North America Travel Guide

Things to Do

A staggering landmass of diverse and textured natural offerings where heritage and traditions change as much as the landscape, North America, often mistaken to comprise only the USA, includes the unique countries of Canada and Bermuda. North America has something to suit all tastes and types. From the picture perfect setting of the famed Florida Keys to the sparse and chilly snow covered Alaskan regions, visitors are rarely prepared for what North America has to offer.

Introduction

With Native American culture a mainstay in some of the most picturesque settings around the American plains and the uniquely modern heritage of the greater American population, cultural exploration will need more time than just a short holiday. New York, one the great American landmarks, is a metropolis that leaves visitors feeling as if they have just walked onto the set of an epic movie, while places like San Francisco and the state of California are hugely popular for their own unique charms.

Canada, with a wealth of French character, prime skiing conditions and a vibrantly rich heritage, offers yet another experience. Bermuda, comprising nearly 200 islands linked by bridges and home to some of the most spectacular beaches, is the perfect place to head to for a relaxing retreat and that unparalleled ocean side revitalisation.

From soaring skyscrapers, oversized plates of the best junk food and a ‘bigger is better’ mind set to sprawling deserts and cloud tipping mountain ranges stretching the length of a large country, North America is a place where diversity is a way of life, not a choice.

Visitors can partake in all manner of activities in the new world. From extreme sports such as mountain biking, skiing, water sports, sky diving and much more, surrounded by almost any scenic beauty imaginable to quiet spa retreats, natural exploration and city slicking, there are few people on earth who won’t be able to find something to delight them on this mind-blowing continent.

Highlights

North America has something for everyone, from the glittering cities of New York and Los Angeles to the isolated wilderness of Alaska and northern Canada. Visitors are bound to find what they’re looking for in this vast continent, whether it’s a tropical beach vacation, a snowy ski trip, or almost anything in between.

Niagara Falls
(Ontario and New York)

These twin waterfalls are North America’s most famous cross-border tourist attraction. Visitors may view the falls from below on the famous Maid of the Mist boat tour or from several observation decks on both sides of the border. Niagara Falls is also a popular honeymoon destination featuring a casino and strip on the Canadian side.

CN Tower
(Toronto, Canada)

Dominating Toronto’s skyline for over 30 years, the CN Tower is the world’s highest freestanding structure. The tower’s breathtaking views can be seen from the main observation deck, the glass floor deck, or from the highest SkyPod viewing area. The 360E revolving restaurant offers an even wider view of the surrounding skyline.

West Edmonton Mall
(Edmonton, Canada)

North America’s largest shopping mall not only includes over 800 different shops and services, but also an indoor amusement park, North America’s largest water park, a sea lion show, a miniature golf course, a hotel, a skateboard park, a petting zoo, and an indoor ice rink where the Edmonton Oilers hockey team once practiced.

Walt Disney World Resort
(Florida, US)

The world’s largest and most visited recreational resort, Walt Disney World is especially popular with young families. There’s truly something for everyone at the four theme parks, two water parks, and countless other attractions. The Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center are the two oldest and most well known theme parks, but more recent attractions include Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, and Downtown Disney.

Central Park
(New York City, US)

Central Park, an 843 acre forest green oasis in the middle of Manhattan, has been open since 1856. Visitors and locals alike can enjoy the John Lennon memorial called Strawberry Fields, concerts on the Great Lawn, a zoo, performances in the Delacorte Theater, the horse-drawn carriage rides along 59th street, or simply strolling along the Mall promenade.

Black Hills National Forest
(South Dakota, US)

The 60ft granite Mount Rushmore monument to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt is one of America’s most famous symbols. It’s also the most popular tourist attraction in this massive forest on the South Dakota/Wyoming border. Nearby campgrounds, sport fishing reservoirs, and 450 trail miles, including an unforgettable hike to the summit of Harney Peak, add to the experience.

French quarter
(New Orleans, US)

New Orleans’ historic French quarter suffered only minor damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and its architecture remains much the same as when it was originally designed in 1722. Visitors always find something new to discover no matter how often they explore this neighborhood of cafés, galleries, restaurants, and nightclubs.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
(Cleveland, US)

The low-key city of Cleveland may seem like an unusual home for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, but this is where the phrase ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ was first uttered by a local disk jockey in the 1950s. This seven-level museum features exhibits, memorabilia, and interactive multimedia exhibits from all rock music eras.

