Costs of Living in Canada
Here are some typical
costs for living in Canada:
Bus Fare One Way (local) $2.00 - $3.00
Restaurant Meal $10.00 - $25.00 per person
• Movie $8.50 -
Postage (letter) $1.55
• Letter within
Some provinces apply a provincial tax levy to goods and services. All
provinces must apply the federal Goods & Services Tax (GST) of 6 percent to
most purchases. As a visitor, a portion of the GST may be refunded to you
upon your departure from Canada. There are restrictions that apply and you
must provide original receipts. Contact Revenue Canada or your school for
further information. GST refund forms can be obtained at the information
counters at airports and at most shopping malls.
Currency and Banking
Canada uses the metric system of measurement. The unit
of currency is the Canadian dollar, which equals 100 cents. The most common
paper currency in Canada comes in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations.
Coins appear in:
1 cent (pennies), 5 cents (nickels), 10 cents (dimes), 25 cents (quarters),
$1 (loonies) and $2 (twoonies) denominations. The $1 and $2 coins have been
introduced over the last 10 years, and there are still Canadian $1 and $2
bills in circulation that are considered legal tender (they have also become
collector's items). Canadian bills are clearly marked and each denomination
has a distinctive colour.
Although banks often offer the best currency exchange
rate, some do charge a small fee to change money or traveller's cheques, and
prices listed often do not include taxes. It is best to change a small
amount of currency into Canadian money before coming to Canada, as banks are
usually open only Monday to Friday, daytime hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Other
means of exchanging your currency can be somewhat more costly. Exchange
services offered by hotels, shops, and exchange booths almost always offer
the highest rates or charge large commission fees. Wherever you go, always
ask about hidden charges before changing money.
All shops and businesses will accept Canadian currency, and some will accept
United States currency in tourist areas. All other currency must be
Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)
Students can easily access the many banks and
affiliated ATMs in Canada. They are
easy to find in large cities, and are more convenient than credit cards and
traveller's cheques. You can usually use a regular bank card or a major
credit card at ATMs to withdraw cash. It might also be possible to open a
local account which would come with an ATM card. ATM cards can also be used
at many stores in Canada to pay for items such as groceries and clothing.
Banks offer a variety of services to their customers including currency
exchange, safety deposit boxes for storage of passports, and savings
accounts. Many Canadians use personal cheques issued by banks as an
efficient means to pay for services.
Traveller's Cheques and Credit Cards
Traveller's cheques are a recommended form of currency when travelling (for
safety reasons) and can be purchased at major Canadian banks. They are
easily replaced if stolen or lost. Most shops, hotels, restaurants and
attractions accept traveller's cheques as well as major credit cards.
The rate of exchange in effect on the day of a credit card transaction will
be automatically updated on your credit card bill. Students can also apply
for credit cards when they arrive in Canada; however, the expenses are due
at the end of every month with interest charged on unpaid expenses.
Accommodation - Short Term
A wide range of hotels is available for temporary stays upon arrival in
A Canadian hotel is defined as having inside access, private rooms, and
daily cleaning service. It is always best to make reservations in advance,
and during the peak tourist season, it is essential. From May until August,
hotels are booked most heavily (90 per cent full), and finding a reasonable
place to stay without a reservation can be challenging if not impossible.
Although most reservations can be made with a week's notice, be sure to
check ahead for any major festivals or events as it will be more difficult
to reserve rooms during these times.
Hotel services, price and quality vary. Rooms in larger cities will
generally be more expensive. In general, however, you will find hotels in
Canada to be clean, comfortable and reasonably priced. Most hotels accept
major credit cards, and reservations can be made either directly or by a
travel agent in your home country.
Here are some general estimates for the cost of hotel accommodation per
night. Please note that prices vary according to occupancy rates, location
- Low price range: $45-$75 CDN
- Moderate price range: $55-$135 CDN
- Expensive price range: $135 - $250 CDN
- Five-Star Hotel price range: $250 CDN & upwards
(It is advised to
carefully check accommodation in this price range, as good quality hotels at
these prices can be difficult to find, particularly in large cities.)
temporary accommodation option is the bed-and-breakfast. Rooms are located
in private homes or locally-run establishments, and the cost includes your
own room and a generous breakfast. Many rooms do not have private toilets
and baths. Bed-and-breakfast accommodation comes in a variety of forms - it
can be in a heritage home, modern townhouse, rural farmhouse, or seaside
home. Most establishments are registered with a professional association,
and are a great way to meet local people.
