50 Things You Should Know Before Moving To Vancouver
Everything you need to know about moving to Vancouver and what we have learnt from the past 6 months from moving to Vancouver from Ireland.
Like moving to any new place, there is always things we wish we had known before moving.
In this article, we cover visas, healthcare, transport, accommodation, money, work, lifestyle and lots more!
The process itself of getting a Canadian working holiday visa was quite long. Normally it is about 3 months, but this varies from person to person.
Once we got our working holiday visa, we didn’t give it any thought and decided to move to Vancouver.
We bought our tickets and made sure to have enough cash for two of us, about €5k between us. All necessary papers to get the work permit when at the border.
So after living in Vancouver for the past 6 months we wanted to share what we have learnt and the mistakes that we have made. It is important to consider other aspects about Vancouver before you move.
Anabelle has a good post here on why “not to move to Vancouver” with over 300+ comments it is clear she is not the only person with the same opinion.
But more importantly, what you need to know before moving to Vancouver.
When we previously made the move to Australia in 2014, our post on moving to Australia helped so many of you that we decided to do the same for this post.
So if you are moving to Vancouver in the foreseeable future or are already here, we cover everything we have learnt as a couple moving to Vancouver:
Be sure to join our new Facebook group that we created just for people moving to Vancouver.
Okay, let’s begin!
1. Find suitable accommodation in Vancouver before you arrive.
Every rental starts on the 1st or 15th day of each month. If you are lucky and find it before the 1st of the month, you are sorted. Otherwise, you probably will need to wait until next month.
The places are usually rented for 6-12 months minimum and typically come unfurnished.
2. Make sure to book accommodation that will end on the upcoming 1st or 15th to give you enough time to find something more permanent.
Of course, there are much cheaper options and Airbnb can be a bit over priced.
Couchsurfing or hostels are other options if you are on a budget.
The main advantage of booking an Airbnb is you can get familiar with where everything is, find out where you want to live and give yourself some time.
Ideally, you would have some friends here who have a spare room, but that is not always the case.
3. Rent here is expensive.
Once you start looking for a permanent place, make sure to have enough money for month upfront and deposit.
For example, our rent was $1950 per month(not cheap) so we had to put $1950 x 2. $3900 went out of our pocket without even sleeping once in the new place. This included parking space, all utilities, fully furnished and tv/wifi. Bit over priced and it is cheaper if you get unfurnished.
Update: Following this post, we have actually learnt that legally only half the deposit is required for the first month.
Now if you are looking for shared accommodation rent can be a lot easier, especially if the person already has paid the deposit and can let you just fit in with the monthly rent.
4. Be careful of scams when looking for a house.
Never send or give any money before you see the person, sign a contract and get the keys. We have messaged several locations before any respond. Ultimately we found Craigslist to be the most useful tool when it comes to finding a place.
Be careful of Craigslist scams, don’t ever pay in advance for a property. They pretend that they are out of the country and that you have to put a deposit down etc. Just ignore and report these ads.
Try contacting rental agencies, typically they have higher priced apartments and houses but you can get lucky.
5. It is easy to get a SIM card when you arrive in Vancouver.
You can sign up with any phone company provider but keep in mind there are no pre-paid options but rolling contracts only (you can still cancel at any time). Popular companies are Fido, Wind, Rogers and Bell.
We recommend either Fido or Wind(although Wind reception is not the best but tend to have much better data plans)
Update: Thanks Patty for informing us about Fongo(a VOIP service). You can read her post on the service here. Basically, it eliminates the need for a contract and brings monthly fees down by half.
It is not for everyone so make sure to compare each option. Fongo.
6. Phone data plans are terrible here.
Using a lot of data? Well, it’s really hard to find any plan that will have more than 1 gig included. Some companies run promotions regularly(Wind) but getting a contract with 5 gigs + is rare.
The only company we found to have it is Wind but not all phones are compatible with the network so check in store before buying.
Update: There are prepaid options but most are more expensive than the rolling contracts. At big events, stadiums etc Wind reception literally doesn’t work. It is improving but just a word of caution.
When you are moving to Vancouver we recommend getting a SIM card first, as it is much easier to get around with Google maps. There is free wifi in a lot of places but it is much easier when you have your own data.
