Montreal Place Des Arts
Although Montreal is Canada's second largest city and has some problems with crime, it shares Canada's low crime rates; therefore, problems are unlikely. A traveler's usual common sense will suffice. For emergencies call 9-1-1.
Muggers & pickpockets
If muggings or pickpocketing were to occur, the metro system would be their most likely location. If this concerns you, police would advise you to use the first metro car where the driver is. Emergency intercoms are on every metro car. Emergency phone booths are on every platform throughout the metro system. Pickpockets have been known to stand in line at fast food restaurants and other crowded locations.
Montreal has been touted as car-theft capital of Canada. 24,088 cars were stolen in Montreal in 2002; a rate of 7 cars per 1000 persons.
Although Montreal has seen homelessness decrease greatly in tandem with the city's economic renewal, the homeless remain a visible presence on the streets of the city. Most of those you may see begging are harmless. They sleep downtown with their hand open, or quietly ask for change and politely accept donations or take "no" for an answer. The top of metro station escalators downtown are a favoured local for these individuals. In some rare cases they may walk with you, talking friendly, and eventually ask for change. If they are pushy or obviously intoxicated, say no firmly; they will then leave you alone.
Strip clubs and prostitution
Montreal is know as the strip(or genltleman's) club capital of Canada. The city has over 30 strip clubs in the downtown area alone. The strip clubs in Montreal are unique in that the majority of them offer full contact lap dances. Full-contact lap dances are legal in the province of Quebec as of 2001. During full-contact lap dances, patrons are allowed to touch the dancers as long as the dances are private. Strip clubs in Montreal are either categorized as full-contact or non-contact.
The strip clubs in Montreal operated differently than U.S. strip clubs. In Montreal the exotic dancers are mostly independent workers, not house dancers. Due to this, the exotic dancers are free to work at a variety of strip clubs, and often do. Unlike U.S. exotic dancers, those working in Montreal retain all of the revenues from their performances; gratuity is not expected.
Rue Sainte-Catherine, Montreal's main shopping artery, has strip clubs advertised in plain-view through the length of downtown. Completely nude (not hardcore) posters or huge billboards and neon signs are visible from the sidewalks. This may be a concern for you if you have young children. Street prostitution is visible in evenings in the area around the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Laurent and north of the gay village.
Situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River just at its highest navigable point, Montreal has been a strategic location since before the arrival of Europeans in Canada. A thriving First Nations Mohawk community called Hochelaga was on the site of present-day Montreal when explorer Jacques Cartier first visited in 1535. A hundred years later, in 1642, the tiny town of Ville-Marie was founded as a Jesuit mission, but soon became a center of the fur trade. After its capture by the English in 1762, Montreal remained the most important city in Francophone Canada, and was briefly capital of the province in the 1840s.
Prohibition on sales of alcohol in the United States during the 1920s and '30s made Montreal a mecca for cross-border fun seekers from nearby New England and New York. The city built up a seedy yet playful industry in alcohol, burlesque, and other vices. In the 1960s, an urban renewal drive centered around Expo 67. The World's Fair in Montreal brought a subway system and a number of attractive urban parks, and is considered to be one of the most successful World Fairs. The 1976 Olympics left a strikingly idiosyncratic stadium and many other urban improvements.
The opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1959, though much lauded as an economic boon, spelled the beginning of the end for Montreal's economic dominance in Canada. Once the transition point between western railroads and eastern sea carriers, Montreal watched helplessly as some of this business moved farther west, up the now navigable Seaway, to ports in Ontario and on Lake Superior. The Quebec sovereignty movement, which began to pick up steam in the 1960s, further chilled the atmosphere for Canada-wide businesses, many of which moved their headquarters to Toronto.
After an economic depression in the 1980s and 1990s — due to automotive and aerospace plant closures in the surrounding area — Montreal today has become more secure in its place in North America and the world. It remains a center of culture, arts, computer technology, the biotech industry and media for all of Canada and for the French-speaking world.
Montreal has the continent's largest proportion of students, due mainly to its four urban universities. Montreal is home to one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious universities, McGill , which many people refer to as "Canada's Harvard" (to the point that joke T-shirts have started to appear, branding Harvard as "America's McGill"). Concordia University is the city's other English-language university and has over 30,000 students. Its student population is generally more multicultural than McGill's, and the school's origins in and continuing emphasis on adult education make it popular for mature students, since it still holds many graduate-level courses at night. The Université du Québec ?Montreal (UQAM) and the Université de Montréal cater mainly to Francophone students. The Université de Montréal is the second largest French-language university in the world, after the Sorbonne in Paris, and is one of the largest research institutions in Canada.
Photocopy shops often have internet terminals available, as do many cafés and some bookstores. The Bell phone company has installed public internet terminals (cash or credit cards) in McGill and Berri-UQAM metro stations; there is also a long-standing internet café (minus the café part) at mezzanine level in the rue Guy entrance of Guy-Concordia metro. The Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal (corner of Berri and de Maisonneuve — direct access via Berri-UQAM metro stations) has many internet terminals; a library card (free to Quebec residents with proof of address) is required, but visitors can get free temporary access by asking a librarian.
