Quebec

Château Frontenac in Québec City

For the city bearing the same name see Quebec City.

Quebec (French: Québec) is a province in Canada, the largest in size and second only to Ontario in population. French is the first language of a majority of Quebecois and the official language of the province. Quebec is situated east of Ontario; to the west of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; to the south of the territory of Nunavut, and has borders with the U.S. States of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to its south. The provincial capital of Quebec is Quebec City, the province's largest city is Montreal, the second largest city in Canada.

Québec is unique among North American tourist destinations. Its French heritage sets the province apart from its English-speaking neighbours, and unlike most of Canada, Quebec's cultural ties are closer to Western Europe than to the United States. It is also one of the only historical areas in North America to have fully preserved its Francophone culture. Its European feel and its history, culture and warmth have made Québec a favourite tourist destination both nationally and internationally.

Regions

Regions of Québec
Outaouais
The Québec side of the Ottawa River with mountains, forests and plenty of outdoors activities. Gatineau, as part of the National Capital Region, has many fine museums.
Montreal and Southwestern Quebec (Montréal, Montérégie, Eastern Townships, Laurentides, Lanaudière)
The culturally rich and lively city of Montréal plus its suburbs. South of the St. Lawrence River, there are small towns, farmland, lakes and hills. Parts of the area were settled by Loyalists from the American Revolution giving the area a bit of a New England feel. The mountains north of the river are Montréal's playground.
Quebec City and Central Quebec (Quebec Region, Centre-du-Québec, Chaudière-Appalaches, Mauricie, Charlevoix)
This is the heartland of Québec. Quebec City is the capital of the province with a European feel and charming Old Town. To the southwest is the prime agricultural region of the province.
Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean
A very distinctive region of Québec with its own culture, accent and geography. The region is highlighted by one of the few fjords on the east coast of Canada.
Southeastern Quebec (Gaspé Peninsula, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Îles-de-la-Madeleine)
The rugged coastal region of Québec east of Québec City and south of the St. Lawrence River with small towns and villages hugging the coast. The Gaspé is considered particularly scenic.
Northeastern Quebec (Duplessis, Manicouagan)
The rugged coastal region northeast of the Saguenay River on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.
Northern Quebec (Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Baie-James, Nunavik)
The sparsely inhabited north and northwestern region of the province, with logging and mining towns and hydro electric projects, as well as Inuit and other Native communities.

Cities

Château Frontenac

The three largest cities in Québec are Montréal, Québec City and Gatineau.

Other destinations

Understand

Climate

There are four distinct seasons in Québec, offering a wonderful view of the nature and variety of activities.

Talk

See also French phrasebook

Canada is officially bilingual on the federal level, meaning that most federal government official documents, signs, and tourist information will be presented in both French and English. Staff at retail shops, restaurants and tourist attractions will often speak English, especially in Montréal. Smaller establishments, especially outside Montréal, may not offer services in English but try their best to accommodate travellers. About 8% of the province's residents speak English as a mother tongue, and an additional 31% consider that they can get by speaking it. All offices of the federal government are required by law to provide services in both French and English.

The official language of Québec, however, is French. Provincial government signs (highway signs, government buildings, hospitals, etc.) are generally posted in French only. Services at provincial government offices are also often available in French only. Tourist information is offered in English and other languages. The visibility of commercial signs and billboards in English and other languages is restricted by law (except for English-language media and cultural venues such as theatres, cinemas and bookstores). Most businesses will not have signs in English except in tourist areas and localities with a large English-speaking population. Language is a very sensitive subject politically, particularly in Montréal. If you cannot read a sign in a store or restaurant, most sales people will be sympathetic and help you find your way. Most restaurants in tourist areas will supply English menus if asked. In general, you should always begin the conversation in French, and ask if the person can speak English. Simply assuming that the person can speak English is considered to be very rude.

82% of Québec’s population is francophone, but English is also commonly spoken, particularly in the province’s major cities such as Montréal where the percentage is 24%. For French-speaking people from elsewhere, the French spoken in Québec is often difficult to understand. Books have been published on Québec expressions, and these may be worth consulting if you are planning to stay in Québec for any length of time.

