Ottawa has a humid continental climate. Temperatures range from 15° to 26°C (59° to 79°F), with July being the warmest summer month. Ottawa averages many days with humidex (combined temperature & humidity index) between 30°C to 40°C (86°F to 104°F) annually. We recommend attendees bring a light jacket and/or raincoat. Make sure to take temperatures into consideration when packing.
Ottawa is in the Eastern Standard time zone (EST). Daylight saving time is in effect from early spring until late autumn and moves the clock one hour ahead of their standard time.
Canada is a bilingual nation with both English and French as official languages. About 40% of Ottawa's population can speak both languages.
The Canadian dollar (CAN) is the currency of Canada. It is abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or C$, to distinguish it from other dollar denominated currencies. It is based on the decimal system and has 100 cents to the dollar.
A number of central banks (and commercial banks) keep Canadian dollars as a reserve currency. The Canadian dollar is considered to be a benchmark currency. U.S. dollars are accepted by some Canadian businesses.
1¢ (penny), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), 25¢ (quarter), 50¢ (50-cent piece), $1 (loonie), $2 (toonie), Canadian silver dollar
$5, $10, $20, $50, $100
It is a good idea to convert at least some currency, around $50–100, at a bank before your trip. Banks, both in the U.S. and Canada, give you the most accurate exchange rate at any given time. Barring that, use your credit card. Credit card companies use the bank exchange rate as well. The currency exchange at the border is also reasonable. For currency conversion rates, convert your currency.
Credit Cards & Automated Teller Machines
Major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard, Diner's Club and Visa are widely accepted. Keep in mind that your financial institution at home will automatically make the currency conversion on purchases abroad before you receive your monthly statement. Inquire about any fees your financial institution may charge for using your card abroad before you travel. Automated teller machines (ATMs) can be found throughout Ottawa. Exchange rates are often better through ATMs than through currency exchange offices or hotels. It is important that you check with your credit card company or financial institution before you travel to ensure that your cards will work in Ottawa.
Ottawa, Canada, has universal health care coverage. If you require medical attention, you can ask for assistance from your hotel, or go to the nearest public hospital. With the exception of accident and emergency treatment, all non-Canadian citizens will be charged for medical treatment and must have adequate health insurance when travelling. For non-emergency cases, you should expect to provide payment onsite. Vaccination certificates are not usually required. Check with your local physician before traveling as requirements can change.
It is important to obtain travel health insurance before leaving home since your regular health insurance may not include coverage outside of your country of residence. Contact your health insurance provider to determine your best option. Be sure to pack any prescription medication you will need during your trip. Pharmacies are widely available, but may not be able to fill a prescription from outside of Canada.
Canadian Emergency Number: 911
Outlets and voltage (110–120 volts) are the same as in the United States. If you are from outside the U.S. and Canada, adapters are required for electrical appliances. The frequency of electrical current in Canada is 60 Hz. Downward converters that change European and Australian 220–240 volts to 110–120 volts are difficult to find in North America, so bring one with you.
Ottawa is considered a safe city for tourists and the federal presence within the capital makes the city heavily policed and patrolled. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep a close eye on your belongings. If you encounter a problem with theft, be sure to report it to local police by calling 911.
The Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) may apply to various goods and services you purchase during your stay in Canada. The GST/HST combined rate in Ottawa is 13%. Non-Canadian residents may qualify for a refund of some of the GST/HST you have paid in Canada.
You must spend a minimum of CAN$200 on goods and/or accommodations to be eligible for a tax refund. Non-residents or visitors who wish to claim a refund of the GST and/or the HST must provide proof of purchase (receipts) that they exported their goods from Canada. Please note that credit card slips are not considered valid proof of purchase. You must have the cash register receipt. You may not claim any purchases made in duty free shops.
To clarify: GST in Canada is another word for value added tax (VAT), which is used in the rest of the world. Sales tax is the U.S. equivalent. For up-to-date tax information, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website at www.cra.gc.ca/visitors.
Canadian food has been shaped and impacted by continual waves of immigration throughout Canada. Ottawa is a large city with diverse cultural influences which are reflected in the wide variety of available cuisines.
Meal times in Ottawa are generally:
Breakfast: 6:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Lunch: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Dinner: 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Ottawa's Signature ‘Food Finds':
Beaver Tails: The beaver tail is a flattened oval of fried dough coated with butter and a range of toppings. Choices vary from the classic cinnamon and brown sugar to more elaborate concoctions loaded with chocolate sauce and fruit. They're found across Canada—most often in kiosks at ski hills, theme parks and other tourist-heavy locations—but their undisputed home is the nation's capital.
Shawarma: Ottawa has a higher percentage of Lebanese immigrants than any other city in Canada and has many shawarma restaurants to show for it. These meat-filled pita sandwiches are a quick, cheap must-have for visitors and residents alike.
Poutine: This popular Canadian dish is French fries and fresh cheese curds, covered with brown gravy or sauce. Poutine is a fast food dish that originated in Quebec and can now be found across Canada. It is sold by national and international fast food chains, in small diners and pubs, as well as by roadside chip wagons. International chains like McDonald's, A&W, KFC and Burger King also sell poutine throughout Canada.
Butter Tart: This small pastry tart is highly regarded in Canadian cuisine and considered one of Canada's quintessential desserts. The tart consists of butter, sugar, syrup and an egg filled into a flaky pastry and baked until the filling is semi-solid with a crunchy top.
Tourtière: A meat pie originating from Quebec, usually made with minced pork and/or veal, or beef. A tourtière's taste comes from the slow cooking at low heat. To enhance the flavors, woodland meats such as hare, partridge, moose, caribou, and/or deer are added.
Tips are not included on restaurant or bar bills, so plan to include tips when you dine. For good service at a restaurant, a tip of 15–20% of the pre-tax bill is customary. Some restaurants add a service charge to the bill, especially in large groups, in which case further tipping is not expected. Tipping is also customary in bars, salons/spas and taxis. An easy way to calculate the type is to add the cost of the GST and PST tax on your bill (this usually amounts to 15%).