7 Things to Know Before You Travel to Canada

Planning a trip to the Land of Snow and Maple Syrup? Here are a few things you should know before you travel to Canada.

travel to Canada
A long, flat Saskatchewan highway.
  1. The Distances Are Enormous

Don’t assume that you are going to be able to cover most of Canada during a short visit. It’s a huge country and getting from one city to the next involves travelling long distances. Many people don’t schedule enough time for their trip across Canada and find themselves rushing from one city to the next.

If you only have a limited amount of time, consider choosing a section of Canada to cover – such as the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, the West Coast of BC or the Maritimes. By focusing on one region, you’ll be able to spend more time and really enjoy yourself.

Looking for some ideas to start planning your trip? This post by Brooke from World of Wanderlust has a great Canadian Bucket List with things to see and do.

2. Be Prepared for the Weather

The three words that you need to remember when packing for a trip to Canada are layers, layers, layers. Even if you are visiting in the summer, there can be thunderstorms on the prairies and in the mountains the temperature dips at night.

In the winter it gets cold. Unless you are on the mild coast of BC where the weather is moderated by the Pacific Ocean, you can expect Siberian temperatures. On the prairies where I grew up, it was not unusual to see winter temperatures of -20, -30 degrees Celsius and below. With the windchill factor, it feels even colder. Bring a warm woolen hat (Canadians call it a toque), gloves and a scarf to wrap around your face to prevent numb extremities.

travel to canada
Toronto, Ontario

3. Get Your ETA Visa in Advance

ETA stands for Electronic Travel Authorization and it is a new entry requirement for visitors to Canada. It is now mandatory for all visa-free nationals except Americans since November of 2016.

Depending on where you are from, you might need an ETA before you board your flight to Canada. Getting your ETA Canada visa is a simple online process which takes only a few minutes to complete. You will need a credit card, a passport and an email address and you will need to answer a few basic questions and enter your personal information. You will also need to pay a small fee of $7.

In most cases, you will have your ETA granted within a few minutes of applying. Once it is approved, your ETA will be valid for five years or whenever your passport expires. It is important that when you travel to Canada, you travel with the same passport that you used to apply for the ETA.

travel to Canada
Quebec City, Quebec

4. Use Couchsurfing to Stay for Free

Accommodation is Canada is not cheap. Although some of the major cities and tourist spots have hostels these days, they are still quite pricey. If you have to stay in a hotel this will eat up a lot of your budget.

Why not give Couchsurfing a try? If you haven’t heard about it before, it is a website that allows travellers to connect with locals who are willing to let them stay in their spare bedroom or on their couch for free.

Lee and I used Couchsurfing a lot when we were in Canada. We stayed with hosts all across the country, from Kamloops to Winnipeg to Prince Edward Island to Newfoundland. Our hosts were wonderfully kind and generous. They made us feel welcome in their homes, they cooked for us, they showed us around the local sites and they treated us like old friends – even though we had just met.

The value of Couchsurfing isn’t just in the free accommodation, it’s also beneficial because you are staying with a local who knows the area and can give you more tips and insight than a guidebook ever could.

Canmore, Alberta

5. Tim Hortons Is Your Best Friend

You’ll notice very quickly that nearly every town in Canada, no matter how small, has a Tim Hortons. It is a coffee, sandwich and donut shop chain, it is named after a hockey player and it is as Canadian as maple syrup and apologizing for everything.

Tim Hortons is great because it is everywhere and it is your best bet for a cheap coffee or snack. You don’t have to pay a lot for a fancy Starbucks latte when you need a caffeine fix – just find your nearest Timmies.

Plus, if you visit Canada during Roll Up the Rim to Win season from February to April you can join in the excitement. You will probably just win a free donut or a “please play again” but you never know… your next cup of coffee could win you a car!

travel to canada
St. John’s, Newfoundland

6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

Travel insurance is always a good idea when you travel, but especially in Canada. If you are not a Canadian citizen but you hurt yourself or become ill when traveling in Canada, it will cost you a lot of money. Lee broke both of his wrists while in Canada and if we didn’t have travel health insurance it would have cost us nearly five thousand dollars.

When you are choosing your health insurance policy, make sure that you read the fine print and check that you are covered for any and all activities that you plan to do while you are in Canada, such as skiing or snowboarding or whitewater rafting.

travel to canada
Cape Auget, Nova Scotia

7. Get Out Into the Great Outdoors

Yes, Canadian cities are cool. Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg, Halifax and all of the other main centres in Canada have lots of culture, great food and plenty of things to do. However, the true joy of visiting Canada is getting out of the city and into the vast Canadian wilderness.

