Québec covers 1,667,926 km2 of North America—more than a quarter of the total surface area of Canada, and three times that of France. When we say it’s big, we mean big! Our territory stretches eastwards from Ontario all the way to New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, and north from the U.S. border to the Arctic.
Land of contrasts
Québec boasts an incredible variety of spectacular landscapes—mountains, islands and seacoasts that transform with the seasons. Shimmering in summer, glacial in winter, tender in spring and flamboyant in fall.
We are graced with two mountain ranges, one on either side of the magnificent St. Lawrence River and its fluvial plain: the young Laurentian Mountains to the north, and the soft, rounded Appalachian Mountains to the south. Explore wide swaths of forest, taiga and tundra, and swim, boat or fish in over a million lakes and thousands of rivers.
The St. Lawrence River
The St. Lawrence is one of the largest rivers on Earth, and we are incredibly proud of it. Some eight million Québecers live close to the river, in both urban and rural areas. The St. Lawrence runs through 11 of Québec’s tourist regions, and widens in places to sea-like proportions. The river is a part of who we are.
The cold season is from the end of November to early April, with regional variations.
It’s no secret, winters are cold. The trick: dress warmly with many layers! Winter seems long, but it passes quickly because there’s so much to do outdoors in the snow, under the bright blue sky. Of all the northern countries, we actually have the most hours of sunshine in the winter. We’re lucky this way!
While summer has a humidex, winter has a windchill factor. When it’s windy, it feels even colder so you need to cover up well to avoid frostbite.
Québec’s territory is immense so to prepare properly, be sure to consider what part(s) of the province you will be visiting. The climate and the change of seasons vary in surprising ways at times: obviously it’s colder (winter) and cooler (summer) in the north than the south, but green Christmases (yes... green grass, sunshine and 20°C) and snowflakes in August (thankfully on very rare occasions) are not unheard of. There’s a reason we have a good sense of humour, given all the tricks Mother Nature plays on us.
Temperatures as high as 40°C were recorded in the summers of 1921, 1975 and 1977, and as low as -51°C in the winters of 1982 and 2002. Ironically, cities in northern Québec figured in both cases.
Winter begins with the magic of the holiday season with Christmas markets followed by outdoor festivals. The Québec Winter Carnival is the crowning event! And Igloofest, a huge outdoor electronic music festival, will keep your toes toasty as you dance the hours away. The colder it gets, the bigger the crowds. Call us crazy!
Outdoor enthusiasts are right at home here: downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, alpine luging, fatbiking, sliding, snowmobiling, dogsledding, ice-fishing, climbing, skating. Winter is your dream come true!
Item cost in Québec:
Starbucks Coffee $3-5 CAD vs $2-4 USD
Coca-cola $2 CAD vs $1.5 USD
City Tour $20 CAD vs $15 USD
Mid range hotel $200 CAD vs $150 USD
Top range hotel $375 CAD vs $270 USD
Average meal out per person $60 CAD vs $42 USD
Québec’s electric current is 110 volts/60 cycles.
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.
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.
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.
The participant declares that they have a valid health and travel insurance covering the costs related to COVID-19, before his/her arrival in Quebec. They further agree to comply with the measures in place issued by government authorities during the dates of travelling.
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.
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).
Example - approximate:
Bellboy in the hotels 5 Cad
House cleaning 10 Cad per stay
Luggage loaders if apply 5 Cad
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.
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.
Through our languages and traditions of yesterday and today, Québec’s culture is engraved in its heart.
Take our founding and Indigenous peoples, blend in the newcomers to our province who bring with them their own cultures, add a dollop of diverse languages and customs and—voilà!—you have Québecers, smiles included.
The cliché of the typical Québecer is a clever mix of Latin “joie de vivre,” Anglo-Saxon pragmatism and Indigenous sensitivity to the changing seasons! This means we love to party (we’ve got festivals galore), we line up at bus stops in Montréal (but not in Québec City... too Latin!) and we talk non-stop about the current weather… as well as last year’s weather on the same date, and next winter’s weather too. It’s all related to our need to know how to dress!
We’ve got many other customs too, some of which are handy to know especially if you’re visiting for the first time:
Québec’s statutory holidays and other popular celebrations throughout the year are: Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, Saint-Jean-Baptiste day, July 1 (Canada Day, known for being moving day), Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Halloween (not a statutory holiday but celebrated nonetheless!).
Like our ancestors and Swiss and Belgian cousins, in Québec the French word for lunch is “dîner” and dinner is “souper.” Breakfast is called “déjeuner” (sometimes “petit” (small) déjeuner, but it’s rarely a small meal, and can be even heartier if it’s a brunch). Weekend brunches among family and friends—typically around 11 a.m. on a Sunday—can usually tide you over until dinnertime, at 6 or 7 p.m.
Good to know: many unlicensed restaurants (no liquor licence) advertise “Bring your own wine or beer.” So stop off at the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) to buy yourself a nice bottle. The restaurant will open it and serve it to you free of charge.
Upon arrival at the restaurant, you’ll notice two things: the server will bring you water and sometimes bread, and will ask you if you want separate bills. At the end of the meal, they’ll check again about the number of bills. Generally in Québec, people go Dutch. Men don’t systematically pay for their partners, which continues to cause a certain awkwardness, but we won’t get into that dynamic right now.
As for the bill, for more information on this topic, refer to the Taxes, service and tips section.
Units of measurement
Québecers seem to be of two minds, having recorded information from our two main forebears, the French and the English. While we officially switched to the metric system in 1970, we still flit back and forth between metric and British Imperial units. Here are some examples:
At the grocery store, all weights are metric but product labels indicate the conversion to pounds in small print. People never refer to 454 grams of butter, but rather to a pound of butter. And when we gain or lose weight, we quantify it in pounds. Yet, younger people speak more in kilograms.
On the road, everything is metric. Distances are marked in kilometres and it’s clear for everyone. No one drives 100 miles/hour anymore. Thank goodness because 160 km/hour is considered speeding (the limit is 100 km/hour).
Metric is out the window when it comes to construction materials and everyday items like computer screens and sheets of paper, which are measured in inches. Much like people’s height: 5 feet 2 inches, six feet… instead of 1.57 m and 1.80 m.
The best example of binary thinking is the way we refer to temperature: our ovens are in Fahrenheit (350°F = 180°C), the water in swimming pools or other bodies of water is warm at 80°F (26.5°C), but we have no idea what 45°F or -38°F means because we use Celsius when we talk about the weather.
Québecers have virtually developed a form of “bilingualism” for units of measurement!
All the information is from https://www.bonjourquebec.com/en-us/plan-your-trip/useful-information