Certain circumstances made me decide to visit Canada. First, after my USA trip to visit my relatives, it was considered a bit unfair of me not visiting my other relatives in Toronto, Ontario since as they quoted “just nearby”. Second, my boyfriend wanted me to meet his family (gasp, my 1st meet with the parents!). His family lives in Montreal, Quebec area. Third, it makes sense to see what it would be like living there (if all this goes well)
So after much ado, we booked our tickets to coincide his favorite Quebec pastime, Bicolline, which happens every August (summer time). I was hoping to see Autumn but he said I would see more on that in the future (oh really? hmm). I will explain this interesting event in my Montreal post. To jump to the post, click here
Date of anticipation: Aug 7 to 22 = 2 and a half weeks vacation
Date of anti anticipation (if there is such a word) Aug 7 and 22 flight times. There are too many stopovers.
- Departure flight: Singapore – Tokyo – Chicago – Montreal – Toronto – Montreal (28 hours).
- Return flight: Montreal – New York – Hong Kong – Singapore (22 hours) + jetlag in both times.
My next visit (if ever) would probably 2 years after considering the torture of airport hopping and layovers.
Airlines of choice:
VIA rail is cheaper since train travel is slower but you do get bigger free luggage allowance (25kg) while domestic flights only allows carry on (9kg max) and checked-in luggage cost about 20CAD more for 23kg. Distance from both province is 1 hour by plane or 5 hour by train or 6 hour by car. Both Porter and VIA rail are accessible to the Metro stations in both province. Very convenient.
Porter Airline lands in downtown area of Toronto, suitable for business travel. However, please note that it lands on an “island” and you will need to board a ferry to cross to the mainland. Boat ride is only 5 mins but the waiting time to depart takes longer. It waits until everyone is on board so you don’t need to really rush to get out from the Arrival Hall. I didn’t know all of this info until I experienced it firsthand.
Cost wise, the international flight was 2,789 SGD. Yes, it was expensive. I am not sure why, maybe it is because the dates coincides with summer holidays. VIA rail was 70 CAD, Porter 142 CAD. I had to wait till both train and plane fare were on sale. Regular rate were 120 CAD for train and 200 CAD for plane. You can like their Facebook page to get updates with their promos.
I also took travel insurance with Ace for 68.20 SGD for 17 days.
As of the time, 1 CAD is 1.18 SGD
Ah, the places my passport can take me…not. I had to get my Canadian tourist visa before buying all those tickets. And since most flights heading to Canada by-pass US immigration, I need US visa as well (surprise, surprise). Well by golly, good thing I did my US visa 1st. Those requirements are really intensive. At least the Canadian visa do not need an interview. However, you cannot submit at the Embassy. In Singapore, we have the Visa Processing Center (VAC). You have to pay the visa fee (116 CAD) AND the visa processing (41 SGD). And if you don’t have time to pick up your visa approved passport, they can deliver it to you at a cost, of course. I got my 5 year visa, not bad. I think they could give longer duration but couldn’t because my passport expires every 5 years. For more info on visa processing procedure, visit VFS and Canada Embassy websites.
Canada Visa Application Centre
20 Cecil Street
#11-02 to 05 Equity Plaza
Taxes. There are two taxes you need to pay whenever you purchase or dine in restaurant: provincial and government taxes. The government tax is the usual goods and service tax (GST) while the provincial tax is paid to the province where you purchase the item. As a rough estimate, Ontario will have 13% in total while Quebec is 15%. Standard tip for dine-in is 15% of the total bill. That’s 30% extra cash you need to pay up every time! Side info: it is said that income taxes is at 40% – that’s crazy!
Weather and Clothing
Since we are visiting during summer period: June to early Sept, there is no change when dressing up in Singapore. Although, the Canadians did say that this year summer was cooler, which means, in Asian translation, bring a light cardigan. The nights are definitely cool and I would suggest to avoid wearing just shorts and sleeveless. You will find out why if ever you miss out this info. Autumn is a very good time to visit as the landscape scenery becomes “alive” with bright red and yellow colors. It looks amazing (in photos)
The train is the way to go around the city. In Toronto, it is called the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) while Montreal, it is the STM Metro. Three big things different from Singapore trains are that (1) eating and (2) bringing dogs are allowed inside (cool!). Singapore trains have a more modern look though. (3) Montreal metro needs an uplift and is not air-conditioned. I wonder how it feels like during rush hour or during winter.
Toronto. You either buy pass or tokens. Tokens is inserted at the entrance. The token is valid only for 1 ride. It doesn’t matter how far or near you go, it have the same fare although out (2.7 CAD). Passes comes in day (11 CAD), week (39.25 CAD) or monthly card. It really depends on how often to do you travel. For me, since I tend to go only 1-2 round trips and less than a week to tour around, I went with the tokens. You can buy them in any train station.
Montreal Metro Map
Montreal. We went around by car since his family lives outside of the city. If you are planning to just tour within the city, you don’t have to rent a car. There is a day pass for 10 CAD, single ride ticket is at 3 CAD. It made sense to explore Montreal using the day pass since we will be hopping from different stations more often.
I can’t really recommend on places to stay since we stayed at family or some friend’s home. Here are more useful links on your trip: