Vital info about conference and Montréal

Photo of conference site and residences:
7400 Boulevard St-Laurent, Montréal QC H2R 2Y1

This historic building right next to the Castelnau Metro (Montreal’s underground railway) and Jarry Park will house the MIWC-CIFM conference. It is also the site of the comfortable residences where many of our guests will be staying.

Welcome to Montréal. Bienvenue à Montréal!

Map of Conference Centre and surroundings:

Two public events open to all

The opening night activities on Friday, August 13 as well as the solidarity evening on Sunday, August 15 are both open to the public and everyone is invited. These two public events will exceptionally be held at the William Hingston Community Centre, 419 rue Saint-Roch, a short 12-minute walk from the main conference centre and residences.

All other events at Conference Centre

All other events of the Montreal International Women’s Conference from August 14-16 will be held at the main Conference Centre and Residences located at 7400 Boulevard Saint-Laurent. The main meeting hall at this Centre holds 300 people and has a stage and sound equipment. There will be simultaneous interpretation in French and English and whispered translation into Spanish in this hall. Printed copies of your presentations/speeches are required for the simultaneous interpreters.

Wireless internet is available at the conference site and there will be laptops and projectors on site for the presentations. Please let organizers know well in advance if you need a projector for your presentation or have other special needs.

Meeting rooms are available at the Conference Centre for caucusing and small group meetings when they are not being used for workshops.

Sites of interest around the Conference Centre

The Conference site is close to Montreal’s largest outdoor market, the Jean Talon Market, and this is the best time of the year for local fruits and vegetables. Also, the conference is being held right beside Little Italy with it’s excellent eating places, gelato (ice cream) parlours and cafes!

Jarry Park, one of Montreal’s larger public parks, is right outside the door of the Conference Centre. In fact, the same weekend as our Conference the Montreal Women’s International Tennis Competition gets underway in the Stadium at the Park.

Parking, public transport

There is lots of free parking on the residential streets around the Conference Centre. The Conference parking lot itself is already booked for the Tennis Competition. The best way to get to and from the Conference site is by public transport, with the DeCastenau Metro right at the doorstep (along with city buses on Boulevard Saint Laurent and Jean Talon Avenue).

What to do at airport?

We will meet you and arrange your transport from the airport. Please include arrival – and departure – information when you register, or send us an e-mail (wdo.fdo@gmail.com) to confirm your arrival time and flight details.

Billeting

We are encouraging people from out of town to stay in the residences at 7400 Boulevard Saint Laurent. We will try to billet as many people as possible in the days before and after the conference on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please inform us if you need billeting by e-mail at wdo.fdo@gmail.com. If you have contacts in Montreal, we request that you use them to help us out with billeting.

If we cannot billet you, you can rent a room at the residences in the conference site, 7400 Boulevard Saint Laurent, the Women’s Y, or the local youth hostel.

REMINDER: if you do not have travel and health insurance, please get it before coming to Montreal, you are not covered for health problems in Canada.

Montreal, Quebec (Quick facts)

Location of Montréal Montréal is located in the southwest corner of the province of Québec on an island at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

* Area: 4,259 sq km (1,644 sq mi)
* Population: 1.6 million (city), 3.6 million (metropolitan)
* Official Language: French
* Status: Montréal is the 2nd largest city in Canada and the 2nd largest French-speaking city after Paris
* Large English-speaking minority
* Original Name: Ville-Marie (City of Mary)

August Weather in Montreal (hot and often humid):

* Average August temperature: 21°C / 68°F
* August average high: 28°C / 83°F
* August average low: 16°C / 60°F

Visitors can expect rain about 9 days out of 31 in August.

What to Pack for Montreal in August

* Shorts; t-shirts; light-colored, long sleeve shirts; light, long pants; sandals; closed-toe shoes.
* Umbrella
* Bug spray if you’re heading out of the city.
* Sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen
* You may not use them, but it can’t hurt to bring a light jacket or shawl.

Good to Know about Montreal in August:

* Montreal temperatures can get into the 30s°C and it is humid. Be sure to keep water bottles with you, especially important for older travellers and children.

Other important information:

Currency: $ 1 U.S. = $ 1.037 CND (July 22, 2010)

Canada does not pay for hospital or medical services for visitors. Make sure you have health insurance to cover any medical costs before you come to Canada.

——-

Detailed Tourist information (from http://www.montreal.com/tourism/general/index.html)

Communications

Canada’s country code is — 1 — (the same as the U.S.). You can use your cell phone in Canada if you have international roaming (but can be very expensive so best to use sparingly or just for texting). Cell operators include: Bell, Rogers, Fido, etc. To dial a number in Montreal from outside Canada dial 1 (or +1 on cell), the 3-digit area code, and the seven-digit telephone number.

