Transportation in Canada is a key factor to consider when planning your itinerary and choosing which cities to visit. For one thing, Canada is a large country - second largest in the world - and distances between cities may be greater than you think. Use the following overview to get an idea of your transportation options and how to best get around Canada.
In addition, many itineraries for travel in Canada may involve various modes of transportation, so coordination is key: picking up or dropping off rental cars, taking trains, or maybe booking your car on a ferry all require a slightly more complicated degree of planning.
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Getting Around Canada by Plane
Air Canada is Canada's oldest airline, flying to more Canadian destinations than any other airline. It is a Star Alliance member and has a fleet of planes that includes large jets like the Airbus 300 and the Boeing 777 to smaller propeller aircraft.
Nipping at Air Canada's heels as the next biggest airline in Canada is West Jet, which markets itself as a fun, no-frills, low-cost carrier. It operates a modern fleet of Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. The company is unique in that its employees are non-unionized and are offered a profit-sharing program.
The next biggest airline that operates among cities in Canada is Porter - a fast-growing short-haul carrier that operates in Central and Eastern Canada. Porter has become known for frequent sales and a civilized approach to air travel where customers are not treated like cattle.
To get to more remote parts of Canada that the major carriers do not service, you'll need to find the right regional or charter flight.
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Train Travel in Canada
Canada has a clean, efficient and far-reaching national rail system - VIA Rail that links eight Canadian provinces (rail service is not available Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland or the three northern territories).
VIA offers economy and business classes as well as sleepers for lengthy, overnight routes.
The cost of traveling VIA is comparable to that of flying - sometimes cheaper, sometimes more expensive. Advantages to taking the train may be arriving at a downtown location or being able to sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Many legs of VIA Rail's network are beautiful and scenic, such as the overnight train to Gaspe or the Jasper-Prince Rupert route through the Canadian Rockies. Another popular route is The Canadian - three and a half days of train travel between Toronto and Vancouver.
Other rail operators such as the Rocky Mountaineer specialize in routes with dramatic backdrops and are really more than just a mode of transportation.
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Driving in Canada
Driving to Canada or renting a car when you get here is a good option for exploring Canada and its plethora of wonderful towns and cities. All major airports in Canada have at least one car rental company on-site.
Canada's roads are generally well maintained and major highways link cities across the country.
A valid foreign driver's licenses should suffice for visitors driving in Canada. Note that we drive on the right hand side of the road in Canada and follow a set of laws and regulations similar to those in the United States, including car seat and booster seat regulations for children. These regulations vary by province and as a visitor, you may be exempt. Check with your rental car company or with the Ministry of Transportation of the province in which you'll be driving.
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Ferry Service in Canada
Canada has the most coastline in the world and the biggest lakes so ferry service is logically a significant mode of transportation in certain regions.
On the British Columbia coast and in the Maritimes especially, where there are lots of islands, ferries are necessary to getting around with and without cars. Sometimes, ferry service may be the more scenic choice, such as if going from Seattle to Victoria, B.C.