“I never travel in my home country.”
That’s something I have heard from a lot of people – no matter what country they are from. I guess everyone craves something just a little more “exotic” than what they have at home. Whats great about Canada though, is the country is just SO huge and SO diverse that you can escape to a whole new world without even crossing a border.
Luckily I am not like the many quoted above. I have been lucky enough to travel fairly extensively in my home country of Canada, although I will be the first to admit that there is still a lot more in my country just waiting to be explored.
People come to Canada for lots of reasons. Nature. Culture. Snow. Study. Most people who arrive want to stay for longer. But Canada, like most developed Western nations can make some budget travelers weary. Activities are not always cheap, and there can be quite epic distances to cover between points of internet. So how can a budget traveler make the most of Canada on the least amount of coin?
How to find budget accommodation in Canada
Accommodation can easily become one of your biggest expenses in Canada but it doesn’t have to. Every city has a plethora of budget hostel and hotel options, and one way to make sure you get the best deal is to check at least 2 or 3 different booking websites, and don’t forget websites that offer Canadian coupons online as these sometimes have good hotel deals. Sometimes the same property will have different prices on different websites. Make sure to check if there are discounts for extended stays.
One of the best things about Canada are it’s stereotypical friendly people. And couchsurfing is one of the best ways to meet them. Couchsurfing is huge in Canada and members can be found in even the most far flung locations. Couchsurfing is like a social network for travelers where you can request to stay with a like minded traveler for free (although a gift from home or a cooked meal is often appreciated), so not only can you cut down on costs, but you will also meet new and interesting people.
One thing to keep in mind when searching for accommodation in Canada is location. Some Canadian cities are absolutely GIGANTIC, and it can be worth it to pay more but be closer to the action.
How to get around on the cheap in Canada
Public transportation within cities is incredibly reasonable in Canada, but getting between major cities can be a bit more costly given the massive distances sometimes involved.
There are two major air carriers in Canada; Air Canada and West Jet. West Jet has the reputation for being cheaper, but that isn’t always true so it pays to check both airlines when researching tickets. Another option is the Greyhound bus. These buses, are reliable, but the journey can be a long one so make sure you are settled in. The best time to buy bus tickets is in advance and on online as it is significantly cheaper than buying a ticket from the depot.
Greyhound runs all over Canada, but there are other bus lines as well. Megabus runs between the major routes of Toronto – New York, and Toronto – Montreal. If you book in advance you can sometimes score tickets for as low as $1.
There is nothing better than the trans Canada road trip, but renting a car can be really expensive in Canada. Most agencies will hit you with major fees if you are under 25, and I won’t even get into the horrendous one way rental charges. If you plan to drive from one city to another (which I highly recommend), then you might want to consider buying a car and then selling it on before you go. You can check out AutoTrader to get an idea of prices.
Eat on the cheap in Canada
Canada has no shortage of delicious, delicious fast food chains. One of our favourites is Smokes Poutinerie. And a breakfast favourite of mine is Perkins. (Who wouldn’t love a place where you can get eggs, bacon, sausage, haskbrowns, 3 pancakes and bottomless coffee for around $10?)
For those who want to self cater there is no shortage of budget supermarkets with mind boggling selection. My Australian husband didn’t know where to start when he first saw a Canadian supermarket…. I think he was in shock. Your best bet for savings is SuperStore.
You can read about some of our favourite Canadian foods here.
This is a mixed bag. Some things can be rather expensive to do in Canada – like skiing for example, and some things are much cheaper than you would expect – like Niagara Falls. I guess it all evens out. But for ever expensive attraction (like Grouse Mountain), there is always a fun cheap (or free) alternative (like Stanley Park). It all depends on your priorities.
Canadian prices are generally cheaper than similar items found in Europe and are MUCH cheaper than similar items in Australia or New Zealand. This is especially true with technology. If you have been thinking of upgrading your camera or computer, you might want to consider waiting until you land in Canada as the savings can be extraordinary.
Canada isn’t the cheapest place to travel to, but it certainly isn’t impossible either. With a little pre-planning, a little pre-booking, and a bit of self catering, anyone can afford their dream holiday to Canada.