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Travel tips

Canada: a travel money guide

By Zuzana Hajska | Marketing Officer at ICE

With its vibrant cities and breathtaking natural landscapes, Canada offers a whole range of adventures. The second biggest country in the world, Canada spreads from the astonishing Rocky Mountains on the East Coast all the way to the picturesque fishing villages in Nova Scotia on the West Coast.

No matter what time of the year or which province you are visiting, there is always something to do or see in Canada. With many stunning national parks and beautiful turquoise lakes, this is a country that welcomes adventurers ready to explore the great outdoors with open arms, despite the generally colder climate. 

The basics

Currency: Canadian Dollar

Language: English and French 

Capital: Ottawa (Ontario)

Population: 37.5 million

Cash and Currency Exchange in Canada

At the time of writing, 1 Pound Sterling (GBP) will get you 1.73 Canadian Dollar (CAD). 

Cash or card? You won't need to carry large amounts of cash with you for everyday use as credit and debit cards are widely accepted everywhere in Canada. However, having some cash (around CA$ 100) with you while exploring out and about might come in handy when making smaller purchases, especially in more remote areas. You should also always check in advance if your deposits for car rentals or local hostels are required to be in cash to avoid any unpleasant surprises. 

Travelling with a card? Major credit card providers such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted and finding an ATM isn't a problem in Canada. The only exceptions are more remote Northern provinces where you will have to pay in cash.

Pro tip: Try to always pay in Canadian Dollars even if you are given the option to pay in Pounds as many vendors will charge you a higher interest rate for the transaction. 

Looking for a good deal on your Canadian Dollars?

For great rates and maximum convenience, you can buy your Canadian Dollars with ICE for home delivery or in selected ICE stores using click & collect. You can also get yourself a prepaid travel money card that can be topped up on the go and won't charge you any fees while exploring this stunning country. 

Flights to Canada 

Flights from the UK to Canada take between 8 hours (Toronto) and 13 hours (Vancouver), depending on your final destination.

High season in Canada starts in July and continues until October, so if you are looking into booking cheaper flights, you should consider visiting in February, April or November when the airfare is much lower.  

East Coast

West Coast

Accommodation in Canada 

On a budget (£)

  • Backpacking: If you enjoy camping and want to travel on a budget, there are plenty of options. Prices will vary depending on the provinces but you can generally expect to pay between CA$ 10 - 30 (£5.80 - £17.50) per night
  • Dorms and hostels: Staying in a dorm room or a hostel is another budget-friendly option as one night will cost your between CA$ 30 - 65 (£17.50 - £38) per room 

Mid-range (££)

  • Mid-range hotels: Canada has a number of hotel chains, such as Holiday Inn and Best Western, that offer comfortable accommodation without costing a small fortune. A double room during the peak season will set you back around CA$ 110 (£64)
  • Home on wheels: If you have a lot of time on your hands and are up for an adventure, one of the best ways to explore Canada is by car. You can rent a camper van for CA$70 (£40) per day, which will cut down the cost for both transport and accommodation 

Pro tip: If you are thinking of renting a car, the best place to buy cheap gas in Canada is in native reserves. With lower taxes, you'll find the gas prices noticeably lower than in bigger towns and cities.

Luxury (£££)

  • High-end hotel: Stay in one of Canada's top-notch hotels to experience the ultimate Canadian comfort. A price for a double room in a high-end hotel starts around CA$150 (£90) and can go up to CA$500 (£290) per night
  • Mountain cabin: Staying in luxurious mountain cabins is hugely popular, especially in British Columbia and Alberta. You can unplug from the rest of the world for CA$ 340 (£200) per night when booked in advance

Food in Canada

Trying out the country's most popular dishes is a must. Eating out in Canada is very popular and fairly affordable. For example, a lunch at a sandwich shop will cost you less than CA$13 (£7.50) and a nice meal at a restaurant around CA$25 (£14.50). 

