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• OUR LOCATION •
The exact global map location for Montréal can be found at 45°30 N / -73°36 W. It is the largest city in Québec and the second largest in Canada after Toronto, with a metropolitan population of close to 3,500,000. Montréal is one of two large islands in this part of the St. Lawrence River (the other, Île Jésus, includes Laval and several other communities) and its highest point, Mount Royal, is 761 ft/ 232m high. It is also classified as the largest island city with a mountain in the middle of it, anywhere in the world. The entire island of Montréal with over 393 square KM of land became a single municipality in January 2002 but some areas have since detached but are still controlled by the City of Montréal for most major public services, including the police and fire departments.
• OUR CLIMATE •
The average temperatures vary from 10-25°F (-13°-5°C) in January to 65-80°F (18°-27°C) in July. and have a look at the current weather conditions. Montréal's climate varies a lot over the year. The city is known for its cold winters, but its summers are hot and generally sunny, with occasional muggy days. May and October are arguably the pleasantest months for outdoor activities and walking, plus the many festivals and gay events that make this a great city to have fun in while on vacation. Besides many annual winter activities are planned with warmth inmind.
• COMMUNICATIONS •
You must dial 10 digets to place local calls, as the island of Montreal* uses the original 514 and new 438 area code. As well in the North Shore (Laval / Ste-Rose), the South Shore (Longueuil), plus the Laurentians, Upper Richelieu, Lanaudière, Monteregie, Eastern Townships and Upper Yamaska, they use the area code 450 or 819 and might be long distance too. As some calls from 514 to 450 are local, where some are not; most calls from Montreal to Laval and Longueuil are local and do not require dialing 1. The new area code, 438, has been introduced in 2008 to give the metropolitan area more possible numbers.
*These are also part of Montreal - Île Bizard, Île Perrot, Nuns' Island (Île des Soeurs), Île Sainte-Hélène c/w La Ronde and the Casino on Île Notre-Dame or Île Jean-Drapeau
(most of the smaller islands around the main island of Montreal).
Please take note, that due to recent laws passed, all cellphone use in your car or any vehicle is prohibited while driving at all times plus there are very heavy fines for its use in any manner while your driving any type of vehicle.
• Postal services:
Main post offices are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Closed weekends. There are also numerous postal counters in convenience and pharmacy stores with the like which may have other schedules or opening hours. Taxes will be added to prices.
Main downtown post office: 1250 University (south of Ste-Catherine East), 514-395-4909
Within Canada letters (up to 30 grams) cost 52 cents for first-class mail. To the U.S. only, letters are 75 cents and elsewhere $1.55 worldwide (verify all postal rates before you post your mail anywhere). There is no postcard rate - a postcard counts as a first-class letter (verify all rates). Other rates can be looked up on the Canada Post website as well as Canadian postal codes. U.S. zip codes can be looked up here.
If your in the Gay Village in Montréal, there is a wide range of internet cafés and also some downtown business centres are equiped with pay-per-use terminals and areas with Wi-Fi are becoming more common. Ask for it at your hotel location before you arrive in town. Please review the whole GAYroute.ca website for fun details to do while your in our gay city.
The unit of currency is the Canadian dollar. Coins are in denominations of 1¢ (possibly our of service), 5¢, 10¢ and 25¢ metal coins, and $1 (a large gold-colored metal coin - LOONIE) and $2 (a large bimetallic metal coin - TOONIE). Paper bills are in $5 (blue) with a new $5 metal coin in the works by the Canadian Mint, as our paper $10 (purple) and $20 (green) are in common circulation and you can get $50s (red) and $100s (brown) from banks, though not from most automatic teller machines (ATMs), where metal coins are not available. Ask for the newer printed bills, as they have a better chance to be loaded with the latest counterfeit technology on these very colourfull bills. Some stores are cautious about accepting bills larger than $20 because of counterfeit older bills. Downtown stores are usually happy to accept U.S. currency and will often post the exchange rate they are offering near the cash register. Normally this will be a few percentage points less than what the bank rate is offered. Major travellers' cheques are accepted in places that accept credit cards, but are not universally accepted as cash exchange, except possible at your hotel. Most stores and restaurants accept Visa and MasterCard and often accept American Express with some exceptions. You usually get the most favorable exchange rate by using your credit card. Most ATMs are networked to Cirrus and Interac and accept major credit cards, if you have a PIN to enter into the machine. There are many currency exchange centers throughout the downtown area. They either charge a fee or take a couple of percentage points off the exchange rate for their services. Banks can usually handle U.S. funds without any problem but may not be prepared to handle other currencies. Bank branches are usually open from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. during the week, often with extended hours on Thursday or Friday, but it must be noted that all Canadian banks have reduced the number of their branches in recent years and, in some cases, reduced the hours of existing branches. Be sure your in a bank and not a trust company, as they all look alike in Canada.
