SOME USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT MONTREAL
Montreal is located at 45 30 N / 73 36 W. It is the largest city in Quebec and the second largest in Canada, with a metropolitan population of 3,359,000. Montreal is one of two large islands in this part of the St. Lawrence River (the other, Île Jésus, includes Laval and several other communities) and its highest point, Mount Royal, is 761 ft/ 232m high. The entire island of Montreal became a single municipality on January 1, 2002.
Montreal's climate varies a
lot over the year. The city is known
for its cold
winters,but its summers are hot and generally sunny,
with occasional muggy
days. May and October are arguably the pleasantest months
activities and walking.
Telephones: Use of the codes
Some calls from 514 to 450 are local, some are not; most calls to Laval and Longueuil
are local and do not require dialing 1.
Downtown post offices:
1250 University (just south of Ste-Catherine), 514-395-4909
In Canada letters (up to 30 g) cost 48 cents. To the U.S., letters are 65 cents and elsewhere $1.25. There is no postcard rate - a postcard counts as a letter. Other rates can be looked up on the Canada Post website as can Canadian postal codes.
CURRENCY, TAXES AND TIPPING:
The unit of currency is the Canadian dollar. Coins are in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 25 cents, and $1 (a large gold-colored coin) and $2 (a large bimetallic coin). Bills in $5 (blue), $10 (purple) and $20 (green) are in common circulation and you can get $50s (red) and $100s (brown) from banks, though not from most automatic teller machines (ATMs). Some stores are cautious about accepting bills larger than $20 because of counterfeits.
Stores in tourist zones are usually happy to accept U.S. currency and will often post the exchange rate they are offering. Normally this will be a few percentage points less than the bank rate. Major travellers' cheques are accepted in places that accept credit cards, but are not universally accepted as cash.
Most stores and restaurants accept Visa and MasterCard and often accept American Express. You usually get the most favorable exchange rate by using your credit card. Most ATMs are networked to Cirrus and Interac and accept major credit cards if you have a PIN number to enter into the machine.
There are currency exchange centers throughout the downtown area. They either charge a fee or take a couple of percentage points off the exchange rate for their services. Banks can usually handle U.S. funds without any problem but may not be prepared to handle other currencies. Bank branches are usually open from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. during the week, often with extended hours on Thursday or Friday, but it must be noted that all Canadian banks have reduced the number of their branches in recent years and, in some cases, reduced the hours of existing branches.
and most groceries are not taxed at all unless something counts as ready-to-eat. Almost everything else is taxable.
Non-residents may reclaim the sales taxes they have paid on some goods and services, so you're advised to keep your bills and receipts. You can get copies of the necessary forms at customs, tourist information centres, hotels and some department stores.
United States citizens are required to provide proof of citizenship upon request and must present a passport if entering from a third country. Persons under 18 years travelling without their parents should have a letter of authorization from a parent or guardian to travel into Canada. The U.S. government has an excellent useful page with further tips for U.S. residents visiting Canada. If you are accustomed to carrying a gun it would be a good page to consult.
Visitors from non-visa countries can stay for three months in Canada and can arrange an extension of a further three months on application to Immigration Canada.
If you are divorced or separated and are bringing your children to Canada, you should bring proof of legal custody. If you share custody, you should bring a notarized letter from the other custodian(s) which gives travel permission for the specific duration of the trip.
Each adult visitor may import, duty free, a maximum of 40 ounces (1.1 litres) of liquor, or 24 12-oz cans of beer or ale into Canada as personal luggage. Up to 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, and 400 grams of tobacco and 400 tobacco sticks may be allowed entry duty free.
Citizens of the following countries do NOT need a visa to enter Canada:
You can check this list to find the addresses of foreign embassies in Canada.
See our general map of the metropolitan area.
The old Montreal Urban Community website offers these fine PDF maps -somewhat out of date politically since since the January 2002 city mergers. Montreal's official site also has some nice maps - click on Cartographie.
