Served by highways, transcontinental trains and buses, and several airports, Montréal and Québec City are easily accessible from within Canada, the U.S., or overseas.
Most of the world's major airlines fly into the Aéroport International Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau de Montréal (airport code YUL; tel. 800/465-1213 or 514/394-7377; www.admtl.com), more commonly known as Montréal-Trudeau Airport. It used to be called Montréal-Dorval, which you'll find on older maps.
In Québec City, the teeny Jean Lesage International Airport (airport code YQB; tel. 418/640-2600; www.aeroportdequebec.com) is served by a number of major airlines. Most air traffic comes by way of Montréal, although there are some direct flights from Canadian and U.S. cities, including Toronto; Ottawa; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; New York; and Detroit. Some direct flights are seasonal only.
Tip: Save time and hassle by arranging your flights so that your Customs entry takes place at your final Canadian destination. For instance, if you are flying from the U.S. and have to make one or more stops en route to Canada, make the transfer in the U.S. Otherwise, when you land in Canada you'll have to collect your bags, pass through Customs, and then check your bags again before continuing on to your final destination.
Getting into Town from the Airport -- Montréal-Trudeau is served by Express Bus 747, which debuted in March 2010. It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and runs between the airport and the Berri-UQAM Métro station (the city's main bus terminal). It has about half a dozen designated stops along boulevard René-Lévesque. A trip takes about 35 minutes, and buses leave every 20 to 30 minutes. One-way tickets are sold for C$8 at the currency exchange (ICE) location on the airport's international arrivals level, and downtown at the Berri-UQAM station and the Infotourist Centre, 1255 rue Peel (tel. 877/266-5687 or 514/873-2015; Métro: Peel). Details are at www.stm.info/info/747.htm. Hotels that offer shuttles are listed on the airport's website under "Access and Parking."
A taxi trip to downtown Montréal costs a flat fare of C$38, plus tip. Call tel. 514/394-7377 for more information.
From Québec City's airport, a taxi to downtown is a fixed-rate C$33. There is a public bus, no. 78, but it runs only to the Les Saules bus terminal, at the corner of boulevard Massona and rue Michelet, which is well outside the tourist area. You'll need to transfer from there. The bus runs Monday through Friday and costs C$2.60, exact change only. Ask at the airport for the best route; you can also call tel. 418/627-2511 or visit www.rtcquebec.ca.
Renting a Car on Arrival -- Terms, cars, and prices for car rentals are similar to those in the rest of North America and Europe, and all the major companies operate in Québec. Basic rates are about the same from company to company, although a little comparison shopping can unearth modest savings. A charge is usually levied when you return a car in a location other than the one in which it was rented.
Québec is the first Canadian province to mandate that residents have radial snow tires on their cars in winter. The law, which went into effect in late 2008, runs from mid-December until March 15. Rental-car agencies are required to provide snow tires on car rentals during that period, and many charge an extra, nonnegotiable fee.
The minimum driving age is 16 in Québec, but some car-rental companies will not rent to people under 25. Others charge higher rates for drivers under the age of 21. Renters under 25 may be asked for a major credit card in the same name as their driver's license.
Montréal's central bus station, called Station Centrale d'Autobus (tel. 514/842-2281), is at 505 boul. de Maisonneuve est. It has a restaurant and an information booth. Beneath the terminal is Berri-UQAM Station, the junction of several Métro lines. (UQAM -- pronounced "Oo-kahm" -- stands for Université de Québec à Montréal.) Alternatively, taxis usually line up outside the terminal building.
Québec City's bus terminal, at 320 rue Abraham-Martin (tel. 418/525-3000), is just beside the train station. As from the train station, it's an uphill climb or short cab ride to Upper Town or other parts of Lower Town.
All international drivers must carry a valid driver's license from their country of residence. A U.S. license is sufficient as long as you are a visitor and actually are a U.S. resident. A U.K. license is sufficient, as well. If the driver's license is in a language other than French or English, an additional International Driver's Permit is required.
From Toronto to Montréal, the drive is about 5 hours. Most of your route is along the 401 highway (Macdonald-Cartier Hwy.), which you'll take until you reach "the 20" (Autoroute du Souvenir) at the Ontario-Québec border. From there it's about an hour to downtown Montréal.
Driving north to Montréal from the U.S., the entire journey is on expressways. From New York City, all but about the last 64km (40 miles) of the 603km (375-mile) trip are within New York state on Interstate 87. I-87 links up with Canada's Autoroute 15 at the border, which goes straight to Montréal.
