Montréal in detail

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Accessible Travel

The public transport system is quite accessibility friendly, provided weather conditions permit. Check the STM page (www.stm.info/en/access). Featured accessible accommodation is searchable on Quebec For All (http://quebecforall.com). Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Access to Travel (www.accesstotravel.gc.ca) provides details of accessible transportation across Canada.

Nonprofit organization Kéroul is dedicated to making travel more accessible to people with limited mobility. They provide themed accessible travel itinerary suggestions (quebecforall.com) covering Montréal, Québec City and 15 other tourism areas in Québec, highlighting access facilities in each.

Watch for the Tourist & Leisure Companion Sticker, which indicates free access to facilities for those traveling with people with a disability or mental illness. The website www.aqlph.qc.ca has a full list of participating sites throughout Québec.

Dangers & Annoyances

  • Violent crime is rare (especially involving foreigners). Even so, as in all big cities, it's best to stay alert for petty theft and use hotel safes where available.
  • Cars with foreign registration are occasionally targeted for smash-and-grab theft. As in any big city, don’t leave valuables in the car.
  • Take special care at pedestrian crosswalks in Montréal: unless there’s an arrêt (stop) sign, drivers largely ignore these crosswalks.

Discount Cards

  • Discount Cards The Montréal Museum Pass allows free access to 39 museums for three days of your choice within a 21-day period ($80). It comes with three consecutive days of free access to bus and metro. It’s available from the city’s tourist offices, major museums, or you can buy it online.

Emergency & Important Numbers

Canada's country code1
International access code1
Operator0
Emergencies911
Police, nonemergencies514-280-2222

Etiquette

  • Greetings You will usually be greeted in stores and restaurants in French. It is fine to break into English, but learning basic French greetings is greatly appreciated.
  • Queues Montréalers, and Canadians, are notoriously polite, especially when it comes to queuing. Any attempt to ‘jump the queue’ will result in an outburst of tutting.

Insurance

Medical bills can add up quickly in Canada, so comprehensive travel insurance is important – especially if you are going to be participating in any winter sports. Ensure you are covered for specific activities and that car rentals include insurance if you plan on road trips.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Internet Access

Wi-fi is widely available throughout Montréal and Québec City – and with the exception of a few high-end hotels, it's generally free of charge. That said, many cafes and restaurants still do not offer wi-fi, making Montréal less wi-fi saturated than other large cities such as London or New York.

For a map of hundreds of places where you can get online for free, see Zap (zapwifipublic.ca). For info on free wi-fi hot spots around the province, visit Zap Québec (www.zapquebec.org).

Many hotels have a computer available for guests.

LGBT Travellers

Montréal is a popular getaway for lesbian, gay and bisexual travelers. The gay community is centered in The Village, and it’s huge business. The weeklong Montréal Pride attracts hundreds of thousands every August, while the Black & Blue Festival in early October features major dance parties along with cultural and arts events.

Gays and lesbians are an accepted part of Montréal life. In neighborhoods such as the Plateau, for example, two men holding hands in public will scarcely raise an eyebrow.

Montréal Gay & Lesbian Community Centre & Library has been around since 1988 and provides an extensive library and loads of info on the city’s gay and lesbian scene.

Fugues (www.fugues.com) is the free, French-language, authoritative monthly guide to the gay and lesbian scene for the province of Québec. It’s an excellent place to find out about the latest clubs and gay-friendly accommodations, with some information in English online.

Maps

If you’re going to explore Montréal in detail – and prefer to use something other than smartphone or guidebook maps – you can get detailed maps online from Mapart (www.mapartmaps.com) and at Aux Quatre Points Cardinaux.

Media

  • Newspapers The Montréal Gazette (www.montrealgazette.com) is the main English-language daily newspaper with solid coverage of national affairs, politics and arts. The Saturday edition has useful what's-on listings.
  • Magazines The online alternative magazines Cult (www.cultmtl.com) and Hour Community (www.hour.ca) are even better sources of what's-on listings.
  • Blogs MTL Blog (www.mtlblog.com) is great for up-to-date listings and lots of listicles.

Money

ATMs are widely available. Major credit cards are widely accepted.

Changing Money

The main shopping streets in Montréal, including Rue Ste-Catherine, Blvd St-Laurent and Rue St-Denis, have plenty of banks. There are also foreign-exchange desks at the main tourist office, the airport and the casino.

