The electric-blue hues of Banff’s glacier-fringed lakes, the deafening crash of Niagara’s pummeling cascades, the beguiling romance of Quebec’s elegant alleys, the beer-fuelled buzz of Vancouver’s vibrant Gastown, and the jagged snowcapped spikes of majestic Rocky Mountain ridges.  Whether you’re lured by the lush landscape or captivated by the carefree culture, Canada’s charms will continue to enthrall.

BUDGET | PLANNING YOUR TRIP | GETTING AROUND | WHERE TO STAY | HIGHLIGHTS | ROUTES & ITINERARIES

Budget

In terms of hotel accommodation, long-distance transport and restaurant meals, Canada may be on pricey side.  But there are many ways to keep to your costs to a minimum, ensuring you have budget to spare to savour Canada’s spectacular scenery and laid-back cosmopolitan culture.  To lower accommodation spend, opt for motels, budget hotels, campgrounds or renting a motorhome.  Choosing self-catering AirBnB accommodation (or cooking for yourself in a campervan) will also decrease food costs, as supermarket groceries are far cheaper than restaurant dining.  When touring the country, consider renting a car to explore National Parks and conservation areas – you’ll find it cheaper than collecting one-way bus or train tickets, especially if you’re travelling in a group.  And if you’re covering long distances, check budget airlines (WestJet and AirTransat) for competitively priced air tickets, or consider investing in a 14 or 21 day Rail Pass with Via Rail.

Meal in a budget restaurant: 15USD

Mid-range hotel room nightly rate: 120USD

Planning your Trip

Canada has such a variety of stunning scenery, must-do activities and enchanting cities, it may seem impossible to cram everything into a single trip.  For travellers with only a couple of weeks to spare, it makes sense to focus on one specific region (e.g. East or West).  You could easily spend a few nights in cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or Quebec before setting out to enjoy the explore the countless National Parks, alluring lakeside vistas and wonderful wildlife.

As distances between Canadian cities are so massive, it’s a good idea to embrace the journey and research rail and road-trip routes that pass through provincial panoramas en-route.  Check out rail trips offered by Via Rail, Rocky Mountaineer and Moose Bus https://moosebus.travel/ to get inspired.   

Before booking your international flights, think carefully about which airports you will fly in and out of.  To avoid backtracking overland, it can often work out cheaper to fly into one city and out of another.  Have a look at flights to the below entry/exit points to ensure minimal backtracking:

  • Quebec City/Toronto
  • Toronto/Vancouver
  • Calgary/Vancouver
  • Toronto/Calgary

Getting Around

Fly 

With seemingly endless stretches of Canadian railways and roads linking key cities to the east and west, it’s likely that you’ll opt for at least one internal flight on a month-long trip. Air Canada have an extensive route map and reliable service – see www.aircanada.com. For budget options, see Air Transat or WestJet.

Rail

Services on Canada’s passenger trains may not be as cheap or as frequent as buses, but the scenic vistas from your windows will be well-worth the journey.  Via Rail www.viarail.ca/en is Canada’s national carrier, speedy, efficient and comfortable services.  It’s most scenic routes include Toronto to Vancouver (4 days), Jasper to Prince Rupert (2 days), and an excursion round Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula.  

Your level of comfort will depend on your chosen ticket.  The most includes a reclining seat and access to a public lounge and dome car. Top-of-the-range tickets include meals in the restaurant car, access to comfortable lounges, hot showers and accommodation in either a bunk-bedded sleeper, a “roomette” for one, or a bedroom for two.  For the Toronto to Vancouver route, expect to pay around 340USD for the most basic ticket.  Via Rail also offer rail passes, either allowing a fixed number of one-way trips, or offering unlimited trips within a fixed number of days.  Check www.viarail.ca for details.

Other rail providers offer scenic rail trips include Rocky Mountaineer (Jasper, Kamloops, Banff and Calgary), Polar Bear Express (Cochrane to Moosonee) and Algoma Central Railway (excursions through the Agawa Canyon).

