A New Adventure
After a complex application process, you have received your Working Holiday Visa for Canada: your ticket to an entire year (or two) of working and travelling in a vast country of breathtaking wilderness, welcoming and diverse communities, and inspiring work opportunities. Congratulations! Now you can begin booking flights and making plans.
Leaving the structure of your life to travel for a year or two is a massive change, and it’s important to recognize this as you prepare for your travels in Canada. Turning your dreams into reality is not as easy as simply booking a flight.
This article will provide strategies and tips to ensure that you have the best Working Holiday experience possible, so that you enjoy your time in Canada feeling capable, positive, and open to the surprises and opportunities that it has to offer you.
It sounds straightforward: get a visa, book a flight, and travel across Canada fueled by curiosity and an appetite for adventure. But there is more to it than that. Before you leave your home country, it is important to think about your travel goals and understand what you need to do to achieve them.
Canada is a massive country with endless opportunities to travel and work, so take time to consider what you want to experience in the time you have. Do you want to explore vibrant, busy cities like Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver? Do you want to spend a ski season working on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains? Do you want to drive through national parks and spend time camping, hiking, and spotting wildlife?
Everyone has a different style of travel, and you will encounter different work opportunities depending on your location and how you wish to spend your time.
Think About What You Want
When you have all the freedom that a Working Holiday Visa offers, it can be a challenge to know where to start. Taking the time to consider the type of trip you want to have will provide a smoother transition by saving you time, easing stress, and giving you more confidence to begin your journey.
Start by asking yourself questions like these:
- What parts of Canada are you most excited to see?
- What types of experiences do you want to have?
- How will you travel from place to place?
- Have you saved enough money to support yourself until you find work?
- What types of jobs are available in the areas where you will be travelling?
- How much time do you want to spend in each location you visit?
- Do you know what to expect as far as climate, cost of living, and cultural differences in Canada?
Do Your Research
Be aware that things that you can easily do in your home country may have different requirements in Canada because of legal rules or cultural differences. Discover how to accomplish your travel plans in advance by doing research of your own. For example: if you want to drive across Canada, find out if you are legally able to rent or buy a car, or if you need to acquire an international driving license.
Time is precious when you are travelling on a temporary work visa! Prepare as much as you can before you leave your home country, so that you are not wasting time figuring out how to get started. For example:
- Update your CV
- Understand how your qualifications correspond with Canadian credentials
- Research the city where you will start working
- Make a budget
- Decide what you are bringing with you and what you can purchase if necessary once you arrive
- Find resources like forums and Facebook groups where you can ask questions and connect with other Working Holiday makers in Canada, such as the following:
Start in a major city so that you can sort out your “boring” priorities ASAP. Make sure to get a Canadian SIM card for your phone, open a bank account, and get a Social Insurance Number during your first few days in Canada so that you don’t have to wait to begin working and travelling.
A local bank account and a Social Insurance Number are both required in order to be paid by a Canadian employer as well as for completing your taxes as a Canadian resident.
One of the best things about the Working Holiday Visa is a balance between work and play. Finding a job is important for funding your travels, and it also offers the fulfilling experience of understanding a different culture from a local’s perspective. Keep these tips in mind to find work quickly and effectively during your Working Holiday:
Keep an open mind when you first begin your search. It might be difficult to find a job in your industry in Canada, and it is important to recognise this to avoid frustration. Accept any job to start with so that you are earning, and remember that you can look for something better once you have settled in.
Start Your Search Early
Time is precious when you are travelling on a temporary work visa! Prepare as much as you can before you leave your home country, so that you are not wasting time figuring out how to get started. Do your best to find a job before you arrive for peace of mind, using Skype for interviews and being sure to reach out to as many employers as you can, about 2 to 3 weeks before your arrival.
The following resources are great starting points:
- Resume Format in Canada: Tips and Advice
- Top 10 Canadian Interview Questions You Can Expect
- Government of Canada Job Bank
- Job boards and networking sites such as Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn
Know Your Options
Prioritise job opportunities that best compliment the travel experience that you want. Short-term work in hospitality and customer service offers high turnover and flexibility, which makes a good fit if you are moving from place to place. Many employers in highly touristic areas such as the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise, and Banff offer accommodation to staff, offering a practical and budget-friendly arrangement if you are focusing your working holiday on Western Canada.
Ski resorts, hostels, and similar holiday destinations will be your best bet for jobs with staff accommodation. Whistler Blackcomb, Big White, Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff Sunshine Village are just some examples of employers that offer housing to staff.
Working through homestay programs such as Workaway is another way to find accommodation and work in one place.
Safety and Security
Canada is considered one of the safest countries in the world, especially when compared to the crime rates of the neighbouring US. To protect yourself from theft, keep your belongings out of sight in cars and ensure your passport, other documents, and valuables are in a safe place. It is also wise to make copies of all important documents for family members or friends in your home country to keep for you in case of loss or theft. If you need the police or emergency services, call 911 or 0 and ask the operator to connect you.
When exploring Canada’s wilderness and national parks, be sure to research the type of wildlife and severe weather you might encounter and exercise caution. Obey park regulations and safety guidance when hiking or camping, and take all food waste with you to avoid attracting animals to your camp site.
