Canada is generally a safe place to visit, but you should read this article carefully to assess the risks involved in travel and whether visiting Canada is within your personal comfort zone.
With recent headline-making natural disasters and the ongoing public health crisis, you may have some questions as to what parts of Canada are currently safe for travel.
Canada has a universal reputation for being a very safe country, but as with anywhere, it has its safety nuances. And though Canada has a reputable police system and crime is sparse, safety in Canada largely depends on where you go and when you go.
As a born-and-raised Canadian, I’ve been to almost all of the country’s major cities, have lived in four provinces, and have traveled extensively both solo and with others. Much of Canada is an extremely beautiful and safe place to visit, but I would advise caution in certain circumstances.
So, just how safe is Canada? We’ll start with a quick summary answer and then dig into specifics around covid-19, crime, terrorism, and other safety risks in Canada. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Is Canada Safe to Visit?
- Things to Know About Canada Safety (info about advisories, scams, crime, covid-19)
- Canada Safety Tips
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Is Canada Safe?
Canada is generally a very safe place to travel or live, with crime rates that are comparably very low in most Canadian tourist destinations. The public health situation continues to evolve in Canada, so visitors should exercise caution and follow the most recent public health advisories for their specific destination.
Canada is regarded as one of the most peaceful countries in the world. It is also known for being a “rule of law country,” meaning, it takes a diplomatic, respectful approach to visitors of various nationalities, sexual orientations, genders, and ethnicities.
In fact, the Canadian city of Toronto, Ontario has been dubbed the #1 most multicultural city in the world with dozens of neighborhoods that showcase various international communities. Though every city has neighborhoods that should be avoided (especially at night), even most big cities experience low crime incidences per capita.
In general, your biggest safety concerns in Canada will be weather-related. Winter in Canada is no joke, and summer wildfires have become more of a common occurrence in many parts of the country.
Overall Travel Risk: Low
Things to Know About Safety in Canada
Canada Travel Advisories
Though Canada is one of the safest countries, both the US State Department and UK Government have issued travel advisories for Canada, like they have for most countries in the world, due to the ongoing public health crisis and the risks the Covid-19 pandemic presents for travelers.
Both governments also mention moderate terrorism risks as hazards, but the advisories are mostly focused on Covid-19.
At present, the Canadian Government lists Canada’s terrorism threat level as “medium,” meaning that terrorist attacks could occur and that there are additional measures currently in place to keep people safe.
Covid-19 Safety in Canada
As with elsewhere in the world, the Covid-19 crisis is still very much present in Canada, and the mandates regarding it change frequently depending upon where in Canada you are traveling.
As of early fall 2021, Canada is entering its fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The difference this time is that roughly 75% of the population having received at least one dose of a vaccine (85% ages twelve and up). Due to high vaccine uptake and a population that (mostly) adheres to strict rules and mandates, the situation in Canada is evolving rapidly.
To keep up with the latest regulations regarding entering Canada, use the Government of Canada’s eligibility wizard. I recommend checking this website about a week before you travel and scanning it regularly for any changes.
You should also familiarize yourself with the latest restrictions and mandates in the specific places in Canada you’ll be visiting. As of early fall 2021, you’ll have to provide proof of full vaccination to go to Canada, as well as to enter many establishments within its borders. Mask wearing is standard inside public places, and Covid-19 testing is a requirement to enter the country.
👉 First time in Canada? Then check out my 16 must-read Canada travel tips to know before you go!
Common Scams in Canada
Though there is a fairly low risk when it comes to street scams in Canada, there are a couple of ploys to watch out for:
- ☎️ Phone call scams – if you’re using a Canadian SIM card during your stay, you may get phone calls from scammers asking for personal information or prepaid cards. Always decline.
- 📝 Street petitions – though not outright scammy, some street petitions (where people walk up to you asking to sign their petition) exist solely to get your personal information, such as your email address and phone number. They’ll then follow up with actual scams trying to get you to fork over money. As a foreigner, it’s best to avoid signing street petitions.
