Toronto gets a passing grade for accessibility – it's not last in the class, but it's certainly no teacher’s pet. The good news is that all TTC buses are low-floor accessible, and have tools for the vision and hearing impaired. Only half of the subway stations have elevators, though, and few streetcars are accessible to the mobility impaired: the 509 and 510 lines are the only routes that accommodate everyone. (New streetcars are being purchased and deployed, but gradually.) It’s a similar story for hotels; modern hotels tend to have elevators, and wider doors and bathrooms, while smaller hotels, many built in refurbished Victorians, often do not.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
- Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Service (https://wheelchairtaxi.online) Providing door-to-door service to the mobility impaired in the Greater Toronto Area.
- Access to Travel (www.accesstotravel.gc.ca) Official government website providing information on accessible transportation and travel across Canada.
- Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (www.sath.org) Travelers with disabilities share tips and blogs.
Dangers & Annoyances
By North American standards, Toronto is a safe city to live in and to visit, but be aware of the following:
- Yonge St can be sketchy, especially heading north towards Bloor as the strip clubs, sex shops and bars increase in density. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid walking alone at night. Alternatively, walk on University Ave, just west of Yonge.
- At night, Cabbagetown South – the area around Parliament and Jarvis Sts at the intersections of Carlton St, Dundas St E and Queen St E, particularly around Allan Gardens and George St – are iffy. Best take a cab or ride share.
Discounts are commonly offered for seniors, children and families, though no special cards are issued (you get the savings on-site when you pay).
Toronto CityPASS (www.citypass.com/toronto; adult/child $73/50) offers a bundled rate for five attractions: the CN Tower, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma and your choice of the Ontario Science Centre or Toronto Zoo. If you're planning to go to at least three of these, it's a good deal.
International Student Identity Card (www.isic.org) Provides students with discounts on travel insurance and admission to museums and other sights. There are also cards for those who are under 26 but not students, and for full-time teachers.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|International access code||011|
Torontonians are a fairly laid-back, friendly crowd and aren't easily offended; however, some rules of etiquette do apply:
- Courtesy Please, thank you, and sorry are highly valued words. Use them. Bumping into someone without apologizing or not thanking someone for holding the door is considered very disrespectful.
- Winter In winter, when someone is about to enter a building you're exiting, let him or her in first; they're a lot colder than you are.
- Patriotism Commenting that Canadians and Americans aren’t much different is considered highly offensive.
- Queues While Torontonians usually just tut when dismayed, jumping ahead in line can prompt full-on shouts.
- Shoes Remove your shoes or boots and place them in the tray (plateau) provided in homes and B&Bs. Footwear brings in grit, mud and, in the winter, salt, which can damage carpets and wooden floors.
A must for visitors to Toronto, travel insurance ensures you're covered in the event of an emergency (and to avoid exorbitant bills resulting from, say, an emergency-room visit). 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.
Checking insurance quotes…
Free wi-fi is easy to find in Toronto: it's at coffee shops, larger restaurants, public libraries, downtown subway platforms and the airport. Most lodgings also offer free wi-fi, though chain hotels often charge flat daily rates. Gone are the days of internet cafes!
Check out www.wirelesstoronto.ca for a list of free hot spots in the city.
To say Toronto is LGBT-friendly is an understatement. That it embraces diversity more fully than most other centers of its size is closer to the mark. In 2003 Toronto became the first city in North America to legalize same-sex marriage. Just over a year later, an Ontario Court also recognized the first legal same-sex divorce.
Toronto's Pride festival is one of the largest in the world, and lasts a month. On Parade day, the streets around Church and Wellesley swell with over a million happy LGBTIQ+ folks and their friends and families. If Pride is your bag, be sure to book accommodations well in advance. At other times of the year, the Church St strip of the Village draws everyone from biker bears to lipstick lesbians to its modest smattering of sunny patios, pubs, cafes and restaurants for promenading and people watching. After dark it's all about the dancing: whether for cabaret or drag, thumping top-40 and R & B or queer alterna-punk, late-night revelers spill onto the streets, especially on weekends.