Taxicabs serve both airports and are required by law to charge a flat rate for the trip plus posted rates for luggage handling. The current rate is $28 to Dorval and $69 to Mirabel. There are fees for baggage handling: prices are explicitly posted inside all taxicabs. Shuttle bus service runs from the downtown bus terminal (514-842-2281) with stops at Central Station (trains and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel) and several other downtown hotels before taking the highway to Dorval. Prices are lower than taxis, ranging from $7.25 to $9.25 for a one-way trip. A two-way ticket is cheaper if you plan on a return trip within a period of several months.
Dorval Airport charges a $15 beautification tax when you arrive or depart.
Amtrak runs the Adirondack from New York to Montreal daily. Their website also offers reservations.
There are two major downtown train stations, Central Station (Gare Centrale) and Windsor Station (recently renamed L'Allier Station). Both are connected to the Bonaventure Metro station and are thus connected to the underground city. Windsor/L'Allier is only used for commuter trains now.
Québec 257 km
Montreal is in the Eastern time zone of North America, 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time during the summer (Eastern Daylight, EDT) and 5 hours during the winter (Eastern Standard, EST).
Daylight Savings Time is observed from the last Sunday in April till the last Sunday in October.
In French, it is usual to see times quoted in 24-hour format, e.g. 20h30 is the same as 8:30 p.m. Keep this in mind for the times of events and for parking restrictions noted on official signs.
Electricity in Canada is 110V and the plugs are the same as in the U.S. If you come from a country that uses 220V electricity, you will have to bring a converter.
Legal holidays in 2002:
January 1: New Year's Day
Some stores open on holidays, although Christmas is all but universally a closing day. Boxing Day, Dec. 26, is commonly given as a holiday, as is January 2. Easter Monday seems to be declining in importance and is mostly observed now only by government offices, which also close on Remembrance Day, November 11. Most businesses stay open on November 11, but ceremonies are held to honour war veterans and a minute of silence is traditionally observed at 11 a.m.
Montrealers also observe Valentine's Day (February 14), Mother's Day (second Sunday in May), Father's Day (third Sunday in June) and Halloween (October 31), although these are not legal holidays. Depending on their origins, Montrealers might also celebrate Jewish holidays, the Asian lunar new year, or other saints' days or national holidays. A major parade is held for St. Patrick's Day (the parade is on March 17 this year).
Montreal has a long-standing tradition of ending residential leases on June 30. As a result, July 1 is moving day for a significant percentage of tenants in the city. The last two weeks of July are the construction holiday, and many other unionized workers take these two weeks off as well.
Montreal is a cosmopolitan city. Quebec's language laws have made it all but impossible to post outdoor signs in languages other than French, so there are few signs in English, but place names and street names are the same in any language so the inconvenience is minimal to visitors. It would not be unrealistic to say that in the parts of Montreal where most travelers go, services will be available in English.
HEALTH AND SAFETY:
Ambulance, fire, police: dial 911. For non-emergency police matters, dial 514-280-2222.
Health care is of a high standard but it is advised that you get travelers' insurance before you leave home because it is not free for visitors. Make sure you have the insurance documentation with you in case of emergency. You should bring any medications you need with you, especially sufficient quantities of prescription medicines.
Sanitation is equal to any developed country and tap water is drinkable. You do not need any special immunizations to visit Canada.
Montreal has a low crime rate. Nonetheless it is a large city and you should remain normally vigilant about your possessions and your person. No particular area of the city is marked off as dangerous, but it is not recommended to wander around Mount Royal or other large parks alone at night. The Metro is safe at all times.
DRINKING AND SMOKING:
The legal drinking age in Quebec is 18. You can buy beer and wine at many corner stores, but for a better selection of wine and for other liquors you must go to a government store (Société des Alcools). Many restaurants have a liquor license; in some areas, notably Prince Arthur and around Duluth Street, restaurants do without a license and customers can bring their own wine, reducing the expense of the meal. This is not universal and you must look for the "Apportez votre vin" signs.
