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Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Sheffield
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Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Hi - I've finally sorted out my itinerary for my trip to Canada in August & am now looking for some ideas for must-see places in each of the relevant cities, as well as ideas about areas to stay.

We will be 2 females travelling without a car and so we will be relying on public transport to get about. With this in mind, what things do you think we should definitely see & where are the best areas we should stay.

During our visit we will have either 1 or 2 full days in Quebec. Is 1 full day (that is 3 nights) enough to see the key parts of the city? I dont know much about Ottawa but as the capital I want to see the major places. I've also read that you can take a short cruise on the Rideau. Can you suggest who does this & whether we would need to book in advance? With only a short amount of time in Ottawa we really want to make the most of the time we have there.

We will be flying from Toronto to Ottawa and then flying on to Quebec. I'd appreciate any advice about transfers to & from the airport as well.

Any help would be much appreciated. :)

Sheffield
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11. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Thanks for all the great information Wine-4-2, there's lots for me to look at there. I'll def check out the other airline & airport you mention & see how that will work too.

I just have a couple more questions about the trains:

* can you reserve actual seat numbers & hence avoid having to arrive extra early to find a seat?

* I'm in the UK. Can I book tickets directly on the Via website? I wondered because there is a section for international travellers pointing us to local agents instead. I'd much rather book on the rail site directly if I can.

Thanks

Ottawa, Canada
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12. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

When booking through the VIA website, the seats are assigned. You can indicate whether you prefer a window or aisle seat. As a booking confirmation, you should print the document emailed to you (or you can print from the browser’s window directly). This confirmation is NOT a ticket and should be exchanged for actual tickets before boarding the train either at the self-serving kiosk (similar to those at airports) or at the train station agent. You will need to show the same credit card as used for the booking.

13. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

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Ottawa, Canada
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14. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

You can indeed book Via Rail tickets on-line from an overseas location. You will receive a printed booking confirmation, which includes an alphanumeric booking code with a barcode. You print the booking confirmation and take it with you to the station when you pick up your tickets. The agent will ask to see the credit card you used for the purchase, or at major station you can simply scan the barcode at an electronic kiosk and print your own tickets.

There is no charge for reservations or seat assignment, unlike the practice in the UK where you pay a separate seat fee.

Via Rail corridor trains are reserved, but not every train has assigned seats in economy class (equivalent to UK standard class). Business class (equivalent to a Pullman-style meal service in the UK) seats are always assigned, and the fare includes a meal and beverages.

If a particular train does not have assigned seats you are guaranteed a place, but the actual seats are allocated on a first come basis as you board the train. If the particular train does have pre-assigned seats it will be indicated on the booking form and your ticket.

The system used for boarding trains is significantly different in North America than in Europe. At the major stations the platforms are closed access with no admission until the train is called, just like at an airport boarding gate. When the train boards the staff will direct you to the appropriate coach for your destination. At intermediate stations the platforms are open access, but the boarding is similarly directed by an on-board staff member, who also assists with loading and unloading luggage as required.

Ottawa, Canada
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15. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Hi SheffieldMoon,

Again good info here on Ticketing from my colleagues… I would just add…

Trains in what is known as the Windsor to Quebec City Corridor (Windsor – Niagara FallsToronto – Ottawa – MontrealQuebec City) have reserved placement… but not necessarily assigned seating (seat numbers). It seems to depend a lot on which equipment Via Rail is using, and time of day of travel etc.

It has been my experience in travel throughout "the Corridor" that sometimes the train will indicate seat numbers… and other times not (for BOTH Coach & Via One). Oftentimes you are just told which Rail Car to sit in based on your Final Destination.

Similarly some trains offer check baggage… while others you just take your bags on-board and they are deposited in an area near the door that you board… assistance with bags also differs from City to City… at most locations there are NO PORTERS… and one must lug your own bags (to and from the Platforms and the Station this could include any of the following... Stairs, Escalators or Ramps)... so having wheeled luggage is a true benefit. Sometimes when actually boarding the train a Train Conductor will help you up the steps with your luggage into the Rail Car.

Via Rail Trains are set up much like a plane… a centre aisle with large seats, two each side of the aisle, and the seats recline… (they also swivel to accommodate groups of 4 persons so that they face each other… but it is in my experience that Conductors are reluctant to do this for Passengers). There are usually sets of 4 seating configurations at either end of the Rail Car (so for pods in total).

The trains have large windows to see out of… and shades that lower and raise to control the sun shining into the train… overhead you’ll find buttons much like on a plane… one for air and another for a pin-point reading light. Lights in the Rail Car will remain on… although the Conductor does have the ability to dim them at night. There is also Wifi Service available on most Via Rail runs in Canada (although quality of service can sometimes be affected by locations of the train, or poor weather conditions messing with the satellite reception).

You can stow your carry-on items under your seat, at your feet, and in the bins above (again much like an airline). Baggage limits and size restrictions on the train are much more lax than with air travel… the one exception seems to be with bikes… those are not “happily” greeted on trains that don’t have separate baggage cars.

