Canada is the world's second largest country (by area) yet the 38th most populous, lending to plenty of landscape to explore. The wild, natural beauty of Canada attracts many adventurous travelers thanks to the country's snow-covered mountains, flowing rivers, and long coastline, but still offers plenty of culture and city experiences too. With such a diverse offering, visitors can partake in whitewater rafting to snowboarding or sprawl a metropolis and enjoy the melting pot of ethnicities.
Because of the country's large size and vast unpopulated nature, Canada travel does require some planning, though. With open wilderness, long overland travel time, and high season travel, preparing for your trip ahead of time is essential. Use this guide to help you plan efficiently and get ready to encounter some of the world's most mesmerizing sights.
The wilderness of Canada is a playground for adventurers, and may be even relatively accessible from some of its most popular cities. Whether you're into city life, rafting, mountaineering, or sailing, Canada has plenty to explore.
From Quebec City's fairytale cobblestone streets and Niagara's gushing falls to the top of Toronto's CN Tower, Vancouver's diversity, Montreal's architecture, and nationwide aboriginal sites, there is a wide variety of entertaining and educational culture experiences throughout Canada. Along with outdoor adventure, book a tour that exposes you to the history, cuisines, and lives of everyday Canadians.
There are plenty of water-based activities to enjoy in Canada, from SUP classes to sailing, rafting, and kayaking. Rent a sea kayak and navigate the challenging Clayoquot Sound in British Columbia or whitewater raft in Banff National Park and enjoy the landscape of the Canadian Rockies followed by a visit to Banff's Glacier Skywalk.
Experience Canada's vast landscape with a series of adventurous tours. Though the Willmore Wilderness is less known to tourists than neighboring Jasper and Banff National Parks, it is an ideal destination for advanced trekkers and hikers. The sprawling backcountry is full of rivers and mountains, so be prepared for a multi-day trek with challenging river crossings, ascents and descents. If you enjoy winter sport, Whistler is best known for skiing and snowboarding. Most travelers don't know, though, that it also has great zip line routes crossing scenic panoramic views of the mountain.
Canada's large size can make planning a trip tough, as there is much ground to cover and lots to explore. However, if you plan ahead and book a guided tour, you'll be able to experience a good portion of the magnificent country.
Best Time to Visit Canada
For winter mountain activities, the best time to visit is between the months of December and March. However, if you're planning on warm weather or water-based activities such as kayaking, anytime from June to September offer much more desirable weather. Winter temperatures can often drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to possible health and safety issues for travelers on multi-day treks or in the water.
What to Look For in a Tour to Canada
Canada offers city, land, and sea: a wonderful combination for travelers seeking a variety of options. If you do the adventure route, such as a rafting trip or trekking tour, make sure the guides are qualified and safety inspections are up to date. Also check if accommodations and any local transportation (for example, from the airport to the destination) are included in the package tour price.
Typical Tour Costs
Due to Canada's size and higher tax rates you'll find many tours price to be a bit high. Pack on adventure equipment for outdoor sports and you can expect to pay $1,500 - $5,000 for tour packages. Luxury tours can certainly exceed this amount, if you want to splurge.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
You'll find Canada can have extreme weather: including cold temperatures, high winds, and snow. Focus on packing insulated and waterproof clothing before your trip, especially if you will be visiting in winter. Be sure to pack:
- Waterproof jacket and winter boots
- Hiking shoes
- Insulated ski jacket
- Gloves, scarf, warm socks
- Waterproof pouch for essentials (money, cards, ID, etc)
Other Tips for Travel in Canada
- Visas: Canada does not require visas for citizens from the US and most European countries. However, with the exception of US citizens, even travelers arriving from visa exempt countries need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travel to Canada. Applying for an eTA is relatively straightforward, as all you need is a passport, a credit card, and an e-mail address in order to complete the online application, which is usually approved within minutes.
- Budget & currency: Canada uses the Canadian dollar as currency. Sales tax varies but can be as high as 15% -- which can considerably affect your budget.
- Transportation: If you are visiting Canada from the US, roundtrip airfare should be relatively cheap. Keep in mind that many activities can be quite far from the airport (like national parks). Arrange such transportation beforehand when booking your airplane ticket to avoid last minute expensive transportation options -- or even better, find a guided adventure tour that will include such transportation in the total cost.
- Accommodations: Accommodation costs in Canada are on the more expensive side compared to the global average. Expect to pay $100 - $250 for a mid-range hotel and $40 - $60 a day if you need a car rental. Both accommodation and meal prices tend to be in the lower range outside of Canada's larger cities, so if your trip is taking you mostly through the Canadian countryside and wilderness, you should be able to lower your expenses.
No vaccines are required for travel to Canada. The country has a very good healthy system, with top-rated hospitals, so in the unlikely case you require medical attention you can rest assured that you will be in good hands.
Canada is one of the safest destinations in the world. In larger, busy cities be sure still to be mindful of your surroundings and personal items.
Adventurous travelers who want to explore the Canadian wilderness should also be alert to the wildlife and climate dangers the area presents. Black bears, grizzly bears, and cougars are in the Canadian Rockies, for example, so keep this in mind when exploring backcountry trails and store food in bear bags to avoid encounters with such wildlife as much as possible.