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Canada

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Summary

  • Exercise normal safety precautions in Canada. Use common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travel conditions.
  • You'll need to get an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) before you travel to Canada, even if you are just transiting. See Entry and exit
  • If you're a dual Australian-Canadian citizen, you're not eligible for an eTA – you'll need to present a valid Canadian passport to enter Canada. See Entry and exit
  • The recreational use of cannabis is legal in Canada subject to provincial or territorial restrictions. There is a strict legal framework around its use. See Laws
  • There are restrictions on the import of certain medications, including 'over-the-counter' and prescription drugs. Contact Health Canada for advice before you travel. See Health
  • Parts of Canada experience extreme weather. Earthquakes, avalanches, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and tsunamis are also possible. See Natural disasters

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

Visas

You'll need to get an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) before you travel to Canada by air, whether your visit is for tourism, business, study, work, transit or any other purpose.

If you have a criminal record, including a drink-driving conviction, you may not be allowed into Canada.  Please check the Government of Canada website for information on overcoming inadmissibility.

Penalties may apply if you overstay.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact a Canadian High Commission or Consulate for up-to-date information.

The Australian Government can't provide assistance with visa issues of Australians seeking to enter Canada. This includes those with valid Canadian visas who are refused permission to enter or are required to depart.

If you're travelling to Canada through the United States, including if you are transiting Honolulu or another US point of entry, you must meet US entry/transit requirements. Check your visa requirements with an Embassy or Consulate of the United States well in advance of your travel.

More information:

Other formalities

If you'll be travelling with children, travelling with pets or bringing goods into Canada, consult the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for advice on documentation requirements.

If your child is travelling alone, with only one parent or guardian, or with friends, relatives or a group, CBSA may question the child or accompanying adult regarding the child's status. Carry a consent letter from parents or guardians who are not accompanying the child to prove that the child has their permission to travel abroad.

More information: Travelling with children (Government of Canada)

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the High Commission for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Canadian dollar (CAD). You can exchange Australian dollars for CAD at commercial banks and exchange bureaux. Declare all amounts over CAD10,000.

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted throughout the country.

Safety and security

Crime

The crime rate in Canada is similar to that in Australia. Crime is more likely in large cities.

Petty crime such as pick pocketing and street theft can occur at tourist destinations, hotels and on public transport. In larger cities, theft from unattended vehicles is common.

As in Australia, credit card scams and other fraud are risks.

  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying valuable items in public or in motor vehicles.
  • Carry only what you need for the day. Leave other valuables in a secure location. 
  • Pay attention to your personal belongings, particularly on public transport and in crowds. Don't leave handbags or luggage unattended.
  • Regularly check your credit card statements – immediately report any suspicious transactions to your bank.
  • Keep an eye on local sources of information on crime.

More information: Internet, email and telephone scams (Government of Canada)

Terrorism

Isolated terrorist attacks have occurred in Canada. Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Road travel

Heavy snowfalls, freezing rain and icy conditions make driving in Canada during winter particularly treacherous. Car accidents, including fatalities, are more prevalent in such conditions.

  • Familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Check weather and road conditions before you travel.
  • Prepare your vehicle, including by fitting snow tyres (which are compulsory in many provinces).
  • Carry reserve water, food and blankets.
  • Drive defensively and to conditions.
  • Don't drink and drive.

Traffic and safety laws can differ slightly between provinces but across Canada:

  • seat belts are compulsory for all motor vehicle occupants
  • children weighing less than 40 pounds (18 kilograms) must use child car seats.

More information:

Driver's licence

You can drive in Canada with an International Driver's Permit (IDP), together with your Australian licence, for up to a year. After that you will need a local driver's licence. Make sure you obtain your IDP before leaving Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Taxis are generally a safe mode of transport. Ride sharing options are widely available. Adopt the same safety precautions that you would in Australia

Cannabis (marijuana) is still an illegal substance in Canada, unless you have express permission from Canadian authorities to use it. The Government of Canada has introduced legislation aimed at the eventual legalisation of cannabis (marijuana), but local police continue to enforce current laws.

