Practical info


Taxes and tipping
Canada has two types of sales tax, the federal tax (GST), which is 5% and applies to all provinces, and the provincial tax (PST), which is 7%.

It is customary to tip approximately 10 to 15 per cent on the total bill before tax at restaurants. Tipping taxi drivers, hairdressers and hotel service staff is also considered good etiquette

Electrical Voltage
Canada uses 110 volt electrical systems at 60 hertz. You will need a voltage transformer/converter for your electrical appliances if they operate on a different voltage. Also, be aware that most wall sockets and plugs for 110 volts have two parallel flat blades. If those sockets are different from the ones used in your country, then you will need a socket converter as well.
Health Care
While coverage is mandatory in Canada, the exact type of health/dental insurance you need differs depending on if your stay is longer or shorter than six months.

If you are staying for less than six months, you need:
1. Private insurance to cover you for the length of your stay in Canada.

If you are staying for longer than six months, you need:
1. Private basic insurance to cover you for the first three months of your stay.
2. At the end of this three-month period, you need to enrol in the the basic Medical Services Plan (MSP) and pay the monthly premiums.

Depending on your institution, you may or may not be required to purchase extended health care/dental insurance. Extended insurance plans help to cover the cost of prescription medicine, dental care, vision care, and travel insurance.

Since healthcare provision and plans can differ depending on your institution and length of stay (for example, in some cases, the student is required to enroll in the institution’s private health insurance plan), it is best to contact the International Student Office at your institution.

At almost 370,000 square miles, Canada’s westernmost province is almost four times the size of the United Kingdom and only slightly smaller than France and Spain combined. Aside from a car, the most commonly-used methods of transportation are:

Plane: Probably the most efficient way to get around the province. Air Canada is the largest and most recognized airline in the country. Another option is Westjet, Canada’s second largest airline. Most flights within the province are from or via Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Coach: For schedule and fares, please check

If you’re staying in Vancouver and considering a cross-border hop to the US, there are shuttle bus options.

Ferry: Enjoy amazing views from the top deck of a BC ferry. Visit for further details.

Train: Although a bit pricier than other options, travelling by train is a great way to comfortably travel to some lovely cities in BC, other Canadian provinces and even the United States.

Travelling around BC
Travelling around British Columbia is fairly easy. BC’s transportation system is dependable and accessible in almost all major areas (i.e. main cities and regions) of BC.

Calculate the distance between BC cities and towns
Planning on driving to a particular BC city or town? Use the distance calculator to provide you with a rough idea of how long it will take.

Plan your trip on B.C. Ferries
Check the ferry schedules for coastal British Columbia.

Canada Border Traffic
Find out the waiting time at the borders; this is especially important if you are thinking about heading over to the US for an excursion!

Explore BC Parks
Explore BC’s outdoor beauty: an adventure awaits you at BC Parks.

Check out the forecast for communities and regions around British Columbia.

Road Reports
Check real-time conditions of BC highways.

Driving in BC
As long as you hold a valid driver’s licence from your home jurisdiction, you can drive in BC for up to six months from the last time you crossed the border.

If your licence is not in English, you should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) or at least a language translation of your driver’s licence from an ICBC Approved Translator. The IDP or translated driver’s licence will assist police should you get stopped while driving.

Getting a Mobile Phone
Using a VOIP app like Viber and Skype is one of the cheapest options for staying in touch with family back home but phone cards continue to provide great value. Most international phone cards can be picked up at convenience stores.

If you are thinking about getting a mobile phone, here are a few companies that you can choose from:

One of the cheapest options for international students staying less than six months is a prepaid monthly phone available through 7-11 SpeakOut or Virgin Mobile Canada.

If you want to use your own international phone, make sure that it works on one of the two systems used in Canada: CDMA and GSM in the 800, 850 and 1900 MHz frequency range.

Going to the United States
When travelling to the United States, ensure that you have all the necessary documents (passport, visa, return ticket, student ID, etc.). Depending on your nationality, US authorities may require you to apply for a visitor’s visa to enter the country. Equally important, you should check that your Canadian permit will allow you to re-enter Canada. To verify that you meet all the requirements to satisfy both Canadian and American border controls, please check first with your institution’s Student Services department.