Most goods and services in Québec are subject to two taxes, a federal Goods and Services Tax of 5% (GST, usually listed as TPS on receipts) and a provincial sales tax of 7.5% (TVQ on receipts) added to the TPS also. Books are not provincially taxed, and most groceries are not taxed at all unless something counts as "ready-to-eat" foods and all restaurant meals. Almost everything else is taxable, unless specified inside the store. Non-residents may reclaim the sales taxes they have paid on some goods and services items (most shop clerks can advise you), so you're advised to keep your bills and receipts. You can get copies of the necessary forms at the airport in Montréal, customs offices, tourist information centres, hotels and some department stores.
A tip of 15% is customarily left for waiters and waitresses at the table (included in it is your table help but not the wine steward). Its all calculated on the pre-tax total of your bill (ex: your meal is $100, so leave $15 but remember tax is added to the meal only). It will NOT be calculated for you - the additional charges on a restaurant bill are appropriate taxes, not service (tip) charges, and are not voluntary. If you need a little explination, ask the manager for assistance. You are free to leave more or less than a 15% tip, if circumstances warrant. In all the bars, the tip is handed over immediately as you pay for each drink or round, plus with each order as is the custom in Montréal. Taxi drivers also normally get a tip of 10 to 15%.
The Canadian Customs and Revenue website for visitors from all countries except the United States (might change soon) need a valid passport to enter Canada. They may also require a visa (see below). For information, check with a Canadian Embassy. United States citizens are required to provide proof of citizenship upon request and must present a passport if entering from a third country. Persons under 18 years travelling without their parents should have a letter of authorization from a parent or guardian to travel into Canada. The U.S. government has a usefull page with further tips for U.S. residents visiting Canada. Visitors from non-visa countries can stay for three months in Canada and can arrange an extension of a further three months on application to Immigration Canada. If you are divorced, separated or travelling without your spouse and are bringing your children to Canada, you should bring a document demonstrating the permission of the other spouse, proof of legal custody or a notarized letter from the other custodian(s) which gives travel permission for the specific duration of the trip. Each adult visitor may import, duty free, a maximum of 40 ounces (1.1 litres) of liquor, or 24 12-oz cans of beer or ale into Canada as personal luggage. Up to 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, and 400 grams of tobacco and 400 tobacco sticks may be allowed entry duty free.
Citizens of the following countries do NOT need a visa to enter Canada: Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Botswana, Brunei, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Grenada, Hong Kong (but only passport holders, not Certificate of Identity Holders), Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel (but only citizens holding the blue-coloured national passport), Italy, Japan, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montserrat, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn, Portugal, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United States (including permanent residents), Vanuatu, Vatican City, British Virgin Islands, Western Samoa, Zimbabwe (this list was compiled in early 2007).
You can review a list to find the addresses of foreign embassies in Canada on the governments official website. Getting into and out of Montréal, see a general map of the metropolitan area or download the incredibly detailed map from the Montréal transit site. The old Montréal Urban Community website offers these fine PDF maps - somewhat out of date politically since the January 2002 city merger, then demergers too. Montréal's official website also has some nice maps - click on "Cartographie" or see our own links here on our GAYroute.ca website.
