Moving to Canada presents tough financial challenges – and many newcomers may be so focused on making ends meet that they fail to pencil in a little downtime. Here, guest poster Pracheer Saran shares his tips for enjoying and exploring your new nation or city while managing a strict budget.
All Work And No Travel… Make For Very Unexciting Immigrants
There are many reasons why an immigrant may choose to make Canada their home – a better lifestyle, improved standard of living, to travel and /or for better job opportunities may prompt them to make the move. Though for many of us newcomers, the latter has been somewhat difficult since the 2008 recession.
Some of us are here permanently while for many it may be a stop gap arrangement. Nevertheless, we get so engrossed in our mundane lives that we forget what is around us – a very beautiful country. The luxury of travel is often pushed to the back burner to make way for our mammoth list of priorities: paying rent, groceries, and, for some, sending money home for dependents.
I was no exception. During my first two months in Canada, I worked in a call centre on Front and Yonge in Toronto from Monday to Saturday. Each day on my way to work I passed by the CN Tower – yet I never thought to explore this tall structure. One evening, as I stopped to look at the beautifully lit tower from the Fairmont Royal York, I realized that I had spent these 61 days in Canada talking to reluctant strangers on the phone and trying to sell services they did not want most of the time. The realization filled me with an urge to explore and enjoy what this beautiful country has to offer.
However, like many immigrants, I did not have enough cash to spend on long haul travel – but the experience prompted me to maintain a travel budget and do some research on cheap ways to see more of my surroundings.
Maintaining a (Very Tight) Travel Budget
I made sure that I kept aside $50 a month for my travel budget – I find, depending on the financial situation, it’s doable to set aside that amount. And, I vowed not to touch that budget, despite the rush to use my cash at hand.
Instead, I suggest using that air miles card (ed note: Click here for Canadian credit cards that earn travel rewards). You may be surprised by how the money spent at the grocery store or liquor shop has been worth something when you can use your miles or points to travel to somewhere you desired.
Look For Cheaper Accommodations
Whether single or with a group of friends, staying in backpackers or hostels is your best and cheapest bet. Not only will you save on the cost of your room, but you’ll make new friends from all over the world who are in exactly the same situation as you are (i.e. short on cash). Depending on the company, sharing can also extend to beer, food and transport, for example. Of course, do not expect a fancy room or room service; but then you will be out most of the time. The flip side is ensuring expensive belongings like your camera are secure so that your budget is not offset by sudden theft.
Such accommodations may not be favourable for families – but they can pool their resources by inviting other families or friends to travel as a group and look for online travel deals / discounts during lean months.
Every cloud has a silver lining – and that saying never seemed truer than during the recession, when people began exploring their own cities. This may be due to budget constraints, but demand for staycations has been surging. There is so much to explore in our own backyards and a number of resources to help.
For example, those on a budget looking to discover the city of Toronto can use the “TAP into TO!” program, which provides free tours of different neighborhoods in Toronto and more. If time permits, jump onto 501 Queen street car and enjoy the picturesque ride by yourself. As well, every summer TIFF Bell Lightbox holds free movie nights both indoors and outdoors. In addition, there are many more things to do in the city for budget tourists like visiting Toronto Islands, Toronto Botanical Garden, exploring the waterfront, etc. Similar services and affordable attractions are available across different cities in Canada.
You are sure to find a lot of affordable and delicious food options wherever you go. It may not be a fancy restaurant but I have realized from my experience that the real flavors of multicultural Canada come alive at food trucks and smaller eating joints. There are times you can get a good deal at local farmers markets that can be easy on your pocket while you contribute to the local economy.
It is always better to go with a budget and break it down into different for travel fare, accommodation, food, entertainment etc. This way you will realize that exploring your new found country of dwelling is not out of reach.
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About the Author: Pracheer Saran
I am a travel enthusiast and a freelance writer who loves to write about my escapades, from travel to beer – but when it comes to finances, I still had a lot to learn. I first moved to Canada five years ago, and as a new immigrant, getting a credit card to building a credit history was a mammoth task for me. I mostly learned from trial and error – and am still learning!
There is some homework a new immigrant can start a few months before moving to Canada to ensure a smoother settlement. So fasten your seat belts and join me for an informative ride as I share the challenges of managing my daily finances, hunting for my first job, battling high car insurance rates, buying my first house and securing a mortgage.