First Time in Canada: Insider Tips and Must-Knows Before Your Arrival

Whether you're trekking through the Canadian Rockies or indulging in poutine at a local eatery, your first time in Canada is bound to be an unforgettable adventure, blending wild, majestic landscapes with the warmth and friendliness of its people.

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First time in Canada

When you think of Canada, the image that probably comes to mind is vast expanses, a welcoming population, and a peaceful atmosphere. And you are quite right; the captivating landscapes of the country enchant visitors to Canada: from majestic glaciers and spectacular fjords to lush valleys, vast canyons, picturesque islands, and vertiginous cliffs, the natural beauty is truly all-encompassing.

From west to east, each region presents a distinct landscape, showcasing wild nature at its finest. Beyond this deep connection with nature, Canada reveals another equally captivating side on your first visit.

Vibrant cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal pulse with modern energy and innovation. On your first visit to Canada, you'll witness skyscrapers lighting up the night sky, immerse yourself in the electric atmosphere of festivals in bustling neighbourhoods, and savour culinary delights from world-class restaurants.

Whether you're trekking through the Canadian Rockies or indulging in poutine at a local eatery, your first time in Canada is bound to be an unforgettable adventure, blending wild, majestic landscapes with the warmth and friendliness of its people.

Historical Overview for Visitors to Canada

Canada's history is expressed through a rich cultural mosaic. Indigenous communities, such as the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, established their communities well before the arrival of European settlers. These Indigenous cultures have contributed significantly to the contemporary cultural plurality of Canada, something you'll appreciate deeply during your first time in Canada.

Walking through the streets of cities like Québec or Montréal, you'll notice the enduring legacy of French colonial history reflected in the architecture and traditions. The remnants of the British era are also reflected in emblematic sites like the Parliament in Ottawa. On your first visit to Canada, you'll encounter a world of cuisine, with cities like Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Vancouver showcasing multiculturalism through their diverse culinary delights.

As a visitor to Canada, you'll see different communities living together in harmony, showing the country's peaceful nature and its dedication to respect and diversity.

Visitors to Canada: FAQ for Your First Time in Canada

Before you fly to this extraordinary country, here are some practical tips to prepare for your trip to Canada:

Do I need to obtain a visa or an eTA to visit Canada?

Depending on their passport, some travellers can enter Canada without a visa. However, even with this exemption, many European travellers must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). 

The eTA can be requested online for $7 CAD. Once your application is completed with a few simple questions, you will receive a confirmation email with your eTA number. Make sure to keep this number written somewhere or print the email for safekeeping, as it could be requested at check-in if you arrive by air.

What are the procedures to follow at the airport for entry into Canada?

Canadian airports are well organized, but customs queues can be long. Ensure you understand the customs procedures and respect the limits for certain goods in your declaration. Canadian customs are strict, similar to those of the United States. Fill out your declaration online using the ArriveCAN mobile app to save time at the border.

Is Canada safe?

Canada is one of the safest countries in the world, but stay vigilant in urban areas. In case of emergency, dial 911, the universal emergency number in Canada. This service is available everywhere in the country and can be contacted for any medical assistance, fire, police, or any other situation requiring immediate intervention.

What types of electrical outlets are used in Canada?

In Canada, the electrical system and outlets adhere to the North American standard, featuring type A and B outlets with a 120-volt current. Should your devices require a different standard, you may need adapters and converters. Make sure you are equipped accordingly to facilitate the charging of your devices.

Is travel insurance mandatory for visitors to Canada?

Although Canada has a free public health system for its population, as visitors, you must have adequate medical coverage to ensure your peace of mind in case of need. It's strongly recommended to subscribe to travel insurance, which provides coverage for visitors to Canada in the event of medical emergencies or other unexpected situations.

n other words, this will help you avoid unforeseen expenses and ensure optimal care when needed. Contact a soNomad agent to discuss your travel insurance for your first time in Canada.

What are the most spoken languages in Canada?

Although Canada is often perceived as bilingual, the linguistic reality can vary significantly from one region to another. 

Anglophone provinces and territories, such as Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, are primarily English-speaking. 

The francophone concentration is mainly in the province of Québec, but English is also widely used in the Montreal metropolitan area. New Brunswick is bilingual with a coexisting Anglophone and Francophone population. 

Learn a few basic words in both official languages (French and English) to facilitate interactions, especially if you're travelling outside the major urban centres during your first time in Canada.

How to pay for purchases in Canada?

Credit cards are widely accepted. Moreover, contactless payments, mobile payment apps, and electronic transfers are commonly used methods in many businesses. 

Have some cash on hand just in case, although its use is becoming less widespread.

How to tip in Canada?

Wondering whether it's mandatory to leave a tip? Indeed, it depends on the context; sometimes, it's essential. 

Tips are generally 15-20%, and politeness is customary in interactions. Tipping is commonly given in restaurants, taxis, and other services. In restaurants and bars, leaving a tip is almost expected; not doing so is often seen in a negative light.

Be aware, the tip is not included on the bill. Moreover, it's easy to confuse the tip with the sales tax. In some provinces like Québec, the tax amount can be similar. For instance, if you buy a meal for $10 at a snack bar, the bill will be $11.50 (including 15% in taxes), but you should leave an additional 15% as a tip, which means giving about $1.73 more. In total, you would leave around $13.23, or simply round it to $13 or $13.50.

Fortunately, thanks to widely used electronic payment systems, restaurants in Canada will often suggest preset tips, usually 15%, 18%, or 20%. This makes it easier when using your credit card, with automatic calculations for your convenience.

How does the display of prices and sales tax work in Canada?

When purchasing a product, the price is displayed without taxes. When you pay at the register, the tax amount will be added to your bill.

This might surprise you, as it can sometimes reach up to 15% depending on the province. Plan your purchases well to avoid a surprise at the cash register.

What is the age limit for alcohol in Canada?

Contrary to the United States, where the legal age to consume alcohol is 21, the rules on alcohol in Canada vary by province. 

In some provinces, the legal age is 18 (Québec, Manitoba, and Alberta), while in others, it's 19 (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, the maritime provinces, and the territories). 

Expect to show ID when buying alcohol; many establishments will ask for it to verify your age, even if you appear older than the minimum required. Make sure you have a valid ID on hand to meet the legal requirements in the province you are visiting.

Enjoy Your First Time in Canada!

Canada is too vast to be seen in a single trip! For your first time in Canada, focus on a few regions or provinces and savour your experience. 

Prior to your departure, reach out to a soNomad agent to explore specialized travel insurance tailored for visitors to Canada.

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