Telephones:

The island of Montreal* uses the 514 area code. Laval, the North Shore, the South Shore, the Laurentians, Upper Richelieu, Lanaudière, Montérégie, Eastern Townships and Upper Yamaska use the area code 450. Some calls from 514 to 450 are local, some are not; most calls from Montreal to Laval and Longueuil are local and do not require dialing 1. A new code, 438, is being gradually introduced, mostly for cell phone service, because 514 is nearly full up. 450 is growing so fast that it will soon be joined by another code, 579.

A local call from a phone booth costs 50 cents.

*also Île Bizard, Île Perrot, Nuns’ Island (Île des Soeurs), Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame

Postal services:

Main post offices are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. There are also numerous postal counters in convenience stores and the like which may have other schedules.

Downtown post offices: 1250 University (just south of Ste-Catherine), 514-395-4909 3575 Avenue du Parc 900 de la Gauchetière Street West 1250 Sainte-Catherine Street East

As of January 11, 2010, within Canada letters (up to 30 g) cost 57 cents. To the U.S., letters are $1.00 and elsewhere $1.70. There is no postcard rate a postcard counts as a first-class letter. Other rates can be looked up on the Canada Post website as can Canadian postal codes. U.S. zip codes can be looked up here.

Internet:

Montreal has some areas with free wireless connections and there are cafés that offer free wifi and occasionally even public terminals. You may want to consider joining the free wireless group Île Sans Fil and creating an account there before coming to Montreal. They support free wifi in a number of cafés and other public places.

Currency, taxes and tipping

The unit of currency is the Canadian dollar. Coins are in denominations of 1, 5, 10 and 25 cents, and $1 (a large gold-colored coin) and $2 (a large bimetallic coin). Bills in $5 (blue), $10 (purple) and $20 (green) are in common circulation and you can get $50s (red) and $100s (brown) from banks, though not from most automatic teller machines (ATMs). Some stores are cautious about accepting bills larger than $20 because of counterfeits.

Downtown stores are usually happy to accept U.S. currency. Major travellers’ cheques are accepted in places that accept credit cards, but are not universally accepted as cash.

Most stores and restaurants accept Visa and MasterCard and some accept American Express. You usually get the most favourable exchange rate by using your credit card. Most ATMs are networked to Cirrus and Interac and accept major credit cards if you have a PIN to enter into the machine.

There are many currency exchange centers throughout the downtown area. They either charge a fee or take a couple of percentage points off the exchange rate for their services. Banks can usually handle U.S. funds without any problem but may not be prepared to handle other currencies. Bank branches are commonly open from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. during the week, often with extended hours on Thursday or Friday, but all Canadian banks have reduced the number of their branches in recent years and, in some cases, reduced the hours of existing branches.

Taxes:

Most goods and services in Quebec are subject to two taxes, a federal Goods and Services Tax of 5% (usually listed as TPS on receipts – Taxe sur les produits et services) and a provincial sales tax of 7.5% (TVQ on receipts – Taxe de vente du Québec). A tax of 3% per night of hotel stay is also charged.

Books are not provincially taxed, and most groceries are not taxed at all unless something counts as ready-to-eat. Almost everything else is taxable.

Tipping:

A tip of 15% is customarily left for waiters and waitresses at the table, calculated on the pre-tax total of your bill. It will not be calculated for you – the additional charges on a restaurant bill are taxes, not service charges, and are not voluntary. You are free to leave more than a 15% tip if circumstances warrant. In bars, the tip tends to be offered as you pay for each drink or round. Taxi drivers also normally get a tip of 10 to 15% as do those who render personal services such as haircuts. Many counter service establishments have a tip jar: whether you drop in a bit of change is entirely up to you.

Customs and immigration

Visitors need a valid passport to enter Canada. They may also require a visa (see below). For information, check with a Canadian embassy.

Persons under 18 years of age traveling without their parents should have a letter of authorization from a parent or guardian to travel into Canada. The U.S. government has a useful page with further tips for U.S. residents visiting Canada.

Visitors from non-visa countries can stay for three months in Canada and can arrange an extension of a further three months on application to Immigration Canada.

If you are divorced, separated or traveling without your spouse and are bringing your children to Canada, you should bring a document demonstrating the permission of the other spouse, proof of legal custody or a notarized letter from the other custodian(s) which gives travel permission for the specific duration of the trip.

