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Canada country information

Canada map
Area: 9,984,670 sq km
Population: 33,423,000
Population density: 3.2 per sq km
Capital: Ottawa
Passport & Visa
Passport Required?
British Yes
Australian Yes
Canadian 1
Other EU 3/4
Visa Required?
British No/5
Australian No
Canadian N/A
Other EU 4/6


Passport valid for at least one day beyond the intended departure date from Canada required by all nationals referred to in the chart above except the following:
(a) 1. Canadian citizens holding a Canadian Certificate of Identity, Canadian birth certificate or a certificate of Canadian citizenship;
(b) permanent residents of Canada with proof of status, ie Permanent Resident Card, Record of Landing, Returning Resident Permit or a Refugee Travel Document issued by the government of Canada to refugees who have been resettled in Canada;
(c) 2. citizens of the USA holding proof of citizenship (eg US birth certificate or US naturalisation papers);
(d) persons entering from St Pierre & Miquelon or the USA who are legal permanent residents of the USA and hold a US alien registration card (Green Card);
(e) 3. citizens of France who are residents of and entering from St Pierre & Miquelon.

Passport Note

(a) As of 23 January 2007 all persons, including US citizens, travelling by air between the USA and Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda are required to present a valid passport or other approved document when entering or re-entering the USA. Similar requirements for those travelling by land or sea will be introduced on 1 June 2009. For further details about the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, visit the website of the US Department of State: .
(b) Children under 18 years must have information with them on the people responsible for their welfare, if travelling alone; this includes a letter of permission to travel from guardian(s), and also a letter from the custodian in Canada.
(c) Visitors to Canada must satisfy an examining officer at the Port of Entry that they are genuine visitors, in good health, with no criminal convictions, and have sufficient funds to maintain themselves during their stay in Canada and to return to their country of origin, as well as evidence of confirmed onward reservations out of Canada.
(d) Persons under 18 years of age who are unaccompanied by an adult should bring with them a letter from a parent or guardian giving them permission to travel to Canada.
(e) Identity/travel documents issued to non-national residents of the country of issue, refugees or stateless persons are recognised for travel to Canada.
(f) 4. Nationals of Poland and Lithuania require an e-passport for visa-free travel to Canada.


Not required by all nationals referred to in chart above (visitor or transit) for stays of up to six months except the following:
(a) 5. holders of passports endorsed 'British Subjects' and 'British Protected Persons';
(b) 6. nationals of Bulgaria and Romania;
(c) those visiting Canada who, during that visit, also visit the USA or St Pierre & Miquelon (a French Overseas Territory) and return directly to Canada as visitors within the period authorised on their initial entry (or any extension thereto).

Note: Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the high commission to check visa requirements.

Visa Note

(a) The Government of Canada refuses admission to holders of passports issued by the UK Government entitled 'British Temporary Resident's Passport'.
(b) A single-entry visa is still valid if used to visit the USA.
(c) Persons wishing to attend a course of six months duration or less, at any level, do not require a study permit. However, if there is the possibility that you will extend your period of study in Canada, or if you are a full time student and wish to work on campus, you may apply for a study permit.
(d) Depending on circumstance and nationality, certain applicants may need to undergo a medical examination in order to receive their visas; this must be carried out by a physician on Canada's list of Designated Medical Practitioners.

Types of Visa and Cost

Visitor: C$75 (single-entry); C$150 (multiple-entry). Family: C$400 (for families of six or more persons). Transit: free. Transit visas are necessary for all nationals who require a visitor visa. Although transit visas are not required by British citizens, they may be required by foreign nationals with British passports; check with the embassy or high commission for details. For further information on payment methods, contact the high commission. Prices are subject to frequent change.


