Looking for important travel information while backpacking in Canada? Here you will find information on working in Canada, entry visas, Canada hostels, and much more.
Table of Contents
- Facts About Canada
- Top Things to Do
- How to Travel Around
- Hostels & Budget Accommodation
- Visa Requirements for Canada
- Working Holidays and Volunteer Projects
Facts About Canada
Canada has long links with British and French traditions as well as with its American neighbours. This makes Canada’s culture truly unique with some of the most approachable locals in the world. You will find Canada similar to the US in terms of standard of life and services available but you will find the pace of life a little more relaxed in Canada and the scenery in the rural parts is some of the most spectacular in the world. A great country to travel in itself it also makes an excellent addition to any American tour.
- Currency: $ Can (Canadian Dollar) 100 cents to the dollar
- Time Zone: Spans 6 time zones from GMT-3.5 to GMT – 8
- Language: English, French in some regions
- Telephone Services: Country code is +1, the international dialing code is 011
- Emergency Numbers: 911 or 0 depending on the province
Climate in Canada and the best time to visit
When deciding the best time to go to Canada, weather plays a very important role. Summer tends to be warm and sunny but winter can be very cold indeed, especially further north. In some particularly bad areas of the Rockies snow and ice can build up rapidly preventing road crew from keeping up with road cleaning and snow can accumulate to several centimetres. When driving during these conditions you will be required to use winter tyres or snow chains on your tyres. In fact any road in Canada can suffer from this condition during the numerous winter storms but the Rocky Mountains are particularly unpredictable from September to May.
Things to do in Canada
Canada can offer pretty much anything you want to do but some highlights include such wonders as a coach ride onto Glaciers in the Rockies. After loading into a heavily modified (read spiky wheeled, 4 wheel drive) coach you are taken out onto a glacier and even get to drink from a glacial spring. These glaciers are high enough to be ice even in the summer so you can go on this extraordinary experience at any time.
Many travellers are drawn to Banff to its incredible natural hot springs which local rumour has it prolongs youth, others prefer to go in winter where resorts like Whistler give arguably some of the best snow sports in the world.
Outdoorsy adventurous types will find plenty to cater for their tastes such as white water rafting, husky rides and an amazing array of water sports at locations such as Lake Louise and Lake Ontario. And of course, everyone should see the famed Niagara Falls at least once!
Unique Activities in Canada
Since popular places in Canada can get crowded during tourist season, it is wise to reserve tickets and activities ahead of time. GetYourGuide sells entrance tickets to museums and landmarks at face value so you can avoid the lines and save that precious time for more exploring.
Viator is another popular travel website that helps you book things to do in Canada. They work directly with local tour operators in Canada, so you won’t have to scour the internet or roam around town trying to find the best deal.
If you know your schedule ahead of time, a great insider tip is to buy tickets for major tourist attractions ahead of time. Tiqets has entrance tickets and skip-the-line passes for major attractions in Canada, which can be a worthwhile cost during peak tourist season. Tiqets has options in Banff, Calgary, Montreal, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria
How to Find Cheap Flights to Canada
In order to find the best flights to Canada we recommend using a few well-known flight comparison search engines. These websites offer powerful search options, like entering flexible dates and airports in order to find the cheapest possible flight to Canada.
Our go-to flight search engine is Skyscanner, which we love for its extremely flexible search options. Our favourite way to get travel inspiration is their “Everywhere” feature. Simply enter “Everywhere” as a destination, and it will then list all available flights from your departure city in order of price. This also works when entering the entire country of Canada as your destination. Skyscanner will search all possible airports in the country in order to find the cheapest option.
Kiwi is another new favourite among backpackers. Kiwi works by combining flights from different carriers in order to get the best deal. Also, if there is a better ground or ferry option for the route you’re searching, Kiwi will include that in the search results. On average, we have found the cheapest flights to Canada with them compared to the other websites out there.
How to Travel Around Canada on a Budget
Travel is cheap and affordable in Canada, Greyhound offers extensive point-to-point coach routes and hire cars are readily available. Train travel is an alternative although you may have trouble getting to some locations by train. Most provinces have a local train operator and Canadian National run a service which covers a large portion of Northern USA and Canada.
Driving in Canada
You may also want the flexibility to stop in smaller towns between the major cities. If you decide you want to rent a car in Canada, you can use DiscoverCars to compare offers from the major car rental agencies in the region.
Backpacking Tours in Canada
Though part of the fun of backpacking Canada is exploring on your own, there are situations, especially when venturing off the tourist trail, when it does make sense to go with a guide or a small group.
The most popular option for a social travel experience is Contiki tours. Contiki trips offer more than just transportation, they are organized social group travel for travelers aged 18-35. Whether you’re traveling by yourself or going with a group of friends, Contiki tours are perfect for people looking to have a blast, meet new friends, and form lifelong memories. They offer tours that travel primarily in Canada or longer tours that cover other nearby places.
