Travel

Tips for Canadian Students Taking their “Legal” Pot on Vacation

With Canada on the verge of legalizing marijuana for recreational use (it has been approved for medical purposes since 2001), Canadians studying in the US or abroad, and the half million international students enrolled in Canadian colleges and universities, need to understand the rules about what is or is not legal usage, and how a little carelessness in their travel habits can ruin or seriously disrupt their academic careers. Because the bulk of Canada’s population is clustered close to the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific, weekend or short vacation trips across the border (such as student spring breaks) are an integral part of college life—for international as well as domestic students. We must caution that international students who are not natives of visa waiver countries may need special documentation to visit the US—but all students, Canadian citizens or foreign passport holders, are urged by the Canadian government…

International Students Love Montreal

Once again, Montreal has been ranked as the top North American city for international students in the highly prestigious QS University Rankings for 2018, the only Canadian city to make it to the top 10 most favoured slots. Noted by QS as Canada’s “cultural capital,” Montreal is applauded for its “multicultural makeup and inclusive ethos” as well as its laidback yet lively lifestyle, attractive boulevards, thriving creative industries, café culture, eclectic range of arts venues and nightlife—not to forget its internationally ranked universities. (McGill is currently ranked as 32nd in the world, and both the University of Montreal and Concordia University have also achieved respectable rankings.) To put matters in a tighter perspective, Montreal has slipped out of last year’s first-place ranking to be replaced in the #1 spot by London, then Tokyo, then Melbourne, in that order—but it remains ahead of all other Canadian cities and any or all…

The Eight-Month US Visa for Canadian Retirees: A Myth That Keeps on Coming

It happens every couple of years: broadcast and print media announce in bold headlines that Canadian retirees 55 years or older who can afford a second home in the US (owned or leased) will soon be allowed to live there for up to eight full months per year instead of the 182 days they are currently allowed under the B2 visitor visa. Sounds like great news for snowbirds who prefer slathering on sunscreen to shovelling snow. Just this month, an opinion piece in Canada’s Financial Post warned that tax increases on Canada’s middle classes were fuelling a brain drain of doctors, nurses, tech workers, and entrepreneurs to the US and elsewhere, adding, “Just watch the enormous economic damage done when Congress extends its permission for snowbirds by two months—to eight months a year—to stay in the U.S. without becoming taxable.” Well, let’s just hang on here As I said,…

Why Are Canadians Hesitant About Studying Abroad?

Canadians are among the most inveterate travellers in the world: over 23 million leisure trips abroad every year—not bad for a total population of 36 million. That covers all age groups—including the very old and the very young. And the world is reciprocating, with international tourist numbers hitting new peaks year after year and with foreign students flocking to Canadian colleges and universities to take advantage of world-class educational opportunities at tuition rates far below those in the United States. At top colleges across the nation, foreign students comprise 20 to 30 per cent of undergraduate enrollees—ditto for graduate programs. But there is one area of internationalization that is clearly lagging, to the concern of Canadian educators and business leaders: that is the reluctance of well-qualified Canadian students taking up the challenge (and denying themselves the rewards) of studying abroad—full-term or short-term. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education…

How to Prepare for Emergency Situations at Home or Abroad

This week, Toronto is shaken after an attack with a rented van in the North York area has left 10 dead and 15 others wounded. In a city that is generally known to be safe, this tragic event feels particularly jarring. It’s difficult to predict senseless attacks such as this. And while Toronto is in mourning today, one horrific act of violence will not alter the character of the city: at large, Toronto is still a safe place. For travellers heading to Toronto or anywhere else around the globe, it’s important not to let events like this deter you from getting out there and exploring the world. Rather than avoid making plans, the best thing that you can do is be prepared in the event you encounter an emergency at home or abroad. Measures for keeping safe Be prepared: If you are heading abroad, make sure to remain informed…

Canadian Travellers to Cancun: Be Vigilant

With more than two million Canadians visiting Mexico annually, travel insurers and other travel professionals need to warn their clients of increasing violence (due mostly to drug cartel activity) in the highly popular tourist area in and surrounding Cancun. More than half of all Canadian visits to Mexico are made to Cancun, and Mexico is Canadians’ second-most-visited country, next to the US. So far this year, 113 people have been killed in the Cancun area. The most recent spate of violence occurred in early April, when 14 murders (all considered drug-trade-related) occurred within 36 hours—generating headlines in newspapers around the world. Though Mexican authorities have explained that most of these deaths were confined to individuals involved in the growing drug cartel wars, there have been some innocent bystanders killed or wounded; and armed military guards have since been stationed at key points throughout the area to safeguard tourist resorts and…

