Area Codes—Toronto’s area codes are 416, 647, and 437; 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 5pm, 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 9pm) on Thursday and often on Friday.
Customs—Generally speaking, Canadian Customs regulations are generous, but they get complicated when it comes to firearms, plants, meat, and pets. Visitors can bring rifles into Canada during hunting season; handguns and automatic rifles are not permitted. You can bring in, free of duty, up to 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, and 200g (7 oz.) of tobacco. You are also allowed 1.14L (38 oz.) of liquor, 1.5L (51 oz.) of wine, or 24 cans or bottles of beer. To bring in either alcohol or tobacco, you must be of legal age in the province you’re visiting (19 in Ontario). There are no restrictions on what you can take out. In terms of pets, dogs and cats from rabies-free countries can enter without being quarantined so long as they are up-to-date on their vaccinations with proper veterinarian-provided documentation in hand. For more information (and for updates on these policies), check with the Canada Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 or 506/636-5064).
Disabled Travelers—Toronto is a very accessible city. Curb cuts are well-made and common throughout the downtown area; special parking privileges are extended to people with disabilities who have special plates or a pass that allows parking in no-parking zones. The old-generation streetcars are not accessible, though the new generation of streetcars are wheelchair accessible. A growing number of Toronto's subway stations are wheelchair accessible. Upgrade plans call for all stations to be barrier-free and have elevator access by 2025. The city operates Wheel-Trans (tel. 416/393-4111), a special service for those with disabilities.
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. 800/268-7096) 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. Many large grocery chains now also carry wine, beer, and cider, though the harder stuff is only available through the LCBO.
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. 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 to call, Telehealth (tel. 866/797-0000), where a registered nurse can advise you on what to do, and which hospitals are optimal for your situation.
Family Travel—Toronto is a kid-friendly town. There are plenty of great attractions, such as the idiosyncratic Ontario Science Centre; Paramount Canada’s Wonderland, a conventional theme park on the outskirts of town noted for its super roller coasters; the artsy Harbourfront Centre; and the Toronto Zoo, which rivals the great zoos of the world.
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).
Health—Toronto has excellent hospitals and doctors—though hopefully you won’t have any occasion to need these services. Bring any prescriptions you might require with you. Decongestants, cough and cold remedies, and allergy medications are available without prescription in pharmacies. Shopper’s Drug Mart is ubiquitous; there you can buy over-the-counter drugs, have prescriptions filled, and pick up any toiletries you might need. The only 24-hour drugstore near downtown is the Shopper’s Drug Mart, 700 Bay St., at Gerrard Street West (tel. 416/979-2424).
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. Similarly, for Europeans, EHIC is not accepted in Canada. As a safety net, you may want to buy travel medical insurance. For repatriation costs, lost money, baggage, or cancellation, it is also recommended to purchase travel insurance from a reputable company.
Internet & Wi-Fi—Even budget hotels in Toronto now provide Wi-Fi access. Most cafes and restaurants are happy to share Wi-Fi passwords with their customers; just ask.
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 online, 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 Ontario (tel. 800/668-7380 or 416/947-3300).
LGBT Travelers—After same-sex marriage became legal in Ontario in 2003, gay and lesbian couples flocked to Toronto to marry. Although in July 2006, the Civil Marriage Act legalized same-sex marriage across Canada, pioneer Toronto remains one of the most in-demand wedding destinations for same-sex couples.
If you want to get married in Toronto, it’s pretty simple: download the marriage license from the Toronto City website and bring the completed form and ID (including your passport and birth certificate) to the City Clerk’s Office (100 Queen St.), where you’ll be asked to pay a small fee; there’s no residency requirement.
Mail—Postage for letter mail (up to 30g/1 oz.) to the United States costs $1.20; overseas, it’s $2.50. Mailing letters within Canada costs $1. 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).
Mobile Phones—Most U.S. cellphone carriers have roaming agreements with Canadian cellphone carriers. Before leaving home, check with your carrier for rates and availability. If your phone is unlocked, buying a prepaid local SIM card is probably your cheapest option. Local telecom companies (Fido, Rogers, Telus, Bell, and Freedom Mobile) have stores scattered around the city, as well as booths in most malls.
Money—Frommer’s lists exact prices in the local currency. Currency conversion rates fluctuate, so before departing, consult a currency exchange website for up-to-the-minute rates. Get up-to-the-minute exchange rates online before you go at www.oanda.com/currency/converter or www.xe.com/ucc.
Currency—Canadians use dollars and cents: Paper currency comes in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations. Coins come in 1-, 5-, 10-, and 25-cent, and 1- and 2-dollar denominations. The gold-colored $1 coin is a “loonie”—it sports a loon on its “tails” side—and the large gold-and-silver-colored $2 coin is a “toonie.” If you find these names somewhat…ah, colorful, just remember that there’s no swifter way to reveal that you’re a tourist than to say “one-dollar coin.”
Ideally, you should exchange enough petty cash to cover airport incidentals, tipping, and transportation to your hotel before you leave home; however, it’s very easy to withdraw money upon arrival at an ATM at Pearson airport. It’s best to exchange currency at a bank, not a currency exchange, hotel, or shop.
ATMs—The easiest and best way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine), sometimes referred to as a “cash machine,” or a “cashpoint.” The Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587) networks span the globe. Go to your bank card’s website to find ATM locations at your destination. Be sure you know your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. Note: Many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank’s ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions than for domestic ones. In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. For international withdrawal fees, ask your bank.
Credit Cards—MasterCard and Visa are almost universally accepted in Toronto; American Express has become more common, but many independent boutiques and small restaurants still don’t accept it. Overall, credit cards are a smart way to “carry” money. They also provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and they generally offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, but high fees make credit card cash advances a pricey way to get cash. Keep in mind that you’ll pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal, even if you pay your monthly bills on time. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% “transaction fee” on all charges you incur abroad (whether you’re using the local currency or your native currency).
Traveler’s Checks—Traveler’s checks are something of an anachronism in Toronto. Most banks no longer issue traveler’s checks, nor do they cash them.
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, travelers 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. Now is the free arts-and-entertainment weekly. 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.
Passports—For information specific to your country’s passport application process, contact the appropriate agency:
For Residents of Australia—Contact the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232 or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.
For Residents of Ireland—Contact the Passport Office (tel. 1/671-1633).
For Residents of New Zealand—Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand or 4/463-9360.
For Residents of the United Kingdom—Visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency, or contact the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) at tel. 300/222-0000.
For Residents of the United States—To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. Department of State website or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.
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).
Safety—Toronto enjoys an unusually safe reputation as far as big cities go, although a steady supply of guns coming across the border from the U.S. is damaging the now worn-out reputation of “Toronto the Good.” But keep in mind that Toronto is a big city, with all of the difficulties that implies. During the day, keep your valuables close and your eyes peeled for pickpockets. This is important to keep in mind when you’re at a major tourist attraction, on a crowded shopping strip such as Yonge Dundas Square, and on the subway or streetcar.
More about safety on Toronto’s public transit system: If it’s late and you’re alone on an almost-empty platform, wait for the train by the big “DWA” sign (it stands for “Designated Waiting Area,” and it has an intercom and a closed-circuit TV camera trained on it). There is a DWA area at every TTC station. If there is an incident on a subway car, press the alarm—the yellow strip is very visible—and note that it is silent. If you are traveling by bus, there is a “Request Stop” program in effect between 9pm and 5am, in which vulnerable passengers can disembark at streets in between regular TTC bus stops. For information about these safety features, visit www3.ttc.ca.
Senior Travel—The term “seniors” is proving to be more elastic than most face-lifts. Boomers in the above-50 group should check out the local magazine Zoomer, which is connected to CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons; tel. 416/363-8748). Members of CARP or AARP (the American analog; tel. 888/687-2277) can get discounts on hotels, airfares, and car rentals. Otherwise, seniors can expect to receive discounts on the TTC (subway and bus), and on many (but not all) admissions to attractions. Keep in mind that it is usually necessary to show photo identification when purchasing discounted tickets or admissions.
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 public spaces. In Ontario, smoking is not permitted in restaurants, bars, or on patios. In 2014, the city council passed a city by-law also making parks, beaches, and sports fields smoke-free zones.
Taxes—On 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.
Within the city of Toronto, a bylaw was introduced in 2009 that obliges retailers to charge a minimum of 5 cents 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.)
Telephones—To call Toronto from the U.S.: Canada and the U.S. use the same area-code system. Simply dial 1, the Toronto area code (416, 437, or 647), and the number.
To call Toronto from other countries:
- Dial the international access code: 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia.
- Dial the country code 1.
- Dial the city code 416 or 647, and then the number.
International calls: To make international calls from a Toronto landline, first dial 00, and then the country code (U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next, dial the area code and number. However, if you are calling the U.S. from Toronto, you need only to dial 1 and then the area code and phone number.
For directory assistance—Dial tel. 411 if you’re looking for a phone number; online, visit www.canada411.com.
For operator assistance—If you need operator assistance in making a call, dial tel. 0 (zero).
Toll-free numbers—Numbers beginning with 800 or 866 are toll-free within Canada and the U.S. However, calling an 800 number from other countries is not toll-free. In fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.
Many convenience stores and packaging services sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to $50; for international visitors, these can be the least expensive way to call home. It’s hard to find public pay phones; those at airports now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards. Local calls made from pay phones in most locales cost C50ce (no pennies). Most long-distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. For calls within Canada and to the United States, 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. However, calls to area code 900 (chat lines, bulletin boards, “dating” services, and so on) can be very expensive—usually a charge of $1 to $3 or more per minute, and they sometimes have minimum charges that can run as high as $15 or more.
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.
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 $1 per bag ($2–$3 if you have a lot of luggage) and tip the chamber staff $1 to $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 $1 or more every time you get your car.
In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff 15% to 20% of the check, tip checkroom attendants $1 per garment, and tip valet-parking attendants $1 per vehicle.
As for other service personnel, tip cab drivers 15% of the fare; tip skycaps at airports at least $1 per bag ($2 to $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. You can also find 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.
Visas—For citizens of many countries, including the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, only a passport is required to visit Canada for up to 90 days; no visas or proof of vaccinations are necessary. For the most up-to-date list of visitor visa exemptions, visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Visitor Information—The best source for Toronto-specific information is Tourism Toronto (tel. 800/499-2514 from North America or 416/203-2600). The website includes sections on accommodations, sights, shopping, and dining, plus up-to-the-minute events information.
For information about traveling in the province of Ontario, contact Tourism Ontario (tel. 800/668-2746 from North America or 416/314-5899). While in Toronto, visit its information center at Union Station. Toronto.com, operated by the Toronto Star, offers extensive restaurant reviews, events listings, and feature articles. A couple of other great sources for local goings-on and news: Toronto Life and blogTO.
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. When it comes to swimming, only swim at one of the city’s eight Blue Flag beaches, and make sure to check water-quality levels before wading into the lake. You can download the Swim Guide app, or check the website to see the latest testing results. This is particularly important after heavy rains, when E. coli levels are often highest.
Wi-Fi—See “Internet & Wi-Fi,” earlier in this section.
Women Travelers—Toronto is an easy place to be for solo travelers, male or female. At night, take note of the TTC’s “Request Stop” program for women traveling on buses. For general travel resources for women, go to Frommers' Tips for Women Travelers.
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.