Getting started

UVic is a place to explore curiosities, original ideas, and practical solutions. It is a place to root your values in experience and expand your imagination of what is possible. You are about to become part of a legacy of achievement and success that dates back more than a century on our campus. We look forward to welcoming you!


Travel arrangements

When should I arrive?

We recommend that you plan to arrive in Victoria at least one week before the start of term so you have time to settle in, recover from travelling, and participate in orientation events designed to help you have a smooth transition to UVic.

All new students are expected to attend orientation events. If you miss them, or if you begin your program of study at UVic during summer session, visit International Student Services in University Centre B272 to pick up a welcome package.

If family members will accompany you to Canada, allow more time for settling in. International students who plan to bring their children are encouraged to contact the Family Centre for information and advice that will enhance the settlement process.

What are my travel options?

Victoria is located in the province of British Columbia (BC) on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Please consult the Directions to UVic webpage for travel options.

Ideally, your final destination for air travel should be Victoria International Airport (YYJ). A shuttle bus service is available to meet all flights that arrive at YYJ. Taxis are also available. Visit the YYJ website for more information about transportation options.

If your final destination for air travel is Vancouver International Airport (YVR) you will need to take a ferry boat or book another flight to get over to Vancouver Island. Travelling by ferry boat is scenic and possibly less expensive than flying. However, the ferry trip will add at least three hours to your overall travel time.

If you choose to travel by ferry boat, we recommend taking a BC Ferries Connector bus to the downtown Victoria bus depot. We also recommend taking a taxi from the bus depot to your final destination. Victoria has a very good transit system, but it is not the best option when you have lots of luggage.

What can I expect at the Canadian port of entry?

Visit the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website for some useful planning tools.

When you arrive at the Canadian port of entry, you will be greeted by a border services officer. The officer will ask to see the documents listed below, so be sure to carry them with you.

You could be refused entry into Canada if any of these documents are missing or if any of the information on them is incorrect:

  • valid passport or other travel document
  • valid entry document (temporary resident visa or electronic travel authorization, if required)
  • valid study permit or letter of introduction from a Canadian visa office (if required)
  • admission letter from UVic or verification of enrolment from UVic
  • documentation to show proof of sufficient funds to study in Canada
  • typed list of all items you are bringing into Canada, including items sent separately

If you have a letter of introduction that must be converted into a study permit, please allow at least two hours when arranging connections from your initial Canadian port of entry.

What documents should I bring?

In addition to the documents listed in the preceding section, you should also bring any of the following documents that apply to your situation:

  • birth certificate or baptismal certificate
  • driver's licence
  • vehicle registration, licence, and insurance papers
  • immunization, vaccination, dental, and health records
  • health insurance documents
  • marriage certificate or proof of common-law status
  • separation or divorce papers
  • adoption papers
  • language proficiency scores
  • official school records or academic transcripts
  • medical or psychological documents if you plan to access services for students with a disability
  • letters of reference from former employers
  • documents required for entry into other countries you plan to visit

Make photocopies of all important documents and keep the photocopies in a safe place, separate from the originals.

What personal items should I bring?

You are allowed to bring personal items into Canada, but there are restrictions on things like pets, plants, food products, and herbal remedies. Current regulations are available on the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website.

If you plan to bring many personal items, consider having them shipped or mailed after you arrive in Victoria.

Clothing

Students at UVic tend to dress casually with an emphasis on comfort and practicality.

If you plan to work, you will need business attire for interviews and certain job placements.

You may wish to bring some formal or traditional clothing for special occasions.

Victoria has the mildest climate in all of Canada, but we do have four distinct seasons, and appropriate clothing is required for each. The west coast of Canada is famous for its rain, so you will need a raincoat, waterproof shoes or boots, and an umbrella. For winter months you will also need a warm jacket, gloves, a scarf, and a hat.

The weather can be difficult to predict at any time of year, so we recommend dressing in multiple removable layers.

Vehicles

If you plan to bring a vehicle to British Columbia (BC), visit the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) website to make sure you meet all the legal requirements.

Money

Exchange enough currency to cover your immediate expenses in Canada, such as airport taxes, food, and transportation. Ask for Canadian dollars in denominations of less than $50. If you do not want to carry cash, major credit cards are also widely accepted.

Ask your bank at home about the best way to transfer money to Canada. Some international students use a bank draft for large dollar values. Other students rely on international wire transfers.

If you arrive in Canada with currency or monetary instruments valued at, or more than, $10,000 Canadian dollars, you must report it on the CBSA Declaration Card.

A few more suggestions...

Consider bringing the following:

  • items that will remind you of home and help you feel comfortable in your new surroundings, such as photographs of friends and family and your favourite books and music
  • contact information for family and friends so you can stay in touch
  • a sleeping bag or blanket, sheets, a pillow, and a towel or two
  • a bilingual dictionary or electronic translator if English is not your first language
  • a voltage converter and plug adapter if your appliances and electronic equipment are not compatible with Canadian electricity (110 volts, 60 Hz)
  • a four month supply of any medications you require (all medications must be in the original packaging and should be accompanied by a prescription from your physician)

Getting settled

Attend orientation events.

Do not miss the many fun and informative orientation events designed to help you have a smooth transition to UVic.

All new students are expected to attend orientation events. If you miss them, or if you begin your program of study at UVic during summer session, visit International Student Services in University Centre B272 to pick up a welcome package.

Get your identification cards.