7. SIN(Social Insurance Number) is easy to get.
You can obtain it at Service Canada office. It is a nine-digit number that you need to work in Canada or to have access to government programs and benefits.
To find out what papers you need, read our article on 6 things you can do on day one in Canada.
8. Get a BCID card.
This ID will allow you to open any bank account and will save you from taking your passport on nights out. To learn what is required to obtain BCID check out this article.
Basically, it is a proof of ID as a lot of pubs and clubs require either a driving license or BCID. Well, worth getting.
9. How to open a bank account.
If you are looking to stay here for longer, you are looking into opening a bank account. It is quite a simple process and takes about 30 min to set up.
Once you have opened an account, you will probably look at the best options to transfer your money from home account to Canada.
We used CurrencyFair to send money from Ireland to our new TD bank accounts. You save yourself at least 200-300$ plus on fees and exchange rates.
It is well worth it. Sign up here and you can get your first trade for free with us and CurrencyFair, normally only $5.
10. Get yourself a Compass card to get around Vancouver via Skytrain or bus.
If you want to avoid buying tickets each time you need to get on a bus or train, consider getting Compass card. It costs about $6, and you can top it up and use it on public transport every day.
Purchase them at one of the local shops; you can find more information here.
You top up your card and tap on at a Skytrain station or on a bus.
Update: This might be obvious if you are already here, but you don’t have to tap off on busses but you do on trains.
11. Planning on buying a house in Vancouver? Housing here is very expensive.
If you are planning to move here permanently, you will be possibly looking into buying a property.
Beginning August 2nd, 2016 the local government announced 15% tax on foreign buyers who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
The housing market is also VERY competitive and far too overpriced.
So if you are moving to Vancouver, permanently it might be wise to wait until you become permanent resident.
12. There is no UBER in Vancouver
Well, unfortunately, there is no Uber service available here. Taxis are relatively quick, and you can just order one via the yellow cab app.
13. Vancouver rental housing is at 1%, only 1% of all housing is available for rent.
If you are looking for a place be prepared to shop for a while as the availability here is at 1%.
We spent three weeks looking for a place and emailing/calling people. In the end, we saw five places where picked one and signed the contract the next day.
Some are lucky and manage to find place faster. If you want to be close to downtown and where the fun is happening it’s not as easy.
In the end, we saw about five places, we finally found one and signed the contract the next day.
14. Everything is taxed additionally to the price.
If you are looking at the price on the menu or a clothes price tag be aware that this is not the end price
You will have to add a tax on top of it to get the correct pricing.
We keep forgetting about it, even though it has been six months since we have arrived here and sometimes it’s not fun when you have two too many and the bill/cheque comes.
The other day we also purchased a Groupon voucher – and guess what, we had to pay tax once we got to the attraction …surprise surprise.
15. Forget about just going to a pub and sitting casually by the bar without being noticed.
If you are planning to go for a drink after work, forget about just walking in and ordering a beer at the bar like you might have done back home.
Here, you will be asked to wait to be seated and escorted to a table.
A bartender comes to take order every time you or your friends are about to empty their glasses.
It is great! But be prepared to tip 10-20% as well.
There are a few pubs where you can go and order at the bar like normal.
16. Jobs are not well paid unless you have a skilled job.
Vancouver is a great place to live in, but also it is one of the most expensive cities in Canada. There is a plenty of employment but can still be hard to find a job.
Unfortunately, the minimum wage is small and if you are looking for an office job you are expected to get paid average wages that don’t leave much after you pay your bills.
It can be hard to juggle all bills and still have fun at the weekends.
There are so many amazing things to do here in Vancouver, but they all come with a cost, unfortunately.
17. Waiter/waitressing jobs are paid poorly, but tips are excellent.
If you are looking for a smooth start, a waitressing job can be a great solution but be aware of base salary that is very low(anywhere from $12 p/h upwards).
The tips, however, are high and average tipping percentage is at 15% so not bad at all, and if you have a busy night even better.
18. Basement suites are very common.
Basement suites are in fact one of the most common places to rent out.
Many people don’t even tend to advertise their space online and just places sticker on the windows.
If you are looking for a rental, make sure to walk around the neighbourhoods and call to say that you are outside and would like to see the apartment.
