How Much Does It Cost To Live In Vancouver For Working Holidays?

October 16, 2015
Posted in Study & Work, Working Holiday

So you’ve found an awesome Working Holiday job in Vancouver through our Working Holiday City Job Program and you’ve started to settle down in your daily routine and have even made a few friends along the way. Sounds pretty good, right? In order to help you plan ahead and budget accordingly, let’s walk through a breakdown of how much it can cost to live in Vancouver and give you some resources to help you make the most of your Working Holiday in this beautiful city. Note that all expenses mentioned are in Canadian Dollars.


Option 1: Homestay

For housing, let’s assume that you are participating in one of our Working Holiday or Internship programs. Stepwest actually provides the option of homestay accommodation for our participants. This is, in our humble opinion, the most cost-effective way to live in Vancouver, especially for international youth who are planning to stay in the city on a short-term basis. You’re able to rent a private room with kitchen access to cook your own food for $650/month. If you want the service of 3 meals a day being included then it will be a total of $850 a month. Remember, you always have the option of using homestay for only a month, get used to your surroundings and settle down, and then move out and find your own place.

Option 2: Share an apartment

If you’ve decided to go out and find an apartment or room to share, the cost will definitely be higher. We recommend doing your research on sources such as Craigslist, Kijij,, and different Facebook groups for renting in Vancouver. There are also resources such as Airbnb, where you can rent a room for a very short amount of time to get settled before looking for apartments (eg. 1 week). However, we do recommend you to not make payment to someone to rent his or her place while you are still overseas, unless if it’s an Airbnb place where you can see ratings from other guests and determine that it’s a trustworthy place. For any other options, it’s best to actually come to Canada, see the place for yourself, and trust your instincts on whether a place and the person renting seems right to you. For shared apartments (eg. Shared with 1 other person), the average cost will be $800/month. The price is dependent on the location of your apartment, but we have a useful article that lists the average prices of rent in different neighbourhoods around Vancouver so you can see which neighbourhood works for your budget. Remember, some places already include utilities while others may not. It’s very important to check this before you rent any place. If we add basic utilities (heating, electricity, gas) and Internet access (also shared with 1 other person), then we’re coming out to $900/month.

Stepwest Homestay (no meals) $650/month
Stepwest Homestay (incl. meals) $850/month
Airbnb (approx. 1 week) ~$390/week (outside Vancouver)
Rent own apartment (shared) ~$800/month
Utilities & Internet (if not already included, shared) ~$100/month


The typical price of a cell phone plan, depending on what is included, is around $50/month. Stepwest is able to help our Working Holiday Program participants get a plan with our partner company, which includes unlimited calling, text messaging, and a free SIM card. As for Internet, we have already mentioned that some places like homestay or rented apartments will include Internet access. If you find a place that doesn’t include it, then it can cost you around $27/month for Internet access shared with one other person.



For transportation, you would be spending zero dollars in the ideal world because you would be living close enough to walk to work. However, since we know that this is probably not the case and that you’d probably want some sort of transportation to get to work and also be able to see the rest of the city during your days off, we have a couple of suggestions for you. One suggestion would be to buy or bring a bike to get you around the city, but during the winter time it might not be as convenient. Another suggestion would be to use the city’s public transit system. We recommend all participants get a Compass Card which is a reloadable card that will allow you to tap when using transit. If you need to transit daily, then we definitely recommend getting the monthly one zone transit pass provided by Translink for $95 which start on every first of the month. Please be aware that there are “zones”, and they come with different prices. Travelling in a smaller area (1 zone) will cost you less while travelling to a farther away place (3 zone) will cost you more. You can get your pass at authorized dealers such as London Drugs, transit stations and more. More information on where to buy one can be found here. To learn more about the BC translink passes, you can visit their website.