G Adventures is another great option for organized travel, but with a smaller group. It’s a great choice for anyone backpacking Canada alone who would like to meet up with like-minded travellers. It’s also a practical option for exploring places where you need an experienced guide, like a long hiking adventure or visiting a place well off the beaten path. You can choose from different styles of small group tours like active, wellness, hiking trips, 18-30somethings, and more. Their most popular trips in Canada are their 14-day National Parks of the Canadian Rockies Eastbound tour, or their 11-day Vancouver Island and Northern Rockies tour.
Canada Hostels & Budget Accommodation
Cheap Accommodation is easily available, motels are generally available in any town and the standard compared to for example Eastern Europe is very high. You should find it quite easy to find Motel rooms and spaces in Youth Hostels on the day but if you want to book locally you will find literally hundreds of motels/hotels have online booking service.
We have had good experiences finding hostels in Canada on HostelWorld. They have the largest inventory of hostels worldwide, and with over 10 million reviews and ratings from other travellers you know exactly what to expect.
Another good way to find accommodation in Canada is by checking booking.com. On their site, you’ll find hotels, homestays, hostels, and other unique accommodation. They have the most reviews and advanced filtering of any accommodation-booking site, so you’ll be sure to find a great place in your budget. We have discovered some great finds and have appreciated the ability to book ahead. Many of the places on booking.com also offer free cancellation, which takes the pressure off the planning phase of your trip to Canada.
If you are backpacking with another travel companion, we highly recommend booking a rental via VRBO. With a vacation rental, you’ll have more space, your own kitchen, and you’ll get a better feel for how the locals live. Plus, the cost of a vacation rental can be split among your group, oftentimes making it cheaper than doing individual hotel rooms.
If you’re looking to save even more money while backpacking in Canada, there are plenty of creative ways to get free accommodation in exchange for work. For example, one of our favorite ways to stay in amazing locations for free is by signing up as a petsitter with Trusted Housesitters. The site connects responsible animal lovers with petsitting opportunities in Canada and all over the world. It’s a win-win for both sides – travellers can stay in amazing locations for free, and homeowners can rest easy knowing that someone is watching over their place.
And lastly, CouchSurfing is a great community that connects travellers with local hosts in Canada. You can stay for free with verified hosts, who will usually take some time to show you around the local spots.
Entry Visa Requirements for Canada
A valid passport is required for the duration of your stay and a return ticket is required. For short stays, EU passport holders will not require a visa but for more extended stays or for working in Canada you will need to contact the Canadian High Commission to obtain the correct documentation. More details can be found at the Canadian High Commission’s website.
Visa requirements for Canada can vary widely depending on your country of origin and can change over time. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, be sure to check the latest visa requirements while you’re still planning your trip.
Health and Safety in Canada
In general, the health service is very good in Canada and easily competes with that of Western Europe. You will, however, need to have comprehensive travel insurance to cover any medical attention you may require. Even for short trips, our go-to travel insurance provider is World Nomads, which is also recommended by Lonely Planet, HostelWorld, and other major travel companies.
No shots or injections are required to travel from Western Europe to the UK.
Working holidays in Canada and volunteer projects
EU nationals can enter and reside in Canada as tourists for up to six months. Those intending to find work need to apply for Employment Authorization from the Canadian High Commission or Embassy whilst still in the UK. Canadian employment laws are particularly strict and if you are found working without authorisation you are highly at risk of deportation.
If you are a gap year student it is worth looking into BUNAC’s ‘Work Canada’ programme. As part of this scheme, you are permitted to live and work in Canada for a year, as long as you can show funds of about CAN$1000, or less if you have already found a job for your arrival in Canada.
Become an Au Pair or Nanny in Canada
Perhaps one of the most traditional options for working holidays in Canada is to become an au pair. As an au pair in Canada, you’ll be placed with a host family and will typically help with child care and household work such as cleaning.
It’s best to work with a reputable Canada au pair program, which will help ensure a clear contract between the host family and the au pair regarding expected working hours and spending money.
According to aupair.com, au pairs in Canada work for about 25 hours a week and can expect to earn at least 800 Canadian dollars per month. Au Pair World is another helpful agency that can place you in au pair positions in Canada.
Canada has strict employment regulations with regards to childcare positions. Most people wanting to find a placement as a nanny or mothers’ help will need to show qualifications or substantial experience in the field and should expect to dedicate themselves to a family for at least one year. Vacancies can be found in local newspapers. Nannies should anticipate working for up to 45 hours a week, and pay can be as much as CAN$880 for a month’s work, but this is usually less.