Each adult visitor may import, duty free, a maximum of 40 ounces (1.1 litres) of liquor, or 24 12-oz cans of beer or ale into Canada as personal luggage. Up to 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, and 400 grams of tobacco and 400 tobacco sticks may be allowed entry duty free. There are many rules for importing firearms into Canada.

U.S. consulate in Montreal: 514-398-9695 U.K. consulate: 514-866-5863 Consulate of France: 514-878-4381

Getting into and out of Montreal Airports:

Pierre Elliott Trudeau International, 22 km west of downtown, now serves all domestic, U.S. and international passenger flights. Local folks still sometimes call it Dorval Airport.

Mirabel International, 55 km northwest of downtown, serves only cargo flights now.

A taxi ride from the downtown area to Trudeau Airport costs a flat rate of $38.00.

As of March 29, 2010, a new public airport shuttle, the 747, will run 24/7 from several anchor points in the downtown area out to the airport. It will be equipped with luggage racks and will accept ordinary tickets and passes although cash fare will be $7.

Aéroports de Montréal’s site has arrival and departure notices and other useful updates.

Intercity buses:

Montreal has bus connections to other cities within Quebec, in the rest of Canada and in the United States. Intercity bus travel does not carry the same stigma as in the U.S. and the buses to Quebec City and Toronto, for example, are quite clean and pleasant. The main bus terminus is the Station Centrale at the corner of Berri and de Maisonneuve, tel. 514-842-2281.

Trains:

Montreal is on Via Rail’s Windsor-Quebec corridor. You can reserve tickets on their website or get them from your travel agent.

Amtrak runs the Adirondack from Montreal to New York daily. Their website also offers reservations. This is the only train connection from Montreal to the United States.

There are two major downtown train stations, Central Station (Gare Centrale) and Windsor/L’Allier. Both are connected to the Bonaventure Metro station and are thus connected to the underground city. Windsor/L’Allier, also connected to Lucien-L’Allier metro station, is now only used for commuter trains.

It may be worth clarifying two points of confusion here. One is that “Station Centrale” refers to the bus station at Berri-UQAM whereas “Gare Centrale” refers to the train station downtown. The other is that Gare Centrale, unlike major train stations in many other cities, is functionally invisible. Gare Centrale, often called Central Station in English, is underground below the Queen Elizabeth hotel and just north of Place Bonaventure, and easily reached from Ste-Catherine Street by strolling through the Place Ville-Marie mall and looking for the wayfinding signs, or via Bonaventure metro station. Any taxi driver can bring you directly there. But don’t expect to find a physical train station at street level.

Highway distances:

Québec 257 km Ottawa 204 km Toronto 546 km Boston 512 km New York 608 km Chicago 1363 km Detroit 915 km Washington 971 km Pittsburgh 978 km

You can download the incredibly detailed city map (pdf format) from the Montreal transit site.

The official city site has a map portal with several different kinds of maps.

Time

Montreal is in the Eastern time zone of North America, 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time during the summer (Eastern Daylight, EDT) and 5 hours during the winter (Eastern Standard, EST). Daylight Savings Time is observed from the second Sunday in March till the first Sunday in November.

Especially in French it is usual to see times quoted in 24-hour format, e.g. 20h30 is the same as 8:30 p.m. Keep this in mind for the times of events and for parking restrictions noted on official signs.

Opening hours:

General retail hours are from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. Saturdays. There are exceptions: many large pharmacies, some grocery stores and some bookstores stay open late all week, and some smaller boutiques may open their doors later in the morning; noontime opening Sunday is not unusual. If you are uncertain about a store’s hours it is wise to phone ahead.

Electricity

Electricity in Canada is 110V and the plugs are the same as in the U.S. If you come from a country that uses 220V electricity, you will have to bring a converter.

Weights and measures

Officially, Canada is metric. Temperatures are given in Celsius (we really don’t use Fahrenheit any more) and road distances and speed limits are in kilometres: cars are calibrated in km. That said, many Canadians will still give casual measures in feet, inches, pounds and ounces, depending on circumstances, and these are usually still well understood if you use them.

Holidays

Canada has several federal statutory holidays. Provinces also have their own holidays.

Holidays in 2010:

January 1: New Year’s Day April 2: Good Friday (businesses in Quebec usually give Good Friday as a holiday although sometimes Easter Monday is substituted) May 24: Victoria Day/Journée nationale des Patriotes June 24: St-Jean-Baptiste/Fête de la Saint-Jean/Fête Nationale (Quebec national day) July 1: Canada Day (also moving day in Montreal) September 6: Labour Day October 11: Thanksgiving December 25: Christmas

Some stores open on holidays, although Christmas is all but universally a closing day. Boxing Day, Dec. 26, is commonly given as a holiday (although not in retail, where Boxing Day sales are common) as is January 2. Easter Monday seems to be declining in importance and is mostly observed now only by government offices, which also close on Remembrance Day, November 11. Businesses and schools stay open on November 11, but civic ceremonies are held to honour war veterans and two minutes of silence are traditionally observed at 11 a.m.