Up to six months depending on circumstances of individual applicant. The determination regarding length of stay in Canada can only be decided by the examining officer at the port of entry, but visas cannot exceed the validity of the passport and cannot be longer than five years. If no actual departure date is indicated within the visitor's passport, then the visitor will be required to depart within three months from the date of entry. Visitors must effect their departure from Canada on or before the date authorised by the examining officer on arrival. If an extension of stay is desired, an application must be made in writing to the nearest Canada Immigration Centre at least three weeks before the expiry of the visitor visa. Multiple-entry visas cannot be valid longer than passport. Transit visas are only allocated if a national's flight/onward journey is continuing within 24 hours. Single-entry visas can be used multiple times by nationals of St Pierre & Miquelon and the USA.

Applications to:

Consulate (or consular section at embassy or high commission).

Working Days Required

10 days are required from receiving applications, but applications should be made at least one month prior to the intended date of departure. Certain nationals are subject to longer processing times. For urgent applications it is advised to apply in person. Same-day processing is available for applications made in person and 24-hour processing for those using the drop-in service.
Getting there

Getting There by Air

The principal national airline is Air Canada (AC) (website: ).

Approximate Flight Times

From London to Calgary is 9 hours, to Halifax is 7 hours, to Montréal is 7 hours 20 minutes, to Toronto is 8 hours and to Vancouver is 9 hours 45 minutes.
From New York to Montréal is 1 hour 15 minutes, to Toronto is 1 hour 30 minutes and to Vancouver is 5 hours.

Main Airports

Canada has 13 international airports. All have full banking and catering facilities, duty-free shops and car hire. Airport-to-city bus and taxi services and, in some cases, rail links, are available.

Calgary (YYC) (website: ) is 20km (12.5 miles) from the city (journey time - 45 minutes).

Montréal (YUL) (Dorval) (website: ) is 25km (16 miles) from the city (journey time - 25 minutes).
Ottawa (YOW) (Macdonald-Cartier) (website: ) is 15km (8 miles) from the city (journey time - 20 to 45 minutes).

Toronto (YYZ) (Lester B Pearson) (website: ) is 27km (17 miles) from the city (journey time - 30 minutes).
Vancouver (YVR) (website: ) is 13km (8 miles) from the city (journey time - 20 to 45 minutes).
Departure Tax
Included in the air fare.

Getting There by Water

Main ports: Canada has many ports which are all served by international shipping lines.
Montréal (website: ) is the only port for passenger liners from Europe.
Toronto's port (website: ) is on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, (website: ), St John, New Brunswick (website: ) and St John's, Newfoundland (website: ) are the principal ports on the Atlantic Ocean.
The port of Vancouver (website: ) is on the west coast.

Getting There by Rail

The Canadian rail system connects to the USA at several points. Major routes are: New York-Montréal, New York-Buffalo-Niagara Falls-Toronto, Chicago-Sarnia-London-Toronto, Cleveland-Buffalo-Niagara Falls-Toronto and Detroit-Windsor-Toronto. For details of ticket prices and reservations, contact VIA Rail in Canada (tel: 1 888 842 7245; website: ) or their UK representative 1st Rail (tel: 0845 644 3552/3; website: ).
Rail Passes
North American Rail Pass: allows 12 days' unlimited travel within a 30-day period on VIA trains in Canada and practically any Amtrak train in the USA, with direct access to over 900 Canadian and US cities and towns.

Getting There by Road

The only road access to Canada is through the southern border with the USA or from the west through Alaska. Apart from private motoring, the most popular way of travelling by road is by bus. Contact Greyhound Canada (tel: (403) 265 9111 or 1 800 661 8747; website: ) for details. There are many crossing points from the USA to Canada, but some of the most common are: New York to Montréal/Ottawa; Detroit to Toronto/Hamilton; Minneapolis to Winnipeg; and Seattle to Vancouver/Edmonton/Calgary.
Cycling & Maps

Cycling in Canada:
Basically, there are very few choices of roads in Canada, unless you go off onto dirt tracks, so if you intend to travel near tourist spots during the summer or around national holidays then you will have to contend with some very disrespectful driving indeed. Trucks give you no leeway, motor homes come dangerously close and the bridges have no shoulders. Have your wits about you.

Forest service roads range from mediocre to really badly potholed and sinking gravel. The scenery is not always spectacular as it is mostly limited to pine trees, though on the odd occassion you'll get high enough to peer over them and glimpse a magestically snow-capped mountain. The Kettle Valley Trail in BC was in such a poor state of repair in 2008 from all the ATV and trail bike use that we ended up resorting to the highway on numerous occasions. By all other accounts, the remote areas of Canada are pleasant to cycle in and definitely challenging, especially off the beaten track.

arrow cycling route map of Ottawa map
arrow resources to cycling in Canada's capital from National Capital Commission (NCC) website


British Columbia Back Road Atlas by MapArt

we used this map, which is widely available in the better book stores in BC. Very detailed maps, with camp sites listed and ALL back roads, which is handy when you are planning to go off the main higways.

Cost of living
Canada: all prices are in Canadian Dollars (CAD)
drinks and snacks

food: local markets; restaurants; and stores

water (mineral)
soft drink (bottle)
Iced tea crystals

1.5 litre
1 litre
1 litre

bread loaf-white
bread loaf-whole grain

fried rice
one serving
one serving
beer - local
coffee (cafe / bar)
Nescafe instant
coffee - ground
25 bags
per cup
rice (basmati-bulk)
tinned tomatoes
corn on the cob

per dozen
6 pieces

yoghurt / curd
Magnum icecream
1 litre


museli bars
235g pack
6 x 25g


biscuits - plain
biscuits- chocolate

375g pack
100g block

200g pack
200g pack

pineapple (can)
oil (corn)
500g can
peanut paste
500g jar
370g jar
accommodation personal
budget city hostel
16.00 per dorm bed
44.00 (double) share bathroom
deodorant - roll-on
disposable razor
toilet paper
150g bar
5 pack
6 roll pack
wild camping
15.00 per primitive campsite
only in remote areas
internet 5.00 per hour

* tba = price to be announced
* January 2009: at time of writing 1.00 USD = 1.25 CAD
all prices have been taken from internet resources such as wikitravel, hostel world, leading supermarket chains, travel blogs, forums and of course our own travel experiences and purchases of everyday products in food markets, bazaars and local shopping facilities. They are only an indication and designed to give you a general impression of the cost of living in Canada. Items are geared towards the budget conscious traveller with an occasional craving for a bit of luxury.

A couple of extra tips:

* Bargaining is not widely practised, but when buying in bulk, it doesn't hurt to ask if a discount is possible.
Tipping is much the same as in the USA and as a ballpark figure it is customary to tip between 10 and 15% on the total bill before tax. A simple way of working this out is to multiply the 5% GST (goods and services tax) shown on your cheque by either two or three. If you are in a group of 6 or more people, some restaurants will charge an automatic 15% gratuity, though if this is not clearly advertised you have the right to refuse and pay what you consider reasonable. Wages paid to hospitality workers are also similar to the USA: the minimum.


Taxis drivers do not expect tips though telling your chauffeur to 'keep the change' is common practice.

Depending where you are and whether it is a hot tourist spot or not, you can get get a decent dorm bed for as little as CAD $16.00 per person. Otherwise, you'll be looking at anything from CAD $25.00 and up. Hostels also offer private rooms and you could be really lucky to pick up a double room at a small hotel in the more rural areas for around $40.00.

Further to that, those on a budget will have to make use of the large number of campgrounds throughout the country. They can range from privately owned RV Parks to user-maintained sites run by the National Forest Services. So, it follows that facilities can vary from almost modern bathrooms with hot running water to a dry-loo and a freezing cold dip in the nearby stream. Prices also fluctuate and are in no way indicative of what you get. Touristy spots can demand a whopping 25 Canadian dollars per site, while not so frequented places may be as low as 10 dollars. Occasionally you'll stumble across a free pitch.