As the second-largest country by land mass, Canada requires plenty of planning to travel around. Driving your own car offers the most freedom, but renting is considerably more expensive than public transit. Carefully consider the best options for your budget and for the distance you plan to travel.
Toronto and Montreal are the only Canadian cities with an underground metro system; Vancouver’s SkyTrain is an aboveground monorail. Other major cities such as Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton have light-rail systems. Route maps can be found at all stations for this type of transit.
Taxis and ride-sharing are also available in most cities and towns, with options more limited in smaller towns. Transit by bus is the most common across Canada, with services generally more infrequent on evenings, weekends, and public holidays.
Cars and RVs
Travelling from city to city or across the beautiful landscapes of Canada on your own schedule is a Working Holiday-maker’s dream, but be sure you qualify to rent a vehicle before you go this route.
Pre-booking is more affordable than on-the-spot bookings, and for camper vans and RVs it is wise to book early as there is greater demand during the summer months.
Costs run high for these types of vehicles, especially during peak seasons. Daily rates run between $175 and $280, in addition to taxes, fees, insurance, and the cost of gas. Economy vehicles cost approximately $35-$70 per day. Travelling with a group of friends can make this method of travel more affordable.
Generally speaking, you will need to meet the following requirements to rent a car in Canada:
- Be at least 25 years old
- some companies will rent to drivers as young as 21 for an additional charge
- Have a major credit card
- Have a valid driving license
- You may require an international driving license – the Government of Canada offers guidance about this
Long Distance Travel
The VIA Rail system provides a network of rail service across Canada, with the exception of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and the Northwest Territories. Fares range from $163 to $590 depending on the distance travelled, with journeys taking anywhere from 21 to 88 hours. The most frequent and efficient service is offered between the cities of Toronto and Montreal.
Air Canada offers the largest network of domestic flights within Canada. Flying off season or taking advantage of sales and offers is one way to economize on air travel. Plenty of independent and regional airlines provide service to more remote regions, such as those in the North. These fares can often be high as they are non-competition.
Money and Costs
Some of the most important research you can do before embarking on your Working Holiday is understanding how much you need to earn in order to sustain the lifestyle you imagine for yourself in Canada. Armed with this information, you can choose the cities and jobs that empower you to travel in the way you want.
Cost of Living
The cost of living varies widely across Canada by city and province, with Vancouver and Toronto being the most expensive. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in either of these cities will cost an average of $1,600–$1,900 monthly, and can often run much higher.
Sadly, you can expect up to 50% of your salary to go towards rent in Canada’s more expensive cities. If you decide to live in one of these locations, be sure to find a job that can support you, budget carefully, and ease the cost of living through strategies such as sharing with roommates.
Smaller cities, or arrangements where your employer offers staff housing will prove much more affordable, and often offer much more unique and fulfilling job opportunities that acquaint you with Canadian culture beyond the busy cities.
Minimum wage varies by province, so make sure you know which rate to expect in the province where you will be working. On average, jobs in hospitality and at ski resorts offer salaries of approximately $30,000 per year, with entry level pay starting at a lower rate (around $22,000–$25,000).
This is a modest wage in most cities, but you will be able to live comfortably by budgeting and mindfully defining your lifestyle, and even more comfortably if your accommodation is covered or discounted by your employer. With some careful planning, you can afford essentials as well as save for social activities the next leg of your travels.
As one of the most flexible ways of working, self-employment is ideal for travelling on a Working Holiday. If you have established yourself as a self-employed person, it is possible to continue working this way under the terms of your visa. Make sure your earnings are consistent enough to afford the cost of living in your chosen destination(s) before committing to your travel plans, or plan to pick up a part-time job if you feel you need some added security to pay your way.
Define your self-employment and make sure you are adhering to the legal requirements of working this way while in Canada. As a freelancer, you must be sure to correctly calculate your taxes, so research this in advance and keep track of your earnings, expenses, and other relevant numbers.
Starting a business in Canada is also possible, but you must be in line with requirements and regulations that vary by province. The Government of Canada website provides an overview of how to start a business in Canada, as well as guides for specific types of businesses to get you started.
Embrace New Challenges
The most important thing you can do to get the most out of your Working Holiday experience is to approach it with the right mindset. A change this big comes with unique challenges no matter how much planning you do in advance.
In moments of frustration, remember why you decided to travel to Canada in the first place. You may dislike some of the places you visit, struggle to make your first friends, or need to rethink your budget—and that is okay! Relax, trust yourself, and recognize that setbacks are part of the adventure.
Remember the beauty of your situation in times of doubt. You can change your mind and move freely, relocating to a city you vibe better with and picking up work along the way as necessary. The flexibility of a Working Holiday experience is unique, and designed for a lifestyle that is spontaneous and adaptable no matter what you might face.
Enjoy the Journey
Setting off to travel overseas is a bold and rewarding decision, but your Working Holiday will ultimately be what you make it. Don’t expect things to stay the same for you overseas, and get inspired by the blank slate of starting a life in a new country.
Look for opportunities everywhere and don’t be afraid to talk to people. Putting yourself out there leads to the best and most surprising travel experiences—local secrets, lively social events, and even new companions to join in your adventures in Canada. The sooner you form connections with people and make friends, the sooner you will begin to feel at home.