Arrival Planning

Congratulations! If you have received study permit approval by way of the Letter of Introduction from IRCC or a travel document on your passport, please contact with a copy of your approval immediately. NIC does not officially register you into courses until this step is complete.

As a new student to NIC, you need to attend the mandatory International Student Orientation. Please ensure you follow the instructions in your letter of acceptance, and check your NIC email regularly for updated orientation information. Late arrival is not permitted at NIC.


Arrival Date

2024 Fall (September)

August 22, 2024

2025 Winter (January)

December 26, 2024

2025 Spring (May)

April 24, 2025

Some students choose to arrive early in our community and this may allow you extra time to adjust to the new environment. However, please note that you are not legally allowed to begin work until your program at NIC starts. It is important that you assess your financial situation before choosing to arrive early.

If you are contemplating on booking flights prior to study permit approval, we strongly recommend that you book fully refundable tickets in the case of study permit refusal or unexpected delay in study permit processing.

The Comox Valley, Campbell River and Port Alberni all enjoy a coastal marine climate with warm, dry summers and short, mild winters. Average July high temperatures are 22.5C (72.5F) with average January temperature of 0.3C (32.5F). It is one of the few places in Canada where you can both golf and ski in winter. Check on Environment Canada website for more information to anticipate the climate.

Packing clothing:

The temperate coastal climate requires a raincoat or water-repellent windbreaker in spring, summer and fall, and a warm coat or jacket in winter. Most students walk around the city most times, so a pair of comfortable walking shoes and maybe rain boots or waterproof shoes are recommended. A collapsible umbrella will also be helpful for you but we will give you one at the orientation.

Buying clothing in Canada:

Depending on where you come from, purchasing items in Canada may cost you a lot more than you expect. We recommend that you bring what you can, so that you can keep any shopping to minimum.

Depending on your living arrangements, items you need to purchase at the beginning of your time in Canada may include bedding, basic cooking condiments and utensils, towels, toiletaries, electronics, cell phone plans, and stationaries. It is not realistic for you to bring everything to Canada, and you can start with second-hand stores and discount stores to gather items at low cost.


Some cash in hand will be helpful for the first week until you are settled, but we do not recommend that you travel with large amount of cash. Although Canada is relatively safe, there are cases of theft and potential of losing the precious cash.

Credit Card:

Credit cards are widely accepted in our community and retailers, and there are a number of ATMs available for you. Have enough access to funds on a credit card to pay for your expenses for the first few weeks; including accommodation, rent, damage deposit, food, text books, and a bus pass.

OGE is not able to provide financial assistance to international students. Please ensure you have enough money to cover your time in Canada.

Once you arrive in Canada, you will set up a bank account at one of our major banks, allowing you to transfer funds into the account as needed. Major banks in each NIC community include the Royal Bank (RBC), TD Canada Trust, Scotia Bank, Bank of Montreal (BMO), and CIBC.

Comox Valley Airport (YQQ)

Campbell River Airport (YBL)

Port Alberni

Seasonal Flights

During the Spring and Summer months, you can fly from downtown Vancouver to Comox Harbour in 45 minutes on a floatplane with Harbour Air. Please note that Harbour Air has different luggage limitation and fees and it may not be a suitable option if you are travelling with large luggages.

Pre-booking taxis and shuttles is strongly recommended to get from YQQ or YBL to your accommodation. Please visit Comox Valley Airport Transportation or Campbell River Airport Transportation.

Some students are adventurous and choose to travel to the island by bus. It takes about 5 hours and is a very beautiful trip. If you are not in a rush or if you are taking a break in Vancouver when first arriving in Canada, travelling by bus and ferry might be a good option for you.

Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay

Departure Bay to Campus location

TransLink, the public transit system in Vancouver can take you from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to the BC Ferry terminal in Horseshoe Bay.

BC Ferries operates ferry travel from the Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) to Departure Bay (Nanaimo).

From Departure Bay you can take an Island Link bus to the Comox Valley. Reservations are required for Island Link, and highly recommended for BC Ferries.

If you have a friend that can drive you from Nanaimo to your campus location, taking Hullo ferry might be a great option. Hullo departs from Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre (Vancouver downtown), arriving at Nanaimo Port Authority. Public bus system does not connect Nanaimo Port Authority to campus locations well, and we do not recommend this option unless a friend or a family member is able to pick you up from Nanaimo Port Authority.

