Europe is often a popular destination for students to go on exchange. It’s easy to travel from, the cities are old and filled with culture – and (in most destinations) you don’t have to deal with the extreme cold. But what are your travel options if you decide to go somewhere like Montreal? Canada is BIG and weekend trips away seem a little difficult to achieve, but don’t let that deter you! Canada is breathtakingly gorgeous and definitely worth seeing. So here is a list of places you should consider going if you come to this side of the globe.
This is the capital city of Canada and is one of the closest cities to Montreal. Just a two hour (and $30) bus ride away, you can easily see this city in a day or over the weekend. I went ice-skating (badly) on the Rideau Canal – the largest natural ice rink in the world – and strolled around the beautiful capital buildings. I’d suggest going on a weekend where a winter or ice-festival is going on because the city often holds events that fill the streets with an exciting buzz.
Quebec City (day/weekend):
This cute, historic town is again 2 hours drive north of Montreal and holds the biggest winter carnival in the country. It’s the oldest North American fortified city whose walls still exists and is finished with a castle and citadel. It’s an old town with cobblestone streets, an old port marketplace, a prison converted library and several Cat cafes. Park Omega is also a drive in the direction of Quebec which is an interactive national park/zoo that allows you to feed deer and see bears.
Toronto (long weekend):
If Montreal is comparable to Melbourne, Toronto is Canada’s Sydney. I visited this city in a long weekend, but Toronto is massive and you could easily spend a week. The food scene is particularly spectacular. I took an overnight bus (5 hours and ~$50) and split an Airbnb with a few friends. A few hidden gems are the Distillery District; Black Market Vintage (from Calvin Klein to Target everything is $10) and iHalo’s black charcoal ice-cream. It’s also easy to do a day trip to Niagara Falls from Toronto (where there is a general concensus that the Canadian side is definitely better).
Vermont/Jay Peak (long weekend):
This ski weekend was offered by the Ski and Snowboarding club at McGill in conjunction with a few other Unis. I’m not a skier but I had massive FOMO when my friends signed up, so I decided I’d tag along and learn as I went. It was an incredible experience even though I spent a lot of time on my butt. This was the priciest trip of my exchange but skiing is an expensive sport and I really wanted to get the experience in at least once while I was in Canada. Packages like this that include gear, accommodation and travel (3 hour drive) are often the most affordable way to do so.
Cuba (week/spring break):
Cuba is a hugely popular destination for North American students on their spring break and you can often get cheap flight and accommodation deals if you book a month in advance. I have plans to go in June, but a few friends went over our break. If you need a little sun and sand and a whole lot of salsa this is an amazing place to go. Cuba is a little time capsule from the 80s with beautiful traditional buildings and old funky cars. HOWEVER: do your research, get your vaccinations, Cuba is not an easy place to travel.
Nova Scotia (week):
Unfortunately Nova Scotia is not somewhere I was able to go – but after seeing the photos from my friend’s road-trip I was so jealous. NS is on the far eastern side of Canada and boasts glorious coastlines, fishing towns, wildlife and incredible scenery. Again this will be a more expensive trip, with car rental and accommodation, but so worth it.
New York / Washington DC / Boston (week/spring break):
I lump these cities together because they are very convenient to travel between by bus. From Montreal, each is around an 8 hour bus ride (long but cheap) and to get between each you might travel a few hours. Each is a city you can walk around to see (saving on transport costs) with iconic monuments, galleries and great food. I was slightly nervous about going to these huge cities but I found I felt safe amongst the huge variety of people. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are also close by. And an Australian Tourist VISA to the US is only $14USD.