Banking, Credit, Credit Cards, Transferring money

These are the main banks, Scotiabank, RBC (Royal Bank of Canada), CIBC, Bank of Montreal, TD (known as the Big Five), plus Tangerine, National Bank, HSBC, Meridian.

All banks have a Newcomer bank account or a Credit Card that you can obtain when you first arrive into Canada, and some banks offer free and unlimited banking and services to newcomers over a period of time. There are also special offers for students.

It is worth talking to someone in a bank in person vs. opening up an account online, and explain that you are new to the country and see what they can offer you.  Sometimes if you have brought over a large amount of money from your home country, the bank may waive some of their normal bank account fees.


Depending on the account you choose, you will have the right to perform a number of banking operations and transactions per month for free – additional transactions will be charged.  You can pay your bills from the bank’s website or app, or at the counter, make transfers, withdraw money.  Payments at merchants, ATM withdrawals and bank transfers count as transactions.

Also contrary to what you are used to in another country, you are likely to have to pay for a chequebook/ cheques in Canada.  The fees vary by bank, however they are typically $30-50 per order of chequebooks, which can take up to 10 business days to arrive.  As much as I would love you to save money, you are going to need cheques at some point during your residency here in Canada – to pay your rent, to pay a deposit for an elevator booking, to allow a company to set up an automatic bank transfer to or from your bank account, to get paid etc., so it is worth biting the bullet and paying the fee initially just so that you have them.


Most banks and some other financial institutions offer a Newcomer credit card, even if you do not have any credit history in Canada.

The interest rate, the authorization limits, as well as the payment terms and the annual fees vary from one institution to another.

It is important to build your credit score as soon as you can as a lot of daily activities will require your credit score – Mortgage, Bank Loan, Line of Credit, Car Loan, Rental Application are just a few.  The trick is to put as much as you can afford onto your credit card, and then pay it off in full and on time every month, rather than use your debit card and pay fees for additional transactions.  This will help build your credit fast.

The usual credit score companies that most people use to get their credit report are Equifax or TransUnion or Borrowell.  This report by MoneySense lists the best credit card options https://www.moneysense.ca/spend/credit-cards/best-credit-cards-in-canada/

Some other credit card companies;

1. CapitalOne Guaranteed credit card – they report to the credit bureau monthly instead of quarterly so you can build your credit score much quicker

2. Canadian Tire have a CT credit card, the current limit is $300

3. Presidents Choice.

Also consider what the bank can offer you in terms of International Transfers, Loyalty point credit cards, fees.


If you want to deposit money into your Canadian account from a bank account in your home country, or vice versa, you will have fees and a commission to pay, the amounts of which vary from one bank to another.

The easiest ways these days is to go through a money transfer service such as TransferWise, Currency Fair, XE, WorldRemit, however there are many other options.  If you use TransferWise and this link, you will get you fee waived for the first transfer



If you work or study in Canada, find out if there is a special partnership between your employer or university and the bank, which could help you minimize your banking fees. Also, note that deposits up to CDN $100,000 on savings accounts are covered by the insurance system of the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC).

Your rights as a bank account holder

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada provides information on financial products and services and informs consumers about their rights and responsibilities with respect to banking transactions.  Note that a bank can refuse to open an account, even if you are unemployed, bankrupt or do not have any money to deposit into the account.

Driving Licence

As an Expat you are able to use the licence that was issued in your own country, but for only up to 90 days.  You can make arrangements to exchange your current drivers license for a Canadian licence.  The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) is the government department that controls driver’s licences and vehicle registration in Ontario.



In Canada, there are different types of driving licences vs. a one-type-for-everyone that you may be used to.  You may have to learn the Canadian Highway Code and re-take a driving test, even if you know how to drive and have been driving for a long time back home.

Each province and territory in Canada has its own laws and regulations regarding road traffic and driving licenses.  You are required to carry a valid driving license at all times when you are driving, you will also need to be in possession of the registration certificate of your vehicle, as well as proof of insurance of your vehicle.

Expats often find that the driving laws and way of driving in Canada is very different to the country you are used to.  For a start, we drive on the right hand side of the road, there are STOP signs at pretty much every corner, and you can turn right on a red light. 

