As we are Europeans and it is our goal to share our passion for travelling to North America with our fellow Europeans (and with the rest of the world) we list some things below that are nice to know written from a European perspective.
Why are Canada and the USA such good travel destinations for European travellers?
This part of North America is in general a very nice destination. It is safe, it is a culture and way of living comparable to the one in Western Europe and English will get you around. Yet this vast territory has enormous variety in landscape, nature and, yes, ways of living. The natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains and everything west of them is unmatched in the world. You will easily feel at home and familiar, yet many of your ideas about North America will have changed when you come back.
Why only self drive trips?
Self drive trips give you the most flexibility in your itinerary and in your day schedule. You can do things as outlined in the travel plan we make at your own pace, you can still leave out things and visit other places as you see fit while travelling. Driving in North America is much more relaxed than it is in Europe, even in heavy city traffic. So these self drive trips will really give you a feeling of being on the road and will offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy the scenery while driving.
Parks and park fees
The National Park services of both Canada and the USA issue park entrance passes valid for a full year. Usually these passes are valid entrance passes for all national sites (national parks, national monuments, national historic sites, national recreation areas, etc). So if you plan on visiting a number of these sites this kind of pass makes a lot of sense. More info can be found at the sites of the national park services of USA and Canada. For parks or other sites that do not recognize these passes you can find info on the park's website. The entrance fees are usually very reasonable - if there is a fee at all.
What is our offer to you when you buy a trip with us?
First of all we will provide you with a fully detailed itinerary (including gps coordinates) that is at all times accessible and editable online. This itinerary is based on the information and wishes that you provide to us in the form you fill out when you buy a trip and it embodies all our experience we have gathered over the years. At any time you will be able to modify the proposed trip and add details to it - this is our unique and utmost flexibility offer. The site contains links to other sites that can help you find sleeping facilities (although we will not make any reservations on your behalf). The detailed itinerary of your personalised trip will contain information beyond what is generally available on our site (e.g. with respect to ferries, time zones, rental car, plane tickets, etc.) in order to let you make the most of your trip.
History and extensions of the site
We regularly update the site with new and updated information for parks that are already part of our site. We also constantly add new parks and interesting spots to the site. So come back to us every now and then, the areas that now are maybe less covered may get a lot more detail soon. And the same holds true for our top trips.
Distances in North America?
For European travellers distances in North America and the way people think of distance is different: what a European finds a long distance very often is
right around the corner for a North American citizen. This also means that a lot of areas are only very sparsely populated. Keep this in mind when you consider
looking for accommodations on the fly as you may find that the next motel or little town is 200km or 150 miles further down the road. If you spot road signs
indicating that the next gas station is a few hundred km away do take this seriously - there will not be anything in between to fill up!! This also means that
in general driving in North America is very relaxed and is as much of an experience to fully enjoy as any other activities like hiking or rafting or visiting
a museum. The landscape most often makes it very much worthwhile to simply relax and enjoy the ride.
Canada uses the same metric system and units as we do in continental Europe (so liter, km and kph), the US uses the imperial units (so gallon, miles and mph).
Some general info on the USA.
The USA is the smallest of the two countries, yet it has 10 times more inhabitants than Canada, about 330 million people. Most people live east of the Rocky Mountains and east of the Mid West states (the big flat agricultural states). Everything west of the Rocky Mountains is relatively void of people except for the big cities. Most of the big National Parks are west of the Rocky Mountains, each one being a tribute to a unique piece of nature. The northern part, close to Canada, is very cold in winter (easily below -10C), the southern and central part are very hot in summer (30C - 40C). The main language is obviously English, but about half of the people speak or also speak Spanish.
Some general info on Canada.
In surface area Canada is the second biggest country on earth, yet only 32 million people live there. Most of them located in a zone about 200 km wide along the US border. Everything north of that is basically isolated and mostly uninhabited land. In these areas it is not uncommon to drive a few 100 km and not meet a single soul. Even in the other parts of Canada, outside the big cities, you can drive for half an hour without seeing another car on the road. While Canada is best known for its brutal winters (lowest unofficial temperature recorded is -89C!), there are parts of British Columbia and Alberta where it can be 35C in summer and Canada even has its own vineyards (in BC and Ontario). You have the best chances of seeing a lot of wildlife outside the big national parks in Canada, while in the USA wildlife tends to be more concentrated in the parks.
Maps and the proposed itineraries.
We have integrated Google Maps to give you a geographic idea of all important points for your travels. All routing information of how to get from point A to point B also uses Google Maps. These itineraries may contain stretches that are only seasonally available (mountain passes that close in winter time, ferries that only operate in summer time, etc.). This also means that the proposed itineraries and calculated distances and travel times may depend upon the time when you ask for them, often Google Maps takes this into account and will propose a land based detour in case a ferry does not operate at the time when you ask for a route.
Some abbreviations or acronyms often used.
NPS: National Park Service (of the USA)
NFS: National Forest Service (of the USA)
USFWS: United States Fish and Wildlife Service
FHWA: Federal Highway Administration (of the USA)
NASA: National Aeronautics and Space Administration - USA Space Agency
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