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Weekend Getaway to Toronto for Desis from USA....

GaramChai Canada >> Travel >> Toronto Weekend

Toronto, one of the worlds most beautiful and accessible cities, is welcoming and warm to international travelers and tourist. Its proximity to the US border also means that it is within driving distance from many major American (North/North Eastern) cities.

Toronto is one of the best and easiest weekend holiday destination for North Americans and desis too.

What are you plans for this weekend? If you are looking for a great getaway this season, this section of GaramChai will help you plan your trip to Toronto, an ideal tourist destination in North America.

Tips and Ideas //Places to go and things to do // Desi Getaways // Desi Suburbs // Social and places of worship /Links of interest to Desis Driving Directions from the US

Visa and Paperwork

Added incentive to visit Canada: Sales Tax refund!

Visitors to Canada - GST/HST refund: Visitors to Canada are eligible to claim refund of taxes (GST etc) for eligible goods bought for personal use or short-term accommodation. Remember to claim the refund. Rules are a bit simple though one has to read the fine print. As per current regulations, each receipt with eligible goods must have a total purchase amount (before taxes are added) of at least $50 CAN (without rounding); The total of all of your receipts on eligible goods and eligible short-term accommodation (before taxes are added) must be at least $200 CAN.

About Toronto

Driving Distance to Toronto from Major cities in US (closer to the border)

Major cities in US
Time by Air
Boston, MA 906/566 1 hour 30 mins
Buffalo, NY 154/96 55 mins
Cleveland, OH 476/297 1 hour 10 mins
Detroit, MI 378/236 40 mins
New York, NY 851/529 1 hour 30 mins
Philadelphia, PA 813/508 1 hour 30 mins
Pittsburg, PA 518/324 1 hour
Washington, DC 832/517 1 hour 30 mins

Note: The details are only approximate. For actual driving distances and times, please check on Mapquest Directions To Toronto or Yahoo Maps. Also, refer to Border crossing wait times


  • Driving in Canada Driving and motor rules in Canada are similar to driving in United States. Distances and speeds, however, are posted in kilometers per hour. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in Canada.
  • Insurance - Many insurance policies issued in the US allow for travel to Canada. However, please make sure that your insurance policy covers your time in Canada.
  • Medical Insurance: The US Department of State suggests Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
  • Public transit: The network of Toronto's public transit, TTC subway, busses and trains is among the most efficient in North America, perhaps comparable to that in many European cities

Places to go and things to do

  • Niagra Falls The main attraction in Niagra is the "Horseshoe" and the "Maid of the Mist" Boat Ride which opens between Apr to Oct every year.
  • CN Tower Recently nominated one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World is the world's tallest building and celebrated icon of Canada.
  • Toronto islands Centre Island (between Hanlan's Point and Ward's Island) offers miles of parkland with beaches, barbecues and picnic tables, boat rentals, bicycle paths, a children's farm and amusement park.
  • Harbourfront - the site of art galleries and theatres
  • Ontario Place - features restaurants, a children's village, an outdoor amphitheatre and IMAX.
  • Paramount Canada's Wonderland- Themed amusement park (Opens May 6'2007)
  • Ontario Science Centre offers interactive and multi-media exhibits. (Open throughtout the year).
  • The Toronto Zoo - features more than 5,000 animals in their natural environments. (Opens May 18'2007 )
  • Royal Ontario Museum - The Royal Ontario Museum increases understanding of world cultures and natural history through its collections (numbering more than six million objects) (Open year round)

Also check out: Things to do in Toronto - "A definitive guide of the best local spots, as told by local Airbnb hosts:"

#1 High Park (Parks & Nature Parks)
#2 Royal Ontario Museum (Arts & Culture Museums )
#3 Art Gallery of Ontario (Arts & Culture Museums)
#4 Rogers Centre Tour Experience (Entertainment & Activities  )
#5 Ripley's Aquarium Canada (Entertainment & Activities)
#6 St. Lawrence Market (Everything Else in Shopping)
#7 CN Tower Toronto (Sight seeing, Points of Interest)
#8 Dundas Square (Entertainment & Activities  )
#9 Kensington Market (Sightseeing Neighborhoods)
#10 Distillery District (Sightseeing Neighborhoods)
#11 The Drake Hotel (Everything Else)
#12 Trinity Bellwoods Park (Parks & Nature Parks)
#13 Harbourfront Centre (Arts & Culture)
#14 TIFF Bell Lightbox (Arts & Culture Museums)
#15 Air Canada Centre (Entertainment & Activities)
#16 Gusto I-101 (Food Scene Restaurants)
#17 Bellwoods Brewery (Drinks & Nightlife)
#18 Toronto Eaton Centre (Shopping Malls)
#19 Grand Electric (Food Scene Restaurants)
#20 Steam Whistle Brewing (Drinks & Nightlife )

Desi Getaways: Food, shopping and festivals

Desi Restaurants and shopping

  • Gerrard India Bazaar - One of the largest markets for South Asian goods and services in North America with over 100 shops, restaurants and bazaars representing regional diversities of South Asian culture. One can find everything Indian starting from kitchenware, Jewellers, Fashion accessories to grocery, Desi Paan and Indian Music.
  • Ethnic Grocers and restaurants serving Asian, Indians in Canada can be found at

Festivals & Events

  • Carassauga Festival : Mississauga's Festival of Cultures (starting May 25, 26 & 27, 2007). Enjoy the vibrancy and melody of South Asian and Indian song and dance, from classical and semi classical arrangements.
  • Masala Mehndi Masti : The largest multi-disciplinary South Asian Arts festival (three-day festival) celebrated annually in downtown Toronto (originally at Harbourfront Centre and now at the CNE grounds). Celebrated every year during the fall (mid July to Aug).
  • South Asian Music Festival 2007(April 20 - May 18th) : Asian Music Festival, presented by Toronto’s musical treasures ' The Small World Music Society'.
  • Asian Heritage Month : An important initiative which acknowledges the diversity of Canadian communities.(starting May 1st '2007).
  • Sampradaya Dance Creations celebrates South Asian Heritage Month in Toronto and Peel schools

Desi Suburbs and Indian community in Toronto

If you happen to have some time and a map, you might want to drive around some of the suburbs; you will be surprised by the typical 'Desi' enclaves in Canada.
  • Brampton - Predominantly Punjabi, one can find lots of Indian Restaurant, Grocers and others catering to Asians & Indians.
  • Scarborough and Markham predominantly Tamils, Sri Lankans and others.
  • The suburb of Mississauga is home to diverse South Asian community which includes people from Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Malaysia and China...The intersection of Dundas and Hurantario (Hwy 10) is a virtual 'Little India' where one can find everything Indian starting from Grocers, Jewellers, furnitures to showrooms (salwar & sarees) Indian restaurants etc.

Social and places of worship

Links of interest to Desis





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This section of will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in Canada that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

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