Isolated from France for centuries, and unaffected by that country's 19th-century language standardization, Québec has developed its own "accent" of French similar to the one in France in the 16th century, a kind of time capsule. The continental variety—called "international French" or français international here—is well-understood, and something closely approximating it is spoken by broadcasters and many businesspeople. While Quebecers usually understand European French, European tourists may feel lost until they grow accustomed to the local accent(s).

There are a few main differences between Québécois French and continental French-from-France. One is that in Quebec it's relatively common to tutoyer (use the familiar tu second-person pronoun instead of vous when saying you) for all, regardless of age or status (though there are common exceptions to this in the workplace and the classroom). In France, it would be considered impolite. The unrelated interrogative particle -tu is used to form yes-or-no questions, as in On y va-tu? "Shall we go?" Finally, there are a number of vocabulary words that differ, particularly in very informal contexts (for example, un char for a car, rather than une voiture), and some common expressions (C'est beau [literally It's nice] for "OK" or "fine"). Overall, however, pronunciation marks the most significant difference between Québec and European French.

Probably the most puzzling difference in Québec's French is that one will often sacrer (blaspheme or swear) rather than using scatological or sexual curse words. Terms like baptême (baptism) or viarge (deformation of vierge, virgin) have become slangy and taboo over the centuries in this once fervently Catholic culture. Hostie de tabarnac! ("communion wafer of the tabernacle!") or just tabarnak! is one of the most obscene things to say, and more polite versions like tabarnouche or tabarouette are equivalent to "darn" or "fudge!"

Although sacre may seem funny, be assured that Quebeckers, particularly the older generation, do take it seriously. Don't sacre any time you don't really mean it! But be sure that younger Quebeckers may be fond of teaching you a little sacrage lesson if you ask them.

English-speaking Quebeckers are generally bilingual and reside mostly in the Montréal area, where 25% of the population speaks English at home. Aside from the occasional borrowing of local French terms ("dépanneur" as opposed to corner store or convenience store), their English differs little from standard Canadian English, including the occasional "eh" at the end of the sentence; accents are influenced heavily by ethnicity, with distinct Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Greek inflections heard in Montréal neighbourhoods. Conversations between anglophones and francophones often slip unconsciously between English and French as a mutual show of respect. This can be confusing if you're not bilingual, and a look of puzzlement will generally signal a switch back to a language everyone can understand.

Although English-speakers will usually greet strangers in French, it is considered pretentious and overzealous for a native English-speaker to continue a conversation in French with other English speakers (though two francophones will easily converse together in English when in a room of anglophones). Local English-speakers may also refer to street names by their English names as oppose to the posted French names, but this is getting rarer (for example, Mountain Street for rue de la Montagne, Pine Avenue for avenue des Pins).

Some French-language radio stations, including those with "classic rock" formats, play up to 50% English-language music but announce everything in French.

There is one daily English-language broadsheet newspaper (la Gazette) in Montréal and a few English-language radio stations, which play very little French-language music (typically 5%, with no French-language announcements).

Like the rest of Canada, Quebec, particularly Montreal, is home to migrant communities from all over the world and some neighbourhoods may have a primary language other than French or English.

Get in

Montreal's Trudeau International Airport

By plane

There are flights to Québec from major cities in North America, Europe and Asia. Montréal is a 70-minute flight from New York and is less than 6 hours and 45 minutes by air from London or Paris.

Québec has two major international airports: Montréal's Trudeau International Airport, which has direct flights to most major Canadian and U.S. cities as well as selected European destinations (including daily flights to Paris, London and Frankfurt), is located in the suburb of Dorval, about 30 minutes from downtown. Quebec City's Jean Lesage Airport is much smaller but also serves several Canadian and US destinations (including Toronto, New York (Newark), Chicago and Detroit), as well as Paris (Air France and Air Transat). Jean Lesage Airport is located in L'Ancienne-Lorette, about 25 minutes drive west of downtown Québec City. Gatineau only has a tiny local airport as most of its intercity traffic is routed through nearby Ottawa.

