If you've ever traveled abroad then you know one of the easiest ways to identify a Canadian is to look for the Canadian flag sewn on their backpack. Sure, at first glance Canada may seem to resemble the country it shares a common border with, but don't be mistaken. This country is quick to distinguish itself from its American neighbor and you might even say Canada is a little friendlier, a little more laid back and, of course, a lot colder.
For starters, this cosmopolitan country has two official languages, French and English. And then there's the province of Quebec, considered to be unique in culture with cities like Montreal and Quebec City that boast a rare European old world meets modern metropolis fusion that's unseen anywhere else in North America. Canada also has a reputation for being a tolerant and even peaceful society - except when it comes to ice hockey! The country is known for its gay-friendly immigration laws and legalization of same-sex marriage, as a highly developed nation rich in natural resources, a great destination for seemingly endless snowy slopes for snowboarders and skiers, Canadians enjoy a fairly comfortable lifestyle where the country is generous in providing its citizens with social services, most notably, universal healthcare.
Canada is a land of vast distances, so any fast travel will involve a plane flight. For lightly populated areas, its practically mandatory. Otherwise, traveling by car offers a spectacular opportunity to experience Canada's natural beauty. Various scenic drives cut through Canada's wilderness and allow the nature loving traveler to stop along the way to hike, camp, fish and spot wildlife -- even Moose or Grizzly. The country also offers train routes that rank among the best in the world for scenic beauty.
If you still want to stay active but don't wish to take your chances with the wildlife, then cycling one of the many urban bike paths is a great option. For a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, plan a trip to the Arctic.
Highlights from Canada
- Vancouver, a cosmopolitan city in British Columbia is set in a stunning natural setting, displayed in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Everything, from ancient cultures to water sports to mountain summits, is just a bus ride away from downtown.
- The Canadian Rockies includes Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, and are among the most spectacular mountain ranges in North America -- a year-round outdoor playground. Many visitors focus on Banff and Jasper National Parks, but opportunities for adventure lie around every turn of the road.
- Calgary, the home of Canada's cowboy culture hosts the world famous Calgary Stampede every July.
- Canada's largest city, Toronto, offers the big city experience at a surprisingly affordable price tag.
- Niagara Falls, the world famous waterfall, largest in North America, is surrounded by every tourist attraction imaginable. See the falls from a tower, a helicopter, a boat, or a platform at the base!
- Montreal and Quebec are not to be missed. Experience the joie de vivre in the largest French speaking city in North America, blending Canada's past and present. Year round the city hosts festivals celebrating Jazz, comedy, F1 racing, and much more.
Hints and Tips for Canada
- Citizens of most European and Caribbean countries, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Israel do not need a visa for visits of six months or less.
- All visitors must prove they have sufficient funds and ties to home. Verified employment and a credit card are usually sufficient. Those not from the US must also have an onward ticket.
- Many visitors combine trips to Canada and the US. Any required US visa must be multiple entry. Canada allows multiple entries from the US with a single-entry visa.
- Most areas, except rural Quebec, speak at least some English. Rural areas in Quebec normally speak only French. Many urban residents are bilingual.
- Medical care in Canada is extremely expensive for non-citizens; travel insurance is highly recommended
- Vehicles rented in the United States can usually be driven in Canada and vice versa; permission to cross the border must be in the rental agreement.
- Unlike many Commonwealth countries, Canadians drive on the right