Where to Begin

Papers and other identity documents

Official papers which relate to who you are and where you come from are extremely important. They can be hard to replace if you lose them. These include health records, birth certificates, and Records of Landing (IMM 1000). If you are living in Quebec, you will have a Certificat de selection du Quebec (CSQ). You will need these papers to apply for important government services and benefits, and to obtain a Social Insurance Number card and Health Insurance Card. So it is very important to keep them in a safe place at all times, and not to lend them to your friends or let someone else use them. You could lose your benefits if you give your cards to someone else.

It is not necessary to carry your passport or visa around with you, but it is important to have a couple of pieces of ID (identification) with you at all times. Any two of the following would be good: a driver's licence, a photocopy of your permanent resident papers (the original should be kept in a safe place or in a safety deposit box at the bank), a Social Insurance Number card, a Health Insurance Card, and a credit card.

Using public transportation

Getting around in Canada is fairly easy. Most cities have urban transportation systems, including buses, streetcars, and trains, and some of the larger cities also have subways. You can board these systems at regular stops along their routes. Some let you pay with cash; others require tickets. If you don't have a ticket for the bus, you must pay with the right amount of money (exact fare). This is because the driver does not carry any change. Once you get settled, you may want to buy a monthly pass or a package of tickets to save money. You can buy subway tickets at the subway station. If you have to take several buses or the subway for a single trip, you do not need to pay each time. Simply ask the driver for a transfer, or pick one up from the machines on the subway platform.

If you are not sure where to board the bus or the streetcar, just ask someone, or follow the crowd. It is usually at the front of the bus, where you show your pass to the driver. When using public transportation, Canadians line up. First come, first served, is a common approach to many activities in Canada.

Maps of routes and schedules are usually available from the public transit company in your area, and there may also be a telephone information line. You may want to ask someone for the name of the transit company where you live, and then look it up in the white pages of your telephone book.

Where to stay

For the first few weeks or months, you will probably want to find some temporary housing while you look for a more permanent place to live. Hotels can be quite expensive, so you may want to rent a furnished room or apartment at first. To help you in your search, you could check the classified ads in the daily newspaper in your area. Look under Apartments or Houses for Rent. You should also talk to the immigrant-serving organizations in your community. They might be able to help.

Canadian money

Canadan currency is the dollar. There are 100 cents in a dollar. Canadian coins include the penny (1 cent), nickel (5 cents), dime (10 cents), quarter (25 cents), a one-dollar coin known as the loonie,and a two-dollar coin called a toonie. The most common paper bills are $5, $10, $20 and $50.

Chances are that when you get to Canada you will have some Canadian money with you. If you don't, you may wish to exchange a small amount of your native currency for some Canadian money as soon as you arrive. Most airports have foreign exchange offices which can do this for you. Try not to exchange too much, however, since the rate of exchange (how much your money will buy) may not be as good as at a local bank.


In the first few days you may need a few supplies, like food and extra clothing. Stores in Canada may be set up a little differently than in your native country.

Most Canadian stores have central cashiers where you pay for your goods, but they can be hard to find. Grocery stores usually have rows of cashiers at the entrance to the store, and you bring your goods to the cash, line up and pay. Department stores, which sell a variety of products, are sometimes set up this way too. Other stores have cashiers set up in different places around the store, and you pay at the nearest cashier. You will receive a paper receipt for whatever you buy, and this is your proof of payment.

Many stores in Canada have metal shopping carts where you can put your purchases as you make your way through the store to the cashier.

Many Canadian stores are grouped together in large shopping malls, so you can do all your shopping in one place. Remember that each store has its own cash register where you pay for your purchases.

Many places in Canada also have large open-air markets, where you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers. You pay for your purchases as you go along, from the farmers at each stand.?

Going out of town

Buses, trains and planes travel throughout Canada. For out-of town trips, contact travel agencies, airline companies or bus lines. For information about train travel, contact Via Rail. The telephone numbers are listed in the yellow pages.