BARE FACTS: SURVIVING CANADA
Countries like Canada often leave the common traveler a bit lost as to where to start. With such a vast land mass and such varying climates, landscapes and culture it's nearly impossible to see it all in one trip. Canada is truly diverse with the West differing dramatically to the East, everything in between tells another story. We spent all of our time in BC and barely even scratched the surface of the magnificent environment surrounding us. We loved exploring the islands, mountains and city areas of BC and found there to be such a rich tapestry of culture. BC's love for great food, fresh produce, fantastic wine and sustainable ways of using it all made it a mecca for food lovers. It's natural settings will keep adventure junkies and nature buffs in sensory overload, there truly is something for everyone.
VISA WHAT NOTS
Canada has followed the USA by introducing a new ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) that allows you to travel to Canada via air. The process is simple, costs $7CAD and is valid for 5 years. Most foreign nationals need them in order to enter Canada as a tourist. Countries that aren't excepted via ETA can apply for a regular tourist visa.
Canada is a vast land mass and it can be quite expensive to get from A to B. Car travel will allow you freedom to go where you want and see some great scenery. Canada has a monopoly on their airlines and prices reflect accordingly, flying across country is extortionate. Major cities have great bus and train networks and BC has a good ferry link to most islands.
Canada is world famous for it's beautiful nature and some special creatures that live in it. Bears, cougars, wolves, bison, caribou, lynx, coyotes, mountain lions and the impressive polar bears. Pay homage the fascinating indigenous culture as well as it's dark history and continued struggle. Don't forget to try out their national dish poutine and put maple syrup on everything that feels appropriate.
SALT SPRING ISLAND
Visiting this sustainable island, nestled among the Gulf Islands in the Georgia Strait, is a must see and do. Salt Spring flourishes with its rich fresh produce, famous and innovative wines and it's unique farming stands. Spend a weekend exploring and eating your way around the island and walk it off on one the many hiking trails. Salt Spring also houses plenty of BC's best artists so dropping into personal studio spaces to see and buy their work is completely normal.
While the mountain has been overrun by Aussies (it didn't bother us) it's for good reason, Whistler is a great mountain to visit all year round. Winter brings hordes of ski sport enthusiasts ready to carve up some serious powder followed by plenty of partying. Summer is equally as popular as Whistler offers some incredible hiking and camping options. The Peak 2 Peak attraction is well worth the cost and will provide you amazing photo opportunities.
Heading to Vancouver Island is a must do when you're headed to BC and once they're there most people head to Victoria. Victoria is a capital of BC so it's very fitting that it still shows its colonial past through it's impressive Victorian architecture. Butchart Gardens are a firm favourite for visitors and are a fantastic way to waste away a few hours. Whale watching is also extremely popular off the coast near Victoria and worthy seeing if you're never seen whales before.
THE CHOCOLATE SUITE, BOWEN ISLAND
Bowen Island is a great spot to adventure to and if you're staying the night, why not stay above a chocolate store? Rooms are modern, clean and come with very thoughtful extras such as a box of chocolate. Located in the artists village it's a 10-15 minute walk from the main down and close to cafe, food and shopping options.
THE BURRARD, VANCOUVER
Only a stones throw away from Davie St, The Burrard is all about location, location, location. Redone into a very trendy establishment, you'll feel like you're entered a upscale mote. Complete with all the mod cons and some tastefully done retro chic decor, The Burrard is spot to stay.
SALT SPRING ISLAND INN, SALT SPRING
Situated directly above the local pub, this Inn is the type of place that you don't need to venture far from to find what you're after. Prime location, great staff, reasonably priced and cosy rooms perfect for snuggling up in. Head downstairs for a really great meal at their restaurant or wander near by for plenty of options.
$50-$60 A DAY
Hostel beds can be expensive, around $20-$30 a bed, stay away from really cheap options in bad areas as bed bugs are a thing. Most of cities can be walked and transit will cost about $2.75 a trip if you need to give your legs a break. For cheap food go to the grocery and there are plenty of $5 a meal places although you need to pay tax and tip. There are a few sights that don't cost anything so utilize these and only see 1-2 paid sights.
A LIL SWAGGER
$70-$100 A DAY
Maybe opt for a nicer hostel, share a private room or if you're traveling with someone go for an Air BnB. Treat yourself to a meal at a local cafe and sample some of the famous Canadian dish, poutine. You'll be able to see a few more sights with this budget and so see what looks the best in your area, maybe opt to see some animals in their habitat. Treat yourself to some transit.
$120+ A DAY
Scour the internet for some good hotel deals or find a decent Air BnB for your lodgings. Try plenty of local produce and either eat out or take it home. Try some of the famous food spots in the bigger cities. With more $$ you should be able to get away on a few little day trips to witness the surrounding nature or to try some activities. If you're going from city to city and can afford to fly then go for it or hire a car and see everything up close and personal.
A single bed in a dorm room should cost between $20-30 depending on the occupancy. Hostels have varying quality depending where they're located and all the usual amenities.
Basic private rooms will cost anywhere between $80-$100, try a private room in a hostel for the lower end of the scale and consider a room in a Air BnB for a glimpse into local living.
Budget hotels can go from $110+ so do some research and enjoy a little luxury. Alternatively look for an Air Bnb that rents the entire space and enjoy the added bonus of a kitchen to cook in.
The Canadian dollar comes in 5c (nickle) , 10c (dime), 25c (quarter), $1 (loonies) and $2 (toonies) denominations. They also have $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 dollar notes. Fun fact: the $100 bills smell like maple syrup although no one knows why.
Canada is a a bilingual country although most Canadians speak English on the West Cost. The East coast is where you'll find that most people speak or at least understand French. Nearly everything in Canada will have both languages included for labels, instructions and signage.
Tipping on services is customary in Canada so don't be ignorant and get on board. The average tip for food and drink service is 15% for good service, 18% for great service and 20% or more for exceptional service. Food delivery is usually 10-15% to help cover gas and for timely delivery.