IMPORTANT: Electronic Travel Authorization Required
If you are a citizen of any country other than Canada or the USA and are arriving in Canada by air, you require an ETA. These cost $7 CAD and it is the responsibility of each delegate to apply and pay for their ETA and make sure they possess a valid ETA prior to departing for Canada. For many people, the process takes just minutes but, in some circumstances, it can take several days, so be sure to apply well in advance. Here is the link: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp.
If anyone is flying via the USA, they will require the US equivalent of this authorization, even to just pass through.
Cape Breton Island, Sydney, and St. Ann’s
Travel + Leisure Magazine ranked Cape Breton the #1 island to visit in continental North America and #3 in the world. Condé Nast Traveler has called it the most scenic island in the world. Cape Breton is famous for its stunning scenery (particularly along the Cabot Trail), lobster dinners, and its traditional cultures, especially the Celtic-derived fiddling and step dancing traditions and the Scottish Gaelic language, which is still spoken on the island, but also French Acadian and indigenous Mi’kmaq cultures.
Sydney is Nova Scotia’s second largest city and Cape Breton Island’s only urban area. The population of Cape Breton Island is approximately 130,000, most of which is in relatively close proximity to Sydney. Sydney is a diverse post-industrial city. Immigrants from all over Europe, particularly Italians, Greeks, Lebanese, Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians, settled in Sydney to work in the mines or steel plant. More recently, the education and health sectors have drawn students and practitioners from many places across Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The Gaelic College is located in St. Ann’s. The drive from Sydney is spectacular when you cross the Bras d’Or Lakes and over Kelly’s Mountain. The nearest town is Baddeck, about a 15 minute drive beyond the Gaelic College from Sydney.
For local events, visit:
Although Canada is a bilingual country (English and French), English is the main language spoken in Sydney.
The currency in Canada is the Canadian Dollar (CAD$). There are no exchange bureaus at the airport, in Sydney, or in Baddeck so we recommend that you arrive in Canada with some Canadian currency in hand. However, you may be able to exchange currency at other airports en route to Sydney. Most banks offer currency exchange, although they may be limited to Euros (€), Pounds Sterling (£) or American Dollars. Credit cards are widely accepted and vendors will probably require you to use your PIN number. ATMs provide cash in Canadian dollars only.
Sydney is in the Atlantic Standard Time Zone, 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). It is 1 hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Canada are the “Type B” North American NEMA 5-15 standard, 110-120 volts.
When dialling from abroad, the country code for Canada is 00+1; and the area/city code is 902. The code for international outgoing calls is 011. Pay phones are located in several spots around the city; you may make local calls for 25-cents or long-distance calls by credit card. Long distance calling cards are available for purchase at local supermarkets, convenience stores, and drugstores.
Please note that cell phone coverage can be sporadic in Cape Breton, and not all service providers can be accessed here. You may wish to check coverage with your provider. Even if your cell phone works in the Sydney area, it may not work in other areas on the island; keep this in mind if you are planning to rent a car and travelling around Cape Breton on your own.
Hotels offer wireless internet access. Local cafés also offer internet access, and the McConnell Public Library in downtown Sydney offers free access to computers and the internet. The Gaelic College offers free wifi as well.
Health Insurance and Medications
All visitors to Canada are strongly urged to obtain health insurance before leaving their home country. Canadian hospital and medical services are excellent, but a hospital stay can cost in excess of $500 a day, and the cost of an extended stay can be prohibitive. Be sure you are covered. If you are a resident of Canada, you should carry your provincial health card just in case you need medical attention. Please bring all medications with you, and if you are taking medicine prescribed by your doctor, it is a good idea to make a list of what you are taking in case of emergency. Bring along a copy of your prescription in the event that you need to have it renewed by a doctor in Nova Scotia.
To report an emergency of any type (e.g., medical, safety, fire), call 911.
Food & Drink
Canada enjoys a high standard of food safety. You can drink tap water without risk. Milk and dairy products are pasteurized, and all meats, seafood, fruits and vegetables are generally safe to eat.
Please note that TIPS are expected for food and beverage service in restaurants and bars/pubs alike. Tips are at the discretion of the customer, but 15% is fairly standard and considered appropriate for good service. Be prepared! The combination of tips and taxes (Harmonized Sales Tax, or HST, is 15%) means that customers should anticipate paying an additional 30% on top of advertised menu prices.
Cape Breton’s location on the Atlantic Seaboard means that its weather can be variable, so please come prepared for changes (packing sweaters, a rain jacket and an umbrella would be wise). However, October weather in Cape Breton tends to be beautiful, and the fall colours should be at their peak during our event. Temperatures average in the low teens (Celsius) during the day, but cool to 5 or 8 degrees (Celsius) at night.
Cape Breton, including Sydney, is a very safe place; personal security is normally unproblematic, but as a common precaution, we encourage you to walk in groups after dark.
Smoking is not allowed in public buildings, some public areas, restaurants and pubs, but it is permitted in many open-air areas.