About 75% of our registrants are coming from outside Canada! So naturally they have lots of questions about what to expect.
We have answered program/schedule-related questions in our “A Registrant Asks…” series of blog posts.
Here are a few more questions from our registrants:
- Where can we exchange US currency for Canadian and vice-versa?
- Are Visa, MasterCard accepted?
- Do Canadians tip waitstaff and other service providers?
- What kind of power do Canadian outlets have? Do I need to bring a converter?
- What kind of cellphone service do you have?
- What are the hours stores etc are open?
- What do things cost?
While there are Currency Exchange kiosks at the airport their rates are very expensive. The hotel is right downtown in the business district, with our Big 5 banks all within 5 minutes’ walking distance and they will exchange all world currencies. In addition, there are currency exchange kiosks at the Eaton Centre mall one block away, as well as “under” the hotel in the extensive PATH shopping concourse.
Banking hours are usually:
10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., Friday.
Many banks are also open 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Saturday
The world is moving more and more to a cash-less economy. As the largest city in Canada, Toronto’s vendors run mostly on credit/debit cards.
We suggest that for your convenience, change a reasonable amount of cash for Canadian dollars. It is up to you re how you intend to pay for things: mostly credit card, or lots of small vendor purchases (cash would be faster).
IMPORTANT: Due to the prevalence of counterfeit US dollars, many vendors will likely only accept bills in denominations of $20 or smaller. Generally you’ll take a beating on any exchange they offer.
Currencies other than Canadian/US won’t be accepted at vendors. You will have to exchange Pounds, Euros, etc.
Fun Fact: we do not have $1 or $2 bills. Our C$1 is a coin colloquially called a “Loonie” (because there is a Loon on the obverse); our C$2 coin is called a “Twoonie”. So bring a change purse!!
NOTE: when exchanging money (in either direction) only bills can be exchanged, not coins.
Visa and Mastercard are pretty much universally accepted in all stores. American Express less so because they charge merchants so much more to use them. Debit card transactions are very popular. ATMs (with the “Cirrus” and “Interac” logos) are all over for a fast cash withdrawal if your card is linked to your bank account.
Small and independent vendors strongly prefer cash. Their margins are razor thin as it is. This includes food trucks, possibly some dealers in the book room, arts and crafts fairs/booths (for those visiting the Distillery District), newsstands. Even cabs take credit cards (feel free to ask when you get in), though it is good to have cash available as a backup!
NOTE: Inform your credit card company that you will be in Toronto. Some may need that as part of their “anti-fraud” algorithm so they don’t deny your first purchase in Toronto!
Guard your PIN! A lot of vendors have “tap” enabled for purchases under C$100 so you don’t have to type in your PIN.
Yes. The standard is 15%, but some places have now programmed their card machines to offer you an 18% option. You can either do it at the time of paying (e.g., on your credit card) or leave money on the table. Tips are for table service. Some coffee shops and other outlets have now also programmed their machines to “suggest” you tip the cashier. This is by no means common practice.
If you are travelling from the US, we have exactly the same power here – no adapters required. You will be able to charge your phone/laptop/tablet using your usual power cord.
The hotel provides hair dryers.
If you are travelling from outside North America you will need to have an adapter for our outlets.
Canada has extensive cell coverage. Your cellphone will work up here but you will be charged “roaming fees”, which are very expensive.
Check your cell phone plan before you leave. If international calls “from Canada to the US” are not already covered, check with your cell provider. You can usually buy an “add-on” for international travel. Read the fine print!! For people who know how, you can swap out your SIM card and buy a Canadian one to use while here.
Dialing to the US: 1+area code + local number; dialing internationally: 011 + country code + area code + local number
Typical opening hours for downtown shops are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (9:00 p.m. in malls) Monday to Friday. Many smaller shops have extended hours on Thursdays. Saturdays are 10:00-6:00; Sundays are 12:00-5:00. The ones in the PATH Concourse will usually only be open weekdays as they cater to business/office clientele.
Post offices are usually open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., Monday to Friday. There are red postboxes on many street corners. Stamps can be purchased at many convenience stores as well as the post office. Look for the Canada Post symbol.
There is a Great International News shop in the hallway next to the hotel that stays open late that has Pre-stamped postcards!
Our prices are about the same as New York City, except it is in Canadian dollars! So that it an “instant” discount for Americans. Canada has a “Harmonized Sales Tax” (HST) where our provincial (PST) and federal taxes (GST) are rolled up into one charge. In Ontario that is 13% and will be added to whatever you purchase, broken out separately on your receipt.
Fun Fact: if you order a Tim Hortons coffee “double double” that is 2 creams and 2 sugars! (and a 4×4 is … 4 creams and 4 sugars! Yikes!)