Destination guide: Toronto, Canada
Toronto is one of the most important cities in Canada and has one of the best standards of living in North America. Among its main attractions are James Garden, the Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, Chinatown, Yorkville, the Town Hall, the CN Tower, Queen Street West, Niagara Falls and a wide range of bars, pubs, nightclubs, theatres and casinos.
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Toronto - Practical Information
Downtown Toronto is an easy-to-navigate grid, bounded by a hodgepodge of bohemian, ethnic and historic neighborhoods. The city’s southern edge is crisply defined by Lake Ontario. Just offshore are the Toronto Islands. The Harbourfront district sits between the lake and Union Station (Toronto’s main train station), forming the gateway to the skyscraping Financial District and historic Old York. The Theatre Block congregates around King St W, butting up next to the nocturnal Entertainment District (aka Clubland). Further north, Queen St parades east past City Hall toward the Eaton Centre and Dundas Sq.
Toronto’s main east-west streets are labeled ‘East’ or ‘West’ on either side of Yonge St (pronounced ‘Young’), the main north-south artery, which rolls north from the lake into chichi Bloor-Yorkville and beyond (it’s the longest street in the world!). The Church-Wellesley Village is a gay parallel universe a few blocks to the east. East Toronto extends from here through Cabbagetown, Greektown (The Danforth) and The Beaches community.
Over on the west side, low-key Baldwin Village and frenetic Chinatown bump into multicultural Kensington Market and the main University of Toronto (U of T) campus. The Annex is a student-dominated ‘hood northwest of U of T, adhering to Bloor St W. A short stroll along College St from Kensington Market is Little Italy, paralleling the artsy Queen West and West Queen West strips further south.
Lester B Pearson International Airport is 27km west of downtown.
Budget & Costs
Accommodation is likely to be your biggest expense, although as fuel prices rise, transportation ranks up there too. Getting around Toronto by public transit will cost you $3 to ride the bus, streetcar or subway. On weekends and holidays a $10 day pass will give 2 adults and 4 children unlimited travel all day.
Single travelers who rent a car, stay in decent B&Bs and eat at least one daily meal out will spend $200 or so per day. The total cost is only a little bit more for a couple traveling together. For those on a tight budget, costs can be brought down by staying in hostels or camping, self-catering from local markets, taking public transportation when available and limiting entertainment options. This will reduce your daily costs to around $90 to $100.
To break down the expenses you’ll incur: comfortable midrange accommodations start at $100 to $120 for a double room, usually including breakfast. A midrange restaurant meal with wine or beer costs between $30 and $40 plus tax and a tip. Rental cars cost from $40 to $60 a day for a compact-size vehicle, not including gas. Attraction admissions range from $5 to $25.
Discounts are widely available to children, students and seniors throughout the city. Many attractions also offer a family admission price, which can save dough for two adults and their brood.
As of July 2010, a new HST (Harmonized Sales Tax, incorporating both federal and provincial taxes) of 13% was introduced in Ontario and is added to nearly all goods and services.
1L gas: $1.15
1L bottled water: $2.50
Pint of microbrew beer: $6
Newspaper: $1 weekday; $2.50 weekends
Souvenir T-shirt: $18; $10 from street vendors on Queen Street West
Citizens of dozens of countries – including the USA, most Western European nations, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea – do not need visas to enter Canada for stays of up to 180 days. US permanent residents are also exempt. Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC; www.cic.gc.ca) has the details.
Nationals of other countries – including China, India and South Africa – must apply to the Canadian visa office in their home country for a temporary resident visa (TRV). A separate visa is required if you plan to study or work in Canada.
Single-entry TRVs ($75) are usually valid for a maximum stay of six months from the date of your arrival in Canada. Multiple-entry TRVs ($150) allow you to enter Canada from all other countries multiple times while the visa is valid (usually two or three years), provided no single stay exceeds six months.
Visa extensions ($75) need to be filed with the CIC Visitor Case Processing Centre ( [tel] 888-242-2100; [hrs] 8am-4pm Mon-Fri) in Alberta at least one month before your current visa expires.
Visiting the USA
Admission requirements are subject to rapid change. The US State Department (www.travel.state.gov) has the latest information, or check with a US consulate in your home country.
