How and Why I decided to move to Toronto

I remember exactly where I was when I decided to apply to move to Canada.

I was sitting in Istanbul airport, travelling back to London after spending an amazing Christmas in Cape Town, and I was dreading going back to work. I was in a job hated, various family problems going on, and above all I felt like my life in London wasn’t giving me everything I wanted, it was time for a drastic change.

If I’m being honest; Canada wasn’t my first choice. I’ve always wanted to live in LA, but getting a US work visa is near impossible, so I shifted my focus, and settled on Canada.

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IEC Visa

Canada offers an IEC visa, which is a working holiday visa. The visa is up to 2 years for people between 18 – 35 depending which country you’re from.

I’m from the UK, and the cut off age is 30. I was 28 when I applied for my visa, so I felt it was the perfect time for me to go.  For more information on the IEC visa and to see if you’re eligible to apply, check out www.movingtocanada.com and www.cic.gc.ca

There is no guarantee when applying for the IEC visa that you will even get approved, or how long the process will take. There are only 5,000 visas available per year for those applying from the UK, so it’s competitive.  Applications aren’t approved based on any merit, applicants are selected at random, providing you meet the basic criteria. I applied for the first stage in January, by February I had been approved the for next stage and by March I had been approved for my visa.

When I decided to apply for the IEC visa, I was prepared to relocate on my own, as I knew I had to change my life. But after telling my cousin my plan, she decided to do it as well, we started her application right there and then!

We handed in our notices at work, and started saving our money to move to a country neither of us had ever been to. It seems mad now looking back, but we knew it was the right decision, we were both ready to have an adventure and meet new people. We arrived in Toronto on the 19th July.

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Arriving in Toronto and finding an apartment…

We decided to a rent a room via airbnb for the first 2 weeks, thinking that would give us enough time to find an apartment, this was a TERRIBLE decision. I was slightly too optimistic in how long I thought it would take us to find an apartment. We started searching the moment we arrived, but we faced the same problem over and over again. We didn’t have a Canadian credit score, or jobs to prove that we would be good tenants; nor did we have the 6 months rent upfront they were asking for as a counter offer. We ended up spending 6 weeks in a very small bedroom, in a very small bed in a house without air-conditioning! Luckily the airbnb hosts we were living with were happy to extend our booking, but it was a challenge financially and we were living slightly outside of the city so it was a lot of commuting back and forth.

My advice…

Save as much money as you can before you arrive, and arrange temporary accommodation for at least a month. We tried using a realtor to help us find an apartment, but didn’t find it that useful. In the end we were able to find an apartment through a managed building called Metcap.  We live in a slightly older apartment building, west of downtown called Parkdale. This area worked perfectly for us as it’s a short 20 minute commute to where we both work.

When looking for a place it was really important to us that we were centrally located, as we were both new to the city and we didn’t want to be too far out and feel isolated. Although apartments further out of the city may seem attractive because they’re cheaper, I would really recommend you factor in transport costs and think about moving to an area where you would like to hang out during your days off. Moving to a new city is challenging and you want to be in the midst of it as much you can.

Before I arrived in Toronto I found this article on blogto.com really helpful, as it gave me a fairly good understanding of the neighbourhoods https://www.blogto.com/neighbourhoods/

 

Finding work…

I’m an Executive Assistant by profession, but when I moved to Canada I knew I wanted to have a break and do more flexible work so that I was free to travel. I’ve found temp work to be a really good option and after signing up I was working within a few days. If you have experience as a PA / receptionist, I suggest joining the following agencies: adecco.ca and tdspersonnel.com

I lined up all my interviews with these agencies before I arrived, so I was able to get signed up straight away, this turned out to be really useful when applying for apartments.

How much does it cost to relocate to Toronto?

  • To enter Canada and in order to receive your visa you must be able to prove you have a minimum of $2,500 in your account. I would suggest printing out your bank statement the day before you leave so you can present it at the airport, or use your mobile banking app.

