American Express -- Calgary: 300-605 5th Ave. SW; tel. 403/294-7100. Edmonton: 850-10060 Jasper Ave. NW; tel. 780/429-3355. Banff: 100 Gopher St.; tel. 403/760-6900.
Area Codes -- Southern Alberta: 403; Northern Alberta: 780. The area codes change to the Northern Alberta code just north of Red Deer.
ATM Networks/Cashpoints -- You'll be able to find ATMs in even the smaller centers throughout the province. Overall, Alberta is thoroughly modern, and if there's a gas station, there'll be an ATM. Be wary of independent cashpoints, as the user fee can be C$2 or more; major Canadian chartered bank ATMs (CIBC, BMO, TD Canada Trust, Scotiabank) typically charge non-customers C$1 to C$1.50. You'll find hundreds of these in the big cities, almost anywhere you go -- in malls, office buildings, and even 7-11 stores (which have a nationwide deal with CIBC to carry their ATMs); even the smaller centers have many options. Look for branches on main streets or shopping plazas.
Automobile Organizations -- Motor clubs will supply maps, suggested routes, guidebooks, accident and bail-bond insurance, and emergency road service. The Alberta Motor Association (tel. 800/222-6400; www.ama.ab.ca) is the provincial arm of the Canadian Automotive Association (tel. 800/866-9677; www.caa.com), the major auto club in Canada, and an affiliate of the American Automobile Association (AAA); members can obtain maps of Alberta from either CAA or AAA. If you belong to a motor club in your home country, inquire about CAA reciprocity before you leave. You may be able to join CAA even if you're not a member of a reciprocal club.
Business Hours -- Standard business hours in Alberta, and Canada in general, are similar to those in the U.S., usually 10am to 6pm (office hours are more like 8am to 4:30pm).
Outside the cities and major tourist areas it is common for stores to be closed on Sundays.
Drinking Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Alberta is 18, making it, along with Quebec, the youngest jurisdiction in North America; proof of age is required and often requested at bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, so it's always a good idea to bring ID when you go out.
Alberta also has a very late "last call" (3am), so night life tends to be very pronounced here. And unlike most Canadian provinces, where liquor is sold only in government-owned stores, Alberta privatized its liquor sales in the 1990s. Specialty liquor and wine shops are found all over the province; in the cities, they often keep late hours -- as late as 11pm.
Do not carry open containers of alcohol in your car or any public area that isn't zoned for alcohol consumption; the police can fine you on the spot. And nothing will ruin your trip faster than getting a citation for DUI ("driving under the influence"), so don't even think about driving while intoxicated.
Electricity -- Like the U.S., Canada uses 110 to 120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared to 220 to 240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Downward converters that change 220-240 volts to 110-120 volts are difficult to find in Canada, so bring one with you.
Embassies & Consulates -- A great many countries keep consulates in Alberta, based in both Calgary and Edmonton.
The American consular office is in Calgary, at Suite 1000, 615 Macleod Trail SE; tel. 403/266-8962.
Among other major English-speaking countries, the closest consular services for Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are in Vancouver.
For a complete list of consulates in Alberta, go to www.alberta.ca/home/255.cfm.
Emergencies -- In life-threatening situations, call tel. 911.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- At press time, in Canada -- as in most of the world -- the cost of gasoline (also known as gas in Canada, but never petrol), is abnormally high. In the fall of 2008, gas was hovering around C$1.20 per litre. Taxes are already included in the posted price. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters, or .85 imperial gallons. Fill-up locations are known as gas or service stations.
Holidays -- National holidays are celebrated throughout the country; all government facilities and banks are closed, but some department stores and a scattering of smaller shops stay open. If the holiday falls on a weekend, the following Monday is observed.
Canadian national holidays include New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Victoria Day (in mid- to late May, the weekend before U.S. Memorial Day), Canada Day (July 1), Labor Day (first Mon in Sept), Thanksgiving (in mid-Oct), Remembrance Day (Nov 11), Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (Dec 26). Alberta also celebrates Family Day, usually on the first Monday of August.
Hospitals -- All major Alberta hospitals offer 24-hour emergency services. A complete list of Alberta hospitals and their services can be found at www.informalberta.ca. In Calgary, Rockyview General Hospital (emergency tel. 403/943-3449) is at 7007 14th St. SW. In Edmonton, the University of Alberta Hospital (tel. 780/407-8433) is at 8440 112th St.
Hotlines -- There are a number of medical hotlines in Alberta. They include AADAC, a 24-hour drug and alcohol abuse hotline (tel. 1/866-33AADAC [2-2322] or 403/297-4664); Kids Help Phone (tel. 800/668-6868); Parent Help Line (tel. 866/603-9100); Poison Center (tel. 403/944-1414); Missing Children Society of Canada (tel. 800/661-6160); Distress Center (tel. 403/266-1605).
Internet Access -- Alberta's general connectedness is great; almost all hotels have at least hard-wired access, if not wireless, and there are hundreds of hotspots province-wide.
Legal Aid -- If you are pulled over for a minor infraction (such as speeding), never attempt to pay the fine directly to a police officer; this could be construed as attempted bribery, a much more serious crime. Pay fines by mail, or directly into the hands of the clerk of the court. If accused of a more serious offense, say and do nothing before consulting a lawyer. Here the burden is on the state to prove a person's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and everyone has the right to remain silent, whether he or she is suspected of a crime or actually arrested. Once arrested, a person can make one telephone call to a party of his or her choice. International visitors should call their embassy or consulate.
Legal Aid Alberta (www.legalaid.ab.ca) provides legal services for those who cannot afford their own legal representation. They can also refer you to a local lawyer if in fact you can afford those services.
Legal Aid Alberta has offices all over the province; the head office is in Edmonton at tel. 780/644-4971.
Lost & Found -- Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Visa's U.S. emergency number is tel. 800/847-2911 or 410/581-9994, the same as in Canada. American Express cardholders and traveler's check holders should call tel. 800/678-5523. MasterCard holders should call tel. 800/622-7747 or 636/722-7111. For other credit cards, call the toll-free number directory assistance at tel. 800/555-1212.
If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com).
Mail -- At press time, domestic postage rates were 52 cents Canadian for both a letter or postcard. For international mail, a first-class letter of up to 1 ounce costs 96 cents to the U.S., or C$1.60 overseas; a first-class postcard costs the same as a letter. For more information go to www.canadapost.ca.
If you aren't sure what your address will be in Alberta, mail can be sent to you, in your name, c/o General Delivery at the main post office of the city or region where you expect to be. General Delivery is offered free of charge for up to 4 months to traveling customers. (Call tel. 866/697-6301 for information on the nearest post office.) The addressee must pick up mail in person and must produce proof of identity (driver's license, passport, etc.). Most post offices are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm, and Saturday from 9am to 3pm.
Always include postal codes when mailing items in Canada. If you don't know the correct postal code, visit www.canadapost.ca to search by address.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Drugstores, grocery stores, as well as newsstands carry most of the major daily papers for their respective regions. There are two national newspapers in Canada, the National Post and The Globe and Mail, and both Calgary and Edmonton have large daily papers, the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.
You'll also find Canadian newsstands to be filled with American magazines, so if you're traveling from the U.S. you'll feel right at home. Major U.S. papers, like the New York Times and U.S.A Today, are available throughout Alberta.
Police -- Dial 911 in emergencies province-wide.
Smoking -- Alberta banned smoking in public places in January 2008. There is no smoking indoors in any business or establishment open to the public, including bars and restaurants. Some hotels still have smoking rooms; smoking is typically allowed on outdoor patios.
Taxes -- Alberta has no provincial sales tax -- the only province to do so -- which makes shopping there a relative bargain. You'll still pay the 5% federal GST, and an additional 5% accommodation tax on hotel rooms.
Telephones -- Many convenience stores, grocery stores, and packaging services sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to C$50; for international visitors these can be the least expensive way to call home. Many public pay phones at airports now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards. Local calls made from pay phones in most locales cost 50 cents. Most long-distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. For calls within Canada to the U.S., dial 1 followed by the area code and the seven-digit number. For other international calls, dial 011 followed by the country code, city code, and the number you are calling.
Calls to area codes 800, 888, 877, and 866 are toll-free.
For reversed-charge or collect calls, and for person-to-person calls, dial the number 0 then the area code and number; an operator will come on the line, and you should specify whether you are calling collect, person-to-person, or both. If your operator-assisted call is international, ask for the overseas operator.
For local directory assistance ("information"), dial tel. 411; for long-distance information, dial 1, then the appropriate area code and 555-1212.
Telegraph, Telex, & Fax --
Telegraph and telex services are provided primarily by Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com). You can telegraph (wire) money, or have it telegraphed to you, very quickly over the Western Union system, but this service can cost as much as 15 to 20 percent of the amount sent.
Most hotels have fax machines available for guest use (be sure to ask about the charge to use it). Many hotel rooms are wired for guests' fax machines. A less expensive way to send and receive faxes may be at stores such as The UPS Store or Kinko's.
Time -- Alberta is in the Mountain Time Zone, one hour later than Pacific Standard Time and two hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time.
North America is divided into four time zones: Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), and Pacific Standard Time (PST). Alaska and Hawaii have their own zones. For example, when it's 9am in Los Angeles (PST), it's 7am in Honolulu (HST), 10am in Denver (MST), 11am in Chicago (CST), noon in New York City (EST), 5pm in London (GMT), and 2am the next day in Sydney.
Daylight saving time is in effect from 1am on the second Sunday in March to 1am on the first Sunday in November, except in most of Saskatchewan, Arizona, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Daylight saving time moves the clock 1 hour ahead of standard time.
Tipping -- Tips are a very important part of certain workers' income, and gratuities are the standard way of showing appreciation for services provided. (Tipping is certainly not compulsory if the service is poor!) In hotels, tip bellhops at least C$1 per bag (C$2-C$3 if you have a lot of luggage) and tip the chamber staff C$1 to C$2 per day (more if you've left a disaster area for him or her to clean up). Tip the doorman or concierge only if he or she has provided you with some specific service (for example, calling a cab for you or obtaining difficult-to-get theater tickets). Tip the valet-parking attendant C$1 every time you get your car.
In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff 15% to 20% of the check, tip bartenders 15%, tip checkroom attendants C$1 per garment, and tip valet-parking attendants C$1 per vehicle.
As for other service personnel, tip cab drivers 15% of the fare; tip skycaps at airports at least C$1 per bag (C$2-C$3 if you have a lot of luggage); and tip hairdressers and barbers 15% to 20%.
Toilets -- You won't find public toilets or "restrooms" on the streets in most Alberta cities but they can be found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, railway and bus stations, and service stations. Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. Restaurants and bars in resorts or heavily visited areas may reserve their restrooms for patrons.
Useful Phone Numbers -- Travel Alberta (tel. 800/252-3782); Crisis Services Provincial Help Line (tel. 800-779-5057); Provincial Fire Bans/Forest Closures (tel. 866/394-3473); U.S. Dept. of State Travel Advisory (tel. 202/647-5225, manned 24 hrs.); U.S. Passport Agency (tel. 202/647-0518).
Visas -- Citizens of the United States, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K. do not require visas to enter Canada.
A complete list of those countries whose citizens do require a visa can be found at www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp.
Water -- Water quality is very good and of no concern anywhere in Alberta.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.