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Getting Around Canada Guide

Choosing the best way to travel in Canada is an important part of travel planning. Getting around by bus, plane, train, car or campervan depends on your plans. Find out what suits you best.

How to Get Around Canada

To travel across all of Canada would take many months, or even years if you would include the Canadian Arctic. Many major attractions are hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres apart. So, what is the best transportation for getting around Canada?

As a first-time visitor to Canada, you probably want to get a taste of the great Canadian wilderness and the wild west. You want to see the majestic Rocky Mountains, the glaciers, and world-famous Lake Louise in Alberta. And of course, nobody wants to miss Niagara Falls, Ontario and cities like Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. And what about the old goldrush town of Dawson City, Yukon, and the caribou herds in the Northwest Territories?

Getting around Canada means covering large distances. How much time you have available for your trip 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. But, 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 Canadian vacation.

Travelling by Air

Think about the huge distances and the fact that Canada is the second-largest country in the world. Everything is far apart.

If you only have limited time available for your Canada trip, it might be a good idea to choose a couple of destinations in Canada to visit and fly between them. Flying between places is an option to see different parts of the country in a limited amount of time.

Whatever airline you choose to come to Canada, see if you can book a flight package that includes one or more domestic flights.

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If you’re lucky and have more time available, you may prefer to stay on the ground. Driving is the most popular way to explore Canada and the best way to appreciate the wilderness landscape, from rugged mountains, and crystal clear lakes to the expanse of the never-ending prairie lands.

Drive coast to coast and you will travel through six time zones, through a vast land with stunning scenery, and see incredible sights along the way.

However tight your schedule is, you don’t have to miss out!

The best way of 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 big companies offer one-way hire. There is plenty of accommodation to choose from. Rent a small car and explore the areas along highways and paved roads or rent a 4WD vehicle and head out on gravel roads into the backcountry.

Of course, the best way to travel in Canadian is with a motorhome or campervan. This way you don’t have to worry about accommodation. You have your accommodation with you and you can stop for where ever you like and camp along the way.

This gives you total freedom. You can pick up a camper in Vancouver and drop it off in Nova Scotia, on the other side of the country a few weeks later if you like.

To get the most out of your Canadian road trip, check out my top travel tips to know what you’ll get yourself into and to be safe. Learn about our famous gravel highways.

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Getting around Canada driving
Travelling Canada by car

Organized Tour

Maybe, you don’t want the hassle of driving and planning all the details and you rather join an organized tour. There are many tour operators to choose from to experience the country’s natural and cultural highlights. The tour operators will 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, or where ever else you want to go.

If the thought of cramming yourself into a bus with a bunch of people scares you, there is an alternative.

Semi-organized tours are self-drive packages that give you the best of both worlds. You will be driving on your own and travelling at your own pace.  At the same time, you are supplied with all the necessary instructions, directions, and maps. The camping equipment is supplied and your schedule is already worked out for you. This takes the hassle and stress out of planning such an adventure.  You travel independently and have all the freedom there is. Self-drive tours are an excellent choice for first-time visitors to Canada.

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Canada is such a large country that bus travel is not the most desirable transportation choice to get around. Still, if you don’t want to drive yourself but want to stay close to the ground to enjoy the passing scenery, then bus travel could be an option.

With Canada’s expensive domestic flights, bus travel was always an economical way to travel in Canada. Unfortunately, most of the bus services in Canada shut down on October 31, 2018, when Greyhound discontinued its operation in Canada.

The shutdown of Greyhound is caused lots of distress to locals. Especially in remote areas, it left many of the affected communities with no transportation options. Without a car, some people were forced to hitchhike to get get to and from work and visit their relatives in other communities.

Since the shutdown of Greyhound, private bus companies have taken over some of the old routes.

Ebus serves many bus routes in British Columbia and Alberta.

GoTicketCA makes finding tickets and schedules super simple. The website is simple to use a search engine that helps you find the best bus routes and the best train routes, and the best prices as well.

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.

Ticket Information for Bus Travel

  • Romw2Rio – This website shows you how to get from point A to point B. Enter your departure and arrival destinations and it will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
  • CheckMy Bus – Another search engine for finding transportation between places if available.
  • BCTransit – BCTransit connects customers in communities across the province.

Travelling by Train

Booking 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 them with 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 vacations 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, 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.

More Information On Train Travel

Canada By Bicycle

A large part of Canada is suitable for cycling. Do extensive research before venturing on a cycling tour. Once you leave the cities and towns behind, you will be on your own. It is important to be prepared for a long and lonely journey. Although cycling is still not as common in Canada as it is in 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 everyone else has to. 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 the details before booking your ticket.

By Bus: Check with the bus company for details.

By Train: VIA RAIL will transport your bicycle for a fee on trains offering checked baggage service. This includes all long-distance travel and many regional train journeys.

Bicycle Rental

Outfitters in most tourist towns rent out bicycles. The rental fee usually includes a helmet and a lock. Most companies require a security deposit.

Related Links

RVs and Camper Rental GuideRoad trips in Canada
What you should know about car rentalsCar Buying Tips for Tourists
Backcountry CampingRAV4 Camper Conversion for minimalists
Budget TravelDestination Guides

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