Getting Around Canada
Air Canada (www.aircanada.com) and WestJet (www.westjet.com) serve destinations throughout Canada. Other carriers include Yukon-based Air North (www.flyairnorth.com) and a host of small outfits serving remote communities and wilderness areas.
Canada is so vast, domestic flights can save you many hours and even days versus driving or taking the train and are sometimes essential if visiting isolated lodges or settlements. Flights are generally cheaper if booked in advance.
Air Canada offers a range of commuter, regional, national and international flight passes. Prices vary according to distance and duration. Full details are available from www.altitude.aircanada.com.
Included in the air fare.
The Canadian road network covers huge distances as the country is over 5,500km (over 3,415 miles) from west to east and 4,600km (more than 2,850 miles) from north to south. The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) (tel: +1 800 222 4357; www.caa.ca) is affiliated with some European and American organisations, giving full use of facilities to members including insurance and emergency roadside services.
Side of the roadRight
Getting around Canada by road is easy, though drives can be long owing to its size. Road quality is generally excellent, but routes to remote destinations may be unpaved. Winter roads formed of snow and ice serve northern communities in winter. On country roads, you should be mindful of wild animals, such as deer or moose.
The Trans-Canada Highway spans the entire country. Aside from this, road classification differs according to province/territory. Most roads are numbered; major highways generally have low numbers while minor routes are likely to have high numbers assigned to them.
Car hire is available in all cities and from airports to full licence holders over 21 years of age, except in Saskatchewan which has a minimum age of 18. For some car hire companies, an underage fee will apply for driver under 25.
It’s easy to hail a cab on the street or pick up a taxi from your hotel or a designated rank in all Canadian towns and cities.
Uber also has a presence in many Canadian cities.
In towns and cities, cycling is usually pleasant as several cities are bike-friendly. There are many excellent car-free cycle paths making for a fun half-day ride.
On highways between towns, cycling may be a bit unnerving with enormous lorries thundering past. Where the country really excels is in the wide network of off-road routes, often in tranquil and challenging forest settings.
Greyhound (tel: +1 800 661 8747; www.greyhound.ca) is one of Canada’s main coach lines and runs a comprehensive network across Canada. Smaller, regional operators also offer services within individual provinces.
Right turns on red lights are legal in Canada except in Montreal. Depending on the province/territory, speed limits are 100-120kph (62-75mph) on motorways 80kph–100kph (50mph-62mph) on rural highways and 50kph (31mph) in cities. Seat belts are compulsory for all passengers. Child car seats must be used by small children across Canada and booster seats are only compulsory in some provinces.
Radar detection devices are strictly prohibited in many provinces. Studded tyres are illegal in southern Ontario unless you’re a northern Ontario resident or visiting from out-of-province. If you’re driving in the interior of Quebec between December and March, you must fit your car with winter tyres. Winter tyres or tyre chains are also required in certain designated areas in British Columbia and in Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, Alberta, between November and March. Many provinces require drivers to keep headlights on during the day.
CAA (tel: +1 800 222 4357; www.caa.ca).
Visitors from the UK may drive on their national driving licence. Some car hire companies will, however, require you to hold an International Driving Permit. Visitors from other countries are advised to obtain an international driving permit.
Canada’s major cities have excellent public transport systems, with a mixture of buses, trams, light rail systems and underground trains. If you’re visiting Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or Ottawa, you can easily get around without a car. Public transport is safe and generally offers good value for money, with transfers usually available.
VIA Rail Canada (tel: +1 888 842 7245; www.viarail.ca) operates extensive services across Canada.
VIA Rail operates a western transcontinental service (the Canadian) between Toronto (Ontario) and Vancouver (British Columbia), running twice weekly east and west. Passengers are drawn to this route by the spectacular scenery of the many mountain ranges passed en route, including the Rockies. The journey takes four days.
Rapid intercity services are available between Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Windsor and Ottawa. VIA Rail also operates an overnight eastern transcontinental service (the Ocean) between Montreal (Quebec) and Halifax (Nova Scotia).
The Rocky Mountaineer (tel: +1 604 606 7245; www.rockymountaineer.com) runs from mid-April to mid-October and offers the opportunity to travel from Vancouver to Jasper or Banff (and vice versa) during daylight hours.
For visitors seeking a route into the Canadian wilderness, the Polar Bear Express (tel: +1 800 461 8558; www.ontarionorthland.ca) runs between Cochrane and Moosonee.
Other notable tourist routes include Ontario's Agawa Canyon Tour Train (tel: +1 800 461 6020; www.agawatrain.com) and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad (tel: +1 800 343 7373; www.wpyr.com) between Skagway, Alaska and Carcross, Yukon.
Canrailpass - System: allows seven or 10 one-way trips or unlimited travel anywhere on the VIA network within a 60-day period.
Canrailpass - Corridor: gives seven or 10 one-way trips or unlimited travel on VIA Rail in Quebec and southern Ontario within a 10-day period.
Canada has many thousands of miles of navigable rivers and canals, a vast number of lakes and an extensive coastline. The whole country is well served by all manner of boats and ships, particularly the east and west coasts, where ferries are fast, frequent and good value. The St Lawrence Seaway provides passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.
One of the largest ferry operators is BC Ferries (tel: +1 888 223 3779; www.bcferries.com). It runs a number of services linking British Columbia's mainland with its coastal islands, as well as a route to Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands).