Updated: May 27
This post may contain affiliate links and that means I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. Don't worry, I only recommend products that I use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own.
Leaving your country can be a challenging journey. I will show you a list of 40 things to do before moving to Canada based on my own experience planning the entire trip from Chile to Canada.
I have separated the content in different categories so you can easily navigate through them.
Before I jump right in, here is a story that happened to me because I did not have this information.
If you are in a hurry, pick from the table of contents below for what you are looking for.
Table of contents
It was January 5, 2021 and in the middle of the Chilean summer, I went to the phone company with two clear objectives: to cancel my monthly plan and an insurance that protected my cell phone in case of damage or theft.
Everything went smoothly, we were already in pandemic so I had to wait a bit but finally I arrived at one of the more than 40 counters in the main office. I explained what my objectives were there and the executive helped me.
I signed what I needed, she confirmed that everything was in order and that I was going to receive a final invoice with the difference from the last bill, and I left.
I was walking to the bus stop and realized that I couldn't use Google maps to see my bus coming, because I no longer had internet.... of course... it made sense, I had just cancelled the plan.
So I went home, with one more task checked off my list. Since my trip was a month away, it was a huge relief.
A month later, when I was already settled in Canada. I started receiving bills in my email from my cell phone insurance. I contacted them by email and the response was that I had not cancelled it.
You can't imagine the frustration I felt, the only answer I got was "You have to come physically to the office to cancel the insurance" - I freaked out.
I complained by email, by social media, I asked for the recording of the office camera, and finally I formally complained to the institution that protects consumers in Chile (SERNAC).
I don't know what the successful measure was, but I don't receive any more invoices.
I do not want you to go through this anxiety about forgetting something important, we know it is not like forgetting to take your wallet when you go to the supermarket around the corner.
I have compiled with my personal experience 40 things you should do before moving to Canada. I will present you tips from a financial point of view, related to the trip itself, preparation at home and much more.... so here we go!
1. Create a checklist with your to-do list
This is the most important for me that is why I have added it as number one.
My partner always tells me that I create a checklist for everything, but I do it because it really helps me.
I suggest you create a checklist after brainstorming the things you need to do before traveling. If you prefer, you can get my FREE 3-page checklist below.
This is going to be useful for going back and checking your progress.
Think about your daily life, the bills you pay, and the things you do in your day-to-day life to start checking what you need to do to get everything in order in your home country.
Think that once you leave your country it is difficult to go back to fix something you did not close before traveling.
Services & subscriptions
2. Cancel phone and internet plans
I put this here because this caused me headaches as soon as I arrived in Canada.
If you have a phone (you most likely have one) with a monthly plan and/or a monthly internet plan for your home connection, be sure to call the company and check how to cancel it.
Check ahead of time if you have to inform the company in advance, if you have to physically sign something, and don't be like me: double-check if it's 100% canceled.
3. Check if you have to waive any subscriptions
As I mentioned in the exercise at the beginning. Brainstorm your daily life activities to see if you have any subscriptions to a service that you will no longer be able to use.
In my case, I had a subscription to a small company that removed the organic garbage from my home weekly and we had to notify them that we were leaving and would no longer be using the service.
On the other hand, you could go through the subscriptions you have but are not using.
It would be a sort of cleanup that I assure you will help you save money. Other examples of subscriptions could be Netflix, Amazon, etc.
4. Check if you have to notify your social security or pension plan
This is going to depend on your country and how this system works.
In my case, I didn't have to do anything. Leaving my job was enough, but check if you have to give advance notice or if you have to do any paperwork.
Think that you are not going to work or get a salary in your country, so you will stop contributing money to your pension plan.
Check how it works and what are the steps to follow.
5. Check your donations
If you are committed to some causes and currently give money frequently to support institutions or foundations. I suggest you review your donations.
I had some automatic payments scheduled to withdraw money directly from my Chilean account, so if I wanted to keep supporting I have to be aware of always having money in that account.
On the other hand, if you know you are not going to have a job or enough money to cover the donations you make periodically. Be sure to cancel them.
6. Return any devices
I am not sure if this is something that might apply to your situation or maybe it can give you an idea of something similar.
I mean to return to the companies that delivered services to you, all kinds of devices, e.g. roadside charging devices, cable TV, internet modem, landline phone, security cameras, etc.
Make sure if you cancel a service or there is something that you will no longer use. Return it to the company that provided it. It will also help you to declutter your space.
Health & insurance
7. Check if you have to formally resign from your country's healthcare system
This is similar to what I mentioned regarding the pension plan. It is going to depend on how your country's healthcare system works.