Internet Coffee shops are becoming more and more popular in Montreal. The organization Île Sans Fil provides free wireless Internet in cafes and other locations throughout the city. If you are on the South Shore of Montreal and are equipped with a laptop, Zeeba Books offers free wireless Internet. There are also two Internet stations available, not to mention cheap paperbacks and great cappuccino. Check the website for directions. Mention that you are from out of town and the owner will probably offer a free coffee.
Montreal makes an excellent entryway for visiting other cities and destinations in Quebec. Quebec City, about 3 hours to the north east on Highway 40, is almost but not quite a day trip — you'll want to stay over, anyway. Mont Tremblant lies less than 2 hours north in the Laurentides, while the Eastern Townships are about the same distance straight east. If you're continuing to Ontario, Ottawa is 2 hours west by car, and Toronto is more distant, but still doable, 6 hour drives. Boston is a five and a half hour drive to the southeast. A really nice resort is located 1.5-2 hours west in the countryside of Quebec, known as Chateau Montebello, located in Montebello.
Quebec is renowned for its aggressive drivers. Drivers are quite assertive on the highway. Lane changes often occur without signalling. The slow lanes will be very slow and the fast lanes are not for the faint of heart or light of foot. Accelerating and decelerating can occur rapidly so prudence should be used. Pedestrians are equally assertive when crossing the street, especially downtown. They generally expect oncoming drivers to slow down, and are usually disappointed. Oddly enough, according to the Canadian Automobile Association, rates of traffic accidents are not overly high in Montreal. On the entire island of Montreal, right on red is illegal.
Also, potholes are a fairly common sight on Montreal roads, so be prudent and leave enough space between a car in front of yours. Another thing to remember while driving in Montreal and the rest of Quebec is that mostly all street signs are in French. Some important translations to remember are:
• Directions: nord (N) - north, sud (S) - south, ouest (O) - west, est (E) - east
• Roadsigns, Highway signs: arrêt - stop cédez - yield sortie - exit rue - street chemin (Ch.) - drive autoroute (Aut.) - highway échange (Ech.) - interchange jonction (JCT) - junction pont - bridge
On the major Montreal highways, there are illuminated placards with messages regarding the traffic conditions approaching. In the greater Montreal area, they display messages both in French and English.
Illegal factory work paying around $7.50 per hour is fairly easy to find in Montreal, but painting during the summer and moving furniture in June can be better alternatives. McGill and Montreal universities are always in search of research subjects, and so are Montreal's many biotech firms.
• Students: If you are a US Citizen aged 18-30 and a full-time student, you can obtain a Canadian work visa valid for 6 months through BUNAC, http://www.bunac.org/usa/workcanada/eligibility.aspx . Students from Britain, New Zealand and Australia can also benefit from BUNAC work programs. As well, if you obtain a degree from a Canadian university, you are eligible to remain in Montreal and work for up to 1 year.
• Others: Immigration Canada's (CIC) website explains a number of ways foreigners can legally work in Canada. As Montreal is located in the province of Quebec, which has its own immigration policies, persons wishing to work in Montreal will have to go through two processes, once with the Canadian government, then finally with the Quebec government. If you are employed with a foreign company which has a Montreal office, you can seek a transfer. You can also seek a job with a Montreal employer and they can sponsor you for a temporary work visa. If you are a skilled worker (see CIC website) you can immigrate based on your own skills.
• NAFTA: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allows skilled US and Mexican professionals to easily obtain Canadian work visa provided they are qualified in certain professions. This website, http://www.amcits.com/professions.asp, provides an up to date list of qualifying professions.
As in the rest of Quebec, language politics and nationalism are contentious issues in Montreal. In general, Francophones, Anglophones, and Allophones (those whose first language is neither English nor French) get along in Montreal without difficulty. Nevertheless, consideration should be used when interacting with French-speakers. A few may feel offended if you begin the conversation in English, so it is best to be apologetic or to start conversations with a polite "Parlez-vous anglais?" ("Do you speak English?"). In particular, loudly insisting that someone speak English to you is seen as very offensive even by those who might otherwise be willing to help you.
Conversely any attempt to speak French, no matter how terrible, is appreciated. In fact, your trip to Montreal may be a great opportunity to practice your rusty French, because under Quebec law you have the right to be served in French in any store or public establishment -- no matter how long it takes! Even if you're not looking to practice, learning some key French words for your trip to Montreal would be a good idea. Still, in most cases if a bilingual French person sees that you do not speak French fluently, they will readily switch to English or listen patiently: don't worry.
Remember, there is a significant percentage of Montrealers who actually do not understand English; they are not refusing to speak English to you - they truly can't. Service personnel may fall into any of these categories, so don't be surprised if a public employee cannot speak English at all. Quebec law states that employees must be able to address customers in French; English is permitted but not legislated. Practically any business in downtown Montreal, especially west of Boulevard St-Laurent, will be able to serve you in English. Montreal is a very popular tourist destination for people from the US and the rest of Canada, and staff at tourist attractions are perhaps the most likely to speak English. A small number of Allophones speak neither French nor English, but will probably not be encountered except in Chinatown.
Federal employees (for example, customs officials, employees of national historic sites, or postal workers) speak both official languages as a rule. (However, don't be fooled by the word "national," which may well indicate a Quebec government institution.) It would probably be best for you not to start any conversations regarding the "national question" (the Constitution, sovereignty, and Quebec language policies) in order to stay out of hot water.
Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License
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