Figuring out how much money to budget for your trip to Canada is a key step to planning your vacation. You want to allot your money in the smartest ways possible for the Canada vacation that best suits you. Surprises can be nice - like a Drake sighting - but not on the credit card bill.
Canada is a relatively expensive travel destination mostly due to its size (a lot of travel between places) and its taxes: even more reason to carefully plan your trip and its budget.
Budgeting for a trip to Canada covers many of the same categories as for a trip to any other country and prices are similar to those in the United States with some differences*.
Transportation, accommodation, eating and doing stuff will eat up the bulk of your cash, but there are some other considerations special to Canada, like sales tax. Saving and spending wisely are possible for each category (excepts sadly the sales tax which is a fact of life in Canada) with a little forethought.
All the prices listed are in Canadian dollars and as of 2017. Most Canadian hotels, restaurants and stores accept credit cards.
*Canadian taxes will be added on to the bill of many of your purchases in Canada, including on clothing, hotel stays and dining. These taxes can increase your bill by up to 15%.
Budget Travel vs Luxury Travel
Of course, like any country, Canada offers a range of travel experiences from budget to luxury.
You can stay in a hostel or a five-hotel in any major city. One popular form of travel that appeals to both penny pinchers and big spenders is camping, which not only lightens the financial load but gives access to Canada's beautiful natural landscapes.
Budget travellers to Canada should plan on spending up to $100 per day, which includes a night's stay at a campsite, hostel, dorm or budget hotel, food from supermarkets or fast food restaurants, public transportation and limited attractions.
Midrange travellers should budget between $100 and $250 and high-end travellers should plan on spending at least $250 per day, which includes a night at an appropriately priced hotel or resort, most meals out and attractions.
Getting to Canada
Airfare to Canada obviously depends on where you are flying in from, however; in general, Canada is among the world's most expensive countries in which to fly.
The biggest airport in Canada is Toronto Pearson International Airport and you can fly direct from many worldwide cities.
The Vancouver and Calgary international airports in western Canada and the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport in Quebec on the other side of the country are the country's other major airport hubs.
You may want to consider flying into a U.S. airport and driving to Canada. Especially with the closeness of - for example - Buffalo and Toronto, flying into the U.S. may be a cheaper and even more convenient option.
Be sure to have all the right travel documents for visiting Canada.
Accommodation in Canada should probably work out to about half of your daily expenditures. The country has a wide range of hostels, dorms, vacation rentals bed and breakfasts and hotels, including most international brands like Holiday Inn, Sheraton, Hilton, Four Seasons, etc.
Cost saving accommodation includes hostels, university dorms (which are excellent money savers, especially in summer when students are out), camp grounds, motels and budget hotels (2-star), like Super 8 and Days Inn (both part of Wyndham Worldwide brand), Travelodge or Comfort Inn. These moderate accommodation choices will sometimes include breakfast and should cost between $25 to $100 per night.
Motels outside of major cities will often offer rooms for under $100 per night.
Vacation rentals - though they range greatly in price - offer excellent opportunity to save money on restaurant meals, parking, wifi and other expenses you would pay for at a hotel.
Mid-range hotels and bed & breakfasts (3 or 4 star) in Canada will run in the $100 to $250 range for major cities and less in towns or smaller cities.
The hotel price may include breakfast.
Luxury accommodation includes resorts, high-end hotels, lodges and bed & breakfasts (4 or 5 star) that can range from $200 to $500+. These hotels may or may not include breakfast. Many resort prices will include at least one meal.
Remember that taxes in the range of 18% will be added to your hotel bill, so a $100 hotel stay is actually closer to $120.
Transportation costs can be quite steep in Canada. Especially given the country is so large, making your way across it can mean costly airfares, train tickets or gas.
Most people will limit the extent of their trip to Canada and cover only specific geographic regions, such as the West Coast, the Toronto / Niagara region and / or Montreal Quebec and / or the East Coast, which includes the Maritimes provinces.
Most people rent a car when they visit Canada as it gives them flexibility and because the transportation costs do tend to be relatively high. If you can start or end your visit in a big city, like Toronto or Montreal, a car is generally unnecessary and you can save on parking.
Canadians do not use the train in the same way that Europeans do. Yes, there is a national train system, but destinations, connections and regularity are not great, especially given the steep cost. Nevertheless, the VIA train is a relaxing and scenic way to get yourself around Canada and has free wifi aboard.
Busses are definitely the cheapest way to make a long journey but of course, the downside is that they are not as quick as the train. Megabus is a bus line that offers express, discount service in southern Ontario and Quebec. All busses have free wifi and fares can be as low as a few dollars per hour of travel.
Taxis are a quick way to get around major cities, but less available the more rural you are. Taxis costs are generally determined by the meter except in some cases when there are fixed prices from major airports.
Taxis in Canada begin with a fixed rate of around $3.50 and then charge $1.75 to $2 per kilometre.
Cost to rent a car per day in Canada: $30 to $75
Cost for return VIA train ticket Toronto to Montreal: $100 to $300
One way airfare from Toronto to Vancouver $220 to $700
Commuter train cost from Hamilton to Toronto (about 1.5 hrs) is $12.10.
The light rail from Vancouver International Airport to downtown Vancouver (30 mins) costs $7 to $10.
Montreal subway tokens cost $2.25 to $3.25.
Food and Drink Costs
Food costs in Canada are slightly more expensive than in the United States, in part due to the 10% to 15% tax that will be added to your restaurant bill at the end of the meal. The prices listed on the menu are generally before tax. This means if you order a $10 burger, you're bill - depending on the province - will actually be something like $11.30. Then you would add another $2 for the tip, so the total bill would be about $13.
Open-air fresh food markets and supermarkets offer the chance to buy local fare and save on restaurant dining costs.
Alcohol will also be taxed at restaurants at various rates across the country by province. Sometimes taxes on alcohol are included in the listed price, such as in LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) stores in Ontario.
Breakfast at diner: $15
Coffee at Starbucks: $3 to $7
Dinner for two, including wine, at fine dining restaurant: $200+
Entertainment & Attractions, Sample Costs
Movie tickets: $12 to $18
Typical museum entrance cost: $12 to $22
Canada's Wonderland theme park entrance fee (includes rides, but not parking or food) $50
Whale watching excursion (3 hrs): $50 to $120, depending on size of boat and number of passengers.
Many of major Canadian cities will have an attractions pass that will save you money if you visit a number of attractions within a certain period.
Parking $3 to $10 per hour or $25 per day. Hotels in major cities will charge about $45 per day to park your car.
Tipping is customary in Canada right across the country. In general Canadians tip 15% to 20% for services, such as restaurant and bar servers, hairdressers, beauticians, cab drivers, hotel bellhops and more. See a complete guide to tipping in Canada.
For most casual visitors to Canada, the best advice for converting money is to use your credit card for purchases and make larger ATM local currency withdrawals at Canadian banks to last you a few days and avoid frequent withdrawal fees. See a complete guide to using your debit card and credit cards in Canada.