Montréal's former Mirabel International Airport is no longer in passenger use.

By boat

The days when immigrants arrived in Québec by boat via the quarantine station at Grosse-Île are long over, but visitors with a bit of time can enjoy any one of the many cruises available along the St. Lawrence River.

Numerous cruise lines offer routes that sail the Saint Lawrence . Cruise companies include these routes in their Canada & New England destinations. The port of embarkation and debarkation for most of these itineraries are New York, Boston, Montréal and Québec City. Depending on the individual cruise, their itineraries include stops in Montréal, Québec City, Trois-Rivières, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Sept-Îles, the Gaspésie, and the Îles de la Madeleine.

C.T.M.A. operates a daily cruise-ferry during the summer (and less frequently at other times of the year) from Souris, P.E.I. to Cap-aux-Meules, Qué. as a means to access the Magdalen Islands (Îles de la Madeleine), which are technically in Québec but not easy to reach without leaving the province.

Labrador Marine operates up to three ferries daily from St. Barbe, Newfoundland to Blanc-Sablon, Québec (near Forteau, Labrador). In winter (January through April) the southern terminus is Corner Brook, more distant with corresponding penalties in crossing time and price. As it's not possible to drive directly west toward Sept-Îles from Blanc-Sablon (for 450-500km from Kagaska to Vieux-Fort, the road simply does not exist), this interprovincial crossing carries primarily intraprovincial traffic within Newfoundland and Labrador. In theory there are two ways to go elsewhere in Québec from Blanc Sablon without going through three of the four Atlantic provinces, but neither is easy:

There are various local ferries which cross the Ottawa River from Ontario into Québec, typically at points (like Cumberland-Masson) where crossing into Québec by bridge would require driving to a larger centre like Ottawa, Hawkesbury or Pembroke,

By train

From the US, the Amtrak "Adirondack" runs from New York City once a day, with stops connecting to bus routes serving upstate New York. The trip is a scenic 6 hours along the Hudson River, but be prepared for delays at the border that can tack on 2–3 hours to the trip.

VIA Rail Canada, the federal passenger railway, operates numerous trains daily from both Toronto and Ottawa to Montréal, with multiple connections to Québec City. They also run a daily train from Halifax, Nova Scotia, stopping in Moncton, New Brunswick into Montréal. A more scenic route follows the Gaspe Peninsula. Significant discounts are available to youths and to university students carrying as ISIC Card (International Student Identity Card).

Tshiuetin Rail Transportation operates two trains weekly which pass through Emeril, Labrador on their route to Sept-Îles, Qué. from Schefferville, Qué.

By bus

Adirondack Trailways and Greyhound Lines operate frequent motorcoach service from New York. Greyhound Lines also operates frequent motorcoach service from Boston.

Coach Canada operates frequent motorcoach service from Toronto into Montréal. Voyageur, an affiliate of Greyhound Canada, operates hourly motorcoach service from Ottawa into Montréal. There is also limited transportation service from Ottawa into Grand-Remous, Que. via Voyageur, as well as from North Bay, Ontario. into Rouyn-Noranda via Autobus Maheux. Maritime Bus provides service to Rivière-du-Loup from Moncton with connections to Halifax. Orléans Express operates two trips daily by motorcoach from Campbellton, N.B. into Rimouski, Qué., and then continuing onward to Québec, Qué. and Montréal, Qué.

Within Ottawa-Hull interprovincial travel is possible by local bus. Multiple STO (Outaouais) buses stop in Ottawa-Lowertown, follow Wellington Street past Parliament Hill then take the Pont du Portage back into Hull. OCTranspo 8 stops at Terrasses de la Chaudière in Hull. Additional buses run during peak hours.

By car

From Windsor, London, Toronto, and other locations along the Golden Horseshoe, the main option is the Highway 401 (six hours by car from Toronto) - part of the beaten-path Windsor-Quebec corridor.

