With its cosmopolitan city centres, glorious mountain scenery, sweeping prairies and stunning wildlife, Canada is an extraordinary travel destination. The country’s west has always been a popular touring destination for Aussies, and combining an Alaskan Cruise with a Canadian Rockies adventure is almost seen as a rite of passage for many travellers. Explore one of North America’s great wildernesses, with blue-green glaciers, endless conifer forests, majestic peaks, historic towns and breathtaking national parks. The Rocky Mountaineer train journey through the region is an absolute must-do.
While you’re in the west, take some time to get to know Vancouver — renowned for its cultural scene, food and shopping. Over on stunning Vancouver Island, British Columbia’s capital Victoria offers a refined and genteel stay.
Head east to the fascinating French-speaking cities of Quebec and Montreal. Stroll the cobbled streets of the old city centres and try traditional Quebecois cuisine, such as game meat pie. Poutine (French fries, gravy and cheese curd) is Canada’s unofficial national dish, and you’ll find it on every menu! Don’t miss a visit to charming capital Ottawa or cultural and economic powerhouse Toronto — the gateway to fabulous Niagara Falls.
The USA has just as much to offer visitors. It’s an opportunity to visit some of the world’s greatest cities, including New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia. Revel in the world’s most amazing theme parks in Orlando, Anaheim and San Diego, or visit the entertainment capital that is Las Vegas. A journey through the Deep South is an extraordinary experience. Southern cities like Charleston and Savannah are packed with history, while the musical legacy of Nashville, Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans is second to none.
Leave enough time to immerse yourself in some of the country’s staggeringly beautiful natural landscapes, including the Grand Canyon, the great national parks, the sweeping plains of the mid-west and the wonderful Rocky Mountains.
Mexico offers a North American cultural experience like no other, and is so easy to do when combined with a USA holiday. Sample cosmopolitan culture and extraordinary cuisine in the vast metropolis that is Mexico City. Explore the ancient Mayan civilisation at fabled sites like Chichen Itza or Teotihuacan, and enjoy some of the world’s best beaches in resort centres like Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel and Cabo San Lucas.
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North America travel tips
➲ Only got a limited amount of time to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. Access our city guides here.
➲ Check the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website for travel advisories regarding your chosen destination, and always register your travel plans with Smart Traveller.
➲ North America is a huge continent with massive variations in climate across the USA, Canada and Mexico. Check the average temperature carefully for your travel dates and pack accordingly.
➲ Peak season in North America is generally the summer months of July and August. The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn can be good times to travel, especially to Canada where hotel prices are lower and the main tourist centres are less crowded. Spring is also the time to spot newborn wildlife, such as bear cubs in the Canadian Rockies. Winter is a wonderful time to visit many North American cities, but be prepared for sub-zero temperatures in many cases.
➲ When booking point-to-point airfares within the USA and Canada be aware that very few airlines (including full service options) include checked luggage in the ticket price. Pre-book your checked luggage when you purchase your ticket. It’s significantly cheaper than paying at the airport. Remember that US airlines overbook flights as a matter of course. Always check in early to avoid the possibility of being bumped from your flight.
➲ Tipping is expected in the USA, particularly within service industries such as hospitality where it represents a considerable part of the income of workers. The amount can be anywhere between 10 and 20% of the cost of your meal. Groups of six or more diners can attract an automatic service charge of up to 20%. Prices displayed in restaurants and bars in Canada don’t usually include the government sales tax and service charge. Don’t get caught out. The final bill can be significantly higher than anticipated.
➲ Food hygiene standards across the USA and Canada are excellent, but may be less so in Mexico. Restrict your intake of water to sealed bottles and always opt for food options that are freshly cooked. Avoid fresh salads and vegetables, which may have been rinsed in contaminated water. Avoid ice altogether unless you are absolutely certain it has been made from purified water. Practice high levels of personal hygiene and pack a comprehensive first aid kit.
➲ When visiting cities such as New York where there are lots of tourist activities on offer, consider the New York Pass or its equivalent. It will save you money, particularly over stays of three or more days. Accommodation in key tourist centres like New York and Chicago can be very expensive — and very small! Try booking accommodation outside the main centres, but with easy access to public transport. Free Wi-Fi is widely available in the USA and Canada in hotels, bars and restaurants.
➲ While travelling in North America be vigilant but not paranoid. Be open to experiences but be aware of your surroundings and personal safety at all times, particularly in remote neighbourhoods. Exercise extra caution in Mexico’s larger cities. It’s unwise to use public transport at night. Keep valuables concealed. If something feels wrong it probably is. Trust your intuition!
Browse all our North America destination stories and Big Five City Guides here.
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