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Just Landed! 🛬 4 things you need to do as soon as you get off the plane

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Moving to a new city is always overwhelming. By default, your to-do list just keeps growing and growing without you even trying! You need to find out where to do your groceries, how to move around, learn your new address, explore your surroundings, maybe you need to open a new bank account… the list seems to be endless! And with so many things to do, it’s hard to know where to begin, so we wanted to help you out. 😉 Here are 4 things you need to do as soon as you get off the plane in Vancouver:

1- Get your Compass Card: This one is a literal MUST-DO when you get off the plane, no kidding! The compass card is basically the card that you need to move around in the transit system in Vancouver. It’s a credit-card-sized card that usually looks like this 👇

There are multiple ways to get one, but the easiest one is to get it from the Compass Vending Machines that you can find at the YVR Skytrain (subway) station. This will help you a lot! Especially because it’s really common for international students to go directly to their accommodation once they arrive at the airport. If your accommodation is not close to a Skytrain station, oh man, you can have a hard time getting your card! 😅

The process to get your card won’t take you more than 2 minutes. The card itself costs 6 CAD to get + whatever added value you want to deposit in it (credit to move around). Take into consideration that the current fare for riding any service in the Vancouver area is $2.50 CAD for an adult for 1 zone (using the card). However, if you think you are going to move around a lot using the public transit system (and you probably will, especially if you don't live in Downtown), the most convenient thing to do is to buy a monthly pass. This will allow you to ride the transit system as many times as you like without charging you any more fees, as long as you travel within the number of zones you bought your pass for. You can find a map of the zones in the Accommodation 101 article.

Note: one last thing! In Vancouver, once you use your compass card, you have 90 minutes of free transfers without paying any extra fees. 😉

2- Get a SIN Number: The SIN number (Social Insurance Number) is a 9 digit number that you need to get in order to work in Canada or to have access to Government programs and benefits and it's also used for income reporting purposes. Therefore, we recommend you to keep it safe and not share it with anyone unless necessary (like with your employer, for example). A SIN number can be used for identity theft and we are sure you wouldn’t be happy about that 😱.

There are multiple ways for you to get your Social Insurance Number. Either in person, via mail or online, although most people prefer to do it in person as you can usually get your SIN number right away. This process is completely free.

To get your SIN, you just need to make an appointment online, take 2 pieces of ID with you and present them in any Service Canada office. These IDs can be:

  1. A valid original primary document to prove your identity and legal status in Canada: Your study permit in this case.

  2. A valid secondary document to confirm your identity: Your passport.

And that’s it! Pretty easy, right? So, if you come to Canada with a valid work permit make sure to do this process ASAP as you require this number to work 😉

3- Get a local ID | BCID: Besides your Study Permit, which counts as an official ID, it’s always useful to have a secondary piece of ID that you can actually be carrying around at all times. (Please don’t carry your study permit or passport with you at all times! It’s just not a good idea). We encourage you to get a BCID as soon as you arrive, although it’s not mandatory to have one.

The British Columbia Identification Card is a piece of government photo ID that will help you access services or places that require identification in Canada. You can easily get it by presenting the same pieces of ID as your SIN; your Study Permit and your Passport, and pay $35 CAD.

To get one you simply need to go to any ICBC Driver licensing office to apply for your BCID. And yes, even though it is the driver licensing office, they are the ones providing the BCID Cards. The whole process will take you about 30 minutes, depending on how busy the office is that day, and you will get your BCID a couple of days after in the mail.

Remember that this is a photo ID, so be prepared and go get your card with your best looks. 😎

4- Setting up your Canadian Bank account: This last one is a little bit obvious yet important to mention. This is in case you are coming either for a work or study program, or you plan to stay here in the long run.

Setting up your account will allow you to have the opportunity to find a job. Otherwise, where would your salary go to? It will also help you to start generating some good credit score 😉 And yes, we said credit!

When it comes to setting up your account there are plenty of things for you to consider, however, we already covered most of them in our previous issue, in the article “Your Canadian Bank Account” (Duh!), so we recommend you go check it out!

Hopefully, this list will help you start on the right foot when you arrive in this beautiful city!! Btw, we do have one more item which could have been on this list, as it is important for you to apply for this as soon as you arrive, which is getting your provincial medical insurance, MSP. But this topic has more for us to discuss so we decided to write another article just for it!! Take a look

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