Canada is a gigantic country, spanning over 3,000 miles from east to west and occupying over nine million square kilometers of land. Canadians live all across this enormous country, and where they call home plays a large role in determining everything from what language they speak to who they vote for.
Canada is divided into 13 self-governing units known as provinces and territories. In casual conversation, it’s also common to talk of Canada as being split into around six “regions;” large geographic zones that share various things in common, including climate, landscape, industry, demographics, and politics.
In many ways, the fall months, particularly September and October, are the best time to travel, as the weather is frequently very pleasant, the crowds have dispersed, and accommodation prices are lower than summer. If you are looking for value, spring is another good time to visit Canada.
Currency: Canadian dollar
Official language: English
For better or worse, Canada’s history has always been intertwined with that of the United States, even long before Europeans laid eyes on either country. The descendants of Canada’s Inuit and First Nations first entered this vast country from northern Asia across the Bering Straits.
Viking Bjarni Herjolfsson became the first known European to set sight on Canadian territory in AD 986, and the Vikings established Canada’s first known European community near present day L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. After the colony was abandoned, Canada remained unknown to Europeans until Italian explorer John Cabot discovered Newfoundland’s abundant cod fishery in 1497.
Although French explorer Jacques Cartier first discovered Québec’s St Lawrence River in 1535, Canada’s first permanent European community was not established until 1604. Samuel de Champlain founded both Port Royal in present day Nova Scotia in 1604 and present day Québec City four years later. Québec City became the capital of the New France colony.
Throughout Canada's history, its culture has been influenced by European culture and traditions, mostly by the British and French, and by its own indigenous cultures. Over time, elements of the cultures of Canada's immigrant populations have become incorporated to form a Canadian cultural mosaic.
One of the most obvious differences between Canadian and United States culture is how the country’s respective immigrant groups have integrated into their new homelands. While American immigrants were encouraged to assimilate into the melting pot of United States culture, their Canadian counterparts were encouraged to preserve their own native cultures as they created a multicultural mosaic. Vancouver and Victoria’s Chinese communities host their own dragon boat festivals each summer, while the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival is one of the largest street festivals in North America.
Daytime summer temperatures can rise to 35°C and higher, while lows of -25°C are not uncommon in winter. More moderate temperatures are the norm in spring and fall. Summers can be hot and dry on the prairies, humid in central Canada, and milder on the coasts. Spring is generally pleasant across the country.
If you are on the list of countries whose nationals require a visa for Canada, then you need to apply for a Canadian visa. The type of Canadian visa you need to apply for depends on the purpose and length of your stay. For example, if you wanted to go to Canada as a visitor, you would need a Temporary Visitor Visa.
Canada's major cities have excellent public transport systems, with a mixture of buses, trams, light rail systems and underground trains. If you're visiting Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or Ottawa, you can easily get around without a car.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
You need a medical exam if you meet any of these criteria: You lived in one or more of these countries or territories for at least 6 months in a row within the last year. You'll come to Canada to work in a job in which public health must be protected (see jobs for which you need a medical exam)
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