If you want to experience a little bit of exoticism without feeling too out of your element, then Montreal is the perfect place to go. The city is full of culture, great people, and has a very unique and interesting history. However, before you come to the city, there are a few things you have to know first. Here are some of the things you should be aware of before you visit Montreal.
Your Aren’t Allowed to Turn Right on Red Lights in the City
While you can turn right on red lights pretty much everywhere in the country, you cannot turn right on reds in the city. So, if you were coming in from any other province, this might take some getting used to. Montreal is a very cyclist and pedestrian-friendly city, and the administration wanted to make sure that they stayed a priority, so they decided not to institute the change when pretty much every other municipality in the country did. However, note that if you intend on venturing out of the city, you can turn right on reds everywhere else in the province. There are also some turns where turning on red is permitted in the city, but it has to be clearly indicated.
Convenience Stores are Called ‘Deps’
If you ever hear someone say that they’re going to the ‘dep’ to pick up some bread and some beers, then that simply means that they’re going to one of the many convenience stores in the city. The city is full of them and you’ll find small convenience stores at almost every corner. Unlike other provinces like Ontario, small convenience stores are allowed to sell beer and certain spirits under a set alcohol limit. You can also buy everything from food, cigarettes and even some bus tickets in some of them. Just make sure that they have the STM’s logo at the door first.
Happy Hours are Called ‘5 à 7’s’
If you happen to be strolling around the city around five, you might see some restaurants and bars offering ‘5 à 7’ deals. This is simply what happy hours are called in the city, since they go from 5pm to 7pm. Happy hours are pretty big in Montreal and are attended by everyone from college students to business people and office workers. So, if you’re a big fan of happy hours, you’ll be spoilt for choice if you come to Montreal.
Winters are Cold. Very Cold.
Montreal winters are notoriously cold, and depending on where you’re coming from, you might be shocked by how cold it can get. If you’re coming from the west coast, for instance, you’re in for a big surprise. Even if you come from Ontario, which also gets cold winters, Montreal has the particularity of being surrounded by water, which makes it not only cold, but very humid as well, which makes the cold even more biting. So, if you want to come during wintertime, make sure you come prepared.
There are Tons of Festivals
If you think the Jazz festival is all that the city has to offer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Montreal is known for its festive nature and its equally festive people and there are tons of festivals all year round, even in the dead of winter. If you’re courageous enough, you should give the Igloofest a try. It’s a two-week electronic music festival that takes place in Montreal’s beautiful Old Port and is held at the end of January. There’s only one catch though, the festival is completely outdoors, so make sure that you wear your biggest parka and bring a thermos or two with you since the temperatures can easily hit the minus forties during this period.
The city also hosts tons of great festivals during the summertime. While the Jazz Festival is the biggest and most renowned, some of the other great festivals you should check out are Nuits D’Afrique, which is dedicated to African culture and music and attracts performers from all over the world, and the Just for Laughs Festival, which is a two-week comedy festival with tons of public performances, parades and street performers for the whole family.
Montreal is a Bilingual City, Sort of.
Yes, while it is true that a large portion of the city speaks both English and French fluently, don’t automatically assume that everyone does. In certain parts of the city, getting served in English might be a challenge. However, you shouldn’t have issues getting service in English around the city’s core. Generally speaking, the west side of town tends to be more English, and the east side tends to be more French, so be aware of that before your visit.
The Underground is Called the ‘Metro’
Subways are called metros in Montreal and people will usually say that they’re taking the bus or metro when going anywhere. The transit commission is called the STM. This might be a bit confusing if you’re coming from Toronto where the underground is often just called the TTC, referring to the Toronto Transit Commission. However, people will never call the metro the STM, so be ready for that.
The City Has One Major Airport
For a city of its size, it can be surprising to find out that it only has one major airport. However, the airport is quite conveniently located and is only a few minutes from the city’s core. It’s also very easily accessible through public transit. Flights to Montreal tend to be very cheap, and even cheaper when you use airlines that specialize in local flights like Fly Porter, and the Trudeau airport is one of the most well-run in the country, so don’t let that deter you from coming to the city via plane.
The Legal Drinking Age is Slightly Lower than in Other Provinces
While the legal age for drinking is 19 pretty much everywhere else in the country, the legal age in Quebec is 18. This is partly why Quebec, and Montreal in particular, has gained a reputation as a party city, and was even referred to as the ‘Sin City’ of Canada at some point. The city is known for its bar and party scene, and you’ll find tons of pubs and bars throughout the city. If you want to get to the centre of the action, St-Denis, Crescent and St-Laurent streets are great places to go.
Quebec Beer Tends to Be on the Stronger Side
Speaking of drinking, you should also be prepared for Quebec beer as well. Montrealers tend to prefer stronger beer, and you’ll seldom see any beer under 5 per cent. Most beers are over 5.5 per cent and it’s not unusual to see beers over the 10 per cent mark either. But Montreal is also known for its vibrant micro brewery scene, and plenty of ‘brasseries’ around the city serve their very own microbrew. This is a great place to go if you want to sample some of the country’s finest beers with friends.
Montreal is just the perfect mix of old-world charm and new-world fun. Make sure that you get familiar with the city’s customs, rules and terms if you want to enjoy your trip to the fullest.