Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada (free illustrated PDF guide)

Chapter 3: One WHP, many ways to live the experience

Published: 02-03-2020



One WHP, many ways to live the experience

WHP holders often want to experience something new and see if the grass is greener on the other side. Most are first-time or experienced travellers hoping to immerse themselves in a new culture, many want to acquire language skills and international work experience and a few are in a bad place and need to escape for a while to start from scratch.

There are no “right” or “wrong” reasons to apply for a WHP because it’s an experience that can be lived in many different ways, sometimes quite unexpected.

Among the motivations of the thousands of WHP applicants, there are a few noticeable trends—read on for trip planning ideas.

“Work first”—the sedentary lifestyle

Some WHP holders fly to a specific destination and settle down for a while. Their main goal is to work to learn new skills, develop a network and add new experiences to their resume. Some are just starting their career, others want to achieve professional goals or are exploring new fields. Once back home, their Canadian experience could be a determining factor for a promotion or a new role.

Occasionally, the WHP experience is a test—can you adapt to Canada and find work in their existing or desired field? If so, some of you start the Permanent Residence process alone or as a family. In this case, the WHP is the first step of a long-term life project.

People fall in love with a city—it happens! Every year, some WHP holders are convinced they’ll spend their time travelling around Canada, until they feel so comfortable in one place they decide to stay or always come back to it. And that’s cool too. You don’t have to cross provinces and territories to live a rewarding experience. The culture shock you were looking forward to, the new friends and the great position may just be around the corner in your adoptive city.

“Travel first”—the nomadic WHP experience

Working? Sure, if they need money to keep on travelling, they’re willing to wait tables and wash dishes for a while. The rest of the time, you’ll find them driving a van across North America, staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot, boarding a long-distance Greyhound bus or sleeping in a VIA Rail during the epic 6-day overland journey from Toronto to Vancouver.

These travellers sleep in a different hostel every few days. If they are in rural settings, they put up their tent faster than the most experienced scout team. Some of them are happy travelling alone because it’s the best way to meet people and find yourself, while others travel as a couple or as a group because it’s a great bonding experience.

“Work hard, play hard”—the adaptable WHP holders

Again, there’s no formula. Some WHP holders settle for six months in a city then travel halfway across the country to start again in a new setting, others use a city as a base and take side trips every few weeks.

Air Transat ad: Going to Canada with a Working Holiday, a Young Professionals, an International Co-op Internship or a student work permit? Air Transat offers you an extra 23-kilo baggage allowance (46 kilos in total).

Your WHP project goals: the 2017 survey results

There are many reasons to go to Canada on a WHP. None of them are “good” or “bad,” they’re all perfectly fine!

In 2017, members answered a survey on their WHP project goals, regardless of the destination.

Why did you decide to live the WHP adventure?

9% Because I wanted to add international work experience to my resume and boost my career and because I wanted to discover a new work culture.

3% Because I wanted to expand my professional horizons and try a new job or consider a new career.

3% Because I couldn’t find a job at home.

26% Because I wanted to try a new lifestyle, discover a new culture and meet new people.

17% Because I wanted to learn a new language or improve my language skills.

20% Because I wanted to go travelling.

6% Because I had fallen in love with the destination country during a previous trip and I wanted to go back and stay longer.

12% Because I needed to take a break from my current lifestyle.

2% Because I wanted to join my friends, a relative or a girlfriend/boyfriend who was already there.

Most people don’t fit into just one category. Trying a new culture, a new lifestyle, a new job… these are general trends. You may be applying for a WHP to Canada because you want to work in a ski station over the winter, but you’re also open to taking language classes and exploring the Prairies!

When they think about Canada, most people have wide open spaces in mind, national parks, forests, etc. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are also well-known worldwide for being dynamic and cultural cities, and newspapers often mention that the economy is overall doing well in Canada.

There are many opportunities to seize but don’t believe everything you hear about the “Canadian dream.” It goes without saying that there are pros and cons of living in Canada. Maybe everything will work out fine for you, maybe you will enjoy the experience but realize that Canada is not what you’re looking for. This is what the WHP is for—it’s the chance to “test” a country without going through the immigration process!

Pros and cons of a WHP experience in Canada


  • A big, diverse country with many different lifestyles to experience.
  • A great place for overland trips with transportation options between major cities—trains, buses—and an extensive road network perfect for drivers or hitchhikers.
  • Potential side trips to the USA, just across the border.
  • Overall, a very safe country by world standards.
  • Several short-term and long-term visa options (work permit, student permit, permanent residence, etc.) to extend your stay after your WHP.
  • Interesting work opportunities.
  • A great country for outdoorsy people, regardless of the season
  • The ability to apply for a WHP as a family with kids.

  • A quota system with no guarantee you’ll be issued a WHP.
  • Difficult weather conditions impacting road trip planning—harsh and long winters, short shoulder seasons and very hot summers (with plenty of bugs!)
  • Specific regulations relating to drivers’ licences vary province to province, which can be a headache for foreign drivers.
  • Difficulties finding affordable car insurance.
  • Bedbugs!
  • Expensive healthcare.
  • Almost too much flexibility with the WHP—so much to do, so many opportunities and so much ground to cover can be frustrating!
  • A pricey destination—expensive transportation systems and a relatively high cost of living in major cities.
  • Difficulties finding a job in major cities (especially in Toronto and Vancouver).

Is it okay to travel alone?

Many WHP holders are landing alone in Canada, sometimes because they couldn’t find travel partners, sometimes because they’d rather enjoy the flexibility of a solo trip. Travelling alone can be a daunting prospect at first but it’s a very rewarding experience. Besides, Canada is a safe country, for both women and men travellers!

This is what Laetitia Larmarcq said about her mindset before the trip:

“I had never travelled alone before and I had never been away for long periods of time, so taking the first step was super hard. I immediately considered Canada as a potential destination. To me, it was a great place to escape, plus it looked straightforward and safe. I thought of it as a giant playground with stunning, timeless scenery just within reach. I was excited to meet Canadians because they are said to be welcoming and generous. I wanted to understand their lifestyle and their culture, especially their outdoorsy side. But first, I had to overcome a few mental blocks. I’ve always lived in or around Lille, I was planning this trip alone, I wouldn’t know how to handle these ‘wide, open spaces’ and I knew about three words in English. So yes, I was a true travel newbie, 100% inexperienced and 0% bilingual. Lots of fun ahead, eh?”

Chapter 3 of 34


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