Nerissa Fernandes

Content Specialist, Arrive at RBC Ventures

I did my “soft landing” in March 2018 and decided to stay in Toronto for three months. Moving to a new city thousands of miles away from home is very stressful and scary but research and preparation gave me the confidence to successfully make the move and adapt to the Canadian way of life.

A big part of my success plan was to secure flights and accommodations as soon as possible. My air-travel tickets were booked 3 months prior to departure and my Airbnb 2 months in advance. I also researched how to obtain the Ontario Photo ID card, the process for opening a bank account, and various phone plan options that were available ahead of my departure.

What to expect when you arrive at Toronto’s Pearson Airport (YYZ)

Since I’ve been to Canada twice before I wasn’t exactly nervous on the day I had to fly, but I was stressing over the documentation that immigration officers may ask for after landing in Canada. I had all of my important papers, including proof of funds, educational credentials, work experience letters, goods accompanied and goods-to-follow lists handy just-in-case. However, none of it was asked for and the entire process after landing was very smooth. The officers at the airport were very helpful and friendly and guided me every step of the way. Since my flight landed on a weekday I was able to get my Social Insurance Number (SIN) at the airport right away. After collecting my baggage I headed out to take a cab to my Airbnb. There are official fixed rate cabs available outside of the airport that you can opt for or book an Uber / Lyft car share service.

How to navigate around Toronto

I landed in March when the weather wasn’t supposed to be very cold but it ended up being the first time I saw snow. Speaking of the weather, fun fact – it’s colder when it’s not snowing than when it is due to the windchill – which is scary because the cold weather makes the air dryer causing nosebleeds. The cabby wasn’t familiar with my Airbnb address so I had to provide directions. In situations like this mobile apps, like maps.me, can be very helpful because they work offline. You just have to ensure you download the app and the respective area map loaded before you fly and you’re all set!

How to safely store your money

Based on a lot of research, I decided to proceed with opening an account with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). I had an appointment scheduled (via the RBC newcomer webpage) for the same day I landed. The banking advisor was very knowledgeable and explained everything to me in detail. I was carrying funds in cash and a travel card and had no issues with depositing the money into my new account at RBC. The banking advisor at RBC has been my one-point of contact ever since landing and I’ve sought his help on multiple occasions. Overall, a pleasant experience!

How to choose a cell phone plan in Toronto

Next, I visited the Rogers and Fido stores to find out more about their phone plans. I read about Rogers having good reception all over which is why I decided to opt for it. I found the sales rep at the store to be very friendly and helpful and I finally purchased a plan with Rogers.  

After being in Toronto for 2-3 weeks, I applied to get my personal ID and had a unique experience dealing with the weather. Read all about it in my next blog post!

Pre-arrival checklist for newcomers to Canada

  • Book air-tickets and accommodation well in advance to get better deals.
  • Have all relevant documentation handy at the airport after landing.
  • Depending on when you’re planning to land, be prepared for the weather at that time.
  • Download navigation mobile apps that work offline.
  • Book an appointment at the bank of your choice beforehand.
  • Phone plans in Canada are very expensive if you compare them with countries like India and even the USA. The concept of “unlimited data” is almost non-existent for phone plans. So be prepared to shell out more!