Travel in Canada. The Cost


Most of us like a little peek–under the hood, the skirts, the sheets. Whatever.

To satisfy that niggling curiosity, here’s what our jaunt through Canada’s eastern provinces cost for Julia and I. Just in case you were thinking about doing a little jaunting through Canada yourself.

In three months, we:

  • Traveled about  6,000 miles (9700 km). This included crossing Ontario, bypassing Ottawa and Montreal. Visiting Quebec City, rounding the Gaspe Peninsula, cruising down the New Brunswick coast, dipping into Prince Edward Island, rounding Cape Breton Island, and a month on Newfoundland.
  • Visited three UNESCO Word Heritage sites: (Old City of Quebec, L’Anse aux Meadows, Gros Morne National Park.)
  • Camped in seven Canadian National Parks, plus visiting a bunch of national historic sites.

At the time we traveled (last summer), the Canadian dollar was worth slightly more than the greenback. It was also a lot prettier with a lacey, see-through effect.

Yes, Queen Elizabeth is still on Canadian money. These are the new “polymer” bills.

However, as I mentioned in a previous post, traveling in Canada is no longer the economic free-for-all it used to be. The Canadian dollar has bulked up in recent years, so prices in wimpy US dollars are high, as are Canadian taxes.

Warning: digression.
I don’t pretend to understand the Canadian tax system, but in some provinces, which shall remain nameless, I virtually stopped buying gifts and souvenirs, like that rug handwoven by Madame Hughette, because taxes took such a bite. (Federal and provincial taxes are charged on just about everything.) One merchant even gave me a little pourboire after I whined for a while about the taxes.

Oddly, Canadians by-and-large don’t seem to mind–and I asked several. They looked at me with mild incomprehension, like, What’s the big deal? One said, “Well, we know we’ll get back what we pay in,” referring to their “socialist” healthcare system, of course, which seems to work pretty well in Canada. Just sayin’.

I guess if your basic needs are met, and you feel your government is providing good service for money, then you are content. I found Canadians to be a pretty contented lot, overall.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Gas: CDN$2250.
In spite of driving an agonizing 55mph–the speed at which my GPS gives me a happy green leaf for being such an environmental chump, er, champ. In spite of strictly limiting joyrides or side trips or non-essential excursions, gas was by far the biggest expense. (I am, however, driving an 8-cylinder SUV and towing a tiny trailer.)

Gas prices ranged from CDN$1.18 (in Ontario) to $1.42 (in Newfoundland) per literThis is about CDN$4.75 to $5.70 per US gallon. At which point, I began drawing alarmed emoticons in my logbook.

While gas prices vary between provinces, they’re very stable within the province. That means you don’t have to roll the dice as to whether to buy gas at this little inner-city joint or take your chances on the expressway travel center–if you can make it there before you run out of gas. In Canada, the price is the same everywhere–until you cross the provincial line.

Lodging: $1550
This was only for campgrounds. We never used hotels.

Campsites ranged from almost $4o/night for a nice campground near Quebec City, which was a bus ride away from the Old City, to $9.75 at Pistolet Provincial Park in Newfoundland, which was near L’anse aux Meadows, the Viking landing site.

I thought camping was expensive, although this may be because I’m used to wide-open spaces in the American West or national forest campgrounds in the Midwest, where you can always find free or cheap camping (albeit without services, such as electricity or a dump station).

After a while, I began to find spots where I could just pull off the road for the night. Sometimes these were dismal, and sometimes they were glorious. But they were always free.

dismal camping behind the bar in Trois Pistoles


Ahhh. Sweet peace.

Pretty sweet


Food (for two): CDN$1245

We usually cooked in the trailer,  (Ummm, “we?”) which cut the cost of food, but I tried to judiciously choose places in which to sample local fare. Seafood, of course, was the main attraction–the maritimes are a smorgasbord of les fruits de mer, which we inhaled from Quebec to Newfoundland, including the grand finale: a literal bucket of seafood goodness at our final stop in Alma, New Brunswick.

Fruit of the sea in a bucket

Seafood goodness

Miscellaneous: CDN: $1400

This is an awkward catch-all that covers everything from gifts to museum entries to propane for the trailer. So this category is the most personal and least useful for anyone else. I probably also forgot to include stuff.

I didn’t include the cost of the Marine Atlantic ferry in this category, but that crossing to Newfoundland was about $1000. I went the long (and more expensive) route to Argentia and returned by the shorter route from Port aux Basques. Marine Atlantic was very friendly and easy to deal with.

I also bought the Canadian National Park pass for $135 (the family rate for Julia and I), which got me fee-free entry to all the national parks and historical sites, although I still had to pay for camping. This was totally worth it, since we visited a slew of national parks and historic sites.

GRAND TOTAL (gag): CDN$7500.

As trips go, this was expensive. Was it worth it? Without doubt.

I live right next door to Canada (in Michigan), and I’ve been crossing that border since childhood–often to Ontario but I’ve also traveled throughout the western provinces on various trips. (British Columbia is a piece of Canadian paradise.) But I had never explored the eastern provinces.

Until now.

Folks, it’s better than what you’ve heard. And different. And unique. And historic. That’s all you’re getting–you must discover it for yourself.

I will, however, post recommendations of my five-star Canadian favs in a future blog. Who needs TripAdvisor? Just ask me!

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6 Responses to Travel in Canada. The Cost

  1. Ainlay 13 July, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    Well, as an American I am sad to say I have not been anywhere in Canada besides Montreal for a weekend. But now I want to see it for sure. Maybe a drive East to West and end up in Alaska…..?

    • Kate Convissor 13 July, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

      Ainlay, I expect nothing less than coast-to-coast with a side trip to the North Pole from you. The Trans-Canada highway starts in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is the only road through Labrador. I heard it was a beast.

      Let me know when you want to go. Maybe a convoy…

      I gotta do me the Trans-Siberia trip first, though.

  2. Marcia Davis 12 July, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    That explains a lot, thanks! Not sure when I’ll get there but I know you’re my primary source when I plan to go!

  3. Marcia Davis 12 July, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Cool….thanks for clarifying. I figured the vehicle had something to do with it. I didn’t put two and two together about going to the east side of the island. It will probably be awhile before I get there, but you know you’re my primary source when I’m ready!

  4. Marcia Davis 9 July, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    So thorough and informative. I’ve been loving all the info you’ve given us about the whole trip. Thank you!
    One question, though: Was it *really* $1,000 (CDN) to cross via ferry to Newfoundland?? Why so expensive?

    • Kate Convissor 9 July, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

      Yeah, it was that expensive. The cost included a longer vehicle (as I recall, charges are based on length) and two people. Mostly, though, it was because I went the long way into Argentia on the easterly side of the island. That’s a long trip! It would have been a lot cheaper to have traveled directly to and from Port aux Basques–about half the distance.

      I decided to sail into Argentia because I wanted to see the eastern side of the island. Driving across the island from the west (Port aux Basques) would have taken about 10-12 hours.

      If you’re thinking about taking the trip, give me a call. I have some additional info.