19. You are taxed high even on average earnings
The federal tax rate for 2016 is at 15% on the first $45,282 of taxable income. More information can be found on the Canadian government site here.
In comparison to Europe, Canada has lower taxes. See how Canada compares in this article.
20. Shop around for a bank account that has no fees.
Although we mentioned in previous points that it doesn’t take much time to open a bank account, different banks have different rules and offers.
For example, to set up an account in Tangerine Bank you must have either Canadian ID(BCID) or another bank account in the country to issue yourself with a cheque to prove your identity.
Tangerine bank and Scotia bank are one of the banks that won’t charge you any fees for the first year. When you do get set up, transferring money via Currency Fair is your best way to save on exchange rates.
We just moved banks; we were with TD bank but just moved to CIBC as they have no fees for the first year and give you $300 when you open an account! This offer might not be here when you arrive.
The offer we got was 6 months no bank charges with TD Bank and then just recently moved to CIBC and got no fees for 1 year. So all in all 1 and a half years no fees.
21. You can organise everything on day 1 when moving to Vancouver.
You can easily get yourself nicely set up on day one and our article on 6 Essential Services You Can Do On Day One has you covered.
22. You will quickly find out that you need a credit card.
The reality is that some places do not accept debit cards.
Ranging from food trucks, car rental companies(such as EVO and Car2Go) through to local online shops that do take away, you will need to use a credit card to pay.
When you are moving to Vancouver, you don’t have to get a credit card, but they do come in handy from time to time.
If your Irish card doesn’t work on “debit” try to use it as “credit” and generally, this solves the problem.
23. How to get a credit card when moving to Vancouver.
Different banks have different rules. TD, for example, does only so-called ‘secured cards’ that require a deposit for half the value of the credit card.
The rule is as follows: if you want $500 credit card, you will need to give $500 that will be frozen, $2000 will require $2000 security deposit.
Some other banks will do a 50% secured deposit on your credit card, it just depends on the bank so be sure to ask.
Our advice is to shop around before you make any quick decision.
When we moved from TD to CIBC, we got a credit card with no problems or fees for the first year.
24. You need to transfer money from your home account to your brand new Canadian account.
We have spent hours researching best options and cheapest companies for money exchange rates. Being currency fair customers for over three years, we were looking at different options before we have decided that they are the best.
When you are moving to Vancouver don’t just get ripped off by the banks it is just not worth it!
25. It’s easier to transfer money to Canadian account than from Canada abroad.
When it comes to sending money back home, we have found out that most if not all of the banks charge you a set fee, and you have to go physically into the branch and lodge the request.
Having transferred money back home was not easy with TD, it took a lot of hassle and at the end, we just transferred money to Currency Fair and from there to home (much easier!).
26. TD does Visa to Visa quick transfers across the world.
If you need to do a quick money transfer without looking at the best exchange rates, your option could be Visa transfer.
For a fixed rate, TD has set up Visa card transfers where you can transfer money within 24 hours to any Visa card in the world.
We have used it once, and it is very easy to set up- all you need is the name on the card, address, card number and you are ready to go.
The downside is that our TD account was blocked the following morning as they thought the transaction was fraudulent. In result took few days to re-open the account.
27. Visit more than one bank before you open bank account.
We had checked several banks before decided to set up an account with one of them. As a result, we got a fee-free account for six months.
We got a fee-free account for six months. Now as the time goes by and we settled down, we have moved to CIBC for a year with no fees. Our advice is shop around and don’t afraid to move if you aren’t happy with the service.
28. Coming in and out of the country on a working holiday visa is super easy.
If you have just arrived and need to go back home for a while, coming back again is easy.
We went back home for over two weeks after being here for just over three months, and the process couldn’t be any simpler.
All you need is your passport and work permit much easier than when moving to Vancouver for the first time.
29. What will you need when you are moving to Vancouver and coming into the country for the first time on a WHV.
Don’t worry; we went through this process as well, and there is nothing to stress about.
As long as you have your POE, passport, insurance, sufficient funds and outbound flights you are all set.
They are very relaxed at the airport, and we were only asked for passports and POE.
