I'm going to take a business trip to Canada, Montreal in mid April for about a week. I'm flying from Europe (Germany via Netherlands).

Is there anything I should be aware of or take care of before travelling?

For instance, I know that you need to apply for ESTA (or Visa) if you visit the US. I don't know of anything like that for Canada, but still I could be overlooking something important. I heard a rumour that you still require ESTA, if your plane happens to fly (without landing) over US territory.

This is my current check list (excluding the obvious like clothes and stuff like that)

  • hotel + flight
  • passport
  • German id card (Personalausweis)
  • credit card
  • some cash in CAD (as a backup)
  • Where in Canada are you going? For example, Vancouver is further from Nova Scotia than England is. Especially in April the weather varies dramatically across the country. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 12:02
  • @KateGregory: Thanks for the feedback; It's Montreal (see my edit).
    – bitmask
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 12:06
  • I feel that the answers should focus on the ESTA part of the question - I believe this is incorrect (surely you don't need ESTA if you're simply flying over US airspace) and I believe the OP has confused transit (which you do need ESTA for) with flying over airspace. Everything else about 'how to prepare for travel to Canada' is too open-ended for Travel.SE. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 12:52
  • @AnkurBanerjee: The question was intended to address legal things and paperwork, etc., which is covered by the FAQ at the first bullet point: "customs & immigration, border crossing, visas and other travel documents such as permits". I too think, btw. that the ESTA rumour was rubbish, but better safe than sorry :)
    – bitmask
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 13:28
  • My point is that the question as it's phrased is VERY open-ended. Travel.SE is a Q&A site. While Kate's answer on its own is excellent, it (and this question) is more suitable for a forum. This is the reason why I left a comment asking people to focus on the visa details. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 16:20

1 Answer 1


Assuming you have a debit card on the Cirrus network, you should be able to get Canadian cash very easily. You should know we have two kinds of ATMs - those associated with a bank and the so-called "White label" ones that are typically in convenience stores and hotel lobbies and charge a much higher fee. The machine will tell you the fee as part of the transaction (and you can cancel without incurring it if you don't like it), but if you seek out a bank-associated one (on the outside wall of a bank, typically, though there may be bank-associated ATMs at the airport) you will save on fees.

It would help to know a little French - please, thankyou, and numbers for speaking, more than that for reading. You will find that written signs are often in French only (eg instructions in a parking garage) which you can probably muddle through with a phrasebook as long as you have the time. Most people speak English, but the signs don't give you that impression. Service people will typically greet you either with bonjour or hello-bonjour, which can be hard to recognize as a greeting at first.

If you don't have enough French to follow a TV show in it, and you don't care about Canadian sports and politics, you are not likely to enjoy watching TV in the hotel (the channels are half-and-half English and French and the hotels seem to carry less US channels than the rest of the country), so perhaps bring a book or something else for evening entertainment.

Montreal is a great city for walking and a horrible city for driving. Bring a guidebook and go for walks at lunchtime, check out the old city, and try not to sneer at us for considering that to be old. I recommend against having an opinion on The Two Solitudes, Distinct Society, and the like. Eg don't say "weren't you guys going to separate or something?" with people you've only just met. And bring your appetite! The food in Montreal is amazing. You should eat smoked meat and bagels, and poutine, because they're iconic, but you will also find wonderful fine dining, locavore, slow food, and more.

  • Thanks a lot for sharing these infos! Regarding the credit card thing; I only have Master Card. I trust I can pay with it normally everywhere and use the ATMs? As of French ... well I know merci and bonjour, school is a while ago -- I thought English would be the only thing I need (I hope that's not a sore point!), but that means I should probably pack a fr-de or fr-en dictionary, right? (I will most definitely not watch TV while I'm there.)
    – bitmask
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 12:53
  • +1 but Montreal is a great city for walking and a horrible city for driving compared to Toronto may be but not NYC. :)
    – Karlson
    Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 13:52
  • 1
    @Karlson The only city in the world I find worse for driving (even cab-passenging) than Montreal is Paris, and I have plenty of NYC experience. You are right that being better to walk or worse to drive than Toronto is not a hard bar to beat :-) Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 16:19

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