From Northern Ontario and points westward, the Trans-Canada Highway very closely follows the Ontario-Quebec border through Pembroke and Ottawa on its way to Montréal. At various points, one can cross the Ottawa River by bridge or ferry; most of these crossings connect to Québec Route 148 (and Autoroute 50 from Hull-Gatineau eastward) to follow the river on the other side. One can also enter far to the north from Ontario Highway 66 (near Cochrane), which becomes Route 117 near the town of Rouyn. Another point at the western edge of the province, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, is reachable in a couple of hours from North Bay, Ontario by road.

From the east, Trans-Canada Highway 2 runs from Moncton and Fredericton and becomes Route 185 where it continues towards Rivière-du-Loup; from there, one can turn either east toward the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula or west toward Quebec City. New Brunswick Route 11 also enters Quebec near Campbellton, feeding into Route 132.

From Labrador, the Trans-Labrador Highway crosses into Québec at both of its endpoints, Labrador City-Fermont and Forteau-Blanc Sablon. The road from Fermont to Baie-Comeau is rough gravel with (mostly) no services from Fermont to Manic 5. There is no road from Blanc-Sablon/Vieux-Fort to Kegasha, a 450km gap bridged by a weekly coastal ferry.

From the United States, there are many border crossings (too numerous to list) from New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. From New York City and other cities farther south along Interstate 95, the principal artery is Interstate 87, which enters from the town of Champlain and continues as Autoroute 15. From Boston the best option is through Vermont, from Interstate 89 toward Montreal, or Interstate 91 (Autoroute 55) to Sherbrooke, Drummondville and Trois-Rivières. The more rural options are farther north and east; US Route 3 runs north from New Hampshire and can enter via Route 253 or 141 near Pittsburg/Chartierville, or farther north to Route 257. State Route 27 runs from Maine's ski resorts in the Carrabassett and Androscoggin valleys to Route 263 near Lac-Mégantic, while Quebec's northmost international port of entry is US Route 201, which becomes Route 173 toward Saint-Georges.

Get around

Québec has a vast road and air network that makes it easy to travel between cities.

By plane

Using air transportation to travel between the different cities in Québec (Gatineau-Québec City, Montréal-Québec City, Montréal-Bagotville) is possible but usually too expensive to be worthwhile. Air travel is indispensable for getting around northern Québec (except for the Baie-James region, which is served by a paved highway), because there are no highways or railways serving these remote areas.

By train

Via Rail offers train service along the St. Lawrence river, up the Saguenay and in the Gaspé Peninsula. VIA is Québec's only intercity passenger train carrier, while AMT runs Montréal's suburban commuter trains. Trains run infrequently (compared to Europe). There are no high-speed trains in Québec. Buses are usually cheaper, with more daily connections.

Tshiuetin Rail Transportation runs a passenger train twice weekly on the QNS&L line between Sept-Îles and Schefferville. This isolated network, not connected to the rest of the North American rail system, briefly crosses out-of-province to serve Emeril, Labrador.

As of 2015, two scenic tourist trains remain temporarily out of service:

By bus

The main way to travel between cities is by bus. The bus network is very well developed, particularly for connections between Québec City-Montréal, Ottawa-Montréal and Toronto-Montréal. Montreal's main bus station is located at 505 De Maisonneuve East. Buying tickets and making seat reservations is a good idea, particularly for Friday evening or holiday travel, but same day ticket purchase is also possible.

Within cities, public transit tends to be good by North American standards, though showing the signs of funding cuts in recent years.

By car

Renting a car and driving around Canada poses no particular problem, even in the cities. However, it is best to arrange the rental from where you are coming. Read the rental contract carefully, particularly the section on insurance. Often, you can rent a car in one city and return it in another without prohibitive costs. Rental companies are Viau (Montréal), Enterprise .