Things you should try out: 

  • Poutine, the most famous Canadian dish made of chips, squeaky cheese curds and rich gravy: starting from CA$3.20 (£1.80)
  • Tourtièrea savoury meat pie commonly eaten during the holidays: CA$5 (£2.90) per slice
  • Ceaser cocktailCanada’s national cocktail made of vodka, clamato juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce: CA$8.50 (£5)
  • Beavertails, deep-fried dough covered in a variety of toppings like Nutella and peanut butter: CA$5.50 (£3.20)
  • Saskatoon berry pie: CA$2.30 (£1.30) per slice 
  • Montreal-style bagel: CA$0.95 (55p)
  • Butter tarts, flaky pastry shells filled with a butter, sugar and egg filling: CA$2.50 (£1.40) each 

Transport in Canada

Public transport in cities

Using public transports in bigger cities like Toronto and Montreal can save you a lot of money. A single ticket costs CA$2.50 (£1.45), which is significantly cheaper than using a taxi or an Uber.

Taxis

A taxi from Toronto airport to Toronto downtown costs around CA$ 60 - £35 per single journey. 

Add Montreal

Megabus

Using Megabus is the cheapest option when it comes to travelling between provinces as you can find tickets for as little as CA$1 (58p) when booked in advance. This is by far the most affordable way of transportation, and can be even used if you fancy a quick trip over the borders to the US. 

Car rental

Renting a car is one of the most convenient ways to explore the Canadian wilderness. Renting a car is hugely popular in Canada and there are many car rentals on the market, so you should consider looking around first before jumping on the first offer you see. You can hire a car for between CA$35 - CA$80 (£20 - £46) per day. 

Internal flights 

Flying internally is only money savvy if you have a packed itinerary and only a limited time to do so. The prices are often very high as Canada has only two major airlines, WestJet and Air Canada. You can expect to pay CA$200 (£117) for flights from Toronto to Vancouver, while travelling from Calgary to Ottawa could set you back by CA$260 (£150). 

Pro tip: If you are thinking of flying a shorter distance, for instance from Ottawa to Montreal, going by train or taking the Megabus will save you a lot of money. 

What to do in Canada 

For free

  • Hiking: Hike through the Pacific Rim National Park and Jasper National Park to explore some of the best natural beauty Canada has to offer
  • Free walking tours around cities: Most bigger cities like Toronto and Vancouver offer free walking tours which are a great way to get a feel for each location and its history
  • Music, food and art festivals: As Canadian winters are cold and long, Canadians love to make the most of warmer days by organising lots of festivals during the summer months. Visit the Heritage Days in Edmonton, Caribana in Toronto or Kits Days in Vancouver. And the best part? All of them are free to visit

On a budget 

  • Whale watching: With more than 30 different species of whales living off its shores, Canada is known to be THE place for whale watching. You can book to see the gentle giants of the sea near Vancouver Island from CA$155 (£90) per ticket
  • Kayaking and canoeing: There is no better way to be at one with nature than renting a kayak or a canoe and paddle through the beautiful turquoise waters of many Canadian lakes and rivers. Visit Haida Gwaii in British Columbia or Lake Louise in Alberta, and rent a 2-people canoe for CA$95 (£55) per day
  • Gardens and museums: From the Victoria Butterfly Garden, an indoor tropical rainforest filled with thousands of butterflies, to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, there are many great museums and gardens you can visit in Canada. A single ticket for an adult costs about CA$16.50 (£13)

High-budget activities

  • Skiing: One of the best countries for skiing in the world, Canada offers a huge variety for skiers and snowboarders looking for peaceful slopes and untouched snow. Many of the resorts also have their own snowcat and heliski (helicopter-skiing) operations for accessing even the more remote areas with pristine snow and breathtaking views. You can expect to pay CA$1080 (£630) for a heliski tour package, which also includes photo and video services to document your epic trip
  • The Northern Lights: Jasper National Park is one of the best natural preserves where you can catch the glimpse of the Northern Lights. Want to raise your chances of seeing the Northern Lights despite the unpredictable weather conditions? Then head to Yellowknife as there is a 90% chance you will get to see this natural beauty occurrence as this less-populated Canadian territory is flat and placed directly under the Auroral Oval. The tours star from CA$690 (£400) per tour
  • Grizzly cub spotting: Home to 60% of the world's entire bear population, Canada offers many great bear watching tours. The tours for one of the best and most rewarding outdoor experience you can do while venturing around Canada start from CA$190 (£110) per ticket

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