10 Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling in Canada


I live in Canada, and I always love talking to other travelers and my friends about their experience of traveling in Canada and thoughts. I aim to offer guidelines and feedback when I have the chance. Most of the travelers have a great impression of Canada and some have considered moving here. Some of the not so good feedback comes from those who do not know Canada well and have not researched this country beforehand, and those who moved here commenting frequently on the negative side of the country.

So before you visit Canada, make sure to avoid these mistakes for a hassle-free vacation. Most of the locals, including myself, made some of the mistakes ourselves. We only have come to know this country better after moving here. Here are the mistakes to avoid when traveling in Canada.

travel in Canada mistakes

Believing Canada is the same as the USA

Despite that Canada and the USA are neighbors, and people in both nations speak the same language, Canada is not the USA. There are similarities but also a lot of differences. We have some people complaining that Canada is more expensive than the USA. People here are different as well, and so is the weather, sports, law, food, and mobile carriers.

Just because Canada and the USA share borders, that does not mean Canada and the USA are exactly the same country, and you can find a lot of differences by spending some time in both countries and observing the details.

Try to visit too many places in a short space

Canada is the second-largest country in the world, and there are lots of great places to visit. However, it is not always appear that you can visit all of them on a short trip.

Apart from its big size, Canada packs endless adventurous activities, diverse culture, and pristine landscapes. There are countless great locations in Canada and you can only visit a limited few during one trip, so I recommend that you give yourself enough time to explore deeply one or two parts instead of cramming in all the places at once.

I once spent two weeks in Prince Edward Island, which is the smallest province in Canada. I experienced the east and west end of the island, beaches, museums, farm fields, and aboriginal community. Surely, I could have visited New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI in the same amount of time, but I would have felt rushed and not have the opportunity to delve deep into these places.

7 Reasons Why You Should visit Prince Edward Island, Canada

Sunset over Cavendish Grove, Prince Edward Island

Leave your laptop in a public place

This is one of the first things I tell people not to do when it comes to visiting Canada. Canada is a safe country to visit but not to the point where you can leave your valuables in a public space during broad daylight so thieves can easily make their next move.

My friends had their laptops stolen by leaving them in the coffee shop and library, and it was really not a good experience. If you absolutely have to leave your laptop in the cafe, please ask someone to watch it for you.

Being over-reliant on public transport

Most places out of the major cities can only be reached by car, because buses do not run frequently and have limited routes. Even in major cities, public transport has delays and breakdowns. If you plan to travel only by public transport, make sure you check the schedule and give more time than you need.

travel in Canada mistake

Public transport is not reliable all the time

If you plan to travel between the cities, you can take the greyhound or mega bus. They are cheap but the schedule is not reliable so you have to be ready to wait. If you plan to travel long distances, it would be better to fly or book a train.

Not understand the vast distance it takes to travel between major cities

I had heard more then once that traveling from Toronto to Vancouver could take an hour or two, and it is easy to make a day trip from Toronto to Montreal. I have met travelers who plan to take the train from Toronto to Vancouver with little idea that it takes three days to travel this way and it will cost over $1000 one way.

The idea is really surprising but you will not realize how huge Canada is until you come here. I have lived in Canada for five years and I only went to Vancouver once. A lot of people I know have never been to the other side, as it is too expensive and time-consuming to get there.

travel in Canada mistake

Vancouver, British Colombia

Only visiting tourist destinations

I get that tourist destinations are touristic for a reason. They have gorgeous landscapes, unique culture, great services, and tourist facilities. However, there are many places in Canada that are not commercialized and they are worth paying a visit, especially if you are into the lesser-known destinations and local experience.

Some of these places are Prince George, Northern Quebec, New Brunswick, Churchill, Dawson City, and North Cape. Most of these destinations are only accessible by car and cost a significant amount to get to, but it will be totally worth it.

travel in Canada mistakes

Fundy Trail Parkway in New Brunswick

Underdress in winter

It sounds like common sense but you will not believe how many times I have seen people here dress very little in the winter. I once saw two people wearing shorts and t-shirts in -30 Celsius while waiting for the bus at the airport. Nothing worse than visiting here in the winter and not dress for it.

Winter is harsh here with extremely low temperatures and strong wind, plus humidity if you visit the east. So make sure you put on warm layers and a windproof and waterproof coat and footwear to stay warm.

traveling in Canada mistake

Winter here is harsh

Choose to stay in a place without AC in the summer

Not having AC does not sound like a big deal but you will not believe how scorching it is during the mid-summer. The heat is extreme in some parts and not having an AC can make it uncomfortable and hard to sleep. The sun is strong here so make sure to put on sunblock.

Not familiar with taxes and tips

There is no way you can avoid sales tax and federal tax, which is 13% to 15% extra added to your bill. If you go to restaurants with more than 8 people, everyone has to pay extra tips, which you will get charged 30% more in total.

Paying little attention to your travel documents

While USA and Canada have long shared an undefended border, it only has not been defended militarily. There is still security, immigration officers, police, and high-tech surveillance at the border.

While the relationship between these two countries is relaxed, one should never underestimate the security at the border. Immigration is friendly but they take their job seriously, and they will not let you in without proper paperwork. Gone are the days where you could cross into Canada with your USA driver’s license.

Traveling in Canada mistake

Do you have any suggestions on traveling in Canada? Comment below.

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Canada travel tips

Julie Cao

Julie is the creator of Always On The Way. She lived in Hawaii and now resides in London (Ontario, Canada). In 2017, she went on an overland trip from Bogota Colombia to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world. She believes travel is not only about visiting tourist attractions but more about getting to know the culture, people, and the place.

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