When is a good time to arrive in Canada?

The school year runs from September to June so if you have school-going kids aligning your timing to coincide with the beginning of the school year may be a good idea. There are very distinct seasons in Canada, winters are long, cold and depending on your location there can be high volumes of snow. Summer (July/August) can be very hot and very humid.

What Must I bring?

To bring or not to bring…No one can answer this question for you.

You can replace most of your worldly goods here, some items will be better quality, others not and honestly there is no right or wrong,


if you are not planning on bringing your “life” then perhaps spending the $50.00 on the extra suitcase and bringing these items may be something to consider. 

Your SA cell phone
otherwise you will have to invest in one here. The phones here are “networked locked” which means changing your mind later when you know a little more is far more costly and frustrating (see Vaughn’s post, under Skinner)

Your duvet covers
Strangely these cost on average $50+ for a single bed (twin) and about $80+ for a double upwards. They also seem to do more quilts and flat sheets,  than duvet covers and fitted sheets. Mattress seizes are different, in that they tend to be deeper than our’s however you can get fitted sheets in SA that will fit here. If you plan on buying here, expect to pay about $20.00 a fitted sheet.

Although most homes here have blinds, curtains here are way more expensive here than in SA. Expect to pay $30.00 a drop, no lining and at best a meter, meter + plus wide. Kursch rails are also very uncommon, so you will need to invest in curtain rods here, so make sure if you do decide to bring your curtains, they can be threaded as oppsed being hung with hooks.

Pet relocating?

It is unusual for Canadians families to have more than one pet – primarily because the cost of kenneling and vet services is exceptionally high. Gardens/yards tend to be smaller than most South Africans are used too. Many South Africans have brought their pets across successfully, which is made easier due to there being no quarantine in Canada. There are a number of reputable pet relocation services. (see business directory- pet services)

Most relocation companies use KLM due to their good reputation for transporting pets. Most pets arrive in Canada 3-4 days after they depart South Africa, weather dependent.

What furniture should I bring with me?

Bring as much furniture as you can – furniture and household goods are expensive and it’s far more economical to bring your goods with you than to replace here. Depending on where you choose to live you may need to be realistic about home sizes – many homes are smaller than what you are used to in South Africa. Most appliances won’t work here (unless you can get verified converters so double check on that before packing them. Most homes don’t have covered outdoor areas so outdoor furniture needs to be weather resistant. Bring bicycles.

Car seat?

There are stringent rules about car seats for babies and small kids so be sure the one you are bringing are compliant or buy locally and get them professionally installed.

How do I find a good school district and school?

There are 3 broad schooling systems in Canada – public, private and Catholic. Most kids attend either the public (government run and funded by taxes) or Catholic (run by a Catholic governing body and funded by taxes). School eligibility is dependent on where you live and they have clearly defined areas for school intakes – before buying or renting a property make sure you know which school your children are zoned for.

There are 3 school levels – elementary school (Kindergarten to Grade 6), Middle School (Grade 7 & 8) and High School (Grade 9-12). Some schools house the Elementary and Middle Schools grades together.

More and more private schools are opening up however the level of education often times does not warrant the cost of private schooling. There is standardized testing in Canada – Ontario has a system called EQAO which is done across the province in Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10. These provide a benchmark for each school and the results are made available online – allowing for comparative analysis by school.

What is an acceptable forms of ID?

Once you have your first Credit card, it does become a form of Identification. In addition your drivers licence is an acceptable form of ID and a proof of residency. So a utility bill with your home address.

Do I need to buy winter clothes and boots?

Winters in Canada can be brutal! You will need a good down jacket and some good snow boots. Kids will need snowsuits and boots. Mitts/Gloves, beanies and scarves are mandatory. Most stores have some good products, and shopping around is well worth the effort.

Avoid buying jackets with coyote or wolf hair and ensure that all down jackets are ethically made. Remember that Canada and Toronto specifically, used to be known for it’s fur trade and some are still easily available.

What are the emergency numbers?

One of the first things you will notice about Canada is how safe it is, kids walk to school, play in the street, catch buses and are very independent at quite a young age. However, it is still the real world and bad things do happen so don’t drop your guard completely. 911 is the emergency number and it works.

Rent or Buy? What are my options?

This is a really dependent on your own personal inclination and your ability to buy a house or obtain a mortgage in Canada. Most newbies tend to rent first – this way you get a feel for the city and area you live and can make a decision about where to put down some roots. Property (both rental and for sale) moves very quickly, there is a high demand for rental properties and it is not uncommon for properties to be snatched up within a couple of days. It is very difficult to get rental properties that allow pets and in some instances smokers.

When buying a property things also move a lot faster than we South Africans are used to. It is completely feasible to buy a house, have all the financing in place and move in within 2 months.

Home inspections are commonplace, before buying a house ensure your agent facilitates this. It’s also a good idea to get the inspector to explain the workings of a Canadian house – it’s all very different, from the plumbing, heating, roofing and building.

How do I get provincial medical cover?

The process varies by province – reference this site as a good starting point. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/newcomers/after-health.asp. Remember that most provinces have 3-6 month waiting periods before you qualify for health cover so you may want to put some emergency cover in place for that period. The provincial cover does not cover dental either so you may want to arrange for additional cover – this tends to be provided by most employers. Family doctors are hard to come by (most of them tend to be immigrants themselves) so make finding a family doctor a priority as soon as you can.

Do I need to re-take my drivers license?

Yes, you will need to retake your license. It is important to have your South African license endorsed – they will provide a letter confirming that you had a valid drivers license in South African and the number of years you have had it for. Ensure any fines are paid up in South Africa as they have been known to include information on any outstanding fines or not issue the endorsement until fines are all paid up. http://www.dfa.gov.za/consular/drivers_license.htm

Once you have the endorsed letter you can drop by any licensing center and take a written test – this is very similar to the test you would have written in South Africa. It is a multiple-choice examination. Once you have successfully passed this section you can take you road test and once this is passed you will be issued with a credit card sized license with your photo and relevant details.

If you are a new driver or don’t have the SA endorsement letter you will need to do a graduated approach. http://www.ontario.ca/driving-and-roads/driving-and-roads

Expect to pay about $2500 per year for insurance or more until you have at least 5 years Canadian driving experience behind you.

What medication should I bring?

Honestly, bring 3-6 months supply of any “must take” medication. Do bring the box and a PI (information on the medication), so you can share the information with your new GP.

Bring a good supply of products that you use to self medicate, it’s not that it is not available here, it is, but the brand names are different and it will take you a while to determine what’s what.

In addition expect to pay a dispensing fee of anything from $4.00 (Costco) to $13.00 before tax for any prescribed medication. Prescribed medication is not included in the public health system and you pay for your medication yourself.

Immunization records

Immunization or more commonly known here as inoculations.

Make sure you bring these with you on the plane.

You will need them to enroll your children in school and they should be current. You may need to have a couple of extra ones done, depending on your childs age.

GPS required?


If you have one that will travel and you can update the maps, bring it with! You will need it just to get out of the airport!

Most new cars today come standard with one, however there are those of us who still have them attached to our windows!