Travel: A Big Country to Explore

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By Dale Sproule

Canada is the largest country in the world. For someone who comes from another country, it can be hard to imagine how huge it really is.

It’s hard to imagine that flying across the country could be every bit as expensive as flying to Europe and probably more expensive than zipping down to a sunny tourist destination like Jamaica or Florida – but it’s true. A return flight from the GTA to Vancouver during the summer usually costs a minimum of $750 per person simply to get where you’re going. Tickets to Calgary or Edmonton would cost about a hundred dollars less – and of course, you still have to cover the cost of food and accommodation on your holiday. A round trip ticket to Halifax from Toronto would cost approximately $400 per person.

Other modes of travel are available. You can enjoy a relaxing vacation on the train. VIA Rail Canada offers deluxe tours of the most scenic areas of the country, including the Rocky Mountains, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. They offer rail cars with deluxe bedrooms or sleeping berths, a dining car – and some nights at historic hotels along the route. But expect the cost to be several thousand dollars per person. You can begin your search for the great Canadian Rail Vacation at http://www.viarail.ca.

The same trip on a Greyhound bus is faster – just under 3 days to travel from Toronto to Vancouver – and could cost as little as $400 per person if you book in advance. It’s a good way to get from one place to another but offers little freedom of movement during the trip.

Driving from Ontario to British Columbia can be a real adventure, but if you are going to set off on such a trip, plan to spend most of your holiday on the road. An eight-hour drive from Toronto most likely won’t even get you out of Ontario. And it will take at least three more days of driving to reach the west coast – more if you stop to enjoy the journey – the wilderness, the badlands, the Rocky Mountains, and the countless attractions along the way.

If you are camping, it will still probably cost you $40 per night for a camping space and it is wise to book your campgrounds well before setting off on your trip. If you haven’t booked in advance and find the campgrounds full, you will almost certainly be able to find clean, comfortable accommodations in one of the many motels and hotels along the Trans-Canada route. Rates vary, but if you are planning to stay in hotels and motels, plan to spend at least $60 per night for the roof over your head and another $60 per day for food. Add in the cost of gas, and your low budget trip will probably cost you close to $2,000 even before you factor in the entertainment costs.

While very gratifying and worthwhile, this is not a trip you should take lightly. It will strain your vacation budget as much as any trip to the tropics – and won’t be nearly as restful. But it will be exciting, enlightening and awe-inspiring.

If you’re working with a smaller vacation budget, it might be wise to start exploring Canada a little bit at a time.

There are plenty of attractions closer to home – no matter where home is. It’s less than a one day drive between most cities in Ontario and Quebec, so a drive to Ottawa or Montreal from Toronto will give you a very nice vacation for much less than you would spend going across the country. You can avoid the border hassle of going to the US, avoid the exchange rate and discover many wonderful attractions in your new homeland.

Likewise, travel between BC and Alberta will open up exciting new vistas without costing you an arm and a leg. Planning a low cost trip is a bit more complicated if your starting point is Winnipeg – but even then, you’re just a couple days from Toronto and Niagara Falls.

The option almost everyone will be able to afford is exploring your own hometown. Every city in Canada features some great attractions and enjoyable events. It might be a good idea during your first year or two in Canada to explore what’s going on in your own community. You can find a small local tour company and sign up for a guided tour of your own hometown. Check your local media (and check out Western Union’s events guide on page 32) for special events in your area. One real advantage to taking a local tour is learning some great destinations to take your own out-of-town guests when they come to visit.

Any way you do it, exploring your new homeland is a great idea during the summer months.

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