You are currently viewing Backpackers in Calgary – our experience on IEC

I came to Canada in August 2018 with a visa valid for a year. I’ve sadly started to realize that there’s not much time left! Fredrik and I have been backpackers in Calgary for almost five months now – that’s almost half of our whole time in Canada! We’ve learned so much while trying to wait out the freezing winter, but we’re also thinking that it’s soon time for a change.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means no extra costs for you – but I may earn a commission if you click and make a purchase.

Snow Angel In Calgary
Well, yes, it was cold – but the result was pretty beautiful!

How we travelled across Canada to Calgary

As some of you already know, I quit my job in Sweden and bought a one way ticket to Canada when my visa was approved. I started my journey on the magical island called Newfoundland – a hidden gem in the east. I had an amazing time volunteering at a hostel before I made my way, by land and ferry, to Nova Scotia. It didn’t quite steal my heart as Newfoundland did, but I still had a good time before going to Québec.

Signal Hill
I bet you can tell why I miss Newfoundland. Such an amazing place!

Fredrik flew to Montréal in the end of September to travel with me. He couldn’t leave earlier due to his period of notice at his job back home in Sweden. We explored Québec and Ontario together before jumping on the train that took us to the west coast, where we finally settled down in Calgary.

And in Calgary we are, still! It’s been a roller coaster ride finding jobs, places to live (we’ve been through four different accommodations so far!) and trying to keep our costs as low as possible. We want to save money for future travels! Our plan was to save enough to be able to travel for the rest of our time in Canada, but we’re not sure that’ll be the case. We’ll probably do some volunteer work in British Columbia, which is fine – it’s usually fun!

If you’re thinking of going to Canada on an IEC (International Experience Canada) Visa and want to settle down in Calgary, here are some things your should know.

Backpackers in Calgary during winter
Future backpackers in Calgary, be aware – it get’s cold! Bundle up!

Backpackers in Calgary during winter

If you’ve been backpacking through Canada just like us, you might not have that much room for winter clothes in your backpack. Be aware of how cold it get’s over here! During the coldest months there’s even a risk for frostbite! Around -30°C (plus the wind, making it -40°C…) is the worst we’ve had so far during our time here, and believe me, it’s not fun walking to work when it’s that cold. If you can’t bring over warm clothes that will protect you during winter, have some money set aside for proper winter clothing – you’ll need it!

Jobs for a backpacker in Calgary

Are you only thinking of staying for 1-2 years in Canada and not extend your visa, just working for parts of that time? Then you’ll need to find a temporary job, or an employer who is fine with you leaving when your visa expires. While I had some success directly with my job applications, Fredrik had a much harder time finding a job within his niche. If you’re looking for a very specific job, be prepared to not find it directly if your CV isn’t outstanding – and maybe not even then. On the other hand, if you’re more open to different kinds of jobs, it shouldn’t be too hard finding one. I applied to several jobs at cafes and restaurants and got a handful of interviews. This sector is probably one of the easiest to find a temporary job within!

Sunset Calgary
Walking home from work with this beautiful sunset in front of me makes the cold (well, almost) go away!

Temporary accommodation in Calgary

We’ve been moving around a lot, but it’s mostly been because we’ve wanted to. We started by renting two different places for a week each in two completely different areas in Calgary, to see what neighbourhood we’d like to call our home. None of them turned out to be what we expected. Instead, we moved into a basement rather close to downtown. That place was great, but too far away from work – so we moved again! The room we’re renting now is just a ten minutes walk away from work, and in a nice area. Don’t be afraid to try some different accommodations before settling down. Your year(s) in Canada can differ so much depending on your job and accommodation!

If you’re looking for tips on how to find cheap accommodation in Calgary, read my post about it here.

How to meet other backpackers in Calgary

Or how to just meet people in general to be honest. Being completely new in a town where you know absolutely nobody can definitely be a challenge! Some great ideas for finding new friends are bonding with your roommate (if you have one), finding a job with co-workers who are in your age or be active in Facebook groups. There are Facebook groups for backpackers in Canada, hikers in Alberta and so on – you can find a lot of people there! There’s almost always someone asking about meet ups or wanting to find buddies for a future road trip. And if there’s not, you can be that one!

Calgary Flames
Maybe you can find other backpackers in Calgary and go to a Flames game together?

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How long will we stay in Calgary

We’re not sure yet, but we said until the end of winter. So, when’s that? I’m thinking March-April, but we’ll see. As I mentioned, we feel like it’s time for a change soon but we’re both working in a nice place and we’re sharing a house with a lovely couple. In addition to that, it’s finally starting to get warmer in Calgary – so we’re not quite done here yet!

I’ve already got some tips about BC though, like checking out Kelowna and (quite obviously!) visiting Vancouver.

Who should choose Calgary

If you have limited time in Canada and want to settle down somewhere, Calgary is the perfect place if you:

– Like big cities…

– …but also like mountains and want to be a short car ride away from endless opportunities

– Enjoy hockey!

Did you know…

… That Calgary has most hours of sunshine in Canada? So, even if it’s cold, it’ll mostly at least be sunny!


Just going to Calgary on a short visit and on a budget? Check out Wicked Hostel* and HI Calgary*!


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*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means no extra costs for you – but I may earn a commission if you click and make a purchase.

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