As in the United States, Canadian currency is based on dollars and cents. Coins come in denominations of $0.01, $0.05, $0.10, and $0.25, and one and two dollars. The one-dollar coin is the gold-colored “loonie,” named for the bird featured on it. The unique two-dollar coin, introduced in 1996, is silver with a gold-colored insert. Notes come in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations.
All prices quoted in this book are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted. American dollars are accepted at many tourist areas, but the exchange rate is more favorable at banks. Currency other than U.S. dollars can be exchanged at most banks, airport money-changing facilities, and foreign-exchange brokers in Calgary, Banff, Jasper, and Edmonton. Travelers checks are the safest way to carry money, but a fee is often charged to cash them if they’re in a currency other than Canadian dollars. All major credit and charge cards are honored at Canadian banks, gas stations, and most commercial establishments. Automatic teller machines (ATMs) can be found in almost every town.
Banks are open 9:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Monday–Thursday and until 4:30 or 5 p.m. on Friday.
The cost of living is lower in Alberta than in other provinces but higher than in the United States. By planning ahead, having a tent or joining Hostelling International, and being prepared to cook your own meals, it is possible to get by on less than $100 per person per day. Gasoline is sold in liters (3.78 liters equals one U.S. gallon), and, as of the writing of this edition, gas costs from $1 per liter for regular unleaded. In remote areas, such as along the Icefields Parkway, the price is higher, up to $1.50 per liter.
Tips are not usually added to a bill, and in general 15 percent of the total amount is given to restaurant servers, taxi drivers, doormen, bellhops, and bar staff.
Canada imposes a 5 percent goods and services tax (GST) on most consumer purchases. Alberta is the only province that doesn’t impose a Provincial Sales Tax, which ranges 5–12 percent throughout the country. Alberta does have a 4 percent nonrefundable tourism tax on any accommodation with four or more rooms.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition