Traveling to Québec is like traveling to an entirely different country, even if you’re Canadian. For this reason, it can be a little daunting and you’ll need to know more than just where to find the best sushi places and which tourist attractions you should visit. You’ll need to know about the culture and little quirks that Québec has that make it such a wonderfully unique destination. Here are some insider tips that can help you make the most of your visit to La Belle Province.
You Don’t Have to Speak French
In the past, Québec had a reputation for shunning visitors who spoke only English, but that’s not the case anymore. Most employees in major restaurants and hotels speak both French and English, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to help you if you don’t speak the native language. But, it’s still courteous to learn a few phrases in French and use them at least during greetings. Natives will respect you for your effort and you’ll feel more like a local as well.
There are places in Old Québec where you won’t find anyone who speaks English and you’ll be forced to remember your high school French to communicate. If you really have no French language experience, bring along a pocket translator that can help you as you navigate the city.
…Except on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day
June 24 is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, which the Québecois take very seriously. It’s a celebration of the culture, language, customs, and history of the city, so they expect visitors to follow suit. While not everyone will mind if you speak English during the events, some will and they might even become a little unfriendly about it.
The best approach is to attempt to speak French whenever possible if you’re going to attend the celebrations. You should also get recommendations from your hotel staff about which ones are better for outsiders to attend. Heed their advice and your entire experience will be better.
Locals Will be Busy Moving on July 1
July 1 is Canada Day and the tourists will be celebrating everywhere in the city. But the locals might be busy moving. Many leases in Québec expire on June 30, so the Québecois who are in need of new living arrangements will often spend this holiday hauling their belongings across the city from their old residence to their new one. While you don’t have to help someone move, you should be aware that not everyone will be available to celebrate the holiday with you.
Parking is a Challenge
Parking in Québec, especially in Old Québec is not an easy feat. There are some metered parking spaces in Old Québec, but they fill up quickly. If you do find one open, you can pay the machine that’s located nearby or through an app that you’ll want to download ahead of time. These spots are usually limited to between two and five hours, so be sure to heed the limits so you don’t get a ticket.
Most Attractions are Within Walking Distance
Québec is a very walkable city in that the main tourist attractions are located close together, so you can pretty much walk everywhere. Chateau Frontenac, Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site, and the Petit-Champlain District are all popular destinations in Québec and are well within walking distance of each other. But, it’s also important to know that Old Québec’s streets are rough and can be difficult to navigate for people with disabilities, especially those in a wheelchair or using a walker. Many are also on a steep incline, so be prepared to get a lot of exercise during your visit.
Use Credit Cards Whenever Possible
This is a good tip for any type of international travel for a number of reasons. First, if you carry a lot of cash, you are a mark for theft. And you won’t get any of that money back. If your credit card gets stolen, it’s easy to cancel it and get a new one sent to you. Plus, you won’t usually be on the hook for any charges made on the card as long as you report it stolen right away. Second, exchange rates are difficult to calculate on the fly. You might find you don’t have enough money or have too much on hand before you head back home.
Third, in the wake of the pandemic, many places prefer credit and debit cards over cash because cash is really dirty. You can usually swipe your own card so the cashier doesn’t even have to touch it, keeping them and you safer. Finally, it’s much easier to keep track of what you spend when you use a credit card instead of cash because your credit card will keep a record of everything. If you get a card that gives you an alert every time it’s used, you can monitor your spending a lot better.
Try the Local Cuisine
The one food you have to try while you’re in Québec is poutine. This dish is essentially French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds and is basically, but not officially, the national food of Canada. And you don’t want to try it just once because each restaurant prepares it differently and you’ll have a new experience at each meal. Since Québec is the city where this dish originated, you’ll find it on almost every menu. Don’t pass up an opportunity to taste each chef’s spin on this fabulous culinary creation.
Check Your Phone Chargers
Despite Québec having a distinctly European feel, it is thoroughly North American in terms of electrical outlets. That’s good news if you’re traveling from another North American country. But, if you’re coming from a European country, your plugs won’t work in Québec’s 110-volt outlets. As such, you may need to purchase an adapter for your phone chargers or new chargers altogether.
Québec is one of the most exciting cities to visit in the world, but it does have its nuances that visitors should know about before arriving. Keep these tips in mind as you navigate the city and you’re sure to have a wonderful time.