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Cruising along Ottawa's Rideau Canal | © Hayley Simpson
Cruising along Ottawa's Rideau Canal | © Hayley Simpson
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How to Plan a Move to Beautiful Canada

Picture of Hayley Simpson
Updated: 9 March 2017
Lonely Planet named Canada its top country to visit in 2017. Why? It has some of the world’s most beautiful national parks, it’s home to world-class ski resorts, and it includes a little slice of Europe in North America. Here’s a guide to help you if you’re planning a move to Canada, complete with information on which city will suit your lifestyle.

Visas

For people looking to live and work in Canada, there are several visa options, dependent on your skills. The government website is a great resource as it allows you to take a quick quiz to discover the right work visa for you. There’s also the very popular International Experience Canada (IEC) visa. It allows youth aged 18 to 30 years old (sometimes 35), from many countries around the world, to work and travel around Canada for one to two years.

The most important thing to have is a substantial amount of savings so that the border personnel knows that you can support yourself comfortably while looking for employment. For example, IEC visa applicants need $2,500CAD in savings to enter Canada. Travel insurance is also usually a requirement upon entry into Canada. Furthermore, to work in Quebec, most applicants need to show some fluency in French.

Toronto’s CN Tower
Toronto’s CN Tower | © Umair Khan / Flickr

Accommodation

Upon arrival into Canada, it’s best to find short-term accommodation until a permanent rental is secured. For solo and budget travelers, hostels are a cheap option, and some have discounts for week-long stays. Airbnb is another alternative, particularly for couples, as it allows for a more comfortable and private stay.

To find permanent housing, the two most popular websites to search are Craigslist and Kijiji. They have tabs for all of Canada’s major cities and list sublets, rooms for rent, and entire apartments and houses. For a rental guideline, the average price for a two-bedroom apartment in Montreal is $1,330CAD, $1,270CAD in Toronto, and $1,345CAD in Vancouver.

Vancouver is full of apartment buildings
Vancouver is full of apartment buildings | © Kenny Louie / Flickr

Employment

Before looking for a job, all Canadian residents need a social insurance number (Canada’s version of America’s social security number, or Australia’s tax file number). It’s simple to get one at any Service Canada Centre. When looking for employment, double-check visa conditions as some Canadian visas don’t allow certain types of work. Nonetheless, there are several job boards to search for work, including Craigslist, Indeed, and Monster.

Oil and gas are the two biggest industries in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while there are plenty of tourism and hospitality jobs in British Columbia. Seasonal work is popular across the country, as there are always job opportunities at ski resorts and in ski towns.

Getting connected

There are five big banks in Canada: Bank of Montreal (BMO), Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), TD, CIBC, and Scotiabank. Many of these banks have “newcomers to Canada” packages, which make setting up a bank account effortless. The last thing you need to set up after moving to Canada is a mobile phone number. Some of Canada’s top companies include Rogers, Bell, Telus, Fido, and Virgin.

Which city is for you?

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver is a popular destination for people who love outdoor adventures. It’s an exciting urban city with nature right on its doorstep. You can enjoy brunch in Gastown and then be skiing on a nearby mountain within an hour. Vancouver is also known for having the most mild winters out of all of Canada’s major cities, which is definitely a positive.

Calgary & Edmonton, Alberta

Of Alberta’s two main cities, Edmonton is Alberta’s capital and the Oil Capital of Canada. It’s affordable and offers a lot of job opportunities, particularly in manufacturing, healthcare, and energy. Calgary may be known for its yearly Stampede, but it’s also the gateway to the Canadian Rockies. Banff is only a 1.5-hour drive west of the city. It has also been named one of the safest and best places to live in the world.

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Winnipeg is actually Canada’s most affordable major city, but it also has freezing winters thanks to its Prairies location. However, Winnipeg’s quality of life is great, due to its low housing costs, high employment rate, minimal commute times, and healthcare services. If you can handle the cold, the cost of living in Winnipeg makes it a worthwhile choice.

Toronto & Ottawa, Ontario

Canada’s largest metropolis, Toronto is the best option for people craving the buzz of city life on the East Coast. It has unique neighborhoods, the world’s best food market (according to National Geographic), and is one of the world’s safest cities for its size. Meanwhile, Ottawa may be the country’s capital, but it’s a lot smaller than Toronto, so it would suit people not craving the hustle and bustle.

Cruising along Ottawa’s Rideau Canal
Cruising along Ottawa’s Rideau Canal | © Hayley Simpson

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal is primarily for Francophiles and French speakers, as it is the province’s official language. It’s a beautiful and culturally rich city, though. Old Montreal has the cobblestone streets and historical architecture you’d expect in Europe, while the many bakeries that serve freshly baked pastries daily make it feel like Paris.