So you decided to move or go on holiday to Canada and now it’s time to pack?
I’ve been there too and honestly, Canada is a tricky country to pack for because depending on the season you need completely other stuff.
You see, summers can be quite hot, so then you’ll only need shorts and tops, but then winters can be extremely cold so normal winter clothes won’t cut it!
When I moved to Canada I definitely wasn’t prepared for its hot summers and definitely not for its icy winters!
But from what I learned I will help you to be as prepared as possible so that you’ll know exactly what to pack and what not to pack!
Let’s dive into this packing list for Canada!
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Absolute essentials when packing for Canada
Regardless of the seasons, when you move to Canada there are certain essentials you should take care of. I’ll list those below!
Depending on the country you’re coming from you’ll need a Visa or eTA (electronic Travel Authorization). Since I was coming from the European Union and stayed less than 6 months I had to apply for an eTA.
Now you should be very careful with this because there are a lot of scammers online who will try to sell you an eTA for huge amounts of money, while in reality it only costs you 7 Canadian Dollars (CAD).
Apply for an eTA (or visa) through Canada’s official immigration website and nowhere else!
International driver’s license
Canada is huge, and I mean really huge!
Moreover, Canada has amazing nature which you can only discover when you have a car, but to rent one, you need an international driver’s license AND insurance.
Thus, before you leave for Canada you should obtain your international driver’s license, which is different from your normal one, at your local government office.
One other minor detail is that you need to be at least 21 years old to rent a car in Canada.
If you go travelling and especially if you intend to move to Canada you need insurance to cover any accidents you might have.
Canadian hospital treatments are quite expensive and without proper insurance, you’ll pay a lot of money if anything happens!
Sometimes, having proof of insurance is even obliged. For example, when I moved to Canada to study there, I had to show the university that I had insurance otherwise I couldn’t start my year.
Let’s face this struggle, sockets are different all around the world, so unless you’re coming from the United States, you’ll need an adapter.
If you’re planning to stay for a longer period of time, I definitely recommend buying an adapter with multiple USB ports so that you can charge multiple devices at the same time or just buy several adapters! Take a look at my recommendation below.
The absolute number one essential for your packing list for Canada (and every country for that matter) is your passport!
Make sure that the expiration date of your passport is at least 6 months after you return from your trip to avoid any trouble.
If you don’t already have one, get one at your local government office!
This may be the odd one out here, but you can’t go to Canada without exploring a bit of its magnificent, wild nature and therefore, you’ll need very good hiking gear!
Whichever season you’ll travel in, hiking boots and other equipment are a must, as hiking will be pleasant in all seasons! However, if you visit in winter, consider snow boots instead!
- hiking boots
- hiking socks
- reusable water bottle
- hiking shorts
- poles (if necessary)
Copies of important documents
It’s always good to have a copy with you of any important documents you might need, whether it’s to pass border control or to check-in for your flight, any important document should be close to you!
This means that ideally you still print them out. I personally don’t do this too often anymore, but when it’s for a move or international vacation you better be safe so I still print them out!
In addition to that, it might be good to have all these documents on your phone or in your mailbox as well!
Don’t forget that in Canada you’ll have to pay with Canadian dollars. In most places, you can use your credit card and you can withdraw cash if you’d need it but that might turn out to be very expensive.
Plus, to be safe, you might want to order some cash before leaving for Canada.
If you’re moving to Canada, try to open a bank account the moment you arrive in Canada. Do your research online because depending on your needs different banks might be beneficial. As a student, I could open a free account with Scotiabank.
All 4 seasons
Depending on the season you’re travelling in, you’ll obviously need to put other items on your packing list for Canada.
For a general packing list regardless of the seasons visit my blog post with a whole packing list for moving abroad (or travelling abroad so you will ;))!
Honestly, fall is amazing in Canada and in my opinion, one of the best periods for hiking to see all the wonderful changing colours of the leaves!
But what do you actually need for fall? Be aware that the first snow can come very early, this could be in October (the earliest) or November already! So you should definitely be prepared for that.
- warm socks
- a warm jacket
- light gloves
Winter in Canada is extremely cold. I had the wonderfully stupid idea to take a city trip to Quebec City at the end of December and it was at least -10 degrees Celsius!
Without proper clothing, coming outside can feel horrible. However, winter is also a very beautiful season in Canada!
Usually, the worst winter months are January and February.
Then your question might be what to pack for Canada in winter. I’ll list the essentials below:
- snowshoes – normal shoes are too slippery and cold
- a long winter coat – make sure that the coat covers part of your legs too!
- thick woollen socks
- base layers
- a lot of sweaters
- normal pants
- snow pants
In spring, temperatures slowly start to rise again, but don’t be mistaken, it can still be surprisingly cold sometimes! Of course, this also depends on how much northwards you decide to go.
When it comes to your packing list, prepare to take clothes with you that resemble those of the fall. Be aware that spring can also be rainy!
- light gloves
- a warm jacket
- warm socks
You might think that Canada is a cold country, but in summer this is definitely NOT the case! It can get actually pretty hot, think of perfect beach temperatures!
A mistake that most people make is to pack too warm for summer, but just like for any summer holiday, you should add all the usual summer essentials to your packing list for Canada.
- bathing suit
- light underwear
- short-sleeve shirts
What NOT to pack
Some people (including me) have a tendency to pack waaaay too much stuff when leaving on a trip or moving abroad. But in reality, you don’t need all that stuff!
So I want you to go over your list and critically assess whether you’re actually going to wear all the stuff you’re bringing and if they are properly adapted to the right season!
To know more about what to pack and what not to pack, take a look at my moving abroad packing list!
Other things you should know
There are several other things you should know about Canada before leaving. One I already mentioned: you better get your international driver’s license before coming to Canada. Normally, you should be able to ask one at your local government office.
Other essential information for when you’re moving to Canada is that international transfers from Canadian bank accounts are quite difficult. For any international transfer, you need to go to your local branch office and fill in some papers.
Not sure how it works where you live, but in Belgium, you just do it on your smartphone with 1 click. Therefore, it really surprised me international transfers were so difficult in Canada. Be aware of this (and the transfer fees) before transferring any money!
I hope I provided you with all the necessary information you need to put on your packing list for Canada!
In whichever season you’ll visit, I’m sure you’ll have a good time, and with this packing list, you won’t forget anything important!
If you want to know more about Canada, take a look at my recommendations for Canada’s most wonderful cities!