Las Vegas
(Nevada, US)

Millions of visitors have tried their luck inside one of the dozens of casinos on the Las Vegas strip, but this brightly lit boulevard isn’t just a popular gambling spot. The resorts and hotels of the strip also feature shopping centers, live entertainment, and even golf courses.

Bermuda Botanical Gardens
(Bermuda)

Visitors have soaked up Bermuda’s beautiful and varied plant life in these 36 acre botanical gardens since 1898. All of the gardens are clearly marked, and there’s even a sensory garden for the visually impaired with fragrant flowers and Braille signage. John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album was named after one of the flowers he noticed here.

Destinations

Top Cities:

Things to See & Do

From centuries-old historic landmarks for history buffs to elaborate and modern theme parks such as Walt Disney World for families with young children, to vast unspoiled wilderness parks for the most adventurous visitors searching for a place to truly get away from it all, North America has something to offer for everyone.

When to Go

North America has a greater variety of climates than any other continent. Bermuda and the southern US enjoy summerlike weather year-round, while a massive permanent icecap prevents the temperature from rising above 0°C in Greenland’s interior.

Southern Canada and the northern US have the continent’s most varied temperatures. These regions generally have cold, snowy winters and warm, humid summers. The southwestern US has a semiarid desert climate, while the southeastern part of the country is more humid and vulnerable to hurricanes.

November to February: This is the time of year when northern tourists travel south to escape the long, cold winters. Many northerners even choose to temporarily live in the south during winter. Florida, California, and Bermuda are the most popular vacation destinations during this time of year. Most tourist attractions open in the colder parts of the continent are geared towards skiing, tobogganing, and other winter sports.

March to June: Spring arrives with the most unpredictable weather of the year in Canada and the northern US. Although temperatures steadily increase during this time of year, the weather can still be quite cool, especially at night and during early spring.

July to October: July and August are North America’s most common travel months, since this is the warmest time of year and most children are on summer vacation from school. During September and October, temperature rapidly decline and tourist attractions in the northern part of the continent close for the winter although the weather is usually still pleasant.

Greenland, Alaska, and northern Canada: The temperature only rises above 0°C for a short period of time during the summer in these vast Arctic regions. These northernmost regions are shrouded in darkness for 24 hours during the coldest parts of the long winter, but this is balanced by 24 hours of sunlight during the warmest part of summer.

Southern Canada and northern US: Central North America generally experiences cold winters and hot, sometimes humid summers. Spring and fall are usually pleasant, but warm clothes are recommended at night when temperatures can rapidly decline. Mountain shelter and warm Pacific ocean currents provide the west coast with milder, rainier winters than the rest of North America. Southern British Columbia is Canada’s mildest region.

Southern US and Bermuda: Constant warm weather makes southern North America the most popular winter vacation destination for northern tourists seeking an escape from the cold winters. The humid weather of southeastern states such as Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas transforms into the drier, arid climate of Nevada, California, and Arizona while traveling westward. Temperatures can drop rapidly in southwestern desert regions. The southeastern hurricane season occurs between June and November, while California is vulnerable to earthquakes.

Getting There

Most visitors to North America, especially those from outside the continent, arrive by air. Passengers flying to the eastern US usually land in Boston, New York City, Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, or Washington, DC, and Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are the busiest American west coast airports. Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver are Canada’s biggest and busiest airports. All of these major centers offer flights to smaller airports located throughout North America.

Bermuda International Airport offers daily flights from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto and Washington, DC. Zoom Airways and British Airways both offer flights to Bermuda from London Gatwick Airport to Bermuda. An air ticket to Bermuda costs substantially more than a ticket to most other Caribbean destinations because Bermuda International Airport has the world’s highest airline landing/parking fee.

The Canadian east coast cities of St John’s, Halifax, Montreal, Sydney, and Moncton offer regular flights to St Pierre and Miquelon via Air Saint-Pierre. Visitors to Greenland must fly from Copenhagen, Denmark or Reykjavik, Iceland since there are no direct flights to the territory from North America.

The busiest and most expensive times to fly are the Christmas holidays of December and the summer months of July and August, although the busiest travel holiday of all is the American Thanksgiving holiday during the fourth Thursday of November.

From the US: Americans must provide a passport or other proof of citizenship before entering Canada. A visa is required for Americans who plan to stay longer than 180 days. Children under 18 years traveling alone must provide a letter from his or her parent or guardian authorizing the trip. Visitors with criminal records may be refused entry into Canada.