Please read the Identification Cards handout for important information about getting a UVic ONECard, a provincial identification card, and an International Student Identity Card (ISIC).

Open a bank account.

If you have a study permit, we recommend opening an account at a financial institution in Victoria.

The major banks in Victoria include BMO, CIBC, CWB, HSBC, RBC, Scotiabank and TD Canada Trust. Research your options before making a decision.

Please read the Banking handout for important information about choosing a financial institution and opening an account.

There are no bank branches on campus, but TD Canada Trust and RBC have automated banking machines (ABMs) on campus. If you use an ABM that is not owned by your financial institution, you will probably be charged a service fee.

Connect with your campus.

Learn about the many services and resources on campus that are available to support you in achieving your personal, academic, and career goals.

Join the UVic Global Community! Our facebook group provides daily updates. Our bi-weekly newsletter helps you stay informed. Our programs support your transition to UVic.

Visit the International Commons. It is one of the welcoming spaces in the McPherson Library's Learning Commons where students can study, connect, and access a variety of programs and resources designed to support academic success.

Explore Victoria.

The Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre can help you discover all that this wonderful city has to offer.

Please read the Shopping in Victoria handout for information about local shopping and dining options.

Please also read the Safety handout and the Culture Shock handout to learn tips for staying healthy, happy, and safe while studying at UVic and living in Victoria.

Begin your program of study.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), if you are in Canada with a study permit that was issued on or after June 1, 2014 you must actively pursue, and make timely progress towards completing, a program of study at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI).

This means your registration status at UVic will impact the validity of your study permit. It will also impact your authorization to work in Canada.

Make sure you understand the structure of an academic year at UVic and that you are familiar with the definitions* of full-time studies and part-time studies for undergraduate students or for graduate students.

* Please note there are different definitions for JD students in the Faculty of Law.

An easy way to confirm your registration status at UVic is to check your verification of enrolment, which you can access through UVic My Page in the Student Services section under the Online Request Forms tab.

Your program planning choices will impact your registration status at UVic, so please seek academic advice early and often:

  • Undergraduate students who are engaged in a program of study leading to a UVic credential should contact the appropriate academic adviser.
  • Graduate students who are engaged in a program of study leading to a UVic credential should contact the appropriate graduate adviser or graduate secretary.
  • Incoming exchange students and incoming study abroad/visiting students should visit or contact the International Student Centre (ISC).

Please also visit or contact the International Student Services (ISS) team to ensure your registration status at UVic, and your program planning choices, will satisfy the conditions of your study permit and maintain your authorization to work in Canada.


Transportation

Transit system

The transit system in Victoria operates seven days a week, 365 days a year. UVic is a major transit hub in the community.

Your UVic ONECard is your bus pass and gives you unlimited access on all Victoria routes. Swipe your card every time you get on a bus.

Exchange and visitng research students:  UPass privileges are not automatically included on your UVic ONECard, but you can opt in by purchasing a UVSS or GSS membership package.

Bicycles

UVic has lots of great resources for cyclists, including the SPOKES bicycle loan program.

Cyclists are required by law to wear a helmet at all times and to use both a front headlight and a rear light at night.

Vehicles

To drive a vehicle in British Columbia (BC), you must have a valid driver’s licence and insurance.

Visit the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) website for comprehensive information about licensing, insurance, registration, driving rules, and road safety.

UVic offers several alternative driving options.

If you plan to drive a vehicle onto campus, you must either park where there is a meter or purchase a parking permit.

Taxis

Taxis are generally too expensive for regular use but can be convenient in certain situations.

Taxis in Victoria are operated by well established companies that provide safe transportation and electronically metered fares.

The taxi companies in Victoria include BlueBird Cabs, Victoria Taxi, and Yellow Cab.

Ridesharing companies are not currently available in British Columbia (BC).


Communication

UVic email account

Be sure to create a UVic email account so you receive important messages from UVic.

Important messages will include notifications about your registration date and time and your movement on waitlists.

If you do not want to check multiple email accounts, you can arrange for messages sent to your UVic email account to be automatically forwarded to the email account you plan to check regularly.

Computers

Computing facilities are available on campus.

Public computers are also available throughout the Mearns Centre for Learning.

The Computer Help Desk is the first place to contact when you have computer-related questions.

A Computer Store is located in the UVic Bookstore and stocks a selection of hardware and software.

If you have a laptop or other mobile device you can access free wireless internet on campus. Many businesses in Victoria, such as coffee shops and restaurants, also offer free wireless internet.

Phones

Free phones for local calls are located around campus.

Most UVic students use mobile phones to communicate with friends and family.

The major mobile phone providers in Victoria include Bell, Chatr, Fido, Freedom, Koodo Mobile, Rogers, PhoneBox, Telus Mobility, and Virgin Mobile. Research your options before making a decision.

Please read the Mobile Phones handout for important information about choosing a mobile phone provider and comparing plans.

If you will make many international calls, consider using calling cards. They are cheap and flexible. You can buy them at post offices, convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations, and online. Ask other students from your country for advice about the best long distance calling rates. Another option is to use an internet program such as Skype or Google Voice.

Canada Post

Canada Post provides delivery service for letters, documents, and parcels within Canada, to the US, and internationally.

There is a post office in Heart Pharmacy, which is located in the Student Union Building.


If you have questions about any of the information on this page, please visit or contact the International Student Services (ISS) team at the International Student Centre.


Last updated: August 2019