 

  • IEC visa application fee for those from the UK is $150. This may change depending on what type of visa you’re applying for and which country you’re applying from. For more information go on www.cic.gc.ca

 

  • Police Certificate– this is one of the supporting documents you need when applying for your visa, this is a background check to see if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. This will cost £45 for the standard service and £80 for the premium service. These prices are based for those applying from the UK. For more information go on www.acro.police.uk

 

  • First and last months rent: this is a basic requirement when applying for an apartment. Your rental deposit will obviously depend on where in the city you decide to move to, whether you go for an apartment, a condo or a house share. But to give you a rough idea, the average cost of a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto is $2,230 and a 2 bedroom will be around $2,830. For more information on the rental market across Canada, check out padmapper.com.  Although it is illegal for landlords to ask for more than first and last months rent, be prepared to offer more, as without a Canadian credit score or a rent guarantor, you’re likely to be an undesirable tenant in what is a very competitive rental market.

 

  • Travel Insurance: you have to buy travel insurance for the length of time you want your visa for. The maximum visa length is 2 years, and if you want to stay that long, you have to buy 2 years worth of insurance, which is expensive! I bought my insurance with Big Cat Travel Insurance and selected the ‘basic plan’ and that cost £859.09 

 

  • Flights: we decided to get a one way ticket with Primera Air, which unfortunately, although not surprisingly has gone out of business! It’s a budget, BUDGET airline offering tickets to Toronto for around £350 one way. Although the flight was very basic, and didn’t have any inflight entertainment, it was perfect for what we were looking for. To compare flights go on skyscanner.com 

 

  • Furniture – Now this may seem very obvious, but it was something we didn’t factor in to our budget. We made the mistake of assuming we would be able to find a furnished place, but we discovered that’s not very common in Toronto.  If they are available, you’re likely to be paying an extra $400 + more a month. We ended up spending roughy around $3,000 on the basics such as: TV, beds, sofa, tables, lamps etc. We bought most of our stuff from IKEA, but if you don’t mind second hand furniture, check out some of the Facebook groups I mentioned earlier as often people are selling things on there for a really good price.

3 months in…

We have now been living in Toronto for 3 months and it feels like we’ve been here forever. Moving from London, Toronto feels like a really small city, so it didn’t take us long to get to know the city and feel at home. We’ve found the people to be really friendly and  work was easy to come by.  our biggest challenge really was finding somewhere to live.

Now we’ve settled into our apartment, we couldn’t be happier. So far we don’t feel too homesick, and we’ve surprised ourselves with how quickly we’ve adapted to life here. It’s not easy packing up your life, and starting a brand new one somewhere where else, but it really is one of the best things I’ve ever done.

My visa is for 2 years, and I don’t know if I’ll stay the full 2 years, or whether or not I’ll meet the love of my life (ideally Drake!) and have a reason to stay, but for now I’m enjoying the adventure.

 

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Useful resources

Below are a list of sites that I found really helpful regarding: housing / visa advice / finding work:

IEC Working Holiday Forum – Moving2Canada

https://www.facebook.com/groups/554878824565998/

Brits in Toronto

https://www.facebook.com/groups/417603351719598/

Moving2Canada.com

https://moving2canada.com/iec-canada-visa/

Condos.ca 

https://condos.ca/

Padmapper.com

https://www.padmapper.com/

Blogto.com

https://www.blogto.com

 

 

Discovering Dubai’s Old Town

My Mum moved to Dubai a few years ago, so I now spend a lot of my time out there.

Most people go to Dubai for the great weather and the luxurious hotels, but there is another side to Dubai that many people are yet to discover, The Old Town. Dubai’s Old Town is a tiny part of the city, and you can see pretty much all of it in around an hour, but it’s well worth checking out if you want to get a feel of the history and culture of the country.

 

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Santa Barbara

I visited Santa Barbara as part of a road trip, we were on our way to Las Vegas and had just spent 4 nights in Los Angeles.

We got the Pacific Surfliner from Union Station and in just under 3 hours, we had arrived in the charming city of Santa Barbara.