In general, the privately owned campgrounds are a lot more expensive than roughing it on a maintained but primitive camp spot in a National Park. The latter are often set in beautiful surroundings, but in summer even the most remote areas can get overcrowded. Camping wild is possible in the more out of the way areas and often a necessity as distances between campgrounds in Canada can be vast. Anywhere remotely popular, and you'll be bunked up next to the motor homes. Just remember that wherever you are, you are also sharing the countryside with native animals so respect their territory too. Take all the necessary precautions that go along with travelling in close range to bears and cougars. The only other piece of essential advice is to bring some protection against mosquitos and sand flies. They are in plague proportions throughout the country.

Useful links:
arrow Kettle Valley Railway old railway track turned into cycle path, though not in particularly good state of repair
arrow Parks Canada Agency : comprehensive info about national parks, camping facilities, opening times and fees
arrow Parks Canada Agency : National Parks specific campground reservation website
arrow Campgrounds-Camping Canada : excellent interactive map with campground listings per state and region
arrow : another website with campground search engine
arrow British : lists of available campground facilities in Provincial Parks, BC Forests and privately owned establishments. Also lots of information about British Colombia in general
arrow Super Natural British Colombia : a full page with links to various maps all over BC and a useful site for interesting information about the state
arrow Tourism Vancouver doesn't allow any linking to their site without prior permission, but if you just Google their name and go to the Travel Tips sections on the menu bar you can find yourself some good maps of Vancouver.
arrow a website actually dedicated to motorcycle rallies & camping, but has a decent list of linked campsites throughout Canada and USA too.

Acommodation we used while in Canada (August 2008): (prices based on two people sharing)
Star system explained: from 0 to ***** where 0 is a total disaster and ***** is luxurious (and out of our price range)
City / town: Name accommodation: Our experience: Price: Stars:
Arrow Lake Shelter Bay campground bit barren, sandflies !! CAD$ 10 **
Bankeir Chain Lake camp ground beautiful scenery, quiet CAD$ 10 ***
Cultus Lake Clear Creek Camping warning signs, no bear boxes? CAD$ 24 **
Hope Telte Yet Campsite plenty of space, free firewood CAD$ 13 ***
Kaslo Fletcher Falls campground stunning! CAD$ -- ****
Kelowna (Philpott Rd.) Darley Springs what a gem! CAD$ 12 ****
Nelson Nelson campground small, but cozy, WiFi CAD$ 17 ***
Penticton Lake Skaha campground tiny plots & very expensive CAD$ 30 *
Revelstoke Canada West RV WiFi, where's the staff? CAD$ 20 **½
Rosebery Rosebery State Park great spot, very scenic CAD$ 15 ***½
Waneta Junction Kiwanis Campground nice spot on the river CAD$ 15 **½
Yellow Point Yellow Point Campground crisp and clean, bit pricey CAD$ 22 **½
Food & drink

Looking back in history, the Canadian pioneering kitchen was limited by short summers and very cold winters. With the event of globalisation, better preservation methods and the influx of different cultures, food products have not only become readily available, but also a diverse melting pot of world cuisines.

Each region in Canada can boast a dish or two that is unique to the area, though apart from indigineous cooking, many of the meals are heavily influenced from either Britain and France. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that meat plays an enormous role in the Canadian diet although interestingly enough, small groups of Doukhobors, Russian-descended vegetarians, immigrated to Canada in the late 1800's. Since there is only an estimated population of 15,000 their cusine has hardly had an impact on North American cookery.

The usual range of diners and fast food restaurants can be found throughout the country, but mostly in townships of a decent size and especially concentrated in shopping centre zones. The vegetarian will find little comfort in these outlets except for the memorable experience of working your way through the popular Quebecian dish: poutine (french fries with curd cheese and gravy). Poor nutritionally and expensive for what you get, you'll find yourself self catering for almost all of your stay in rural Canada.

