First few days in Toronto – A City within parks!

Having recently moved to Toronto, Canada, I have been flooded with questions from family and friends about how I made the move here so I thought why not pen down my experience and hopefully it gives some of you more insight into what you’re waiting to experience.
* The Arrival: After starting the Permanent Resident Application process in November 2017, I finally moved to Toronto in November 2018 (yes, like the CIC website mentions, it does take up to a year to make this move).
I arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport at 6pm. The Airport being an international airport can get crowded and messy and you do need to watch out for your luggage. If you are lucky to land at a time when ‘Service Ontario’ is open at the airport then you can complete your paperwork at the spot and apply for the PR card to be sent to the address you will be staying at. PR card does take anywhere between 45 days to 2 months to get to you depending on information given to the Immigration department. (Most people I know, including myself have been asked to resubmit photos and hence I got my PR card after 2 months). If not, then you can always go the next day to a Service Ontario close to your location.
* Place to Stay: Most people opt for AirBnBs to stay for a month or so while looking for permanent place to stay. Rentals in Toronto are expensive and the closer you move to downtown, the higher the prices get. Just to give you an idea, a one bedroom in downtown can range from $1300 upwards. It’s very difficult for new immigrants to get a nice rental in the beginning due to lack of credit score, and unemployment. Most people end up renting basements or renting a room in a shared condo/apartment/townhouse.
What I did was to put a post on social media contacting my school alumni groups, asking if anyone could help. Luckily, I had one person reach out to me mentioning they had a spare room that they could rent and I’ve been staying here since. It’s a nice spacious room with bed and closet space and the bathroom, dinning, kitchen, living room are shared spaces. For something like this, it could cost anywhere between $400 to $1000 or more – again depending on which area you choose to stay in.
Initial Things to do:
1. Acclimatize: Upon your arrival, I would definitely suggest to give yourself a day or two to get over the jet-lag and acclimatize to Toronto Climate. As mentioned earlier, I got here in the beginning of November and it was already starting to get snow cold. The summers here are humid and hot!
2. PR Card and Bank Account: First things to do are get all your paperwork done for your PR card if not already done at the airport. The next thing to do would be to open a Bank Account. Now this is completely based on my experience and I had never had any credit products ever in life so the first thing I did was to get an account and a credit card. You have several bank options to choose out of and most of them offer special plans for new immigrants. Canada is a credit-based economy and a lot depends on your credit score and therefore it is a must to build a good credit score. Try to use your credit card as much as you can and pay back on time. A good credit score can take 1-1.5 years to accumulate.
3. OHIP: Now this depends case to case, but with me, I was asked to get a bank statement stating my address in order to apply for Health Card. So I had to request my bank to mail me my paper statement and then take my COPR and address proof to Service Ontario for OHIP application. OHIP card takes exactly 3 months and the benefits of it start on that exact same day.
4. Presto: Another very important card that you would need is for public transport. Presto is the name of the card that allows you to travel across Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Hamilton and Ottawa areas. You can get them at any subway station and select Shopper’s drug mart locations. Presto has various options for recharge and has website and mobile application which makes it easy to understand fares charged, balances, recharge etc.
5. Library Card: Toronto has many Public Libraries across its vast landscape and is free for use. Initially you can get a temporary card that let’s you check out books for 7 days or you can become a member. Not only do they have books, but videos, eBooks, eLearning, online research facilities, job and career help facility and several events. You are encouraged to get your laptop even and spend time here during your work.
Sightseeing: Toronto is a city within a park. Everywhere you go, there are small and big parks that you can enjoy a good barbeque at or anything you feel like. Events across the city mostly depend on the weather but during the summer, you can barely go a day without any event happening.
There are bus tours across the major sightseeing places within the city and then of course Niagara Falls or other parts of Canada (like Montreal, Ottawa) are just few hours’ drive away.

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