Blame Canada!
November 24, 2007 12:36 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I have managed to score 12 month Canadian working holiday visas and are looking for suggestions for our time away next year... (apology: questions are long, rambly and filled with uncertainty).

We're both Aussies, looking for a working holiday, with some emphasis on the holiday part, but still supporting a (sizeable) mortgage back home :( We are aiming at arriving in June of 2008 and heading for Vancouver. I'm 29 and in IT (10 years Linux / *nix / network admin) and she's 27 and an Accounts Payable supervisor (mid accounting degree).

So tell us Canadian Mefi's, where's the best place (firms / sites / classifieds?) to look for short term (3-6 mth) contracting work in the above fields in Vancouver? We figure we aren't going to make what we need with the regular holiday jobs (ski fields / bars / restaurants). We've done the sums and if we can get comparable rates to what we get here, for around 8 months, we will be fine (for a year).

Where should we look at staying? We are thinking of short term apartment rentals, with excellent public transport. Alternatively, is it worth buying a cheap car for 12 months travel throughout Canada?

After 3 to 6 months in Vancouver we are thinking of heading east so please, any and all suggestions for are welcome. If Vancouver is not the place to get these jobs at the moment, where is?

And finally, what's REALLY important that we should know that we haven't thought of? Dazzle us with sites to see, people to meet and experiences that won't be quickly forgotten (whilst also leaving us without criminal records in your fine country).
posted by lych to Travel & Transportation around Canada (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Vancouver is a long way from any other major city except Seattle. It would make more sense to get your main job somewhere in Ontario or Quebec, with a greater number of interesting cities easily and cheaply accessible. Yes, you certainly want to see Vancouver and the Rockies, but do it on short-term jobs or while free.

How interested are you in outdoor pursuits? Are you expecting to sightsee the US as well on this trip?
posted by Idcoytco at 3:16 AM on November 24, 2007

Alternatively, is it worth buying a cheap car for 12 months travel throughout Canada?.

Be careful here. Cheap frequently = mechanichally undependable, and Canada is a vast country. Also you would have to shell out another $2000 or so for insurance. Sorry I can't help out with our other questions.
posted by Neiltupper at 4:54 AM on November 24, 2007

Please, please, please, at all costs, get beyond the Rockies at some point. During my time in Australia (I have family there), I met far too many people who had been to southern BC and thought Canada was all mountains and giant trees. For the most part, that is precisely what Canada isn't.

Don't drive over the Rockies yourself, especially if you're used to driving on the wrong side of the road. Go with a Canadian friend -- a good driver who has done it before (warning: it's several hours of complete terror) -- or fly. Either way is pretty spectacular.

Canada, IMO, is best experienced in one long road trip. It's better to go east-to-west, since the "majesty" tends to ramp up that way, but there's so much variety that it really doesn't make too much of a difference. It will take a hell of a long time, and will be very expensive, but it's worth it. If your visa will allow it, cut through the States around the Great Lakes, since northern Ontario is no fun.

Really important things: Come during your winter/our summer. There's less shock that way, since the weather is more or less exactly the same. And that way you can buy your winter coats, etc., in Canada; they're cheaper and better here and there's more selection. And you WILL need them.

If you haven't got yourself completely set on Vancouver, allow me to suggest the oft-overlooked Winnipeg. It's a great city, and it's arguably about as quintessentially Canadian as you're going to get.
posted by Reggie Digest at 5:08 AM on November 24, 2007

Oh, and if you get to the Yukon/NWT/Nunavut, you are automatically more Canadian than any Canadian who hasn't.
posted by Reggie Digest at 5:14 AM on November 24, 2007

Yep, Reggie Digest, watching the Rockies appear at the edge of the prairies is amazing! But I reckon train is a good way to go. It used to be cheaper to get rail passes from outside Canada, but things may have changed.
posted by Idcoytco at 5:23 AM on November 24, 2007

Plan to be in BC/Vancouver during the winter months (November to March) and save the visiting the rest of canada for April to October. Also, Canada isn't just bigger than you imagine, it's bigger than you CAN imagine. Expect to drive for 30hours and not have really gotten very far.

