Welcome to Canada: part 1

Welcome to Canada: part 1

I’m still pinching myself to believe that I’m in Canada. I’ve been here two weeks now, and I’ve done so much!

Not what you’d think though. I haven’t explored much nature yet, but I have been very productive. Among many other things, Nico and I bought a car, pimped it, arranged insurance, opened a bank account, got a Canadian phone plan and learned about the tipping system.

camping B.C Canada
Enjoying a free camping spots near a river!

For those of you who don’t know what I’m doing here: I left New Zealand after almost 4 years, and am ready to explore and live in Canada. A new country, new nature, new adventures and … bears. The latter is actually not something I’m looking forward to (I’m a wimp, remember).

Hot hot heat

Arriving from the New Zealand winter to Canadian summer was a bit of a shock, and left me sick for a week. Temperatures here have been between 27-33 degrees, very hot for a girl used to New Zealand weather.

On top of that, British Columbia has been having lots of wildfires due to the hot weather. There has been smoke in the sky for the entire time… until today! It rained, and it is the first time I’ve seen blue sky. Believe me, it is weird to not see any sky. It felt like the apocalypse had arrived.

The smoke didn’t bother us too much, as we had to get everything sorted before heading on our road trip. Between all the preparations we did find some time to visit Vancouver cafes, go climbing and do a little hike to Cabin Lake in Cypress Hill Provincial Park.

Reflections at Cabin Lake, Vancouver
Reflections at Cabin Lake.

Cypress Hill Provincial Park is in North Vancouver, and easy to reach. There are supposed to be nice views on Vancouver, but we didn’t see anything because of the smoke. The hike to Cabin Lake is still very worth it though!

Chipmunk in Cypress Hill Provincial Park
A cute chipmunk came to say hi.
Cabin Lake swim, Vancouver
Of course I couldn’t resist…

You hike up 45 minutes and arrive at a beautiful, peaceful lake. It was the perfect refreshment after a hot hike up.

We also visited the Brandywine waterfalls, south of Whistler. The photo at the top of this page is taken by me at the falls. I’ll write an article about the impressive falls, and how to get there, later!

Love Wagon

So we bought a car… It’s a white van with blue interior and a mirror on the ceiling. Because of the mirror we baptised it the…Love Wagon. I love it!

Our van before the makeover
Before the little makeover…

It has an electrical seat which turns into a bed. Because we’re both quite tall we didn’t fit in the bed, so we threw two seats out, extended the bed with boxes, put a mattress on it and now we’re sweet. It also has lots of little storage areas, which I love! Perfect to loose all my stuff. I’ll share the result of the makeover one of these weeks in a video!

camping B.C Canada
Pancakes for breakfast in the woods.

What Now?

I’m writing this in Squamish, an hour north of Vancouver, and we’re getting ready for our first overnight hike to Garibaldi Lake. I am very excited, because the smoke has gone and the views will be superb.

It’s a three hours hike to the campground at the lake. We’re staying two nights, so we have time to explore other peaks and views. One of those is Panorama Ridge, which we want to do for sunrise. This means hiking in the dark and hoping not to see any bears!

Some tips and information for newcomers to Canada:

  • Canada – or at least Vancouver, is very expensive.
  • Be prepared to pay a lot for car insurance. We paid over 2000 dollars for a year. Apparently it is cheaper to buy a car and insurance in other provinces.
  • The cheapest supermarket (we’ve found so far) is Canadian Super Store or Walmart.
  • There is wifi everywhere (cafes, supermarket, restaurants).
  • Cars drive on the right.
  • A data plan for your phone is very expensive. Expect to pay at least 50 dollar per month for 1GB of data (+unlimited texting).
  • Book your hikes in advance, and do some research. Sometimes you have to call, some you have to book 2 months in advance online.
  • Talk loud to each other or sing to scare away bears while hiking.
  • For the girls: having your period doesn’t attract bears more (we don’t want to get eaten first, right?).
  • Park passes are required for entry into any national park in Canada (this year they are free though, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday).
  • Toilets are called washrooms.
  • Tips are expected in Canada. Tip 15% for good service, and 20% for really good service. No tips necessary in chains like Starbucks or Tim Hortons.
  • Taxes are not included on the price tag, so on the displayed price you have to add taxes and tip.
  • In B.C. foreign drivers licenses (in English) are valid for 6 months.

Have you been to Canada? How did you experience it? Any tips for a newcomer like me? 

5 thoughts on “Welcome to Canada: part 1

  1. Lovely pics Lieselot, and great story too.
    I’m no fan of tipping either, I guess you get used to it but in the first instance, you’re always trying to work out what things actually cost which can ruin the meal sometimes!
    I will share your experience with a couple of young friends who are looking at going to Canada for a year next year, they will appreciate the heads up.

    1. Thanks so much Sandy! It’s interesting how different cultures work. I’m sure I’ll get used to the tipping soon 🙂 Thanks for sharing my story with your friends. I’ll be sharing lots of things to do in Canada in the next weeks/months. Cheers, Lieselot

  2. It’s lovely to read your posts on your Canadian adventure so far Lieselot! Tips are a bit of a shock after NZ aren’t they (am having the same experience here in the UK!)

    1. Thanks Emma! It is something totally new to get used to! I didn’t know you had to tip in the UK too? It’s just a bit weird in Canada, that you have to add tax + tip to the price that is displayed, which makes it way more expensive 🙂 Hope the UK is treating you well!

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