Step One: Book a Flight
Flights to Montreal are stupidly expensive. I recommend a thorough and ongoing online search. Set up price drop alerts, look out for seat sales, cash in your air miles, whatever. I’m from Atlanta, and a typical flight back South costs me between $500-$750. If you can get to anywhere that flies Porter jets, they usually have the best deals (and FREE BOOZE). Another option for folks on serious budgets is to fly to Burlington, VT, and take the Greyhound bus into Montreal (about 2.5 hours).
Step Two: Book a Hotel
If you can afford to stay in the conference hotel, do it. The usual convenience of proximity will be amplified by the brutality of our chilly March weather (see “Step Three”). If you’re searching for alternate accommodations, keep these points in mind: Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel (FQE) is located between “downtown” and “the Old Port,” about a 5-minute walk from two Metro stations (Bonaventure and Square Victoria, both on the Orange Line). This means that any hotel/hostel/airBnB near an Orange Line stop will be relatively convenient (sidenote: the Metro system here is great: easy to understand, takes you everywhere you’d want to go, and runs on time). FQE is also located on René-Lévesque, a street that makes up the main route of the 747 bus, our easiest way of travelling to and from the airport. There are lots of other hotels on René-Lévesque that would make airport travel simple, and any version of an “all-you-can-ride” Metro pass will allow you to use the frequent 747 buses to travel to and from the conference.
Step Three: Prepare your Closet
In late March, it’s either going to be cold, or really frakking cold in Montreal. You should prepare for the latter. You’ll want to make sure you either own or can borrow the whole Winter wardrobe shebang: heavy coat, gloves, hat, waterproof boots, long underwear, thick socks, scarf. Obviously, keep an eye on weather forecasts as the event approaches (n.b.: we roll on the Celsius scale here). Hopefully you won’t need the long underwear.
Step Four: Prepare your Tech
Cell phones: As far as I know, pretty much any US cell phone will work here, but it’ll cost you. Most providers offer various kinds of international add-on packages for texts/minutes/data. You can also purchase burners at a variety of stores. Wifi is as pervasive as any big city, though, so you could probably manage with a small texting/minutes package, or without any cellular coverage at all.
Electrical Outlets: No adapter needed if you’re coming from the US; but if you’re coming from elsewhere, we run 60hz/120v–so you’ll need a N. American adapter unless your charging device is dual voltage.
Step Five: Practiquez votre français
Montreal is the 2nd-largest French-speaking city in the world. The francophone culture is one of the things that makes Montreal so awesome, but it can also be intimidating. Here’s the deal: French is the dominant language, but most people speak English–especially if you spend your time in touristy spots (in many places, you’ll be greeted with “bonjour, hi,” the Montreal invitation to speak whichever language you prefer). I’ve known people to live in Montreal for years without speaking a lick of French, but I find that path kinda boring and a little disrespectful. My recommendation: if you took a few French classes in high school or university, brush up a bit. While you’re here, try out some basic communication in French; like most cities I’ve visited, people here appreciate the attempt and will likely give you better service for your efforts. Even if you can’t string together full sentences, try throwing in the occasional “merci” or “excusez-moi,” just for funsies.
More Montreal tips to come—leave a comment or contact me if you have any Qs!