Canada working holidays in bars, restaurants, or hostels
Another area to explore working holidays in Canada is to apply at local bars, restaurants, or hostels. Although most of these jobs will pay minimum wage, they will still require that you have official permission to work in Canada as a foreigner. Canada has one of the highest minimum wage rates in the world with workers earning $9.52 per hour, and the tipping culture can mean you’ll be making much more during your working holiday in Canada.
A hostel job can be a great way to get to know fellow travelers while backpacking Canada, or to take a short break while on the road to earn some spending money. Hosteljobs.com offers lots of different jobs at hostels in Canada from reception, to maintenance, to tour guides and event managers. You can try to apply for the jobs before backpacking in Canada, or you can also pick up work while already on the road. Try simply asking if they have any vacancy, showing your work ethic and enthusiasm.
Seasonal work in Canada
Resorts in the Rocky Mountains provide some opportunities for work in hotels in Canada. Wages will vary depending on the type of work, and deductions are usually made for the provision of food and accommodation. Despite the casual nature of most jobs of this kind it is still vital to have a work permit for Canada as strict regulations mean that checks are often made on employees, often in places that attract a lot of international workers.
Farm Jobs in Canada
The Okanagan valley, British Columbia, and Ontario are home to some of the most promising fruit picking jobs in Canada. Between July and September peaches, apples, pears, and cherries etc. reach their harvesting seasons. Pickers are usually paid depending on how much they can collect. As long as you have authorisation to work in Canada it is worth contacting the Agricultural Employment Service for information relating to jobs and harvests in the Canadian agricultural sector.
If you’re less interested in earning wages and more interested in gaining valuable life experience, WWOOF is a voluntary organisation placing volunteers on organic farm jobs in Canada and throughout the world. Workers are provided with board and accommodation and must pay an annual membership of €10 to WWOOF, see their website for more details.
The British Universities’ North America Club is a job organisation specialising in placements for gap year students. The types of work available vary, but include working on holiday camps with children, as a counsellor for example. Those wanting to join BUNAC are required to pay a registration fee, flights, and insurance etc. but can expect to receive a wage for the work they do.
Internships in Canada
CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange) offers work placements in Canada. For gap year students who can show proof of an unconditional offer from a university for the following year the CIEE’s ‘Internship Canada’ is ideal experience in a Canadian workplace. Internships last for up to twelve months and vary considerably in place, content, and payment. However, all internees are required to fund their own living, travel, and insurance, and to pay a $150 registration fee to CIEE.
Volunteering in Canada
Volunteer travel is a great way to explore Canada on a budget while also giving back. Typically, you’ll work on the project a set number of hours per week in exchange for free accommodation, and sometimes other perks such as free food, free bike rentals, and more.
If volunteer work in Canada sounds like something you want to do, it’s best to do it via a reputable agency. An agency will help screen volunteer programs and hosts in Canada to make sure you have support every step of the way.
Volunteer work in Canada can be organized through the WorldPackers agency, and you can use promo code BACKPACKING10 to save $10 on your membership. WorldPackers can connect you with volunteering opportunities in Canada with NGOs, hostels and homestays, agricultural or wildlife experiences, and more.
Useful links for finding work and volunteer programs in Canada
- Wwoof.net gives information about voluntary work available on organic farms in Canada.
- GAP are by far the most popular organisers of year-abroad schemes
- Bunac organise working holidays, mostly on children’s camps throughout the North American continent
- CIEE help thousands of students each year to seize the opportunity of working abroad
- Idealist – find Internships, minijobs, and volunteer opportunities in Canada.
- Volunteer World – extensive database of information and volunteer placements in Canada
- Au Pair World and aupair.com are some helpful agencies that can place EU nationals in au pair positions in Canada.
- Hosteljobs.com – search engine for jobs in hostels for those interested in doing a working holiday in Canada at a hostel, among fellow travelers
Useful Links for Backpacking in Canada
- GAdventures – guided small group tours in Canada, great for solo travellers or for those interested in a more adventurous trip which would require a guide
- DiscoverCars – The world’s leading rental car search engines to rent a car in Canada
- Kiwi and Skyscanner – Flight comparison search engines to find the cheapest flights to Canada and within the country
- GetYourGuide and Viator – a collection of local tours and activities in Canada. Also offers Skip the Line tickets for crowded attractions
- Tiqets – Website selling entrance tickets and skip the line tickets for major tourist attractions in Canada
- HostelWorld – #1 hostel search website to find accommodation while backpacking Canada. Thousands of hostels and millions of reviews from fellow travellers
- Booking.com – commonly used booking site for accommodation in Canada. Find hostels, hotels, and other unique accommodation in Canada with advanced filtering and millions of reviews
- World Nomads Travel Insurance – Comprehensive travel insurance for long and short trips when backpacking Canada
There you have it, the ultimate Canada backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Canada.
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