How to Get Around Canada
To chose the best way for getting around Canada is an important part of travel planning. Bus, plane, train, car or camper, find out what suits you best.
To travel all of Canada, would take many months. Some major attractions are hundred, if not thousands of kilometres apart. So, what is the best transportation for getting around Canada?
Most visitors to Canada want to get a taste of the Canadian wilderness. They want to see the Rocky Mountains, the glaciers, Lake Louise. Of course, nobody wants to miss the Niagara Falls and some of the cities like Vancouver and Calgary. What about the polar bears in Churchill, and the caribou herds at Aulavik National Park?
Getting around Canada means covering large distances. How much time you have available will determine how you will travel and what transportation you will choose.
Canada is a wonderful country with incredible tourist destinations. Of course, you would like to see as much as possible during the time you have available for your adventure. It is not possible to see it all! Make sure you keep travel time and distances in mind when you plan your trip. Don’t just race from one place to the next. This is only stressful and you don’t want to spend most of your vacation behind the wheel. Therefore, it is important to choose the right transportation for your Canada trip.
Chose Your Best Way To Travel
Flying or Driving
First of all, an important decision you have to make is, do you want to fly or drive? Again, think about the distances and remember, Canada is the second largest country in the world and everything is far apart.
If you only have a limited time for your Canada trip, it might be a good idea to choose a couple of locations in Canada to visit and fly between them. The size of the country makes flying between locations popular with visitors who want to see different parts of the country.
Air Canada, our National Airline has partnered with many International Airlines. Whatever airline you choose, you should be able to book a flight package to Canada that includes one or more domestic flights.
If you’re lucky and have more time available, you may prefer to stay on the ground. Is this the case, you want to check out driving in Canada and driving in the backcountry for backcountry driving tips. To adventure onto gravel roads go to Adventure Canada – driving on gravel.
Find detailed information for specific drives in the relevant regional sections of this guide. Driving between provinces and territories or deciding on a transcontinental drive are all excellent choices if you have lots of time.
However tight your schedule is, you don’t have to miss out!
The best way getting around Canada in just a couple of weeks is to combine one or two inland flights with a few trips in a rental car.
Car rental is widely available in Canada and the big companies offer one-way hire. You can rent a small car to explore the areas along highways and paved roads or you hire a 4WD and head out into the Canadian backcountry.
The best way to travel into the Canadian backcountry is with an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive RV rental. This way you don’t have to worry to find accommodation and you can stop for the night where ever you like. You can pick up your camper in Vancouver and drop it off in Nova Scotia, at the other side of the country a few weeks later. Too expensive you think?
I didn’t have much money when I landed in Canada the first time, arriving in Toronto. Read how I travelled in Canada back then and how I ended up in the backcountry Canada.
Getting Around Canada with an Organized Tour
Some people don’t want the hassle of driving or planning all the details and rather join an organized tour. There are lots of tour operators out there promising you the country’s natural and cultural highlights. They take you to the glaciers and soaring peaks of the Canadian Rockies, to the amazing tundra of Manitoba, home of the polar bears, to the rugged coastline of the Maritime Provinces and lots more.
Another type of semi-organized tours are the self-drive packages which are the best of both worlds, offered by several operators. You will be driving on your own and travel at your own pace, but you are supplied with all the necessary instructions, directions and maps, the camping equipment and your schedule is already worked out for you. This takes all the hassle out of the planning of such an adventure but you can travel independently and have all the freedom there is. Self-drive tours is an excellent choice for first-time visitors to Canada.
For more information about Canada tours, check out Canada Tours into the Wild and how to choose them.
Bus Travel in Canada
Canada is such a vast country that bus travel might not be the most desirable transportation choices to get around. Some people just don’t want to drive themselves but want to stay close to the ground to enjoy all the passing scenery, then bus travel could be the way to go. With Canada’s crazy expensive domestic flights, bus travel is an economical way to get around and a good option, at least for part of the way.
Greyhound is the largest bus company in Canada providing intercity bus transportation and connects many small and isolated places. To save costs, they offer a variety of web-only and advance-purchase fares and big discounts to students, families, and seniors.
Busses are generally fairly comfortable with onboard toilets, air-conditioning, reclining seats, free wi-fi and movies. Smoking is not permitted. On long journeys, buses make meal stops every few hours, usually at highway service stations. Bring a pullover along, it can get cold in there.
Travel Canada by Train
To book one of the old-fashioned train journeys is another way to see some of this amazing country. Many different train trips and routes are available and you can combine it with some other travel options.
- The Canadian is Canada’s classic trans-continental train and operates between Toronto and Vancouver.
- The Rocky Mountaineer is a privately owned tourist train and offers vacation in Western Canada. It only operates during the day.
- The Ocean train is a Canadian passenger train running between Montreal and Halifax. Together with the Canadian, it provides a trans-continental service.
- The Skeena operates 1.600 km from Jasper to Prince Rupert.
- The Algoma Central Railway departs from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and is known for the famous Agawa Canyon tour train. The Algoma Central Railway also operates a regular passenger train departing from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and travelling to the remote township of Hearst, a 10-hour trip.
Check Train Travel Canada for more details about unique train journeys.
Canada By Bicycle
A large part of Canada is excellent for cycling. Long-distance trips can be done on quiet backcountry roads and on many of the roads you will be on your own. Just make sure to be prepared for the long and lonely journeys. Although cycling is still not as common in Canada as it is in many other countries, many cities have designated bike routes.
You will find bike and repair shops in all the cities.
As a cyclist, you have to follow the same road rules as vehicles. Be cautious at all times and don’t expect drivers to always respect your right of way.
Helmets are mandatory for all cyclists in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Prince Edwards Island and Nova Scotia, as well as for anyone under 18 years old in Alberta and Ontario.
Transporting Your Bike
By Air: On international flights, most airlines will transport your bike as checked luggage without charge, as long as it is packed according to their guidelines. On domestic flights, extra charges will apply. check details before you book your ticket.
By Bus: With Greyhound bicycles can be accepted as baggage only if they are in a cardboard box designed for bicycles and you will have to pay an oversize charge ($30 plus GST) It’s a good idea to ship your bike a day earlier than you travel as it is not guaranteed that the bike will travel on the same bus as you. Check with the bus company for details.
By Train: VIA RAIL will transport your bicycle for $25 on trains offering checked baggage service, which includes all long-distance and many regional trains.
Outfitters in most tourist places are renting out bicycles. The rental fee usually includes a helmet and a lock. Most companies require a security deposit.
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