In Chile, we have a private and a public system. My partner was part of the private system, so he had to physically go to sign to finalize the contract with them.
In my case, I did not have to resign because I got a transfer to the company where I was working, which kept me with the same Chilean salary, but for the purpose of this post, it will depend on your situation and your country.
Be sure to research beforehand if you have to notify the health system or sign any papers.
8. Cancel insurance that does not cover you abroad
If you are paying for any insurance for yourself or your family, I would recommend you review the conditions of that policy.
From a personal point of view, I had life insurance in my country, so I sent them an email to ask if that policy covered me in case I was abroad. With that, I could rest assured whether I could continue with the insurance or have to close it.
This can apply to health insurance, cell phone insurance, life insurance that does not cover accidents abroad, unemployment, and many other things.
I don't want something to happen to you, but it's better to be prepared.
9. Get medical checkups
Since you already know your local health care system, I would suggest you get a general medical checkup and get some routine tests done if it's something you feel you need.
I am vegan and was in the process of getting my B12 and vitamin D levels checked, I got an order but unfortunately did not organize my time to go and complete the tests there.
Once settled in Canada, and without an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), which is the card that gives you access to public health in the province of Ontario. It was expensive and took me a long time to figure out here how to do it and where to go.
Savings & banking
10. Save more money than you think
I don't know how to stress this enough. It depends on the country you are coming from, but at least in my country, the cost of living in Canada is much higher than in our home country.
I suggest you save as much money as you can. If you have already decided which province you want to live in. Use the internet to get an idea of the cost of living, rent, transportation, groceries, etc.
Consider that you are going to arrive and maybe you won't have a job right away and you will need to buy some things for your house, advance payments for housing, etc.
11. Eliminate or reduce your local debts
If you have saved enough money to close local debts, I recommend you do so. You will have peace of mind and will not have to worry about paying them from abroad.
I decided to use part of my savings to cover my student loan. It was not easy but I did the math and it was necessary because in the long run, it would be more expensive than paying once.
So I suggest you review your debts and find a way to close most or all of them if it is below your means.
12. Check to see if you have automatic payments on your bills
Sometimes to make it easier to pay bills at the end of the month, banks give you the possibility to set up recurring payments or automatic withdrawals directly from your bank account.
If you have any services that deduct money directly from your account, be sure to cancel or stop the service in case you are not going to use it.
And again, call the bank to see if you have to sign anything on paper.
13. Create an international bank account
This is totally up to you, but you may have saved up some money when you are ready to travel that you want to bring to Canada.
Check online to see how you can bring the money or transfer it. What I did was to set up an international bank account, I did it with Scotiabank.
In short, it was expensive, because the Chilean bank charged me a commission for each dollar transferred, but somehow it was very useful. When I opened my account in Scotiabank Canada, they took the money from that account and it was immediately deposited there, so it was worth it.
When I was already settled in Canada and had my Canadian account. I decided to use a service called Currencybird that allows transferring Chilean money to Canadian dollars quickly and with less commission than our bank and it worked perfectly for me.
There are other services like Western Union, Remitly, and others if you want to check them out.
Home & organization
14. End your rental contract
If you currently live in a rented place in your home country, be sure to let your landlord know ahead of time so they can accommodate a new tenant while you leave.
This can be helpful if you want to maintain a good relationship with the landlord. Remember that your trip may be temporary and you may later return and have a choice in the same place.
15. Hire a real estate agency (If applicable)
If you own the place where you live and intend to leave it rented while you are traveling in Canada.
One of the options is to hire a real estate agency to help you with the whole process of finding a tenant, screening, securing payments, etc.
This can help you relieve some of the pressure, anxiety and give you back time to focus on other things in preparation for your trip.
Personally, I tried to do this process with an agency, but it was getting close to the time of my trip and they couldn't find any potential tenants. So I rented my house to a relative on my own.
16. Sell your biggest possessions
If you have assets that are going to depreciate when you are traveling. A good option is to sell them.
We sold my partner's car and our motorcycles after a long reflection on how these items were going to depreciate from being stored in our parking lot. So we let them go.
It was hard because they were part of our lives for many years and accompanied us on our adventures, but in the long run, this helps to increase our savings for our Canadian project, so it was worth it.
17. Declutter your closet
In this regard, I would say: be conscious, honest with yourself, and make sure you travel with only the necessary things. Donate, give away or sell and you will increase your savings and peace of mind.
In general, I have never been so attached to buying too many different clothes and I didn't have a big closet, but maybe this is not the norm.
