Difference between revisions of "Canada"

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[[Category:Canada| ]]
[[Category:Canada| ]]

Revision as of 21:53, 30 March 2010

Flag of Canada Canada
Language: English, French
Capital: Ottawa
Population: 34,001,000 (2009 est.)
Currency: Canadian Dollar ($CAD)
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<map lat='60.673178565817715' lng='-97.03125' zoom='2' view='0' float='right' country='Canada'/>

For specific information about provinces and territories, see the bottom of the page.

Canada is the northernmost country of North America and is comprised of ten provinces and three territories. English and French are the two official languages of the country. English, being spoken by 3/4 of the population, is the majority language in most provinces. French is the main official language in the province of Quebec, but also widely spoken in New Brunswick and some areas of Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba. Inuktitut is the main language in Nunavut and has official status there but English is still widely spoken. For the convenience of the common hitchhiker the provinces and territories are discussed in detail, along with their capitals, in separate pages.

Canada is a vast country (the second biggest in the world) and many visitors do not realize its size or extremes in temperature prior to arrival. Certain northern rural regions are inhabited by few or even no permanent population, so it might not always be bright to adventure by yourself into some wild or less inhabited part of the country without the proper equipment or having registered yourself to some local authorities prior to such a journey. As a simple reminder, the density of population is about 3.2 habitants/km², and about 75 % of that population lives in the south, nestled by the US border. It is normal in some parts of the country to drive a hundred kilometres without any living soul.

Even if the country bears some similitude with its southern (and only) neighbour, the United States, the cultural and life outlook of the population is markedly unique.

For a journey across the country, the Trans-Canada Highway is the main road crossing the country east to west. However, the highway system numbering system is specific to every province.

Local Attitude

The majority of the Canadian population lives in harmony within their vast country. The size of the country has allowed people to live using their own beliefs, languages or religion without being bothered by anybody else, in a 'Live and let live' motto. Therefore, hate crimes are mostly absent and major difference clashes even rarer, but may exist. It might be useful for a traveler to be aware of the current political situation to avoid getting into a discussion which may offend more than anything else. Sometimes, during such situations, it might not be helpful to hitchhike as a white in a First Nation reserve, or sound French in an English area, or visa versa. That said, Canadians are generally friendly and forget their stereotypes once they meet you in person.

The rural population will usually be keen to help if the traveler is making the first steps into breaking the 'stranger in the locality' image, as the split between country- and city-folk is also existent. The rural community feeling is usually pretty strong and when people believe you belong there and act more altruistic. However, some rural regions have large populations of urban commuters which has the tendency to bring a more individualistic mentality.

Car Number Plate

Just like its southern neighbour, the United States, every provinces are issuing their own specific car plates. For example, a car from Manitoba will have a specific Car licenses tagged as such.


The best and cheapest way is to contact people in the area you are is to find the nearest phone booth. There are plenty within the cities and even the in country side; usually you will find one by every petrol station, or by shops or restaurants. Unlike many countries, they are usually in good condition, so always make sure to have a pre-paid phone-card or a few 'quarters' available. Local calls cost a quarter (25 cents) but in some areas what seems to be a local call will in fact be a 'long distance call' and the phone will request an higher amount. It's simplest to call using pre-paid calling cards. You can make calls from public phones without using coins when you dial the card's toll-free "1-800" number, and, for many of these cards, there is no extra fee for making the call from a public phone. Credit is deducted from the card at the same rate as with calls from land-lines. Most cards will cost somewhere between 2 and 10 cents per minute for calls to anywhere in Canada. The same, or similar, rates will often apply to calls to the United States and parts of Europe as well.

If the person you are trying to contact is expecting a call from you, and you don't have a pre-paid phone card, you can also try to call them 'collect'. It usually costs less than the amount requested by the booth and it is normal practice (does not apply for mobile phones!) to receive and accept collect call. To do a collect call, simply dial '0' and follow the instructions of the operator.

Mobile phones are not widely spread within the country and the networks are expensive, unreliable, primitive and only cover certain urban areas. A mobile phone user usually has to pay to make and receive calls, and will likely have no signal when he leaves the nearest city.

