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Canada Ideal for Summer Vacation?

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/7/2006 | Travel

All other consideration apart, Canada is a budget traveler's paradise. It's ideal for spending your summer vacation in, because you might actually be saving money traveling there, than by staying home doing nothing.

Well, that's an exaggeration, but it isn't very far from the truth. If you enter Canada with American dollars in your pocket, everything suddenly becomes cheap! The Canadian dollar is worth only about 66 American cents, and you find yourself in a heaven of cut-price commodities. Whatever you buy, whatever you eat, wherever you go it's like getting a 35% discount on everything! It's a shopper's heaven and a budget traveler's dream come true.

And you're going to need that saved bit, too. For Canada is a large country at almost five thousand kilometers wide, it's even larger than the United States. It's a country of vast distances and great natural resources, and you can't hope to do justice to its possibilities in one short trip. You shall need to travel widely to give yourself an idea of the great variety of Canadian landscapes, as also of its people and cultures.

The countryside views of Canada are terrific, but its cities have a peculiar charm too. Though it's a large country, its population is very sparse only about 35 million, which comes down to not more than 3 people per square kilometer! Consequently, the whole place has a sort of laid back, relaxed and peaceful quality about it that's hard to find in the US, or even in Europe. Canadian cities, too, are smaller than American or European cities, and have a certain provincial charm to them! Visit the capital Ottawa, and also the other great urban centers like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

If you're coming from Texas, California, Nevada or such like, you'll find that spending a part of your summer vacation in Canada is a very good idea indeed, for its climate if not for anything else! Even the southern parts of the country are cooler in summer than most areas of the US. And if you want to experience a true chill, move up to the Hudson Bay or even farther north, near the Alaskan border. Not even the New England states in America can match these regions for the sheer chill factor!

One great way to see all that the country has to offer is to travel by train. Canada has a vast railway network that will take you through forests and mountain tunnels, across rivers and along the sides of great lakes, and give you the visual experience of a lifetime. Also, be sure to visit the chain of fine railway hotels that were built at the juncture of the 19th and 20th centuries to provide superior service to important travelers. These hotels, still operative under private management, look somewhat like castles or chateaus, and are now considered heritage sites. If your budget permits staying at some of these, you'll bring away with you one of the finest experiences of your trip, with respect to service, food, accommodation and the view.

And always remember that Canada is a country that is almost split in two on the basis of language and culture. Americans, having lived in a mono-cultural country all their lives, will find this difficult to conceive. Canada is an English speaking country like the US, but because of certain historical reasons, there are large populations in some areas (specially in and near the province of Quebec) who speak only French. The culture, the food, and even the laws of those places are of French origin. So if you're planning to travel to Quebec or in its vicinity, it wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up a minimal smattering of the language first, so that you can at least ask for food, water and shelter and pay the right prices for them.