Spanish guy wants to live in Vancouver

Hello everyone! I’m Aitor, from Barcelona and I’m planning to move to Vancouver next September, to study a CO-OP course and to work.
I’m diabetic, insulino-dependient. And i have some doubts about getting the insulin and the diabetes equipment there in Canada.

I’ve already did an ‘‘investigation’’ but i cannot find too much info about it. That’s what i got clear:

  1. If i want to purchase my medication there, i’ll need a prescription from a doctor. How i could get that prescription? I’ve read about walk in clinics, where a doctor can see you and make you the prescription. But i don’t know too much about it and i need more information. If you guys could give me an addition info it would be great. The costs of the insulin and the diabetic supplies as needles, test strips, sensors is something that i already searched info to and I’m aware of that (more or less)

  2. If i want to go for the plan b, in my case it would be to send my insulin trough the ocean by plane shipping. What do i need for? this would be my question. I need my Spanish prescription I’ve read, with a doctor’s sign. But I wasn’t able to find more info about that. there’s something that i’m missing?

If you are able to answer me i would be super grateful. This is the only big issue that i have to travel to Canada.

Thanks a lot,


1 Like

Most major categories of insulins, including several analog insulins, are available Over-The-Counter without a prescription in Canada. The prices are quite reasonble - much more reasonable than buying in the USA. You might check your current insulin (likely Novo or Lilly) and see if an identical or similar product is available in Canada. In fact if you’re buying without insurance at a Canadian pharmacy they’ll just assume you’re a visiting American. Test strips are available over-the-counter too.

It sounds like you’ll be doing more than just visiting, and will at least have a student visa, and a co-op indicates you likely have a job which will come with real insurance options. When you sign up for the job or register for school you’ll be given the opportunity to buy some optional healt insurance beyond the basic provincial health insurance. There is a waiting period (more than two months) before the provincial insurance will cover you. You can visit doctors before the insurance kicks in but you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

I lived and worked in Vancouver for several years in the 1990’s - I enjoyed the city and the forests and mountains around it!

1 Like

Hi Spanishwolf,
Welcome to the boards! Your upcoming move sounds like quite an adventure. It’s good to plan ahead like you’re doing. I’m from the US, so I’m afraid I don’t have any tips regarding your questions. I might explore the student health department at the school you plan to attend. They may have helpful info and practical tips for international students. Good luck with everything!

@spanishwolf, there shouldn’t be any need to have your insulin shipped from Spain. Most campuses have Student Health Services clinics, where a doctor or nurse practitioner can give you any needed prescriptions. Bring along your Spanish insulin or prescription in case an equivalent needs to be prescribed. UBC has two pharmacies on-campus, and one is a short walk from Langara. I’m not sure about other schools.

International student fees at many schools (such as UBC and Langara College) automatically include coverage for the three-month wait period before the province’s Medical Services Plan becomes effective, or (like City University) require students to purchase it separately. If it’s not included in your fees, look up iMED (if you’re at UBC) or Global Campus Health Plan (if at other schools). These both provide fairly basic coverage such as the cost of doctor visits. For temporary coverage for prescriptions, you can look into AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan.

You probably know this already, but you need to apply for MSP and BC PharmaCare (which covers most of the cost of insulin, test strips, CGMs, etc.) as soon as you arrive in Canada. You cannot apply beforehand. But you may be able to apply for a temporary-coverage plan while you are still in Spain (again, check to see if coverage is included in your fees).

MSP will issue you a BC Services Card (much like your tarjeta sanitaria) so you won’t have to pay to see a doctor or get a prescription*. (*There may be a small fee or deductible for prescriptions. Sorry, I am in a different province with different coverage plans. I lived in Vancouver several decades ago and the health plan has changed a lot since then.)

@Tim12 is correct that you can buy insulin without a prescription, but note that without a prescription, the cost won’t count towards your PharmaCare deductible or coverage, you can’t claim for reimbursement from any private plan, and nor can you claim the expense on your Canadian income taxes.

Good luck!


First of all, i want to say thanks for the answers, you gave me light. I will explore what you said, BC i didn’t knew about it and sounds promising. I’m calmer now, and i will go ahead with my plan.

Thanks again BC you helped me a lot :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

1 Like

A lot of Americans buy supplies from this Canadian Marine pharmacy because they will ship you anything. It might be helpful to know that they exist.