Top 10 Canadian Travel Do’s and Don’ts

I visited Canada for the first time last week. For six days. Naturally this now makes me an expert on traveling the Canadian Rockies.

Here are some vital Canadian travel do’s and don’ts for the uninitiated.

Top 10 Canadian Travel Do’s and Don’ts*

10.  Do not visit Canada in winter. Ever. It’s like visiting Texas in August. Or July. Or June. Do visit in summer, especially if you’re going to the mountains. Early fall might be okay too.

9.   Do not go camping in “the valley”. It’s beautiful and green, with pools of standing water. The swarms of mosquitoes are straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Do enjoy the hilarity of ten rafts of people tearing off their wet suits and stripping down to their bathing suits as they swat away the swarms and smack each other – every last drop of modesty tossed to the wind in desperation to get onto the bus. Forget the rafting part. Nothing says bonding like saving a random stranger from a mosquito.

My moose sighting - where another car's driver took a picture while he was still driving on the road. Seriously.

8.  Do not take a picture of the moose grazing on the side of the road while you are still driving. I know, it seems so obvious, but in the five minutes we were pulled over, some idiot did this precise thing and nearly caused an accident. Do pull over, but keep your distance. Moose are not known for their friendly dispositions.

7.  Do not believe because it is only 65 degrees (18.3 Celsius) outside, you will not burn if out in the sun. Canadians can make this mistake too, so unused to the shiny ball of flame in the sky they can get sun poisoning. Do slather on the sunscreen even if only outside for an hour – your skin will be much happier.

6.  Do not expect to be amazed by spectacular wait staff of any restaurant in a tourist town. It can take two hours to have lunch. Do learn to speak Kiwi. You will not believe how many New Zealanders travel to the Canadian Rockies on work visas for the summer. Enjoy their accents, but remember, they don’t tip down under…

They put km/h to remind the Americans who go, "One hundred! Awesome!"

5.  Do not interpret the “100” you see on the speed limit sign as “miles per hour”. This is the one time the third grade lesson in the metric system comes in handy. Do drive a vehicle that actually has a kilometers mark so you don’t have to perform the conversion in your head every time.

4.  Do not choose the rafting guide who is only twenty and wears the full wet suit gear – he believes he will get dumped into the river. Do pray you get the older, cute guide named Scotty who wears shorts and a t-shirt. Not only has he rafted your river for longer than the other one has been alive, but this is a guy who does not plan on falling in the river. And if he does, the cold ensures he gets himself and you back into the boat at record speed.

Notice Scotty The Guide? Shorts. Short sleeves. He knows what he's doing.

3.  Do not believe the Canadians who tell you the lake water is warm. Lakes are glacier fed and are freezing during the melting season. They aren’t trying to trick you – to them, it is warm. Do wear a wet suit. Or swim later in the day. Especially if you live in The South where lakes are warmer than Canadian “hot springs”.

2.  Do not use the Rest Stop with a View. In Canada, a rest stop = an outhouse. A view means many people pull over. A rest stop with a view = a very fragrant outhouse. Do stock up on hand sanitizer, because there aren’t any sinks either.

This stop had the most amazing view, but the worst stench. I actually held my nose shut to use it.

1.  Do not pretend to lose your passport because you don’t want to leave and thus must jump through a thousand hoops to get an emergency one. Even if it is tempting, it will just piss everyone off. And probably be expensive. Do plan to stay longer the next time. If your friends, family, or bank account allow it.

*Most of these I experienced first hand….

What travel do’s and don’ts did I miss???

About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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38 Responses to Top 10 Canadian Travel Do’s and Don’ts

  1. What a great trip you had. You’ll feast on these memories for a very long time, I guarantee it. GREAT list.

  2. Bobbi says:

    I’d throw in… do not ACTUALLY lose your passport…

    Not that I’m having any experience with that at all.