Note that many credit-card machines only take chip-enabled cards.

ATMs

Montréal and Québec City have droves of ATMs linked to the international Cirrus, Plus and Maestro networks, not only in banks but also in pubs, convenience stores and hotels. Many charge a small fee per use, and your own bank may levy an extra fee – it’s best to check before leaving home. Some users report that Banque Nationale charges no usage fees.

More Information

Canadian coins come in 1¢ (penny), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), 25¢ (quarter), $1 (loonie) and $2 (toonie) pieces.

Polymer banknote currency comes in $5 (blue), $10 (purple), $20 (green) and $50 (red) denominations. The $100 (brown) bill and larger bills are less common. Many stores refuse to take larger bills for fear of counterfeiting, though Canada has some of the lowest rates of fake banknotes in the world.

Tipping

A tip of 15% of the pretax bill is customary in restaurants. Most credit-card machines in Québec will calculate the tip based on the percentage you specify, or allow you to tip an amount of your choice. If tipping cash, leave the tip on the table or hand it directly to staff.

Opening Hours

The following are typical, though individual businesses hours may vary:

Banks 10am–3pm Monday to Friday (later on Thursday).

Bars & Pubs 11:30am–midnight or later; those not serving food may not open until 5pm or later.

Government Offices 9am–5pm Monday to Friday.

Museums 10am or 11am to 6pm. Most close Monday, but stay open late one day a week (typically Wednesday or Thursday).

Post Offices 8am–5pm Monday to Friday.

Restaurants 11:30am–2:30pm and 5:30pm–11pm; cafes serving breakfast open between 7am and 9am.

Post

Standard 1st-class airmail letters or postcards up to 30g cost $1.05 within Canada, $1.27 to the US and $2.65 to all other destinations. For general information, contact Canada Post.

Montréal’s main post office is the largest but there are many convenient locations around town. Stamps are also available at newspaper shops, convenience stores and some hotels.

Public Holidays

New Year’s Day January 1

Good Friday & Easter Monday Late March to mid-April

Victoria Day May 24 or nearest Monday

National Aboriginal Day June 21 (unofficial)

St-Jean-Baptiste Day June 24

Canada Day July 1

Labour Day First Monday in September

Canadian Thanksgiving Second Monday in October

Remembrance Day November 11

Christmas Day December 25

Boxing Day December 26

Smoking

  • Smoking Prohibited in all enclosed spaces such as restaurants, bars and clubs, and restaurant and bar patios. The ban includes smoking cannabis and vaping.

Taxes & Refunds

A total tax of 14.975% is levied on most goods and services. This is made up of a 5% good and services tax (GST), plus a 9.975% provincial sales tax (PST). Most prices on store shelves, restaurant menus, or hotel rooms are pre-tax prices. It is not possible for visitors to claim a refund of taxes paid on goods.

Telephone

The area code for the entire island of Montréal is 514; Québec City is 418. When you dial, even local numbers, you will need to punch in the area code as well.

Toll-free numbers begin with 800, 866, 877 or 888 and must be preceded with 1. Some numbers are good throughout North America, others only within Canada or one particular province.

Dialing the operator (0) or the emergency number (911) is free of charge from both public and private phones. For directory assistance, dial 411. Fees apply.

With the advent of cell phones, public phones have become a rarity. When you do find them they will either be coin-operated (local calls cost 50¢) or accept phone cards and credit cards.

Mobile Phones

Buy local prepaid SIM cards for use with unlocked international phones.

More Information

The only foreign cell phones that will work in North America are unlocked triband models operating on GSM 1900 – this is nearly every smartphone made in the last few years. If you don’t have one of these, your best bet is to buy an inexpensive phone with prepaid minutes and a rechargeable SIM card at a consumer electronics store such as Best Buy (www.bestbuy.ca). If you just need data and not calls, you can still use wi-fi.

US residents traveling with their phone may have service (though they’ll pay roaming fees). Get in touch with your cell-phone provider for details.

Phonecards

Bell Canada’s prepaid cards, in denominations of $5, $10 and $20, work from public and private phones. There are also plenty of local phonecards offering better rates than Bell’s, sold at convenience stores, newsstands and websites such as www.thephonecardstore.ca.

Time

Montréal is on Eastern Time (EST/EDT), as is New York City and Toronto – five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.

