Great! You’ve decided to visit Québec! Whether you’re coming on vacation, to attend an event or for work, here’s some useful information for planning your trip.
The packing dilemma
Québec has four distinct seasons but what’s interesting is that you can sometimes experience them all in the same week, or even the same day; and that’s not too far from the truth! So be sure to pack an umbrella along with your sunglasses (even in the winter).
You should basically bring enough clothes for all types of weather, and learn the chic trick of layering. It’s important to have at least one coat that is both waterproof and a windbreaker. Underneath, you can pile on sweaters and jackets for the summer or the cooler, damp fall, and have the warmest coat possible for the winter. If you don’t own these types of clothes and don’t want to spend a lot buying items you won’t wear where you live, you can always rent them upon arrival (they’ll be delivered right to the address you give, such as at the hotel or the airport). You can even reserve them online by searching with the key words “Rental clothes winter Québec” (or more specifically, your city of destination, e.g. Montréal).
Accessories such as gloves, mitts, hats, caps, heavy socks, thick leggings, long underwear and warm boots, as well as mosquito repellent and sunscreen, can be purchased upon arrival in our sports shops, stores like Dollarama or Maxi, and, for certain types of clothes, in second-hand stores (Renaissance, Village des valeurs).
For more information about our weather, check out the best time to visit Québec.
Required documents and visas
You live outside Canada? Depending on the country you’re coming from, you may need, in addition to your passport, a visitor’s visa OR an electronic travel authorization (eTA) if you’re arriving by air.
For example, British citizens and visitors from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, Italy, Spain and any other visa-exempt country must show a valid passport and, if arriving by air, an eTA. You must complete your eTA application form online before reserving your airline ticket for Canada. Check here to find out if you need an eTA or a visa.
For more information, visit Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or contact your country’s Canadian embassy or consulate.
Tourism and disabilities
Do you have a visual, hearing or physical restriction? Welcome to Québec, we’re ready to host you! Consult our Tourism for people with disabilities section.
Customs and animals
You can import tobacco and alcohol, subject to certain conditions. It’s nice of you to want to bring gifts to your Québécois friends! Okay, maybe they’re for your own enjoyment... Still, if you’re at least 18 years of age, you may bring into Canada 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes and 200 g (7 oz.) of tobacco as well as 1.14 litres (38.55 fl. oz.) of liquor (brandy, rum, vodka, pastis, etc.) or 1.5 litres (50.72 fl. oz.) of wine or twenty-four 355-ml (12 fl. oz.) cans or bottles of beer. Personal effects not subject to any specific restrictions are tax-exempt but must be declared to Canadian customs. There are restrictions on imports of food products, plants and firearms, so you are advised to contact the Canada Border Services Agency before your departure.
You’d like to bring your cat or dog to Québec? Generally speaking, pets from rabies-free countries may be admitted into Canada if they have a rabies vaccination certificate written in French or English and issued by a veterinary official from the country of origin. Cats and dogs entering Canada from countries other than the United States are subject to inspection fees. Pets must be accompanied by their owners at all times. The full regulations are available on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website.
If you are arriving by plane, you should contact the airline before purchasing your ticket to find out their terms and fees... and restrictions. Some airlines do not accept pets on board or restrict access depending on the types of aircraft.
Budget, currency and exchange
The legal tender in Québec is the Canadian dollar (CAD). Bank notes are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars, and coins in denominations of 5, 10 and 25 cents as well as of 1 and 2 dollars. You may still see 1-cent coins (or “pennies”), but they’re no longer used and prices are rounded up or down accordingly. In Québec, as a synonym for dollar, we use piastre (an old word of Spanish origin pronounced “piasse” and not “piesse”!) and instead of “cents” we talk about cennes and sous.
The leading credit cards—Visa, MasterCard and American Express—are widely accepted.
The easiest way to obtain Canadian currency is through a bank withdrawal. That way, you don’t have to bring large amounts of cash in your country’s currency and be limited to exchanging your money only when the banks or exchange offices are open. Banks are generally open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and sometimes on Saturday or until later on Thursday and Friday, depending on the bank.
Most automated banking machines or cash dispensers (linked to the Cirrus, PLUS System or Interac networks) will let you withdraw cash at any time, seven days a week. Keep in mind that service charges will apply (those for using the banking machine and those applied by your own bank).
There are numerous exchange offices in Québec’s main urban centres. Airports also offer exchange services. Some businesses accept American money, but tend to offer a much less competitive rate than the exchange offices.
Use the Bank of Canada’s currency converter.
Québec’s electric current is 110 volts/60 cycles, as it is throughout North America. Since the outlets cannot accommodate European plugs, you’d best bring or buy an adaptor or converter (also called a transformer).
An adaptor, a small plug with North American prongs, is sufficient for motorless electrical appliances, such as cell phone chargers, computers, cameras and others. The second, a converter, is larger and heavier (and more expensive) because it transforms the voltage of appliances that operate with a motor, such as hairdryers, electric razors, etc. If you have one of these appliances, keep in mind that a transformer can also serve as an adaptor, but not the opposite.
If you have several electrical appliances, you may want to bring a power bar with you and just one adaptor or transformer, depending on your needs.
Here, you can go shopping seven days a week. Stores, shopping malls and most businesses are generally open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Wednesday; from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Some establishments open earlier in the day and close later in the evening (e.g. pharmacies, grocery stores and convenience stores). Keep in mind that neighbourhood convenience stores are great when you need something later in the evening, but their prices tend to be higher than those at grocery stores.