From Canada: Canadian visitors entering the US by air must present a passport or secure document, or other photo identification if arriving by land or sea. Canada-US border wait times have increased dramatically since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

From the UK: London’s Heathrow Airport offers regular flights to Toronto while both Heathrow and Gatwick offer regular flights to Vancouver. Both London airports offer flights to all major American cities. Visitors to the US must register their trip with the American government 72 hours in advance. British visitors to Canada must prove they are in good health, law-abiding, and able to support themselves during their stay. Medical examinations may be required for visitors planning to stay longer than six months.

From Australia and New Zealand: most visitors from Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa when visiting Canada or the US for more than 90 days. Air Canada offers flights from Sydney to Toronto, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. US Airways offers flights from Sydney to Los Angeles and San Francisco. American Airlines offers direct flights from Melbourne to Los Angeles. Air New Zealand offers regular flights between Auckland and Vancouver, as well as to most major American cities.

From South Africa: South African visitors to North America must travel on short stay visas valid for up to six months. Cape Town International Airport and Johannesburg International Airport offer regular flights to New York, Atlanta, and Washington, DC.

Getting Around

From the tropical climates of Bermuda and the southern US to the Arctic adventures of Alaska, Greenland, and northern Canada, North America offers something for everyone. North America may be a massive and diverse region, but most of the continent can easily be explored by air, train, or open highway.

Car: The American Interstate network is the world’s largest highway system. Its freeways are easily accessible, well-marked, and travel through virtually every major continental US city. Motorists may also travel one of the two-lane numbered routes dating to before the Interstates were built for a more scenic, leisurely journey.

The Trans-Canada Highway is Canada’s primary road network. Alternating between four-lane and two-lane roads, it connects Canada’s easternmost city of St John’s, Newfoundland to its westernmost city of Victoria, British Columbia, and travels through all 10 Canadian provinces.

The Trans-Canada does not travel through southern Ontario or the country’s largest city of Toronto, which has its own well-established highway network, including Highway 401, Canada’s largest and busiest freeway. It also does not travel through Canada’s three northern territories, which depend heavily on air travel because of the region’s harsh, long winters and large distances between small, isolated communities.

Air: Air travel is the easiest and quickest way to travel across this vast continent and most areas are well served by both international and budget airlines.

Train: Rail travel looks set to increase in popularity because of rapidly increasing gas prices. VIA Rail in Canada and Amtrak in the US are North America’s largest rail providers, and although the continent has no high-speed rail lines, a cross-country rail journey remains a unique and scenic experience.

There are no railways and very few roads in the vast northern Danish province of Greenland, where flying, boating, and dog sledding are the primary means of transportation. All of Greenland’s towns are small enough to be easily explored on bicycle or on foot.

The French island territories of St Pierre and Miquelon also have few roads and no railway service. The only way to reach the islands - via car or bus – requires a long journey across the nearby Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador to the only ferry service in the town of Fortune, which doesn’t carry vehicles. Air Saint-Pierre, the local airline, offers several flights between the islands and five eastern Canadian cities.

Travelers to the British overseas island territory of Bermuda, located east of North Carolina, usually arrive by air at Bermuda International Airport or by cruise ship. Bermuda has no rental car service so tourists must use public transportation or rent scooters for further exploration.

Where to Stay

From luxury five-star hotels to intimate guest houses, North American visitors have a wide variety of accommodations available wherever they go. Accommodations are almost always available, except perhaps during the peak tourist seasons of summer and Christmas vacation, and many places offer discounts during the off-season.

Most accommodations in Greenland and Bermuda are expensive luxury hotels, while the most affordable accommodations in Bermuda are privately-run guesthouses or bed and breakfasts. Accommodations in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are largely privately run and offer most basic amenities.

Motels: found along every major North American highway, motels are the most popular and affordable accommodations for motorists. Motels are generally inexpensive, but most are kept very clean and include telephones, cable TV, and other basic amenities. Reservations are usually not required since most of these motels are geared towards travelers on long road trips. Motel 6 and Super 8 Motels are North America’s two most well-known budget motel chains.

Hotels: travelers on a larger budget may treat themselves to a luxury room in one of the hotels found in North America’s bigger cities. The continent’s most affordable hotel chains are Days Inn, Best Western, and Microtel.

Camping: is especially popular in rural areas. Most national, state, and provincial park campgrounds are well-run and offer most major amenities. North America also has several privately-run campgrounds.

Hostels: youth hostels can be found in most major cities, have no age limit, and are the cheapest option for budget travelers.

Bed and breakfasts: visitors may find a more intimate lodging experience at one of the independently-run bed and breakfast locations most commonly found on North America’s east and west coasts. Most bed and breakfasts are converted houses owned by the operators, who provide bedroom suites, breakfasts, and friendly local hospitality. Reservations are usually required since most bed and breakfasts are small, independent businesses.

