My Top 10 Places For Solo Travel Series – Canada
Canada was always on my bucket list however I never realised how much there was to see and do until I actually arrived there. Canada solo female travel is easy, pretty safe, somewhat affordable and really worth doing.
Getting To Canada
Canada is very easy to get to from almost anywhere. If you are in Europe you will find the east coast your main point of entry and from Asia and Australia Vancouver will most likely be your first port of call. If you are wondering about going to Canada, travelling solo is a great way to do it. You can make your own decisions about what you want to see or do, you won't get stuck in a ski resort for days on end if you aren't a skier, and there are many many places that you can just join in a day trip to see anything you might want to. So, if you are researching solo female travel Canada, read on!
Getting to Canada from North America
Coming from the USA, if you are flying from the west coast you can easily find direct flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle to Vancouver and Toronto. If you are flying from the east coast you will find you do have 1 stop to get to Vancouver, but Toronto will have direct flights available from most major cities.
To get to Montreal from the east coast is a direct flight, but from the west you will usually have a stop somewhere along the way. Again Toronto from anywhere is mostly available from the major transport hubs as a direct flight.
Flights from LA to Canada
Getting to Canada from Oceania or Asia
There is a direct flight from Sydney to Vancouver with Air Canada. It is a 14.5 hours though so be prepared for such a long haul flight. Anywhere else in Canada involves at least 1 stop and that will usually be in the continental US.
The flight from Sydney to Vancouver is a DAY FLIGHT! That almost never happens from Australia and coming back is an overnight flight, but being able to be somewhat cognizant when you get there is quite rate.
Flights To Vancouver From Sydney
Getting to Canada from Europe
Montreal or Toronto is going to be the best stop of European citizens flying into Canada. British Airways, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Air France, Iberia and Air Transat all have direct flights from cities like London, Paris and Madid.
Flights from London to Montreal
Getting Around Canada
Seasons are of course your primary consideration when traveling in Canada. While each season has something to offer, if you do travel in winter you can find your options a little more constricted than you might in Summer. In saying that though, winter brings its own opportunities.
Flying In Canada
Canada is HUGE so flights can be expensive. Around the same as Australia and if you are Australian, you can almost think 1 to 1 for the Canadian dollar to the Australian dollar.
The main airlines on offer are:
- Air Canada – Canada's largest airline, Air Canada flies all over the country and to many international locations
- WestJet – A more budget airline WestJet fly to over 100 destinations in north America
- Flair Airlines – very budget with no frills at all but a great airline.
- Air Transat – a great midrange airline.
Bus Travel In Canada
Bus travel was my most used mode of transport in Canada and while everyone always tells me you “find all the crazies on the hound” which loosely translates to crazy people take the bus (Greyhound) I never had a challenge.
As an example when I just couldn't justify the expense of the train from Vancouver to Banff which would have meant either the train to Edmonton and then from there the bus to Calgary anyway, I got the bus from Vancouver direct to Banff for $66!! The train was around $700 for a seat and it was an overnight trip (so I would have had to try and sleep sitting up) where as I got the bus early in the morning, saw some amazing scenery anyway and was in Banff by around 9pm. I managed to get a double seat all to myself as well.
Pros for traveling Canada as a single woman
- English is spoken almost everywhere. While the east coast, and more of the west than you think, is French speaking, everyone speaks English as well.
- Canada has great transport options, a wide range of accommodation levels and a very good medical system. I had someone crash into me on my dog sledding (that's another story), and when I got back to Vancouver I went to get my foot x-rayed to be sure something wasn't broken and the doctors visit, the x-ray and a mini cast (something was cracked) was under $240 AUD. I'm not sure if there is some kind of emergency cover for travellers but that's all I was charged.
- It's very easy to get yourself from A to B in Canada so there aren't a lot of affordable group tours that cover the whole country, however there are many many day tour options across all budgets.
Some of Canada's winter destinations are just as good in the summer for hiking. Don't dismiss Whistler as a summer destination for example. As a solo traveller its easy to get from place to place and there are always hostels.
Like all countries there are some sketchy area's but because Canada is so developed, these are really easy to find out info on via Trip Adviser or just Google and avoid those areas.
Taxi's and Uber are readily available almost everywhere so you can easily and affordably get anywhere you need to go.
I always found the public transport whether in a city or between cities to be very safe.
PLEASE READ MY CONS AS A FOLLOW UP FOR SAFETY!
Cons for traveling Canada as a solo traveller
- If you don't want to stay at hostels you will find that there aren't any single accommodation options available. All motel and hotel rooms in Canada, like Australia are based on 2 people staying. You won't get it cheaper if you are solo.
- A lot of activities are very seasonal. Hiking on the east coast for example, doesn't open until the 1st May regardless of the weather. I was there March-April and spring had arrived super early, so almost no snow activities were still running but all the summer activities don't start until the 1st May. It's the staffing levels that control it so it's not like people don't want to but their staff don't arrive until that time.
- The well known area's can be very busy. Banff for example, or Whistler get very busy, however they have some really great practices in place to protect the area and its beauty. If you want to hear some Aussie accents – got to Banff! This doesn't mean these places aren't worth going to, they are just busy.
- Canada is massive so unless you have a really healthy budget you will have to skip over something. I spent about 6 weeks in Canada I think and had to skip entirely over the central belt. I did stop in Calgary to go to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, but I pretty much hit each coast and Toronto and the Thousand Islands area in my 6 weeks and that was all. I wanted to fit Nova Scotia in but despite the weather being friendly nothing was open yet and I wouldn't have had time anyway. So you will have to budget really well, or have a decent allowance, or pick what you can do without.
- As far as safety goes, I didn't have any bother in any of the cities except Vancouver. East Vancouver is known as being a little sketchy. I was staying in that area which I will say on the Sunday afternoon when I arrived did feel very sketchy, however that was the only time I felt like that. During the week it was fine and I just caught an Uber or Taxi if I wanted to go out at night. And by sketchy it was mostly the druggies that were a little off putting. I never felt like my life was at risk but I did think that I might loose my phone if I got robbed. I was just very careful and never had a challenge. In saying that however during the day on the other days it was fine. The gas light district is right next door and I walked everywhere as I always do with not a challenge. I never figured out what it was that Sunday, but I walked from the train station to my accommodation and it was very busy with some not so subdued undesirables but that was the only day it was like that. Weird!
My Recommendations For Canada
I would consider splitting Canada into a winter visit and a summer visit. I got super lucky with my stay. I landed in Vancouver in the middle of March to very balmy weather. Luckily there was enough snow for my dog sledding week still but when we arrived the team was flat out cancelling everything after us. They usually sled until at least the end of April and into May most years but the early spring just destroyed that. That did mean that by the time I got to Banff, I did manage to get one ice hiking day in but could also hike tunnel mountain with no ice or snow at all. Toronto was beautiful, Montreal was beautiful however there was still some snow on the ground in Quebec which was very cool to see!
These are my recommendations for visiting Canada, whether you are a solo traveller or a group.
- Spend a week dog sledding at Sky High Wilderness Ranch in Whitehorse. You will not regret it. It isn't cheap to get to Whitehorse (around $600 CAD return when I went in 2016) and the dog sledding will set you back around $2000 CAD but it will be one of the best things you do and was quite the bucket list check off for me.
- The Sea to Sky HIghway from Vancouver to Whistler is a lovely way to spend a day. There are a few tours that you can choose from and you get to see a great waterfall which is a nice walk through the forest in, Squamish, Horseshoe bay and a few hours in Whistler. I visited the Squamish Cultural Centre which I loved and the Audain Art Museum which was also great, but it's the coastal view as you leave Vancouver that is just beautiful.
- Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump – now, this isn't easy to get to if you don't hire a car but it is an easy 2 hour drive from Calgary. I absolutely hated Calgary (big statement I know but I found no redeeming features whatsoever) but I loved the drive down to HSIBJ and the world heritage site itself is amazing. I did write a blog post about my day there and while I did get super lucky at the hire car place, it would have still been worth it in a smaller cheaper car. One of my top recommendations for Canada.
- Vancouver Island is stunning and Victoria is a great city for a few days. There are lots of great walking places and parks and the island itself is just gorgeous. Even if you just get the Tsawwassen Ferry over to Victoria and do an overnight that is a stunning trip on the boat.
If you are there in the right season, a hockey game is great fun!
- Toronto and Niagara Falls. Of course you have to see the falls. I was a little taken aback at the area. It felt like a grimy Vegas but the falls are definitely worth a look. From Canada or the US I can't decide which side is better but they are impressive for sure. I was very surprised with Toronto. I stayed in Cabbagetown a suburb just on the edge of the city and loved that area. It was close to the train stop, close to the city, I could walk for miles and the mild weather meant I even hit up Cherry Beach. The brewery district is a great area close by if you want to splurge on a nice restaurant.
- Kingston, Brockville and the Thousand Islands. OMG – this area is just stunning. This sits right on the border of the US and Canada and if you have a car, head into the US and drive down to Port Vincent for a great look at both sides of the bay. Brockville is easily accessible via train from Union station and I could also recommend getting off in Kingston for one night. There isn't heaps there but its a nice town and there is a great boat tour explaining the history of the town. ‘NB: The boat tour is not currently running (COVID related I suspect), but you can check out what Get Your Guide has available in Kingston. You don't have to go as far as Brockville. Brockville is just a smaller more quirky town that has a few tourism things to do. Check out the Brockville Railway tunnel and just do some walks around town. You can do a Thousand Islands boat tour from Gananoque which is about 30 mins drive from Kingston so a stay in Kingston and a taxi to the boat dock for your tour would work out fine. Gananoque is heaps closer to Kingston than Brockville and the boat company may be able to help with a transfer as well. This company goes right from Kingston and this one is based in Gananoque. You might even check with some of the other guests on the boat trip if they are going back to Kingston and have a spare seat. I usually look for a couple with a baby or one child as they will probably drive safely with their child on board, and they are more likely to have a back seat spare.
- At least one day in Quebec City. I did a day trip from Montreal which was a huge day but I really enjoyed it. I felt I had enough time to wander around the old city and see everything I wanted to see and also got in a few other things on the tour on the way to and form Quebec.
- Montreal is worth at least a few days, especially if you are going to do Quebec in there as well. I loved the Park Mont-Royal and hiked up and around that a few times. Saint Joseph's Oratory is worth a visit as is a walking tour of old Montreal. Old Montreal has bus tours, walking tours, ghost tours and even small group bike rides. Check out this page on Get Your Guide for options.
- Vancouver for a few days is also a must do. I stayed in West End once and East Vancouver once and I would pick West End next time. It's a funky area with heaps of affordable restaurants and its super close to Stanley park for walking which is right up my alley. Do a horse drawn carriage ride around Stanley park, visit the Totems, hike the circumference of the park and if you have time the Teahouse in the park is a lovely spot. Capilano suspension bridge is great and I mention the sea to sky highway above. Grouse mountain is a ski park in the city (well on the edge of the city) which public transport runs to and if you want a splurge you can get a helicopter ride over the mountains here which is AWESOME! If its summer head out to Spanish Banks beach which if I'm being honest is a little strange but a beach in Vancouver in the summer is something!
I could go on listing things to do in Canada for ever but that gives you an idea of what to see where. Let me know in the comments what other recommendations you have for next time I'm there.
Check out my Canada Destination Page for all the info, posts & places to visit in Canada.