If you’ve decided to go your own route with a rented room or condo, then you will need to buy your own groceries to cook. You have the option of going to a variety of grocers, super markets, or farmer’s markets. Some places to check out include Safeway, IGA, Nesters, etc. More cost effective options to look into include T&T and No Frills. However, keep in mind that larger supermarkets are generally more expensive than smaller, local, farm markets. Generally, it’s a better idea to cook your own food and to pack your own lunches to bring to work. As simple as this seems, this is actually a great way to save you a lot of money. If you are working a hospitality job, then chances are that your employer may offer you free or discounted meals. Whether you’re cooking your own food in your homestay or your rented apartment, you would be looking at spending approximately $100/week. This amounts to $400/month spent on food.



Although going out in Vancouver can be expensive, we will try to budget your expenses in a way that allows you to eat and hang out in the city without emptying your wallet. A custom that must be mentioned would be tipping. Depending on where you live in the world, it may or may not be customary for you to tip after your meal in a restaurant. Here in Canada, it’s customary to tip around 10-15% after your meal at sit down restaurants. You should generally tip 15% or more for dinners or for exceptional service. We’re going to assume that you’ll average out at around $40 per meal at a mid tier restaurant, including a drink and tip. Assuming you’re going out once a week, you’ll be spending at least $160/month on dining out. Generally speaking, places in west side Vancouver and Yaletown would be more expensive compared to places like Gastown, Commercial, etc. For those who are more interested in the nightlife scene, you can check out places such as Republic Nightclub, Prive Nightclub, AuBar Nightclub, Red Room Ultra Bar, The Belmont Bar, and The Odyssey.



Finally, we’re going to assume that you want to stay healthy and keep in shape while on your Working Holiday or Internship. That’s why it’s generally a good idea to invest a little money in a monthly gym membership. You can get a membership for as low as $20/month if you just want the basic offerings or get a membership for $50 with more amenities. However, there are many inexpensive or even free options for you to stay in shape in Vancouver. There are many Community Centres that offer various programs at reasonable rates and also allow for drops ins. There is public swim at Sunset Beach, you can go jogging at Stanley Park, or you can play volleyball in the summer time in Kitsilano and English Bay. Finally, if you’re willing to go a bit farther, there are free public trails up on Burnaby Mountain for you to hike or bike along. Some of the trails include the Trans Canada Trail, Cardiac Trial, Mel’s Trail, and more. You can find more information and directions to any of these suggested places or activities online.

With all the exercising and outdoor activities that you may be participating in during your stay, you’d want to make sure that you’re covered for health insurance. Did you know that in Canada a transfer to the hospital with an ambulance will cost on average $600? This doesn’t even include any treatment and if you need surgery it can easily cost $10,000 or more. So why let something like unexpected medical expenses ruin your adventure? Stepwest offers our Working Holiday and Internship participants Health Insurance provided by Guard Me. Your plan will only cost you $2 a day (for a minimum of 90 days), and it will cover you up to 2 million dollars during the terms of your plan in Canada and also up to 30 days in the USA.


If we add everything starred in our expense chart below, you could be spending something around $1585 CAD per month to live in Vancouver, depending on the options you choose. Please keep in mind that your expenses will reduce as you get to know your surroundings more and get to know of more affordable options, whether it be for food, housing, or anything else. Hopefully our breakdown was a helpful read for those of you planning on joining or even currently doing any of our Working Holiday or Internship Programs. If you already have a working holiday permit and are interested in securing a guaranteed job in Canada before arriving or are interested in doing a Canadian internship, be sure to check out our Working Holiday and Internship Programs!

Summary of Expenses:

Stepwest Homestay (no meals) $650/month
Stepwest Homestay (incl. meals) $850/month
Airbnb (approx. 1 week) ~$390/week (outside Vancouver)
Rent own apartment (shared) ~$800/month*
Utilities & Internet (if not already included, shared with one other person) ~$100/month
Cell Phone Plan ~$50/month*
Transportation (monthly pass) ~$95/month*
Food & Groceries ~$400/month*
Going Out & Having Fun ~$160/month*
Fitness & Recreation (gym membership) ~$20/month*
Health Insurance with Student Guard ~$60/month*


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