Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is situated in Ontario on the border between the province of Ontario and Quebec. The region is easily accessible due to its location 352 km (219 miles) northeast of Toronto, 192 km (120 miles) west of Montreal, and just a short 1 ½ hour flight from New York or Boston. For more information, visit our Getting here webpage.
Based on the 2016 Census, the population of the City of Ottawa was estimated at 991,726 people, and the Ottawa-Gatineau region was estimated at 1,323,783 people.
English and French are commonly spoken, as well as many other languages including Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
Ottawa is located in the Eastern Standard Time (GMT – 5 hours) time zone. Daylight Savings Time begins at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March as clocks are switched forward one hour. It ends at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday in November, when clocks are switched back to Standard Time.
Banking hours differ by bank and branch, but are generally the same as common working hours (9am to 5pm). Some banks are open later or on weekends or Thursday evenings. Most businesses accept debit cards as a form of payment. Most major credit cards are accepted in Ottawa. WeChat Pay and Alipay is accepted at select businesses.
Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are located in banks and in various other locations throughout the city. They are usually available during and outside of regular banking hours, although often with an additional service fee.
Currency can be exchanged at banks or at currency exchange stations. Some hotels and other merchants accept foreign currency, but it is recommended that visitors exchange currency before they arrive.
For good service at a restaurant, a tip of 15% of the pre-tax bill is customary. Some restaurants add a service charge to the bill, especially in large groups, in which case further tipping is not expected. Tipping is also customary in bars, salons/spas, and taxis.
For up-to-date tax information, visit the Government of Canada’s Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program website.
Wine, liquor and beer are available at Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) outlets which are sales agents for wines and spirits in Ontario. Beer may be purchased in Ontario at The Beer Store.
In addition, some retail outlets, including select grocery stores, carry beer, wine and cider.
Drinking hours in bars and restaurants are from 9 a.m. until 2 a.m. The legal drinking age is 19 years.
In Québec, wine, liquor and beer are available at Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) outlets. Beer, wine and cider are also available at grocery and convenience stores. The legal drinking age is 18 years.
There are stiff penalties for drinking and driving in both Ontario and Quebec.
In Ontario and Quebec, smoking is prohibited in: all enclosed public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars; all outdoor areas on municipal properties including parks, playgrounds, beaches, sports fields, and outdoor areas around City facilities; ByWard and Parkdale Market stands; and outdoor restaurant, bar, and food premise patios.
Outlets and voltage (110 volts) are the same as in the United States. Small appliances such as hair dryers, irons, and razors can be used in Canada. For those from other countries, adapters are required for electrical appliances. The frequency of electrical current in Canada is 60 Hz.
Canada adheres to the metric system. Units such as the litre, metre, and kilogram are used for measurement. However, Imperial units are sometimes also used. Celsius is used to measure temperature.
The area code for Ottawa and the surrounding area is 613. Before dialing locally, use 613 and then the 7-digit phone number. The area code for Gatineau is 819.
In case of emergency, use the following telephone numbers:
- Emergency: 911
- Poison Information Centre: 613-737-1100
- Ottawa Fire Services: 613-580-2860
- Ontario Provincial Police: 888-310-1122
- Ottawa Police: 613-236-1222