Montrealers often also observe Valentine’s Day (February 14), Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May), Father’s Day (third Sunday in June) and Halloween (October 31), although these are not legal holidays. Depending on their origins, Montrealers might also celebrate Muslim holidays or Jewish holidays, the Asian lunar new year, or other saints’ days or national holidays. A major parade is held on a Sunday near St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) whose connection with Ireland is by now only a notional one. It was held on March 14 in 2010.

Montreal has a longstanding tradition of ending residential leases on June 30. As a result, July 1 is moving day for a significant percentage of tenants in the city.

The last two full weeks of July are traditionally the Quebec construction holiday, and many other unionized workers take these two weeks off as well.

Language

Montreal is a cosmopolitan city. Quebec’s language laws impose restrictions on outdoor signs in languages other than French so you will see few signs in English, but in the parts of Montreal where most travellers go, services are available in English as well as in French. French is heard throughout the city but in many neighbourhoods other languages will also be heard. Roughly half of Montreal’s residents speak French at home.

Health and safety

Ambulance, fire, police, health emergencies: dial 911. For non-emergency police matters, dial 514-280-2222. For health inquiries that are not emergency: dial 811.

Health care in Canada is of a high standard but it is advised that you get travellers’ insurance before leaving home because it is not free for visitors. Keep the insurance documentation with you in case of emergency. You should bring any medications you need with you, especially sufficient quantities of prescription medicines. These should be kept in their original containers to avoid difficulties at borders.

Sanitation is equal to any developed country and our tap water is drinkable. You do not need any special immunizations to visit Canada and you do not need to drink bottled water while here.

Montreal has a relatively low crime rate. Nonetheless it is a large city and you should remain normally vigilant about your possessions and your person. There are a few sketchy parts of town but none that are categorically dangerous.

Drinking and smoking

The legal drinking age in Quebec is 18. You can buy beer and wine at grocery stores and many corner stores (dépanneurs), but for a better selection of wine and for stronger liquors you must go to a government store (Société des Alcools).

Many restaurants have a liquor license; in some areas, notably Prince Arthur and around Duluth Street, restaurants do without a license and customers can bring their own wine, reducing the expense of the meal. This is not universal and you must look for the “Apportez votre vin” signs.

Beer and wine can be sold in stores until 11 p.m. and last call in bars is 3 a.m.

Smoking is not permitted on any form of public transit, in restaurants and bars, stores, shopping centres, in cinemas, in elevators, in government offices or in banks, and inside office buildings. Many buildings have cigarette disposal arrangements outside. You must be 18 years or older to buy tobacco in Quebec.

The usual recreational drugs are illegal in Canada. Purchase and consumption of small amounts of marijuana is unofficially tolerated, but is still technically illegal, so be circumspect.

Getting around the city

Montreal’s street grid was laid out long ago relative to the old port on the St. Lawrence River waterfront so our “north” is actually northwest, or close to it. Some people find it disorienting or annoying to discover that in Montreal the sun apparently rises in the south and sets in the north. It’s probably too late to do anything about this convention but it may be helpful to understand that it exists. This also explains why the South Shore is actually mostly to the east on maps.

As you go north, away from the St. Lawrence, address numbers increment. If an address includes “east” or “west” this is relative to Boulevard Saint-Laurent (also known as St. Lawrence or “the Main”) from which addresses increment both eastward and westward, sometimes into the five figures.

Driving:

Distances and speed limits are posted in kilometers throughout Canada. 60 mph roughly equals 100 kmh. Gasoline prices are in litres.

You may not turn right on red lights in Montreal, although this is now permitted in Quebec off Montreal island.

Montreal presents some hazards for drivers. Pedestrians are pretty blasé about crossing on red lights, and most road construction and repairs have to be done in the summer months so you are likely to run into occasional detours when driving around town in the summer.

Seatbelts are mandatory even in back seats. Helmets are required for motorcyclists. It is obligatory to stop when a school bus is stopping, regardless of the direction in which you are driving. On a few major streets, bus lanes are marked with a large white diamond shape and you should not use and absolutely must not stop or park in these lanes within the hours noted on the accompanying signs. Some streets have bike lanes: these will be marked.

