Please excuse me if you think this is a silly tip but I just wanted to point out that American coins (quarters, dimes, nickels etc) are NOT considered eligible for preferential exchange in stores or banks.
So if you are shopping somewhere and see something listed for $1 Canadian if you pay for it with an American dollar bill you'll receive some change back (unless there is tax on it that uses up the difference between an American and Canadian dollar). But if you pay for it with 4 American quarters you will not get any change.
Also take note that American coins will probably not work in parking meters, pay phones and vending machines so have some Canadian change handy for those things.
CustomHouse (see website below) has many outlets in Victoria - they have a currency converter on their website that is useful.
Victoria is a touristy-friendly city and is very close to the USA. Because American tourists make up the majority of the tourists in Victoria, I feel that this is a valuable point to mention.
While you can pay for things initially with US dollars, you will always be given your change back in Canadian dollars/coins. Right now because the exchange rate is so close, a lot of businesses are taking US dollars at par. As a result, you lose more money by paying with US dollars than if you were to use your credit card, debit card, or Canadian cash.
This is because the US dollar is a foreign currency in Canada and it is not considered legal tender. American tourists are the only people that use American dollars in Canada, for example. Businesses that accept US dollars do so as a courtesy, not because it's mandatory. It is certainly not law to accept foreign currency.
Also worth knowing is that American coins are taken at par in Canada (they're the same denominations - pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, although we also have a dollar and 2 dollar coin in Canada). So while $1.00 dollar bill US should theoretically purchase $1.06 Canadian, four US quarters will only ever be $1.00 Canadian, regardless of the exchange rate.
The easiest way to obtain Canadian dollars is to simply withdraw money from a bank machine. This goes for all international visitors. Your bank does the exchange rate automatically and will then give you Canadian dollars. Bank machines generally dispense $20 bills, and sometimes $10, $50, or $100 denominations.
Even if you don't intend to spend with cash, it's handy having some Canadian coins and dollars because things like parking meters, bus fare boxes, vending machines, and automated ticket machines will only accept Canadian coins/dollars in their slots.
And please, refrain from calling US dollars "real dollars" or "real money" and Canadian dollars "funny money" or "monopoly money" because it's a sign of disrespect and arrogance, whether intended or not.
tipping: the service you receive in any restaurant/bar/pub whatever, should NOT be rewarded based on the cost of the food. for example: you could get good service at a steakhouse where the meal was $50 and you want to give the standard 15% thats $7.50. now if you eat at a pub and your meal is only $25, the same good service and consequent 15% tip would be $3.75. not cool. so basically, knowing that range of percentages, you know that between $4 and $8 dollars is perfect for good service anywhere REGARDLESS OF THE COST OF THE FOOD!!
In my view good service earns a tip, bad service earns a lesser tip or non at all. Generally 15% is acceptable. For exceptional service 20% is my norm. In general, I have found wait staff service lacking in Victoria, whether at a nice restaurant or a pub. I've left several restaurants and pubs thinking that tourists are treated as second class citizens. Victoria is a tourist city and there are several businesses and locales that thrive off of tourists, but that doesn't seem to resonate will with those providing service. Not sure why. We spend our money and are taxed like crazy. We support your community. If you want to earn a few extra dollars, treat the tourists better.
Plan well and pickup Canadian currency in advance of your trip. Just about everyone will accept US currency, but I think you are shorted in the long run. It seems like everyone has a different exchange rate, so there is definitely a profit in the stores favor.
Keep spare change handy for all the buskers, whether they're bagpipers like this guy here, or living statues, singers, magicians or entertainers. They're *all* over Victoria! Sometimes you'll really want to reward them, so keep some extra money aside. Believe me!
Photo: A young kilt-clad bagpipe player standing next to a totem pole. Photo by me!