Ottawa Life and Visitor Travel Tips

(Ottawa, Ontario - ON, Canada)

Ottawa is the fourth-biggest metropolitan space in the whole country and is home to many impressive spectacles and scenic offerings. Life in Ottawa is relaxed and each season is welcomed by locals, who have learned to make the most of the extremes in weather. There are a host of events throughout the year, including outdoor summer festivals and winter sports.

Surrounded by an enormous and attractive greenbelt area, much of Ottawa city life is based around the striking Parliament Buildings, which date back to the early 20th century and are the political seat for the country's government.

Tourism and Tourist Information

Capital Infocenter
Address: 90 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario (ON), K1P 5A1, Canada
Tel: +1 613 239 5000
Offering a range of in-depth tourist information, including leaflets and interactive tourism terminals.
Open hours: daily - 08:30 to 21:00, winter - 09:00 to 17:00

World of Maps and Travel Books
Address: 1235 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario (ON), Canada
Tel: +1 613 724 6776
Contains an outstanding range of local guide books and maps.
Open hours: Monday to Friday - 09:00 to 18:00, Saturday - 10:00 to 17:00, Sunday - 12:00 to 18:00

Ottawa Public Library
Address: 120 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa, Ontario (ON), K1P 5M2, Canada
Tel: +1 613 236 0301
Featuring a number of computers with Internet access.
Open hours: Monday to Thursday - 10:00 to 20:00, Friday - 12:00 to 18:00, Saturday - 10:00 to 17:00, Sunday - 13:00 to 16:00, (closed on Sundays from June to September)


With over 300 languages spoken throughout America and Canada, English and French have long been the main languages in Ottawa city, and most highway signposts and tourist brochures display both. Canadian English is spoken extensively in Ottawa and is based upon British English, often featuring distinctive expressions. In Canada's large provinces of Quebec and Manitoba, Canadian French is the main language. Ottawa contains numerous different nationalities, and a number of regions in Canada are known for their unique local dialects and colorful phrases, particularly around Newfoundland.


Currency in Ottawa, Ontario and throughout Canada is structured in a similar way to the USA, with Canadian dollars. Noteworthy denominations include:

Paper notes in Ottawa are composed of $5, $10 and $20 notes, which are daily currency, with additional higher notes such as $50 and $100 dollar bills being used less. Tourists visiting Ottawa city are able to use their credit and debit cards at most ATMs, situated almost everywhere, offering a useful way to exchange currency. Also, travel agent companies in Ottawa, such as American Express and Thomas Cook, provide competitive exchange rates, together with local banks. Most banks in Ottawa open from Monday to Friday, although their opening hours are slightly shorter than regular shops in Ottawa. A number of banking branches in downtown Ottawa also open during the evenings and on Saturday mornings.

Visas and Documents

Visitors to Ottawa and other cities all through Canada require photo identification and a minimum of two or three types of formal ID. Passports are always needed when visiting Ottawa, except for those coming from the United States or Greenland. A driver's license is no longer adequate ID for US citizens arriving in Ottawa and should be used in conjunction with a valid birth certificate or similar, such as an official certificate of citizenship. Visas are not necessary when visiting Ottawa from Commonwealth and Western countries, although visitors from most other countries do, except for Mexico. Visa applications for travel to Ottawa and throughout Canada need to be made at least 30 days in advance. Direct all inquiries to the Canadian Immigration Centers.


Motorists planning to drive in the city of Ottawa must first acquire a 'Canadian Nonresident Interprovince Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card' or 'Visitor to Canada Insurance', which can be attained at most US insurance companies. The majority of car rental companies in Ottawa require you to be at least 21 years of age when renting a car, although for some outlets this is 26 years. In Ottawa, Ontario and all over Canada, cars always drive on the right-hand side of the road.


Tipping in Ottawa is generally the norm and many restaurants expect around 10% to 15% of the bill as a tip, although many restaurants automatically include service charges on the bill. Taxi drivers, barbers, hairdressers and hotel staff in Ottawa also expect tips, which may be just a few dollars.

Smoking and Alcohol

All over the country you are only able to purchase alcohol at shops run by the government, although in the provinces of Alberta and Quebec, many privately owned stores can also sell a range of alcohol. The current legal drinking age throughout Canada is 19 years old, with the exception of Alberta and Manitoba, where this age is only 18. Smoking is now banned at many places in Ottawa, including public transport options and restaurants.