Average cost of a room in a bed-and-breakfast: $35 to $105 CDN per
Hostelling is a temporary and inexpensive way to stay in major cities.
Accommodation is basic but economical, and primary facilities (toilets,
baths and kitchens) are shared. Rates are calculated daily, and costs are
less than other accommodation choices. A Canadian hostel must be inspected
and approved by the Canadian Hostelling Association.
Average cost of a room in a hostel: $10 - $20 CDN per night.
For further information, you can contact the International Youth Hostelling
Association in your own country; or for information on hostels in Canada:
The YWCA/YMCA hotels are also inexpensive, clean, safe and comfortable. Many
of these establishments also have pools and fitness centres. Keep in mind,
though, that hostels and YWCA/YMCAs fill up quickly during the summer
months, so you should plan ahead.
Average cost of a room in a YWCA/YMCA: $24 - $45 CDN per night.
For more information see:
Accommodation - Long Term
1. School Provided Accommodation
Many Canadian families welcome international students. This may be an
effective way for you to improve your English or French, learn about daily
life in Canada, and meet
new, friendly people. Homestays also offer a more stable and secure
environment for younger people coming to study in Canada. Typically, a
homestay consists of a Canadian family hosting a student in their home while
the student attends classes in Canada. Meals and a private, furnished room
are provided in the home, and the host family welcomes and encourages
participation in family and community activities.
Homestays are arranged by the school and students are matched with families
who share similar interests. Amenities and location vary from home to home,
but preferences can and should be indicated to the school so that a suitable
match may be found. Many schools can arrange for a school representative or
homestay family to meet you at the airport when you arrive.
Prices will vary according to location, and some homestay services
will charge an initial placement fee of up to $200 CDN.
For more information, contact the school you will be attending.
Average cost of homestay accommodation: $400 - $800 CDN per month.
Many schools have accommodation conveniently located
on or near their campus. Rooms can vary in size and in quality, and many
dormitories have shared kitchens, toilets, showers and laundry facilities.
There is usually an option of having either a shared or private room, and
dormitories are usually separated by gender. In some cases, there are
cafeterias and meal plans that can be included in the cost of the room. Most
dormitories come furnished, and are an ideal way to become involved in
campus activities and meet other students.
Average cost of residence/dormitory rooms: $3,000 - $7,500 CDN per
school year. For more information, contact the school you will be attending.
2. Off-Campus Housing
Renting is an option open to students, but price, quality and availability
vary greatly. Rents are often quite high in the major cities, and places are
not always available. Many students share accommodation to keep costs down
and usually find places to meet their needs and preferences. Many schools
offer an off-campus housing service, which can provide affordable listings
that are near the campus. At this service centre, those seeking shared
accommodations can also find roommates. Once on campus, you will often find
a variety of postings throughout the campus advertising nearby housing, but
it is always best to make arrangements before coming to Canada.
There are different types of places you can rent as an international
student. A house is usually too expensive for one student to rent, but many
students share or rent suites (a self-contained unit with a kitchen, toilet,
bath and bedroom) within a larger home. Apartments are another option, where
one has a kitchen, toilet, bath, and one or two bedrooms. Most rental
apartments do not include furniture or meals. Some, however, include the
cost of heat and/or electricity in the rent.
Listings of available apartments or homes are published in local newspapers.
It is the
of the student to determine suitability as schools do not inspect these
places nor can they make any other arrangements. Most landlords require a
damage deposit and rent is paid on a monthly basis in cash or by cheque.
Agreements with landlords should be made with care. Carefully examine and
know the terms of any lease before you sign it. Carefully examine the
apartment or suite before signing a lease to determine whether anything
needs to be repaired by the landlord before you move in. If you experience
problems with your rental accommodation, you should contact a provincial
residential tenancy office.
Average cost of shared accommodations in Canada: $250 - $700 CDN
Average cost of a suite or apartment: $400 - $1,500 CDN monthly.
Things to remember when choosing accommodation in Canada:
Try to make arrangements ahead of time but be especially sure to do so if
you require accommodation during the summer months, and during holidays and
If you are staying in a hotel or hostel, always inspect the room on arrival
before making a payment. If you are unsure about the location, ask the local
Prices can vary greatly
according to location and time of year, so try to investigate before you
leave. Canada is a friendly and wonderful place, and having made the proper
arrangements, you will undoubtedly enjoy your stay regardless of where you
choose to live in Canada.