Stay in a Backpackers on Your Arrival
There are several good reasons for this tip.
First of all, you’ll meet people in the same position as you. I fully understand that you will want to meet Canadians, but the hostel will provide you with the opportunity to meet working holiday makers from all over the world. If you’re having a down day, they’re likely to understand where you’re coming from.
Secondly, this is flexible. Struggling to find work? Why commit to an apartment when you don’t know how much money you’ll bring home each month, and where in the city you need to commute to.
Thirdly, it gives you a little bit of time to meet people. hostels have a tendency to put on social events such as pub crawls, communal meals, heck, even pumpkin carving competitions. Get to know other working holidays makers and get a feel for where your new found friends are living. Use this knowledge to help you decide where you may want to rent. Only one friend of mine lived East of Downtown and she was all the way out in Scarborough. Most of my close friends lived West of downtown and I was very pleased to also be living West as it made attending house parties easier and taxi fares cheaper.
Prioritise Getting a SIN Card, Bank Account and Cell Phone
Unless you touch down on a weekend, on your first full day, be proactive. Head to Service Canada and collect your SIN card (Make sure you have all the relevant paperwork on you). You’ll need this before any employer will even consider you. Once you have this in hand, go and set up a bank account. Again, no Canadian employer will be prepared to place wages into your foreign account, and even if you find someone who does, this doesn’t make it easy for you to spend. Once the bank account is secured, get a Canadian SIM card or phone. It’s unlikely an employer will call you on the international number on your resume, so this is important to make your self more appealing.
Get a City Library Card
I’m guessing that on your list of things to pack, a wide range of books hasn’t appeared on the list. A free membership for the library will give you access to many books. Not only this, but many libraries will let you borrow a pass to visit one of the city’s museums or art galleries. This is good for 2 adults so a bonus for a friend. Usually libraries in the poorer parts of Toronto have the most lucrative passes such as those for the AGO, ROM and Science Museum. For these top 3 museums/galleries, you’ll need to be prepared to wake up a little early and wait in line before the library opens. That’s because these tickets are popular and will go quickly. The good news is that the camaraderie between local residents is lovely and conversation is great for helping the time pass.
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Rent a Cheap or Small Room
Chances are, you’ve probably rocked up to Toronto with a backpack, or a large suitcase at best. Do you really need a huge room with lots of closet space? I found myself rarely in my room, or apartment for that matter. I had 1 year to see and experience Toronto and I didn’t want to waste it watching movies or surfing online at home. So when I looked at couple of rooms a landlord had on offer, each with a $100 per month difference, I opted for the box bedroom at the side of the apartment. Yes, it looked out onto the brick wall of the neighbour’s house instead of a huge bay window looking onto the pretty street, but the hundreds of dollars that I saved over the months went really far when I set off on my travels towards the end of my visa.
Consider Buying Ice Skates
Did you know, the city gives its residents free access to the outdoor rinks across the city in the winter? The only thing you have to pay for is skate rental. If you really want a new pair, check out Canadian Tyre, but if you’re open to a second hand pair, get yourself down to a ‘Play it Again’ store and you’ll find a plethora of second hand sports goods, including pre-loved ice skates.
Make the Most of the City and Travel Later in One Bigger Trip
Did you know that it takes over 5 hours to get to Montreal by train or bus, over 9 hours to Quebec City. If you consider flying, this will push your budget up – a lot! Try to resist travelling on long weekends such as the May-2-4 or Family Day weekend to places that seem close, but in reality aren’t. You’ll spend a lot of the weekend sat on transport. Instead, embrace the city. Use the internet to find out what is happening. Toronto often puts on events on special weekends. Instead, when your Working Holiday Visa is coming to an end, look to travel to these places as part of a longer trip. It will feel nice being able to hop from Ottawa to Montreal, rather than having to go all the way back to Toronto. Not only does it save on time, but will always save on a return bus or train fare.
Embrace the One-Off or Annual Events
My Canadian friends and Colleagues would often joke that I had seen more of Toronto than they had. Whilst perhaps not true, the rate at which I was packing it all in may have seemed like it. There were several events which I had only one chance to see or take part in, or there was a limited time only. Some of the event highlights for me were the Santa Parade, Nuit Blanche, the Canadian Pacific Holiday train that chugged into one of the neighbourhoods, and a band living on board played a set to the locals in exchange for charitable food donations, The Christmas light switch on had a particularly impressive fireworks display and seeing Swan Lake at the Four Seasons when the ballet group was in town was also magical. If you don’t go to some of these events the one time a year they are on, you won’t get the opportunity the next year as your visa will have run out and you’ll be back home!