Everyone has heard of the notorious Canadian winters. Visitors should therefore also be cautioned of freezing rain. In winter, frequently after rainfall, the temperature drops below zero. Water will then become ice. Often that ice layer is so thin, it is invisible. It is still nevertheless extremely slippery. Many people have fallen and severely hurt themselves. The sidewalk, while looking innocent can be very dangerous. Be extremely careful when walking outside.
Check the weather report for freezing rain.
There is one day in winter that I will not forget. I was standing on the balcony of a relative's apartment. It was overlooking a street corner that was extra slippery that day. In a period of about one hour, we counted at least a dozen small accidents e.g. cars denting each other frlom sliding. Fortunately there was nothing serious and no one was hurt. That is still a large number of accidents for one area in a short time.
Below, I included a website for the Toronto weather report.
It also includes safety tips for winter.
The most important winter driving tip: DRIVE VERY SLOW!
Toronto is overall a well-rounded city, but there are areas that are not really welcoming or safe for tourists.
They include ...
a) Jane & Finch Area
b) St. Jamestown
c) Regent Park & Moss Park
d) Cabbagetown (after dark)
e) Kipling & Albion area
f) Neilson & Finch
g) Malvern area.
If you want to avoid drug dealers, avoid the following places at night...
a) Yonge Street
b) Dundas & Jarvis
c) Any place in downtown East of Church Street
MORE coming soon...
Ok,...I know. They perform a vital service to Toronto business by making sure the all-important package arrives to it's destination on time, but even though they may look like comic book superheroes with their flashy hats and multicoloured Spandex armour I assure you that the intrepid Bike Courier couldn't give a rat's ass for the health and safety of their fellow Torontonians. With their zigging and-a zagging, bobbing and-a weaving, they're like speeding, sweaty missiles plowing their way past slower automobiles and pedestrians alike, ignoring every rule of the road and traffic light in their path.
So,...always look to your left before crossing a busy Toronto street my friend, even if the little green fella says it's o.k to do so, lest you've a desire to have the front of your clothes torn from your body like in a cartoon by some rocket powered maniac in ridiculous, oversized sunglasses swearing and giving the finger because you were,...gasp,...obeying the traffic lights.
Scarborough has a bad reputation as being a rough part of town. Some people think it's safe, others don't. I tend to think it's not safe and try to avoid the place. Of course this is not to say that all of Scarborough is steaming pile of feces, but some areas can be quite dangerous mostly at night.
When you listen to the news there's usually two places they speak about...Scarborough and/or Jane and Finch.
Although I am told that the Jane and Finch areas has been cleaned up by locals. The place still seems weird to me.
As a tourist there's no real reason why you should be in either of these places. If you do need to be there, then make you sure are smart about it and don't *** people off.
If you are from out of country you are entitled to a rebate on the GST (Government Sales Tax). However, there are some tips to be aware of.
First of all, many hotels have a brochure with which you can use to mail your hotel receipt to a redemption agency for a direct mail rebate.
Secondly, any purchase of a non-consumable item over $50 CD is eligible for rebate. However, be aware that the receipt must be stamped at a customs office before you leave the country. Then it must be mailed to a rebate center. If traveling by highway you get your stamps at the local Tax Free agent at the border crossing. OR if traveling by plane you get it stamped at the customs booth located in the bowels of the departing airport.
And here is the rub. In Toronto in Terminal 2, the customs booth is downstairs in baggage claim. So to get your rebate you must leave the checkin line, journey downstairs, get the rebate then go back up and rejoin the line, which at times stretches longer than a soccer field. If traveling alone this can be a problem. Would it be unkind to suggest that this might be a revenue saving ploy by the government. No, I couldn't possibly think that!!
warning:Every time I journey to our neighbor to the North it seems the GST rebate rules change a bit. So be sure to inquire locally before leaving the country. Go to the website below for up to date info.
Please do not go to the Peel Pub for food, they have been shut down 3 times in this past year by the health inspectors. It is a fun place to go to drink and party but the food is disgusting! Do not be fooled by the cheap prices. $1.99 for all lunches is intriguing but I found a cigarette butt in my spaghetti once.
On Saturday nights, parking lots in the downtown district change their prices frequently. When there is a game at the Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome) the parking in those areas become outrageous. If you are planning to go near the stadium when there is a game, I suggest using other transport, carpooling or go somewhere else to socialize.
Did you know the Squirells in Toronto are black?! Neither did I, or most of the U.S. natives that were there. It seemed to be the subject of great debate. Why, if Toronto is so close to the U.S. border, would the black squirrels just cross over and populate the U.S. ?
hmmm, they look pretty dangerous to me.
Toronto's violent crime rates are extremely low compared to many cities in the U.S. and comparable to rates in larger European centres, and are low even if compared with most other Canadian urban centres.
Toronto has a comparable rate of car theft to various U.S. cities, although this is lower than in some other Canadian cities, especially Vancouver. Much of this has been attributed to organised crime, with stolen vehicles ending up being shipped overseas for sale.
Toronto is also struggling to come to grips with a nagging homeless problem which has ebbed and flowed throughout the years. Toronto has a considerably larger homelessness problem than many cities of similar size.
-Forget the old idea that Canadians don't use guns. While gun violence may not compare to Detroit or DC, guns are used quite regularly in Toronto nowadays. Don't assume either that it is confined to one area of the city. I was surprised to learn of many recent incidents where innocent pedestrians or transit riders were struck by flying bullets!