Business or extended-stay hotels: these are becoming popular among travelers searching for a home away from home during a long-term visit to a particular city. These accommodations are generally more expensive than motels, but cheaper than full-scale hotels. Many extended-stay hotels offer private kitchens, continental breakfasts, and social events. Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inns, and Holiday Inn Express are among the most well-known extended-stay hotel chains.

Health and safety

North America is one of the world’s safest vacation destinations. Vaccination against tetanus is recommended for visitors from outside the continent. Rabies is the most serious threat, but it is relatively rare. Only visitors planning to remain in Canada or the US for longer than six months may be required to undergo a medical examination. HIV positive visitors must obtain a waiver of inadmissibility from the US Embassy before entering the US.

Visitors are advised to protect themselves against heatstroke during high temperatures and frostbite during low winter temperatures, especially if they are not accustomed to this type of weather.

Non-prescription drugs can be easily purchased although many drugs sold over the counter in other countries require a prescription in the US. Most North American hospitals provide excellent care although private insurance is essential for visitors from outside Canada and the US since hospital charges for foreign tourists are very high. A personal first-aid kit is also recommended for visitors to more remote areas, especially in the far north. Dial 911 for emergencies.

Tap water is safe to drink throughout North America, and a variety of eateries can be found from five-star restaurants to fast food and everything in between.

Crime: although violent crime against foreigners is rare in North America, taking common sense safety precautions is still highly recommended, especially in large cities. Avoiding high crime areas, keeping money and valuables in a safe place, abstaining from drugs and alcohol, and generally blending in are the best ways to avoid becoming a crime victim in North America.

Regional conflicts and terrorism: North America is a peaceful continent with no major regional conflicts, although the threat of terrorism has risen in the US after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, DC.

Diseases: it is very rare for visitors to catch serious diseases in North America, but hepatitis B and rabies vaccinations are recommended. Lyme disease and West Nile fever are becoming more common, especially in the northeast, Midwest, and Pacific northwest. Wearing insect repellent and keeping skin covered in areas with fleas and ticks are the best ways to prevent contracting these two diseases. Those who take prescription medicine must be sure to keep them in carry-on luggage and bring enough to last throughout their stay.

Adverse weather: hurricane season in the southern US and Bermuda takes place between June and November, while North America’s west coast is vulnerable to earthquakes. Tornadoes primarily occur in the center of the continent between May and September. Blizzards, ice storms, and harsh winters are common in the northern part of the continent, especially far northern Alaska, Greenland, and northern Canada.

Women travelers: women are generally safe while traveling in North America although safety precautions such as avoiding high crime areas, not openly displaying money or other valuables, avoiding walking alone at night, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol should be followed.

Work and Study

Students wishing to study full-time at an American or Canadian university can apply directly to the school they wish to attend or through an exchange program with the university they attend in their home country. Foreign students cannot student loans or grants, but can receive financial aid from their home country, private scholarships or North American bank loans.

Visitors are welcome to study short courses at one of the numerous community colleges or open universities in the US or Canada, as long as they have a tourist visa, the equivalent of a high school diploma, and the required tuition payment.

Visitors wishing to work in the US are recommended to make arrangements long before entering the country. Some full-time students may apply for a J1 Exchange Visitor visa allowing paid au pair work or almost any other summer work for up to four months.

A limited number of skilled employees such as nurses, mathematic teachers, and computer scientists may qualify for an H-1B visa allowing them to work in the US. An American employer must file a petition on behalf of the applicant before this visa can be obtained.

Visa applications do not usually require a lawyer or third party, so be wary of the numerous con artists who prey on the many visitors seeking work in the US. Please check the official websites of the US Department of State and Citizenship and Immigration Services for more information on the various US work visas.

Visitors wishing to work in Canada may be most successful in the westernmost provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, which are experiencing an oil boom and a constant labor shortage. Workers may qualify for a skilled labor visa allowing them to work in Canada upon securing employment from their home country.

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon has become a popular destination for English-speaking Canadians to study and immerse themselves in the French language and culture at the FrancoForum, a teaching facility operated by the local government. One of the FrancoForum’s best known French immersion programs is Le Programme Frecker, offered to students at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

It is difficult for visitors to work in Bermuda because of the territory’s successful laws and policies encouraging the training and hiring of native-born Bermudians, who have been denied professional opportunities in favor of foreign workers in the past.