Montréal is served by two commercial airports. Pierre-Elliot Trudeau International in Dorval (YUL), 22 km west of downtown, serves most domestic, U.S. and overseas flights. Mirabel International, 55 km northwest of downtown, serves for a few charter flights but is now mostly cargo. Taxicabs serve both airports and are required by law to charge a flat rate for the trip. The current rate is $35 to the airport in Dorval and $75 to the Mirabel airport (might be closed). There are fees for baggage handling: prices are explicitly posted inside all taxicabs. Aerobus shuttle bus service runs from the downtown bus terminal (514-842-2281). Fares are lower than taxis: $12 to or from Dorval, $22 to or from Mirabel, for an adult. The Airport Improvement Fees (AIFs) of $15 for passengers departing from Dorval or Mirabel are now included in the cost of plane tickets (verify all of the fees mentioned in this list).
Montréal has bus connections to other cities within Québec, in the rest of Canada and in the United States. Intercity bus travel does not carry the same stigma as in the U.S. and the buses to Québec City and Toronto, for example, are quite clean and pleasant. The main bus terminus is the Station Centrale at the corner of Berri and de Maisonneuve, tel. 514-842-2281 (above the Berri-UQAM Métro station).
Montréal is on VIA Rail's Windsor to Québec City corridor. You can reserve tickets on their website or get them from your travel agent. Amtrak runs the Adirondack from New York to Montréal daily. Their website also offers train reservations. There are two major downtown train stations, Central Station (Gare Centrale) and Windsor Station (recently renamed L'Allier Station). Both are connected to the Bonaventure Métro station and are thus connected to the underground city. Windsor/L'Allier is only used for commuter trains, connected to Montréal's transit system.
• Highway distances:
All distances in Canada are in KM measures.
Québec City = 257 km Ottawa = 204 km Toronto = 546 km Boston = 512 km New York City = 608 km Chicago = 1363 km Detroit = 915 km Washington = 971 km Pittsburgh = 978 km
Montréal is in the Eastern time zone of North America (same zone as NYC in the USA), 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time during the summer (Eastern Daylight, EDT) and 5 hours during the winter (Eastern Standard, EST). Daylight Savings Time is observed from the first Sunday in April till the last Sunday in October. In French, it is usual to see times quoted in 24-hour format, e.g. 20h30 is the same as 8:30 p.m. Keep this in mind for special times of festivals and events with parking restrictions noted on official city signs in French only (ask at your hotel for more details).
• Opening hours:
In general, stores are open from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (some shops close at least once a week). There are exceptions: many large pharmacies, some grocery stores and some bookstores stay open late all week, and some smaller boutiques may open their doors later in the morning. If you are uncertain about a store's hours it is wise to phone ahead or ask at your hotel location.
• ELECTRICITY •
Electricity in Canada is 110V and the plugs are the same as in the U.S. If you come from a country that uses 220V electricity, you will have to bring a converter. Most hotels can advise you of the procedures and restrictions.
• HOLIDAYS •
Legal holidays in Montréal (might be nationwide):
January 1: New Year's Day April 18: Good Friday May 19: Victoria Day/Fête de Dollard (observed) June 24: St-Jean-Baptiste/Fête Nationale (Québec national day) July 1: Canada Day (also, widely, moving day in Quebec) September 1: Labour Day October 13: Thanksgiving (Canada) December 25: Christmas
Some stores open on holidays, although Christmas is all but universally a closing day. Boxing Day, Dec. 26, is commonly given as a holiday, as is January 2. Easter Monday seems to be declining in importance and is mostly observed now only by government offices, which also close on Remembrance Day, November 11. Most businesses stay open on November 11, but ceremonies are held to honour war veterans and a minute of silence is traditionally observed at 11 a.m.
Montrealers (as we are called) often also observe Valentine's Day (February 14), Mother's Day (second Sunday in May), Father's Day (third Sunday in June) and Halloween (October 31), although these are not legal holidays. Depending on their origins, Montréalers might also celebrate Muslim or Jewish holidays, the Asian lunar New Year, or other saints' days or national holidays. A major long-standing parade is held for St. Patrick's Day (the parade is on the closest Sunday after March 17).
Throughout Quebec there is a tradition of ending, renewing or starting residential leases on June 30. As a result, July 1 is moving day for a significant percentage of tenants in the city of Montréal. The last two weeks of July are also the construction holiday, and many other unionized workers take these two weeks off as well.