(Half a year after adding this tip, the day after Christmas, six shoppers were shot on Yonge Street, just north of the Eaton Centre and just south of the Delta Chelsea hotel. A 15 year-old girl out with her family suffered fatal wounds.)
-Car theft. The numbers are huge in Toronto. (And the city also ranks as the bicycle theft capital of North America!)
-Carjacking. Thought of as a US problem, it happens here too. Mostly in expensive neighborhoods to boost high-end vehicles, but more often during other criminal incidents as a getaway or identity change.
-Financial crimes. If any place is bad for credit or bank card rip offs - this is it! Guard your privacy with a passion. Change your PIN numbers often. Check your transactions and verify the amounts often.
-Street crime. Especially in the downtown section around the major hotels, Eaton Center and Yonge Street strip. A large population of low-level street criminals float around here. You'll generally only have a problem if you engage them in communication.
-Mentally ill street people. Many of them are simply hanging out, but others may become beligerent. Many of those are still not cause for worry, but it is best not to mess with them. There have been several incidents of either direct violence or pedestrians being pushed into traffic, etc.
-Night clubs. Many serious outbreaks of violence, stabbings, shooting, etc. occur in and around the "Entertainment district" downtown.
-Drugs. Do not go near anyone offering anything whatsoever. You are really asking for trouble. No matter how nice they look. Most of the city is being fought over in territorial disputes by criminal organizations.
When you were sightseeing around Toronto, you may have noticed beggars sleeping on benches, sleeping on the streets & under bridges, parks or vacant land. You may also have heard about Tent City. Did the homeless problem get really bad in the last 10 years? Well..
In the last decade, the number of street people in Toronto has dramatically risen, for rents have been soaring and no public housing has been built since the eighties. Immigrants continue to come to Toronto hoping for new oppurtunities, but housing becomes the biggest obstacle for a stable & prosperous life in Toronto. There are now many roaming houses in Toronto that have four or five families living in one house or apartment, for it is too expensive for them to ever afford a better place.
To complicate matters, the vacancy rate has dwindled in the last decade, and market pressures have forced landlords to push rent into unaffordable ranges. Though now the influx of condo development has dampened rent demand, the cost of rent in Toronto is still second highest in Canada, right after Vancouver.
Food Bank users has increased to historic highs, but Torontonians continue to show their care of the community by donating ever so willingly every year.
Social programs have also been cut in the last decade (i.e. social workers, pyschologists, hospital beds that cater to unstable mental patients), leaving many street people with zero chances of rehabilitation, therefore their segregation with society is growing at an ever accelerated pace. Therefore, they are getting caught up in the drug trade, and are using more aggressive methods to pay for drugs. Maybe the occupation of professional beggar is unheard of in Toronto, but it could become a popular option in the years to come.
There is a fear that this phenomenon will increase the petty crime rate to unprecedented levels. However, I do not think that Toronto will ever get half as worse as Detroit!
Instead of giving change, it is always better to provide them with food = )
I am an aircraft lover, so naturally my hobbies include plane watching. With friends of similar interest, we used to visit select viewing areas by the airport. We had great days watching the planes departing or arriving.
This can no longer be done.
Here is the warning for plane lovers (like me) who love plane watching; it is no longer legal. Many “good plane watching areas” by the airport have been closed to the public. Even if you stop in a side road with ample space near the airport, police will request you to drive on.
The reason is naturally for security purposes.
I visited Vancouver in April, 2003. I had no problem watching planes there. Unless policies have since changed, save your plane watching for Vancouver!
Despite my warning above, I still managed to take a few snaps.This area was far enough to be legal. I was in the parking of a shop.
I thought everyone knew this scam. But according to Toronto's crime expert, Hotsauce, many still fall for this. 8 DVD's for one low, low price?! People, these are the dvd's where someone goes into a movie theatre and video tapes the screen. Do you really want to hear movie goers chat and watch the back of their heads while watching the latest hits?
Come on people, let the buyer beware!
I had heard about Toronto's homeless problem, but coming from Boston and Orlando, I thought it would be on par with those Cities. It is much worse. Some are quite creative though. Check out the chap in the picture. At least grow a light beard and dirty yourself up a bit.
In comparison to American cities Toronto is still very safe. Still, as a lifelong resident, there are certain places that aren't the best to wander into.
Avoid the downtown east of Yonge St. (except for the Market District east of Union Station). Certain areas like Sherbourne between Richmond and Bloor have really degenerated. There is nothing to see there anyway.
Parkdale is an interesting neighbourhood but it has become less desirable, especially since the Exhibition grounds have become less of an attraction.
Certain pockets of the greater city have become pretty shady, especially intersections like Kipling/Albion, Jane/Finch and Neilson/Finch. Since there is no reason to go near these wastelands then don't.
The areas like Harbourfront, Queen St from Yonge to Spadina, Bloor from Yonge to Bathurst, Yonge and Eglinton are all really good walking areas There is more garbage on the streets though, Toronto is not as pristine as it once was. Yonge St. is interesting but has always been a bit tacky, with the usual street people who should be ignored. Walk with purpose like you would in any city.
Driving downtown, especially on the Lakeshore under the Gardiner in the Union Station to Skydome areas is one area full of panhandlers who come up to cars. Ignore these punks and don't encourage them with handouts.