Area Codes -- Toronto's area codes are 416 and 647; outside the city, the code is 905 or 289. You must dial all 10 digits for all local phone numbers.
Business Hours -- Banks are generally open Monday through Thursday from 10am to 3pm, Friday 10am to 6pm. Most stores are open Monday through Wednesday from 10am to 6pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm, with extended hours (until 8 or 9:30pm) on Thursday and often on Friday.
Doctors -- The staff or concierge at your hotel should be able to help you locate a doctor. You can also call the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (80 College St.; tel. 416/967-2626) for a referral from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday.
Drinking Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 19 throughout Ontario; 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.
Bars are usually open until 2am in Toronto, except during special events like the Toronto International Film Festival, when many venues are open later. A government monopoly runs liquor sales: Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) stores sell liquor, wine, and some beers. Most are open daily from 10am to 6pm (some have extended evening hours). The nicest shop is the LCBO Summerhill (10 Scrivener Sq.; tel. 416/922-0403; subway: Summerhill). Built in a former train station, this outpost hosts cooking classes, wine and spirit tastings, and party-planning seminars. Another good branch is at the Manulife Centre (55 Bloor St. W.; tel. 416/925-5266). Visit www.lcbo.com for information about products and special in-store events.
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.
Electricity -- Like the United States, 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 to 240 volts to 110 to 120 volts are difficult to find in Canada, so bring one with you if you need it.
Embassies & Consulates -- All embassies are in Ottawa, the national capital. They include the Australian High Commission (50 O'Connor St., Ste. 710, Ottawa, ON K1P 6L2; tel. 613/236-0841), the British High Commission (80 Elgin St., Ottawa, ON K1P 5K7; tel. 613/237-1530), the Embassy of Ireland (130 Albert St., Ottawa, ON K1P 5G4; tel. 613/233-6281), the New Zealand High Commission (727-99 Bank St., Ottawa, ON K1P 6G3; tel. 613/238-5991), the South African High Commission (15 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, ON K1M 1M8; tel. 613/744-0330), and the Embassy of the United States of America (490 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, ON K1N 1G8; tel. 613/238-5335).
Consulates in Toronto include the Australian Consulate-General (175 Bloor St. E., Ste. 314, at Church St.; tel. 416/323-1155), the British Consulate-General (777 Bay St., Ste. 2800, at College St.; tel. 416/593-1290), and the U.S. Consulate (360 University Ave.; tel. 416/595-1700).
Emergencies -- Call tel. 911 for fire, police, or ambulance.
For emergency dental services from 8am till midnight, call the Dental Emergency Service (tel. 416/485-7121). After midnight, your best bet is the University Health Network, which manages three downtown hospitals (tel. 416/340-3111). Otherwise, ask the front-desk staff or concierge at your hotel.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- Gasoline is sold by the liter, and taxes are already included in the printed price (unlike most products in Canada). Fill-up locations are known as gas stations or service stations.
Hospitals -- In the downtown core, the University Health Network (UHN) manages three hospitals: Toronto General, at 200 Elizabeth St.; Princess Margaret, at 610 University Ave.; and Toronto Western, at 399 Bathurst St. The UHN has a central switchboard for all three (tel. 416/340-3111). Other hospitals include St. Michael's (30 Bond St.; tel. 416/360-4000) and Mount Sinai (600 University Ave.; tel. 416/596-4200). Also downtown is the Hospital for Sick Children (555 University Ave.; tel. 416/813-1500). Uptown, there's Sunnybrook Hospital (2075 Bayview Ave., north of Eglinton Ave. E.; tel. 416/480-6100). In the eastern part of the city, go to Toronto East General Hospital (825 Coxwell Ave.; tel. 416/461-8272).
Hotlines -- There are many services, including the Poison Information Centre (tel. 800/267-1373), Distress Centre suicide-prevention line (tel. 416/408-4357), Toronto Rape Crisis Centre (tel. 416/597-8808), Assaulted Women's Helpline (tel. 416/863-0511), and AIDS & Sexual Health InfoLine (tel. 416/392-2437). For kids or teens in distress, there's Kids Help Phone (tel. 800/668-6868).
Insurance -- Even though Canada is just a short drive or flight away for many Americans, U.S. health plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) do not provide coverage here, and the ones that do often require you to pay for services up front and reimburse you only after you return home. As a safety net, you may want to buy travel medical insurance. Travelers from the U.K. should carry their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which replaced the E111 form as proof of entitlement to free/reduced cost medical treatment abroad (tel. 0845/606-2030; www.ehic.org.uk). Note, however, that the EHIC covers only "necessary medical treatment," and for repatriation costs, lost money, baggage, or cancellation, travel insurance from a reputable company should always be sought (www.travelinsuranceweb.com).