Canada switches to daylight-saving time (one hour later than Standard Time) from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

Train schedules, film screenings and schedules in French use the 24-hour clock (eg 6:30pm becomes 18:30), while English schedules use the 12-hour clock.

Toilets

Public sit-down toilets are plentiful in busy areas and at all metro stations. They are always free to use.

Tourist Information

Centre Infotouriste Montréal provides maps, info about attractions and booking services (hotels, car hire, tours).

Tourisme Montréal Has reams of information and a last-minute hotel search engine with guaranteed best price.

Travel with Children

Montréal has many sights for young visitors. Depending on the season, you can go boating, cycling and ice-skating, or get some amusement park or skydiving thrills. On warm days, Parc Mont-Royal and neighborhood parks are great places for picnics and free-spirited outdoor activity.

Live Performances

  • Cirque du Soleil

World-renowned Cirque du Soleil combines dance, theater and circus in powerpacked summertime shows. It will thrill the kids, but is truly for all ages.

  • TOHU

For entertaining shows year-round, head to TOHU, a circular theater in the St-Michel district.

Hands-On Activities

  • Old Port

At the Old Port you can hop into a paddleboat, go jet boating on the St Lawrence, or tootle along in a minitrain for a grand tour.

  • Centre des Sciences de Montréal

Enjoy technological wonders, unusual games and an IMAX cinema at Centre des Sciences de Montréal.

  • Biosphère

Make a dam and walk on water at hands-on multimedia museum Biosphère in Parc Jean-Drapeau.

  • Skyventure

Children aged four and above can experience the thrill of flying at Skyventure, a unique skydiving simulator.

  • Musée d'Archéologie et d'Histoire Pointe-à-Callière

Go on a simulated archaeological dig at the Mariners' House.

Fur Trade Costumes

Kid-Friendly Museums

  • Biodôme

Kids will love Biodôme, a giant indoor zoo with forest, river and marine habitats.

  • Insectarium

Check out the soon to reopen Insectarium, with 250,000 specimens creeping, crawling or otherwise on display.

  • Planétarium

Enjoy the Planétarium, with domed theaters and interactive exhibits on outer space.

  • Cosmodôme

Take your tots on a virtual mission to Mars at Cosmodôme, an engaging Québec space center.

  • Musée Ferroviaire Canadien

At greater Québec's Musée Ferroviaire Canadien there are trains of every kind – stationary, moving, new and old – that will thrill adults as much as children.

  • Musée Stewart

See oversized cannons, military parades and guides in period costumes inside an old British garrison at Musée Stewart.

Outdoor Fun

  • La Ronde

At Québec’s largest amusement park, La Ronde, kids will experience chills and thrills galore – plus fireworks on some summer nights.

  • Parks & Gardens

Enormous Parc du Mont-Royal in the heart of the city is especially fun for kids in winter, with tobogganing, skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating. There is more sledding, curling and snow fun at the Fête des Neiges at Parc Jean-Drapeau on some weekends. Parc La Fontaine is perfect for a casual, outdoor stroll, and sits at the edge of the bustling Plateau. Or try Parc Nature du Cap-St-Jacques, a verdant park with trails, a beach, a sugar shack and a working farm.

Need to Know

  • Kid-Friendly Restaurants Juliette et Chocolat, Romados, Robin des Bois, Marché Atwater, Espace La Fontaine.
  • Specialty Resources Exploring Montréal with Kids (www.montrealfamilies.ca).
  • Transport Up to five children under 11 years old can travel free accompanied by a paying adult on weekends (after 4pm Friday to the end of Sunday). Children under six years old always travel free.

Weights & Measures

Canada officially uses the metric system, and use of metric units is especially widespread in Québec compared to other Canadian provinces. All distances are stated in kilometers, and measurements such as height and weight are more likely to be expressed in kilograms, meters and centimeters here than elsewhere in Canada. Even so, you'll still see plenty of French-language references to imperial units, such as the pieds carrés (square feet) used in many real-estate listings, or the quart de livre (quarter pounder) on the McDonald's menu.

Women Travellers

It is illegal in Canada to carry pepper spray or mace. Instead, some women recommend carrying a whistle to deal with attackers or potential dangers. If you are sexually assaulted, call 911 or the local Sexual Assault Center for referrals to hospitals that have sexual-assault care centers.