Montreal Vacations & Travel Tips
When to Go
Montreal has a notoriously arctic winter (December-March) that makes it great as a base for winter sports, but with the sort of spiteful temperatures that would probably frighten a polar bear. Thankfully, Montreal gets around the problem with its 'Underground City', a unique climate-controlled labyrinth of 2000 shops and 18mi of corridors. This makes the city an alluring year-round tourist drawcard - a winter wonderland during the cold season and warm, long, lazy nights in the summer. Late May to early September is peak tourist time and sees a seamless procession of festivals, including the legendary Jazz Festival and the Grand Prix, take over the town.
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Moving around within Montreal is a breeze thanks to its extensive metro and bus networks.
Montreal has a modern and convenient bus and metro system run by STM. The metro is the city's subway system and runs quickly and quietly on rubber tires, just like the one in Paris. If you're switching between buses, or between bus and metro, get a free transfer slip, called a correspondence, from the driver; on the metro take one from the machines just past the turnstiles. Transfers are valid for 90 minutes only for travel in one direction.
Though Montreal is fairly easy to navigate, public transportation is preferable to a car for getting around town. If you choose to drive, you'll find metered street parking (with meters set back from the curb) and public garages throughout the central area, especially underneath big hotels and shopping complexes.
The major car rental companies, including Hertz and Avis, have premises throughout the city.
Montreal's bicycle paths are extensive, running over 500km around the city. Useful bike maps are available from the tourist offices and bicycle rental shops.
Citizens of dozens of countries - including the USA, most Western European and Commonwealth countries, as well as Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Israel - don't need visas to enter Canada for stays of up to 180 days. US permanent residents are also exempt.
Nationals of around 150 other countries, including South Africa and China, need to apply to the Canadian visa office in their home country for a temporary resident visa (TRV). The website maintained by Citizenship & Immigration Canada (www.cic.gc.ca) has full details, including office addresses and the latest requirements. A separate visa is required if you plan to study or work in Canada.
Health and Safety
Violent crime is rare (especially involving foreigners) but petty theft is more common. Watch out for pickpockets in crowded markets and public transit, and use hotel safes where available.
Cars with foreign registration are popular targets for smash-and-grab theft. Don't leave valuables in the car, and remove registration and ID papers.
Take special care at pedestrian crosswalks in Montreal: unless there's an 'arrêt' (stop)sign, drivers largely ignore pedestrians' right-of-way.