Canada, the largest country of North America and the second-largest country in the world, "only" has 35 million inhabitants. This makes it a thinly populated, but prosperous country. It is also a very popular travel destination; both for tourists and business travellers.
Many people mainly know Canada for its large cities Quebec, Montréal and Vancouver, even though the much smaller Ottawa is the official capital of Canada. The larger cities of Canada are relatively close to the border with the USA, with which Canada has close ties. Ever since the colonisation of Canada by the Europeans (first the French and later the English), the country has had large amounts of immigration. After the Second World War, many foreigners emigrated to Canada.
In total, roughly 90 percent of the Canadian population consists of immigrants or descendants of those people. About 25% of the Canadian population has a British heritage while 24% originate from France. But the original inhabitants of Canada, the Inuit and the natives, are still represented in large number in Canada’s population. Currently, more than a hundred tribes with a total of over a quarter of a million natives reside in Canada, predominantly hunters and farmers. Currently, the largest group of newcomers are Asians; Vancouver alone has over 100.000 inhabitants with Chinese heritage.
Facts and Numbers
|Inhabitants||37,590,000 inhabitants (2019)|
|Language||Bilingual: French and English|
|Religion||Christian: 67%, Muslim: 3%, Hindu: 1,.5%|
|Time difference||4 hours|
|Electricity||110 Volt/60 Hz, travel plug required|
|Life expectancy||82 year|
|Tap water||Safe to drink|
Canada is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories, and is so large that it has six time zones. Canada is larger than the United States, but with a difference of 1.5% in size only barely. Canada does have more lakes than all the other countries in the world combined. About 30% of Canadian soil consists of woodlands and two thirds of the country is entirely uninhabited. This is mainly because over three quarters of Canadians live less than 200 miles from the border with the US.
Canada has been inhabited for thousands of years by natives and the Inuit (Eskimos). They originally came over as Asian nomads from Siberia, which until 35.000 years ago was still connected with Canada. The Inuit settled north in Canada; the natives divided themselves across the rest of the American continent.
Colonisation and Independence
About 1000 years after Christ, Norwegian Vikings discovered Canada and her native population. In 1492, Columbus made his first visit to America. In 1600 the French set up a trade post in Canada, starting the colonisation of Canada. This led to the creation of the francophone Quebec. After several wars, Canada ended up in the hands of the British in 1763. The United States made two attempts to invade the country and subjugate it, but were forced back without success. Canada only gained its full independence from the British in 1982, although it already enjoyed a longer period of almost complete autonomy before that.
Canada is a rich country and is on the 10th place in the ranking of countries based on gross national product, which was 1.53 trillion in 2019. Comparably, the UK is 6th with a GDP of 2.83 trillion. Three quarters of the Canadian workforce works in the service industry. Forestry, mining and fishing are also important for the Canadian economy. Canada has a relatively small industry and mainly trades with the United States to get its physical products.
Language and Culture
Both English and French are commonly spoken in Canada. By far the majority of Canadians primarily speak English. Certain places, like Quebec, have more French-speaking people. The Inuit also speak Inuktitut, their native tongue.
Canadian culture mainly originates from British, French, American and Inuit cultures. Lacrosse is the national summer sport and ice hockey the preferred winter sport. Curling and Canadian Football are also popular sports among the Canadian population. Canada has hosted the Olympic Games three times; the winter games of 1988 and 2010, and the summer games in 1976. Canada's national symbols are the maple leaf (which can be found in the flag), the beaver, the Canadian goose and the ice diver. The totem pole is also frequently seen in imagery. And last but not least: the Hawaiian pizza is a Canadian invention (whether a good or a bad one is a discussion for another time).
The holidays in Canada largely resemble those in the UK due to its sizable Christian population. Like the United States, Canada observes Thanksgiving, though it is not celebrated on the same day.
|January 1||New Year|
|Third Monday of February||Family Day|
|The Friday before Easter||Good Friday|
|Last Monday of May||Victoria Day|
|July 1||Canada Day|
|First Monday of August||Civic Day|
|First Monday of September||Labour Day|
|Second Monday of October||Thanksgiving|
|November 11||Remembrance Day|
|December 26||Boxing Day|
Weather and Climate
Those travelling to Canada should remember to bring a heavy sweater. In 1946, Canada experienced its lowest temperature ever: a staggering 64 degrees below Celsius. This was quite the exception, as the north of Canada generally doesn’t get colder than -40 degrees Celsius. Because the south of Canada lies at the same height as Spain, the south can get quite a bit hotter in the summer than many tourists expect. Okanagan even has a sizable desert. The weather table below can give an impression of the average temperature and rainfall in Canada, but due to its large size it is wise to check the weather forecasts of your destinations in Canada.
