Planning a trip round Eastern Canada Summer '14 using public transport
Replies: 33 - Last Post: Mar 4, 2013 11:47 AM Last Post By: CassieT14
Feb 23, 2013 12:58 AM
Planning a trip round Eastern Canada Summer '14 using public transportHi all, was just wondering if I could get some advice on travelling round Ontario and Quebec using public transport mainly trains as I'm a student travelling alone. I've been on the VIA rail website and it seems to be a good deal (206$ for the multiple city pass for a youth in August 2013- wouldn't let me go as far as August 2014). I was just wondering if anyone else had used the train to get to and how good the service is/do you see much on the way?:
Toronto down to Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls to Toronto
Toronto to Ottawa
Ottawa to Montreal
Montreal to Toronto
Time at each place will be different, but it will be around a few days at each, longer in the bigger cities. Planning on staying in hostels/cheap accommodation . My budget is £1500 which roughly works out to be 2340$ Canadian dollars. I'm planning on being out in Canada for about a month, mid-August to mid-September 2014.
I also wanted to see some of the beautiful scenery while I was out there rather than spending all my time in the cities. I've seen there are some but it seems to be that it's easier to drive and little public transport to reach them. I was also wondering if anyone knew of any parks/natural areas that are easy to get to without a car?
Any advice would be great.
Feb 23, 2013 4:26 AM
1Via rail is notoriously expensive but, as you seem to have found, there are sometimes good deals. Keep checking the website for when you want to travel and snap up that pass when it is affordable. I can't imagine summer 2014 prices being advertised more than a year in advance but keep checking, I guess.
You are looking at trains in the busiest and densest part of the country. There's not much to see, though you will see some pretty Lake Ontario shoreline on either side of Toronto. Regardless, the train has fine service. They're often late so don't be in a hurry. The food is limited so try to bring something on board. That being said, none of the rides are very long so a couple of snacks might suffice.
As far as I know, Via eliminated the Toronto-Niagara Falls run. Check out GO Transit. Right now it will show a train/bus combo...but in the summer, it should be a train the whole way. You will not be able to use your Via pass for GO.
If you are trying to save money, then the bus can be substantially cheaper than the train. Look at Greyhound for the Toronto-Ottawa and Ottawa-Montreal legs, Megabus for going direct Toronto-Montreal, and Greyhound or Coach Canada for Toronto-Niagara Falls.
Indeed it is very hard to get outside the cities without a car. One option is a bus that goes from Toronto to Algonquin Provincial Park and some other locations: Parkbus. By staying in hostels, you might meet people willing to share a rental car and do a road trip with. Aside from heading north from Toronto up to Algonquin and beyond, there's not a heck a lot of "scenery." From Ottawa, you can cross into the Gatineau region of Quebec. You might be able to find groups at the hostel or google for hiking clubs/trips. Same goes for Montreal. Depending on how much time you have, you can start heading east from Montreal to Tadoussac or the Gaspe Peninsula. Their might be some buses...or look for ride-shares. Also, you may want to stop in Kingston on the way to Ottawa (Via and Megabus stop there) to visit a smaller, historical city, from which you can do a 1000 Islands boat tour.
Feb 23, 2013 5:28 AM
2Thank you for your reply! It's very helpful. Yes I think the greyhound bus will definitely be an option now, as I'm not in any rush to get to and from places. Will also definitely have to look into at hostels possibly finding people who would car share etc- bit scary though haha! But I guess that's the fun of travelling. And by the sounds of it Kingston sounds great as I wanted to see some smaller towns as well but wasn't sure where would be good to go along the way. So that's a great help thanks!
Feb 23, 2013 12:14 PM
Feb 23, 2013 1:05 PM
4Greyhound is definitely lower quality even than the UK's national express, and it's got a reputation for being used by people who are bums. However, a bus is a bus, you'll be fine.