More information: Legalization and regulation of cannabis (Canadian Government)

Public transport

Canada has well-developed and generally reliable rail and bus services.

Sea travel

A large number of international cruise liners visit Canada.

More information: Going on a cruise

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Canada.

Arctic travel – including by cruise ships

The Arctic is vast. Many Arctic destinations are remote from search and rescue, evacuation and medical facilities. If you get in trouble, search and rescue responses may need to be despatched from many hundreds of kilometres away. Assistance to stranded vessels can take several days to arrive, particularly in bad weather. Consular assistance in such areas is affected by the capacity of local authorities.

Before you book travel by ship:

  • assess the on-board medical facilities, including for any pre-existing medical conditions you may have
  • talk to cruise operators about medical arrangements
  • make sure you can get adequate travel insurance that covers evacuation, medical treatment and repatriation costs, if needed.

Wildlife

Bears and other dangerous wildlife live in forested areas.

  • Get local advice before hiking in areas inhabited by bears or other animals.
  • Respect wildlife laws.
  • Maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds.
  • Only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators.
  • Closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

Winter sports and adventures

Winter sports can be risky, even fatal. Injuries are common, even for the most experienced. Some mountainous areas of Alberta and British Columbia experience avalanches. Skiing, snowboarding and riding skidoos (snow mobiles) on closed trails is unsafe.

  • Confirm your travel insurance will cover your chosen sporting or adventure activity before you do it.
  • Don't go on closed trails.
  • Whatever the time of year, advise friends or family of your proposed hiking, biking or skiing route and what time you expect to return.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions and advice of local authorities.

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

The legal drinking age in Canada is set by each provincial government and varies across the country. If you're around 18 years of age and wish to consume alcohol, first check the legal drinking age with the local liquor board or commission.

The recreational use of cannabis (marijuana) is legal in Canada subject to provincial or territorial restrictions. The legal age varies between each province and territory. There is a strict legal framework around the use of cannabis, including but not limited to: possession, purchase, sharing and production. Illegal distribution, impairment, giving or selling cannabis to a person under the legal age, possession of cannabis over the legal amount can incur criminal penalties, including jail time. It is illegal to transport cannabis across Canada’s international borders, including to and from the United States.

More information: Cannabis laws and regulations

Other laws

Surrogacy laws can be complex. Seek independent legal advice before entering into any commercial surrogacy arrangement.

More information: Overseas birth, adoption and surrogacy

If you're arrested in Canada, you have the right to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities advise the nearest Australian High Commission or Consulate of your arrest.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law 

Dual nationals

Canada recognises dual nationality.

Under Canadian law, if you are a Canadian dual national, you must use your Canadian passport to enter and exit Canada. Dual nationals are not eligible for an eTA.

If you're a dual national, make sure your Canadian passport and your Australian passport both remain valid, including during your stay in Canada.

Provincial residential requirements apply to Canadian public healthcare services. Even if you're a dual national, you may not be eligible for free healthcare in Canada. See Health.

More information: Dual nationals (Government of Canada)

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, contact Health Canada for up-to-date information on any quantity restrictions or certification requirements that may apply to prescription and 'over-the-counter' medicines you wish to take to Canada or that may be detectable in your body when you're there. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is (including the generic name), how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information:

Health risks

Health risks in Canada are broadly similar to those in Australia.

More information: Health Canada

Medical facilities

The standard of health facilities in Canada is similar to that in Australia. But the public health system is not easily accessible to temporary visitors. Provincial residency requirements apply. There is no reciprocal health care agreement in place between Australia and Canada.

Many physicians will not take new patients but walk-in medical clinics are available in major cities.

If you're not eligible for free services, you'll generally need to pay in full at the time the service is provided.

