Canada Travel Information
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Canada covers six time zones, from GMT 8 in the west to GMT -3.5 in the east.
Electrical current is 110 volts, 60Hz. American style flat two-pin plugs and one with a third round grounding pin are standard.
The official languages are English and French (predominantly in Quebec).
No vaccinations are necessary for travel to Canada. The West Nile virus, spread by mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water, poses a threat during summer months in rural areas, so insect-repellent measures are advised for those visiting the countryside particularly in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec. Rabies is a problem and can be spread by a bite from small animals such as racoons and bats. Medical care is excellent, but expensive, so medical insurance is advised.
There is no service charge added to restaurant bills in Canada and staff expect a tip of around 15%. Hairdressers and taxi drivers are also usually tipped at the same rate, while bellhops, doormen, porters and similar service providers at hotels, airports and stations are generally paid $1 per item of luggage carried. Tour guides and bus drivers should generally receive $3-$5 per day. It has become more common for places with counter service to display 'tip jars', but in such cases tipping is not necessary.
Most visits to Canada are trouble-free. The country is politically stable, but does share the common international risk of terrorism. There have been no recent terrorism events. The crime rate is low, but travellers are advised to take sensible precautions to safeguard their belongings as they would anywhere. Canada is prone to tornadoes between May and September.
Smoking bans have been implemented in Canada in enclosed public places such as restaurants, bars and shopping malls.
Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal are the main business centres. English is the language of business except in French-speaking Quebec, where all written material and business cards should be in French as a result. Business cards are not traditionally exchanged during an initial meeting, but at some appropriate time thereafter; it is best to wait for the host to offer theirs first.
A firm handshake is used by way of greeting, and meetings begin on time so punctuality is taken seriously, as is appearance, which should be conservative and smart; business suits are the norm. Gifts can be given in conclusion to celebrate a deal, but should be understated; taking someone out for a meal is a popular way to conclude business dealings. Canadians are reserved and frown on emotional outbursts. Business is based on facts and figures rather than relationships, so it is best to be as prepared as possible for meetings. Hours of business are usually 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Canada is +1. The outgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom); the outgoing code is not necessary for calls to the US and the Caribbean. The area code for Ottawa is (1)613, and (1)416 for Toronto. Internet cafes are widely available. Most international mobile phone companies have roaming agreements with Canadian operators, however it may be cheaper to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card if visiting the country for long periods.
Travellers to Canada are allowed to enter the country with the following items without incurring custom duties: gifts to the value of C$60 per recipient (excluding advertising material, tobacco and alcoholic beverages); 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or cigarillos and 200g of tobacco or 200 tobacco sticks; 1.14 litres of liquor or wine or 24 x 355ml bottles or cans of beer or ale. There are strict regulations governing the import of the following: explosives, endangered animal and plant species, items of heritage, fresh foodstuffs and weapons. The plant Qhat (Khat) is illegal in Canada and prison sentences are heavy.
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