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Cost cutting in Canada


You can save money two ways when you visit Canada. First, the rate of exchange is in your favor; second, a visitor from the United States can get a refund on some Canadian taxes paid during the trip after filling out and sending the GST (Goods and Services Tax Refund) form to Ottawa.

Regarding the favorable rate of exchange between Canada and the United States: One U.S. dollar buys about $1.38 worth of goods in Canada. The rate of exchange is subject to change (it was $1.35 when I was there last August), so, before you go, check the financial pages of the newspaper under the listing "Foreign Exchange." Of course, when you change your money for theirs, the bank or currency-exchange booth will charge you a few dollars.

The second method of saving money while traveling in Canada takes a little time and work, but it's worth it, because you can get some of your Canadian taxes back. Ask for the GST refund application form at a Canadian hotel or bank. Save your receipts -- especially those for lodging -- whether you stay at a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast or cabin, and for any purchase that you take home with you. Food, rental cars and gasoline do not count. Local phone calls from your hotels do, partially.

What is acceptable seems a little quirky, so the easiest way to take advantage of the system is to go through your receipts and copy down, on a separate piece of paper, any amount that is labeled GST and then fill out the appropriate boxes on the form. There's a provincial sales tax too, but you don't get that back.

The GST on a room that costs $149 Canadian a night (a little more than $100 American) was $10.43, about $7 American. So, if you stay for a week in a room at that rate, you'll really be paying about $700 instead of $1,043, and if you send in the GST form with the receipts, you should get a little more than $50 back.

Throw in the GST on phone bills, room service and purchases. Next, fill in the GST application form, with the tally, providing the original receipts (it's advisable to make copies of them for your records).

The form states that if you're applying for a tax refund on accommodations only, or on a tour package, you may claim a flat rate of $5 per night of the GST. Send the form and original receipts to Revenue Canada, Customs, Excise and Taxation, Ottawa, Canada, K1A 1J5.

You will probably have a wait before you get your refund. I went to the Canadian Rockies for nine days last August and didn't hear from Revenue Canada in Ottawa until mid-December, a great time to get a check from anyone. My refund was $94.34 -- worth the wait.

Whether your destination is the Maritime Provinces, Quebec City's Winter Carnival in January, the Calgary Stampede in July or the Stratford (Theater) Festival in August, or British Columbia, you can cut the cost of a trip in Canada.

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