The train takes you to the centre of town, and it was a short walk from our hotel – Hotel Milo. The hotel was right on the beach and walking distance to everything, which makes sense as the city is a small with a population of less than a 100,000. The hotel was perfect for what we were looking for, it was inexpensive and simple. If you’re looking to spend a bit more check out the following hotels: San Ysidro Ranch and the Belmond El Encanto 

There isn’t much to do in Santa Barbara apart from relax on the beach, eat and enjoy the beautiful Spanish Colonial style architecture.

One restaurant you should definitely try whilst you’re in town is Olio e Limone Ristoronte they serve the most delicious Italian food, I still dream about their angel hair pasta..

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Why Rome is the perfect weekend getaway..

Rome is the perfect weekend getaway, it has something for everyone, museums, art galleries, great food and depending when you go, great weather!

Top 5 Things to Do in Rome

Rome is the perfect weekend getaway, because there is so much to see and do, so I’ve compiled a list of my Top 5 Things to See and Do..

  • The Vatican: book your tickets in advance online to avoid the long queues. Go early in the morning to as this is when the museum is quietest.  There is so much to see, so give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it, we spent around 3 hours exploring, but if you opt for a tour it will take you most of the day.
  • The Colosseum: again book in advance, all the major tourist attractions in Rome get busy, and you can end up wasting a lot of time queueing if you’re not organized.
  • EAT EAT EAT! This is a pasta lovers dream (aka my dream!). Avoid eating at any of the tourist trap restaurants in St Marks Square. My favourite restaurant was Le Jadin de Russie. Go for an early dinner and sit dine in their beautiful courtyard.
  • Walk this is the best way to absorb the energy of the city, and enjoy the ancient Roman architecture.
  • Shop all the best European boutiques can be found near the Spanish Steps.

The costs…

Flights from London Heathrow – Rome were £150 per person with British Airways travelling at the end of May.

Two nights at the St Regis booked with American Express Travel cost £540 for a superior room.

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Falling in Love with Positano

The moment I arrived in Positano, I fell in love.

Positano is a gorgeous tiny town on the Amalfi coast, with a population of around 4,000. It’s a charming town full of boutiques, amazing restaurants, luxury hotels and medditeranian views. You can walk everywhere in Positano, everything is close, and there are no cars in the centre.

We visited the town of the last May Bank Holiday, which we were told was the best time to visit, the weather was warm and perfect for sunbathing. Although it was busy when we were there, the summer crowds hadn’t yet arrived, so it was a ‘nice busy’.

Our hotel was wonderful – Palazzo Murat. The rooms are old fashioned and charming, each with their own balcony which allows you to enjoy the beauty of the grounds from your room. The hotel was everything we expected it to be, it was beautiful, the service was great and it had a beautiful swimming pool, but be warned, it’s freezing!

We ate so much good food, our favourites were Le Tre Sorelle and Chez Black, both recommended to us by the hotel.

Getting there… it’s a 2 hr drive from Naples, and the it’s a perfect way to see the splendour that is the Amalfi. Its impossible for cars to get right into the heart to the town as the roads are so narrow, so your driver will walk you with your bags down to your hotel.

We travelled via train from Rome to Naples, which took just over an hour. The train was inexpensive and it was much cheaper than flying directly to Naples, which tends to be pricey as it’s the closest airport to chic destinations such as: Capri and Ravello.

The costs…

Positano is relatively easy to get to, it’s around an hours drive from Naples airport. Flights to Naples can be expensive, especially during the warmer months, as everyone is flocking to various glamours locations such as Capri and Ravello. A good way to cost cuts down is to fly to an alternative airport, we went via Rome.

Flights from London Heathrow – Rome were £150 per person with British Airways.

We paid 990 euros for 3 nights staying at the Palazo Murrat  in a garden room, this rate included breakfast. Hotels in Positano are really expensive, and get booked up fast, we booked around 9 months in advance and we got the last room!

The taxi from Naples to our hotel was booked with Euro Limo and it cost 110 euros each way. This sounds expensive, but I shopped around before booking and realised it was a pretty standard price. If you’re a confident driver then there is the option to hire a car and drive yourself, but parking may be an issue once you arrive.

Eating out was comparable to that of eating in London, so it wasn’t a massive shock to me, and I didn’t feel as though I spent all that much.

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