Things You Should Know
In Canada, there are three main meals consumed during the day. Generally breakfast is served from 7am to 9am, lunch around noon to 2pm and dinner 6pm to 9pm. Often "brunch" is served on weekends in replacement of breakfast and lunch anywhere between 11am and 1pm. Canadians are coffee addicts. Their love affair with Tim Horton’s coffee will amaze all visitors. Tim Hortons restaurants are literally everywhere and the morning line-ups are long – but reasonably quick. Whether you like "Timmies" coffee is quite another matter – give it a go and decide for yourself, but it's the morning ritual for a vast majority of Ontario residents.
Virtually everywhere you go in Ontario, the dress is whatever you feel is appropriate for the venue and weather. Jacket and ties are almost never mandatory, but an upscale dinner restaurant might have a dress code. It’s best to check with the individual restaurant. Generally business casual is acceptable almost everywhere. In larger cities like Toronto and Ottawa, dress may be casual but fashionable, trendy and well-put together attire is the norm.
DRINKING AND LIQUOR
The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19 and usually photo ID is mandatory. Liquor and wine must be purchased at LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). The LCBO also sells beer, but nothing larger than 6 packs. Most beer is purchased at the Beer Store, which is controlled by the major breweries. There are also Canadian wine stores located in kiosks at some major grocery stores. If you travel to the wine regions across Ontario, most wineries sell their own products.
Generally, gratuity is required for eat-in restaurants. It is normal to tip between 15 and 20% of the pretax bill. It is not customary for restaurants to automatically add gratuidy to the bill, however some may have a policy to so if you are with a larger group.
Taxi’s gratuity is generally about 15% of the fare but is usually rounded to reflect the level of service received.
Smoking is prohibited in all restaurants, nightclubs and public places. If you smoke, your opportunity to do so is limited to your private residence, car or outdoors. Minimum smoking age is 19 and when purchasing cigarettes most retailers will ask for photo ID for anyone under the age of 25. This is strictly adhered to due to heavy fines for selling to minors.
The currency is the Canadian Dollar; many places will accept US dollars, especially close to U.S. boarder cities such as Niagara Falls but expect to lose quite a bit on the exchange. When exchanging currency, it is recommended to go to banks and local financial exchange offices. Bank and credit unions are generally opened during business hours with many open on Saturdays but definitely closed Sundays and all holidays. ATM’s can be found almost anywhere and are very reliable. You should not have any difficulty using credit cards in Ontario. MasterCard and Visa are accepted virtually everywhere you would typically want to use credit cards. American Express is also widely accepted in major hotels and restaurants. Practically every vendor will accept payment of goods by Interac, with the exception of places such as markets, street vendors … etc.
Mastercard in Canada 1-800-307-7309 - other number visit their website at http://www.mastercard.com/ca/personal/en/cardholderservices/emergencyservices/index.html
Visa in Canada 1-800-847-2911 - other numbers visit their website at http://www.visa.ca/en/personal/lostcard.jsp
American Express in Canada 1-800-668-2639 - other numbers visit their website at https://home.americanexpress.com/home/global_splash.html?uk_nu=helpnav
Emergency services (police, ambulance, fire) – dial 911
Ontario Provincial Police (non-emergencies) 1-888-310-1122
Note: If you want to reach the police for lost/stolen passports, do not call 911. There are local police offices you can call, or you can call the toll free Ontario Provincial Police number.
Ontario has a government-run health care plan (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) that is sponsored by resident and business taxes and transfer payments from the federal government. OHIP offers free emergency and preventative medical care to Ontario residents, although there are certain areas (dental, eye examinations after the age of 19) that are not covered. This coverage does not apply to anyone visiting from another country. It is strongly recommended that anyone visiting should have good medical coverage before landing in Ontario
Ontario has excellent medical facilities and doctors. You will get excellent care if something should happen on your visit, but be prepared to pay out of pocket if you do not have proper medical insurance. If you need medical attention, there are many hospitals in all communities otherwise there are many "walk-in clinics" where anyone can get to see a doctor. Waits may be long, especially if you go to the emergency department of a hospital. Every patient is triaged and the most serious get seen first. If you don’t have a life threatening injury, be prepared to wait for hours.
For general health advice, you may call Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000). Telehealth Ontario is a free, confidential phone service that gives health information and advice. You can call the toll free number to be connected directly to a Registered Nurse, who can answer any health questions you have. You will be asked to describe your symptoms. Based on your description the Registered Nurse can give you health advice.
TELEPHONE AND MOBILE
Local dialing numbers are 10 digit numbers. The first 3 digits are the local area code, while the last 7 digits are the actual phone number. To be properly connected, all 10 digits must be dialed. If you are making a long distance phone call, you need to dial "1" before the 10 digit number.
Local area codes
Toronto city - 416 and 647 (overlay code)
Toronto surrounding area – 905
Hamilton, Niagara Peninsula, Oshawa – 905 and 289 (overlay code)
Eastern Ontario (including Ottawa) – 613 and 343 (overlay code)
South Western Ontario (including London) – 519 and 226 (overlay code)
Northern Ontario – 705 and 807
Visitors to Ontario who wish to make international phone calls can buy a long distance and international prepaid calling card ($5 is the standard price for such a calling card).
You can also buy a prepaid (pay-as-you-go) cell phone at many convenience stores like 7-Eleven or gas stations like Petro Canada. These cell phones are usually inexpensive to buy, contain standard features like SMS texting, and are convenient to use for a short period of time within the province. You can purchase as much credit as you wish beforehand, and do not need to worry about lengthy cell phone contracts or extreme long-distance charges on your regular phone.
TIME AND ELECTRICITY
Ontario operates under the Eastern Time Zone (UTC/GMT -5). Since Daylight Savings Time on March 14, 2010, Ontario has been operating under the Eastern Daylight Time (UTC/GMT -4). Eastern Daylight Time will continue until November, at which time it will revert back to Standard Eastern Time.
The electrical voltage system in Ontario is 110 volts. Visitors from North America should have no problem with electronics, but visitors from outside of North America will need a proper voltage converter and adapter for electronic devices to work.
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"The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream" - Jack Kerouac