Car

Renting a car or motorhome is a simple and convenient way of getting around Canada’s vast provinces.  For the best chance of securing a good deal with a reliable operator, we’d recommend booking through an international car rental agency before you travel. Hertz and Avis both offer extensive fleets at various pick up/drop off locations around Canada.  Local agencies can also provide great deals, but check reviews and T&Cs before committing.

Rates vary, but 320USD is standard for a 7 day rental with the same pick up/drop off.

Bus

For intercity travel, Greyhound Canada www.greyhound.ca runs the majority of long-distance buses, including the Trans-Canada Highway from Toronto to Vancouver. Be warned – this journey takes longer than you might think (over 3 days in total).   If you’re considering attempting seriously long-distances by bus, make sure you plan your route in advance and schedule in a few rest stops along the way.  Expect clean buses with air-conditioning, toilets and no smoking.  Fares are relatively cheap (around 30USD for an 8-hour journey) and there are regular services on the major long-distance routes.  Advance rates are usually cheaper (booking 14 days ahead) and there are excellent web-only deals, so check rates online rather than buying at a ticket counter. 

Where to Stay

Hotels

Canada has a wide range of different accommodation styles catering for large or small budgets.  Cities offer a varied mix of luxury hotel resorts, self-catering apartments, quirky boutiques, budget hostels and motels.  In rural areas and villages, expect campgrounds and caravan parks.  To secure the best rates, check both the hotel website, and a hotel aggregator (like Booking.com or Hotels.com).  Sometimes hotels offer discounts for direct bookings, whereas aggregator websites may also cut their commission to offer you a more competitive rate. 

If you’re tight on time, are travelling during the peak summer season or have very specific dates and locations in mind, book your hotels at least a month in advance. 

Mid-range hotel room nightly rate: 120USD

AirBnB

AirBnB is an extremely popular site for Canadian short-term rentals.  Canadian listings display a huge range of properties, from city-centre studios to bayside cabins and forested treehouses.  Expect private lounges, washing machines and fully fitted kitchens, ideal for couples, families and groups of friends.  Opting for self-catering accommodation is also a handy way to save money on overpriced restaurants in tourist towns. 

Expect to pay 100USD a night for a city-centre apartment or a rural retreat.

Highlights

Vancouver

Jasper

Banff National Park

Toronto

Montreal

Quebec City

Niagara Falls

Routes & Itineraries

7 days

DAY 1: Vancouver

DAY 2: Calgary

DAY 3: Jasper

DAY 4: Jasper

DAY 5: Banff

DAY 6: Banff

DAY 7: Vancouver

14 days+

DAY 1: Toronto

DAY 2: Toronto

DAY 3: Niagara Falls

DAY 4: Quebec City

DAY 5: Quebec City

DAY 6: Montreal

DAY 7: Montreal

DAY 8: (fly to) Calgary

DAY 9: Jasper

DAY 10: Jasper

DAY 11: Banff

DAY 12: Banff

DAY 13: Vancouver

DAY 14: Vancouver

30 days+

DAY 1: Toronto

DAY 2: Toronto

DAY 3: Niagara Falls

DAY 4: Ottawa

DAY 5: Ottawa

DAY 6: Quebec City

DAY 7: Quebec City

DAY 8: Montreal

DAY 9: Montreal

DAY 10: Toronto

DAY 11: (train to Winnipeg)

DAY 12: Winnipeg

DAY 13: (train to Jasper)

DAY 14: Jasper

DAY 15: Jasper

DAY 16: Jasper

DAY 17: Banff

DAY 18: Banff

DAY 19: Kamloops

DAY 20: Victoria

DAY 21: Victoria

DAY 22: Vancouver

DAY 23: Vancouver, Inside Passage Cruise

DAY 24: Inside Passage Cruise

DAY 25: Tracy Arm, Juneau

DAY 26: Skagway

DAY 27: Glacier Bay National Park

DAY 28: Ketchikan

DAY 29: Inside Passage Cruise

DAY 30: Vancouver

Learn More…

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