Shopping in Canada offers more than the usual tourist fare of Mountie dolls and maple leaf T-shirts. Visitors can choose from a wide range of products, and buy everything from electronic equipment to clothes and jewelry.
There is also a variety of goods unique to the country – maple syrup from Quebec, smoked salmon from British Columbia, and cowboy boots from Alberta, to name a few. Native art inspired by centuries-old tradition, includes carvings by west-coast peoples and Inuit paintings and tapestries. In each major city there are covered malls, chainstores, specialty shops, and galleries, as well as street markets to explore. In country areas, beautifully-made crafts by local people can be found. Be aware that sales taxes are added to the price of many items.
Store hours vary, but in larger cities most stores are open by 9am and close between 5pm and 9pm. However, some grocery and variety stores are open 24 hours a day, and in major towns several pharmacies are also open for 24 hours. In most towns, stores have late closing until 9pm on Friday evening. However, in smaller towns and villages you should not expect any store, including the gas station, to be open after 6pm. Sunday openings are increasing: usually hours run from noon to 5pm but vary from province to province. Check first, as many may be closed in rural areas.
HOW TO PAY
Most Canadian stores accept all major credit cards, with VISA and Master-Card being the most popular. Some stores require a minimum purchase in order to use the card. They may limit the use of cards during summer and winter sales. Direct payments, or “Switch” transactions, are also widely used, with point-of-sale terminals for bank cards available in most supermarkets and department stores. Travelers’ checks are readily accepted with proper identification; a valid passport or driver’s license are the usually accepted forms. US dollars are the only non-Canadian currency accepted in department stores. Bear in mind that the exchange rate is usually lower, sometimes as much as 15 percent, than a bank will give. Large stores may offer money-changing facilities within the store.
Canadians love to curse the national Goods and Services Tax (GST), which currently runs at 7 percent. It is added to most retail transactions; the major exception is basic food items. Visitors who are nonresident in Canada can apply for a GST rebate on most goods within 60 days of purchase. This excludes restaurant bills, drinks, tobacco, or transportation expenses. Refund forms are available in airports, duty free stores, hotels, and most Canadian Embassies. Include original receipts when sending the application to Revenue Canada as photocopies are not accepted. In addition to the GST, most provinces add a provincial sales tax, varying from 5-12 percent, on meals and store bought items. Alberta, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories do not impose this tax, and Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland offer rebates to non-residents.