Know Before You Go: Having a Few Loonies, Twoonies Will Help

Whether you regularly travel internationally or AIHce 2009 will provide your first opportunity to make "discoveries beyond borders," knowing the latest currency exchange rates, customs rules, and passport law changes is a good idea. With that in mind, AIHA and ACGIH put together a "Canada 101" tip sheet that covers a few of the basics:

LANGUAGE

  • English and French are Canada's two official languages.
  • Toronto, the capital of Ontario province, is a predominantly English-speaking city.

CURRENCY

  • All of Canada uses the Canadian dollar, but most locales also accept U.S. dollars. (And currently, Toronto is a value for Americans because of the U.S. dollar to Canadian dollar exchange rate; as of this writing, 1 USD = 1.14 CAD.)
  • $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 paper dollars are commonly available. The $1 and $2 bills have been replaced with coins (the loonie and the twoonie).
  • Most U.S. banks will not buy back coins in exchange for U.S. dollars.
  • Banks are generally open Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

PURCHASES

  • Credit/Debit /Bank card purchases are available at most restaurants, hotels, and retail outlets. At any bank or ATM machine, Canadian funds from a foreign currency account may be withdrawn.
  • Major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, are widely accepted.
  • In general, ATM withdrawals and credit cards offer the most favorable rate of exchange.
  • The tax rate for goods and services in Toronto is 5% GST.

TIPPING

  • A 15% - 20% gratuity is standard at most restaurants and for cab drivers.
  • Bellhops and baggage porters are generally tipped $1 CAD per item.

CLIMATE

  • Daytime temperatures in June are in the 70s; evenings cool to the 50s.
  • Bring a sweater or jacket; the temperature in the convention center will be cool.

In addition, remember that even though Canada is America's next-door neighbor and Toronto is a figurative stone's throw away, the new law affecting passports goes into effect June 1, the very day the conference proper begins. As of next Monday, ALL individuals will be required to hold a valid passport to enter/re-enter the United States, and to be valid, a passport cannot expire within six months of travel dates.

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