When planning our annual family summer vacation this year we knew we wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before. We also wanted something with a mix of history, outdoor adventure and city life. We settled on Canada since most of us had never been before, and then more specifically Quebec City because of its historical significance, proximity to a national park and its walkable downtown area. We decided to fly to Boston where Cory’s dad lives and then drive up to Quebec City. We spent a lot of time before the trip researching everything and had an itinerary for the week ready before we went. After this research and our own experience from our trip we came up with these 10 things we think you should know before going to Quebec City!
- The official language of Quebec is French
While the majority of people in Quebec City speak French, most of them know English as well so it wasn’t difficult for us to get around in the city. Knowing some basic French would certainly help, but the only two words we really used were “Bonjour!” and “Merci!”. All of the signs are in French (sometimes there was the English translation too, but not always!) so we would have to use our phones for Google Translate. If you have not used the camera feature with Google Translate then you’re missing out! It’s super easy to use and translates almost immediately. It’s not always 100% accurate, but it gave us a good enough understanding that we never had any issues.
- All attractions are walking distance in Quebec City
When visiting Quebec City we did all of the main tourist things like the Chateau Frontenac, Petit-Champlain District and Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site. It was all within walking distance and we did not have any problems getting around without a car. The streets are easy to navigate too. I would suggest downloading the map of Quebec City with Google Maps and keeping an offline copy to help navigate, especially if your cell phone plan doesn’t cover roaming data in Canada. I would also suggest visiting the tourist information center to get a few maps and chat with someone on what to do!
- Credit card international fees
We use our Capital One Venture credit card for anything travel related because it has no international transaction fees and we use the points we earn to book our flights (we completely covered our flights to Boston and back just with points!). It’s also easy to pay because you don’t have to worry about exchange rates. When researching credit cards I saw some charge up to 5% per transaction! Make sure you check what your credit card charges before you go.
- Don’t only use cash
I would recommend just paying with your credit card and not worrying about using cash. Everywhere we went took credit cards were accepted! (You should definitely exchange your cash and get some smaller bills so you can take home some CAD to stuff in your adventure book though). We didn’t want to worry about how much of our money to exchange and then realize later we didn’t have enough or end up having too much CAD before heading back home. I have the Capital One Venture app on my phone and every time it’s swiped I get a notification. We used this along with a quick spreadsheet to keep track of everything we were spending each day.
- Exchange rates
I know it’s an obvious one when traveling abroad, but most of the time it’s overlooked. If you don’t really understand the exchange rate then you will end up paying a lot for something that’s really not worth it. We’re coming from the United States, so our exchange rate is 1.00 CAD = 0.760427 USD. This is good news for us because our dollar will go further in Canada! There’s plenty of currency converters online and I found this one to be the most useful when trying to figure it all out.
- Safe and clean
One of the first things we realized when traveling around the city was how safe it felt. I never felt like we were in a bad area when walking around. It was also very clean. Cory’s dad kept commenting how clean the city was compared to many he had been to in Europe and around the U.S. You can tell that the people of Quebec City take great pride in their city and keep it looking great.
- Rainy days
We traveled to Quebec City during the summer. The week after we left there was rain in the forecast for the entire week. I would definitely recommend checking out current and past weather conditions for your proposed trip dates. Our first full day in the city was full of rain and thunderstorms. In my opinion, Quebec City is perfect for a rainy day with tons of indoor options. You could easily spend most of the morning checking out Parliament, the Citadel or some of the unique museums.
- Steps and more steps
We did not realize before going how many inclines and hills Quebec City had. Pretty much every other street had an incline. It’s not a problem for many people, but can be difficult for some. On one particularly long set of stairs I heard a lady say “I definitely shouldn’t have eaten all those nachos before attempting this.” We walked on average six miles each day, so by the end of the day we were definitely tired, but that just meant we could eat more poutine and maple products!
- Quebecois (native of Quebec)
The people we met while staying and traveling around Quebec were some of the nicest people we have ever met. We had so many good conversations. Our waiter at one restaurant asked for recommendations on what to see when he traveled to the United States. He wanted to spend a week in each state. We suggested all of the major national parks and some of our favorite cities. One day we explored Ile d’Orléans just outside of the city and met the owner of Confiturerie Tigidou. While we sampled his amazing jam, he shared with us so much knowledge and his love for the area. We also met the owner of a cider house and we enjoyed the view from his place while trying his ciders and learning about the production process. I enjoy traveling not just for the destination, but for the people you meet. On every trip we have ever been on there’s always one person that we meet that we talk about when that trip is mentioned.
- Poutine Is Life
I’ve had poutine a few different times before heading to Canada, but I was still not ready for what we experienced in Quebec. All of the food we had in Quebec was amazing, we could probably write a whole separate post on just that. We knew we wanted to try as much poutine as possible while we were there and I think we had it for at least one meal every day. We had poutine from Chez Ashton, Tim Horton’s and Resto-Pub L’O2 L’ile. I will forever think about the poutine from Resto-Pub L’O2 L’ile with coffee sauce gravy magicalness.
We hope you enjoyed our list and hopefully it helps you if you’re planning a vacation to Canada soon. Quebec City has so much to offer and it should not be missed. The food, the people and the city are truly travel goals. Do you want to visit Quebec or somewhere else in Canada soon? British Columbia is at the top of our list!