Helpful financial tips for travellers

What to expect

Canada’s modern, monetary system is easy to use. Banking facilities can be found almost everywhere and exchanging money is fairly painless. With the low cost of living most visitors will find Canada inexpensive to travel.

Canadian Currency

Canadian money is very similar to that of the USA. There are a few exceptions however.

Coins come in the following denominations:
One cent (Penny) – now discontinued.
Five cent (Nickel)
Ten cent (Dime)
Twenty Five cent (Quarter)
One Dollar (Loonie)
Two Dollar (Twoonie)

The Dollar coin is known as the Loonie due to the water bird that appears on one side, the common loon.

Paper currency, known as Bills, comes in the following denominations:
5, 10, 20, 50 and 100.

The larger bills are not very common and can prove difficult to use.

The penny has been discontinued from circulation so when you pay by cash, the figures are rounded to the nearest 5 cents.

Costs of living and travel

The cost of living in Canada is significantly lower to that of Europe and slightly less than the USA.

The cost of accommodation, which is also generally lower, will most likely be the biggest cost. Cities, especially Toronto and Vancouver, have a higher cost for accommodation which rises dramatically during the summer months. Other places which attract tourists have larger selections of midrange accommodation at reasonable rates.

Food is much cheaper than that of Europe and the cost for eating out is also quite low. Finding a good meal in a restaurant for 2 for under $20 is not hard.

Prices for gasoline (petrol) vary depending on service station, province and location.

Transportation can sometimes seem quite expensive but this is due to the distances required to travel. Buses are the cheapest usually. Train travel can work out better value but you have to be sure you have the right ticket or rail pass. Air travel is the quickest way to travel, often cutting days of travel time. There are a few discount airlines now but Air Canada still operates most routes.

Tipping is normally given to waiting staff, taxi drives, bellhops and other people in the service industry. A tip of 10 to 15% of the bill is standard. Sometimes a tip may be added on automatically. Check your bill to see if this is the case and you don’t need to leave a tip in this case.

Exchanging money

Changing money can be done at many places, especially in cities. Thomas Cook and American Express are the best places to do this. Banks are also available to change money and so are hotels, but these can prove more expensive.

American Express and Thomas Cook are the best travellers cheques to use in Canada. There can be quite high fees for cashing these at banks, so check first.

Remember banks are only usually open Monday to Friday from 10am until about 4.30pm. Some close earlier and others later.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are easy to find in Canada. All banks and trusts have them. They can usually be found in the form of small portable machines in larger stores, tourist attractions, petrol stations and in shopping malls.

ATMs are known in Canada as banking machines and support most foreign bankcards. If your bankcard has a Cirrus and Maestro symbol on the face or rear of the card it should be supported. Visa, MasterCard and American Express Cards can also be used to withdraw cash from ATMs but most banks only support one card.

It is recommended to carry a credit card while in Canada. Sometimes it is essential for accommodation, car rental or bike rental and many other activities or methods of transport.

Sales taxes

Provincial Sales Tax (PST), known as TVQ in Quebec, is charged on just about anything purchased in Canada and is different in each province. Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories do not have a Provincial Sales Tax. Alberta only charges PST on accommodation.

Goods and Services Tax (GST), known as TPS in Quebec, adds 5% to all purchases in additional to any applicable Provincial Sales Tax.

The following provinces have incorporated GST and PST into HST (Harmonized Sales Tax):

  • New Brunswick: 15%
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 15%
  • Nova Scotia: 15%
  • Ontario: 13%
  • Prince Edward Island: 15%

The following provinces have PST so expect the combination of at least 5% GST with a possible PST charge on applicable purchases:

If you operate in the following provinces, you need to collect 5% GST as well as provincial sales tax, with provincial sales tax rates as follows:

  • British Columbia: 7% provincial sales tax (PST)
  • Manitoba: 8% retail sales tax (RST)
  • Quebec: 9.975% Quebec sales tax (QST)
  • Saskatchewan: 6% provincial sales tax (PST)

Some small accommodation providers do not charge tax and there is no tax on groceries. Some provinces and cities have additional accommodation taxes and different rates of PST for the province. Check the full price including tax when booking a place to stay.

Prices are normally displayed without the tax.