So I would recommend going through everything you have in your closet and not traveling with too many clothes. I am sure you will find good quality and affordable prices in Canada.
18. Sell or donate utensils you will not use
In the same spirit as number 17, I suggest you extend your pre-trip cleaning to your whole house and do it in advance.
We did it and I can tell you it was a lot of work. From selecting the items, posting on a platform, waiting for the buyer, confirming they were going to take it, being home when it arrived, etc. So be patient and do it hopefully months before your trip.
We sold bikes, a play station, a baby seat that I used for my niece, etc. Also, consider that if you can't sell them you can also donate them. For example, all the tools that Corita used we gave to a kitten adopted by a friend.
19. Sell or donate your plants
This is another detail you should take care of. If you are a plant lover make sure you find them a new home.
In my case, we had to give away our SCOBYs to make kombucha so this also applies.
Documents & paperwork
20. Check that your passport is up to date
This is a priority because a passport is not a document we use every day, we usually check it if we are going to take a vacation once in a while.
So make sure it is up to date, and that it is valid enough for your entire stay in Canada.
If it is not, make sure you renew it while you are in your country. This can also apply to your national identity card if you have one.
21. Leave a Broad Power of attorney to someone you trust
I am not sure if this is something that exists in your country, but you may be able to find something similar. You can consult a notary or a lawyer.
I mean a document that allows someone to do what you need on your behalf. I mean that person can represent you to sign papers or whatever while you are abroad, so make sure that person is someone you trust.
I did not do it and I regret it, so don't be like me and find out how to get one in your country.
22. Collect information about your common-law relationship (If applicable)
In Canada, there is a marital status that applies to couples who are not married but have lived together for at least one year. This is called common law.
For immigration purposes, there is a form that you sign in front of a notary and you have to add proof that you are living as a common-law couple, so I think it is important to review this and collect proof of utility bills with the same address, shared bank accounts, shared rental contracts, etc.
You never know if this might be useful in Canada.
If your marital status is married, be sure to bring your marriage certificate which can be the equivalent for paperwork here.
23. Scan important documents
I suggest you scan important documents that you do not want to bring physically, but that could be used to do some paperwork online. You're going to save yourself some headaches and they hardly take up space.
24. Validate your credentials or degree
If you think you have a small chance of coming and your plan is to apply for permanent residence.
I suggest you evaluate your credentials in advance. It is expensive and involves following some protocols but it is better if you can do it and you don't have to ask for favors from family or friends while you are in Canada.
25. Quote an English course (If applicable)
If you have already read a bit of this blog you will have noticed that we are fervent advocates of the working holiday program.
The thing is that, as we know, it is a random selection, you may not receive the invitation to apply, but you may still have the desire to travel, as we did.
Aldo never received the invitation to apply, but the plan was to come together, so our plan B was to buy an English course for him.
We did a lot of research and quoted different courses, made comparison charts and in the end, he chose the same school where I did a course 6 years ago.
If you want to practice your English skills while you prepare for your trip, you can use a platform like Italki, they have teachers and tutors from all over the world. The classes are affordable, you choose the availability and help you feel more confident when you speak. I have completed more than 100 classes on it.
26. Find a place for them
I have decided to include this option even though it is not the option I personally chose, but maybe it is your case.
If you have a pet: cat, dog, fish or whatever and you are going to travel but you have decided that your little friend will not come with you. Make sure you choose a good place for him/her to stay ahead of time.
A place where someone will take care of them responsibly, where your pet will get food, water, and have all their needs met. And perhaps more important than the place is the person who will take care of them, who will have patience, and experience and will love them as you do.
27. Prepare your furry one for the trip
On the other hand, if when you are planning your trip, the first individual on the plane is your adorable pet (as was my case) there are a lot of activities to complete before the big day.
This topic I have covered in another post because there are several details I would like to explain. If you want to see that post click here
28. Ask about any possibility of relocation within your current job
I have added this option because it was what personally worked for me.
I think it may be an option if you work in an international company. If you like your job and you know that the company has offices in Canada. I suggest you check to see if there are any programs available within the company that you can apply for and maybe opt for a transfer from your country to Canada.
I was going to leave my job and my manager suggested that I look for a possibility within the company and use an available program. I did and it worked.
29. Quit your job (if applicable)
Well, if the possibility mentioned in item 28 is not an option, you will have to proceed with 29. This is obviously going to depend on your personal situation.
See if you have to notify your employer in advance if there is a deadline or maximum time you have to comply with to avoid problems and thus be able to leave with peace of mind.
