Travelling across Canada on a budget – my year on WH-visa
I can’t believe it’s been a year already since I started this long but amazing journey in Newfoundland, eastern Canada. My goal was to cross the country by train and finally reach Vancouver, but I didn’t know if it would take me 2 months or 12. In the end, it took me just over 9 months. After that, I stayed in British Columbia for 3 more months until my visa expired. I’ve explored so much along the way – that’s what happens when you take trains and buses instead of flying! Travelling across Canada on a budget and as a backpacker can surely be amazing – here’s a summary of my year in Canada on a Working Holiday Visa:
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My year on WH-visa in Canada: Total travel time and distance
By train and bus
During my year on a Working Holiday Visa, I took the bus (+ferry from Newfoundland) between St. John’s and Montréal with lots of stops along the way! This part of the trip took me around 2 months and I took the bus for about 4500 kilometres.
Later during our trip, Fredrik and I used the bus to get from Calgary to Penticton, with stops in Kamloops and Kelowna. That makes our total distance on buses in Canada almost 5400 kilometres!
From Montréal, Fredrik and I took the train all the way to Edmonton, also with stops along the way. This took us about 15 days in total and we travelled for over 3500 kilometres.
Exploring Canada in our van
Finally, we bougth a van to live in while we explored British Columbia. We got to see a lot of places in this wonderful province and covered around 5000 kilometres – we’ve seen so much of this beautiful country!
Exploring the Canadian provinces
Here’s a list of all the provinces I’ve explored, including what I did there and for how long I stayed in each of them.
Newfoundland and Labrador
This is where my journey started at the beginning of autumn 2018. Newfoundland is my absolute favourite place in Canada – it’s truly amazing! If you’re into beautiful nature, watching wild animals such as puffins and whales and prefer villages to big cities, this is your place.
I spent two nights in St. John’s before heading to smaller villages. You can do workaways at a lot of places which basically allows you to travel for free! During my first month in Canada, I only spent less than 300 CAD in total – everything included!
After Newfoundland, I took the ferry to Nova Scotia to travel and do a workaway. Nova Scotia is also a perfect place for anyone loving the outdoors. There’s so much to do! Also, if you like seafood, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are definitely two places you’ll want to visit during your year in Canada.
I took the bus to a small town in Québec to visit a friend of mine before going to Québec city. Québec was such a fun place to visit, both the city and the province! The culture and atmosphere are amazing, and there are so many pretty buildings to explore if you’re into architecture. Fredrik came from Sweden to meet me and start travelling with me in Montréal. We started our journey together by helping out at an eco-lodge 3 hours outside of the city – where everyone spoke French! It was a lot of fun and we both learned a lot.
Unfortunately, we didn’t focus too much on Ontario, we pretty much only explored Toronto. We’re not really into big cities, but coming from a city back home in Sweden that has close to zero skyscrapers, it was still a pretty cool experience and there’s definitely lots to do here!
It was October/November already and it was starting to get really cold. We decided to cross Canada by train but wanted to make some stops along the way. Our first stop was in Winnipeg where we stayed with an amazing family who brought us to a local gathering (which was held outside) in the city – it was cold, but a lot of fun!
After spending some days in Winnipeg, we continued on the train to Saskatoon. We stayed here for some days as well before we decided it was time to start searching for jobs. We thought it was best to do so in Alberta, stay there for the winter and then explore the national parks before finally heading to British Columbia!
Fredrik and I spent some days in Edmonton before deciding to take the bus to Calgary and apply for jobs. After some weeks, we started working and stayed there for 4-5 months. It was the worst winter I’ve ever experienced – it was -40 degrees Celsius! It’s really hard to grasp how cold that is if you’ve never experienced it before. I’m from the middle of Sweden and, absolutely, we can have cold winters back home. However, with “cold”, I mean -15 degrees Celsius, or warmer! The cold really came as a shock, but as long as you’re dressed in layers and don’t go out more than necessary (in other words, to get to work) you’ll be fine.
British Columbia, my final destination! It took me 9 months to reach it, and I’m really happy we didn’t rush through this beautiful country. We started in Penticton, where we met a German girl who was going to buy a van to live and travel in. It sounded like a lot of fun, and we had actually already thought about doing the same even before meeting her. However, in Alberta, it’s way harder to buy a car and get insurance (some companies told us it’s impossible!) than in other provinces. Because of that, we had to let that thought go while we lived and worked in Calgary. In British Columbia on the other hand, it was possible – so Fredrik and I decided to buy a van ourselves!
It was such a good decision. We converted a minivan to a camper and travelled and lived in it for our last 3 months in Canada. Fredrik and I explored a lot of British Columbia that we never could have done without it – public transport in Canada is quite restricted if you want to see more than the main cities! We went to small villages in the north, to Vancouver Island, up the coast, down to Nelson… We really enjoyed our last 3 months, seeing as much as possible!
Unfortunately, we had to skip 5 of Canada’s provinces and territories – we had to prioritize and ran out of time in the end. We would also like to go back to some of the provinces where we didn’t have time to explore more than the main cities. I guess it’s always good to have reasons to come back!
Travelling across Canada on a budget – taking the train
As I mentioned above, we crossed Canada by train. If you’re interested in doing that, you should check out VIARail. They have a few different options to choose between. Do you want to see things along the way? Or just go straight to your destination? Do you want to book a sleeping car or are you happy with just a seat?
Travelling across Canada on a budget – more tips!
I went travelling across Canada on a budget for a year – it’s absolutely doable while still having an amazing time and seeing a lot of the country!
I can really recommend using Workaway while travelling. In exchange for some hours work/day and usually with the weekends off, you’ll get free food and accommodation, sometimes even transport. This saved me so much money in Canada while I got to experience amazing places I barely knew existed! This is the main reason why I could travel for a year in Canada without spending a lot of money. If this sounds interesting, have a look at my post about how to get started on Workaway where I also tell you all about my own experiences – such as helping out at an oyster farm and working at a winery!
Travelling across Canada on a budget doesn’t have to be complicated. If you don’t waste your money and are okay with not always doing everything in the most comfortable way, you can save a lot of money on your travels. For example, we almost always cook our own food – we typically don’t spend more than 5 CAD per person/day on food, sometimes even less.
Here are even more tips on how to travel cheap if you’re looking at keeping your costs down!
Vanlife in Canada
For our last three months in Canada, we bought a van that we converted into a camper – it was a lot of fun! We’ve didn’t have time to explore more than British Columbia with our van, but it was such a great experience. We only paid for accommodation once during our three months in the van!
British Columbia has a lot of free campsites, mostly recreational sites, but there are also other options. We stayed at several of BC Hydro’s campgrounds – they’re free, and the ones we visited all have amazing views!
You can search for recreation sites in British Columbia to find one you’d like to stay at and also check out BC Hydro’s website to see where they offer free camping.
What are the best places in Canada to visit?
Well, if you’re like me and enjoy beautiful views and amazing surroundings, I’d really recommend checking out Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Banff, Jasper and the whole of British Columbia during your year in Canada. They are all beautiful, in different ways!
If you’re thinking about going on a Working Holiday Visa to Canada, stop thinking – just go! I hope this post answers some of your questions and maybe helps you decide where in this huge country you want to start your trip.
Fredrik and I are a bit sad we had to leave this beautiful place, but luckily we have some amazing adventures waiting for us that we’re really excited about!
Have an amazing time in Canada!
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