July 9, 2020

How To Survive Canadian Winter: Tips From An International Student

By Betcy Kiran

One of the major challenges that an international student from India might first face is the winter in Canada. Being close to the North pole, winter in Canada is freezing with many parts of the country experiencing heavy snowstorms. Winter here starts from December and usually lasts till March. The summer here hits temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius and can be hot and humid. 

However, the temperature drops from September, with the arrival of autumn. By December, the temperature would have fallen below zero degrees. Snowfall usually begins by the end of December, with most of it happening during  January and February. Also, there is always a possibility of small snow showers in early December or late November. February is the coldest month and during the month the temperature might fall even to minus 20 or even less.

What To Expect?

Even if the temperature drops below zero towards November-December, a person who is new to this climate will face difficulty adjusting to the initial temperature drop. During the first snowfall, there is so much excitement and happiness, which, to be frank, will reduce with time. 

Usually, expecting a white Christmas is low, though it has been reported to have mild snow. The temperature reaches an unbearable limit during the beginning of the year. You can expect constant snow with cold winds. Freezing rain is another interesting element of the winter season. It happens when the temperature reaches below zero, and then it rains. It is better to stay indoors during the freezing rain as there are high chances of accidents and falls

How to survive the winter in Canada for Indian students

When it rains, a thin sheet of ice forms on the roads called black ice. It’s very risky traveling as there are high chances for the vehicles to skid. During heavy snowstorms, colleges declare shutdown and thus encourage students to stay indoors. 

Always check the temperature before leaving the house. Every house, apartment, and shops have the heating system, so staying indoors is not a concern during winter. Even buses here are well heated. However, even if it’s a five-minute wait at the stop for the bus or train, one can find it very difficult to manage. So always be prepared even for the shortest walk you plan to take. 

Mant at times you might see the sun shining bright and plan to step out, but mostly it can be a false claim of a sunny day. When you step out, you will realize it's much colder than you thought. 

Being Ready For Winter

One must have a good jacket and winter boots to deal with the harsh winter of Canada. So, it's advisable that you get one after arriving in Canada. The jackets and boots available here are made to sustain the winter here. So never waste money nor luggage space by buying jackets and boots from back home. There is a difference in quality, and it wouldn’t be effective in protecting you from the sub-zero temperatures. You can, however, be prepared with gloves, headscarves and caps, mufflers and warm socks. 

How to survive the winter in Canada for Indian students

Another way of protecting oneself from the harsh climate is by layering up. How much further you layer up that much warm you will stay, or you can buy a good pair of thermals. It would be an economical idea to purchase the thermals from back home as they are expensive here.

There are a variety of brands for winter jackets like Canada Goose, Quartz Co, North face, etc. These jackets and shoes come on sale towards the end of October or November. It is also sensible to buy them later during that time as you can get good brands at a lot cheaper price. However, never compromise on these and purchase poor-quality products, and these are the only things that will protect you from the harsh winter.

A right snow boot protects your feet from frostbite and provides grip to walk on the slippery ice. Knee-length boots are preferred, but even above ankle length boots can also serve the function.


Never take the winter here lightly. It can be harsh, and before you know, it can result in frostbite and hypothermia. Like it was mentioned before, always double-check the temperature outside before going out. Try to minimize exposure by staying indoors. Wear a good pair of gloves to protect your fingers. Some even wear a double layer for their fingers too. You can get warm blankets here as well. So, it’s not necessary to include a blanket in your luggage. Pack only essentials for immediate use till you get more feasible winter materials. If you have a car, always carry spare gloves, jacket, blanket, and other essentials in your trunk for emergencies.

Fun Activities

There are plenty of activities one can do during the winter season. Skiing and skating are a popular form of outdoor entertainment. You can see children making snowmen and snow angels. There are plenty of ice rings open, and it will be a huge chance to test your skills with skates. The light decorations on buildings spread the vibe of the festive season in the air. You can also indulge in mountain biking for some adventurous fun. Tobogganing is another fun activity with family and friends. You can also go sightseeing. There are plenty of waterfalls that are frozen and give a picturesque view. Though be advised it can be cold when you visit an area near the waterbody.

winter in canada

The winter can be harsh and dingy sometimes. It can be depressing with the constant snowstorms and freezing rains. But it has its merits too. Fresh white snow-covered pine trees, houses with snow-covered rooftops, and the cute little snowman built in the front yard of certain homes. It certainly paints a pretty picture, just like the one you see in a winter postcard. It can be simply breath-taking.


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