You will find this section a useful guide to living in the Canada throughout your stay in Canada . It explains everything from the basics, such the Canada Climate, Banking system etc. It also includes tips on how to stay Safe and Secure.
Many Canadian families welcome international students. This may be an effective way for you to improve your English or French, learn about daily life in Canada, and meet new, friendly people. Homestays also offer a more stable and secure environment for younger people coming to study in Canada. Typically, a homestay consists of a Canadian family hosting a student in their home while the student attends classes in Canada. Meals aNd a private, furnished room are provided in the home, and the host family welcomes and encourages participation in family and community activities.
Homestays are arranged by the school and students are matched with families who share similar interests. Amenities and location vary from home to home, but preferences can and should be indicated to the school so that a suitable match may be found. Many schools can arrange for a school representative or homestay family to meet you at the airport when you arrive.
Prices will vary according to location, and some homestay services will charge an initial placement fee of up to $200 CDN. For more information, contact the school you will be attending.
Average cost of homestay accommodation: $400 - $800 CDN per month.
Many schools have accommodation conveniently located on or near their campus. Rooms can vary in size and in quality, and many dormitories have shared kitchens, toilets, showers and laundry facilities. There is usually an option of having either a shared or private room, and dormitories are usually separated by gender. In some cases, there are cafeterias and meal plans that can be included in the cost of the room. Most dormitories come furnished, and are an ideal way to become involved in campus activities and meet other students.
Average cost of residence/dormitory rooms: $3,000 - $7,500 CDN per school year. For more information, contact the school you will be attending.
Renting is an option open to students, but price, quality and availability vary greatly. Rents are often quite high in the major cities, and places are not always available. Many students share accommodation to keep costs down and usually find places to meet their needs and preferences. Many schools offer an off-campus housing service, which can provide affordable listings that are near the campus. At this service centre, those seeking shared accommodations can also find roommates. Once on campus, you will often find a variety of postings throughout the campus advertising nearby housing, but it is always best to make arrangements before coming to Canada.
There are different types of places you can rent as an international student. A house is usually too expensive for one student to rent, but many students share or rent suites (a self-contained unit with a kitchen, toilet, bath and bedroom) within a larger home. Apartments are another option, where one has a kitchen, toilet, bath, and one or two bedrooms. Most rental apartments do not include furniture or meals. Some, however, include the cost of heat and/or electricity in the rent.
Listings of available apartments or homes are published in local newspapers. It is the responsibility of the student to determine suitability as schools do not inspect these places nor can they make any other arrangements. Most landlords require a damage deposit and rent is paid on a monthly basis in cash or by cheque. Agreements with landlords should be made with care. Carefully examine and know the terms of any lease before you sign it. Carefully examine the apartment or suite before signing a lease to determine whether anything needs to be repaired by the landlord before you move in. If you experience problems with your rental accommodation, you should contact a provincial residential tenancy office.
Average cost of shared accommodations in Canada: $250 - $700 CDN monthly.
Average cost of a suite or apartment: $400 - $1,500 CDN monthly.
Things to remember when choosing accommodation in Canada:
Hostelling is a temporary and inexpensive way to stay in major cities. Accommodation is basic but economical, and primary facilities (toilets, baths and kitchens) are shared. Rates are calculated daily, and costs are less than other accommodation choices. A Canadian hostel must be inspected and approved by the Canadian Hostelling Association.
Average cost of a room in a hostel: $10 - $20 CDN per night.
Money and Measurements
Canada uses the metric system of measurement. The unit of currency is the Canadian dollar, which equals 100 cents. The most common paper currency in Canada comes in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations. Coins appear in 1 cent (pennies), 5 cents (nickels), 10 cents (dimes), 25 cents (quarters), $1 (loonies) and $2 (twoonies) denominations. The $1 and $2 coins have been introduced over the last 10 years, and there are still Canadian $1 and $2 bills in circulation that are considered legal tender (they have also become collector's items). Canadian bills are clearly marked and each denomination has a distinctive colour.
Banks & Currency Exchange
Although banks often offer the best currency exchange rate, some do charge a small fee to change money or traveller's cheques, and prices listed often do not include taxes. It is best to change a small amount of currency into Canadian money before coming to Canada, as banks are usually open only Monday to Friday, daytime hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Other means of exchanging your currency can be somewhat more costly. Exchange services offered by hotels, shops, and exchange booths almost always offer the highest rates or charge large commission fees. Wherever you go, always ask about hidden charges before changing money.
All shops and businesses will accept Canadian currency, and some will accept United States currency in tourist areas. All other currency must be converted.
Banks and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)
Students can easily access the many banks and affiliated ATMs in Canada. They are especially easy to find in large cities, and are more convenient than credit cards and traveller's cheques. You can usually use a regular bank card or a major credit card at ATMs to withdraw cash. It might also be possible to open a local account which would come with an ATM card. ATM cards can also be used at many stores in Canada to pay for items such as groceries and clothing.
Banks offer a variety of services to their customers including currency exchange, safety deposit boxes for storage of passports, and savings accounts. Many Canadians use personal cheques issued by banks as an efficient means to pay for services.
Traveller's Cheques and Credit Cards
Traveller's cheques are a recommended form of currency when travelling (for safety reasons) and can be purchased at major Canadian banks. They are easily replaced if stolen or lost. Most shops, hotels, restaurants and attractions accept traveller's cheques as well as major credit cards.
The rate of exchange in effect on the day of a credit card transaction will be automatically updated on your credit card bill. Students can also apply for credit cards when they arrive in Canada; however, the expenses are due at the end of every month with interest charged on unpaid expenses.
Some provinces apply a provincial tax levy to goods and services. All provinces must apply the federal Goods & Services Tax (GST) of seven per cent to most purchases. As a visitor, a portion of the GST may be refunded to you upon your departure from Canada. There are restrictions that apply and you must provide original receipts. Contact Revenue Canada or your school for further information. GST refund forms can be obtained at the information counters at airports and at most shopping malls.
There are many climatic variations in Canada, ranging from the permanently frozen ice caps north of the 70th parallel to the lush vegetation of British Columbia's west coast. On the whole, however, Canada has four very distinct seasons, particularly in the more populated regions along the US border. Daytime summer temperatures can rise to 35°C and higher, while lows of -15°C are not uncommon in winter. More moderate temperatures are the norm in spring and fall.
Over the years, Canadians have adapted extremely well to the colder periods of weather by installing heat in housing and cars, and by having heated public transportation systems, and in some instances - in walkways to and from buildings in schools.
Canadians enjoy a standard of living among the highest in the world. More than 65 per cent of Canadians own their own homes, with a higher percentage owning durable goods, such as automobiles, refrigerators, washing machines, television, telephones and radios.
Media, entertainment and artistic endeavours are well-developed in Canada. Canadians are proud of their world-renowned and highly sophisticated broadcasting system which includes more than 1,000 AM and FM radio stations and some 719 television stations to serve, entertain and educate the listening and viewing audience.
Canada is a country of immigrants and has both a tradition and policy of encouraging multicultural diversity.
Almost all of the world's ethnic groups are represented in Canada. As a result, most ethnic foods and recreational activities associated with specific cultures are available in Canada. Clubs, informal clubs and associations representing a multitude of ethnic backgrounds are also easily accessible. International student advisors at schools can help students get in touch with such groups.
All major urban centres have a variety of shopping malls, restaurants, theatres, art galleries and museums. Canadian cities provide numerous parks, gardens and beaches for public use, as well as excellent sports and recreation facilities .
Canadians place a high value on their natural environment. There are currently 39 national parks and national park reserves in Canada, located in every province and territory. Each province and territory has also designated areas as provincial parks, wilderness areas, ecological and nature reserves. There are over 2000 of these designated areas across the country.
Students who come to Canada will witness one of the most beautiful, natural environments in the world. Canada is also a country of diverse geography, and there is much to experience in its great outdoors: from the lush coastline of British Columbia, the majestic Rocky Mountains of Alberta, the big skies of the prairies, to the 'maple sugar country' in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence and the rugged hills and picturesque coastline of the Atlantic provinces.
Canada is well-known as a safe, just and peaceful society. Canadian crime rates have been falling steadily since the 1990s. Canada's police-reported a decrease in the crime rate for the sixth year in a row, falling by five per cent. Violent crimes declined for the fifth year in a row and Canada's homicide rate now accounts for less than one percent of all reported violent incidents. Unlike its US neighbours to the south, firearms are strictly controlled and generally are not permitted in Canada.
Canada is an international leader in computer and information technologies and has a reputation for excellence in such sectors as telecommunications, transportation and engineering; and specifically, aerospace, urban transport, microelectronics, medical devices, advanced software, hydroelectric and nuclear power, lasers and opto-electronics, biotechnology, food and beverage processing, geomatics; and ocean and environmental industries.
High points in Canada's telecommunications industry include Teleglobe's CANTAT 3 cable, which is the first of its kind in the world, and which supports high-speed and high-capacity delivery of transoceanic, multimedia transmission. The Stentor Alliance of telephone companies is investing $8 billion to provide the latest in broadband technology to 80 per cent of Canadian households by 2005. Canada was also among the first in the world to recognize the need to connect schools and libraries to the Internet, and its SchoolNet program is being copied around the world. Industry Canada's SchoolNet has successfully made Canada the first nation in the world to connect its schools and libraries to the Information Highway
Canada is a bilingual country with two official languages, English and French. The vast majority (75 per cent) of Canada's French-speaking inhabitants live in the province of Québec, which is located in the eastern part of the country but there are French-speaking communities throughout the country. According to a 1991 census, French is the mother tongue of 82 per cent of Québec's population and is spoken at home by 83 per cent of Québecers.
Internationally, it is estimated that some 800 million people speak English and 250 million speak French. As a bilingual nation, Canada offers superior English as a Second Language (ESL) and French as a Second Language (FSL) training for students wishing to learn either or both languages.
The following provinces cover international students under their Provincial Health Care Plans:
Under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan, students must register within three months of their arrival. Coverage costs approximately $34 CDN per month and is available for the term stated in the student authorization, which must be valid for more than three months. A letter from the student or educational institution confirming the intent of 12 month residency is required to determine eligibility.
Under the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP), a student must hold a student authorization upon entering Canada to be eligible for medical coverage. As of January 1st, 1998, new medical regulations state that international students with student authorizations for six months or longer must be covered under the province's medical service plan. There is a three month waiting period and students should apply immediately upon commencement of studies. The cost is roughly $36 per month. Students should take out private medical insurance for the first three months OR if they will be studying for less than six months in total. Those studying for longer than six months should not acquire private medical insurance for any longer than this time period as it will still be mandatory for them to be covered by MSP.
Under Saskatchewan's medical plan, students must register immediately upon arrival. Coverage, which is free, is available for students and their dependants for the duration of the student authorization or visa.
The following provinces do not cover international students under their Provincial Health Care Plans:
International students studying in these provinces must arrange for private medical coverage through private insurance companies. Please note however that international students attending an Ontario university or affiliated college are required to purchase the compulsory University Health Insurance Plan