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Touring Canada in winter

Adelaide, Australia
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Touring Canada in winter

My son will be in Canada for about 6 weeks from early January to mid February. He would like to fly into Canada to the East Coast and travel across the country to Vancouver then home.

I realise the weather is not good then- and he doesn't want to try and drive (having no experience of driving in snow); are there any tours he could take across Canada at that time of year? I see many of the advertised tours do not seem to run in winter (and there may be a reason for that!) - other than the rather expensive train trip which doesn't seem to stop anywhere.

West Grey, Ontario
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for Toronto
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1. Re: Touring Canada in winter

Hi traveller-eater;

There is only one cross country passenger train service, Via Rail. It stops at all the major centres, along the way.

www.ViaRail.ca

Respectfully, if you feel that the train is expensive, I would suggest that you and your son start looking at flights within Canada.

Best Regards

Ottawa, Canada
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2. Re: Touring Canada in winter

Hi Travel-Eater,

Welcome to the CANADA TRAVEL FORUM

And I see you are NEW to the TA FORUMS… so a BIG Welcome Aboard as well !!

Sounds like a great adventure… certainly so at any time of year… but more so during a Canadian Winter.

Canada is a HUGE Country… approximately the size of ALL of Europe, but we have a very SCANT Population (Europe = 731 Million – Canada = 34 Million) consequently this effects our public transit systems immensely.

So over 5500 Miles Wide (8000 Kms)... 6 Time Zones... 10 Provinces, 3 Territories (most of them bigger than most countries in the world) and over 25% of the distance from the North Pole to the South Pole...

Getting around here is both time consuming and relatively EXPEN$IVE

First off, flying around from place to place is expensive because of the long distances between our major cities (on land one can drive 2 to 8 Hours to the next major city)

Train and Bus are less expensive, but not something I’d call cheap either. And again this comes down to Distances and Demand (LOW Demand means HIGH Prices)

A car is the best way to see Canada… and take in the amazing scenery we are known for… but self-driving is not recommended in the wintertime… if one doesn’t have SIGNIFICANT Winter Driving experience.

Getting around by public transit with a combo of planes, trains, buses can be done… but the focus will end up being primarily a city based vacation… because public transit doesn’t necessarily go everywhere that one wants to be in Canada when it comes to our amazing scenery (again LOW Demand)

Add in the fact that our major tourism season runs mid-May thru to mid-October, beyond that and many things are CLOSED for the Winter… so things here are very seasonal… and one won’t see the best bits if they aren’t visiting us during our best weather (example the water based Attractions at Niagara Falls are CLOSED from the end of October thru to early May each year) NF is nice any time of year... but a ride on the Maid of the Mist is something that is truly amazing... and sad if missed out upon

Coming in the Wintertime, and relying on public transit is going to be a very different sort of vacation… one that will focus on our cities… rather than our scenic countryside.

As outlined Via Rail connects Canada east to west… and although the train appears to run over long distances such as "The Ocean" from Halifax to Montreal… it is possible to get off along the route… and then catch another train to continue on (note though that trains tend to run not every day)… I do know for example, that Quebec City is a popular stop for someone heading from Halifax. Then after visiting Quebec City, they transfer to the regular train that serves the Quebec Corridor (Quebec City to Montreal… that train running several times a day)

Same thing with "The Canadian" that runs from Toronto to Vancouver… travellers on this route sometimes make stop-overs in Winnipeg, Edmonton or The Canadian Rockies… but in the case of this train there are no alternatives… (not a highly travelled route) so one would have to wait several days for the next train to come along to continue on one’s journey

I suggest that you (and your son) do some more research / reading up on Canada… either here on TripAdvisor… tons of great topics always ongoing in the various CANADA FORUMS (be it this one or the ones dedicated to the various Provinces… or specific to Destination Cities) to get a feel for the country and how things work… or maybe purchase a Guide Book and start there.