Québec has a good network of (mostly) toll-free highways connecting all the main cities and surrounding areas. There are a couple of toll bridges (Autoroute 25 northbound from Montréal to Laval, and the Autoroute 30 bypass to cross the St. Lawrence River west of Montréal). Fuel taxes are higher in Québec than in neighbouring Canadian provinces, which in turn are overpriced relative to the US border states. Fuel prices in Montréal and Québec City (the largest cities) are particularly bad; gasoline on Montréal Island often costs a dime a litre more than in Vaudreuil-Dorion.

A note for European tourists: in Québec, the highway speed limit is 100 km/h (It was once generally tolerated up to 120 km/h when passing a radar, but the province is increasingly being infested with photo radar, a cash cow for provincial and local governments at the expense of motorists).

The Québec highway code is similar to that practised in most of Europe. A couple of differences are that traffic lights are often located across the intersection, not at the side, and you are not allowed to turn right on a red light on the Island of Montréal or where otherwise indicated. At stop signs, every one advances in turn, based on the order in which the cars arrived at the stop sign. Roundabouts are very rare. Occasionally, tickets are issued for bizarre offences like "backing up without assistance" which do not exist in other provinces.

By boat

Numerous cruises are available on the St. Lawrence River, one of the world’s biggest waterways .

West of Montréal, a ferry crossing connects Hudson to Oka across the Ottawa (Outaouais) River.

From the centre of Québec-Lévis downriver to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the river widens and ferries become necessary as there are no bridges; a ferry crossing is also necessary to reach Tadoussac from Saint-Siméon on the north shore and to reach the Magdalen Islands, which politically are part of Québec despite their proximity to Prince Edward Island. Coastal ferries are also needed to reach a few small, isolated communities east of Kegasha.

By snowmobile

Québec boasts that its 5200km (3200 miles) of snowmobile trails (pistes de motoneige) cover much of the province, eastward to Gaspésie and west to Northern Ontario. The Ski-Doo® line of snowmobiles were invented in tiny Valcourt by Québécois inventor Joseph-Armand Bombardier (April 16, 1907 - February 18, 1964). In a few isolated communities in the high Arctic, the snowmobile is the primary native transport; elsewhere, it is a popular recreational vehicle, with many local clubs and organisations dedicated to snowmobiling and maintenance of the trail network.

By ridesharing

For people travelling in small groups and wanting to keep their costs down (primarily students), Kangaride , Allô Stop and Quebec-Express are a great alternative to any of the transportation methods mentioned above. They are ride sharing (carpooling) networks serving most of Québec’s major cities. To access this service, simply register online (or at one of the offices (registration costs $6) for Allô stop). Then you can reserve your spot in a car belonging to someone who is travelling to the same destination as you—sometimes for up to half the price of the bus. The only inconvenience with this system is that it doesn’t serve every city, so some areas are not accessible using this method.

By bicycle

"La route verte" comprises 3,600 kilometres of bikeways linking the various regions of Québec. One can visit several regions by bicycle and find local accommodations near the bike paths.

By motorcycle

Québec’s winding, scenic secondary roads are ideal for a motorcycle ride. However, in southern Québec, the best season for travelling by motorcycle is limited to between May and October. In remote areas, the nicest season is two months shorter than that, running from June to September. In the last few years, taking to Québec’s roads by motorcycle has become increasingly popular. The province boasts several motorcycle clubs [2], and visiting tourists can rent motorcycles.

Québec’s motorcyclists share a special fraternity and team spirit. If your motorcycle breaks down, you certainly won’t remain stranded on the roadside for long before another motorcyclist stops to help. So don’t be surprised to see other motorcyclists wave to you on the road or spontaneously engage in conversation at a rest stop.

See

Sites and attractions

Québec has a number of sites and attractions.

Do

Québec offers many activities including sports and outdoor recreation, cultural and natural sites, festivals and events.

Tours and activities

Sports and outdoors

There are many sports and outdoor activities in Québec that can be enjoyed summer and/or winter:

Sculptors at work, Québec winter festival

Festivals and Events

Quebecers are known for their festive spirit and taste for celebration. This explains the close to 400 festivals held each year in Québec. . Québec’s events are varied, from sports to cultural events and festivals, and attract visitors from around the world.