Places people are most likely to visit:
Winnipeg (Churchill if you like Polar Bears)
The Great Lakes Region (Niagara Falls)
Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island
posted by blue_beetle at 7:03 AM on November 24, 2007

For long distance travel you'll want to fly. WestJet has the best deals within Canada.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:04 AM on November 24, 2007

Might be obvious, but or for job searching.

Try to use public transportation, car insurance will be expensive for you in Canada as most companies won't give you credit for your previous driving experience, so you will be treated as a new driver.

Good luck!
posted by jazzman at 7:25 AM on November 24, 2007

The biggest glut of jobs right now is in Alberta -- Calgary and Edmonton, but also farther North in the oil fields. Your specialties are more likely to be needed in the city than up in the actual oil fields, though it's the oil fields driving all the jobs. They're both expensive places to live in terms of housing prices, but taxes are low and wages are high, which helps.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:09 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

For long distance travel you'll want to fly.

Eh. I went from Victoria to Ottawa on the Trans-Canada once, and it was quite unforgettable. Do a road trip if you're up to it.

And, it might take some telephoning around, but I'm of the opinion that you could get cheaper car insurance than $2k. RBC accepted our car-sharing driving experience as 'experience' when other insurers would not, which makes me think it'd be worth calling around to see who'd be okay with out-of-country experience.
posted by kmennie at 9:47 AM on November 24, 2007

Why spend the rainy season in Vancouver? November to March is like the worst time there - it's dark, rainy, cloudy and bleh. Sure the rest of Canada is frozen during that time, but give yourself some opportunity to see the West coast during its prime - late spring, summer and early fall.

As for jobs, I think it may be difficult to set up good jobs for 3-6 months at a time. Your best bet may be figuring out what the seasonal employment is, then applying to the HQ for the accounting/IT side of things. I don't know that many companies who would hire an IT specialist or accountant for 3 months. That's like the ramp-up time to figuring out what's going on in big companies. Each of you should do some research on likely companies and just start sending out emails -- when you'll be there, what you can do, and asking whether or not that's something they'd be interested in talking to you about. I'd try to find small start-ups who may need help without being 'stuck' with a permanent employee. You might have better luck doing 2 part-time jobs.

Can you sublet your house in Australia to help cover the mortgage?

Can you find a house swap with someone who wants to live there? There are websites for that.
posted by barnone at 9:51 AM on November 24, 2007

If you search for 'Vancouver tech jobs' a few good job sites come up.
posted by barnone at 9:53 AM on November 24, 2007

There is also a huge Aussie population in Vancouver. I'd start finding out what the main clubs are, and start sending emails to their listservs asking for HELP figuring out where to start (not just, hey Aussies! Hire me!) and where to live, and if a house swap is possible, etc. Ex-pat communities are generally pretty helpful. Looks like there's an Aussie Meetup group in Vancouver. Start there!
posted by barnone at 9:57 AM on November 24, 2007

I travelled Canada by train and it was an amazing trip. I'd encourage you to do at least part of your trip that way (you usually don't save any money over flying, and it's hardly efficient, but you get to see so much landscape slide by and people are uberfriendly on trains so it's really easy to meet lots of Canadians who can give you great tips on what to do at your destination). If you're going to be on the train for more than about 36 hours, get a sleeper.

If you can, go to Churchill in late October and see the polar bears in the wild. I went with Tundra Buggy Tours but I'm sure other vendors are much the same. You'll get a good experience of what the tundra is like (in many ways the opposite of southern British Columbia), and the bears themselves are unforgettable. Just amazing.

