Guide To Canada for First-Time Travelers

Did you know that 10% of all the world’s forests are in Canada? There are also over 2 million lakes covering 8% of the total country’s area. This second-largest country in the world is said to be the best place to live in terms of life quality.

Moreover, in many rankings, Canadians hold one of the top places in the classification of the happiest people in the world.

Canada is a country that cannot be placed within one category when it comes to travel destinations. Here, all types of travelers will find something for themselves. Nature lovers will be amazed by the mountain ranges and wonderful views over the turquoise waters of numerous lakes. 

In contrast, city enthusiasts can explore a bustling metropolis, starting with the country’s largest city, Toronto, and ending with Ottawa, the capital city. 

If you already planned your first trip to Canada, now you probably wonder how to best prepare for your journey. With a massive land surface, numerous cities, historic sites, diverse cultures, and a dramatic landscape spread across, it’s not so easy to explore this country without appropriate itinerary and preparation. 

But, don’t worry! In this article, we’ll guide you on how to travel to Canada for the first time to make your Canadian experience extraordinary and unforgettable.

When to Visit Canada?

The best time you can visit this marvelous country is from mid-May to the end of June. Visiting Canada during this period of time will help you to avoid the tourist crowd, at the same time allowing you to enjoy the best Canadian attractions and explore the country on your own terms. 

In turn, when the summer season starts, the prices of everything reach a peak and the tourist venues are often overcrowded. Therefore, try to choose the date in the low season.

Canada eTA Application

All first-time travelers to Canada must check if they are obliged to obtain a visa prior to their Canadian trip. Several countries can apply for eTA instead of a regular visa issued at the Embassy. eTA is an abbreviation for Electronic Travel Authorization, which is an entry permit to Canada introduced in 2016.

All you have to do is visit and submit your application online within minutes from home. The approved document will then be delivered straight to your email inbox! 

eTA functions as an electronic visa for travelers from eligible countries going to Canada for transit, business, or tourism purposes via air. As a result of its introduction, all eligible travelers can now get their e-Visa to Canada quickly and effortlessly.  

Unlike the traditional Canada visa that entailed long weeks of waiting and was expensive, eTA costs 49 Euro, and within maximally 72 hours from submitting an online application, it will arrive in your inbox. Moreover, Canada eTA stays effective for 5-years. 

An electronic visa is linked to your passport and allows you to enter the territory of Canada multiple times within those five years. What’s more, each visit can last up to six months. 

However, please note that eTA only remains active as long as your passport data is unchanged and your passport is still valid. 

Suggested Read: Places to Visit in Canada

3 Essential Tips to Know Before Visiting Canada

1. Check Weather Forecast

One of the most important steps of preparation for any trip is checking the weather forecast for the period you are going to stay in a given country. It will help you in deciding on what types of clothes and accessories to pack for your vacation and also how to plan your trip accordingly. 

If the weather forecast is unfavorable throughout your whole planned stay, maybe there’s still a chance to change the date of your trip or at least change some points of your itinerary.

2. Get Emergency and Embassy Contacts

Canada is a diverse country with different cultures, civilizations, cities, towns, and villages existing in harmony. Canadian inhabitants are extremely friendly and helpful people, however,  due to the vast land and long distance from one place to another, reaching out for emergency help in Canada might be challenging at times. 

As such, you will need a contact number like 911 for an emergency or 311 for a non-emergency assistant. 

Moreover, have the contact and location of your embassy written down, either in your notes or saved on your mobile. In case anything goes wrong, speaking to your country’s representative can turn out to be way better in terms of receiving immediate assistance or instructions. 

3. Budget For Your Stay

Canadian trip definitely means a certain amount of money to spend. However, planning your trip appropriately, you don’t need to spend a fortune. In peak seasons, especially in the summer, the prices are way up there. 

Therefore, choose the time that will allow you to book accommodation at a reasonable price, while the rest of your money can be spent on planned attractions, e.g. trying local dishes and exploring Canadian restaurants. 

Top 3 Attractions to Try in Canada

1. Banff National Park

Dating back to 1885, it’s the Canadian oldest park. So, if you love hiking, and exploring adventure trails, don’t miss the wonders of Banff National Park. It has a spectacular beauty display from the vast range of mountain terrain with touches of snow. With breathtaking lake scenery and nature, the park amazes with its pristine state. 

Moreover, there are charming mountain towns and local cultures to explore. Tourists can relax in Upper Hot Springs or go skiing in one of three ski resorts located on the park’s territory. Apart from skiing, there are other sport activities waiting for visitors, e.g. climbing, horseback riding or golf. 