NIC requires all students to have medical insurance for the duration of your studies. There are two levels of health care in Canada to be aware of:

  1. Primary Health Care (doctor and hospital visits)
  2. Secondary Health Care (dental, pharmacy, travel and vision)

Arriving well before the first day of virtual orientation: Early Arrival through Guard.Me Insurance

You will need to purchase early arrival insurance if you arrive in Canada before the first day of your international student virtual orientation. You can do this through Guard.Me for $1.65 per day, or use another insurance company if you prefer.

First 90 days: Guard.Me Insurance

At the beginning of your first semester, starting on the day of your international student virtual orientation event, you are automatically enrolled in the health insurance plan as part of your tuition fee. This insurance will last for 90 days and will cover any emergency healthcare or doctor visits that you require.

After the first 90 days: Medical Services Plan (MSP)

As soon as you arrive in Canada, you must apply for Medical Services Plan (MSP). This is a long-term health insurance plan administered by the British Columbia government that provides you with coverage after being a BC resident for three months. Click here to apply for MSP.

Moving from another city in Canada: Medical Services Plan (MSP)

If you are moving from another province, you should arrange with your former medical plan to be covered during the wait period while applying for MSP immediately after arriving in BC. Click here for more information on MSP.

If you have already been in BC and have a valid MSP, please contact us at

You are automatically enrolled in the North Island College Student Union’s Green Shield Health and Dental Plan when you become a student at NIC. This plan costs $275.00 per year and is automatically included in your program fees. This coverage includes things like pharmacy medications, dental care, eye care, counselling, travel insurance, massage therapy, and free legal advice services.

For more detailed information on health care for international students, click here.

At NIC, it is your responsibility to find your own accommodation. Unfortunately, NIC does not have student housing on campus and we do not coordinate a homestay program. Housing is very difficult to find in any communities in Canada, including NIC’s communities.

  • You must be willing to spend 1-2 weeks in a hotel or Airbnb when you first arrive in Canada. Once you are here and you can go look at houses in person, it will be easier to find a rental. It’s also possible you can find some roommates at NIC orientation events.
  • Uncertainty around housing can add lots of stress to the start of your school year. Leaving your home country is stressful enough on its own. Please try not to feel too worried if you do not find a rental before you arrive in Canada. Even when we have quite a large group of new students arrive at NIC, they always manage to find housing before too long.
  • When you contact a landlord online, do not just send a short message asking if the rental is still available. Send a message with lots of detail. Introduce yourself, say where you are from, and what you will be studying. You can tell them your age and gender as well. And please use your NIC email to contact them so they know you are actually a student.

Off-Campus Housing:

We have partnered with Places4Students to help you find a place to live, a roommate or a sublet – all you need is your NIC email address to register. The service is free. Helpful features include a distance calculator to NIC campuses and detailed listing of amenities.

Landlords can post listings online. This service is free.

Rental listings for Comox Valley

Rental listings for Campbell River

Rental listings for Port Alberni

You must live in the same community as the campus you are attending. Transit systems do not allow you to commute between campuses.

The average rent in our campus communities can range from $1,300 to $1,600 for a 1 bedroom suites/apartment and $600-$1,000 for a single room in a house; rent does not always include WIFI and utilities such as electricity. It is important that you ask what is included in the rent and what additional fees you need to expect.

We highly recommend all students become familiar with the BC Tenancy Act before committing to an rental/lease agreement and become educated to identifying potential rental scams.

Steps to follow before moving in:

  1. Sign a Residential Tenancy Agreement (a rental or lease agreement)
  2. Pay the deposit (usually first and last month’s rent)
  3. Inspect the property and do a condition report (write down if anything is damaged or not working)

For more information about affordable local hotels and short-term accommodation in your campus location, please follow the links on International Student Orientation course on Brightspace. You will gain access to this page a couple of months before your study begins at NIC.

Additional Search Options:

There are many websites and social media groups to find accommodation. Craigslist and Kijiji in your campus community are also options for finding private rentals. We strongly recommend that you do not enter into a rental agreement or send any money until you have seen the space for rent in person and have met the landlord and feel comfortable. Beware of scams or who will request your money up front without providing you with a tour of actual rental unit or a contract.


North Island College provides this information as a service to its students but does NOT take responsibility for the agreements made between students and landlords. North Island College does not screen, inspect or approve any landlord, student or accommodation. To protect yourself, always visit the accommodation in person before signing a rental/lease agreement and before giving the landlord any money.