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Q: My family and I have just arrived in Vancouver from China, and we want to explore the city. What do you recommend?

A: First of all, get a street map and brochures from your city’s Visitor Bureau and take a few days to explore the public transportation system. Most of the information you need, such as fare costs and numbers to call about the service, should be in the brochures.

Buses and trains (such as Toronto’s TTC or Vancouver’s SkyTrain) are relatively cheap, reliable and safe across the country. In some cities, bus drivers are not permitted to handle change, so you will need to deposit the exact fare when you board. Ask the driver for a “transfer” if you are planning on changing buses. This allows you to move from one bus to another without paying a second fare. Be aware that there are restrictions to the use of your transfer, such as time limits.

Once you familiarize yourself with the city, either by walking or via public transit, get to know some of the essential places/amenities you will need to go regularly, including the following.

Shopping: Spend a few hours checking out the closest grocery store — walk down aisles and familiarize yourself with the different products on the shelves. Go to malls and thrift stores to look at household goods you may need to buy. Also, if you are in Canada in the spring, summer or fall, you will see signs throughout the neighbourhoods saying “Garage Sale,” where you can often find great deals on used furniture, clothing and many other household items.

Local doctor’s offices and hospitals:
Check the phone book for the address of your local doctor’s offices and hospitals and keep the numbers close by. Hopefully you won’t need to use them often, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Tourist attractions and local entertainment: The city’s Visitor Bureau will also have information about local attractions and entertainment. Take time to explore what the city has to offer and have some fun — whether it is a neighbourhood park, a historic landmark or the city zoo.

Q. It will be our first Canadian winter and I’d like to know what clothing I should buy for me and my family?

Don’t underestimate the severity of the Canadian winters. In some places such as Winnipeg and Ottawa, it is not uncommon to suffer –30 Celsius temperatures.

If you aren’t used to the cold, you may want to consider thermal underwear.
You will need warm clothing such as insulated, waterproof boots; an overcoat; a scarf; a hat that will cover your ears; and gloves or mittens.

What you wear is really important to fight the long Canadian winters. Here are some essentials:

  • Clothing should be wind-proof and water-proof covering the pulse points.
  • Feet should be kept dry and warm with wool socks, insoles and water-proof shoes or boots.
  • Hands should be covered by wearing mittens or gloves.
  • Head should be protected by covering up ears and the forehead.
  • Neck area must be covered with a scarf or turtleneck sweaters.
  • Undershirt should be tucked in.
  • Layers are more important than wearing tight clothing as air layers in between clothes serve as insulators and preserve heat inside the body.
  • Jackets/coats should include high collar or hood, cuffs that close around hands, pockets to slip hands into, waist cinch, wind-proof, should be large enough to accommodate a sweater and must be long, nearly to the knees. Lining is important and some jackets have detachable lining which can be separated and used as a lighter jacket, a good multipurpose solution.