For information on traveler's insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Legal Aid -- If you are pulled over for a minor infraction (such as speeding), you'll be given a ticket that you pay at a later date. 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. If you need to get a lawyer while in Toronto, contact the Law Society of Upper Canada (tel. 800/668-7380 or 416/947-3300; www.lsuc.on.ca).
Mail -- Postage for letter mail (up to 30g/1 oz.) to the United States costs C$1.03; overseas, it's C$2.06. Mailing letters within Canada costs C59¢. Note that there is no discounted rate for mailing postcards. For more information, go to www.canadapost.ca.
Postal services are available at some drugstores. Almost all drugstores sell stamps, and many have a separate counter where you can ship packages from 8:30am to 5pm. Look for a sign in the window indicating such services. There are also post-office windows in Atrium on Bay (tel. 416/506-0911), in Commerce Court (tel. 416/956-7452), and at the TD Centre (tel. 416/360-7105).
Medical Conditions -- If you have a medical condition that requires syringe-administered medications, carry a valid signed prescription from your physician; syringes in carry-on baggage will be inspected. Insulin in any form should have the proper pharmaceutical documentation. If you have a disease that requires treatment with narcotics, you should also carry documented proof with you -- smuggling narcotics aboard a plane carries severe penalties.
For HIV-positive visitors, Canada does not require testing to enter the country on a tourist visa. However, a traveler can be denied entry to Canada if they are assessed as requiring health services during their stay. (Canada does not cover medical costs incurred by travelers.)
Newspapers & Magazines -- The four daily newspapers are the Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Toronto Star, and the Toronto Sun. Eye and Now are free arts-and-entertainment weeklies. Xtra! is a free weekly targeted at the gay and lesbian community. In addition, many English-language ethnic newspapers serve Toronto's Portuguese, Hungarian, Italian, East Indian, Korean, Chinese, and Caribbean communities. Toronto Life is the major monthly city magazine. Where Toronto magazine is usually free at hotels and some Theater District restaurants.
Police -- In a life-threatening emergency, call tel. 911. For all other matters, contact the Toronto Police Service (40 College St.; tel. 416/808-2222).
Smoking -- The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which came into effect in 2006, is one of the most stringent in North America. It bans smoking in all workplaces and in all enclosed public spaces. There are no smoking areas in restaurants or bars, and covered patios are also smoke-free. Some patios and rooftops have smoking sections.
Taxes -- As of July 1, 2010, the Ontario government implemented a "harmonized" tax system, with a 13% sales tax on virtually everything for sale. (Previously, the federal GST was 5% and the Ontario sales tax was 8%, but the Ontario sales tax was not applied to purchases such as fast-food meals.) Taxes are added when you purchase an item, rather than being included in the original price, as is common in much of Europe. The Canadian government suspended the GST Visitors' Rebate Program in 2007.
Within the city of Toronto, there is a new bylaw, introduced in 2009, that obliges retailers to charge a minimum of 5¢ per plastic bag. There are no exceptions to this rule. (The funds collected are not really a tax, since they go into the store's coffers and not the city's, but some people consider this a tax on shoppers.)
Time -- Toronto is on Eastern Standard Time. When it's noon in Toronto, 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 (also on EST), 5pm in London (GMT), and 2am the next day in Sydney (UTC + 9).
Daylight Saving Time is in effect from 1am on the second Sunday in March to 1am on the first Sunday in November. 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 $2 or more 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 or more every time you get your car.
In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff 15% to 20% of the check, tip bartenders 10% to 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 Toronto, but they can be found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, railway and bus stations, and service stations. Public parks also offer restrooms, although they may be closed and/or not very clean. 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. There are also restrooms throughout the underground PATH system near the various food courts. There are restrooms at major subway stations, such as Yonge-Bloor, which are best used in the daytime when the subways are busy.
Water -- Toronto's tap water is safe to drink, and it is tested continuously to guarantee public safety. For details, visit the City of Toronto's water information page at www.toronto.ca/water. However, while you'll see many locals swimming in Lake Ontario, this is not a good idea if you want to stay healthy; the lake contains high levels of E. coli, which causes nasty bacterial infections.