Before You Go
Passports and Visas
To enter Canada, a passport is required by citizens and permanent residents of the United States. At press time, the U.S. government was developing alternatives to the traditional passport. For further information, see the website http://travel.state.gov/travel. For current entry requirements to Canada, check the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website (www.cic.gc.ca).
All other foreign visitors must have a valid passport and may need a visa or visitors permit depending on their country of residence and the vagaries of international politics. At present, visas are not required for citizens of the United States, British Commonwealth, or Western Europe. The standard entry permit is for six months, and you may be asked to show onward tickets or proof of sufficient funds to last you through your intended stay.
What to Take
You’ll find little use for a suit and tie in western Canada. Instead, pack for the outdoors. At the top of your must-bring list should be walking or hiking boots. In summer, temperatures rarely drop below freezing anywhere in the region, so you don’t need a down jacket or winter boots. But you should be geared up for a variety of weather conditions, especially at the change of seasons.
For dining out, casual dress is accepted at all but the most upscale city and resort restaurants. Don’t forget your swimsuit for taking a dip in the waters off Vancouver Island or soaking in a hot tub up at a ski resort.
Winter temperatures vary greatly throughout western Canada. Golfers hitting the links on Vancouver Island in January will undoubtedly be warmly dressed, but they will be golfing. In the rest of the region, January brings extremely cold temperatures. For this climate, you should plan to dress in layers, starting with long thermal underwear. If you’re traveling from warmer climes, purchasing all the winter necessities once you’ve arrived is a good idea.
Electrical appliances from the United States work in Canada, but those from other parts of the world will require a current converter (transformer) to bring the voltage down. Many travel-size shavers, hairdryers, and irons have built-in converters.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition