Vancouver Canada

Moving to Vancouver: Your First Day to-do List!

Hey guys! Its Lauren & Martin here, ready to share a little snippet of our experience of moving across the globe, from Ireland to the great city of Vancouver.

First, a little backstory…

I am Irish and Martin is French. We are both food obsessed, travel addicted cheapskates who are 100% transparent and always up for a laugh! We met on the road two years ago while backpacking through Australia – fast forward two years and we are moving to Canada. Now like every couple we have our differences and the biggest one is, I NEED TO PLAN EVERYTHING (Lauren).

Let’s face it guys, moving continent is a roller coaster of emotion. The excitement, the nerves, the stress and the nostalgia, with just a tinge of sadness. Then of course there is that niggling little feeling inside reminding you that you have 101 things to prepare for. But who wants to spend their last couple of weeks at home thinking about new bank accounts, accommodation, social insurance numbers etc. Especially after finishing the strenuous ordeal of the IEC application. Before leaving home, we want to spend time with our family, our friends and if you’re Irish you’ll be drinking a whole load of goodbye drinks!

So, if you are moving to Vancouver, count your lucky stars lads because I have done all the boring and practical work for you . I have put together a ‘to do’ list for your very first day in Vancouver – and yes, that’s right, you can have yourself set up in just ONE DAY.

First Day in Vancouver to-do’s

Jump to:

SIN Number

Bank Account

Sim Card


Bonus Tips

SIN number

Your Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9-digit number that you will need. It’s used by government agencies to identify you and is needed for doing your taxes or accessing benefits. Most importantly you need to supply it to an employer before you can start work and get paid! It’s basically the same as your National Insurance number if you’re British, PPS number if you’re Irish or your Tax File Number if you are from Oz.

So, do yourself a favour lads and get it ASAP. We got ours the first day and then three days later landed a job from a random Facebook post! One month later and I am still working with the same company. If I had not had my SIN, well they wouldn’t have allowed me to start work with them as soon as I did.

I’m guessing you’re probably wondering how you get a SIN number, how long the process takes and if it costs money, right? Well the process is simple, instant and best of all FREE.

Head over to your nearest Service Canada Office once you’re in Vancouver and definitely go early! We went at lunchtime and the queue was mental. Bring along your work permit or student permit and your passport. Your SIN number will be issued to you there and then and will have an expiry date matching that of your permit.

Now they will ask you for an address, but not to worry. They do not require proof and if you find yourself in the same situation as us, staying in an Airbnb and not knowing where you’ll end up, that’s grand too! You can just provide the address of the Airbnb/hostel.

It’s an extremely easy going and stress-free process and you’ll be done within an hour, or even less if there is no queue!

Capilano Suspension Bridge Vancouver
Capilano Suspension Bridge

Bank account

Naturally enough, you’re going to want a Canadian bank account and luckily there are countless options. Something to keep in mind while choosing is monthly fees and also translation fees (only a few banks allow for unlimited transactions).

Now, setting up a bank account can be fairly handy, depending on which bank you choose. We went with TD Bank and the reasoning is simple. Setting up a bank account with TD is straight forward, and for people just arriving to Vancouver, you may not have a ‘permanent’ address to provide. I know we didn’t! The good news is TD Bank doesn’t require proof of a permanent address (unless you want your name printed on the card, but this is not the norm). All you need to bring is your ID/Passport and work permit.

BONUS: You get your card there and then and there is no set up fee – you have unlimited monthly transactions and no account fees for the first 6 months with TD.

We’ve decided that after the six months we will switch to CIBC or Socitia Bank. CIBC often provides new-comers with one year of no account fees. On the other hand, Scotia bank allows you to get a credit card without securing it, meaning no big deposits! Credit cards are pretty essential in Canada, especially if you plan to stay long-term. We are still weighing up the options but either seems a good choice!

TIP: TransferWise is a great way to send money from your home account to your new Canadian account.

Kelly here, just a quick note to add from me!

TransferWise has one of the lowest exchange rates and fees on the market, and is used by pretty much everyone we have come into contact with in Canada! You can even claim an offer to transfer £500 over free of charge < Simply use this link!

We are huge fans of Revolut too which we used all around Asia and Europe, which is also a great option to transfer your money to Canada. Learn more about this in detail in the O Canada Discussion & Support Facebook Group – just use their search bar to search “Revolut” or “TransferWise”, or look at the document in the files section, to see which option is best for you.



Here comes a cautionary tale… A silly, young-ish girl arrived to the great city of Vancouver, believing that data plans would be similarly priced to those at home in Ireland. Well, that girl was sadly mistaken. Take my warning, phone plans that include data in Canada cost an arm and a leg and aren’t nearly as generous either!

Naturally enough you can go with any phone company you want. But I just thought I’d provide you with a few options!

Freedom Mobile

After some research, I found that freedom mobile is definitely the cheapest provider. Unfortunately, they are not compatible with all phones (of course my phone fell into that category – Samsung S 6+). However, apparently their coverage isn’t the best, so you get what you pay for, I guess!

Koodoo Mobile

This is the provider I went with. It’s still relatively cheap but has much better coverage. My plan costs $55 monthly and it includes unlimited messaging and 4GB of data.


Apparently a great provider but it was way out of my backpackers budget price range! Taking your own phone to Canada, the prices start from $75 CAD per month which is around £43, and the recommended tariff is $85 which is £49!

Tsusiat Falls Vancovuer
Tsusiat Falls


Now this one is optional. It is not as vital as a SIN or a bank account but in my opinion it’s fairly handy to have!

A British Colombia Identification Card (BCID) is a government photo ID. It is not mandatory BUT, everywhere in Canada ID people (many places require two forms) so it’s useful, especially if you don’t want to carry around your passport as a form of ID. I was actually in a little skiing accident a few days ago and the paramedics required a local ID, luckily enough I had my BCID to hand.

You can get a BCID at any ICBC Driving License Office. The process is quick and easy and we were in and out in less than 30 mins. The office in downtown Van is open from 8am-5pm, located at 1055 West Georgia St. room 221 Vancouver V6E 3R5.

Now you’ll need to bring your work/student permit, your passport and a second piece of ID from your home country. The second ID must have your name and photo (UK driving licence). Unfortunately, the BCID is not free but it’s not bad at 35$. They will mail the card out to whichever address you provide within 2 weeks!

Warning: They will take your photo for the card there & then, so run a brush through your hair before going! I didn’t think of this and now mine looks like a mug shot – you’re welcome.

Vancouver Parliament Building
Vancouver Parliament Building

Bonus Tips

  • Get yourself a Compass Card for public transport (bus and sky train).
  • Join the ‘Irish and New in Vancouver’ Facebook page. This page is a life-saver, but don’t worry guys you do not have to be Irish to join! I got a job off this page within three days of arriving to Van. You can find work, accommodation, events, cars, helpful info and so much more!
  • Airbnb, use it! Most places in Canada come unfurnished and unfortunately craigslist has a lot of scams, so you don’t want to pay a deposit before arriving. We booked three months in an Airbnb which gave us time to get ourselves set up and find an area we like. 
Vancouver Coast
We hope this post has been helpful to you and puts you at ease a little when making the big move to Canada!

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