Where can you find a holiday destination that merges beautiful landscapes, great food and the friendliest people in the world?! The answer: Canada. Don’t be fooled into thinking Canada is just bears and beers, as it also boasts some of the most breath-taking scenery, from mountains to serene lakes. Here's our travel hacks on exploring Canada and how to save money in the process!
From Calgary to Vancouver
Our road trip through the Canadian Rockies, started in Calgary and finished in Vancouver, 4000km later. Between these two different but equally charming cities we enjoyed mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers and millions of trees. We are lovers of great unspoilt scenery and wildlife, so we had high hopes for Canada, and it is safe to say that we were not disappointed. What really knocked us out was the disarming friendliness of the Canadian people. Without exception they were so personable and welcoming. Theirs is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt countries in the world and they are rightly proud of it. To put this into perspective, at one particular B&B where we stayed for only one night, the owner washed our filthy hire car for us. They REALLY are that nice.
The true Canadian outdoors
The lifestyle in Canada is very outdoors. The air is fresh and the weather, in summer at least, can be impeccable. Our adventures included horse riding, sea kayaking, whale watching, a seaplane flight, white water rafting and hiking. Many of the excursions and trips are reasonably priced and were all very well organised and run by warm, engaging people. If you are travelling in peak season, book the trips and your accommodation well in advance. Supply is limited and can get expensive too.
If you are going to get out into the wilderness, (and why wouldn’t you?!), our top tip is to buy and carry bear spray. It might sound like a joke and mercifully we didn’t need ours but walking through a forest and finding a big pile of bear droppings concentrates the mind a bit. We saw lots of bears but luckily, we didn’t surprise any.
We also enjoy our food and, in my case, craft beer too. In every town and city, we managed to find a craft beer bar that also served great food. Often the beer was available in “flights,” which enabled you to try four beers without having to have a pint of each.
Canadian food can be summed up in two dishes: Maple Syrup and Poutine. Be careful when ordering though, Canadians like their food and you’ll get large servings. You might want to enquire if take out boxes are available, which also make a great way to save money on the next day’s lunch.
Driving around Canada
In all the many kilometres that we drove, we hardly saw any roadside litter at all. Rest areas are always clean with bear proof bins for rubbish and well stocked facilities, even miles from anywhere.
Distances in Canada are vast, after all it is the second biggest country in the world. With only around half the population of the UK there is a lot of space. Make sure that you allow enough time to travel between destinations so that you don’t spend all your time travelling rather than doing. The roads are not as fast as we are used to either, so you will need to take account of that also. Our longest day of driving was 9 hours, but you can pass the time looking for wildlife, like the native bears. In certain areas they graze on the roadside in the same way that rabbits do in the UK.
Travel money in Canada
Food and drink costs about the same as in the UK, however, the petrol is cheaper. When budgeting, you should allow extra for tips when eating out. Quite often the card machine will be presented to you with options of 15%, 18% or 20% as a tip. It is hard to tip less, and it also might be perceived as rude to. Don't stress, read our Tipping guide for more information.
It is worth noting that there is also tax to add on the bill too; the extras can mount up! The good news is that everywhere takes cards so load up a Caxton multi-currency card when rates are advantageous before you go.
I cannot speak highly enough of Canada and the Canadians. The place and the people left such a lasting impression; I have even made enquiries about emigrating! Go now to get some fresh Canadian air and meet some lovely people.