Je suis un végétarien-(ne) / végétalien-(ne) =
I am a vegetarian / vegan - (female)
Je mange pas... = I eat
Je ne mange pas... = I don't eat
Je voudrais... [zhuh voo-dreh] = I would like...
Je voudrais un plat avec... [-ung plah ah-vek...] =
I would like a dish containing...

du poulet [duu poo-leh] = chicken
du boeuf [duu buff] = beef
du poisson [duu pwa-song] = fish
des fruits de mer [deh frwee duh mehr] = seafood
du porc/cochon[duu pohr/duu coh-shong] = pork
du fromage [duu froh-mahzh] = cheese
des oeufs [dehz-uh] = eggs
du lait [duu-leh] = milk

des légumes [deh lay-guum] = vegetables
des fruits (frais) [frwee (freh)] = (fresh) fruit

s'il vous plaît [see voo pleh] = please
merci [mehr-see] = thank you
de rien [der ree-en] = you're welcome

Large supermarkets are dotted throughout the country and as a cyclist you are never really far away from some form of shopping convenience, unless of course you get off the beaten track and then you will need to do a bit more planning. Supermarkets often have bulk buy sections which is perfect for the cyclist: you buy as much as you need and they have plentiful supplies of trail-mix, nuts, dried fuit, crackers as well as the standard food products, that it is almost seventh heaven. The amount of organic food available in stores is also amiacable, however if you are working with a budget it can prove costly and you will have to hunt hard for bargains. Most shops have a reward system if you bring in your own shopping bags and all bottles and cans have a deposit attached. Problem is, getting the used containers to a collection point. As a cyclist, it is almost impossible to get returns on your empties.

The bigger cities offer a welcome reprieve from all thet camp cooking and HappyCow has listings and reviews of some of the restauarants suitable for the non-meat eater. Many trendy cafes have popped up in recent times and you can get some superbly great filling meals for a pretty decent price. The restauarants offering vegan and vegetarian buffets will generally charge you by weight. A large plate full will set you back from 10-12 Canadian dollars.

Water supplies are abundant in Canada and if you hav a water filter with you then you are pretty well set. The tap variety is potable but tends to taste a little brackish in some regions and overly chlorinated in others, but is often your only option, especially if you are in the National Parks and Forrests. Purified water in the supermarket can work out to be very expensive at almost CAD $2.00 for 1.5 litres.

The prices of alcohol vary from state to state and British Columbia would have to be the most expensive region of all. A local 355ml can of nothing special beer costs at least CAD $2.00 plus deposit. A very mediocre table wine sets you back around CAD $10.00 for a 750ml bottle. So if you like an above average tipple, your trip to BC is going to cost you. Outside of this state, prices are a little more reasonable, though Canada is, in general, more expensive than the neighbouring USA.

PS: you cannot take citrus fruits from Canada into the USA, though they will let you eat them at the border.

Why not try these for starters?
This fast food staple originating in Quebec has to be the 'be all and end all' of comfort food. The dish consists of crunchy French fries topped with fresh cheese curd and smoothered with a good ladle full of rich brown gravy. Finding it somewhere on a menu is not very difficult as it is on offer at most fast food stores.
Beans and Bannock
Baked beans with maple syrup is one of those simple meals that never fails to please the hungry stomach. Instead of the usual sliced bread, why not try it with served alongside some traditional roasted Bannock. This indigineous frybread or Indian bread as it is also called, finds its roots in North American native cuisine. Prepared from a simple flour dough and sometimes flavoured with spices and dried fruit, Bannock was either fried, baked or roasted on a stick, over a fire.

Warm Fiddllehead Salad
Springtime and everything begins to shoot including the Fiddleheads or Ostrich Fern. But you have got to be quick to sample these freshly picked sprouts as they are available at markets for just a few weeks of the season. Pickled and frozen fiddleheads, can be found all year round.

