4 Important Facts About Canada: Backpacker Tips for The Great White North

C a n a d a  is  S p a c i o u s

You'll notice this as soon as you arrive. The cars are big, the roads are wide, the buildings are spread out; everything here is less cramped than most other places in the entire world. You will have room to breathe here, whether you're in a small town or large city- so enjoy it!

so.much.space.

so.much.space.

Unfortunately, for the budget traveller this spaciousness comes at a cost. Flying anywhere in Canada is an expensive feat, as there is very little airline competition. Trains are more affordable, but for a frugal traveller excessive train travel will not be ideal. Since hitchhiking is commonly frowned upon in North America the only real options for seeing the country on a budget are via bus or a good ol'-fashioned road trip. Ideally aim for the latter, but if you will be bus-bound across the Great White North you should be prepared- physically and psychologically- for a cruel irony: you will be mashed in a long-haul bus while the the vastness of the land passes you by. Plan your trip accordingly, but don't expect to see this huge country all in one visit.

Canada Has No Culinary Tradition

We have inherited our diet from America, and so anyone coming to Canada from a country with culinary flare may be disappointed. Don't get me wrong, there are great places to eat and great foods available- but we have no long-standing food culture of our own. Sure, there is poutine (and Beaver Tails!)...but that merely confirms my argument. Convenience is King in Canada, and so fast, cheap food has become a dietary norm. On top of that, our coffee is terrible. If you come from a country where coffee is an art form you will oft be disappointed by the swill consumed in North America. Brace yourself. Fortunately, we make up for it with our vast smorgasbord of desserts and snack foods. We love our junk food, so prepare to gain a pound or two.

meal replacement

meal replacement

Canadian Weather is EXTREME

beautiful AND frigid

beautiful AND frigid

Last summer it reached 40C in Canada- and not just once, but regularly. Our summers are humid and the air gets heavy enough in your lungs to weigh down your very soul. As for winter, it reached -40C last year regularly enough that I will be spending my next winter somewhere warmer. Canada's weather has become extreme over the years, and this can be a huge obstacle for any traveller. Not only does it require physical preparation- having the right clothes, buying suitable boots, etc.- but it's a psychological challenge. Constant extreme temperatures can totally crush your desire to get our and do things, which is usually the point of any trip. Make sure you know what the weather is like when you visit, or you may find yourself freezing in a snowbank or drowning in your own sweat.

Canadians Are Nice...Sometimes

Canadians have a reputation for being nice. That reputation is generally true- more often than not people here seem to err on the side of being polite. Generally it's a trait found in smaller towns rather than larger cities, but not exclusively by any means. We love our small-talk, too. If you are ever standing alone there is a good chance someone will crack a comment about the weather. It's inevitable. However, this does not mean that every single Canadian is nice. There are mean people here just as there are everywhere. People here have bad days, get tired, get grumpy, and sometimes they will not be that nice. When you arrive, keep your expectations in check. Expect to be respected, but don't expect anyone to lay down their coat every time you encounter a puddle.

this guy was pissed

this guy was pissed


For some more information about travelling in Canada you can check out Canada Travel and Hostelling International (Canada)

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