I was so excited to visit Canada for the first time, as it had been on my bucket list for years. I expected stunning nature, impressive backdrops and views that I had previously only seen in movies. I was lucky enough to visit Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the trip resulted (as expected) in experiences I’ll never forget. I spent most of my time exploring the city of Winnipeg, but I also had the opportunity to explore the Manitoba region. The result was a perfect trip to Canada, from the eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) before I left Norway, to the weather when I was there (it was so warm and sunny).
If you are planning to visit Canada, what I will say first is that you’re going to have an amazing time! Second, I will tell you to read this post. Below, I go through the top 5 things I wish I knew before visiting Canada. Hopefully, by reading this post, you’ll be a little more prepared than I was for my visit because these things surprised me!
For a bunch of things that surprised (I mean, shocked) me about the US, head this way!
5 Things to know before visiting Canada for the first time
As you will learn, there are a few things that are good to know when you are planning on visiting Canada for the first time. Below I have listed the 5 that I believe are most important, such as the tipping culture (which is always important to be prepared for), and how to go about getting your eTA for Canada. A little further down I have also included all my Canada articles, so you can easily browse through them before your trip!
#1 Canada is huge
I am sure you already knew this in the back of your mind (I mean, it’s pretty common knowledge that Canada is the world’s second-largest country), however, it is easy to forget just how this affects your trip. If you are planning a road trip in Canada, for example, set aside more time than you would in many other countries. Also, don’t assume you can see all your bucket list sights in one go. Canada is absolutely huge, and it is important that you consider this greatly before you visit. I have been to Manitoba, but still have such a huge part of the country left to explore, such as all of Ontario. If you are heading that way, however, here’s a great guide to hiking and canoeing in Mount Ararat.
In short, be realistic with what you want to see, take your time to do some proper research before the trip, and read up on some of the many great blogs out there about travelling to Canada! If you are planning on going on a road trip in Canada, here’s one for the bucket list in New Brunswick!
#2 Charge your cameras (all of them)
I told you that I expected incredible nature when visiting Canada for the first time, right? Well, that expectation was more than met during my trip. Canada is absolutely breathtaking, and around every single corner there is a new natural wonder ready to make you go “ooh” and “aah”. And you know what stunning sceneries mean? Epic photos.
My biggest mistake when visiting Canada was not bringing a spare battery for my GoPro, I swear. So make sure you charge your cameras for every day of adventures and bring extra batteries if you can! There are so many beautiful motives surrounding you, that you’ll be happy you planned ahead for it.
#3 Get the right Visa for Canada (eTA)
I was actually surprised to find that I needed a visa for Canada before visiting. All though I am not sure why I was surprised, as I almost always need some sort of travel authorisation when leaving Europe. Regardless, I was happy when I learned about getting my eTA Canada and how easy it can be done and found that I didn’t need a lot of time doing my research. I quickly filled in my application online and got a response within a few days (I actually got mine approved in less than 24 hours).
For anyone who’s unsure of the meaning of eTA, I can explain it quite simply. It is an abbreviation for Electronic Travel Authorisation and is even simpler than a visa. I just use the latter term as it is more used than eTA (I actually told a few of my friends that I had gotten my visa for Canada, and they asked “don’t you just need a travel authorisation to go there?”). So, my point was proven; get the right authorisation to visit Canada, so you don’t end up confused!
#4 Prepare for small talk
Seriously. This was a Canadian stereotype I was happy to learn to be true, and that I can now vouch for. Canadians are just so polite!
The people I met in Canada were all so nice, and more than happy to strike up a conversation when standing behind me in line, floating next to me on the river (one of the fun things you can do just a 2-hour drive from Winnipeg), or whilst waiting for the signal to go green at a pedestrian crossing. I loved how friendly and accommodating everyone was, and it was a great change from the closed-off Norwegians I am used to, haha.
#5 Tipping in Canada
Before going to Canada I was really unsure of how to go about the tipping. I didn’t know if it was similar to the US, where you always have to tip, regardless of whether people are getting paid a fair wage or not, or if it was more like Europe (where we tip when we feel like). Luckily, I did some research, asked some locals, and quickly found out the norm.
Tipping is indeed common (and expected) in Canada, but not to the (often extreme) extent that it is expected in the US. You should tip 15-20% to the wait staff at restaurants, and also expect to round up when taking transportation such as taxis. I found a super helpful guide to the tipping culture in Canada here.
There you have some of the things I believe it is important to be aware of before travelling to Canada for the first time!