Updated June 2018
Well, somehow it has been two months today since I landed in Vancouver after my 14 hour flight from Sydney, Australia. I wanted to put together a comprehensive guide about everything you need to know about moving to Vancouver and Canada. It is a totally overwhelming experience, but hopefully these tips will have you feeling settled sooner.
I’d also just like to note that these tips are from an Australian perspective, so some of the information might not be relevant to other nationalities.
The specific visa I have obtained both times when moving to Vancouver is called the IEC (International Experience Canada). It is specifically for 18-30 year old Australians who want to work and travel in Canada.
Visit the website here to learn everything you need to know about applying. There is a questionnaire you need to do first that will let you know if this is the visa for you. The process is very simple, straightforward and easy to follow — promise!
To enter Canada you may need to show proof of funds ($2500CAD) and that you have travel insurance for the two years. Both times my documents haven’t been checked, but don’t turn up without them, as they can not let you in.
Now, as far as my research goes, there are no two year travel insurance policies. However, if you go with a company like Fastcover Insurance, you can purchase a second year of insurance exactly one year beforehand. So I bought my 2017/2018 policy the day before I flew out of Australia. The best thing about Fastcover is that they have a 14-day cooling off period.
When you first arrive
Moving to Vancouver for my first working holiday, I stayed at Samesun Backpackers for 2.5 weeks while I found my feet and a room to rent. Samesun was fantastic, but living in a dorm for that long isn’t that fantastic. It was also draining on the bank account.
So take two, I decided to find an Airbnb for a week while I searched. This was a much better solution. It was around the same price, but the room I rented was large, private and came with its own entry. It was centrally located close to Rupert Skytrain too.
Click this link to receive $30 off your first trip with Airbnb.
A permanent place to live
The best source for rooms to rent when moving to Vancouver is undoubtedly Craigslist. I tried other websites, but both times I found my room here. It is an arduous task though looking through every ad and finding ones that are legitimate and right for you.
I faced an uphill battle this time, as I was looking for a room for the 1st September, and so were a lot of students (#halesfails). But I had faith, and fortunately found a room in a two-bedroom basement suite for a very reasonable price, and in my old neighbourhood. It turned out my friend lived across the road and knew the owners. The power of connections.
A good thing about Vancouver rentals is that about 95% of listings include bills in the rent. This cuts the cost, as does living outside the city centre. Vancouver (and Burnaby, where I live) have many great neighbourhoods and areas that are easily accessible to downtown.
From what my friends tell me, owning a car in Canada comes with a hefty insurance bill. Like, thousands of dollars per year. I’ll just stick to the bus, thanks. Fortunately, Vancouver has an excellent public transport system that includes ferries, buses and trains. They also recently updated their payment system this year with the Compass Card. Just like the Myki, Opal and Go cards before it, you just load and go. If you are taking transport daily, you will probably benefit from a monthly pass. However, you can just load any monetary amount too.
Although I rely on buses, if you find a place close to the train, your commute will probably be pretty quick. The skytrain is extremely fast and convenient.
Oh, my favourite topic (ha!). When I first arrived in 2013, I applied for so many jobs. I had come from a retail and administration background, so applied for jobs in both of these fields. I used Craigslist and Indeed to look for employment. However, after a month with no bites and too many applications sent, I went on the websites of some big companies and tried my luck. Think Starbucks, H&M, Shoppers Drug Mart etc. I finally got an interview at Starbucks and got employed on the spot.
If it wasn’t for that job I never would have met my closest friends in Canada today. It was a great, flexible position and it was the start of my work in hospitality. I then went on to work on the Aussie Pie Guy food truck after emailing them, and I am back working for them casually this time around.
I also found a position this time at Rogers Arena, working behind the bar. It is the exact same work as I was doing in Australia, except for half the pay. This is the big difference between the two countries, which totally breaks my heart.
Minimum wage in British Columbia: $10.85 versus Australia: $16.87. Yes, you get tips here when working in hospitality. But for me, I would still get paid substantially more back home. However, I think it depends on the position, as I am pretty certain servers get paid quite well here.
This is all the information I can personally share, but don’t think your visa will hold you back from a job in your prospective career. I have met expats working in marketing, law and engineering.
Best of luck, team!
The other important stuff
Good heading, yes? But when you first arrive, you need to organise three things: your SIN (tax file number), bank account and phone. The SIN is easy, as you just go in to a Service Canada centre (the earlier in the day, the better) with your passport and work permit.
For your bank account, many banks have a “new to Canada” package. I am with RBC, as I had a good experience with them previously. But just like in Australia, there are so many big banks that all offer similar packages. My other expat friend went with Scotiabank, while I have heard CIBC is good for us newbies. Just check out their websites and pick what suits you — I really don’t think there is a wrong answer.
The biggest difference between banks in Canada and Australia is that most banks just have debit cards, and not Visa debit cards. This means you will need to either get a credit card, or some banks offer an online Visa debit card.
Firstly, I brought my unlocked phone with me from Australia. I find plans here are a bit more expensive. I was paying between $20 to $30 a month in Australia, but here my bill is about $60 a month, which is the best deal. Previously I was with Virgin, which is the company I am with back home. But this time I found a good data deal with Koodo, who is part of the Telus network. So far, so good.
Once you have these three things sorted, you will be ready to get some money in the bank to pay your bills. Yay?
I don’t know if many people use this, but there is an option on Skype my mum found last time. For $4 a month, she can make unlimited calls to my Canadian number from Skype every month. This time around, we relied more on WhatsApp. With video call and group chat options, I still communicate via WhatsApp in Australia.
Moving across the world is intense. You will feel nervous, unsettled and confused for quite awhile. But just know that the adventure you are going to have will make the sleepless nights worth it. Just look at me, I am back for round two! Remember to breathe and have faith it will all work out as it should.
If you want even more information, I contributed to this 100-page guide all about moving to Canada on a working holiday. It’s a cheap resource that covers everything you need to know in more detail.
♥ Why I recommend moving to Vancouver
♥ 10 reasons to work abroad
♥ How to make friends in new cities
Need more moving to Vancouver info? Let me know in the comments.
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