From Boston, I-93 goes up through New Hampshire's White Mountains and merges into I-91 to cross the tip of Vermont. At the border, I-91 becomes Autoroute 55. Signs lead to Autoroute 10 west, which goes into Montréal. Boston to Montréal is 518km (322 miles).
Québec City is 867km (539 miles) from New York City and 644km (400 miles) from Boston. From New York, follow the directions to Montréal, and then pick up Autoroute 20 to Québec City. From Boston, follow the directions to Montréal, but at Autoroute 10, go east instead of west to stay on Autoroute 55. Get on Autoroute 20 to Québec City and follow signs for the Pont Pierre-Laporte, the major bridge into the city. Turn right onto Boulevard Wilfrid-Laurier (Rte. 175) shortly after crossing the bridge. It changes names first to Boulevard Laurier and then to Grande-Allée, a main boulevard that leads directly into the central Parliament Hill area and the Old City. Once the street passes through the ancient walls that ring the Old City, it becomes rue St-Louis, which leads straight to the famed Château Frontenac on the cliff above the St. Lawrence River.
Another appealing option when you're approaching Québec City from the south is to follow Route 132 along the river's southern side to the town of Lévis. A car ferry there, Traverse Québec-Lévis (tel. 877/787-7483 or 418/643-2019; www.traversiers.gouv.qc.ca), provides a 10-minute ride across the river and a dramatic way to see the city, especially for the first time. Though the schedule varies substantially through the year, the ferry leaves at least every hour from 6am to 2am. One-way costs C$6.75 for the car and driver, C$3 for each additional adult, and C$12 for a car with up to six passengers.
When driving between Québec City from Montréal, there are two options: Autoroute 40, which runs along the St. Lawrence's north shore, and Autoroute 20, on the south side (although not hugging the water at all). The trip takes about 3 hours.
In Canada, highway distances and speed limits are given in kilometers (km). The speed limit on the autoroutes is 100kmph (62 mph). There's a stiff penalty for neglecting to wear your seatbelt, and all passengers must be buckled up.
Note on radar detectors: Radar detectors are prohibited in the province of Québec. They can be confiscated, even if they're not being used.
It is illegal to turn right on a red light on the island of Montréal. It is permitted in the rest of Québec and Canada.
Cellphone use is restricted to hands-free only while driving.
In 2008, Québec became the first province to mandate that residents have radial snow tires on their cars in winter. Visitors and their cars are exempt, but the law does give an indication of how seriously rough the winter driving can be. Consider using snow tires when traveling in the region from December through March. Members of the American Automobile Association (AAA) are covered by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) while driving in Canada.
Fill Up Before Crossing Over -- Gasoline in Canada is expensive by American standards. Gas is sold by the liter, and 3.78 liters equals 1 gallon. Recent prices of about C$1.40 per liter are equivalent to about US$4.35 per gallon. If you're driving from the U.S., fill up before crossing the border.
If you're coming from Toronto, you'll board the train at Union Station, which is downtown and accessible by subway. Montréal is a major terminus on Canada's VIA Rail network (tel. 888/842-7245 or 514/989-2626; www.viarail.ca). Its station, Gare Centrale, at 895 rue de la Gauchetière ouest (tel. 514/989-2626), is centrally located downtown. The station is connected to the Métro subway system at Bonaventure Station. (Gare Windsor, which you might see on some maps, is the city's former train station. It's a castlelike building now used for offices.)
Québec City's train station, Gare du Palais, is in Lower Town at 450 rue de la Gare-du-Palais. Many of the hotels listed in this guide are up an incline from the station, so a short cab ride might be necessary.
VIA Rail trains are comfortable -- all major routes have Wi-Fi, and some trains are equipped with dining cars and sleeping cars.
The U.S. train system, Amtrak (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com), has one train per day to Montréal from New York that makes intermediate stops. Called the Adirondack, it's very slow, but its scenic route passes along the Hudson River's eastern shore and west of Lake Champlain. It takes 11 hours from New York if all goes well, although delays aren't unusual.
The train ride between Montréal and Québec City takes about 3 hours.
Both Montréal and Québec City are stops for cruise ships that travel along the St. Lawrence River (in French, Fleuve Saint-Laurent). The Port of Montréal, where ships dock, is part of the lively Vieux-Port neighborhood and walking distance from restaurants and shops.
Similarly, in Québec City, ships also dock in a neighborhood called Vieux-Port. As in Montréal, there is an abundance of restaurants and shops in walking distance.
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.