The International Students’ Guide to Surviving a Canadian Winter

What you have heard about the Canadian winter is true: it’s cold. Whether you are an international student set to study on the Pacific shores of British Columbia, in the metropolitan hub of Toronto, or in the easterly province of Newfoundland, there’s no escaping the weather.

As someone who moved to Toronto from the (albeit only slightly) warmer climate of the UK, I can certainly attest to the plummeting temperatures and heavy snowfalls. What my time in Canada has also taught me, however, is that as long as you take note of a few simple tips to stay safe and keep warm, the cold weather won’t just be bearable—it will be fun. Preparing for the worst will protect you from injuries and hopefully allow you to avoid using that all-important insurance policy you took out before moving.


Bundle up

Across the country’s 10 provinces and three territories, the Canadian winter can bring with it bitter cold, as well as winter storms of heavy snowfall, freezing rain, and a wind chill that will shock even the bravest international student. Failing to dress accordingly could result in serious injuries and illnesses such as frostbite and hypothermia. Wearing the appropriate attire, however, will leave you in good stead to beat the cold.

Wearing layers is key—remember, if you’re too hot you can always remove an item of clothing. Something to look out for is wind chill, which is a cold breeze that can make the temperature feel much colder than it actually is. A wind-resistant outer layer, a hat, gloves, and a scarf will be your friends here, allowing you to cover as much skin as possible.


Be prepared

The weather is more than likely going to be different than anything you’ve experienced before, but it doesn’t need to come as a surprise. Checking the Environment Canada weather forecast before you head out will allow you to prepare for extreme cold warnings or heavy snowfalls. Unlike all other seasons, being unprepared for these winter conditions is not an option.

This is particularly important if you plan on commuting or driving to school. Serious weather will delay transportation across the country. Prepare to be late. Canadians will understand if you’re not quite on time following a 20-cm snowstorm; it’s better to drive cautiously than end up spinning your car off the road. Take extra time for your usual drive or commute, and just remember to take things slow.


Know your coverage

As careful as you are, accidents can still happen. That’s something I found out after breaking my wrist during a soccer game just one month after entering Canada. Luckily for me I was insured, and you should be too. Only a few provinces in Canada offer medical coverage to international students, so it’s important you do your research before you leave.

Insurance coverage can vary, so you need to take time to understand what you are, and aren’t, covered to do. That could include not being covered for extreme sports, or your coverage being forfeit if you leave the country. Insurers are honest on what they do and don’t cover, so it’s important you choose the right coverage for you and make sure you understand all of the details.


Make the most of winter

Don’t think you’re out of the woods after December. The snow continues into January and can linger well into March. If you want to take up snow snowshoeing, skiing, or snowboarding that’s great news for you. But if you’re not a fan of fun winter activities, then don’t worry. There’s more to Canada than a few months of cold: they will soon be followed by a warm summer and a picturesque autumn.

For more information on how to use your insurance you can view Ingle International’s How To Guides here.


Are you an international student? Let us help you feel at home while you study abroad. We cover all your health insurance needs, give you easily accessible resources for navigating the healthcare systems, provide physical and mental wellness support through the Stay Healthy at School program, 24/7 claim services should you need assistance, and much more. For more information, visit, call us at 1-855-649-4182 or email us at

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