The line-up process for Coach can be a pain… as in most cases it is due to the often unassigned seating… Travellers tend to line up early (especially if they are in a group of 3 or 4 Travellers wanting to sit together in the few pods of 4 that are available). Or someone wanting to sit in a particular spot... (ie window seat). Line-ups tend to begin 45 Minutes to an Hour BEFORE the scheduled departure.

Services in Coach are pretty basic... the Conductor will come around to check your ticket... and there is beverage & snack service (again sort of like a plane... the Conductor will push a cart thru the aisle)... You'll find Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, Water, Pop and Juice on offer... along with things like premade & wrapped sandwiches, fruit, cookies, chips etc. Prices are not cheap... but rather fair for the "convenience" factor. On long journeys many Travellers just bring aboard their own eats

Via One Service is totally different... as stated there is a Passenger Lounge, and complimentary Coffee etc. No lining up... you get priority boarding when the Train is called. Via 1 is also considerably more expensive (because of the Meal & Alcohol served)… so as such also tends to be less crowded… it is not uncommon for single passengers to be able to spread out over a two-seat area (Via One is a whole other discussion on what is available in this class... IF you require that info let us know).

Train is a common way of travelling in the Windsor to Quebec City Corridor… and used heavily by a myriad of people… Business Travellers – Tourists – University Students – Families – and Seniors. Because it is so popular, you’ll find that trains are always met by a good line-up of taxi cabs waiting to wisk one away (about 10 Minutes to Downtown).

Here in Ottawa the Main Train Station is also located on our East-West major Transportation Corridor… which includes a nearby OC Transpo Bus Station (known as Train Station, which is a 2 Minute walk).

Via Rail – Ottawa Train Station = www.viarail.ca/en/stations/ontario/ottawa

OC Transpo’s Rapid Service Bus # 95 provides an easy connection from the Train Station to the Downtown Area (about a 10 Minute Ride no transfers)… again info is similar to that given for the Airport Connection and Route # 97 above… you will exit at the Albert-Metcalfe Stop and walk the block or so back to the Lord Elgin Hotel.

OC Transpo = http://www.octranspo1.com/?from=splash

Hope this is helpful,

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Ottawa, Canada
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16. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

One minor correction to the above info regarding air travel... As of May 1st, Air Canada also flies out of the Toronto Island Airport. Currently just to Montréal, but they will be continually adding flights to eventually match Porters route network.

Pricing will be very agressive where Air Canada and Porter compete head-to-head... so just one more consideration when you settle on your dates ...

Happy Planning :)

Ottawa, Canada
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17. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

TO TRAVELINMAN314,

Thanks for the addition / correction...

I had read the news story awhile back that the "dispute" had been resolved... on who had rights to the Billy Bishop Field... so thanks for pointing out the date that this went into effect.

Agree... competition will be fierce now... and consequently pricing should be "even more" favourable for the consumer.

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Sheffield
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18. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Thanks for all the information about the trains. It sounds like a very different system to what we have in the UK & so it's interesting to hear what will actually happen. I think perhaps it is a more organised system than we have as well.

From everything you have all said, I presume you recommend the trains?

Ottawa, Canada
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19. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Hi SheffieldMoon,

Lol... Self-Driving is the BEST WAY to see Canada... bar none... public transit just doesn't go everywhere one wants to be... Inter-City Transit (Bus or Train) is set up so as to take the shortest route between places... and that usually isn't the most scenic... and infact public transit doesn't even go to some of the great places to sightsee in Canada or if it does, it tends to be EXPEN$IVE and inconvenient / infrequent (example the 1000 Islands)

BUT if one doesn't have that option and only can use public transit then for the most part a Train is much better than the Bus (but Train costs more... but they are far more comfortable).

And comparing Trains to Planes is strictly on a per situation basis.

It will depend entirely on your BUDGET... if you have the CA$H to fly out of Billy Bishop Field at the Toronto Island Airport up to Ottawa, then that would be an EXCELLENT Choice... as it will be quicker than going thru Pearson.

Ottawa to Quebec City flying is the best alternative when it comes to public transit (as both Bus & Train have to connect thru Montreal). Look to Air Canada or WestJet for direct flights to Quebec City.

Quebec City to Montreal and Bus and Train take the same amount of time (aprox 3 Hours). Bus is cheaper than train and runs more often... and for such a short flight between Quebec's two largest cities it is very time consuming (hassle to get to the airports in the burbs, check-in, security, etc) and expensive to fly.

Montreal to Toronto... and your choices are again all 3... Bus is the slowest but also the cheapest, Train is moderate, and Plane is the fastest but also the most expensive.

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Edited: 10 May 2011, 22:30
Sheffield
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20. Re: Finalised itinerary looking for ideas in Ottawa

Thanks Wine-4-2 for some great advice & tips :)

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