApp is often preferred.
If you are from the United States (or are also travelling in the US), there is often an option to upgrade or purchase a prepaid roaming plan with a US service provider to use across the border. Both Verizon and T-Mobile offer this service. Otherwise, you could activate global roaming when travelling through Canada. This can incur extremely high fees so be sure to check with your local service provider before you leave your home country to know the costs.
Western-style, flushable toilets are the standard in Canada. Public toilet facilities are usually available in shopping malls and town centres and often labelled as washrooms. If you wish to use a washroom in a cafe or restaurant, expect to be told to make a purchase beforehand to gain access.
Canada’s unit of currency is the Canadian dollar (CAD). Prices here are approximate and shown in US dollars for ease of comparison.
Cup of coffee = USD 2.60
Local bus fare = USD 2
Budget takeaway meal = USD 5.20
Restaurant meal = USD 15
Drinking water from taps in Canada is considered safe unless otherwise advised. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.
Major credit cards are accepted by most retailers and restaurants in Canada. As in most countries, be sure to carry adequate cash for smaller purchases; however, it is becoming the norm to buy a coffee or make other small purchases on credit card.
ATMs are very common in Canada so finding one won't be a problem in most cities or towns. They may not be as abundant in smaller towns and rural areas, so it’s wise to have enough cash before travelling anywhere too remote.
Many people imagine Canada as a winter wonderland with snow-capped mountains and ski resorts vying for their attention, but Canada’s weather is as diverse as its countryside. Summers can get very warm, sometimes reaching 35°C (95°F) and higher, while winters get very cold. It’s not uncommon to get down to -25°C (-13°F). Spring is usually warmer and more pleasant than autumn, which sees brisk and cool temperatures around the country though they’re made bearable by the rich orange and yellows of the trees.
Generally speaking, Canada’s weather fits into four main sections: the coasts, the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), central Canada and northern Canada. There are, of course, many more regional factors and thousands of microclimates, especially in mountain areas.
Expect milder summers and winters on the coast with temperatures not dropping much below -10°C (14°F) and not rising much above 22°C (72°F). The winters are wetter here with the east coast seeing more rainfall, while Vancouver is an anomaly to the rest of Canada with more of an oceanic climate.
In the Prairies, the summers are hot and dry and winter is icy cold. There are long periods of snow, with Calgary experiencing around 54 days and 50 inches of snow, while Southern Alberta has a weird winter phenomenon called chinook winds. These are dry gusts that melt snow and raise temperatures by over 20 degrees in a matter of hours. Of the three largest cities in the Prairies, Winnipeg has the coldest winter days at -11°C (12°F), compared to Calgary (-1°C/30°F) and Edmonton (-6°C/21°F), but also has the warmest summer days at 26°C (79°F), compared to both Calgary and Edmonton (23°C/73°F).
Central Canada enjoys humid summers and cooler winters, with some areas experiencing snow cover for almost six months of the year. As much of Canada’s interior enjoys a continental climate, winters are cold and the wind chill is brisk. Toronto hits around 27°C (80°F) on a hot summer’s day and -1.5°C (29°F) in winter, while Montreal in summer hits 26°C (79°F) and -5.3°C (23°F) in winter.
Northern Canada is where temperatures really drop. The far reaches of the Northwest Territories (NWT) rarely rise above 0°C (32°F) and can record temperatures below -45°C (-49°F). These extremes aren’t for everyone and it shows – of the three provinces to make up northern Canada (NWT, Yukon and Nunavut), their total population (around 120,000) is less than Canada’s 40th largest city.
This depends on where you’re travelling. The diversity of seasons rules out a one-size-fits-all packing list, so our advice is to consider both the season and the activities you’d like to participate in.
You’ll be able to get away with light clothing for most of the summer, like a shirt and shorts or light trousers, plus a jacket to wear in the cooler evenings. During spring and autumn, it’s best to bring layers. Temperatures can drop below freezing, especially at night, so if you’re checking out Vancouver’s nightlife or enjoying a nightcap in Toronto, it’s best to rug up. You’ll need to take the comfort dial up a notch in winter with thermal base layers, warm fleeces and jackets, and at least one wind-breaking outer layer to keep you warm. A beanie, scarf and neck warmer are all highly recommended.
Canada is an active destination so ensure you’re prepared with the right type of gear, including sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots, UV protection and warm (but breathable) clothing that can be easily layered. If any water-based activities are on your to-do list, like kayaking or whitewater rafting, consider bringing a pair of dive boots or aqua shoes to save your feet from freezing water and sharp rocks.
For a more comprehensive list on what to wear and what to pack for Canada, be sure to check the packing list included in each trip’s Essential Trip Information.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their tour. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
For a current list of public holidays in Canada, including those with moveable dates, go to timeanddate.com/holidays
In many regards, Canada is a world leader at recognising LGBTQIA+ rights. It is consistently named as one of the most queer-friendly countries in the world.
Same-sex sexual activity has been lawful since 1969, and same-sex marriages have been legal nationwide since 2005. Anti-discrimination laws are extensive. They were passed in 1996 for sexual orientation and in 2017 for gender identity and expression. The Canadian government announced that it will add a third gender option to all government documents, including census forms and passports, from late 2017.
Canada is home to some of the largest Pride parades in all the world, with over 650,000 attending in Vancouver and over 1 million in Toronto. Toronto is also home to the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, which is known as an LGBT hotspot of the city. Similar LGBTQIA+ friendly neighbourhoods exist in Vancouver (Davie Village), Montreal, (commercial district), and Ottawa (Bank Street); however, this is not to say that other neighbourhoods are not as socially accepting.
If you are travelling solo on an Intrepid group tour, you will share accommodation with a passenger of the same gender as per your passport information. If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at time of booking and we’ll arrange the rooming configuration accordingly. A single supplement is available on some tours for travellers who do not wish to share a room.
Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. We’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries where possible.
Canada is making clear progress on aiding those with disabilities, especially travellers with mobility issues. Many public buildings around Canada’s major cities and tourist zones have access to lifts and ramps, while pedestrian crossings often have sloping curbs.
For more logistical information on air, bus, rail and ferry transportation, visit the Canadian federal government’s Access to Travel portal.
If you do live with a visual, hearing or other impairment, let your booking agent or group leader know early on so they’re aware and suitable arrangements can be made. As a general rule, knowing some common words in the local language, carrying a written itinerary with you and taking to the streets in a group, rather than solo, can help make your travel experience the best it can be.
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
In Canada, we stay in locally run accommodation including guesthouses, smaller-scale hotels and homestays in an effort to support the local economies. We also visit locally run restaurants and markets where travellers will have opportunities to support local businesses and purchase handicrafts created by local artisans.