health and safety:
Water from the tap is safe for drinking, though it doesn't taste very
good, and it might upset your stomach your first time if you drink too much.
Best thing to do is either buy bottled water or gradually introduce the tap
water to your system over the coarse of a day, then you should be fine.
Crime is moderate in Montreal. Please exercise caution and street sense
in the urban areas. When walking the streets at night, it's best to stay with
a group. Petty theft is always a risk, but pick-pockets are not widespread.
Heat can be severe in the summer, mostly due to high humidity, and there
is little relief at night, often causing difficulty sleeping. Always drink plenty
of water and avoid prolonged heat exposure.
Tipping is 15% for good service, and waiters depend on it for their income.
Not leaving enough tip is considered cheap, unless of course the service is
bad, which is rare. Bars and night clubs are no exception. It is customary to
tip the bartender or waitress every time you order.
Taxis are fairly inexpensive, and fares are strictly regulated, no bargaining
needed. Just be sure you specify East or West, where applicable.
Currency is of course Canadian dollars. Don't expect stores to accept
American dollars, because it's rare, and if they do, will offer no exchange
rate. There are many financial institutions downtown, where ATMs (guichet) will
give you the best exchange rate, and often don't charge a transaction fee, though
your bank will. Be sure you have enough cash when you arrive, so you can exchange
it at the airport, and pay for your taxi/bus/shuttle.
"Spare Change?" You will likely be shocked by how
often people ask you for money on the streets. Homeless (often street kids)
hang around the metros, in parks, and on the sidewalks, rarely passing an opportunity
to ask for money. Some are friendly and even make efforts to entertain you,
while others stare blankly at the ground or even ask rudely. The rule of thumb
is to be respectful and say a simple, "sorry," or "désole,"
if you know how to pronounce it.
Time is written a little differently here. 00h00 is 12:00 am., 01h00
is 1:00 am., and so on. 12h00 is noon, 13h00 is 1:00 pm., and so on. Typical
store hours are displayed as 09h00-17h00. We have written the schedules on this
site in the local format to help you adjust.
Language in all of Quebec is French. However, most people in downtown
Montreal speak at least a little English, and you shouldn't have much trouble
if the only words you know are "oui", "merci", and "bonjour".
But even then it is often considered rude to assume someone speaks English.
Best thing to do is say, "Excusez moi, parlez-vous anglais?" If you
have bad pronunciation you will look like a goon, but they really appreciate
you making the effort, especially monolingual Anglos.
Greeting people in Quebec is "very European". Among friends:
a kiss on each cheek for guys and girls, and girls and girls, but guys shake
hands. Strangers generally shake hands, regardless of sex, when introduced.
Weekends in a sense start on Thursday. Most shops close late Thursday
and Friday (about 21h00), and close early Saturday and Sunday (about 17h00).
Food, drinks, and entertainment are available later than regular store
hours. Montreal is known for its 24-hour, $0.99 pizza slices, made especially
for the footbagger diet and schedule. Restaurants are generally open until 21h00,
Alcohol is available in markets (dépanneur), grocery stores, and
the SAQ (government-operated liquor store). Markets and grocers stop selling
alcohol at 23h00, and bars and night clubs stop serving alcohol at 03h00. The
legal drinking age in Canada is 18 years, and most places don't card if you
look of age, but bring your ID just in case.