What is the ideal budget to live in Montréal as an international student?
The prices provided by the author on March 14, 2023, and used in this article are for reference only.
How much does it cost to get settled in a new city? You might think that a cosmopolitan city like Montréal, where there are so many things to do, is expensive and requires a tight budget. Don’t be mistaken!
In this article, I will show you how much money you need to live comfortably in Montréal, and I predict you’ll be surprised to learn that Montréal offers many advantages for international students.
Is it really possible to find affordable housing in Montréal?
It’s not hard to find housing in Montréal. There are many options available—you can choose between studios, shared apartments, furnished and unfurnished apartments, places located downtown or in the suburbs, and leases for 4, 8 or 12 months. I would suggest opting for housing where the cost of water, electricity and heating is included in the rent. Consider the following options:
- On-campus housing: Université de Montréal students can find accommodation on campus at prices ranging from $429 to $807 per month. You may have to share a bathroom and/or kitchen. But you’d better act fast, those spots disappear quickly! Contact your school to learn about all the options available to you.
- Shared apartments: I think this is the best solution! This is a less expensive way to get better housing options (e.g., apartment size; kitchen and bathroom shared with just one other person). You can expect to pay between $600 and $1,000 depending on the area.
Obviously, rent is higher downtown and lower in neighbourhoods like the Plateau Mont-Royal, Parc-Extension, Outremont or Côte-des-Neiges. Plus, the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood is the preferred destination for French expats!
Can you get good quality food at affordable prices?
YES. You can find good quality food without breaking the bank while taking advantage of a wide range of grocery shopping options, which include supermarkets, big-box stores and convenience stores.
I recommend going to small supermarkets. In my neighbourhood downtown near Concordia University, I usually go to Supermarché PA or Marché Newon. These stores have a wide variety of food choices at different prices.
If you convert the prices to euros, you’ll see that they are almost the same for many products.
Food is fairly expensive at big-box stores. Costco is the exception, as it sells products in large quantities at affordable prices. However, you need a membership card, which costs $60 per year.
In Montréal, you’ll find convenience stores open 24/7 on every block.
I recommend a budget of approximately $300 per month for food (which does not include eating out).
Is it easy to get around Montréal?
Montréal has a very good public transit system. The STM provides bus, metro and train services during the day. The four metro lines close at approximately 1:00 a.m. You can use night buses to get around the city when the metro is closed.
When buying your tickets, be mindful of the four zones: A, B, C, D. Zone A is the Island of Montréal. Zone B includes Longueuil and Laval. Zones C and D cover small towns in the suburbs, which are more easily accessible by train. The more zones you choose, the higher the fare.
If you take public transit often, I recommend getting an OPUS card from the STM for $15. On the first day of each month, you’ll pay $56.50 for a student pass allowing you to travel freely in Zone A, for example. Otherwise, the regular fare for one trip is $3.50. Your pass is valid for the bus, metro and rail lines in your zone.
If you want to skip public transit from time to time, there’s always Uber. Watch out, though, since Uber fares include tips and taxes, so costs add up quickly.
Is there a way to save on a Canadian phone plan?
Phone plans are quite costly in Canada because they cover the entire country from coast to coast (remember that Canada is the second-largest country in the world in terms size). That’s why phone companies like Fizz, Bell, Virgin or Rogers have phone plans ranging between $50 and $65 per month with unlimited text but not a lot of data. These companies sometimes have basic plans for students.
When I arrived in Canada, I found a way to get around the high cost because I knew I wouldn’t be making calls to other provinces. I decided to keep my French phone plan (SFR), which works in North America, allowing me to make calls and send messages in Canada and France for €20 per month.
It’s true that a Canadian phone number can be an easy way for employers or the school to contact you, however, I rarely use my Canadian phone number for any other reason.
You can also save by using apps that give you a Canadian phone number at a low price. I bought the Fongo app for €5.99 so I could have a Canadian phone number. Now I pay €3.99 every three months to send messages and make calls from this number.
Going out in Montréal on a tight budget
Montréal has a ton of different bars, nightclubs and cafés to choose from!