Montréal is a cosmopolitan city with a European flair that will amaze you to no end. Québec's language laws make it all but impossible to post outdoor signs in languages other than French (our famous Bill 101). So you will see few signs in English, but in the parts of Montréal where most travellers go you might see some still posted from before the law was enforced. Some areas of the city are very relaxed when it comes to signs and the language of them too. For most options, services are available in English with a French twist !
• HEALTH, EMERGENCY and SAFETY •
Ambulance, fire, police: DIAL 911 for emergency calls only. For non-emergency police matters, dial 514-280-2222. Health care is of a high standard but it is advised that you get travellers' insurance before you leave home because it is not free for visitors. A new number for health care details by phone you may dial 811. Make sure you have the insurance documentation with you in case of emergency. You should bring any medications you need with you, especially sufficient quantities of prescription medicines. These should be kept in their original containers to avoid contretemps at borders. Sanitation is equal to any developed country and the local tap water is very drinkable. You do not need any special immunizations to visit Canada. Montréal has a low crime rate and any city information has a new number you can dial 311. Nonetheless it is a large city and you should remain normally vigilant about your possessions and your person. No particular area of the city is marked off as dangerous, but it is not recommended to wander around the Mount Royal mountain or other large parks alone at night. The Métro is safe at all times, ask for an easy-to-follow transit map at any subway station on the underground system.
• DRINKING and SMOKING •
The legal drinking age in Québec is 18 years old with a photo ID, if asked. Plus you must note that drunk drivers must follow the same rules as everywhere ~ Do not drink and drive ! You can buy many kinds of beer and cheap wine at many corner stores (dépanneur), but for a much better selection of wine and for strong liquors you must go to a local government store (Société des Alcools). Many restaurants have a liquor license; in some areas, notably Prince Arthur and around Duluth Street (ask as you enter or before you order your meal), as many restaurants do without a license and customers can bring their own wine, reducing the expense of the meal. This is not universal and you must look for the "Apportez votre vin" signs. As smoking is not permitted at all in public premises, this includes the metro and on buses, in all shopping centres, in cinemas, in elevators, in all offices or in banks too. Some restaurants are offering an outdoor area for those that smoke, as all public areas are now non-smoking and observed very strictly. Bars are universally smoking free zones. You must be 18 years or older to buy tobacco, which is now enforced as firmly as the laws about buying alcohol. Smoking is very popular throughout Québec and there is much enthusiasm about suppressing it everywhere. Please don't drink and drive while your in our great city on your visit.
Please take note, that due to recent laws passed, all cellphone use in your car or any vehicle is prohibited while driving at all times plus there are very heavy fines for its use in any manner while your driving any type of vehicle. Distances and speed limits are posted in kilometers (kmh) throughout Canada, as like in the rest of the world except the USA (mph). So then 60 MPH roughly equals 100 KMH (be aware of this locally). Gasoline prices are in litres ONLY, not in gallons like in the States. The main rule to remember about driving in Montréal is that you may not turn right on a red light, although this is now permitted in Québec outside of the Montréal area. Montréal presents a few hazards for drivers, as pedestrians are pretty blasé about crossing on red lights, and all road construction and repairs happen in the summer months so it's not unlikely that you will run into a few detours when driving around town in the summer. Seat belts are mandatory even in back seat of all vehicles. Helmets are required for motorcyclists. It is obligatory to stop when a school bus is stopping, regardless of the direction in which you are driving. On a few major streets, bus lanes are marked with a large white diamond shape and you must NOT use these lanes within the hours noted on the accompanying signs. Some streets have bike lanes: these will be marked with green metal posts and signs too. In the city, the Montréal police patrol the streets in blue and white cars. Parking infractions are monitored by city employees in reddish-orange cars - these folks wear green uniforms and are known as Green Onions. The older part of Montréal was built up before the automobile, so parking conditions can sometimes be frustrating, as in some smaller areas of the city too. Be wary of neighbourhoods where certain parking spots are reserved for local people with numbered stickers. Unless you have mobility problems, sightseeing on foot and by Métro is encouraged for this reason, at least within downtown and Old Montréal. The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) patrols in khaki and yellow cars on the highways, both inside and outside the city. Outside the city, local municipalities can also ticket you if you commit an infraction on a road in their territory. Turning on a red light is not allowed and this rule is the same in Montréal plus in its many boroughs too.