City police patrol in blue and white cars. Parking infractions are monitored by city employees in reddish-orange cars – these folks wear green uniforms and are sometimes known as Green Onions.

The older part of Montreal was built up before the automobile and streets can be narrow and cramped, so parking conditions can sometimes be frustrating. Be wary of neighbourhoods where certain parking spots are reserved for local people with numbered stickers. On residential streets, days and times for street cleaning should be visible on a sign and at those times you need to move your car if it’s on the side to be cleaned. Similar rules apply about snow removal.

Because parking can be so difficult, sightseeing on foot and by Metro is encouraged, at least within downtown, the Plateau and Old Montreal, unless you have mobility problems.

The Sureté du Québec (SQ) patrols on highways, both inside and outside the city. Outside the city, local municipalities can also ticket you if you commit an infraction on a road in their territory.

Public transit:

Montreal has an excellent public transit system, the STM (Société des transports de Montréal) operating the Metro subway system (see map) and 170 daytime bus routes (20 night routes). The STM website has excellent tools for working out how to get around, or consult Google Maps which now also offers transit routing in the city.

Maps and information about the transit system are also available in every Metro station and at tourist information points. There’s also an excellent app (STM mobile, 99 cents U.S.) for iPhone and iPod Touch which gives updated information on STM bus schedules and some basic info on the metro.

Metro lines shut down around 12:30 a.m., after which the whole system shifts over to night bus lines until around 5:30 a.m.

The STM has completed the process of switching its ticketing system over to the Opus smart card and one-trip magnetic cards. Note that with the cards you need to keep the card to use as a transfer if necessary (and to show to transit police if they ask) but you don’t need a ticket or pass to exit the system as you do in some places.

As of January 2010 a monthly adult pass giving full access to the metro and bus system costs $70. A single fare is $2.75. For tourists a special card giving full access for a day costs $7 and for three days costs $14.

Bus drivers do not make change and do not sell tickets, but all metro stations have manned ticket booths which do so. This map on the STM site will help you find other locations which sell passes and tickets.

People who are not Montreal residents don’t qualify for seniors’ reductions or student fares on the STM system.

Surrounding Montreal are other transit systems including the large STL serving Laval and RTL serving the South Shore. There are also five commuter train lines serving some suburbs. (In general, it’s unusual for tourists to visit these surrounding suburbs.)

Bicycles

If you’re comfortable on a bicycle it would be interesting to see Montreal en vélo. Bicycling magazine named Montreal the top bicycling city for 1999. However, keep in mind that motorists tend to be aggressive and you have to ride circumspectly.

Helmets are not mandatory for cyclists, but bicycles should be equipped with reflectors if you will be riding after dark, and you should have a good lock: bicycle theft is endemic. The Maison des Cyclistes, 1251 Rachel East, 514-521-8356, rents bikes and sells maps of bike paths in and around the city. There is also bicycle rental in the Old Port (514-847-0666). You can bring a bicycle into the metro, but you must follow the rules.

In summer 2009 Montreal launched the Bixi, a system of short-term rental bicycles available in an area radiating away from downtown as far north as the Metropolitan autoroute. These beautifully designed, adjustable and comfortable three-speed aluminum bicycles have been adopted by locals and tourists alike. The fare structure is geared toward short-term use: after paying one’s five dollars for 24 hours of access, the bikes are free to use for trips taking less than half an hour, but the rates rise pretty fast if you keep a bike longer than an hour. There are several iPhone apps that track Bixi availability in real time. Bixi racks are removed toward the end of November and are expected to reappear in April or May.

Newspapers and news sites

Montreal has four daily newspapers. Only one, The Gazette, is in English. There are three French-language dailies, Le Devoir, La Presse and Le Journal de Montréal. This last named paper has locked out its workers since January 2009 and they are producing their own news site, Rue Frontenac.

There are also two free tabloid dailies publishing only on weekdays and distributed mostly throughout the metro system: 24 Heures, belonging to Quebecor, which also owns the Journal de Montréal, and Métro, part of the international Metro newspaper chain.

There are also three free weekly cultural papers, all publishing on Thursdays: Mirror and Hour in English, Voir in French. These can be picked up in many cafés and public places.

Fugues is a monthly paper by and for the local gay community, and can be found in the Village and in many other cultural locations around town.

For international papers, check any Maison de la Presse Internationale or Multimags.

Tourist information centre

The main tourist information centre “ Infotouriste “ in Montreal is located near the corner of Peel and Ste-Catherine at 1255 Peel, metro Peel, 514-873-2015 or 1-877-266-5687.

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also see Wikipedia: Tourism in Canada (Check out section on Montreal and Quebec particularly)

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