Travel Guides to Canada


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British and U.S. driver's licences are valid in Canada for up to three months. Car rental companies are found at airports and in many municipalities. Internationally- observed age limits apply, and drivers should present an acceptable credit card. All motorists must have accident liability insurance. Americans driving across the border should obtain a Canadian Non- resident Inter-Province Motor Vehicle Liability Card, commonly known as a yellow card (available from their insurer in the U.S. only) before leaving. Drivers should also bring their vehicle registration card, a letter of permission from the registered owner or a rental company contract stipulating permission for use in Canada. HEALTH AND SAFETY Even in Canada's largest cities it is generally safe to walk the streets and use public trans- portation at night. Nevertheless, prudent visitors will let common sense be their guide and take the usual precautions. Belongings left in parked cars should be stowed out of sight. Purses and wallets are best kept beneath outer clothing; passports and other valuables stored in a hotel safe. To avoid unnecessary grief if theft occurs, keep a list of credit card and other import- ant numbers in a secure place. In the event of illness or accident, it is reassuring to know that Canada's health services rank among the world's finest. Most hospitals are publicly managed, their fees set by provincial authorities. Non- residents hospitalized in Canada are charged a daily rate. These differ by province and can be cost prohibitive, so it is import- ant to purchase travel health insurance before leaving home. Canadians travelling domestically can typically rely on their provincial health coverage. All provinces and territories except Québec have a co-operative agree- ment allowing physicians to submit claims for services involving out-of-province residents to the local medical plan; these are then charged to that resident's home plan. Residents who are required to pay for health services can submit receipts to their local ministry office for possible reimburse- ment. Services not covered while travelling out of province include ambulances and prescription drugs from pharmacies. Buying supplementary medical insurance can alleviate these costs. MONEY MATTERS Canada's paper currency comes in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1,000 dollar bills, which differ in colour but not size. Coins are in 5¢, 10¢ and 25¢ denominations; there are also $1 and $2 coins, dubbed the loonie and toonie. U.S. currency is widely accepted at the prevailing exchange rate, though you should expect to receive change in Canadian funds. Sales taxes are added to the price of virtually everything, including meals and lodgings. For starters, there is a federal 5 percent Goods and Services Tax (GST). Except in Alberta and the territories, there is also a provincial sales tax (PST), which is sometimes combined with the GST to create one Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). This means you'll pay an extra 10-15 percent on top of most advertised purchase prices. Automated teller machines (ATMs) that accept international debit cards are plentiful, and many are accessible around the clock. Just bear in mind that four-digit PIN codes are considered standard—if yours has more, change it before leaving home. To minimize transaction fees, choose an ATM affiliated with your home bank; users of Cirrus or PLUS networks can research locations on-line. Americans who'd rather pay by credit card should note that chip & PIN cards are commonplace here; however, transactions can often be processed using the old swipe and sign method, too. OPERATING HOURS Most communities have branches of major banks which are open, at minimum, from 10 to 3 on weekdays. Banks are closed on legal holidays, but exchange bureaus in cities, airports and at border crossings usually remain open. Museums and similar sites are typically open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; some close on Monday but have evening hours (and often reduced prices) once a week. Store hours are generally 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, though these may be extended on Thursday and Friday nights; times vary on Sunday. Shopping centres are typically open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on week- days, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Supermarkets often have longer hours. Drugstores may remain open until midnight with some 24-hour locations, and convenience stores sometimes operate 24/7. Canada's liquor laws vary between provinces and territories, and liquor store hours vary accordingly. The sale of spirits, wines and beer in provinces differ, with most being sold in provincially-owned or supervised stores, as well as some available in private shops. In Alberta privately owned liquor stores are allowed to sell alcohol. COMMUNICATIONS The Canadian telephone system is identical to the U.S. one and shares the same international country code (01). Telephone numbers have a 3-digit area code followed by the 7-digit local number. Toll-free numbers are prefixed by 1-800, 1-888, 1-877, 1-866, 1-855 or 1-844. For emergencies, dial 911; for directory assistance, dial 411; for the operator, dial 0. Public phone booths, while increasingly rare, can be used for local or long-distance calls. The cost of the former is 50¢; you can pay for the latter with coins, a phone card and sometimes a credit card, or by reversing the charges. International visitors can typically use their own multiband cell phone but should be mindful of high roaming and data charges. One way to avoid these is to ask your provider to temporarily add Canadian access to your service plan before arriving. Renting a travel phone or bringing an "unlocked" cell phone and then buying a local SIM card are other alternatives. On-line options such as Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp offer cheaper ways to keep in touch. Most hotels provide broadband connections or WiFi, at least in common areas. Many airports, bus and train stations, ferry terminals and libraries also offer WiFi; ditto for countless coffee shops and fast food franchises, including those ubiquitous Tim Hortons outlets. If you are bringing a phone charger, laptop, or any other electrical device, be advised that Canada (like the U.S.) has a 110-V, 60-Hz current. To use 220-V British equipment, you'll need a power converter plus a plug adaptor. Service charges are seldom added to bills, except in resorts. Gratuities of 15 to 20 percent are customary for waiters, taxi drivers and similar personnel. Porters and bellmen expect $2 to $5 per bag handled; a room maid, $2 or $3 per day. A TIP ABOUT TIPPING 19

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