30. Resume and cover letter
If you are going to work, I recommend that you prepare a draft cover letter and a Canadian- style resume so you don't have to start from scratch the day you start looking for a job.
The Canadian-style resume is brief, tailored to the position you are applying for, without a photo, and without including personal information such as religion or anything similar.
Do your research ahead of time and learn about the resume and cover letter. Typically, these are the two documents you need to apply for a job in Canada.
Essentials for your trip
31. Prepare a stock of essential medications
If you or someone travelling with you has an illness that requires ongoing medication.
I suggest you prepare a supply of medications. so that you can be covered while you find out how the system works in the province where you live.
Go to your doctor and ask him/her to give you a prescription to carry on the flight in case you have to explain what you are bringing in those quantities.
I brought inhalers for asthma and levothyroxine for hypothyroidism and had no problems at all during my trip. I still have stock almost a year later (Maybe I over-prepared the stock).
32. Buy a suitcase (If applicable)
You will need a suitcase to carry all the belongings you want to take to Canada.
As I mentioned in items 17 and 18, don't go crazy bringing your entire life to Canada. Choose only the items that you will actually use.
So, check to see if you have a suitcase or if you will need to buy an extra one. Try to plan ahead so you can buy it on sale and not have to spend too much.
I suggest you keep in mind the suitcase you want and then try to buy it on days like Black Friday.
33. Choose the date of your trip
Sometimes you have to make tough decisions and set a date as I did. It depends on many things. In my case, it was related to the expiration of my Port of Entry (POE) letter which was February 12, 2021.
It was November 2020 and a job offer was not yet in sight. I had already announced several times at work that I was leaving, but I really couldn't leave.
On November 9, 2020, I phoned Air Canada and picked a date (January 3, 2021). I bought tickets for all three of us on Air Canada and let Aldo know.
Because of COVID-19 that was not our final date, but it was a start. So, be brave and pick the date.
34. Choose your destination city
This may be another decision that causes some anxiety, it will depend on several factors. If you get a job offer, there is not much to think about, but if you don't need it, you are free to choose any city, town, or corner of Canada.
This is a topic that gives for a lot of debate so you can check some tips about which place to choose in this post.
35. Buy the tickets
According to your preferences define which airlines fly from your nearest city to your destination in Canada and buy the tickets.
If you are going to travel with a pet I suggest you review the post dedicated to that topic, because you will have to take into account their ticket as well.
36. Purchase travel insurance
This is a requirement of the Working Holiday program. You must have travel insurance that covers the entire period of your stay in Canada.
I contacted a couple who have a blog and were selling different insurances. We made comparison charts and chose the most suitable one.
There are many comments about how useful they are, in our case, in September 2021 Aldo had to use his because he fell playing soccer and had a wrist injury. Just going to the emergency room cost 700 CAD, which paid for the insurance several times over.
So consider it in your budget and choose travel insurance.
37. Take your documents with you
To avoid extra worry when you have to present your documents at the border. Make sure you prepare a folder with the documents you need to bring.
Include in that folder all the documents you sent to IRCC for your application, that is, no matter what your status is, worker, student, visitor, make sure you bring everything printed so you don't have to go crazy looking for information on your cell phone when you just arrived in Canada.
38. Unlock your debit and credit card for international purchases
This is going to be super useful. If you have a credit or debit card in your country that can be used abroad, contact your bank to find out what you need to do to activate it so you can make purchases abroad.
Sometimes this takes a couple of hours, so don't leave it to the last minute.
39. Exchange cash
In addition to item 38, I recommend that you exchange some of your money for Canadian dollars. Just in case your cards don't work when you arrive or you need to buy something in cash.
In general, most places have access to pay by debit or credit card, but it's just an extra precaution in case the system doesn't work.
40. Rent a temporary place
If you are travelling from your country to Canada, I suggest you rent a temporary place such as a hotel, room, Airbnb, booking.com, or other. Whatever is most convenient for you. The idea is to have enough time to look for a permanent place.
Be careful, I have heard that there are many scams with people who supposedly rent while you are still in your home country. Do not do that, Do not pay any money upfront when you are not seeing the place.
I rented an Airbnb for 30 days in Toronto to complete my quarantine (15 days at the time) and then had 15 days to find a permanent apartment for the rest of the year.
I hope this comprehensive list can help. There are a number of things we didn't do and then being here was a struggle.
Always check if there is anything specific to your country that is not included here and also if you have any other tips let me know in the comments section below so we can nurture this list for the rest of the community.
If you're already in Canada, what was one thing you didn't do before travelling that you discovered while you were here that was important? Let us know!