In Canada the two official languages are English and French. English is spoken more, but visit the likes of Montreal and Quebec City and you'll find you need some French behind you. Head up to Atlantic Canada on your gap year and you'll find some interesting regional accents among the fishing communities that will require a good listener to work out. The big cities of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are also home to large Chinese migrant populations, meaning Cantonese is commonly spoken in the Chinatowns.
Canada's currency is the Canadian dollar ($, CAD), usually referred to simply as a 'dollar', or 'buck'. One dollar consists of 100 cents (¢). You'll be able to get the money out using your visa and maestro cards at most ATMs, although there will usually be a charge for this. International credit cards are also accepted everywhere too.
Just to note, the price you see in the shops is not the price you will end up paying. Remember this if you're on a backpacker budget on your gap year: a sales tax of 5% will be added on to all prices. Taxes for things like gasoline vary from state to state.
Canada is such a huge country that it spans quite a few time zones. Here's the breakdown...
Thanks again to the epic vastness of Canada it's really difficult to describe the weather. Overall, winters are harsh compared to much of the world. Snow piles up and it's impossible to get around unless the snowplough has cleared the way first. The climate in Southern Ontario is less severe, but if you want to go to the other end of the spectrum check out Nunavut just south of the Arctic Circle – the maximum temperature is only 12°C.
Canada is generally colder than the USA and Western Europe, so make sure you're wrapped up warm if you're visiting between October and April. The rest of the year you're looking at about 20C as an average.
Most of the world – including Europe, Australia and Great Britain – do not need a visa to visit Canada for up to six months, but make sure you check with your embassy or consulate first. You should always have six months left on your passport before you travel anywhere.
Although, having said this, working while in the country is forbidden without a work permit. The only exceptions are Greenland, Saint-Pierre, Miquelon and the United States. Talk to the immigration office if this is something you'd like to take up in Canada on your gap year.