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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. The size of the country allowed people to live using their own belief, languages or religion without necessarily being bothered by anybody else, in a 'Live and let live' motto. Therefore, hate crimes are absent and major difference clash even rarer but may exist or be apparent (commented) during some particular intern political tumult situation usually. It still remains rare. It might be useful for a traveller to be aware of the current events to avoid getting into a political discussion which may offend more than anything else. Sometimes, during such potential situation and with some people, generally- it is difficult to be a "racial minority" / "person of colour" everywhere in Canada; sounding French in some parts of the country or English in others. As many people might think you are from the other part of the country when approaching them and be less keen to help.
The rural population should be entirely keen to help if the traveller is making the first steps into breaking the 'stranger in the locality' image, as the split between urban and rural citizen is also existent. The rural community feeling is usually pretty strong and people will believe you belong there and act more altruistic. However, some rural regions have strong influence from urban resident which has the tendency to bring a more individualistic mentality. In Atlantic Canada, locals consider and call outsiders "people who come from away". Be aware.
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 usually in good condition and reliable so always make sure to have a pre-paid phone-card or a few 'quarters' available. Local calls now costs two 'quarters' (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. It's often simplest to call using pre-paid calling cards. You can make calls from public phones without using coins when you dail 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 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 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. 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 for a guest account; but you may need a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID. College and university guest accounts will let you use the Internet as much as you like, but only for the current day.
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 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.