- 💰 Pickpockets – a scam seemingly as old as time itself, pickpockets will generally strike in crowded situations when you’re distracted. When in the main squares of big cities (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, etc.) always keep your wallet or purse close to you and firmly on your body.
Weather in Canada
To be frank, the weather will be the biggest thing to look out for in terms of staying safe in Canada. A lot depends on where you choose to go, and what time of year you visit Canada. Here are a few things to look out for:
- 🌡️ Temperature – Temperatures in Canada regularly drop below -20°C (-4°F) in the winter, and can spike up to between 30°C (86°F) and 40°C (104°F) in the summer.
- 🚘 Driving – Snow and icy conditions can make winter driving in central Canada fairly hazardous. If you plan to travel from November through March, take stock of driving conditions and potential snow storms before you head out on the road.
- 🔥 Wildfires – Over the past few years, Canada has experienced dry, hot summers that have resulted in an ever-increasing amount of wildfires. These wildfires have forced evacuations from rural communities and have caused smoky conditions across the country. Stay aware of active wildfires during your visit, and keep tabs on any ones that may impede your travels.
👉 Pro tip: When you go to Canada is just as important as where you go. Check out our take on the best time to visit Canada for detailed information on the best months to go, climate, family travel, events, and budgeting.
Crime in Canada
Did you know that Canada is the tenth-safest country in the world according to the Global Peace Index? It’s true! Since the turn of the century, Canada has been experiencing a declining crime rate with numbers roughly 30% lower than they were in 2003.
In fact, according to 2019 Statista data, Canada had a homicide rate of 1.8 per 100,000 residents, whereas the United States had a rate of 5.
Yet, while Canada has a relatively low violent crime rate as compared to its southerly neighbor, the rate of property-related theft is slightly higher. For this reason, always make sure you keep valuables within sight or locked away, lock your car doors, and keep your passport stored away when not in use.
7 Canada Safety Tips
Tip #1 – Research the Crime Rates
If you’ll be traveling through major cities on your trip to Canada, then I’d recommend researching the crime statistics and what neighborhoods best be avoided.
Canada is a huge country, and crime rates are not static across the board.
Though most violence in the harsher parts of town is gang-related, don’t put yourself in a sticky situation. Further, some cities have high-crime-rate neighborhoods close to downtown, if not part of the downtown core themselves.
It can be easy to stumble into a bad neighborhood in Canada, so do some research, stick to low crime rate areas, and you’ll be good to go.
Tip #2 – Learn the Rules of the Road
Each Canadian province and territory has slightly different local laws when it comes to driving, and although most of them are fairly standard and intuitive, you don’t want to be caught without a clue.
To set yourself up for driving success, take a gander through our my visitor’s guide to driving in Canada — it’s full of best practices and various laws to note.
Alternatively, you can always take public transportation in Canada. Though safe, public transit is not standardized in the country and each city does things a little differently.
🚗 Pro-tip: If renting a car in Canada, use the trusted online search engine Discover Cars. They’ll compare and contrast your best options and help you with the details!
Tip #3 – Get an Emergency Kit for Your Car
Speaking of driving, preparing your vehicle with an emergency kit is one of the best things you can do before you hit the road.
This roadside toolkit is an awesome choice, or if you prefer to put one together yourself, then it should include jumper cables, a small shovel, a scraper, a first aid kit, a flashlight, a tow rope, and road flares.
As the second-largest country in the world and with a sparse population, much of Canada is wide open road. Expecting the best but being prepared for the worst is a great way to handle driving in Canada.
🚙 Where to Road Trip in Canada: You’ll be spoiled for choice if a road trip is in your plans. To help you sort through all the options, bookmark my article on the top Canadian road trips. You’ll find trips covering everything from the forests of BC to the Atlantic Ocean, with plenty of amazing spots in between.
Tip #4 – Be Aware of Winter Hazards
As I mentioned above, winter in Canada is a beast unto itself.
