Things To Know

If you're coming to Canada for a meeting or convention, this is the place to find all the practical resources, tools, information and tips you'll need to make your trip a memorable one. For example, find out more on:

  • Clearing customs
  • Exchanging currency
  • Reserving a rental car
  • Finding the most scenic or speedy ways to travel.

Currency & Money

Canadian Currency

Exchange Rates

Goods and Services Tax (GST)/Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)

Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program

Credit cards and bank machines

Travelers cheques



Canadian Currency 

The Canadian currency system uses dollars ($) and cents (¢) similar to the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Canada now has one- and two-dollar coins, often called the "loonie" and the "toonie" respectively, in addition to 0.01¢, 0.05¢, 0.10¢ and 0.25¢ coins. Paper money comes in different colors and designs. The most common are $5 bills (blue), $10 bills (purple), $20 bills (green), $50 bills (red) and $100 bills (brown).

Most hotels, stores and restaurants will accept US dollars, though sometimes at a lower rate of exchange than at banks or airports. Large hotels will usually give you a rate similar to those at the bank. It is always a good idea to convert some of your money to Canadian currency prior to leaving home.

Exchanging Currency in Canada

You can change money at any recognized financial institution, bank, trust company or currency exchange in Canada. Many major stores, hotels and restaurants will also exchange currency, but often offer a lower rate than a financial institution. Be sure to convert some of your money prior to leaving home.

For information on currency exchange rates, check out the Bank of Canada's Currency Converter.  

Goods and Services Tax (GST)/Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)

Like the national sales tax or the value-added tax paid by consumers in other countries, Canada's 5% goods and services tax (GST) is a national value-added tax charged by businesses that are GST/HST registrants on most property and services supplied in Canada, and imposed on most importations of property and services into Canada. The harmonized sales tax (HST) which includes the GST, applies in the participating provinces at the following rates: 13% in Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, 14% in Prince Edward Island and 15% in Nova Scotia. Alberta is the only province where PST is not levied. The GST applies in the rest of Canada at the rate of 5%.

Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) administers the Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program (FCTIP), which is a program designed to attract foreign conventions and tour groups to Canada.

Under the FCTIP, sponsors and unregistered organizers of a foreign convention may be able to claim a rebate for the GST/HST paid on a convention facility and related convention supplies. Unregistered non-resident exhibitors attending domestic or foreign conventions may be able to claim a rebate of the GST/HST paid on convention space and related convention supplies.

Under the same program, non-resident businesses and organizations, including tour operators, may be able to claim a rebate for the GST/HST paid on eligible tour packages. Non-resident tour operators may also be able to claim a rebate for the GST/HST paid on short-term or camping accommodation purchased and then sold in an eligible tour package.

The CRA encourages foreign organizations to contact the CRA in advance of holding an event in Canada to ensure eligibility for a rebate. A written request for a ruling on a specific fact situation may be submitted to a GST/HST Rulings office as outlined in GST/HST Memorandum 1.4, Excise and GST/HST Rulings and Interpretations Service, which can be found on the CRA website at

For more information on FCTIP and copies of the relevant rebate forms, please refer to Guide RC4160, Rebate for Tour Packages, Foreign Conventions, and Non-Resident Exhibitor Purchases, which is available on the CRA website at

Credit Cards & Bank Machines

Major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted in Canada. Your financial institution at home will automatically make the currency exchange before you receive your monthly statement. Be sure you contact your credit card company to let them know you'll be using the card outside the country.  

Using an ABM (automatic bank machine), also known as an ATM (automated teller machine), is an easy way to access cash while traveling abroad. Most international bankcard systems, including Interac, Plus, Cirrus and Maestro, will work at most ABMs in Canada. You'll find them conveniently located at banks, stores, airports and many other locations. You can also get cash advances on your credit card at an ABM.

It's a good idea to notify your home bank that you'll be using your bank card in Canada to find out whether any special conditions and withdrawal limits may apply.

Travelers Checks

Travelers checks can often be used as cash as most Canadian restaurants, hotels and stores will accept small-denomination Canadian Dollar travelers checks. You may be asked to produce a passport for identification when cashing your travelers checks.

Banking Hours

Standard banking hours are Monday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Many banks are open to 6:00 p.m. on Friday. Some banks and specific branches may be open later on weeknights and even on Saturdays. Trust companies are generally open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and on Saturday mornings.


Tipping is a common practice in Canada. Tips or service charges are not usually added to restaurant bills in Canada, but server salaries are based on the assumption that staff will receive a good proportion of income in tips. Some restaurants will also place a mandatory service charge on a bill for large groups. In general, you should reward good service by tipping 15% to 20% of the total amount.

Barbers, hairdressers and taxi drivers are usually tipped 15%. Bellhops, doormen, porters and other staff at hotels, airports and railway stations are generally tipped CAD$1-$2 per item carried. Tipping the server both at the bar and at the table is common in Canadian bars and nightclubs.