30. Each area in Vancouver is different.
There are neighbourhoods with distinct cultures and flavours, lending each a smaller town feel, despite being a part of one of the biggest cities in the second largest country on earth.
31. The weather changes a lot here.
You will soon realise after moving to Vancouver that the weather is ever changing here. This, however, won’t bother you too much as the views are spectacular.
It also rains a lot so be sure to bring a weather proof jacket – Thanks Eva for this tip and others.
32. Vancouver is considered as one of the best cities to live in(YAY).
We totally agree with this statement. Since we’ve arrived here, the city is treating us very well, and we just love the vibe and different areas with their distinctive characters.
The mountains and the ocean combined make one of the best cities with the most incredible views.
33. Attractions in and around the city are expensive.
If you have only arrived and planning to enjoy yourself first and do a bit of exploring before you get a job, be aware that everything costs here.
Most attractions are not free of charge, and you will quickly realise that your budget is running low.
Well ok, we might be exaggerating a bit, if you dig a bit and ask around there are fun stuff you can do for free like walking tours.
Also, Vancouver Art Gallery does a free admission on Tuesday evenings (be aware – queues are loooong).
34. Claiming your tax back is somewhat complicated.
The tax year in Canada runs from January 1 to December 31, and T4’s, or tax summary documents, are issued from each of your employers in January and February the following year.
There are several options of claiming your tax back, and you can do it directly yourself or get a company like taxback.com who will have it sorted for you for a fee.
The safest option is to get someone handle it to avoid any mistakes and not getting your money back.
35. Doctors are ridiculously expensive.
Unfortunately, this statement is based on our experience.
After just arriving into Vancouver, Sabina got the flu and had to visit the GP.
The good thing is that there are many walk- in clinics, and you don’t have to schedule an appointment to see a doctor.
The bad thing that it cost a lot and literally within 5 minutes you are $200 short on your bank account. I paid in one of the Kitsilano clinics $160 for a visit plus $20 for work cert.
If you have insurance it should be covered however there a 3 month waiting grace period before you can claim back from your insurance.
36. How to avoid these ridiculous doctor charges.
There are two options to avoid consultation fees:
If you have a visa valid for more than six months and work more than 18 hours per week, you can apply for the British Columbia Medical Service Plan (MSP) card.
It costs $70-$75 per month, but your employer might pay this fee if you are a full-time employee.
If you do not hold MSP card, and you’re under 24 years of age, you can visit
Kitsilano Pine Clinic for a free consultation and prescription(it is now closed). If you are over 24 years old, you can still visit them before 12 pm and just pay for prescriptions.
37. Bank overdraft fees are high.
If you are one of the lucky ones, you managed to open an account with no fees for the first six months or even a year.
Every bank, however, will give you so-called ‘overdraft limit’ at $100-$200 per month. There is no way of not having the overdraft limit, but you can ask you bank for a fixed over limit fee which is normal $4-5 a month (depending on your bank).
The good thing is that if you have no money, and any direct debits or fees that come in, you avoid the $20-30 over limit fee.
The downside is that your bank will charge you $5 each time you reach for the overdraft money.
You don’t have to have an overdraft, but it will be recommended to avoid the $30 over limit fee~, but you can ask you bank for a fixed over limit fee which is normal $4 a month (depending on your bank).
38. You need to convert your driving licence to B.C drivers licence.
After moving here, you have 90 days to switch over your valid licence to a B.C. driver’s licence.
There are different licensing requirements depending on where you’re from.
If you have a driver’s licence from any of the countries or regions where BC has a reciprocal licence agreement in place and at least two years of driving experience, then you can usually just exchange for a B.C. driver’s licence right away. More information is available here.
39. You don’t need to own a car to have a car.
You will notice ‘Car 2 Go’ or ‘Evo‘ cars everywhere.
There is a small joining registration fee, and then you pay as you go(look out for promo codes). Keep in mind that you need your B.C driver licence to be able to use this service.
Some people have mentioned that you can use Car2Go on an international license but keep in mind you have to change your license after 3 months.
40. The Vancouver climate here is rather mild.
The summer here is very good as the city, protected by Vancouver Island, enjoys more sunshine than BC’s other coastal areas.
Autumn and winter are usually very wet and cloudy in the city.
