Canada

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 08 May 2015.   This advice has been reviewed and updated. The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Canada.

Canada overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Canada. You should exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia. Monitor the media and other sources for changes to local travelling conditions.
  • In October 2014, a security incident in the Parliament Hill area of Ottawa resulted in the death of a member of the security forces.
  • You should be aware that you may be required to pay in full at the time of service for Canadian health services as there is no reciprocal healthcare agreement in place between Australia and Canada. Travel insurance is strongly recommended, including for dual Australian-Canadian citizens who may not be eligible for free Canadian healthcare due to provincial residential requirements.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
    • follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Canadian High Commission or Consulate for the most up to date information. Visa information is also available from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Further information on travel document requirements, travelling with pets, travelling with children and bringing goods into Canada is available from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Business travellers should contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada to enquire about eligibility to visit Canada on business. See also our Business travellers bulletin.

If you are currently in Canada and are seeking advice on how to extend your stay, contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

It is your responsibility to ensure your travel document/passport and visa remain valid during your stay in Canada. Penalties may apply if you overstay your visa.

If you are travelling to Canada through the United States of America (USA), or if you are transiting Honolulu or another USA point of entry, you are required to meet USA entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check with your nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States regarding your visa requirements well in advance of your travel. You will also find information on US entry and exit requirements in our travel advice for the United States of America.

Travellers who hold a criminal record may not be able to enter Canada. Travellers should contact the nearest Canadian Embassy or Consulate well in advance of your travel. Information is also available from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Children travelling alone or with only one parent should carry a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent(s). The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) may question you or the child regarding the child’s status and supporting documentation may be beneficial. More information is available at the CBSA website.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

On 20 October 2014, a member of the Canadian security forces was killed and another injured in a suspected militant attack at a shopping centre in Quebec. On 22 October, a security incident in the Parliament Hill area of Ottawa resulted in the death of another member of the security forces.

Canadian authorities have made a number of arrests of individuals alleged to be involved in planning attacks in Canada and elsewhere.

We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Canada. Pay close attention to your personal security, as you would in Australia, and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.

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.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves. In larger cities, theft from unattended vehicles is common. You should avoid leaving possessions in a parked vehicle.

Canadian emergency services can be reached by dialling 911.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency is not accepted in Canada and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many places. Consult your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering and theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the General advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Local traffic and safety laws are determined by provincial governments and may differ slightly between provinces.

Seat belt use is mandatory for all passengers in Canada and child car seats must also be used by children weighing less than 40 pounds (18 kilograms).

Winter driving conditions in Canada can be treacherous due to heavy snowfalls, freezing rain and icy conditions. Car accidents, including fatalities, can occur during these hazardous conditions. You should take appropriate precautions. Snow tires are required in many provinces. The Canadian Automobile Association provides helpful tips for winter driving.

The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure provides links to provincial road condition websites. Transport Canada provides detailed information on road conditions across Canada. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Environment Canada provides detailed information on weather conditions across Canada.

Airline safety

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

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Canada, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. 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. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay. If 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.

Australians visiting Canada for the purposes of commissioning commercial surrogacy arrangements should seek independent legal advice before doing so. You should see our Overseas births, adoptions and surrogacies page for further information.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Health

The standard of health facilities in Canada is comparable with that in Australia but the provincially run health care systems are not easily accessible to temporary visitors. Many physicians will not take new patients, however walk-in medical clinics are available in major cities. Visitors who seek medical attention in Canada should be prepared to pay in full at the time the service is provided. This includes dual nationals who may not be eligible for free Canadian healthcare due to provincial residential requirements. There is no reciprocal health care agreement in place between Australia and Canada.

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Before travelling you should contact Health Canada for the most up to date information on what you must do and the documents you need to be able to travel into Canada with medication, including ‘over-the-counter’ and prescription drugs. Even if your medication is not on the list of restricted and controlled drugs, you should carry a copy of your prescription, a letter from your doctor and carry all medication in its original packaging. This applies while you are taking medication which is detectable in your system. Ensure you check the generic names of your medication with your doctor or pharmacist.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, 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.

For criminal issues, contact the local police on 911. You should obtain a police report when reporting a crime. The national emergency number is also 911.

To complain about tourism services, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian High Commission, Ottawa

Suite 710, 50 O'Connor Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6L2 CANADA
Telephone +1 (613) 236 0841
Facsimile +1 (613) 786 7621
Email consular.ottawa@dfat.gov.au
Website http://www.canada.highcommission.gov.au
Consular jurisdiction: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario (excluding the south-western corner below Kingston), Prince Edward Island, Quebec

Australian Consulate General, Toronto

Suite 1100, South Tower
175 Bloor Street East
Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R8 CANADA
Telephone +1 416 323 4280
Facsimile +1 416 323 4295
Consular jurisdiction: Greater Toronto Area (the south-western corner of Ontario below Kingston)

Australian Consulate, Vancouver

Suite 2050, 1075 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6E 3C9 CANADA
Telephone +1 604 694 6160
Facsimile +1 604 684 1856
Consular jurisdiction: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory

See the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the High Commission or a Consulate you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

If you are travelling to Canada, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register on-line or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate . The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Winter in Canada can bring heavy snowfalls, rain, ice and severe cold. The wind-chill factor can make it feel significantly colder than the air temperature actually is, 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 not uncommon in some areas.

Some mountainous areas of Alberta and British Columbia are subject to winter avalanches. Skiing, snowboarding and riding skidoos (snow mobiles) on closed trails is unsafe and should not be undertaken. Information on avalanches is available from the Canadian Avalanche Association.

Winter sports can be risky, even fatal, and injuries are common even for the most experienced. It is vital to confirm whether your travel insurance will cover any sporting activity you consider undertaking while overseas.

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 with the potential for tornadoes, especially across the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Forest fires can occur in Canada during the warmer months (June - August). Check local media before visiting forested areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

The province of British Columbia in western Canada is in an active earthquake zone. Although less frequently, earthquakes have also occurred in Quebec and Ontario, in eastern Canada. Information on earthquakes is available from Earthquakes Canada.

Hurricanes can occur in the Atlantic Provinces from June to November and tornadoes occur in some areas of Canada between April and September. Environment Canada and the US National Hurricane Centre provide information on hurricanes and tornados. In the event of a hurricane or tornado you should monitor local television and radio for up to date information and follow the instructions of authorities.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities. The Government of Canada's 'Get Prepared' website provides information on natural hazards in Canada and advice on how to be prepared.

Wildlife

Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.

Beware of bears and other dangerous wildlife forested areas and obtain local advice before setting out on hikes in areas inhabited by these animals.

Additional Resources

For other useful information to assist travelling in this country, see:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.