Seconding the recommendation to see Montreal. If you can spend some time there working, that'd be even better - there is so much to see. Assuming you speak no French, you may find the language barrier intimidating, but people tend to go out of their way to make tourists welcome and almost everybody speaks English (not so much in rural Quebec). Be warned that their summers can be not only warm but stinky (all that good Detroit air) so probably best to go any other time of year.

I'm originally from Halifax so a bit biased, but I'd recommend it. Because it's the largest city east of Montreal, and a capital city to boot, it's the economic center of the Maritimes (i.e. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) and draws creative types from the surrounding area, plus it's got a number of largish universities, so it punches considerably above its weight in terms of things to do while still having the advantages of a smallish city (very easy to get to know people, everything on the peninsula is easy to get to). If you live in Halifax, don't let anybody talk you into living in Bedford or Sackville which look close on a map but require you use the shitty mass transit or your car to get everywhere. Live in peninsular Halifax, downtown near the harbour. Everything you could need (including lots of jobs) is within walking distance. Plus, because there are so many university students who go home for the summer, four-month sublets are plentifully available from May through the end of August.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:11 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Tofino. I've been to every Canadian province and lived in 4. My favourite place in the entire country.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 12:03 PM on November 24, 2007

Thanks for all the great suggestions. We are by no means set on Vancouver as our first stop, I think basically we want to go where the work is first, and then holiday after that. Now its sounding like there might be better options.

How interested are you in outdoor pursuits? Are you expecting to sightsee the US as well on this trip?

We definitely want to see some of the great outdoors, but realistically expect to based city side for the beginning of our trip. As for the US, perhaps a couple of short side trips at either coast, but we are primarily going to see Canada. The Visa situation should be good for ingress/egress as much as we want within the 12 month period.

Might be obvious, but or for job searching.
Thanks for those, we had found these but haven't found any job sites as ubiquitous as the Australian I had thought perhaps there was some great site we just didn't know the secret handshake for, or else most jobs are locally advertised?

As for jobs, I think it may be difficult to set up good jobs for 3-6 months at a time
In Australia at the moment there is a glut of 3-6 month IT contracting jobs. Is it a different situation over there? Also, are we likely to much by the way of short term rental accommodation (3-6 months again) over there?

Can you sublet your house in Australia to help cover the mortgage?

We will be doing this, and have someone lined up already. Given the current market, we'll still need to be earning decent wages to cover the shortfall :(

Expect to drive for 30hours and not have really gotten very far.
Sounds just like home ;)

This is exactly the info we need to know. Your hints, tips and tricks are keeping us grounded in reality whilst we plan our Big Adventure. Thanks!
posted by lych at 12:14 PM on November 24, 2007

Also, Craigslist is pretty useful in Vancouver. You'll find all sorts of short-term housing options there.

And TechVibes looks like it's still going. This is vaguely useful.
posted by barnone at 2:26 PM on November 24, 2007

Apparently Google has a jobs search now. If you go here, click on Jobs, and fill in Vancouver, it seems to compile results from a number of different!
posted by barnone at 2:31 PM on November 24, 2007 seems to have a bunch too.
posted by barnone at 2:37 PM on November 24, 2007

Strongly endorse the train. It takes all those dramatic changes (rockies to badlands, badlands to prairie, prairie to lakeland) and slows them down just enough to absorb them. While it looks great from the air, it's also over in a couple of hours.

How did you both manage to swing working-holiday visas? Those are difficult to get on their own, but a two-fer?
posted by rokusan at 5:47 PM on November 24, 2007

Noted in the paper yesterday that from 2008, Aussies can now apply to stay for a second year of visa once they arrive in Canada, and that your employment can be with the one employer. Just might change the sort of jobs you are looking at a little..
posted by AnnaRat at 6:07 PM on November 24, 2007

How did you both manage to swing working-holiday visas? Those are difficult to get on their own, but a two-fer?

