Canada Basics

Photo: Canadian Tourism CommissionPhoto: Canadian Tourism Commission

Before you travel through Canada by RV, there's some essential basics and fast facts you need to know. What are the people like in Canada and what language do they speak? What measurements do they use in Canada? What about electricity? What are the main highways in Canada? Are you supposed to tip, and how much? And what on earth is a "toonie"? Find it all out, and more, here.


  • The currency used in Canada is the Canadian dollar. Canadian bills come in denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5. Coins are in denominations of $2 (called a “toonie”), $1 (called a “loonie”), $0.25 (called a “quarter”), $0.10 (called a “dime”), $0.05 (called a “nickel”), and $0.01 (called a “penny”).
  • It’s a good idea to carry Canadian travellers cheques, as they are accepted as currency at most hotels, stores and restaurants. Most major credit cards are widely accepted across the country – primarily Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
  • The major banks are: Bank of Montréal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank, CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce), and Toronto Dominion Bank.


  • Canada uses the metric system.
  • Distance is measured in kilometers, speed signs are in kilometers per hour.
  • Petrol/gas is sold by the liter
  • Temperature is measured on the Celsius scale
  • Most weight measurements are in kilograms or grams.


Like the USA, residential Canada uses 110 volt electrical systems at 60 hertz. You will need a voltage transformer/converter for your electrical appliances if they operate on a different voltage. Plugs in Canada are either two flat, parallel prongs, or one cylindrical and two flat parallel prongs. If those sockets are different from the ones used in your country then you will need a socket converter.


Dialing into Canada:
1 + area code + local number

Dialing out of Canada:
011 + country code + area code + local number

Emergencies: dial 911 (police, ambulance, fire), free call
Information: dial 411 (for telephone numbers), free call
Toll free: numbers begin with 1-800, or 1-888

Pre-paid plastic calling cards are available from convenience stores.

National Holidays

January 1 - New Year's Day
(January 2 - Day after New Year's)
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Monday on or before 24 May - Victoria Day
July 1 - Canada Day (formerly Dominion Day)
First Monday in September - Labor Day
Second Monday in October - Thanksgiving
November 11 - Remembrance Day
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Boxing Day


Service charges usually are not included on bills in restaurants or bars in Canada. It’s standard practice to tip service personnel 12% to 15% of the bill. Customary gratuity to tour guides and motorcoach drivers is $1.00 to $2.00 per person per day – usually  handled on a voluntary, individual basis.

Fast Facts

  • Population: 33,212,696 (July 2008 est.)
  • Capital city of Canada: Ottawa (Ontario)
  • Leader of Canada: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
  • Emblem: maple leaf
  • Flag: red and white with a red maple leaf
  • Canada's birthday: July 1
  • National animal: beaver
  • Motto: "From sea to sea"
  • National anthem: O Canada
  • National police force: RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police)
  • Time zones: six

The People

  • Most of the people live in the southern part of Canada.
  • About 77 percent of Canadians live in cities and towns.
  • The largest cities are Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver
  • Saskatchewan is the fastest growing province. (December 2007)
  • Canada's two official languages are English and French (more than 9 million Canadians speak French).
  • Canada is the home of over a million Aboriginal people
  • Three Aboriginal groups : First Nations, Métis and Inuit
    Eastern Canada : the Maliseet, Algonquin, Iroquois, Micmac, Huron and Ojibwa
    The Plains : Blackfoot, Cree and Assiniboine
    Pacific Coast : Kwakiutl, Bella Coola, and Haida
    Northern regions : Dene, Tsimshian and Slavey peoples
    Arctic region : the Inuit


  • The main highway system (completed in 1962) is called the Trans-Canada Highway which runs from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Victoria, B.C. The highway is 7,604 kilometres long - the longest national highway in the world.
  • The Dempster Highway in the Yukon territory is the northernmost highway. The major ports are Vancouver, Churchill, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and St. John's.The St. Lawrence Seaway allows ocean-going ships to sail inland and has twenty-six locks and five canals.


  • Canada has a democratic system of government
  • The parliament of Canada is in Ottawa, Ontario)
  • The Prime Minister is Stephen Harper (leader of the Conservative Party) and the Governor General of Canada is Michaëlle Jean


  • The native people of Canada invented the game of lacrosse which is the national summer sport of Canada.
  • Ice hockey is the winter national sport of Canada.
  • Five pin bowling was invented by T.E. Ryan of Toronto in 1909.
  • Basketball was invented by Canadian James Naismith in 1891.

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