Helpful tips for getting settled in Nova Scotia
There’s a lot to think about when getting settled in a new city – particularly when that city’s in a new country.
We’ve gathered some tips from fellow international students and outlined a few topics below.
If you’re a current or former international student and have suggestions you’d like to share, send your ideas to and we’ll consider including them on our site.
If you want to learn more about winter, watch Get Ready for Winter and Winter Blues.
Look for banks that offer student accounts, waive monthly fees and allow free e-transfers or other perks. Choose a bank that's in a convenient location. And remember that if you withdraw money from an ATM that doesn't belong to your bank, you may be charged a transaction fee.
To open a bank account, you need your passport, study permit and NSCC acceptance letter. Call your bank in advance to be sure you're not missing anything.
Major banks are: Bank of Montreal (BMO); Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank); Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC); Royal Bank of Canada (RBC); Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD). Online-only banks, such as Simplii Financial and Tangerine, also offer student bank accounts.
Chequing account: An everyday expenses account, where your salary is deposited and through which you pay your rent. You can withdraw money as many times as you want, and you receive a debit card to use for your daily transactions.
Savings account: This account allows you to save money over a longer term. There may be a fee if you transfer money from your savings account to your chequing account.
Medicines are useful to have with you until you become familiar with what is available in Canada. For medicines with a prescription, bring your doctor’s instructions or an English translation.
- Always ask if the SIM card that you are going to buy is compatible with other service providers – in case you want to change provider in the future.
- Always ask about extra charges.
- Don’t forget HST. It’s a tax and counts for 15% of the total cost of what you are buying. If your plan costs $35, your total price will be $35 + 15% = $40.25.
- Ask if cancelling your plan is free or if it will cost you.
- In Canada, you pay to receive phone calls and messages: a plan might work better than a pay-as-you-go option, especially if you receive many calls or messages.
- Photo ID - either a Passport, a Nova Scotia ID card or a driver’s license.
- Second piece of identification, such as a credit card, Social Insurance Number, or bank cheque.
PhoneBox is a Canadian cell phone service provider offering affordable cell phone plans on 4G LTE networks, powered by Rogers and Telus.
Once you buy your Canadian SIM card, they will mail it to you at your home address, even if you are still abroad. Your SIM card will work as soon as you land in Canada.
- You will be required to fill in your personal information including a Canadian phone number on the app “ArriveCAN” and other quarantine related forms, such as the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form.
- You will be able to use your phone to look for off-campus housing and any other type of communication as soon as you arrive in Canada.
You can call your pharmacy and ask if they accept online prescriptions.
If you pay for a visit or medicines, keep all your receipts and submit a claim online through your insurance provider (keep the receipts for tax purposes).
- Buy your groceries on Tuesday (10% student discount).
- Consider bulk buying and sharing items with friends.
- Look for loyalty programs, flyers and apps, such as Flipp and Flashfood. Purchase items that are 50% but still good if eaten on the same day.
- Cook from scratch instead of buying pre-packaged food.
- Make sure to store leftovers in air-tight containers.
- Prepare your own take-away lunch or coffee.
- Consider living with roommates to share costs.
- Learn to save energy.
- Always ask for students’ rates (museums, movie theatres, internet providers etc.).
Driving in Nova Scotia
Depending on where you live and what campus you’ll be attending, you may choose to have your own car. In order to drive, you’ll need to apply for a Nova Scotia driver’s license within 90 days of becoming a resident. As a student, you're considered a resident.
- You'll need to book your road test in advance – ask to be put on a waiting list and be open to last-minute cancellations.
- Consider taking a few lessons with instructors from licensed driving schools (PDF 128KB). This will help you become familiar with driving in NS. Ask if you might also keep the school vehicle on the day of the exam. In fact, you'll need to bring your own vehicle on the day of the exam.
- You’ll need to provide translated documents – contact ISANS.