Confused already?  Click here for driving laws and things to know;


Eating out

Just a few English, Irish and Scottish Pubs in Toronto…
  • All Firkin pubs
  • Duke of Cornwall, Duke of York
  • Queen Anne
  • Queen and Beaver
  • The Oxley
  • Olde Yorke Fish & Chips
  • The Irish Embassy Pub and Grill
  • The Caledonian
  • Fox and Fiddle
  • Dog and Bear
  • Elephant and Castle
  • The Feathers
  • Scotland Yard
Afternoon tea spots – The Windsor Arms Hotel, The King Edward Hotel

And in case you get that craving for a Full English Breakfast – some of them do a Sunday Roast too




Or if you need to check out the newest restaurants in Toronto https://torontolife.com/food/torontos-best-new-restaurants-2020/

And the top 100 picks https://torontolife.com/food/restaurants/100-best-toronto-restaurants/

Furniture & Mattresses

Some suggestions for places to buy furniture:

IKEA https://www.ikea.com/ca/en/

Wayfair.ca http://www.wayfair.ca

JYSK.ca https://www.jysk.ca/

Structube http://www.structube.com

CB2 https://www.cb2.ca/

UrbanBarn https://www.urbanbarn.com/

Casalife https://www.casalife.com/

BoConcept http://boconcept.com

HomeSense http://homesense.ca

UpCountry http://upcountry.com

Roche de Bois https://www.roche-bobois.com/en-CA

Ethan Allen https://www.ethanallen.ca/




Endy, Casper, HavenMattress 


Looking to rent furniture?

Renting in Toronto and the GTA is different to what you may be used to in another country.  80% of rentals are unfurnished, and even some of the furnished rentals only have the basics, e.g. bed, sofa, coffee table.  

Buying furniture in Toronto can be a hassle – you either have to order from IKEA and then assemble everything yourselves, or pay something through Task Rabbit to come and do it for you.  Or you buy second hand stuff from Facebook Marketplace and other selling sites, and then hire a truck to go and collect it, load it into the truck, load it into the elevator (if you are in a condo), and unload it into your unit, then go and return the truck.  It’s a lot of sweat and tears…and it always takes longer than you think it will.

There is an option that can save you the hassle.  Renting furniture through Homebound is easy – you go online, select the bundles/ package (s) that you want to rent, and order.  Delivery and assembly is included in the price, and at the end of the year contract (all contracts are for a minimum of 12 months), you will have a residual amount left on the furniture item, which you can either pay off and then keep the furniture item, continue to rent until everything is paid off, or return the item.  More details are on their website.  All furniture is brand new, or gently used (it will specify), and used mattresses are not included, phew!  Talking of mattresses, try Casper, Endy, Wayfair, Sleep Country.

As I know the owners of the company, they are giving my clients a discount.  Use code HBAMANDA10 at checkout for a 10% discount on your first month.

It’s a great option if you are only in Toronto for 1-2 years, or don’t want the hassle of buying or selling furniture.  Plus at the end of the 12 months or however long it takes to pay off the furniture, you own the items and can do whatever you want with them, so its a win win all round.

If you want to speak to the Homebound team, call/text 437 800 0451, or send an email to [email protected]. 

Please tell them that I gave you their details, so they can apply the discount for you.


Mobile phones

Canada’s Big 3 mobile phone companies are Bell, Rogers (family sharing plans) and Telus.  There are also a few other companies which often offer cheaper alternative plans, however the coverage you get may not be that great – Fido, Koodo, Virgin, Freedom.


Expats often find that having a mobile phone in Canada is a lot more expensive than your plan from home.  For example, you pay extra for most features which you might have considered free back home e.g. caller display, voicemail.


Toronto has earned its unofficial nickname of “the city of neighbourhoods”.  There are 140 neighbourhoods officially recognized by the City of Toronto and upwards of 240 official and unofficial neighbourhoods within the citys boundaries. 
Thanks to Drake, Toronto is commonly called “the 6ix” which is referring to the 6 cities that make up Greater Toronto AreaTorontoYorkEast YorkNorth YorkEtobicokeScarborough.  The 6ix also refers to Toronto’s two area codes, 416 and 647.

The “inner ring” suburbs of York and East York are older, predominantly middle-income areas, and ethnically diverse.  Much of the housing stock in these areas consists of pre-World War II single-family houses and post-war high-rises.  The “outer ring” suburbs of Etobicoke, Scarborough, and North York are much more suburban in nature.

