For specific information about provinces and territories, have a look at the bottom of the page.
Canada is the northernmost country of North America and is composed of ten provinces and three territories. English and French are the two official languages of the country, English being spoken by 2/3 of the population is the majority language in most provinces while French is the main official language in the province of Quebec but 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 widely spoken. So for the convenience of the common hitchhiker these provinces and territories are discussed in detail along with their capitals in the following pages.
Canada is a wide country where many visitors do not really realise its scale prior to their arrival and neither realise the various extreme temperature that can suddenly happen and hit at different season. Certain nothern rural regions in each provinces are inhabited by a scarce or even absent permanent population. It might not always be bright to adventure yourself into some wild or less inhabited part of the country without the proper equipement nor having registered yourself to some local authorities prior to do such 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 by the border with the USA. It is common and normal in some part of the country to drive few hundreds km without any living soul in the area. Noneless to say, even if the country bear some similitude with its southern and only neighbour, the United States, the cultural and life approach of the population is quite unique.
For a journey over the country, the Transcanadian Highway is the main road crossing the country coast to coast. The highway system is specific to every provinces and usually quite comprehensive.
The vast majority of the population lives in harmony within their vast country, this has been enabled by the size of the country which allowed people to live using their own belief, languages or religion without necesserily being bothered by anybody else in a 'Live and let live' motto. Therefore, hate crime are absent and major difference clash more rare but especially existing during some specific peak situation usually caused by an intern political tumult. It might be useful for a traveller to know if there is an important referendum or political crisis going on, deciding on the future of the country as your accent might 'tag' you to one or another of the country's nation and therefore become a ball and chain. For example, it might not always be of good help to be White in some First Nation reserves, sounding French in some parts of the country or English in others during a National Referendum or Election time. As many people might think you are from the other part of the country when approaching them and be less keen to help.
Car Number Plate
The best and cheapest way is to contact people in the area you are is to find the nearest phone booth, there are usually plenty within in a city and even the in country side, usually you will find one by every petrol station, shops or restaurant. Unlike many countries, they are always in good condition and reliable so always make sure to have a few 'quarter' available. Local calls now costs two 'quarter' (50 cents) although for some stupid historical divisions and economical reasons, in some areas some phone booths will belong to another company and what seems to be a local call will in fact be a 'long distance call' and will request an higher amount. If the person you are trying to contact is expecting a call from you, it would be worth to contact them 'collect'. It usually cost less than the amount requested by the booth and it is normal practice (does not apply for mobile phone!) to receive and accept collect call. To do a collect call, simply dial '0' and follow the instructions of the operator.
Mobile phone 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 pay to make call and to receive call, he will also usually have no signal when he reaches the nearest mountains or hills.
Internet cafés are rare and will only be existing in main urban and touristic centre. They are usually not used by locals, so it is possible that nobody knows if there is one in the surrounding. In rural areas, Internet might not even exists or be limited to dial-up only. Colleges and Universities are usually providing huge computer classes for their students but those are only accessible with username and password, it might be worth to ask though people might be keen enough to help you with it.
With temperature often dropping beneath -30 Celsius, you should not stand outside more than 15 minutes, wear the appropriate gear and make sure that you are never being stuck anywhere.
The majority of the roads will be slippery, icy or narrowed by the snowbank. So it will often be impossible for cars to stop by and pull over safely and they won't do it if they can't as the risk of causing an accident might be too high and the driver would have to bear entire responsibility of it towards his insurance.
On another hand, every citizen should be bound by law to provide help and safety to every citizen in needs by the hazard 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'. It is true that it will be perceived as quite stupid and irresponsible to have dared outside without all the effective preparation by such weather, locals way prefer to enjoy the cosiness of their home by such extreme temperature.
Although and for that reason, no shops, restaurants or gas stations would be allowed to kick you out of their property. Either no car should be allowed to ignore you if the needs is there. This would usually be the case in rural areas while people in urban areas might simply think, someone else can do it. If you feel your life threatened by the hazard of nature, you are allowed to do anything possible to get help by the surrounding. Which would include entering a house, 'stopping' a car or denouncing to the authorities any refusal for help. This does not mean abuse and, is to be use logically and tactfully. Bear in mind that if you attempt such behaviour, an investigation might be done afterwhile to verify if you didn't put yourself at risk at your own will and full knowledge of the consequences! Which situation you are, by law, not allowed to find yourself into!
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 hitch-hiker might reveal to be a hard thing, especially since 2001. The border control is now more thighten, especially since the non-proven allegation that some terrorists came from Canada, and several questions are asked according to the relations between the passengers in a car.
Because of these strong security measures, a hitch-hiker 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 he is fine with the hassle (or fine waiting for you if you are being interogated aside). The vast majority of the drivers will most likely 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 question 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 enthousiasm and that your adventure is part of a life plan holiday... not a way to escape reality.
It is custom to be ask to prove that you have the means to sustain your holiday (money) and that your holiday is part of a plan (a return ticket).
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 volunteer 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
U.S. and Canadian citizens are NOT required to show a passport. At least not yet. That doesn't mean a border guard won't ask to see one, though. But, a border guard is not supposed to deny you just because you don't have a passport. Until January of 2008, border guards are supposed to continue accepting "oral declarations of citizenship" which basically means, "you have to believe me because I told you so."
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). But don't think that just 'cause you don't own a passport you can't cross. You can.
Every border crossing point will usually be discussed in greater details in the appropriate province page.