For all Québec events and festivals, check here: or see the individual city/destination articles.

Cultural events

Montréal

Just For Laughs Festival, Montréal, Québec

Québec City

Gatineau

Eastern Townships

Sports events

Montréal

Country routes

To truly get a feel for the “authentic” Québec, take one or several of the tourist routes that run alongside the St. Lawrence or criss-cross the countryside not far from the major axial highways. Clearly indicated by a series of blue signs, these routes are designed to showcase the cultural and natural treasures of their respective regions.

Buy

Shopping in the Petit Champlain district of Old Québec in Québec City

Eat

Québec cuisine
A mouth-wateringly delicious-looking plate of poutine

Drink

Legal drinking age in Quebec is 18.

Quebecers’ favourite alcohol is beer given the high taxes on wine. The province boasts several very good microbreweries. Here is a list of the best brew pubs in Québec by region. In Montréal, there is Dieu du Ciel!, L’Amère à Boire, Le Cheval Blanc and Brutopia. In Québec City, there is La Barberie and L'Inox. One of the best is Le Broumont in Bromont, near the foot of the ski hill. If you visit Sherbrooke, be sure to stop in at the Mare au Diable. In the Mauricie region, there is Le Trou du Diable (Shawinigan) and Gambrinus (Trois-Rivières). For anyone wishing to visit the stunning Charlevoix region, there is the Charlevoix microbrewery in Baie St-Paul. Liquor and wine are sold mainly at Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) stores, but beer and wine (often of a lesser quality) can also be found at supermarkets and convenience stores. In the country, good quality wine and liquor can be found at the grocery store. The sale of alcohol is prohibited after 11PM at convenience stores and supermarkets, and may not be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Bars are open until 3AM (except in Gatineau where they close at 2AM to avoid an influx of partiers when the bars close in Ottawa).

Beer and a so-so selection of wine are available at most grocery stores and depanneurs (corner markets), but by law distilled spirits are only available at provincial stores called the SAQ (pronounced "ess-ay-cue" or "sack"). The SAQ also has a higher-quality selection of wine, mostly European, Australian, or South American—there's a peculiar blind spot for California vintages, though British Columbian wines are plentiful, unlike in Ontario's LCBO stores. Although closing time in bars is 3AM, most SAQs close between 6 and 9PM (some Express SAQ may close at 10 or 11PM), and sales of other alcohol are banned after 11PM.

Quebec is blessed with some of the finest beers on the North American continent. As in the rest of Canada, they are higher-proof than in the US; alcohol content starts around 5-6% but 8-12% is not unusual.

Sleep

Quebec offers the usual range of North American accommodations including hostels, chain motels, and high-end resort hotels. Particular to Quebec are Auberge, literally "Inn" but range from faux-lodge style motels to Gites, B&B style guest houses with sometimes only a single room for rent.

Stay safe

Quebec is generally a safe place, with the exception of a few "bad" neighbourhoods of Montreal and Quebec City. Visitors should use common sense when travelling, as they would anywhere else, and keep cars locked so that they do not fall prey to theft.

Respect

Touchy subjects

Connect

Most hotels and hostels offer Internet access and many have on-site computers for guests to use. Montreal has a free WiFi program called Île Sans Fil (Wireless Island), look for the sticker in café and restaurant windows. Wi-fi is also available in some coffee shops and public libraries.

Québec's main telephone area codes are +1-418 (Québec City and east), +1-819 (western Québec, Outaouais, Trois-Rivières, Eastern Townships), +1-514 (Montréal Island) and +1-450 (Laval and the southwestern corner of the province). Additional area codes have been overlaid onto all of these regions, breaking seven-digit dialling throughout the province.

Postal codes for Québec begin with G (Québec City and eastern Québec), H (Montréal and Laval) and J (western Québec). H0H 0H0 is reserved for seasonal use.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 24, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.