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Set on the north shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto was created on March 6, 1834, when the settlement of York was renamed Toronto, the Mohawk word for "meeting place." The British settlement of York was founded as the capital of the new province of Upper Canada by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe in the 1790s and had grown to 10,000 people by the 1830s. Toronto is still the capital of the province, now called Ontario, and is the largest city in Canada, with a population of 2.4 million, 4.7 million in the Greater Toronto Area.

One of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto is home to more than 80 ethnic groups and more than 100 languages, and is marked by the diversity of distinct neighbourhoods, cultures and communities.

Yonge Street, known as the longest street in the world, is the main north-south road and divides the city into east and west. Major intersections include: Bloor/Yonge, King/Bay, Yonge/Dundas, Yonge/Eglinton, Yonge/Sheppard, Queen/Spadina, Broadview/Danforth. Main east-west avenues include Eglinton Avenue, Lawrence Avenue, Steeles Avenue, Wilson Road, and Bloor Street-Danforth Avenue.

Distinct neighbourhoods include Little Italy (west of College/Bathurst), Queen Street West (a soho-style strip east of Spadina Avenue), the Entertainment district (bounded by Front and King Streets, University and Spadina Avenues), the fashion district (Spadina and King), Greektown on Danforth Avenue, Little India (Gerrard Street East), and three Chinatowns.

For more info on Toronto, visit the City of Toronto official website at www.toronto.ca and click on Our City.

Lanaguge
English is the predominant language of Toronto, although both English and French are official languages; most government services are available in either language. But there are also large ethnic populations -- 350,000 Chinese, 400,000 Italians, 127,000 Greeks and many others -- so those languages are prominent in many neighbourhoods. Dual-language street signs can be found in areas such as Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, and other communities

Money

Currency
Commonly used small coins are the 1-cent ("penny"), 5-cent ("nickel"), 10-cent ("dime") and 25-cent ("quarter") pieces. The two main coins are the $1 gold-coloured coin, commonly called a "loonie" (the loon is the bird engraved on one side), and the $2 silver- and gold-toned coin (the "toonie"). Paper bills come in $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, and $1,000 denominations. The Canadian dollar is not equal in value to the U.S. dollar -- it has fluctuated in recent years between 65 and 83 cents to the U.S. dollar.

Taxes
On most purchases, both the provincial sales tax of 8% and the 6% per cent federal goods and services tax (GST) apply. There is no GST on most grocery items, but restaurant meals are taxed both GST and PST. PST is not charged on reading materials. If you are a visitor to Ontario, you may be eligible for tax rebates; rebate forms are available at the airport. For more info, call (613) 991-3346 (for GST); or (800) 668-5810 (for PST).

Service
Restaurant tipping is left to customer discretion, but the customary (and expected) amount is 15 per cent (the debate rages about whether this is calculated before or after tax). Many restaurants automatically add a gratuity (tip) to the bill for large groups (six to eight or more). It is also customary to tip bellhops, luggage handlers and taxi drivers, at your discretion.

The minimum legal drinking age in Ontario is 19 years. Bars and restaurants must stop serving alcohol by 2 a.m.

No smoking
All bars, billiard and bingo halls, casinos and racetracks are now required to be smoke-free. This is the third and final phase of the City's No Smoking By-law. The first phase required all workplaces to be smoke-free. The second phase required restaurants, dinner theatres and bowling centres to be smoke-free, except in approved designated smoking rooms. For more information, or to report a violation of the No Smoking By-law, please call (416) 338-7600 or visit www.toronto.ca/health.

Passports and I.D.
Entering Canada, U.S. citizens, including children, need proof of U.S. citizenship: either a birth certificate together with photo identification or a passport. U.K. citizens and Australian citizens require a passport and proof of onward passage out of Canada. Visitors from other countries require a passport and may also require a visa. You may also be asked to provide proof of necessary funds for your visit. Illegal drugs and firearms are not allowed into Canada.

Getting Around

Public Transit
The Toronto Transit Commision (TTC) operates a world-class public transit system. The clean and easy-to-follow system includes subway, bus and streetcar routes. Single adult fare is $2.75. Tickets and tokens may be bought in packets of five or more at a discount. Monthly/day passes are also available and can save frequent travelers money.

Note: Exact change or token/ticket is needed for boarding buses and streetcars and some subway stations. Transfers between vehicles (subways included) and lines are available for continuous trips. Ask your driver or the station attendant if unsure. Make sure to obtain a transfer when you pay your fare.

Safety: At night, bus and streetcar drivers will let women disembark at requested en-route locations between stops. Stay behind the yellow line on subway platforms. All subway platforms have Designated Waiting Areas, which are monitored by video-cameras and have alarm buttons and a voice-link to the attendant. Look for the DWA sign.

Taxis
Meters start at $2.75, and increase at $0.25 increments. A typical trip in downtown Toronto will cost $7 to $10, depending on traffic, and up to $20 for longer trips in the city. Make sure that the meter rate is set at 1 (one) unless the driver has explained why it isn't, such as a large number of parcels or many passengers. Official rate and fee schedules (including baggage) should be displayed in the cab, along with a taxi driver's license bearing a photo of the driver.

Rush Hour
As in most heavily populated urban cities, rush hour (6:30am to 8:30am and 4:30pm to 7pm) traffic can be heavy in the downtown core and on the highways. The subway and transit systems will also be more crowded, but the TTC operates more vehicles during these peak hours. During rush hour, expect bumper-to-bumper traffic on highways such as the 401 and the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW).

Time and dates

Business Hours
Most office hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Most shops are open 10am to 5:30 or 6pm, Monday to Saturday. Many store hours are extended to 8 or 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and most stores are open Sundays 12 noon to 5pm.

Time Zone
Eastern Time (ET) is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT -5:00). During Daylight Savings Time (DST), March to October, clocks are turned ahead one hour.


Statutory Holidays (offices, banks, government offices and most stores closed; public transit runs reduced service)

2011
New Year's Day
Saturday, January 1, 2011

Good Friday
Friday, April 22, 2011

Victoria Day
Monday, May 23, 2011

Canada Day
Friday, July 1, 2011

Civic Holiday
Monday, August 1, 2011

Labour Day
Monday, September 5, 2011

Thanksgiving Day
Monday, October 10, 2011

Christmas Day
Sunday, December 25, 2011

Boxing Day
Monday, December 26, 2011


Weather
Toronto has nine months of winter and three months of poor skating -- at least that's what it feels like. Although we do experience the four seasons, Toronto has a long winter (about five months, mid-November-mid-April), short spring (mid-April-May) and fall (October-mid-November) and a four-month summer (June-September).


Telephone
The emergency number for all health, safety and crime emergencies is 911.

Dial 411 for an operator to aid with locating a number. Dialing 0 will also get you an operator for general assistance.

Pay phones cost 25 cents (a quarter, or a combination of dimes and nickels) per call. Phones do not give change, but will return coin(s) if call is not completed. Phone credit cards for multiple calls are also available in many convenience stores.

Toronto has two area codes: 416 and 647 area code. Local calls require 10-digit dialing: the area code followed by the seven-digit phone number. Some calls to the 905 area are local calls, but require dialing 905 and then the seven-digit number. The 905 area code shares the zone with the 289 area code and also requires 10-digit dialing. When dialing long-distance numbers, start with a 1 or 0 (for operator-assisted calls), then area code followed by seven-digit number.
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