  3. I think Canada needs to include this on their Welcome to Canada site for north-bound Americans. Great shot of the moose, by the way! I have one of a moose chewing on our Christmas lights up in Alaska. 65 degrees? Heaven.

    • I’d forgotten you’d ever lived in Alaska. That has to be a great photo.

      “No moose were electrocuted in the taking of this photo.

      I am glad we saw the moose. It was on our way back from the mountains and they don’t typically wander into developed Calgary.

  4. Do not forget to bring other blogger friends who love Canada and also needva break from their families.

    Awesome post. And great moose. Glad the trip gave you lots of fodder.

  5. Nothing to add but I’m happy you had fun!

  6. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    #7 is the one I would most have benefited from understanding during my summer of whale research many years ago. I absolutely expected to be poured upon and wasn’t that surprised that my tent was soaked through for a couple of days, but the sunburn? That was a surprise.

    Glad you had such a blast! 🙂

    • The sun burn in not-hot weather will surprise you every time – unless you’ve experienced the consequences before.

      Whale watching sounds so cool.

      • Deborah the Closet Monster says:

        It was more whale listening than whale watching, although part of the research did involve tracking migratory patterns. I got to see a mama whale nurse her newborn (!) just below me while I stood on a cliff, and see a grown daughter try to break away from her own mama . . . only to decide she really wasn’t ready, and come high-tailing back her mom’s direction. Loved it, and love its memory even more now that I’m a mom. 🙂

  7. Ahh, yes, Scotty the guide. We did chat about him in the hot tub, didn’t we? At least we had the sense not to become “river kill.”

  8. mommybyday says:

    Summer may be beautiful and warm, but… Winter is freaking spectacular. And SUNNY. There is NOTHING like a day in the snow followed by hot chocolate and Bailey’s…

  9. Liz McLennan says:

    That MommybyDay is my kind of Mummy – hot chocolate and Baileys. Mmm…Baileys…..sorry, what was the question again?

  10. Janet T. says:

    As a Canadian…this was very interesting to read…:-)

    • I had “my” Canadian’s read it and pre-approve it to make sure all my facts were straight and non-offensive.

      There are just some things you don’t expect, that living there, are simply true.

      I loved Calgary and BC. So beautiful.

  11. Shari Green says:

    Awesome list, Kelly! Sounds like it was a blast, despite our glacier-fed lakes and multitude of mosquitoes. 🙂

  12. Ixy says:

    I’ll add one from the other side of the country (I live in Ontario – east side of Canada)…the weather doesn’t magically change when you cross from New York State or Michigan. Actually Ontario is more southern than a number of US states. One of our favourite incidents involved the unfortunate American tourists we ran into who came to Ontario in July with skis and parkas. Seeing as the temperature was 36 degrees (I think this is something like 95 F??), they had a four or five-month wait if they wanted to see any snow!

  13. maggie s. says:

    Hilarious. My mom went to Canada when she was a teen. She had the same comments about the swimming and the mosquitoes.

  14. Kyria says:

    Oh I love the Canadian Rockies! I went there in June and it still got below freezing at night, and there was still tons of snow in the mountains, even at lower elevations. So I guess my piece of advice would be, “do not assume that since you are going in summer it will be warm”.

  15. I love Canada. Don’t know why, but I had a wee obsession about wanting duel citizenship with Canada when I was a kidlet. And though I’ve never been outside of the Victoria, Vancouver, Squammish Falls area, I still love it and cannot wait until we get the chance to go back!

    So glad you had a great trip, even if it did include mosquitoes. (When visiting fam in Chincoteague – small island off the Virginia coast, and walking through dense black clouds of mosquitoes and inevitably getting devoured, we used vinegar on the bites to help with the insane itch.) Though, that view of Scotty must have made up for it a bit….not to mention meeting those wordbitches! ;> :>

  16. Pingback: The Sabbatical… Sort Of | Dances with Chaos

  17. summer says:

    as a canadian this was very interesting to read and to be honest this is probably an american who had a bad experience in canada writing this and i’m actually a little offended.

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