Under the US visa-waiver program, visas are not required for citizens of 36 countries – including most EU members, Australia and New Zealand – for visits of up to 90 days (no extensions allowed), as long as you can present a machine-readable passport and are approved under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA; www.cbp.gov/esta). Note you must register at least 72 hours before arrival, and there’s a $14 fee for processing and authorization.
Canadians do not need visas, though they do need a passport or document approved by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (www.getyouhome.gov). Citizens of all other countries need to apply for a US visa in their home country before arriving in Canada.
All foreign visitors (except Canadians) must pay a US$6 ‘processing fee’ when entering at land borders. Note that you don’t need a Canadian multiple-entry TRV for repeated entries into Canada from the USA, unless you have visited a third country.
Weights & Measures
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA; www.cbsa.gc.ca) has the customs lowdown. A few regulations to note:
- Alcohol You can bring in 1.5L of wine, 1.14L of liquor or 24 355mL beers duty free.
- Gifts You can bring in gifts totaling up to $60.
- Money You can bring in/take out up to $10,000; larger amounts must be reported to customs.
- Personal effects Camping gear, sports equipment, cameras and laptop computers can be brought in without much trouble.
Declaring these to customs as you cross the border might save you some hassle when you leave, especially if you’ll be crossing the US–Canadian border multiple times.
- Pets You must carry a signed and dated certificate from a veterinarian to prove your dog or cat has had a rabies shot in the past 36 months.
- Prescription drugs You can bring in/take out a 90-day supply for personal use.
- Tobacco You can bring in 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 200g of tobacco and 200 tobacco sticks duty free.
- Banks 10am-5pm Mon-Fri; some open 9am-noon Sat.
- General office hours 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
- Museums 10am-5pm daily, sometimes closed on Mon.
- Restaurants breakfast 8am-11am, lunch 11:30am-2:30pm Mon-Fri, dinner 5-9:30pm daily; some open for brunch 8am-1pm Sat & Sun.
- Bars 5pm-2am daily.
- Clubs 9pm-2am Wed-Sat.
- Shops 10am-6pm Mon-Sat, noon-5pm Sun, some open to 8 or 9pm Thu and/or Fri.
- Supermarkets 9am-8pm, some open 24hr.
Canada’s phone system is almost identical to the USA’s system.
Domestic & International Dialing
Canadian phone numbers consist of a three-digit area code followed by a seven-digit local number. In many parts of Canada, you must dial all 10 digits preceded by [tel] 1, even if you’re calling across the street. In other parts of the country, when you’re calling within the same area code, you can dial the seven-digit number only, but this is slowly changing. The pay phone or phone book where you are should make it clear which system is used.
For direct international calls, dial [tel] 011 + country code + area code + local phone number. The country code for Canada is [tel] 1 (the same as for the USA, although international rates still apply for all calls made between the two countries).
Toll-free numbers begin with [tel] 800, [tel] 877 or [tel] 866 and must be preceded by 1. Some of these numbers are good throughout Canada and the USA, others only work within Canada, and some work in just one province.
Dial [tel] 911. This is not the emergency number in the Yukon, Northwest Territories or Nunavut.
Local SIM cards can be used in European and Australian phones. Other phones must be set to roaming. If you have a European, Australian or other type of unlocked GSM phone, buy a SIM card from local providers such as Telus (www.telus.com), Rogers (www.rogers.com) or Bell (www.bell.ca).
US residents can often upgrade their domestic cell phone plan to extend to Canada. Verizon (www.verizonwireless.com) provides good results.
Reception is poor in rural areas no matter who your service provider is.
Coin-operated public pay phones are fairly plentiful. Local calls cost 25¢ (sometimes 35¢); many phones also accept prepaid phonecards and credit cards. Dialing the operator ( [tel] 0) or directory assistance ( [tel] 411 for local calls, 1 + area code + 555-1212 for long-distance calls) is free of charge from public phones; it may incur a charge from private phones.
Prepaid phonecards usually offer the best per-minute rates for long-distance and international calling. They come in denominations of $5, $10 or $20 and are widely sold in drugstores, supermarkets and convenience stores. Beware of cards with hidden charges such as ‘activation fees’ or a per-call connection fee. A surcharge ranging from 30¢ to 85¢ for calls made from public pay phones is common.
Japanese-style plug with two parallel flat blades
Two parallel flat blades above a large circular grounding pin