• Public transit:
Montréal has an excellent clean safe public transit system, the STM (see map), 155 bus routes (20 all-night routes), and five commuter train lines. Dial A-U-T-O-B-U-S for information about getting around on the system or check the STM website, which has excellent tools for working out how to get around. Maps and information about the system are also available in every Métro station and at tourist information points. The subway (Métro) lines shut down around 12:30 a.m., after which the system shifts over to night bus lines until around 5:30 a.m. A monthly pass giving full access to the metro and bus system costs $62. A tourist card giving full access for a day costs $8 and for three days costs $16. A strip of six tickets costs $11.25 and a single fare is $2.75 (check latest rates). Bus drivers do not make change and do not sell tickets, but all Métro stations have maned ticket booths and some convenience stores sell tickets and passes. If you're using tickets or paying in cash, you may need to get a transfer if you plan to change from metro to bus, from bus to bus or from bus to metro. If you pay with a ticket or change, the bus driver should hand you a transfer; in the metro, you take one from a machine in your station of entry. You don't need a transfer to exit the Métro system as you do in some cities - it's only needed if you want to be able to connect to a bus from the Métro system. A valid pass means you don't need a transfer at all because it gives you unrestricted access to buses and Métro. People who are not Montréal residents don't qualify for seniors' reductions or student fares. Surrounding Montréal are other transit systems - STL serving Laval and RTL (till recently the STRSM) serving the South Shore. There are also commuter trains serving some suburbs (please verify the latest rates at all times). (Société des transports de Montréal) consisting of a subway system on same Métro map.
• Bicycles and Roller Blades
If you're comfortable on a bicycle all year round, it would be interesting to see Montréal en vélo. This bicycling magazine named Montéeal the top bicycling city since 1999 with a fantastic bike festival set aside every June, that has many streets in the city closed to vehicles for a few days. However, at all times keep in mind that motorists tend to be aggressive and you have to ride circumspectly. Helmets are not mandatory, but bicycles should be well equipped with reflectors if you will be riding after dark, and you should have a good lock: bicycle theft is endemic. The Maison des Cyclistes, 1251 Rachel East, 514-521-8356, rents bikes and sells maps of bike paths in and around the city. There is also bicycle and roller blade rental shop in the Old Port area near the IMAX cinema (514-847-0666) that is very GAY-FRIENDLY and is listed on this website. You can bring a bicycle into the Métro, but you must follow the rules to do so (ask if your not sure).
• LOCAL NEWSPAPERS •
Montréal has four daily newspapers. Only one, The Gazette, is in English. It belongs to the CanWest Global media empire. There are three French-language papers, Le Devoir, La Presse and Le Journal de Montréal (a large daily in French only). There are also four FREE weekly cultural papers, two in each language, all publishing and available on Thursdays only: Montréal Mirror with a popular gay following with lists and Hour in English, ICI and Voir in French. These can be picked up in many cafés and public places. For international papers, check any Maison de la Presse Internationale or Multimags, but our favourite newsstand downtown is Metropolitan News, 1109 Cypress St., just south of Peel and Ste-Catherine, 514-866-9227, and on the Plateau we recommend Le Point Vert, 4040 boul. St-Laurent at Duluth, 514-982-9195.
If we can not assist you here with our extensive gay lists at GAYroute.ca the local gay iñ•fö lists for Montréal at: firstname.lastname@example.org, you might also try the main "Tourist Information Centre" in Montréal is located south of the corner of Peel and Ste-Catherine West at 1001, rue du Square Dorchester (corner Metcalfe), Métro Peel, 514-873-2015. It is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. from June to early September; 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in May and September-October, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from November till April. The Old Montréal Tourist Centre at 174 Notre-Dame East is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except from late June to early October when it's open till 7 p.m. (the same phone number as above).