Many parts of Canada get absolutely dumped on with snow in the winter, and much of it experiences temperatures below -20°C (-4°F), freezing rain, black ice, slush, and sleet.
If you plan on driving in Canada, then you’ll need to outfit your vehicle with winter tires, but even if you plan to take public transit, I recommend preparing yourself with a winter parka, boots, gloves, and a toque (beanie).
Tip #5 – Stay Aware of Your Surroundings
As with anywhere in the world, the easiest way to avoid petty theft, ending up in a bad neighborhood, or putting yourself in harm’s way is to pay attention and aware of your surroundings.
Though pickpocketing, bodily harm, and muggings in Canada are the exception, not the rule, making sure you keep an eye on your valuables and what’s going on around you is essential.
People with bad intentions tend to target tourist regions and can spot a foreigner without a clue a mile away. Keep an eye on the area around you, use common sense, and I’m sure you’ll have a great trip.
Tip #6 – Be Wildlife Smart
Canada, especially the parks and wilderness areas, is home to animals both big and small.
On the larger side of things, Canada is home to bears, elk, moose, caribou, and whales. While none of these animals are intrinsically bad, dangerous wildlife does exist when animals feel threatened.
Wildlife sightseeing tours are a major attraction and one of the more popular things to do destinations such as Churchill, Manitoba (polar bears and beluga whales) and Victoria, British Columbia (whales), but it’s best to try and avoid any animal encounters when not in the company of an experienced guide.
While on hiking trails, carry a whistle and talk regularly, and (if legal in your destination) carry bear spray. Further, there are a few plants along trails that can cause skin irritation, so stay out of tall grass or cover your legs.
Though smaller animals in Canada tend to be more akin to pests than truly dangerous, areas such as the Alberta badlands are in fact home to poisonous animals such as rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders.
Again, chances of you encountering them are slim, but keep your eye on trails and don’t stick your hands into any rock crevices.
Pests can even be abundant in the major cities (Toronto I’m looking at you and your raccoon infestation), and not leaving out food or trash is the easiest way to avoid them.
Tip #7 – Know the Emergency Numbers
Knowing who to call in case of an emergency is always a good practice.
In Canada, the general emergency number is 9-1-1 (used for medical emergencies, fire departments, and police).
For all non-emergencies, you can find destination-specific numbers here.
Additionally, always keep your cell phone charged in case of an emergency, and carry an external battery pack to keep it full when you don’t have access to a plug.
Tip #8 – Invest in Private Health Insurance for Travel
Even though Canada is relatively safe, purchasing travel insurance is a must before departing on your trip.
World Nomads is one of the most trusted options on the market (I’ve personally used their travel insurance many times), but there are a few other Canada insurance options depending on your specific needs.
Travel insurance will make sure you’re covered in case of an emergency, either medical or financial.
Even though Canada is renowned for its universal healthcare system, this only applies to Canadian citizens and won’t cover expensive hospital bills.
It’s best to be prepared!
FAQ About Safety in Canada
How dangerous is Canada?
Canada is statistically one of the safest destinations in the world, with the Global Peace Index ranking it the 10th most peaceful country.
Which province in Canada is the safest?
Based on data from Statistics Canada, Quebec is the safest Canadian province with a crime severity index (CSI) of 55 compared to the national average of 75.
What are the safest Canadian cities?
According to Numbeo, the safest cities in Canada are Quebec City (Quebec), Markham (Ontario), Coquitlam (British Columbia), Oakville (Ontario), and Ottawa (Ontario).
Is Canada safe for international students?
Canada is an extremely safe study-abroad destination for international students. Canada has some of the best universities in the world and has top-notch college campuses.
Is Canada safe for solo female travelers?
Canada is a very safe destination for solo women travelers, with many major cities, road trips, and rural areas being perfectly suited to solo travel and exceptionally hospitable to women.
That’s it for my guide to Canada travel safety!
I hope this gave you a ton of confidence for planning your upcoming trip to Canada, as it’s truly a beautiful country with warm citizens.
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Have fun in Canada!