Safety

Montreal is a very safe place and people are very friendly, going out of their way to help you or show you the way. So in general: relax, enjoy your vacation, and don't worry.

That said, with 3.8 million in the metro area, crime does indeed exist, so street smarts still apply. As well, car theft and car break-ins are a problem, so remember the old Arabian proverb "Trust in God, but tie your camel" and lock your car, roll up the windows, and make sure you do not leave any valuable items (or better yet, anything) in view. If you are parking for an extended period of time, consider an indoor parking lot -- see these suggestions.

Rates for violent crime are very low and have been steadily decreasing since the highs of the 1970s, putting Montreal, along with other Canadian cities, at the top of the list for North America in terms of personal safety according to Mercer's Quality of Living Index 2011. Moreover, 93% of Canadians indicated that they were somewhat or very satisfied with their safety from crime, up from 91% in 1999 and 86% in 1993, and 90% of those who walk alone in their neighbourhood at night felt safe doing so, according to Statistics Canada, 2009.

Keep in mind that perception of danger is relative.  For some, Montreal can be confusing since the "bad" bits (say, seedy bars, strip clubs, s*x shops, xxx cinemas, punks/drunks/other shady characters hanging out on corners) are mixed in with the good bits, rather than all shoved aside in the bad part of town. So what looks dangerous may not be -- as an example, the Red Light district and the Latin Quarter, arguably the roughest areas of Montreal, are nonetheless safe and filled with ordinary people -- including college students and many tourists just like yourself -- going about their business day and night.  And while panhandlers can be abundant, they are generally polite and a simple NO as an answer will end their interruptions most of times.

 

Health

Canada is an industrialized country, and no special shots should be required beyond making sure your routine vaccinations such as for measles or tetanus are up-to-date. If you travel with medication, you should keep it in its original packaging and in your carry-on luggage; for liquids, make sure they follow security guidelines for air travel if that is how you are arriving.

Canada has a well-developed healthcare system which, while not perfect, provides universal healthcare to its citizens and is available, although not free, to visitors requiring emergency healthcare. As a visitor, you will want to buy travel health insurance either from a provider in your own country or once here in Canada. Most plans require you to call a toll-free number before seeking treatment, or as soon as you can if you are unable to given the circumstances. Be aware that most insurance plans preclude existing conditions and can go back anywhere from 3 months to your whole medical history and deny your claim if you have one.

In most of Canada, emergency services are available by dialling 9-1-1. Ambulance services are available throughout, although their fees may not be covered by your insurance plan. Note that hospitals here, as elsewhere, perform triage and treat emergency cases first, and so wait times can pose a problem no matter how good your insurance policy is. There are also private clinics that accept walk-ins, although again, you will have to check with your insurance provider to see if they are covered.

In Montréal and a few other regions, there are "English" hospitals and "French" hospitals -- in downtown Montréal, for example, the Royal Victoria and Montréal General are English-speaking, and Saint-Luc, Hôtel-Dieu and Notre-Dame are French-speaking. In reality, however, just like elsewhere, you will find that most people speak both languages or if not, they will be able to find someone who does, so in an emergency you can still go to the closest hospital.

For minor medical care, a pharmacist can be of help to suggest medication, which comes in three categories: prescription which requires a visit to a doctor; non-prescription that is sold in the aisles of a pharmacy, such as cold medication; and a third category that pharmacists call "annexe II" which is medication that does not require a doctor's prescription but which is not on display and must be asked for specifically (including, for example, gravol). As well, be aware that names of products and their availability vary from country to country, so your name for a product may not be the same here.