Canada has a population of just under 36 million, but a land mass nearly as big as the entirety of Europe. This means that most of Canada is wild and unpopulated. There are huge areas of pristine, unspoiled wilderness waiting to explore. Whether it is tramping across a glacier in the Rocky Mountains, hiking through coastal rainforests on Vancouver island or canoeing through Ontario’s lakes – Canada’s great outdoors is the ultimate playground.

If you love hiking, canoeing, camping, fishing, bird watching and other outdoor sports you will be in your element here. If you are a winter sports enthusiast, the skiing and snowboarding is world famous and truly superb. (Just remember to get a safety briefing from the locals before you head out – so that you are aware of how to avoid bears, frostbite, getting lost and other dangers.)

travel to canada
Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Are you heading to Canada? What’s on your Canada travel bucket list? Let us know in the comments below.

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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  1. Gee, that ETA is something new! I don’t think it ever hit our newsfeeds — was sure interesting to find out that visitors (except Americans) have to jump through hoops before they arrive here in Canada. We do indeed have lots of Tim Hortons coffee shops!

      1. Pls,I’m a BSC Holder in d science field here in Nigeria,
        I dream to work and live in Canada
        Outside my feed of study..
        What does it entails.
        What are my chances?
        U also said something like renew of visa
        I didn’t really get that point clear..more enlightenment pls.

        1. Hello sir I am from the Okanagan Indian band west of Vernon British Columbia, Canada. Are you familiar with hemp or cannabis in any fashion? Or would that interest you,. We are indigenous and my company woul do like to employ indigenous people from all over the world.

  2. Nice blog. I will definitely consider your points in my points. Canada is one of the best destinations in the world to live and settle down.I relish traveling a lot. It’s one among my favorite hobbies. I got a very interesting site(www.studycountry.com) just like your article. After browsing that I learned so many Canadian things from that site. Keep posting.

  3. Wow interesting about that visa! I am Canadian by birth and live in the US .. so glad I don’t have to mess with it ! Fabulous post !

    Fashion & travel blogger

      1. Hi Kelly what you recommend to visit Canada. That’s our first trip . We will be going Edmonton first thinking going Vancouver and Toronto from there. Which will be best way through drive or fly .any recommendations will be much appreciated.

        1. Hi Amy,

          How long will you be in Canada for? Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto are very far apart. It’s about 40 hours of driving distance between Vancouver and Toronto, so even if you drove 8 steady hours per day it would take you 5 days to get between these two cities (and you’d probably take longer if you wanted to stop and see any sights along the way.)
          If you have a few weeks of time to spend in Canada, a road trip could be a lot of fun. However, if you have less time, you might want to consider flying between these cities rather than trying to reach them by car.

      2. Hi Kelly, I am a Liberian 🇱🇷 presently living in my country Liberia 🇱🇷 West Africa. I really need a Canadian lady to marry. How do I get one pls??

      3. Hello Kelly, how are you doing today? My name is Legend I’m from Nigeria. Im planning on visiting Canada soon, please i need more of your advice. Like what the ticket will cost me and so on.

  4. Hi! Love the article! I was wondering if you could help with some information? I’ve received a Canadian work and travel visa for 2 years. Due to go out between January and March. Was wondering if you knew any links for the required insurance I would need. Not sure if it’s just travel or health insurance too that I require. Anything at all will help, thanks

  5. Wow, that’s a great help for a people who are planning a trip to Canada. Last year I was in Canada, it’s a beautiful country, a place where you can take a break with your family for a long or a short vacation.

  6. Great things to know and all but those pictures!!! Amazing!! I’m scheduled to go to Vancouver in September! so excited!

  7. hey Guys Thanks So Much For Sharing This Nice Post im American And i went to All Part of Canada And i Decided To Travel All Over The World So i decided Ti Go To Iran And it was Really amazing Cause it was Safe And SO low Cost Country Just Check this You Will Find Lots of Good Things Guys https://www.epersianhotel.com/

  8. I’m nearly 50 and have only been away once…
    I have been looking into going to canada in Sept, celebrate ,
    Can you suggest the best places,I have been looking into Toronto,Niagara falls,not sure on 7 days or 14,
    I’m English and havent renewed my passport since 1997,
    I am a complete novice with all this stuff,so bear with me
    I’d appreciate any advice,I have looked at touring stuff too..
    ETA etc
    Look forward to reading your comments.