Average max. temperature in °C
Avg. max. temp in °C
Average min. temperature in °C
Avg. min. temp in °C
Average number of days rain
Avg. number of days rain
Canada is divided into six time zones for a reason; the country is huge. For domestic trips it is therefore common to take airplanes. While a plane might be faster, tourists should strongly consider taking the train. Most routes offer breathtaking views of Canada’s pristine nature.
Canada has extremely large natural areas which have remained largely untouched by man. Likewise, the natural parks, including Banff, Jasper National Park, Kluane and Gros Morne, are lauded for their pristine state. Wood Buffalo is the largest park of Canada with 44800 square miles. Make sure you don’t get lost here.
Safety When Travelling in Canada
For properly prepared travellers, Canada is a very safe country to travel in. Crime-wise Canada is even one of the safest countries in the world. This includes the larger cities. However, it is important to keep potential extreme weather in mind; from forest fires to floods and extreme snowfall.
Aside from potential extreme weather, there are other natural hazards to worry about. For instance, the inhabitants of Churchill (a small city in the north of Canada) are known for never locking their cars. This has less to do with low crime numbers and more with the fact that they want to be able to use these cars to hide from polar bears. Unprepared travellers can thus be in for trouble when travelling in this area. It is wise to ask around in the northern areas if there are polar bears in the area.
eTA Canada (eTA meaning)
If you are travelling to Canada for a holiday or on business, you are required to apply for an eTA Canada before departure. This is an electronic travel authorisation issued by the Canadian government. Applying for an eTA can be easily done online and costs £19.95 per person. The Canadian government recommends applying for an eTA at least 72 hours before departure. Applying for an eTA can be done through this website, where you can pay with Visa, MasterCard, American Express or PayPal. When the eTA is granted, it is digitally linked to the passport of the traveller. For the next five years (or until the passport expires, whichever comes first), they can travel to Canada as often as they wish. However, each stay can only last a maximum of six months. Do you wish to stay longer? Then an eTA is not enough and you need to apply for a visa.
Canada uses the Canadian dollar (CAD/C$). UK citizens in Canada can use their debit cards and credit cards as normal; these can also be used to acquire Canadian dollars at cash dispensers. Credit card companies tend to utilise unfavourable exchange rates compared to banks; it is advised to use your debit card as much as possible. However, banks can also charge transaction costs. Getting some Canadian dollars and paying with them is the cheapest option. Always bring a credit card to Canada. These can come in handy, for instance for reservations or security deposits. Keep in mind that security deposits lower the limit of your credit card. It can be wise to increase the limit of your credit card before departure.
The most beautiful national parks lie near the Rocky Mountains and are connected through a long road; the Icefields Parkway. This makes it a very popular road for tourists. The two-day train ride from Calgary to Vancouver (Rocky Mountaineer Railtour) is also recommended due to its grandiose views. Aside from the road or the railroad, the water also offers a nice view through the east of Canada. The most popular and beloved route is the Inside Passage; this boat ride lasts fourteen hours and offers a unique view of Canada’s many fjords.
Do you like winter sports? The Canadian mountains offer all you need. A trip to the Niagara Falls are also a must during a holiday to Canada; these waterfalls are about fifty metres high and almost seven hundred metres long. It is also recommended to visit the CN Tower in Toronto. This tower is almost half a kilometre high and offers a spectacular view of the city.
Tips for a successful holiday in Canada
- Take note of the distances: places might seem close on a map, but due to the huge size of the country even short distances can take hours by car. The northern roads might not always be the best quality either; this can negatively impact the travel time.
- Make sure that the tank of your car is always at least half-full; the distances are enormous and tank stations can be scarce on some roads. Getting a good mobile phone signal might not always be possible either; avoid getting stranded.
- Keep a close eye on the weather reports. The weather can turn quickly, especially around the Rocky Mountains. For long walks, get proper equipment and wear extra layers.
- It is customary in Canada to tip a lot. Keep in mind that people expect tips of around 15 to 20 percent.
- Apply for an eTA Canada on time; this is a mandatory travel authorisation to enter Canada by plane.
- Arrange proper travel insurance. Medical costs in Canada are high; these are not always entirely covered by your own health insurance.
- Unblock usage of your debit card in Canada with your bank and consider increasing the spending limit of your credit card.
- To save money, pay for your holiday in Canada with your debit card as much as possible instead of your credit card. Withdrawing money from a cash dispenser is even cheaper, as less transaction costs are charged by your bank.
- Canada has very strict rules regarding driving under the influence; even just an open package of an alcoholic beverage found in your car can lead to a fine.