What You Need To Know

The City of Hamilton is situated at the west end of Lake Ontario, on Burlington Bay, 68 km southwest of Toronto, and 66 km west of Niagara Falls and the American border. As part of the reorganization of municipal governments in Ontario, the boundaries of the city were enlarged in 2001 to include much of the surrounding suburban and rural area, including the former towns of Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough and Stoney Creek, and the former township of Glanbrook. The city is Canada’s largest steel producer and a major Great Lakes port.

Area:1,138 km²
Population:519,950 (2011)

Currency

  • Canadian and American dollars are not at par. American currency is accepted in most establishments at variable exchange rates.
    Legal tender is the Canadian dollar, which divides into 100 cents. Bills come in the following denominations: 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars. The coins in use are of the following denominations: 5, 10 and 25 cents, as well as one and two dollars.
    On arrival, visitors should obtain Canadian currency at the official exchange rate in order to avoid problems.
  • Normal banking hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, with extended hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at some locations. Traveler’s cheques, ideally in Canadian funds, are the safest way to carry money and are accepted by banks and major commercial establishments.
  • Major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard and Visa are accepted almost everywhere.
    With the advent of automated teller machines, visitors can do banking through network systems like “Plus”, “Circus”, “Interac”, etc. and enjoy excellent rates of exchange.

Weather

The climate of Hamilton is humid continental and relatively mild compared with most Canadian cities. The average January temperature is −5 °C (23.0 °F) downtown, but many days rise just above freezing often making for slushy conditions during snowfalls. Winter snowfall averages 126 centimetres (50 in) with great year-to-year variation. The average July temperature is 22 °C (71.6 °F) and humidity is usually high during the peak of summer. Daytime highs in the 30’s with humidex make it feel above 40°C are quite common anytime from May through early October.

The climate of the lower city is in general much more sheltered and milder than on top of the Mountain, which has a shorter growing season and in winter is prone to more wind whipped lake effect snows. Generally the lower city receives less snow than the upper city. The escarpment also greatly affects summer weather; temperature inversions can make the downtown many degrees warmer, particularly at night, and often an inversion will combine with the physical barrier of the escarpment to trap smog in the downtown area, sometimes reducing downtown visibility to less than 2 km.

Summer rains can be heavy but in general severe weather is rare. One notable exception was a late season tornado that occurred November 9, 2005 damaging hundreds of houses and lifted off Lawfield Middle School’s gymnasium roof on the Hamilton Mountain, injuring two students and leaving the school structurally unsound. Environment Canada confirmed an F1 tornado struck the area; this was one of the latest dates in any year that a confirmed tornado touched down in Canada.

Language

Hamilton, like most of Ontario, is entirely English-speaking. There are a few francophone or mixed communities in Ontario, mainly in the east and north, but it is an overwhelmingly English-speaking province (with government services generally available in both languages). The only parts of Canada where French is the default language are the province of Quebec.

Health and security

  • Hamilton is a regional centre for health care and professional training. Hamilton’s hospitals offer advanced treatments and employ some of the most talented medical professionals in Canada. Hamilton is fortunate to have many great health care services and facilities.
    When you need medical care that is not urgent or would like to have a check-up, you should go to a family doctor. You need to be registered as a patient to get medical care from a family doctor, who is also referred to a general practitioner or family physician.
    Family doctors have a limit on the number of patients they will allow to register. This sometimes makes finding a doctor difficult.
  • Walk-in clinics provide health care services if you are sick and do not have a family doctor or unable to meet with your family doctor. You do not usually need an appointment. It is best to call before visiting to check the clinic’s hours as they sometimes change. Some clinics are open in the evenings, and on weekends and holidays.
  • Hamilton isn’t that bad a place to live. There are various neighborhoods, some great, some funky, some bad. It is more affordable than Toronto and still has a blue collar feel. It doesn’t have the job market it once had due to the decline in the Canadian steel industry, but there is still work there. But if big cities scare you, you might take some time to get used to it.

DON’T

  • Make sure you don’t take rodas with railway crossings, it can take up to 30 minutes for a train to go by…and since most streets in Hamilton are ONE WAY….you won’t be able to turn around.

DO

  • Discover Hamilton’s unique heritage through the colourful stories of the people who helped shape it. Distinctive architecture, world-class museums and 15 National Historic Sites offer a glimpse into the city’s past and help connect the dots to the fascinating community Hamilton is today.
  • Eat to your heart’s content at Hamilton Farmer’s Market.
    Established in 1837, this year-round market boasts over 60 vendors selling everything from local to international foods to plants and flowers, garments and more! In terms of food, be prepared for a variety of mouth-watering baked goods, produce, cheeses, meats, and international dishes inviting you to try them. With its excellent quality and affordable prices, this market is a must visit.
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