    1. Hi Kirk!

      That sounds like a great trip! September is a really nice time to visit Canada. The weather will still be pleasant but you’ll avoid the major crowds of summer tourists.
      Toronto and Niagara Falls are both great destinations. Toronto has plenty of art, culture, museums, food and nightlife to enjoy and Niagara Falls is a natural wonder.
      As for other recommendations, what do you like? Are you interested in nature? History? Please, let me know a bit about what you are interested in and I can make more specific recommendations.
      Also, whereabouts in England are you from?

      Have a great day and looking forward to hearing from you,

      1. My name is INYANG CHRISTIAN from Abuja Nigeria…I love Canada so very much and will love to travel to Canada…How do I achieve my dream of traveling to Canada from Nigeria…

  9. Hi kelly, I am planning to visit Alberta for a week long trip, I am enticed with beauty of Banff and Jasper national park however I would love to include Vancouver to this trip. My family includes my wife, a 6 year old and a 2 year old kid. I am thinking of flying to Calgary from NY USA, Spend 2-3 days at Banff, 2 days Jasper and around and last 1.5-2 days in Vancouver and catch a return flight from Vancouver…
    What do you suggest, is there anything that I should definitely include in this trip.. please share any other articles that you wrote about Alberta/BC…


  10. Pls, must I present my health insurance for a family visa to Canada at the point of entry to Canada? What happens if I don’t?

  11. Hello! Came across your post when looking up info on traveling to Canada. My husband and I will be taking our honeymoon this september. As of now thinking we’re going to fly into edmonton, rent a car, then road trip from there to jasper then down to banff then into calgary where we will fly home from. Since you’re from Alberta does this sound like a good plan? Any recommendations or activity suggestions? We’re also debating on how long to take to do this so if you had a good idea on what we should do for that it would be much appreciated! We can’t wait for this trip.

    1. Hi Katie,

      Congrats, that’s so exciting! It sounds like a great plan for a honeymoon. September will be a good time to go, because the summer crowds will be gone but the weather will still be pleasant.

      If possible, take extra time for the trip. There are so many gorgeous lookouts and hikes along the way and you’re going to want to travel slowly and get out of the car a lot for photo opportunities.

      Make sure you drive along the Icefields Parkway – which is one of the most spectacular scenic drives I’ve ever experienced.

      If you want to do some hiking, Sulfur Mountain is a great option you can do independently. It’s really close to the Banff townsite and you can hike up the mountain (takes around 2-3 hours) or take the Gondola up. The view from the top is totally mindblowing and you’ll probably see wildlife up there – I’ve often seen bighorn sheep just chilling on the mountain top.

      If you can, get to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise as they are super gorgeous. If you are interested in walking on the Glacier, a trip to the Columbia Icefield is pretty impressive.

      Other cool hiking trails around Banff are:
      – Johnston Canyon (amazing waterfalls)
      – Hoodoo Trail (weird and fascinating rock formations)
      – Plain of the Six Glaciers (views of glaciers and a lovely little tea house)
      – Caldron Lake (a pretty Alpine lake, you might see mountain goats)

      Also, here are more blogs that I have written about Banff that you might find useful!


      If you have any more questions, just let me know. 🙂 Hope you have an amazing trip.


  12. Hi, I’m Iranian, I really want to travel to foreign countries, especially Canada, but I don’t have the conditions to travel yet, so I’m very upset.

  13. I love the tips that your have shared. Currently I am planning a trip to Canada in next year maybe, was just stumbling upon some articles for tips. And I completely agree on your points and specially on getting the ETA visa in advance so it does not create any hassle at the time of the trip.

  14. Hi Kelly
    Am treasure from Nigeria pls I need an advice from you I want to move with my family to Canada and I have no idea how to go about it pls am an hair stylist what can I do we are a family of 5

  15. Hello and Thanks

    The content was really great. I sent it here to my friend with your permission and I saved it inside my bookmark to come back for web browsing, now I could not read it carefully.

    Thank God for your time and energy

  16. Before traveling to Canada, there are a few things you should know to make your trip smooth and enjoyable. Firstly, be prepared for the diverse weather conditions, as Canada experiences everything from hot summers to cold winters, depending on the region. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the cultural nuances and etiquette, as Canadians are known for their politeness and respect for diversity. It’s also essential to have proper documentation, including a valid passport and any necessary visas or permits. Moreover, if you’re interested in exploring Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver, you might be curious about its unique offerings, such as organic weed delivery burnaby services. While cannabis is legal in Canada, each province has its own regulations, so it’s crucial to understand the local laws and restrictions. With these considerations in mind, you can make the most of your trip to Canada, whether you’re exploring its natural beauty, vibrant cities, or indulging in its legal cannabis offerings.

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