However, what’s most exciting is the fact that you may also have a rare opportunity to spot bears, eagles, elk, deer, and many more other wild animals! 

2. Lunenburg in Nova Scotia

An architectural landmark of the region, Lunenburg is the most spectacular-looking town. Undoubtedly, this hidden gem will melt your heart at first sight. So, if you’ve ever admired similar picturesque towns in the magazine, it’s time to experience one in real life!

Dating back to 1753, this small town in Nova Scotia, is a UNESCO site. Occupied by Germany, British, French Protestants, and Swiss, the place has a fascinating history to explore. There is also an amazing harbor with a great view of the sea, galleries, and souvenir shops to visit.  History enthusiasts cannot skip this place when staying in Canada.

3. Bay of Fundy

One of the seven North American wonders, located in Nova Scotia. Twice a day the bay is filled with milliard tons of water and emptied during every cycle of low tide. Here, the tides are the highest all over the world, while the whales are so extraordinary that you probably won’t see rarer whales anywhere else on earth. 

A visit to Nova Scotia won’t be complete without seeing high tides of the Bay of Fundy. You can visit this wonder of North America when exploring the neighboring city that we’ve already mentioned, Lunenburg, which is located in Nova Scotia too. 

Also Read: Canada Tour Packages

Best Cities to Explore While in Canada

1. Toronto

At the top of our best Canadian cities list is Toronto. This largest city in Canada can be compared to such world capitals like London, Tokyo, and New York. And just like these cities, Toronto is full of amazing attractions to explore from the cityscape, city skyline, Niagara falls, museums, local restaurants, and many more.

Because of its chaotic and not really planned development, the city now is multifaceted with its landscape representing a mix of past and present. 

Toronto is considered to be the most ethnically diverse city in the world, a cultural phenomenon, where languages, flavors, customs, and habits are mixed together creating a one-of-kind experience. 

2. Montreal

It’s the perfect city to visit if you are a historian or history enthusiast. This place boasts of both colonial and European influence. Moreover, it has the highest concentration of Canada’s historic sites. 

Montreal as the second Canadian city in an exceptional way combines the vibes of two continents – Europe and America. 

The architectural style of glass skyscrapers mixing with concrete solid buildings reflects the diversity of the city and its society. Two-thirds of its inhabitants are French, while others consist of a cosmopolitan mixture of such nationalities as: British, Italians, Greeks, Chinese, Jews, and many more. 

3. Vancouver 

Lastly, Vancouver is for anyone searching for a great summer vacation in Canada. Located along the Pacific Coast and surrounded by spectacular bays, parkland, and mountains, Vancouver is a dream city for nature lovers. 

Here, you will find marvelous beaches spread over an idyllic shore, green parks, and plenty of water attractions, like sailing, fishing, paddling, swimming, etc. 

The beauty of its local nature can confirm the fact that Greenpeace was established in Vancouver. What’s more, the city has booming art and music scenes. 

Recommended Read: Things to Do in Canada

Top 3 Foods to Try

Exploring Canada’s attractions will surely make you hungry. Moreover, the best way to explore the cultural heritage of a country is through its cuisine. And here are the top 3 foods to try when in Canada: 

1. Butter Tarts

One of the prominent examples of Canadian cuisine from the end of the 19th century is butter tarts – a flaky pastry shell with a filling of a buttery caramel. 

It’s a true representation of Canadian cuisine with a remarkable taste, you can find it in any restaurant across the country. 

2. Canadian Bacon

Also known as “Peameal Bacon”, it’s another true representation of Canadian traditional cuisine. 

While you could expect the bacon to come from the belly, this one is derived from pork loin. It’s a mouthwatering dish with a unique flavor. 

3. Lake Fish

Surrounded by three oceans, and having multiple lakes, seafood is the basic food in Canada. 

In particular smoked fish will leave you yearning for more. That said, commonly severed fishes include pickerel and perch. You can either try it battered, smoked, cured, or breaded. 

Final Thoughts

When planning your trip to Canada, it’s best to choose just one part of the country, especially if your Canadian trip is short-term. If you are fortunate to stay in the country a bit longer, you can rent a car and travel around Canada. 

Remember to choose the time for your trip wisely, check the weather forecast, and try to plan the trip after or before peak season to save both money and frustration. 

Don’t forget to apply for an eTA to Canada to save your time and avoid additional stress! With eTA valid for 5 years, you can enter Canada numerous times and stay even up to 6 months with each visit!

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