Frequently asked questions
Curious about the Northwest Territories? We've put together answers to some common questions people ask. If you have a question you don't see here, email or call us.
Weather & Time Zone
When's the best time to visit the Northwest Territories?
The short answer is, whenever your clients want to. The best time depends on what they want to do.
Winter (Oct-April), is prime aurora viewing season. When there's snow on the ground and the lakes are frozen, dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing and more open up. It's a winter wonderland.
Summer (May-Sep) is the season to be out on the water and in the wilderness. Fishing, canoeing, camping and hiking – is best under extra-long days and warm temperatures.
Have an activity in mind? Find out the best time to visit to make it happen.
Is it always cold in the Northwest Territories?
Nope. We have summers that can get quite hot, sometimes above 30°C.
Winter gets cold. But it's a dry cold.Most of the Northwest Territories has a very dry subarctic climate, while the islands and coastal region in the north has a much colder polar climate.
Visitors often say they would rather take -40°C in the Northwest Territories over -15°C in a humid coastal city.
Expect snow on the ground by late October. January temperatures can drop to below -40°C but by the first week of March, the days start getting considerably longer and it heats up, reaching above 0°C by the end of the month. By late April, the snow is almost all gone.
Check the forecast at: Environment Canada
Do you guys live in igloos?
No, we don't live in igloos. Well, most of us don't.
What about rain and snow?
Rain is rare. The Northwest Territories enjoy sunny, cloudless days for much of the year. Less than 300 mm of precipitation falls in an entire year, most of it falling in the summer.
What time zone is the Northwest Territories in?
Mountain Standard Time (MST) — UTC-7.
Where is the Northwest Territories?
The Northwest Territories is in north-western Canada, between Yukon Territory to the west and Nunavut to the east. To the south, we share borders with British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
How many people live in NWT?
As of 2016, there were 44,291 living in the Northwest Territories.
What kind of landscapes are in NWT?
All kinds of landscapes can be found.The territory is mostly boreal forest and tundra. There are the canyons of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its highest point is Mount Nirvana near the border with Yukon at an elevation of 2,773 m (9,098 ft). To the north, the Territorial islands in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago stretching toward the north pole.
How much water does NWT have?
A lot. There are thousands of lakes of all shapes and sizes, we have the biggest and deepest lakes in North America, Great Bear Lake, the largest lake entirely within Canada, and Great Slave Lake, the deepest body of water in North America at 614 m (2,014 ft) – deep enough to submerge the CN Tower completely underwater.
Countless rivers flow through the territory including the mighty Mackenzie River, the largest and longest river system in Canada.
How big is the territory?
Pretty big. The total area is 1,346,106 km2 (519,234 sq mi) and makes up 13.5% of Canada's territory. It's almost six times the area of the UK.
What's the capital city of the Northwest Territories?
Yellowknife is the capital of the Northwest Territories. It's the biggest little city in Canada. It was originally founded in the Yellowknives Dene First Nation territory after gold was discovered in 1934. Residents come from all parts of the world and most end up staying a lot longer than they planned.
Getting Here and Around
How do I get to the Northwest Territories?
The easiest is by plane. Direct flights operate daily from Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and soon to be Vancouver.
By vehicle, take the Mackenzie Highway from Edmonton and take the Yellowknife Highway exit to reach Yellowknife. From Yellowknife, you can drive or fly to every major centre.
Where can I rent a vehicle in the Northwest Territories?
In larger communities like Yellowknife, you can rent cars and trucks through a major rental chain. In smaller communities, you can usually rent through a car dealership, the gas station or hotel.
Check the rental directory for listings.
Where can I check road conditions while traveling?
The government of Northwest Territories reports on road conditions on their website. You can also call the Department of Infrastructure at 1-800-661-0750.
Here's an in-depth guide on driving in the Northwest Territories.
What can you do in the Northwest Territories?
Whether your clients are long-time adventurers or casual explorers, there are lots of ways to have fun in winter and summer.
A brief list of activities:
- Aurora tours
- Camping & hiking
To see all the activities available, visit www.spectacularnwt.com
Where can my clients find aurora viewing tour operators?
In the directory on the SpectacularNWT website. Browse through a diverse list of suppliers to find a tourism experience that works best for them. Clients can venture out on foot with a guide, hop on a tour bus going outside of town or book a lodge in the wilderness to get a view all to themselves.
Where can my clients stay?
In the capital, Yellowknife, your clients can stay in a luxury hotel, a comfy motel or a quiet bed and breakfast. In the wilderness, they can rent a cabin, stay at a lodge or set up a tent in a campgrounds. Accommodations are available to suit any traveller's tastes.
View the accommodation directory.
What to pack
How do I pack for each season?
January temperatures can drop below -40°C so a down-filled jacket rated for extreme temperatures and multiple layers of clothing are a good idea. You should also bring headgear that covers the skin on your face totally and waterproof boots and gloves.
The rule for dressing warmly is, adding 1 layer for every -10°C (14°F) below 0° e.g. if it's -30°C (-22°F), wear 3 layers.
Autumn and spring are short. Temperature can vary between warm temperatures where a sweater or light jacket is all you need or it can dip well below 0°C and you'll need your winter gear.
Summer is short but can get hot. The sun stays in the sky up to 20 hours in June so sunblock is a good idea, especially If you're not used to the extremely long days.
July can get hot — up to 35°C (95°F). Pack short sleeve shirts and shorts. Bring swimwear if you plan on going for a dip in the lake.
Will my clients need formalwear?
We appreciate whenever someone dresses up for us, but it's not necessary. Life is laid back up here.
Will my client's cell phone work in the Northwest Territories?
Most major carriers will work in the larger communities but when you're out in the wilderness you likely won't have service. Check with your provider to be sure.
What are my banking options?
Yellowknife has branches from all five major Canadian banks. Most communities will have a 24/7 ABM available.
What taxes do you have in the Northwest Territories?
There is no territorial sales tax. You'll pay a 5% national sales tax (GST) when buying goods for which you may apply for a refund when you leave Canada.
What are the rules for tipping?
Similar to the rest of Canada. A service tip is rarely included in bills unless you're at a restaurant with a large group which in that case a service charge may be applied. Tips are appreciated and a good range is between 15 and 20 per cent.
Do my clients need any vaccinations to come to the Northwest Territories?
No. There are currently no vaccination requirements for visitors.
What medical services are available?
Hospitals operate in Yellowknife and Inuvik. All other communities are served by a health centre or clinic. Pack medical insurance while traveling and make sure it's valid in Canada.
What are the smoking laws in the Northwest Territories?
Smoking is not allowed in any public place indoors. In Yellowknife, you must stay at least three metres from an entrance while smoking.
Fishing and Hunting Regulations
Do my clients need a fishing licence? Where can they get one?
Yes, anyone who is between age 16 and 65 needs a licence. You can apply for one easily online. Non-residents pay $40 for the entire season.
Do my clients need a hunting permit? Where can they get one?
Yes, non-residents need a hunting licence.
If your client wishes to hunt big game, they need to go with a licenced NWT outfitter and use tags for each kill.
Apply in person at the closest ENR Office.
Are there polar bears in the Northwest Territories?
Yes. They live mainly in the polar climate in the Western Arctic region's north.
What about bugs?
Most of the year is too cold for bugs. Mosquitoes are common in the summer and it's a good idea to bring bug spray.