Although they are traditionally prepared in Quebec and the Maritimes in Canada, the village of Tide Head in New Brunswick gives itself the title of 'Fiddlehead Capital of the World'. Still, it must be mentioned that this vegetable is not without controversy. The fiddlehead contains tannins and toxins and it is therefore recommended that you double-boil the plant with a change of water in between, after first removing the yellowy-brown outer layer.

Poison scares aside, for a scrumptious warm salad with a different flair: prepare a maple-syrup balsamic vinagrette and toss lightly with the freshly boiled fiddleheads and roughly chopped pecan nuts in a warm frypan. Place the shoots over an assortment of your favourite torn lettuce leaves; pour over the dressing and nuts; and garnish with shaved parmesan. To bring the meal to an awesome climax serve with crusty buttered french bread and a glass of 'little cooler than room temperature' Savignon Blanc. Springtime just couldn't be more opulent.

Figgy Duff
A Canadian take on the English stuffing served with its own molasses coady. This softened breadcrumb dish cooked with raisins and molasses and flavoured with ginger, allspice, and cinnamon is an excellent compliment to roasted vegetables, pickled beets dolloped with a big spoonful of picalilly.
Considered one of the truly genuine Canadian recipes, Butter Tarts were once a staple of Ontarian pioneer pastry cooking. Today, they are usually thought of as a very special treat. It stands to reason then that while visiting the country, you too should treat yourself to one of these baked custard pies. Don't be at all surprised if you have to toss up between several variations on display in the local bakery. Additional ingredients that may tempt you to deviate from th original tart are raisins, pecans, walnuts, coconut, dates, butterscotch, chocolate chips or even peanut butter.
Beaver Tail
While it may not sound particulary animal friendly to ask someone to 'get their teeth stuck into a Beaver Tail', it is in fact, perfectly harmless. Also known as Fried Dough and in plentiful supply along the Ottawa canals in winter time, it is commonly associated with food stalls at carnivals, amusement parks and other similar events all year round. Shaped like a beaver's tail and hence its name, there are both sweet and savoury versions available. However, the all-time favourite has to be the classic topping of cinnamon and sugar. The Killaloe Sunrise, with its added squeeze of lemon juice has got a few locals hooked, as has the beaver tail drizzled with maple syrup, melted chocolate and dusted with sugar. Mmmm, lots of warming calories in that one.
Maple Leaf Creams
Perfect with your morning coffee, these shortbread sandwich cookies are filled with a maple-syrup flavoured cream and of course, shaped symbolically like the national icon of Canada: the maple leaf.
Nanaimo Bar
Of British Columbian origin and from the city of its name on Vancouver Island, this irrisistable three layered no-bake is a popular snack at any time of day. The standard variety comprises a crumb base followed by a layer of vanilla custard butter cream and topped with real chocolate, but these days you can find several variations on the custard filling. So, when in Canada, why not try the full assortment. You have a choice of the original, mint, mocha or peanut butter flavoured.
Bike shops
Vancouver, BC Bicycles ***
1823 W. 4th Avenue
Vancouver British Columbia
V6J 1M4 Canada
tel: 604 737 7577
Our experience: great little shop full of groovy bikes. Bit low on the accessories, but quality service and repairs. Have their own Phil Wood spoke cutting and threading machine. (July 2008)
Victoria, BC Bicycle-itis ***
1623 Bay St.
Victoria British Columbia
V8R 2B7 Canada
Phone (250) 370 2282
Our experience: knowledgable and flexible owner, willing to do an in-between job. I had to have my wheel re-spoked during peak holiday season. Where other bike shops quoted a waiting time of three weeks (!), Bicycle-itis pushed us in their busy schedule and I had my wheel back in a day (no broken spokes since then!) (July 2008)
climate chart Calgary climate chart Montreal
climate chart Quebec climate chart Toronto
climate chart Vancouver Canada
Road distances

Canada road distance chart

British Columbia road distance chart

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