Bear spray, tax codes and 12 other things you need to know about working in Canada.
So, you want to move to Canada on a working holiday visa, eh? Here are 13 things to know before you head out there. Well, 14. The first thing to know is that Canadians say ‘eh’ A LOT.
Know your loonies (one dollar coin) from your toonies (two dollar coin) and be sure to pick up a cool toque (beanie) from your favourite ski hill. Canada has its own lingo which you’ll pick up along the way, just don't be afraid to ask the locals!
In Canada, tax is added on at the till so the price you pay will always be higher than what you expect. On that note, depending on where you’re coming from, the living cost in Canada can be pretty high. Depending on what region you live in, it's a good idea to arrive with some savings in your back pocket to help you out along the way.
Contrary to popular belief, Canada does get a summer, and temperatures can soar. Summer months can easily reach the mid-30s (°C) so be prepared and pack summer clothes, sunscreen and bathers. With summer also comes wildfires and flooding, so make sure to check your route and local travel updates when you’re off exploring.
Neither a bear styling product or a repellent spray for yourself, bear spray works like pepper spray and should only be used as a last resort if you are approached by an aggressive bear. The best practice is avoidance: make lots of noise when you travel in bear country, hike with friends, and never approach a bear to get a closer look. Most of the time the bears will avoid you, but on those rare occasions they are unhappy with you, carrying bear spray and KNOWING HOW TO USE IT are an essential part of enjoying the outdoors in Canada. Brush up on your bear awareness with a local course or online tutorial.
If you get itchy feet and like to move around and explore, then seasonal work is the perfect option. With 3-4 month contracts, it gives you the flexibility to travel in between the summer and winter season, as well as working in a new place every time. Most seasonal jobs come with free or subsidised accommodation, giving you the chance to save a little for the next adventure. If money isn’t an issue, check out some of Workaway's volunteering jobs. You can do anything from spending time with sled dogs to helping out at a homestay in the wilderness.
Around mid-June, the sun skirts the horizon, meaning 24 hours of daylight. The far north territories such as the Yukon, northwest territories and Nunnavut are the places to head to if you want to experience it. In contrast, in December and January, the sun barely rises, yet the snow makes things appear brighter! Each season comes with its own perks, in the summer the endless sun means more time to have fun, while the long winter months bring the northern lights.
Speaking of lights… if seeing those iconic greeny-blue skies of the Northern Lights is on your travel experience list - your best bet is to head to the most northern territories between September and April. Any later in the year and it will be too light.
"If you get itchy feet and like to move around and explore, then seasonal work is the perfect option."
Like with everything, phone contracts in Canada are expensive, however, having a Canadian phone number is extremely helpful when searching for work so your potential employer knows you’re serious. Don’t be alarmed when you can’t find an unlimited plan for £15 a month. Cell and data contracts start around $40 for very limited data. Keep an eye out for new customer deals.
There are 634 recognised First Nations across Canada. Many are still healing and rebuilding their lives from a pretty traumatic past. The First Nations people are so friendly and will be happy to share their knowledge of the land and traditions with you. It’s important to educate yourself on the history of the Canadian First Nations and respect their land by acknowledging the traditional territories you visit.
What can look like an hour's drive will easily be a 3 day drive on a map of Canada. However, the time goes quickly when driving from A to B. With beautiful scenery, wildlife spotting and cars that love to drive long distances, put your favourite tunes on, stock up on snacks and you won't notice how long you’ve been on the road.
Buying a car might work a little differently to where you're from. First up, each province/territory has its own driving licence. You have 90 days to swap over your current licence to a Canadian one, and if you move to another province, you’ll need to change it again.
When buying a car, the car is also registered to the province, each province has its own rules regarding service checks, insurance and tax. Buying a car will definitely require some research depending on where you are planning on moving to in Canada. Although there are some public transport options linking the major cities and tourist routes around Canada, if you want to explore further afield or get off the beaten track a car is a must!
Canadians love the great outdoors, and who can blame them? With beautiful parks and endless opportunities to explore both the front and backcountry, camping is a popular and cheap way to see Canada’s national parks. But be warned, when campsite reservations open, those sites can get snapped up in a matter of hours. You need to be on the ball when booking them, especially for places like Banff National Park and Vancouver Island.
The boring stuff. In Canada, you do your own taxes. This means at the end of the financial year (January) you’ll need to file your own taxes. The good part is, when you've been working a seasonal job, this usually means you are due a refund! The tricky part is working out how to get that refund. There is heaps of information online on how to file your taxes, but the easiest option as a newcomer would be to use a broker or a free service. JENZA's in-country partners SWAP in Toronto or Vancouver often hold a seminar on how to file your taxes, so keep an eye on your emails around the end of the tax year.
Here’s a bonus ‘thing to know about Canada’, because I'm feeling generous. JENZA’s Work Canada includes the option to pre-arrange a 4-6 month summer or winter season job, arrival accommodation and help sorting all the boring bits – such as tax and bank accounts.
We do the work
Earn as you explore
Been inspired to take it on the road? Bar the flights and arranging your leaving do, our team do everything you need to get there. From helping you set up an overseas bank account and finding a job, to sorting your accommodation when you arrive.