Natural disasters

Many parts of Canada are subject to natural hazards, including extreme heat, extreme cold, fire, earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis.

  • Keep an eye on the weather and other environmental conditions throughout your stay.
  • Subscribe to local emergency alert systems, operated by the various provincial and town authorities.
  • Monitor local media services.

If there is a natural disaster: 

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag)
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • closely monitor the media and other local sources for updates and advice
  • follow the instructions and advice of local authorities.

If you are in an area affected by severe weather:

  • secure your important documents (examples: passport, driver licence, airline ticket information, credit and debit cards, cash) in a zip-lock bag and carry it on you at all times or keep it in a safe, waterproof location. 
  • closely monitor the media, Environment Canada and the US National Hurricane Centre for information on weather conditions and any weather alerts issued by local authorities
  • follow the instructions and advice of local authorities.

More information:

Hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather

During summer, temperatures in many parts of Canada can reach more than 30 degrees Celsius. Many areas experience humid air that can make the temperature feel as much as 10-15 degrees higher. These conditions can generate severe storms and tornadoes, especially across the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Winter in Canada can bring heavy snowfalls, rain, ice and severe cold. The wind-chill factor can make it feel significantly colder than the actual air temperature, creating dangerously cold outdoor conditions. Temperatures of -20 to -30 degrees Celsius, with a wind-chill factor as much as 10-15 degrees lower, are common in winter in some areas.

Hurricanes can occur in the Atlantic Provinces from June to November and tornadoes occur in some areas of Canada between April and September. Tornadoes can occur almost anywhere in Canada, including southern Ontario, Alberta, south-eastern Quebec and from southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba to Thunder Bay.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Hurricanes can also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who choose to stay.

If a hurricane is approaching, follow the advice for all natural disasters above and:

    • identify your local shelter
    • be ready to follow your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans.

More information: Environment Canada

Fire

Forest fires regularly occur throughout Canada particularly during the warmer months (May - August). Check local media before visiting forested areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

The province of British Columbia is in an active earthquake zone. Earthquakes have also occurred in Quebec and Ontario, in eastern Canada.

Destructive tsunamis are rare but Canada and the Pacific Ocean region's susceptibility to earthquakes means Canada is also susceptible to tsunamis.

If you are near the coast, move immediately to the nearest high ground or as far inland as you can if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea.

Do not wait for official warnings.

More information:

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Firefighting and rescue services: 911
  • Medical emergencies: 911
  • Criminal issues: 911

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact the nearest Australian High Commission, Consulate-General or Consulate.

Australian High Commission, Ottawa

If you're in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario (excluding the south-western corner below Kingston), Prince Edward Island, or Quebec, contact the Australian High Commission in Ottawa.

Australian High Commission, Ottawa
Suite 1301, 50 O'Connor Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6L2 CANADA   
Phone: +1 (613) 236 0841
Fax: +1 (613) 786 7621
Email: consular.ottawa@dfat.gov.au
Website: canada.highcommission.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in Canada
Twitter: @AusHCCanada

Australian Consulate General, Toronto

If you're in the Greater Toronto Area (the south-western corner of Ontario below Kingston), contact the Australian Consulate General in Toronto.

Australian Consulate General, Toronto
Suite 1100, South Tower
175 Bloor Street East
Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R8 CANADA   
Phone: +1 416 323 4280
Fax: +1 416 323 4295

Australian Consulate, Vancouver

If you're in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan or Yukon Territory, contact the Australian Consulate in Vancouver.

Australian Consulate, Vancouver
Suite 2050, 1075 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6E 3C9 CANADA   
Phone: +1 604 694 6160
Fax: +1 604 684 1856

Check the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures at each office, which may affect service provision. Book appointments for passports and consular services for all our locations in Canada by visiting the 'Australians' tab on our website.

In a consular emergency, if you're unable to contact the Australian High Commission, Consulate-General or Consulate, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources