AAA -- Members of the American Automobile Association (AAA) are covered by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) while traveling in Canada. Bring your membership card and proof of insurance. The 24-hour hotline for emergency service is tel. 800/222-4357. Most mobile phones can call tel. *CAA (*222) to reach emergency road service. See www.caa.ca for more. The AAA card also provides discounts at many hotels and restaurants.
American Express -- To report lost or stolen traveler's checks, call tel. 800/668-2639.
Business Hours -- Standard business hours in Canada are similar to those in the U.S., usually 10am to 6pm. It is common for stores to be closed on Sundays, particularly outside of the larger cities and major tourist areas.
Drugstores -- Drugstores and pharmacies are found throughout Canada. As in the U.S., there are a number of national chain pharmacies, including Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall. In addition, many larger grocery stores in Canada also have in-store pharmacies. Many prescription-only drugs in the United States are available over the counter in Canada, and pharmacists are more likely to offer casual medical advice than their counterparts in the States. If you're not feeling well, a trip to see a pharmacist may save you a trip to the doctor.
Electricity -- Canada uses the same electrical plug configuration and current as the United States: 110 to 115 volts, 60 cycles.
Embassies & Consulates -- All embassies are in Ottawa, the national capital; the U.S. embassy is at 490 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, ON K1N 1G8 (tel. 613/688-5335; http://ottawa.usembassy.gov). The mailing address for the embassy's consular services is P.O. Box 866, Station B, Ottawa, ON K1P 5T1..
U.S. consulates are in the following locations: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island -- Suite 904, Purdy's Wharf Tower II, 1969 Upper Water St., Halifax (tel. 902/429-2480); Québec -- 2 rue de la Terrasse-Dufferin (behind Château Frontenac), Québec City (tel. 418/692-2095), and 1155 St. Alexander St., Montréal (tel. 514/398-9695); Ontario -- 360 University Ave., Toronto (tel. 416/595-1700, or 416/201-4100 for emergency after-hours calls); Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories -- 615 Macleod Trail SE, 10th Floor, Calgary (tel. 403/266-8962); British Columbia and the Yukon -- Mezzanine, 1095 W. Pender St., Vancouver (tel. 604/685-4311).
The British High Commission is at 80 Elgin St., Toronto (tel. 613/237-1530; http://ukincanada.fco.gov.uk), and an Australian consulate general is at Suite 1100, South Tower, 175 Bloor St. E., Toronto (tel. 416/323-3909; www.canada.embassy.gov.au).
Emergencies -- Dial tel. 911 in an emergency.
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.
Language -- Canada has two official languages, English and French. French is the dominant language in Québec; however, most Québecers can also speak passable English, particularly if they work in the tourism industry. However, it's a good idea to dust off your high-school French if you're traveling to Québec destinations outside of Montréal or Québec City. Not only is it a courtesy to address people in their native tongue, you'll be treated with greater respect if you don't start barking English orders to waiters and hotel staff.
Liquor Laws -- Laws regarding beer, wine, and liquor vary from province to province. In some provinces, all beer, wine, and spirits are sold only in government liquor stores, which keep very restricted hours and are usually closed on Sundays. Alberta and Québec have liquor laws that resemble those in the United States. In those provinces and Manitoba, the minimum drinking age is 18; in all others, it's 19.
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 North American emergency number is tel. 800/847-2911 or 410/581-9994. American Express cardholders and traveler's check holders should call tel. 800/221-7282. MasterCard holders should call tel. 800/627-8372 or 636/722-7111. For other credit cards, call the toll-free number directory 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 in the U.S. or 800/325-0000 in Canada; www.westernunion.com).
Mail -- Standard mail in Canada is carried by Canada Post (tel. 800/607-6301 or 416/979-8822; www.canadapost.ca). At press time, it costs C57¢ to send a letter or postcard within Canada and C$1 to send a letter or postcard from Canada to the United States. Airmail service to other countries is C$1.70 for the first 30g (1 oz.). Rates go up frequently. If you put a return address on your letter, make sure it's Canadian; otherwise, leave it without. Expect a letter from Canada to take at least a week to reach its U.S. destination.
Measurements -- Canada uses the metric system, though many Canadians still use miles to measure distance and are familiar with other U.S. forms of measurement.
Newspapers & Magazines -- In addition to local newspapers, the Globe and Mail and the National Post, both based out of Toronto, are distributed nationally. Macleans is a Canadian weekly newsmagazine.
Police -- In emergencies, dial tel. 911.
Smoking -- Smoking indoors is much more restricted in Canada than in much of the U.S. or Europe. All of the country's 13 provinces and territories have now passed smoking bans prohibiting cigarettes in the workplace and public buildings, bars, and restaurants. In some jurisdictions, there are even regulations on how closely one can smoke to public entrances to buildings.
Taxes -- Throughout Canada, you will be charged a federal goods and services tax (GST), a 5% tax on virtually all goods and services. In all provinces except Alberta, there is an additional provincial sales tax (PST) of between 5% and 10% added to purchases and financial transactions, and all provinces and some municipalities levy a hotel room tax of up to 5%. Some provinces (Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick) instead levy a 12% to 15% harmonized sales tax (HST), which combines their provincial sales taxes with the GST. Some hotels and shops include the GST or HST in their prices; others add it on separately.
As of April 2007, the Canadian government no longer offers GST or HST rebates of hotel bills or the cost of goods you've purchased in Canada.
Time Zone -- Six time zones are observed in Canada. In winter, when it's 6:30pm Newfoundland standard time, it's 6pm Atlantic Standard Time (Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia); 5pm Eastern Standard Time (Québec and most of Ontario); 4pm Central Standard Time (northwestern Ontario, Manitoba, and most of Saskatchewan); 3pm Mountain Standard Time (northwestern Saskatchewan, Alberta, eastern British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories); and 2pm Pacific Standard Time (the Yukon and most of British Columbia).
Each year, on the second Sunday in March, Daylight Saving Time comes into effect in most of Canada, and clocks are advanced by 1 hour. On the first Sunday in November, Canada reverts to standard time. The only province that doesn't observe Daylight Saving Time is Saskatchewan.
Tipping -- For good service in a restaurant, tip 15% to 20%. Tip hairdressers or taxi drivers 10%. Bellhops get C$1 per bag for luggage taken to your room; for valets who fetch your car, a C$2 tip should suffice.
Water -- The water in Canada is renowned for its purity. You can drink water directly from the tap anywhere in the country. Bottled water is also widely available.
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.