It's always been (relatively) easy for Australians (and other Commonwealth countries?) to get Canadian working holiday visas. In fact, one of the conditions of them if you have a partner (de-facto or otherwise) is that you both get them. Also, as AnnaRat noted, its become even easier as of next year, with no quota, and no limits on how many times you get one (provided you fit the other requirements).

Train travel is always one of my must-do's when overseas. Thanks for the recommendations, and I'll be sure to schedule that in.

If it increases my chances of getting contract work I'm happy to stay in the one spot for 6-8 months and then just spend the rest of the time travelling.
posted by lych at 7:14 PM on November 24, 2007

I'd highly recommend going through the temp agencies in looking to find work. If you haven't already contacted, agencies like Robert Half have finance and technology divisions and may be more experienced in helping working-holidaymakers. Some of the more general temp agencies (liked Adecco or Drake) may also be worth checking out...also try to get in contact with reps in a few different cities for any insight on how the local job markets for your fields (I wouldn't rely solely on jobs posted online to figure that out.)

As for where to live, I'd make the choice between Vancouver and Toronto.

Some reasons you might choose Vancouver:
Mildest Canadian winters (barely any snow)
Mountains, forests, and ocean in backyard
High percentage of people from different cities and countries makes it easy to make new friends
Great sushi
Great base for short trips during your work-period to the Gulf Islands, up to Alaska and/or Yukon, down to Seattle, Portland, and San Fransisco, and also to Whistler, the Okanagan and the Rockies.
That said, Vancouver is a bit like Perth...far from the rest of Canada

Some reasons you might choose Toronto:
Biggest city in Canada, and one of the most multi-cultural in th world (especially a bonus if you and your partner are foodies)
Tonnes of restaurants (see above), bars & clubs, music, theatre, and other cultural opportunities
Comprehensive public transportation system (vs. Vancouver at least) gives more freedom in deciding where to live and work
Great base for short trips to Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, NYC, Chicago, Boston and even Halifax
That said, winter is cold and snowy - which would be an extra expense in having to purchase some winter-wear. Also the natural scenery isn't uber-breathtaking. One in six Canadians lives in the Golden Horseshoe, so you need to get a couple hours out of the city before the forests are sub-division free.

Hope this helps
posted by dismitree at 6:49 AM on November 25, 2007

My wife and I are Australian and we did this last year. We lived in Toronto. We also had a couple of mortgages to service whilst there, but were by no means loaded. I had some trouble finding work that I wanted to do (there is plenty of work around, I was just been too fussy).

Car rentals are really cheap. I'd encourage you to just rent a car when needed. Toronto is pretty well set-up for people with out vehicles and the roads that I saw were generally good. Airfares are expensive (similar or more than at home) and the service from Air Canada is appalling.

Accommodation was the hardest thing for us. We were forced to live in Hotels for a bit longer than we wanted. It is hard to find a furnished unit where they will accept you with out a local rental or employment history that doesn't cost the earth.

In hindsight, we think that actually buying an apartment in Toronto would have been both a good investment and a good strategy to minimise stress. Toronto had a stack of excellent apartments for very reasonable prices. I think that it was due to a good supply of new properties and a rental culture.

I think that it is a good idea to secure employment for at least one of you prior to departing. There are lots of agencies that can help. I can also vouch for Robert Half.

Make sure that you have a good travel insurance policy. There is no reciprocal Medicare agreement and you'll have to pay for everything. I learned this the hard way...

Finally, if I can give you any more tips, please feel free to contact me.
posted by dantodd at 11:54 AM on November 25, 2007

Rokusan, working holiday visas are quite easy to apply for if you are a semi-professional/professional Australian. We had ours approved in only a couple of days (less than a week).

Having said that, you don't actually get a visa then - you just get the right to apply. You actually apply at the Immigration Dept in the airport. They can turn you around if they don't think you application is up to scratch.
posted by dantodd at 12:35 PM on November 25, 2007

« Older I'm trying to find a good online class platform...   |   Do I have to work 7 days, or 8? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.