Internet cafés are rare and will only exist in main urban and touristic centres. They are not frequented by locals, so it is possible that nobody knows if there is one in the surrounding area. In rural areas, Internet may be limited to dial-up only. In most Canadian cities and towns of significant size, there are public libraries which offer free internet access to the general public - regardless of where you are from. This is generally the best bet for travelers without their own computer or access to a friend's. If there are several people waiting to use them though, you may have to wait a while for one to be available. You'll usually be given a time block of anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour. Many college and university libraries also provide free internet access to the public. Ask the circulation desk staff. College and university guest accounts will let you use the Internet as much as you like, but only for the current day.

Winter hitchhiking

Be careful!

With temperature often dropping beneath −30 Celsius, you should not stand outside more than 15 minutes. It's VERY important to make sure you wear the appropriate gear and take precautions to never be stuck anywhere outside without shelter.

In winter the roads can be icy or narrowed by the snowbank, so it will often be hard for cars to stop by and pull over safely. Drivers won't do it if they don't feel safe as the risk of causing an accident might be too high, and the driver would have to bear entire responsibility of it towards their insurance. It's even more important in icy conditions to make sure you find a hitching spot where there is good visibility and a safe place to pull over.

In some areas, especially in the northern territories, every citizen is bound by law to provide help and safety to every citizen in need from the hazards of temperature and nature. The reaction towards that will often differ, going from immediate support to a 'where have you left your brain!?!? being out by this weather!'. Your actions may be perceived as quite stupid and irresponsible to have dared outside without being prepared for the weather, as most locals prefer to enjoy the cosiness of their home in winter storms. For that reason, shops, restaurants, or gas stations usually won't kick you off their property in extreme weather. In the summer it's different, and you may be asked to leave if there is no danger from the outside elements.

Border Crossing

Canada has only one neighbour, the United States, and even if this border is known as the longest unprotected border in the world, entering the country as a backpacker, hiker or hitchhiker might be a hard, especially since 2001. The border control is quite tight, especially since the unproven allegation that some terrorists came from Canada. Questions might be asked about the relations between passengers in a car.

Because of these strong security measures, a hitchhiker probably will have to cross the border by foot and start again once the control is done. You might also discuss with your driver beforehand in the matter to get to know each other and to ensure that everything will be alright with the crossing and that s/he is fine with the hassle (or fine waiting for you if you are being interrogated). The vast majority of the drivers will be frisky at helping a stranger to cross from Canada to the States in their car. The best way to be at a border control is too remain calm, be confident, do not lie and simply answer the questions as asked without being witty or vague. Just remember that you do not have to tell that you are bumming around and bring some suspicious travelling plan (yes, hiking and hitching around in a blown by the wind way is a suspicious thing! Especially for the the average citizen!). So just be reliable, show enthusiasm and that your adventure is part of a life plan holiday... not a way to escape reality.

It is custom to be asked to prove that you have the means to sustain your holiday (money) and that your holiday is part of a plan (a return ticket). Also bear in mind that most Canadian and American land crossing control are separated from each other by a no man's land short distance between the two borders in which you will only be controlled by the welcoming country. So if you get denied entrance by one, you will have further enquiry to enter back into the country you came from.

While Crossing the Border

Don't panic! Just because a border guard treats you like a scumbag doesn't mean you are one. Armed with this attitude try and maintain your dignity and self-confidence throughout the encounter and the guard will more likely respect you (even if he or she doesn't show it). Trust me, things will go more smoothly. If you're passing the border inside a car, don't advertise the fact that you are a hitchhiker. But if it becomes obvious, don't try and deny it, either. Remember, there's no shame in hitching.

Passports for U.S. and Canadian citizens

From Summer 2009 on, U.S. and Canadian citizens are required to show a passport to cross the border.

Also, if you are a U.S. citizen going into Canada or a Canadian going into the U.S., a guard can deny you entry for a number of reasons (usually because of a criminal record or you don't look like you have enough money for lunch at a fast-food restaurant).

Every border crossing point will usually be discussed in greater details in the appropriate province page.

Provinces and Territories of Canada