Statutory holidays and school breaks
In Québec, most businesses, government offices, banks and stores are closed on the following days:
New Year’s Day (January 1)
Journée nationale des patriotes (patriots’ day, the second-to-last Monday in May)
Québec’s national holiday (June 24)
Canada Day (July 1)(Labour Day (first Monday in September)
Thanksgiving (second Monday in October), different from the American Thanksgiving
Christmas (December 25)
Many tourist sites remain open on statutory holidays. However, it’s always best to check with the site in question before setting out.
College and university students enjoy a weeklong break in November and another one in March, while elementary and high school students only get a break in March. (The dates of the break may vary between education levels and regions.)
In addition, nearly one quarter of Québec’s workers go on holiday during the last two weeks of July, a period traditionally known as the “construction holiday.” Certain tourist sites are much busier during these periods, so keep this in mind when planning your vacation. In other words, think about reserving your hotel, inn, bed and breakfast or campsite well in advance!
Health and safety
We certainly hope you don’t get sick during your vacation; however, it’s important to know that in such a case visitors from abroad must cover their own medical expenses. Accordingly, it is vital that you take out travel hospital and medical insurance before you leave.
Travellers wishing to bring along their own medication are responsible for finding out about requirements from Health Canada. Note that pharmacies are only authorized to fill prescriptions written by a member of the Collège des médecins du Québec (Québec’s professional corporation of physicians). You can, however, purchase over-the-counter drugs.
In the event of a medical emergency, dial 911 (toll-free) from any telephone.
Québec and Canada’s other provinces and territories are known for being safe, even in the large cities. You can take the metro (our subway system) or walk in the streets late at night without worry, making sure, however, to keep your personal effects close to you. There’s no need to tempt fate.
Taxes and tipping
Québec is part of Canada, which means we have two sales taxes. The federal goods and services tax (GST) and the Québec sales tax (QST)—totalling nearly 15%—are added to the selling price of most goods and services.
All tourist regions (except Nunavik) also charge a specific tax on accommodations. The amount is 3.5% of the price of the room per night. The tax on lodging is non-refundable, since it goes entirely toward regional tourism development. GST and QST are calculated on top of this tax, which does not apply to campsites.
In Québec, tipping is de rigueur in restaurants, bars and taxis. The amount, which is not included in the bill, generally represents 10% to 15% of the total bill before taxes. For quick tip calculations, you can normally add up both taxes (GST and QST) on the restaurant bill, which totals approximately 15%. The overall cost of a restaurant meal is increased, therefore, by 30% because of the taxes and tip, but we’re used to it. The minimum wage for waiters is lower than for other trades. Tips are part of their income, so they would do well to be polite and give good service. And they do, or at least most of them do most of the time (no one’s perfect!).
Tipping bellhops or porters is at your discretion (generally, $1 per bag carried) as well as tipping your hotel room’s housekeeper ($1 or $2 per day).
Telephone and postal services
Even though they’re almost a thing of the past, public telephones can still be found despite their reduced numbers in public areas. And they’re still practical if you don’t have a cell phone that works outside your country (or if you would have to pay exorbitant roaming charges).
A local call made from a public telephone costs 50 cents. You can pay using coins or a prepaid phone card (note that you’ll pay more if you use your credit card). For long-distance calls, prepaid cards—available at boutiques, and grocery and convenience stores—typically offer the best bargain.
Good to know: you can call, free of charge, 911 (medical emergency, police, fire department, ambulance) and 811 (Info-santé, health consultation) around the clock from a public telephone, and 511 (Transports Québec, for road conditions) as well as business toll-free numbers that begin with 1 800 (1 844, 1 855, 1 866, 1 877, 1 888).
We’ve got a special one to suggest: 1 877-BONJOUR (the letters correspond to 1 877-266-5687). It’s our telephone number (toll-free!) at Bonjour Québec, for tourist information, Monday to Friday. For our hours: Contact us.
Foreign cell phones or smartphones may work in Québec, depending on the technology used and the service offered by your cell phone service provider. Please speak with your service provider to find out if you’ll be able to use your phone in Québec and what fees will apply. Find out about their plans and, if necessary, purchase a SIM card in one of our stores, on the Internet or before leaving home, so that you can use your phone in Québec as if nothing has changed.
Despite all the pictures posted on the Internet, we still like to send (and receive!) postcards. Right? Canada Post has branches throughout the country, many of which are postal outlets in pharmacies. To find the nearest outlet, look for the blue and red Canada Post signs on pharmacy doors, indicating the post office’s schedule.
Visitors who plan on spending extended periods in Québec without a fixed address can have their mail sent care of General Delivery. The French and international term for this is poste restante. To pick up your mail, you must go to the main post office of the city where your mother or loved one has sent you a letter or package, and go to the General Delivery counter. The post office keeps mail, in alphabetical order by the recipient’s family name, for four months. Info: Canada Post.
Bars and alcohol consumption
You must be at least 18 years of age to enter bars, pubs, discotheques and nightclubs as well as to purchase or consume alcohol (be prepared to produce a photo ID if asked). Wines and spirits are sold through the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), the provincial liquor board.
Beer is available at grocery and convenience stores until 11 p.m.; these stores also stock a limited selection of wines.