Other gay-friendly neighborhoods include the Annex, Kensington, Queen West, Cabbagetown and Leslieville (aka 'Lesbianville'). Gay nightlife venues are abundant, and although men's bars and clubs vastly outnumber lesbian venues, Toronto is also home to drag kings, women-only bathhouse nights and lesbian reading series.
Toronto is a great place to be gay or to explore your sexuality. Head to the Daily Xtra (www.dailyxtra.com) internet magazine for the latest scoop on LGBTIQ+ issues in the Village. There are also plenty of fantastic free community resources and support groups:
Publications and news sources include the following:
- Globe & Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com) Doyen among the national daily newspapers.
- Metro (www.metro360toronto.com) Free daily rag with bite-size news, sports and entertainment (often left on subway seats).
- NOW (www.nowtoronto.com) Alternative weekly (good for events and concerts), free every Thursday.
- Toronto Life (www.torontolife.com) Upscale monthly mag: lifestyle, dining, arts and entertainment.
- Toronto Star (www.thestar.com) Canada's largest newspaper; a comprehensive left-leaning daily.
- Toronto Sun (www.torontosun.com) Sensationalist tabloid with good sports coverage.
- Where Toronto (www.where.ca/toronto) The most informative of the free glossy tourist magazines.
- Daily Xtra (www.dailyxtra.com) Online LGBTIQ+ news and entertainment source with street-press roots.
The Canadian dollar ($) is the local currency. ATMs are widely available. Credit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants.
ATMs are widely available in Toronto, seemingly on every other corner. Look for international networks like Cirrus, Plus, Star and Maestro to ensure that your ATM, credit or debit cards will work.
Scotiabank (www.scotiabank.com) provides no-fee ATM withdrawals for members of the Global ATM Alliance, such as Westpac (Australia/NZ), the Bank of America (US) and Barclays (UK). Your own bank, however, might still charge you a fee.
Many convenience-store ATMs charge an additional machine fee, typically $2 to $5.
Major credit cards such as MasterCard, Visa and American Express are accepted just about everywhere. The exceptions are mom-and-pop shops and small markets, mostly in Kensington Market and Chinatown, which are cash only.
To exchange cash, tackle the banks or try Money Mart.
- Waitstaff 15% to 20%
- Bartenders $1 to $2 per drink or 15%, depending on locale
- Porters $2 per bag
- Housekeepers from $5 per day, depending on size of room
- Taxi drivers 10% to 15%
Opening hours vary throughout the year. High-season hours are given in listings; hours are generally shorter in the shoulder and low seasons.
Banks 8am–5pm Monday to Friday; some open 9am–noon Saturday
Restaurants breakfast 7–11am, lunch 11am–3pm, dinner 5–10pm; some open for brunch 8am–1pm Saturday and Sunday
Bars noon–midnight Sunday to Wednesday, to 2am Thursday to Saturday
Clubs 9pm–3am Thursday to Saturday
Shops 10am–7pm Monday to Thursday, to 9pm Friday to Saturday, noon–5pm Sunday
Supermarkets 7am–10pm; some open 24 hours
Several public holidays are celebrated in Toronto, shutting down banks, schools, government offices and often many private businesses.
New Year's Day January 1
Family Day Third Monday in February
Good Friday March or April
Easter Monday March or April
Victoria Day Third Monday in May
Canada Day July 1
Civic Day First Monday in August
Labour Day First Monday in September
Thanksgiving Second Monday in October
Remembrance Day November 11
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
- Smoking Smoking and vaping are banned in all restaurants, bars, sports arenas and other public venues citywide. Permitted in hotels in designated areas only. Also illegal in a vehicle with passengers under the age of 16.
Taxes & Refunds
Toronto applies 13% tax to all goods and services (5% federal taxes, 8% provincial taxes). Taxes are typically not included in displayed prices and are added to the final bill. Beginning in 2017, tax refunds are no longer available to non-resident visitors to Canada.
Making calls in Canada is straightforward.
Domestic, US and toll-free calls Dial 1 + area code + local phone number.