A Canada Wide Adventure is a wonderful undertaking for a young person… BUT it is logistically complicated (and potentially EXPEN$IVE) if one wants to see and do a lot… particularly so in our off-season, when there are fewer alternatives.

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Edited: 21 November 2011, 17:40
Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: Touring Canada in winter

Hi traveller-eater ~ welcome to Canada.

I think your son will be quite restricted regarding travelling across Canada in Jan-Feb.

Oz is about 75% the size of Canada. Our population is mainly huddled (an appropriate word in January!) in a band all the way across, close to the border with the US. So size of country is really irrelevant for your purposes. What is more relevant is E-W distance. Unless he wants to fly up north to Churchill, Manitoba from Winnipeg for polar bears or Whitehorse, YT from Vancouver. Flights are generally 2.5 hours.

(Sydney to Perth - ~4000 km.)

Halifax to Vancouver - ~6000 km

Montreal to Vancouver - ~5000 km

Toronto to Vancouver - ~4300 km

People here do go out and about in the winter, but make very judicious decisions about when, where and what for. I do think that 6 weeks in a Canadian winter would appeal to someone who enjoyed adventure and winter sports.

Using averages: The Maritimes would be cold, averaging highs of -1C and lows of -10C. This includes Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Ontario and Quebec would average highs/lows of -2C/-13C.

The Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and a good part of Alberta will have little of interest for a tourist in general.

The Rockies - especially around Canmore, Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise would be alive with activity for skiing and boarding. Calgary would be the nearest airport.

Then there's the lovely BC (no bias there) where we have half the province (the Interior) whose weather can be pretty cold and snowy in January and the coast, Vancouver, Victoria and Vancouver Island where some people will be wearing shorts on certain days. The coast has the modifying influence of the water and our temps generally range 6C/0C in Jan.

What interests does your son have? That would determine where he would get the most out of being here.

My suggestion would be for your son to fly between the large cities. They would be where he would have the best chance for getting around and seeing things that will be open at that time of year. Ground transportation from those hubs to outlying city areas would also be available. So Halifax, Montréal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Between Calgary and Vancouver he could take VIA Rail or Greyhound bus (www.greyhound.ca). There is good train service between Montréal and Toronto. I support his decision not to drive in our winter.

I would also suggest you look into being in Québec City at the end of January when Carnaval takes place. Booking now would be a must. That would require arriving on the west coast and traveling in reverse. It is unique French-Canadian fête. On the following website, you can switch to Engiish with the button at the very top of the screen.

http://www.carnaval.qc.ca/

One other idea I have is about a traveller who is has just done a cross country solo trip, without a car for the last 6 months, on and off, and is currently heading for the Northwest Territories. (Brrr!) Here is one of his early questions on the BC Forums.

tripadvisor.com/…33953222

If you click on his user name, you will be able to see all his posts for his cross country trip. He is the most research oriented, positive, upbeat and friendly guy. He's uploaded photos somewhere. Reading his posts would give you some great tips. At some point you could send him a Personal Message through the TA system if your son has any need for info on travelling solo here.

Roughly:

Fly to Canada through Toronto or Montréal and on to Halifax.

6 days in Halifax then fly to Montréal

10 days between Montréal and Québec City then train to Toronto

10 days between Toronto and Niagara Falls then fly to Calgary

7 days in the Rockies then train or coach to Vancouver

6 days in Vancouver then coach to VI

7 days on Vancouver Island then return by coach to Vancouver to fly out.

Edited: 21 November 2011, 20:54
Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: Touring Canada in winter

p.s. If he changed gears slightly to allow 5 weeks in Canada, he could easily do ~18 days in Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montréal, Québec and ~16 days in the Rockies, Vancouver and some of Vancouver Island.

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: Touring Canada in winter

Agree with Mufti. Focus on some key areas and spend time getting to know them. Use flights to get from point to point, Greyhound bus service to get around locally.

Personally, I'd check out Florida at that time of year....

Unless he wants to ski, in which case there are several good ski areas across the country he could try out.

6. Re: Touring Canada in winter

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