Famed Saint-Laurent Boulevard has many nightclubs that draw crowds of young people. You may have to pay a cover charge to get in, although entry is free at some venues.
There’s no shortage of cafés in Montréal. Here are the ones I’ve been to:
- In Old Montréal, Tommy Café serves brunch and delicious beverages. Students pop in to have a coffee or a meal while they work. Many students can also be found studying at cathedral-style Crew Collective & Café.
- Leaves House is a small downtown café that sells all kinds of beverages and delicious pastries. It’s a great study spot because it’s small and quiet.
Fast-food outlets and restaurants
Here are my recommendations:
- If you are walking around, you’ll come across many Allô! Mon Coco restaurants. They have a great brunch menu and generous portions for approximately $25 + tax + tip.
- Poulet Rouge is a fast-food chain known for its seasoned chicken-based dishes with a side of rice and various toppings for approximately $17 + tax + tip. Handy when you don’t have time to cook!
- Sushi lovers should check out Sushi Sama. On the menu, you’ll find a wide variety of choices at affordable prices.
- If you want to treat yourself to a meal at a fancy restaurant from time to time, go to Old Montréal. Restaurants like Nelli Bistro, Brasserie 701, Modavie, Méchant Bœuf or Kyo serve great quality food for brunch, lunch and dinner. One entree and a drink will set you back approximately $40 or $50 + tax + tip, but we all need to indulge sometimes!
- If you’re in the mood for Starbucks, you won’t have any trouble finding one in Montréal!
You’ll never be bored!
The easiest way to work out is to join the gym at your university. At CEPSUM (Centre d’entraînement physique et sportive de l’Université de Montréal), for instance, you can expect to pay $15 per month for eight months to access the cardio and weight training machines. Joining a private gym is much more expensive.
If you play a specific sport at a fairly high level (e.g., football, tennis, and rugby), try joining your university’s team. It’s much less expensive, plus you get perks like access to the gym and medical care. Prefer to exercise off campus? You’ve got many other options.
Are you more of a spectator than an athlete? Go to a Montréal Canadiens game for an unforgettable experience. You can’t study in Montréal and miss out on the chance to go to a hockey game! Tickets start at approximately $85/$90 + taxes.
- Le Belvédère: A lookout point at the top of Mont Royal with stunning views of Montréal and its buildings. Don’t miss it! It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset. And it’s free!
- Jardin botanique de Montréal: Want to clear your head and stretch your legs? The Montréal botanical gardens at Pie-IX metro station is a great place for a relaxing stroll through 75 hectares of greenhouses and themed gardens (like the Japanese and Chinese gardens).
Montréal hosts many summer festivals, like Piknic Électronik. Every Saturday and Sunday from July to October, DJs bring crazy energy to these outdoor events! Admission is $20 + tax if you buy your tickets in advance, otherwise it’s $25. Another famous festival, Igloofest, is held in the winter. Tickets start at $34 + tax.
Major expenses before moving to Montréal
Winter in Canada can be brutally cold, so you need the right gear! If you are buying in Canada, I recommend stores like Winners or thrift shops. They sell good coats for no more than $200, whereas coats in other stores can run up to $400. Personally, I bought a Levi’s winter coat for $69 + tax.
Don’t forget your tuition fees!
Your tuition fees will be due at the beginning of each term, i.e., in September for the fall semester and in January for the winter semester. For example, I am in the political science bachelor’s program at Université de Montréal. Every four months, I pay approximately $4,600, which is around $9,200 per school year. Since I am an ASEQ member, I’ve opted out of paying the insurance fees billed automatically by the university, and that helped lower my tuition costs. Check all the fees included in your tuition because you might find some that you can opt out of, like I did.
So how much money do you need to live in Montréal?
Generally, you’ll need approximately $1,315 per month to live comfortably in Montréal—that includes the cost of rent, food, public transit, phone plans, outings and activities.
|Price in Canadian dollars
|Price in euros
Living in Montréal as an international student comes with many advantages, such as opportunities to explore the local culture, affordable prices and a fantastic lineup of things to do. Your budget shouldn’t hold you back. So, go ahead and take the leap!
Follow Meryl on Instagram @meryl.rnd.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Montréal International.