Here are some articles about Toronto’s neighbourhoods: 

Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9 digit number that you need to work in Canada or to have access to government programs and benefits.

A SIN is issued to one person only and it cannot legally be used by anyone else.


Please keep your SIN number confidential as much as possible, as there are people who use SIN numbers to defraud the government of benefits, and also clone your identity.  Note, you DO NOT need to disclose your SIN number to a Landlord/ on a Rental Application.


The Fraser Institute and the Toronto School District Board (TDSB)

Want to know which areas offer the best schools? View the the Frasier Institute site to research schools and areas.


In Toronto, the Toronto School District Board (TDSB) site will give you lots of helpful information



Toronto is packed with so many shopping centers, trendy street shopping, high-end boutiques, eclectic vintage shops, Canada’s very own department store, and discount outlet shopping you could easily spend days exploring.  
Here are some of the best options. 


Firstly, get used to calling supermarkets ‘grocery stores’ instead of supermarkets or shops, or Tesco’s!

This article will help you to find a supermarket (or grocery store as Canadian’s call them), by area;



Widely considered the most expensive of the large-scale supermarkets.  The quality of the fresh food matches the higher prices.  You will be able to find all the groceries you would expect at a large chain, as well as an in-store butchery, fishmonger, bakery, hot food counter and more at most of its outlets.

Loblaws helpfully sells beer and wine.

Comparable supermarkets in the UK – Waitrose, M&S foodhall


Similar to Loblaws in pricing.  Sobeys supermarkets are typically quite a bit smaller, but some of its larger outlets do have fresh fish and meat counters.

Also, like Loblaws it has an impressive beer selection, which can save you making a separate trip to an LCBO or Beer Store.


The chain with probably the most outlets in the city.  Prices are competitive and many Metro locations are open 24 hours a day.

Comparable supermarkets in the UK – Tesco, Sainsburys

Comparable supermarkets in Australia – Coles, Woolworths

No Frills

Distinctive by its bright yellow colour scheme – the budget chain has some of the lowest prices of all the franchises.  Its fresh food options may not be considered as high quality as its rivals.

Food Basics

Simliar to No Frills.

Comparable supermarkets in the UK – Aldi, Lidl


These small stock-a-bit-of-everything stores dotted around the city are often open 24 hours a day, and are perfect to pick up something you have forgotten, but perhaps not best for the weekly shop.

Kitchen Table

Ditto re Rabba, however with a better quality selection.

Comparable supermarkets in the UK – your average corner store


The American chain covers just about all bases.  From food to clothing to

household appliances and furniture, its all under the same roof and all reasonably priced.

Comparable supermarkets in the UK – Asda


Most supermarkets have an International Food section, great for Marmite, HobNobs, Tim Tams, Branston and a whole host of other home delights.

For British goods including fresh baked goods and proper sausages (my favourite), try;

A Bit of Homehttps://abitofhome.ca

The British Grocer https://mybritishgrocer.com

British Pride Bakery https://www.britishpridebakery.com


The sale of alcohol in Ontario is fully regulated and operated by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), and its rules differ from the rest of Canada.

To buy a full range of alcohol – wine, spirits, beers and ciders – you will need to visit your local LCBO store.  The price of a case of beer or a bottle of whiskey will be more expensive than in most parts of the world due to the province’s monopoly of alcohol sale.

LCBO stores are not on every street corner unlike what you are used to back home.  However there are some other options. The Beer Store outlets usually sell beer only, while there are Winerack stores just for wine.

As of Summer 2019, select supermarkets can now sell beer, cider and wine.


Whole Foods – https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/toronto


Mcewan Grouphttps://mcewangroup.ca/grocery/


St Lawrence Market

The most high-profile of the fresh food markets in the City, the famous St Lawrence Market in the heart of downtown offers a huge array of choices in fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meats, breads and desserts.  On a Saturday from 5am to 3pm there is a special farmer’s market on the opposite side of the street from the iconic main building, where many knowledgeable merchants from across southern Ontario come to set up stall and can offer you tips on cooking their products.

There is also an Antiques Market on selected days of the month. 

Check the website for opening days and hours for each market.


Kensington Market

Many small, independent grocery and specialist stores thrive in the Kensington neighborhood, with some of the best prices in the city.


Evergreen Brickworks

One of the largest farmer’s market in Toronto, it is also by one of the prettiest locations with walking, hiking and cycling trails nearby around Don River Valley Park.  They also have special events.


