I've been in Canada for just under a week now, it feels like a lot has happened and at the same time not a lot.
Our flight left the UK at 11 am from Gatwick, that meant that to avoid traffic on the M25 on a Monday morning we left Birmingham at 4 am. We had a smooth drive, dropped off out hire car and then waited for check-in to open. Everything went smoothly on the UK end. We even had time for a cocktail at the airport!
We landed in Toronto an half an hour late and this is where things went less smoothly. The que to get through immigration was massive. We were stood in line for just over an hour. Once at a desk the Visas didn't take long to sort, we were both granted 2 year visas, I hadn't expected this because we both only had 1 year travel insurance but I wasn't about to complain.
Due to the long immigration que we missed our connecting flight. The lady at the desk for West Jet was used to this it seemed and booked us on the next available flight. We had landed at 2.30 pm Toronto time, it was now 4.30 pm Toronto time and the next flight wasn't until 10.30 pm. Ugh!!! The next flight was 4.5 hrs long but because of the time difference across Canada it would mean we land at 12.30 am Vancouver time. So we waited for our flight and got to Vancouver nearly 6 hours after we were supposed to.
In total, by the time we made it to our hostel and got into bed, we had been travelling for about 27 hrs. I was definitely feeling it.
The next few days have been busy busy busy. We have had to set up our bank accounts, get a mobile number and our tax number. I'm glad we chose the hostel in downtown Vancouver, it has meant that we have been able to walk to pretty much everywhere we needed to go. Vancouver such a clean and quiet city it has been a pleasure to explore it. The views across to the mountains are amazing. The only thing I find strange is there is almost a constant smell of weed, every street you go down you will smell it at some point.
I had been warned that the cost of living in Canada is much higher than in other countries and they weren't wrong. We had a bit of a shock getting a mobile contract, it has cost me 75 dollars for a contract with only
2 GB of data and I can't even ring to anywhere in Canada, not even within BC unless the person I am ringing has the first 3 numbers of the phone number the same as mine. There are some cheaper providers out there but a lot of them have limited coverage in areas and as I am heading to the mountains I wanted one that would cover my area.
So once we had the basics set up I now had the task of getting a car. I've never brought a car before really, the last one I owned was my first and my Dad was the one that picked it. I was soo worried about it, I spent hours and hours trawling through craigs list and facebook market looking at what was available. Turns out the answer is a lot and that made it harder. Vancouver is a large city as well and everything I was looking at was outside of the central area, that meant a lot of travelling around. I am very glad I had Caoimhe with me when I went to look, she asked some really good questions that wouldn't have occurred to me.
Choosing a car has probably been the most stressed I have ever been when making a decision, what if it broke down, would it handle to cold temperatures in the mountains, what if its bad a driving in the snow? ahhhhh.
In the end I went with a Chrysler Town and Country mini-van. It was one of the younger ones I looked at in my price range and I liked the interior, oh and the heated seats!
It is a bit of a beast! The next big money shock came when it was registered and insured to me. I brought this car for 1600 CAD, I went with the seller to the ICBC where you change registration and insure it. He talked me through all the steps before we got there, seemed simple. Some thing that is very different in Canada compared to UK is that there is only one insurance company for cars, the government one. Before we completed the registration I asked the man at the desk what insurance would be, he quoted me 3300 CAD for a year, that was twice the value of my car. Que next panic! How on earth could I afford that, I couldn't pay it all up front, I felt sick. Turns out that was the highest level of insurance he quoted me for, after much ringing around and checking he finally said I could get 3 months for 500 CAD. This was better but still not great, it only gives me 3rd party insurance. In the UK I was paying £350 for a year fully comp and my car was worth way more. Another thing that was frustrating was that they wouldn't accept my no claims of 6 years because the start date on the policy was only for the last years policy not from 6 years ago. I don't even remember who my policy was with 6 years ago!! It was a stressful and frustrating process to go through but at least I have my wheels.
So there you have it, bank accounts sorted, tax numbers, phone numbers and a car all done in 5 days. It has meant that I haven't had time to explore much of Vancouver's sights yet but I am looking forward to gettng that chance. The one thing we have visited is the Steamworks micro brewery and the steaming clock.
Keep following for more updates, hopefully about some exciting adventures in the snow soon!!