Northwest Travel Planning

Travel Tips - Canada

The Go Northwest! definition of the Pacific Northwest includes the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Alcohol
You must be 19 years of age to consume or purchase alcohol in the province of British Columbia. The minimum age varies from province to province. Drinking alcohol in public is prohibited by law in all of Canada.

Crossing the border
Click here

Electricity
Like the USA, residential Canada uses 110 volt electrical systems at 60 hertz. You will need a voltage transformer/ converter for your electrical appliances if they operate on a different voltage. There are different types of converters for different types of appliances. Small electronics, razors and non-heating appliances can operate with a 50-watt converter. Heating appliances such as hair dryers, irons, coffee makers and other high-power electrical appliances need a 1600-watt converter. You can also purchase combination converters for both types. Mains wall sockets and plugs for 110 volts are two parallel flat blades. If those sockets are different from the ones used in your country then you will need a socket converter. You can buy a kit online at the Go Northwest! Travel Store.

BUSINESS HOURS and HOLIDAYS

National Holidays
January 1 - New Year's Day
(January 2 - Day after New Year's)
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Monday on or before 24 May - Victoria Day
July 1 - Canada Day (formerly Dominion Day)
First Monday in September - Labor Day
Second Monday in October - Thanksgiving
November 11 - Remembrance Day
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Boxing Day

Businesses, including banks, that would normally be closed on a Sunday will be closed on these generally observed holidays. The main exception is Boxing Day which is a big day for the retail sector. Businesses might also be open on Remembrance Day. Banks are open on Good Friday but closed Easter Monday.

When a fixed-date holiday falls on a day that a business would normally close (e.g. Christmas on a Sunday), then the Friday or Monday of that weekend is taken as a holiday.

Office hours are usually from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Banking hours are usually:
10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., Friday.
Many banks are also open 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Saturday

Post offices are usually open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Core opening hours for shops are 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday. Extended hours vary and can include late nights and weekend hours.

Language
Canada is officially bilingual (English and French), however the working language in British Columbia is English.

Money
1 Canadian Dollar (Can$) = 100 cents.
Note denominations:
Can$1000 (uncommon)
Can$100
Can$50
Can$20
Can$10
Can$5
Coin denominations:
Can$2 (twoonie)
Can$1 (loonie)
50 cents (uncommon)
25 cents (quarter)
10 cents (dime)
5 cents (nickel)
1 cents (penny)

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Measures
Canada uses the metric system. Distance is measured in kilometers, speed signs are in kilometers per hour. Petrol/gas is sold by the litter and temperature is measured on the Celsius scale. Most weight measurements are in kilograms or grams.

Post Offices
If you wish to receive post while in Canada, have it sent to a city's main post office marked with your name, c/o General Delivery. The post office will hold it for two weeks, before returning to sender, and you will need ID to collect.

Basic postal services are available at retail outlets. Look for them at the back of drug (chemists) and convenience stores. The fewer full service postal offices are in main urban centers.

Canada Post
Find the current rate for sending a postcard within Canada. As of January 1, 2001, the rates were 47c within Canada; 60c to the USA; or CDN$1.05 international.

Smoking
In British Columbia, smoking is banned on all public transport, in public buildings, including restaurants and bars, and workplaces.

Tax
In Canada the Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 7% applies throughout the nation. It is added to most purchases and services (including postage stamps) with the exception of basic groceries. In addition to the GST, there is also a tax that varies from province to province. In British Columbia, a Provincial Sales Tax (PST) of about 7% applies to retail merchandise and services with certain exceptions - such as food, books, children's clothing, restaurant foods and personal services such as hairdressing and laundry. The PST and GST are calculated separately on the base price of the item. There is also a hotel room tax (8-10% in most places).

So remember, what you see on the price tag is not necessarily what you will pay. In some stores, the GST is already included in the price tag, but most often it is added at the point of sale. The PST is almost always added at the cash register. This also applies to accommodation. Check whether the quoted price includes all tax requirements. Check whether an establishment is exempt from any of these taxes - sometimes this can mean you will get a better deal.

Here's the good news. Keep your receipts because non-residents can obtain a GST refund on many purchases taken out of the country and on certain short term accommodations. Purchases need to total more than CAN$100.00. Meals are not included. There is no rebate on PST. You may be able to get your GST back in cash at a duty-free store as you leave the country (but not if you leave at an airport).Otherwise forms can be posted from home upon your return. If you come across an offer to do the paperwork on your behalf, check what percent of the refund they will deduct, and whether they will do all eligible expenditures. For more information and application forms phone 1-800-668 4748 (toll free from within Canada), read the Tax Refund for Visitors to Canada pamphlet at Canada Revenue's web site, or ask at at border-crossing points, duty-free stores, and tourist information centers.

Telephone
Dialing into Canada:
1 + area code + local number

Area code for B.C. (except Vancouver): 250
Area code for Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast: 604

Dialing out of Canada:
011 + country code + area code + local number

Emergencies: dial 911 (police, ambulance, fire), free call
Information: dial 411 (for telephone numbers), free call
Toll free: numbers begin with 1-800, or 1-888

Pre-paid plastic calling cards are available from convenience stores.

Tipping
Like the USA, in Canada it is customary to tip for services such as restaurants, bars and pubs, taxis and hairdressers. Usually 15%, although the amount can range from 10% to 20% at the discretion of the person paying the bill. Always check whether a service charge was included in a restaurant bill, especially if paying by credit card, as this is the tip.

Welcome to Canada
Canada's official travel website.

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