Mexico Travel Warning for Parents of Student Spring Breakers

Recent Canadian and US government warnings cautioning travellers about potential terrorist activity in Mexico’s Western Caribbean resort area of Quintana Roo state (including Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa Carmen) have once again emphasized the need for travel insurance for all ages, especially teenage students who are “breaking loose” for spring and Easter vacations. The warnings, issued by both governments on March 7 and 8, came in the wake of an explosion on one tourist ferry travelling from Playa Carmen to Cozumel, and the discovery of an unexploded bomb on another. These events have firmed up evidence of new drug cartel activity reaching into these areas, which thus far had been relatively free of the violence wracking much of the northern and western (Pacific) states in recent years. The government warnings, based on unidentified “ongoing security threats,” have subsequently been narrowed down, but the US State Department continues to restrict its own…

Canadian Students Shouldn’t Be Wary of Studying Abroad

Canadians make almost 30 million overnight trips to foreign countries in a year—not bad for a nation with only 36 million people. But when it comes to Canada’s students travelling abroad for post-secondary education, the numbers are not nearly so impressive. After all, the value of exposure to foreign cultures, different ways of doing business, multi-language literacy, and knowledge of foreign history and customs are increasingly valuable components in dealing with globalization. Yet according to Academica Group, a Canadian think tank devoted to fostering “meaningful, generative dialogue about the future of education in Canada,” only 3.1 per cent of full-time university students and 1.1 per cent of full-time college students have studied abroad as part of their postsecondary education. According to surveys done by Academica, though 58 per cent of respondents said they planned on travelling abroad after graduating, 57 per cent of those cited a “desire to see the…

Buying a Cruise? Choose Carefully—It’s Not Always Paradise

Over the next 12 months, Canadians will take more than 750,000 ocean cruises, most of them heading out of ports in the Southern US, mostly from Florida, Texas, or California. Cruising is the fastest-growing vacation activity for Canadians of almost all age groups, and that’s not likely to change given the number of new vessels. There is no shortage of choice, either in itinerary or price point. But that does not mean you should make your cruise choice casually, without doing some homework. Along with the romantic appeal and imagery that cruise lines use in selling their products, there are some darker stories about ships being stranded due to mechanical problems, intrusions of Norovirus, the occasional “man or woman overboard” horror story, and every once in a while a story like one published recently in the Miami Herald concerning ships failing to meet government-established sanitary standards, with spot inspectors finding…

Chinese New Year 2018: Why is it year of the dog and what does it mean?

Happy Chinese New Year 2018! The annual event marks one of the most colourful and lively celebrations, with festivals held in most major cities across the world. Chinese New Year brings with it vibrant parades and colourful celebrations, but what is Chinese New Year? When is it celebrated and what does it mean? Chinese New Year has become a global celebration. Not only is it celebrated by the country of China and those with Chinese ancestry, it’s celebrated by people from across the world, of all different cultures and religions. Some 3 billion trips are expected to be taken during the Chinese New Year, so travellers should be prepared for delays and security risks no matter where they’re heading. Here is everything you need to know about the Chinese holiday known as Spring Festival. How is Chinese New Year celebrated?  Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is…

The International Students’ Guide to Surviving a Canadian Winter

What you have heard about the Canadian winter is true: it’s cold. Whether you are an international student set to study on the Pacific shores of British Columbia, in the metropolitan hub of Toronto, or in the easterly province of Newfoundland, there’s no escaping the weather. As someone who moved to Toronto from the (albeit only slightly) warmer climate of the UK, I can certainly attest to the plummeting temperatures and heavy snowfalls. What my time in Canada has also taught me, however, is that as long as you take note of a few simple tips to stay safe and keep warm, the cold weather won’t just be bearable—it will be fun. Preparing for the worst will protect you from injuries and hopefully allow you to avoid using that all-important insurance policy you took out before moving. Bundle up Across the country’s 10 provinces and three territories, the Canadian…

For Canadian Travellers: US Travel Future is Upbeat, But Do Your Homework

With the US economy booming, thanks to a surging stock market, record low unemployment, rising wages, and sharply lowered personal and corporate taxes, consumers are showing a growing confidence about spending more of their family budgets on travel. According to the most recent report by international business consulting firm Deloitte: of the six major segments that comprise the US travel industry (airlines, lodging, car rentals, cruises, rail, and travel packaging), a strong five per cent growth is forecast for 2018, setting the USA travel industry on course to hit a record-breaking $370 billion by year’s end. For Canadian travellers, who make about 25 million overnight trips to the US annually (that doesn’t count day trippers crossing over for a few hours), that means an expanding choice of locations and activity interests at all price levels; competitive (cheaper) airline fares; more hospitality and dining options—in short, more bang for your buck.…