Getting Around Canada
Because of the size of the country, it is important to pre-plan your travels around Canada. Fancy driving between Toronto and Vancouver? Allow five days. Want to get the train coast to coast? It will take you three days. It is therefore important to think about your itinerary - how much time you have, how much money you have, where you need to be when, and where you really want to go.
Buses and Coaches
The bus network is pretty comprehensive, and easy to use. Greyhound Buses go all over Canada and offer good value for money with their passes, particularly if you book in advance or book a “Go Anywhere” ticket. A Discovery pass also gives you unlimited travel from between 4 and 60 days.Backpackers Tours
The Moose Network is a “jump on, jump off” bus network that caters especially for independent travellers. The passes are flexible, meaning that you can decide how long and where you want to stop. The network also runs guided mini coach tours and has a link with Via Rail that means that Moose pass holders get discounted rail travel. On the mini coach tours you can join in activities like hiking, canoeing, whale watching and white water rafting to name but a few. The Moose Network is good if you want to travel with other backpackers (mostly in the 18-30 age group) and make travel buddies quickly.
Via Rail is the national rail company. The train route sweeps from coast to coast along the southern border of Canada. It takes in most of the main destinations, along with a diversion to Churchill in the north where you can see the polar bears. There are a number of travel passes available that either gives a big discount on a fixed route, or a flexible pass within a certain time frame.
Domestic airline Air Canada has flights across the country, but will be cheaper if you can book flights before you get to Canada. Booking cross country flights when you book your long haul may not be convenient, which is where budget airlines come in handy.
In Canada you drive on the right hand side of the road, speed limits are set at 30mph in urban areas and 55 mph on highways. You have to be at least 21 to hire a car and you must have a credit card to pay with. Get an International Driving Permit from the AA, this as well as your driving licence will ensure you have all the documentation you need when hiring and driving a car. Driving a car will definitely be useful if you intend to do a lot of inter-city travelling, or want to see far-flung places in the country.
If you are planning on driving in the winter, be aware that parts of Canada experience very severe winters, and you’ll need to equip your car properly to deal with weather conditions and breakdown. Carry a shovel, tyre chains, a torch, a blanket (or two!), a first aid kit and a spare tyre at all times during the winter. Common sense also dictates that you drive slowly through the national parks as wild animals often stray onto the roads.
It is important to note that Canadians take drink driving as a crime very seriously. If you are caught under the influence (the limit is 0.8% blood alcohol concentration, the same as the UK), then you could be refused permission to re-enter the country in the future.