International calls (except US) Dial 011 + country code + area code + local phone number.
|Canada country code||1|
|Toronto area codes||416, 437, 647|
|Toll-free prefixes||800, 877, 866, 855, 844, 833|
|International access code||011|
GSM phones typically work in Canada. Call your service provider to arrange for international coverage if you don't already have it. Be sure to turn off your data before you arrive to ensure that roaming charges don't kick in.
Toronto has sit-down toilets, labelled Washroom. Generally, public toilets and those in hotels and restaurants are clean.
- Private businesses usually only allow customers to use washrooms and often have a key to enforce this.
- Shopping malls such as the Eaton Centre, and tourist complexes like the Harbourfront Centre, Distillery District and St Lawrence Market, have free public washrooms.
Ontario Travel Information Centre Knowledgeable multilingual staff and overflowing racks of brochures that cover every nook and cranny of Toronto and beyond.
Tourism Toronto (www.seetorontonow.com) The official website of Tourism Toronto is a useful resource for planning your trip.
Travellers' Aid Society of Toronto Volunteer-run info booth at Union Station, providing advice and lots of brochures.
Travel with Children
Toronto is a kid-friendly city with a wide range of options for children of all ages: museums and parks, sights and thrills. The TTC makes it easy – kids travel for free – and most places offer discounted admission rates.
- Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
Over 16,000 sea creatures swimming past, around and overhead are sure to delight kids at the aquarium. The glass tunnel and horseshoe-crab touch tank are hits.
- Riverdale Farm
At this working urban farm, children enjoy learning about rural life through hands-on fun, such as milking goats and feeding chickens.
- Spadina Quay Wetlands
Explore these thriving wetlands and discover myriad birds, butterflies, turtles…even beavers!
- Royal Ontario Museum
Towering dinosaur skeletons, mummies, suits of armor, bat caves, hands-on exhibits and more – much more – keep kiddos engaged at this remarkable museum. Trained facilitators answer questions and provide suggestions on what to do next.
- LEGOLAND Discovery Centre
Younger kids with a penchant for Legos will be fascinated by the many building possibilities here. Master builders are on hand to help with projects big and small.
- Ontario Science Centre
Though this center is a bit dated, the hands-on science exhibits, live demonstrations and IMAX theatre are hits with children, especially those with lots of questions about how the world around them works.
- Art Gallery of Ontario
On weekends, activity stations are set up in different galleries of the AGO, keeping restless kids engaged. For those who need a break from the collections altogether, there’s a wonderful hands-on center for DIY art projects and imaginative play.
- Harbourfront Centre
Older kids and teens will enjoy watching artists-in-residence at work at the Harbourfront Centre – blowing glass, hand-building ceramics, creating textile art. Questions encouraged!
- Young People's Theatre
Catch a play created with kids in mind at this dedicated theater. Shows are aimed at different age groups, from children under a year old to the over 12s.
Park- & Beachgoers
- High Park
Older kids and teens will enjoy the trails, creeks and guided nature walks at this park, one of Toronto’s most beautiful green spaces, while the little ones will love the zoo and get a thrill out of the mini-train ride.
- Kew Beach
A sandy beach and shimmering lake make this east-side beach fun for kids of all ages. Teens will enjoy cruising the boardwalk, too.
- Centre Island Beach
The most popular of the Toronto Islands beaches, Centre Island Beach has a rocky outcrop that keeps its waters calm, which is especially nice with little ones. Nearby food stands and bathroom facilities make it easy to make a day of it.
- CN Tower
Teens can experience the ultimate thrill at the CN Tower: the EdgeWalk, a 116-story-high walk around the outer perimeter, with nothing between them and the city below. (A tether to a metal rail keeps them safe!)
- Canada's Wonderland
More than 60 rides, ranging from white-knuckle roller coasters to carousels, keep children of all ages happy at this amusement park. A water park seals the deal.
- Centreville Amusement Park
An antique carousel, rides and a miniature train are a thrill for little ones here. A petting zoo is a great backup if the rides prove too scary!
Need to Know
- Activities A great online resource for parents is www.helpwevegotkids.com, which lists everything child-related in metro Toronto, including activities and childcare.
- Transport Children aged 12 and under ride the TTC for free.
- Admission Most sights and performance spaces offer reduced prices, and sometimes even free admission, for kids.