Nearby Cypress, Grouse and Seymour mountains receive snowfalls during the winter, creating great conditions for winter sports.
41. Expect to have to tip 10-20% for most services.
You won’t go to a pub, restaurant or just grab a quick bite to eat somewhere without leaving a tip. The tipping percentage starts at 10% and up.
If you don’t have any cash not to worry, you will be asked to add the tip on card machine before you can put your pin number. As a result, the service here is generally top notch.
42. Vancouver has a big movie scene.
Not only do many stars own apartments here, but movies and tv shows are being recorded here every day.
Some of the popular movies like 50 Shades of Grey, I Robot, Fantastic Four, Man of Steel, etc., if you want to know what’s happening tomorrow or in a months time check out YVRshoots.
43. You will quickly learn that you don’t want to be near East Hastings.
This area is considered one of the poorest streets in Canada and there is no need to explain it why as it’s obvious the second you enter the area. Plenty of drug use and homeless people.
44. There is a lot of homeless young people.
You will notice that Granville Street and the area is packed with young people living on the streets. It is a sad and controversial view but after a while, it seems everyone is used to it. It’s part of the picture. It seems to be more of a strange lifestyle choice.
In Winter Vancouver gets a lot of Ontario and Quebec people.
45. Happy hour will become your best friend.
Although the price for a pint and other drinks is on average quite high, you will quickly learn that time 3-6pm is best to have a drink. The regular pint on average can cost anywhere between $7-$11.
Happy hour is at $5 or even a $3.50 in some smaller known pubs.
46. You will be getting a bike in no time after moving to Vancouver.
The city has great bike lanes, and it seems that bikes overtook the streets. In the morning and at 5 pm the streets flood with people on bikes.
Although this is not Amsterdam, bikes play a significant part in everyone’s lifestyle.
Update: A new rental bike scheme has been put in place and by the end of summer 2016 in Vancouver, BC there will be 1.500 bicycles and 150 stations. You can learn more about Mobi and the service here.
Also be sure to wear a helmet! 😀
47. Summer is packed with festivals.
If you are planning on moving to Vancouver anytime soon, do not miss out on the celebrations.
There is something happening every weekend and the summer is packed with events. Because the season is short here, July and August are loaded with events taking place across the city and B.C. so make sure to check out some of them.
48. What to do if you have just arrived?
We had no idea of what we needed to organise when we first arrived and more so how long will it take us.
We have learned that it is very easy to go through the process of getting a SIM card, SIN card, bank account and a job. If you are stressed out and not sure what to do make sure to read our article on things you can easily do on day 1 in Vancouver.
49. Do not make the mistake and don’t send your money directly between accounts.
We heard of so many people making the mistake of transferring their money from home account directly to brand new Canadian account and we can’t stress enough how big of a mistake it is.
We have learned the lesson the hard way, where banks charge you massive fees you will never get back.
For this reason, we have put together a Money Transfer Guide so please read and save and never pay those fees again. And as we mentioned sign up with CurrencyFair here and get your first transfer for FREE
50. If you are travelling to the USA be sure to get an ESTA
Seattle is only a few hours drive and many US states are only a short flight away. Before going grab yourself an ESTA. We recommend applying for the visa at least a week or two before you go. It is basically a visa for the US. It last for two years.
Moving guides, blogs and Facebook groups will become your best friend when moving to Vancouver.
If you are planning your move, or just arrived make sure to read guides and connect with other people doing the same as you. To help you, we have set up Moving To Vancouver Group so please feel free to join us here.
We do value and appreciate every single opinion, and we do hope that your time here will be one of the best experiences.
Don’t forget to share and pin 🙂
Other useful links for moving to Vancouver:
- Moving2Canada – Useful site for when you are moving to Canada
- Moving To Vancouver our Facebook group
- IEC Visa Facebook group
- Canada Landlord and Tenant Laws
- Say No To Orange PeKoe – A blog post about a girl who recently moved to Vancouver
- Canada IEC Ask Us Anything Group
- Finding a job in Vancouver – A blog post with some great info for finding a job in Vancouver.
- More job information in Vanoucver
- We will be adding more moving to Vancouver links in the coming weeks and continuously updating the article when we have new info.
Lastly, good luck moving to Vancouver and safe travels!