Things to do in Toronto

The Sightseeing bus
A great way to see the city, all the sights and to get your bearings

CN Tower and CN Tower Edgewalk
The pointy thing!  You have to go up and see the view at some stage of living in Toronto, and the EdgeWalk is great for that 360 feeling. http://www.edgewalkcntower.ca

St. Lawrence Market
Is a must.  Go there before it gets busy in the late morning/ afternoons (make sure you check it is open as it closes on certain days) http://www.stlawrencemarket.com

Centre Island is great to go to, especially as you will have a great view of the Toronto city line.  Take a picnic, or hire tandem bikes when you are over there.  AVOID going at the weekend, it gets very busy.  It is only open at certain times of the year, so check the ferry timetable before you head out.

Kensington Market
There is a nice Margarita place on Baldwin Street, worth checking out some of the hippy-style shops and bars/ restaurants in the area http://www.kensington-market.ca

The Distillery District
Cool and funky cobbled area.  Great places to eat and drink, and the Christmas Market rivals anything in Europe.

Roy Thomson Hall
This is the place that houses the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and hosts the National Geographic talks, amongst other events https://www.roythomsonhall.com

Massey Hall
Another theatre and music venue http://www.masseyhall.com

TIFF Alternative films and events.  Once a year Toronto hosts the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Expect to see film stars and celebrities in town during that month. http://www.tiff.net

Steam Whistle Brewery
Great opportunity for cool photography amongst some interesting locomotives http://steamwhistle.ca

The Rec Room

Second City If you like comedy http://www.secondcity.com

Casa Loma https://casaloma.ca/ Toronto’s Majestic Castle is a Gothic Revival style mansion and garden in midtown Toronto

High Park is recognized as one of the most significant natural sites in Toronto, over one-third of High Park remains in a natural state http://www.highparktoronto.com/

Ripley’s Aquarium Immerse yourself in a world of 20,000 aquatic animals https://www.ripleyaquariums.com/canada/

The AGO The Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North Americaholds a collection of more than 90,000 works of art https://ago.ca/

The ROM The Royal Ontario Museum is the equivalent of the Natural History Museum in London, UK.  It is great for the kids to explore and learn about living and prehistoric animals https://www.rom.on.ca/en

Some other ideas:







Secret places


Websites to check out – sign up to the free newsletters to receive notifications of new and cool stuff;

  • Blogto
  • The Grid
  • Now Magazine
  • The Torontoist
  • Seetorontonow.com
  • Toronto Life
  • Narcity
  • Curiocity.com

Places to go outside of Toronto

1. Niagara, Ontario 

2. Niagara on the Lake
b) Jackson Triggs Concert Series in the Amphitheatre https://www.jacksontriggswinery.com/

3. Blue Mountain 
a) Things to do in Blue Mountain https://www.bluemountain.ca/things-to-do
d) Where to eat in Blue Mountain https://chriskeleher.ca/where-to-eat/

. Prince Edward County

The Kawarthas 

 Algonquin Park

8. 1000 islands – Gananoque, ON 
a) Montreal Museum of Fine Arts https://www.mbam.qc.ca/
b) Six Flags La Ronde Ride Park https://www.sixflags.com/larondeen
c) Botanical Gardens http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/access/jardin-botanique
d) Best places to eat in Montreal https://www.timeout.com/montreal/restaurants/best-restaurants-in-montreal

. Ottawa

12. Eastern Townships of Quebec

13. Tremblant 
a) Skiing and fall getaways https://www.tremblant.ca/
b) Skiing, Golfing, Dining, Shopping https://www.tremblant.ca/things-to-do

14. Detroit 


20. London 

What do you wish you had known before moving to Canada?

Some comments from fellow Brits….
It’s much colder than you think!
Unless you come from Siberia, your winter coat and boots are not warm enough
Banking is expensive, you pay for a chequebook!
Mobile phone plans are expensive vs. back home
Insurance is expensive – your no claims bonus in your home country isn’t worth anything here
Canadians can be unfriendly
Some things are much cheaper, and others a lot more
Your weekly grocery bill is likely to be more expensive than you are used to
You are within about 2 hours of a ski hill
Summers can be humid
Canadian’s love their sports
There are lots of immigrants in Toronto and the GTA
Renting is very expensive
The quality of life is better in Canada