Definitely look into issues about driving licences and insurance (Canadian insurance, for example, costs more if you plan to have 2 drivers) if you think you might rent a car. It's a dreadful truth about Canada's transit system that renting is often the cheapest way to go. Watch for 10-20 dollar per day deals, especially with Budget and Rent-a-Wreck (older models, not wrecks!!) and remember that Canada is often an OK country to do one-way rentals with.
Feb 23, 2013 4:14 PM
Feb 24, 2013 9:06 AM
6Precisely. It's got a REPUTATION for being used by bums - but that isn't a correct reputation. People use it for transport.
I have to chuckle - how can "a bus is a bus" be a misinformed statement??? Greyhound is no better or worse than a bus from Vancouver to Richmond - just further.
Feb 25, 2013 6:58 AM
7FWIW, in my experience a broader and more diverse range of people use the bus in Canada than in parts of the US, i.e. those areas that have contributed to this "bums" reputation. The routes the OP will use are well traveled and will be full of families, students, and tourists. That being said, Greyhound as a company still sucks big time, whether in the US or Canada, in everything from customer service to purchasing tickets.
Feb 25, 2013 9:03 AM
8Public transportation in Canada is not really convenient for a tourist. That's the reality. It severely limits where you can get to. Really, the only way to see much of Ontario and Quebec is by car. You can't for example, stop off in Gravenhurst for a few hours to visit, enroute to Algonquin.
So that being said, I would suggest you either have to resign yourself to only visiting cities/towns by train/bus or rent a car if you want to see scenery and visit smaller places.
Your budget of $2300 is also pretty low for a month. Hostels are not numerous in Canada compared to Europe and you are likely to find them only in major locations or near major tourist areas. Prices run from $25 to $50 a night for a bed. If you only have an average of $76 per day and that has to include transportation, you may be hard pressed to manage on that for a month. I'd say you need to up the budget. At $2300, renting a car is definitely out.
Feb 25, 2013 11:51 AM
9All I can say is that after 25+ yrs as a bus owner/operator, having ridden buses in over 30 countries + having traveled by bus from Panama City to Peterborough ON, I can honestly say that #6 doesn't have a clue what he/she/it is talking about.
Also that Greyhound which is owned/operated by Britain's First Group is the worst run bus company I have had the misfortune to have experienced!
Feb 25, 2013 1:13 PM
Feb 25, 2013 4:59 PM
Feb 25, 2013 8:35 PM
12soapbox--ontario is central. not east. ahem. (bitter east coaster)
rentals--deals can be found, but is it still the case that under 25s pay more? enterprise used to do incredibly cheap weekend deals, which would make getting out of a city much easier.
ride-share--there is a service in quebec called 'allo stop.' you pay a low fee to join, and then you check teh postings to see if people are going where you want, and the fees are all laid out. i used it a few years ago and it was a life and budget saver. there's a 'promotion etudiant' at teh bottom, but unless you have decent french you may need google to translate--there may be another part of the site in english, not sure.
it's true, the transit system sucks.
Feb 26, 2013 5:43 AM
13Okay thanks for everyone's replies. Car rental is out of the question for me. Insurance would be way too expensive for someone at the age of 22 with no years claim. I'm getting mixed replies about greyhound and buses, so that's something I have to look into more- I'm leaning more towards trains. What experiences have people had with VIA rail, to me it seems like the easiest way to get from city to city?
I'm not too bothered about going to smaller towns at the moment, as my budget won't let me do that so I will be staying in the larger towns/cities at hostels or other cheap accommodation. If I do then it will be local buses to the outskirts of the city or whatever..
Yes I understand I'm going to have to raise my budget, that was just a realistic budget at the time. Hopefully will get to £2000 or more.
I've seen about visiting Toronto Islands, has anyone been there before- it would just be a day trip?
Feb 26, 2013 8:16 AM
14If you stick to trains and major cities that's fine. You can walk from Toronto's Union Station to a hostel for example. Then yes you can walk or take local buses around the city. Toronto Islands is a ferry ride and yes, no more than a day trip if that. If you want to visit Niagara then the GO train as noted already is probably the best way. It's also just a day trip.
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