Your guide to Canada! I haven’t ventured to eastern Canada, so I won’t be throwing you specific recommendations to that part of Canada (yet). However, I HAVE ventured to Vancouver and Banff National Park, so this guide will be specific to these locations for now!
Best Time to Visit
Canada has so much to offer and is a great place to travel to nearly year-round. It is a mecca for outdoor adventures! It offers world-class skiing in the winter and amazing hiking, biking and water sports during the warmer months.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Canada is May or September. I am a huge fan of traveling when there aren’t as many people traveling. As you probably know by now, Banff National Park is exploding with popularity and the crowds are becoming overwhelming during the summer. The weather is perfect in the summer, but if you can’t find parking anywhere and are in traffic for hours to see the beautiful Lake Louise, it isn’t worth it. I recommend putting on an extra layer or two and exploring during the shoulder seasons! And, if you’re lucky the weather can be pleasant during these times as well!
If you would rather not risk the weather and travel during the summer, I recommend skipping Banff and Jasper altogether and going to another national park in the Canadian Rockies such as Yoho or Kootenay National Parks. They both literally neighbor Banff National Park and share the Canadian Rockies, but may have less crowds.
Canada is pretty well known for its frigid winters and the more you go north and inland the more this rings true. However, along the coast, such as in Vancouver, you experience more mild temperatures and some of the warmest temperatures in Canada. However, along with any coastline city, you will also get more rainfall.
Canada has some of the most amazing summer weather. Highs in the 70’s (20’s C) can make for some of the best weather to go hiking, biking and other outdoor activities. Spring and autumn can bring unpredictable weather; you may get some beautiful weather that mimics the summer, or it may feel like winter is coming early or hanging on too long. Check the weather before you go!
If you are headed to Canada to specifically see the Canadian Rockies, expect even more unpredictability; ESPECIALLY if you decide to go during the late spring or autumn. As mentioned in my guide to Banff National Park, we visited during the third week of September. On the day we arrived it was cloudy and overcast. We woke up to the first snow of the season and experienced a snow storm while driving the Icefields Parkway. The next morning it was clear and by mid-afternoon we had sunshine and temperatures in the upper 60’s F!
These three pictures were taken within 48 hours in Banff National Park. Be prepared for anything!
Canada has its own currency known as the Canadian dollar (CAD), nicknamed the “loonie.” The “$” sign is frequently used, so don’t confuse prices with the USD! You can likely get away with using USD in some places. However, if you are wanting to use cash, I recommend just getting some Canadian dollars and avoiding the headache. Also, credit cards are widely accepted, so feel free to rack up those travel points while you’re spending money on vacation!
Gratuities are seldom included in restaurants, so it is customary to tip similar to that of the US, 15-20%.
Your source of transportation will vary depending on your itinerary. However, know that the major cities have easy and affordable train systems as well as many bus routes. If you fly into Vancouver, you can train or bus to the city and see everything on foot or by bus or train. No need for a car!
However, if you plan to visit Banff National Park, Jasper National Park or some of the other beautiful and less crowded parks, rent a car. As you drive through the amazing Canadian Rockies you will find so many places you will want to pull off to admire the landscapes. Most destinations are also widespread and there aren’t good bus routes to take you to where you want to go, when you want to go.
Driving in Canada is easy-breezy. Book your car as early as possible to get better prices to make up for the increase in fuel prices 🙂
Click here for current fuel prices in Canada.
As my Canadian boss suggested before my departure,
“you have to have some Horton’s coffee and try poutine.”
Poutine is a traditional Canadian cuisine of crispy french fries, cheese curds and gravy on top. Honestly, I know. Not sure how it came about, but it mixes well to make a delicious meal! Something else you just can’t find in the US Walmart are the Canadian staple, Heinz Ketchup flavored potato chips by Herr’s.
Game meat is popular in Canada and if you are venturing to the coast look for fresh seafood!