Life in Montréal: useful information for newcomers

Couldn’t be more excited about your upcoming move to Montréal? To make the most of your new life in the city, here’s some useful information covering the different services and features of Montréal.

From healthcare, food and shopping to the local currency and waste collection, learn all there is to know to make the most of your new city!

Health and safety: daily and emergency services

Ran out of toothpaste? Cat stuck in a tree? Set fire to your kitchen? In Greater Montréal, you can find all the services you need for every situation, from pharmacies and CLSCs to post offices and emergency services.

Pharmacies: there to take care of you

Easily accessible with locations in every Greater Montréal neighbourhood, pharmacies are your go-to when it comes to filling prescriptions, seeking professional advice or picking up a bar of soap.

Whether it’s an independent location or a major chain (like Jean-Coutu, Pharmaprix and Uniprix), pharmacies are the place to go to pick up prescription drugs as well as food, household products and cosmetics. Pharmacists are also there to provide first-aid service and can even give you emergency contraceptive pills if you needed.

Taking photos and posting mail

A lot of pharmacies have Canada Post counters and photo ID services that meet Canadian and international standards. Looking to send a gift home to your family or need to renew your passport? You’ve come to the right place!

Online service and delivery

Don’t want to hang around waiting to have your prescription filled? Most pharmacies give you the option of refilling your prescriptions online. And if you can’t make it there in person, some pharmacies even offer home delivery.

What’s a CLSC?

CLSC stands for Centre local de services communautaires (local community service centre). This public institution offers front-line health and social assistance services such as medical care (including psychological care), home support services for the elderly and disabled, prenatal classes, STI screening and vaccinations. Montréal is home to a network of CLSCs in different neighbourhoods, all offering a range of service to meet residents’ needs.

Learn all you need to know about Québec’s healthcare system here.

Emergency assistance

If you’re ever in need of emergency services in Montréal, 9-1-1 is the number to remember. Call it anytime to reach the police, fire department, paramedics or the Coast Guard, or in case of an emergency involving hydroelectricity, natural gas or public construction.

For more information on emergency services in Montréal, visit the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SVPM) website.

Good to know: day-to-day life in Montréal

Some things about Montréal are obvious, like driving on the right side of the road or wearing a coat in winter. But how about the not-so-obvious local customs?

From currency and exchange rates to business hours, holidays and waste collection, here’s a quick primer on everyday life in Montréal.

Canadian money made easy

Canadian bills feature different symbols specific to the country, like caribou, loon birds and sailboats. The most commonly used notes, made of polymer since 2013, are CAD$5, CAD$10, CAD$20, CAD$50 and CAD$100. Coins are available in denominations of 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, CAD$1 and CAD$2.

Exchanging money has changed!

Since the 1-cent coin went out of production in 2013, merchants now round up to 5 cents. If you happen to come across a CAD$1,000 bill, make sure you spend it quick as it will no longer be considered legal tender starting January 1, 2021.

Loonies, toonies and all the terms in between

Even when it comes to finances, Canadians have some pretty funny and unique terms! A dollar is known as a “buck” or a “Loonie” (so-called because of the Loon bird on the $1 coin). A two-dollar bill is known as a “Toonie” (a rhyming play on “Loonie”). And a 25-cent coin is called a “quarter.” Once you move here, you’ll find that Quebecers have their own special slang for money, too, which will be useful to learn!

Calculating currency conversions

What’s the price of a pint of milk in Montréal in Euros, Rupees, U.S. dollars or Yuan? Use this currency converter tool to figure out how much you’re spending and to see how far your dollars can stretch.

Opening hours: businesses, grocery stores and restaurants

There’s nothing worse than getting to a store only to find the doors are locked! Here are the opening hours for most businesses in Montréal:

  • Commercial stores and businesses: open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Note that some businesses open at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. When in doubt, ask!
  • Grocery stores: open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Some grocery stores are open 24 hours a day.
  • Restaurants: different opening hours depending on the restaurant.
  • Bars: open until 3 a.m.

Some businesses, stores, grocery stores and establishments are also closed on the following holidays:

  • New Year’s Day: January 1
  • Easter: Good Friday and/or Easter Monday
  • National Patriots’ Day: the Monday before May 25
  • Québec National Holiday: June 24
  • Canada Day: July 1
  • Labour Day: the first Monday in September
  • Thanksgiving: the second Monday in October
  • Christmas Day: December 25

Garbage, recycling and compost collection

Can’t see out of your kitchen window anymore because your bags are stacked so high? It might be time to check your local waste collection schedule! Here’s how the collection system works for garbage, recycling, compost and toxic waste.


In general, garbage collection takes place once or twice a week, depending on the neighbourhood. You should leave your garbage as close to the street as possible and a day before collection at the earliest, so you don’t leave a pile of garbage lying around outside for days.

Visit the Ville de Montréal website for the collection schedule in your neighbourhood.


Do your part for the planet by giving your used materials a second life. Once a week, according to the schedule in your neighbourhood, you can dispose of cardboard, glass, plastic and metal packaging. If you see your sidewalk lined with blue bins or bags, you know the recycling truck will be coming by soon!

Got questions about exactly which products you can recycle, like cardboard take-out containers that still smell like last night’s Portuguese chicken and fries? Check out the list of recyclable materials on the Recyc-Québec website.


Farmers have been composting for years to fertilize their fields. And Greater Montréal has been giving residents in some neighbourhoods the opportunity to do the same in recent years. To find out if you can have your compost collected where you live, ask your municipality or look out for brown bins on the street.

Want to start composting but can’t stand the smell? Before you sign up, read the Québec government’s tips for composting at home.

How about that old oven you want to get rid of?

Did you know old appliances that don’t work anymore can be collected and salvaged for parts. To learn how to dispose of large items, electronics and toxic waste, visit this Recyc-Québec page for all you need to know.

Now that we’ve broken down the Montréal essentials, it’s time to jump on your bike, catch the bus or hop on the Métro and have fun exploring your new city!