I spent several days spotting for ducks and geese, with the hopes of having a couple fields tied up for when my buddy arrived. I have a few friends from the states who join me every year for some quality time in the blind. They aren't strangers to Canada, but there are things that still confuse them a little when it comes to thinking and living like a Canuck.
We spent the morning hunting geese and after packing up the decoys, travelled some backcountry gravel roads until we hit pavement. I wheeled into a gas station to ensure we had a full tank for the evening and my friend graciously told me he'd be paying for the fuel. Easy enough, right? Maybe not.
Here are four important tips to keep in mind before you travel to Canada.
Most gas stations in the settled regions of Canada are pay at the pump. You insert your credit or debit card, punch in your PIN, and select the maximum amount of money you want the pump to run to. When you insert your card, the pump will lock it in place until you are pre-approved for the purchase, at which time it releases the card.
As I've come to find out after hosting several friends, most Americans still pay for a purchase and sign their receipt, not with a PIN, when using a credit card. When my buddy inserted his card it locked in place and asked for a PIN. He had never created one. When he didn't enter his PIN the gas pump refused to release his card. Now what?
"If you ask someone for a napkin in some provinces you'll get a strange look, as it's considered a feminine hygiene product."
A trip inside and the lady working the till was a little puzzled at first why someone wouldn't have or want a PIN, after all it was for the owner's protection. After several embarrassing moments, the lady turned off the gas pump, which reset the paying device and spit out the card.
Moral of the story; set up a PIN before you come to Canada as you'll find several retailers that won't know how to take your money without it.
Gas It Up
Figuring out the cost of fuel can be confusing. Gas and diesel are sold by the liter in Canada and in recent years prices have fluctuated from $.80 to $1.50 a liter. How does that equate to what you pay in the states? Most Canadians will tell you there are 4.55 liters in a gallon but the Imperial gallon and U.S. gallon are not equal. Gas pumps in the states sell a U.S. gallon equivalent to 3.8 liters.
So if fuel is $1 CAD a liter it is $3.80 CAD a U.S. gallon. Of course, there is always currency exchange so the price for American visitors is never quite as bad as it looks.
Buy Me a Beer?
If you are paying in cash you will also notice that all transactions are rounded to the nearest nickel. Canada did away with the penny several years ago, as it cost more to produce one of the coppers than it was worth. Beer is much more expensive in all parts of Canada, and there is also no standard for how different provinces sell alcohol.
And if you're traveling in a group, it's also smart to leave a couple guys with the truck. Likely nothing is going to be stolen, but you don't want your trip to be ruined by a few bad apples.
More Canuck Oddities
Canada switched over to the metric system in 1974 differentiating the way we weigh and measure items from our southern neighbors. When you go into a grocery store, most items will be sold by the gram or kilogram. There are apps for your smartphone to convert metric to Imperial so you know what you are paying. To further confuse things, you will notice many items still sold by the pound or inch in the same store!
It all seems very challenging at times, but is a small price to pay to extend your waterfowl season or travel to adventuresome destinations. It may seem like there are lots of differences but the similarities far outweigh the strange and confusing.
Some things that do remain constant are ducks and geese. They are the same birds we've shared through migrations for centuries and it is often what brings us together when we seem so far apart.
Keep this tips in mind the next time to you travel to Canada for a hunt.