Smoking is not permitted in the metro and on buses, in most shopping centres, in cinemas, in elevators, in government offices or in banks. Restaurants are supposed to have non-smoking sections but in some cases this is only nominally observed. Bars are universally smoking zones. You must be 18 years or older to buy tobacco, but in practice this is not enforced as firmly as the laws about buying alcohol. Smoking is very popular throughout Quebec and there is not much enthusiasm about suppressing it.
Please don't drink and drive.
GETTING AROUND THE CITY:
The main rule to remember about driving in Montreal is that you may not turn right on a red light.
Montreal presents a few hazards for drivers. Pedestrians are pretty blasé about crossing on red lights, and all road construction and repairs happen in the summer months so it's not unlikely that you will run into a few detours when driving around town in the summer.
Seatbelts are mandatory even in back seats. Helmets are required for motorcyclists. It is obligatory to stop when a school bus is stopping, regardless of the direction in which you are driving. On a few major streets, bus lanes are marked with a large white diamond shape and you must not use these lanes within the hours noted on the accompanying signs.
In the city, the Montreal police patrol the streets in blue and white cars. Parking infractions are monitored by city employees in reddish-orange cars - these folks wear green uniforms and are known as Green Onions. The older part of Montreal was built up before the automobile, so parking conditions can sometimes be frustrating. Be wary of neighborhoods where certain parking spots are reserved for local people with numbered stickers.
Unless you have mobility problems, sightseeing on foot and by Metro is encouraged for this reason, at least within downtown and Old Montreal.
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) patrols in khaki and yellow cars on highways, both inside and outside the city. Outside the city, local municipalities can also ticket you if you commit an infraction on a road in their territory.
Montreal has an excellent public transit system, the STM (Société des transports de Montréal) consisting of a subway system (see map), 155 bus routes (20 all-night routes), and five commuter train lines. Dial A-U-T-O-B-U-S for information about getting around on the system or check the STM website, which has excellent tools for working out how to get around. Maps and information about the system are also available in every Metro station at at tourist information points.
The metro lines shut down around 12:30 a.m., after which the system shifts over to night bus lines until around 5:30 a.m.
A monthly pass giving full access to the metro and bus system costs $50. A tourist card giving full access for a day costs $7 and for three days costs $14. A strip of six tickets costs $9 and a single fare is $2.25. Bus drivers do not make change and do not sell tickets, but all metro stations have manned ticket booths and some convenience stores sell tickets and passes.
If you're using tickets or paying in cash, it's important to get a transfer, which will permit you to change from metro to bus or from bus to bus. You do not need a transfer to exit the metro system as you do in some cities - it's only needed if you want to be able to connect to a bus from the metro system.
People who are not Montreal residents don't qualify for seniors' reductions or student fares.
If you're comfortable on a bicycle it would be interesting to see Montreal en vélo. Bicycling magazine named Montreal the top bicycling city for 1999. However, keep in mind that motorists tend to be aggressive and you have to ride circumspectly. Helmets are not mandatory, but bicycles should be well equipped with reflectors and you should have a good lock: bicycle theft is common.
Montreal has four daily newspapers. Only one is in English, The Gazette, which belongs to the Global media empire. In addition, there are Le Devoir, La Presse and Le Journal de Montréal. There are also four weekly cultural papers, two in each language, all publishing on Thursdays: Mirror and Hour in English, Voir and Ici in French. These can be picked up in many cafés and public places, for free.
For international papers, check any Maison de la Presse Internationale or Multimags, but our favorite newsstand downtown is Metropolitan News, 1109 Cypress St., just south of Peel and Ste-Catherine, 514-866-9227, and on the Plateau we recommend Le Point Vert, 4040 boul. St-Laurent at Duluth, 514-982-9195.
The main tourist information centre in Montreal is located near the corner of Peel and Ste-Catherine at 1001, rue du square Dorchester (corner Metcalfe), metro Peel, 514-873-2015. It is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the summer, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from September till June.