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.aircanada.com.
Included in the air fare.
The Canadian road network covers huge distances as the country is over 5,500km (3,400 miles) as the crow flies from west to east and 4,600km (2,800 miles) from north to south. The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) (tel: +1 800 222 4357; www.caa.ca) is affiliated with most European organisations, giving full use of facilities to members.
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.
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, drivers may need to be at least 25 years old.
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.
In towns and cities, cycling is usually pleasant given the courtesy (and risk aversion) of drivers. There are many excellent car-free cycle paths making for a fun half-day ride. On highways between towns, cycling can 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 Canada’s main coach line 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. Generally, speed limits are 100-120kph (62-75mph) on motorways (depending on province/territory), 80kph (55mph) on rural highways and 50kph (30mph) in cities. Seat belts are compulsory for all passengers and child car seats must be used by small children.
Radar detection devices are strictly prohibited in many provinces and studded tyres are illegal in southern Ontario. If you’re driving in the interior of British Columbia or Quebec between December and March, you must fit your car with winter tyres. Many provinces require drivers to keep headlights on during the day.
CAA (tel: +1 800 222 4357; www.caa.ca).
Visitors may drive on their national driving licences for at least three months in all provinces.
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 three times 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: +1 877 460 3200; 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.polarbearexpress.ca) runs between Cochrane and Moosonee (with connections to Toronto).
Other notable tourist routes include Ontario's Agawa Canyon Tour Train (tel: +1 800 242 9287; www.agawatrain.com) and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad (tel: +1 800 343 7373; www.wpyr.com) between Skagway, Alaska and Carcross, Yukon.
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) and another through the Inside Passage.