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Student guide: What is the cost of living in Canada?

Many students dream of studying in Canada. The country has world-renowned teaching facilities and universities, an open immigration system, metropolitan cities, and scenic landscapes. Altogether, it’s a great choice for international students.  

Studying in Canada is not as expensive as studying in other countries, like the U.S. or U.K. However it is still a big investment. International students pay between $1,800-20,000 CAD per year to attend a Canadian university or college.  

But, what’s the cost of living in Canada? Canada is a big country and prices vary by region. Nevertheless, the EduCanada government website estimates the average cost of living for foreign students is about $12,000 CAD a year.  

In this guide, we outline how much students across Canada pay for things like rent, transportation, entertainment, and food – and look into some hidden costs that everyone should keep in mind. 

Here is our student guide on the cost of living in Canada: 

Accommodation costs by city  

When you’re studying in Canada, you can choose between living on-campus or off-campus. Living on-campus is a great opportunity to socialize with other students and make friends. Most institutions also give students on-campus the option to buy a meal plan. But, keep in mind that many universities and colleges prioritize first-year students for on-campus housing.  

You might also decide to rent an apartment or room off-campus instead. There are lots of housing options in neighborhoods close to universities and colleges – and these are often advertised specifically for students.  

To give you an idea about how much accommodation will cost, we take a look at some popular Canadian study destinations. Keep in mind, off-campus housing prices might fluctuate because of the pandemic. 


At the University of Toronto, on-campus housing for eight months ranges from about $6500- $20,500 CAD, depending on the room and meal-plan. A one-bedroom apartment in Toronto costs about $2,100 CAD/month on average.  


At the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, a room and meal-plan will cost you between $10,700-$13,850 CAD for two terms. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs $2,050 CAD/month on average.  


At McGill University in Montreal, a single room for 1st-year undergraduate students costs between about $9,700-$12,700 CAD/academic year, without a meal plan. A one-bedroom apartment costs 1,300 CAD/month on average. 


At Dalhousie University in Halifax, a single room costs between $8,130-$9,450 CAD/academic year with a meal plan. A one-bedroom apartment costs about $1,400 CAD/month on average.  


At the University of Waterloo, a single room in a traditional-style dorm costs between about $6,700-$7,000 CAD for the fall and winter term, not including a mandatory meal-plan. A one-bedroom apartment costs about $1,500 CAD/month on average.  

Food costs  

If you don’t have a meal plan and live off-campus, you must include grocery shopping in your budget. Of course, food prices are different across the country and depend on where you decide to shop.  

Let’s take a quick look at how much essential items may cost in Canada’s largest city, Toronto:  

  • Milk (about $3 CAD)

  • Rice, 1kg (about $3.50 CAD)

  • Apples, 1kg (about $4 CAD)

  • Red meat, 1kg (about $16 CAD)

  • 12 eggs (about $3.50 CAD)

According to the City of Toronto’s Nutritious Food Basket Calculator, a male aged 19-30 must spend a minimum of $65.50/week to buy healthy food. A female the same age living in Toronto must spend about $51 CAD/week to buy healthy food.  

Transportation costs in Canada 

How much is the average cost of transportation in Canada? Many international students rely on public transportation to get around. And oftentimes, transport costs are included in tuition fees – giving you unlimited access to the city’s whole transportation system.  

But in some cities – like Toronto and Montreal – you can buy your own pass at a reduced fare. In Montreal, a student pass costs $53 CAD/month. In Toronto, which is a much more expensive city, a pass costs $128 CAD/month.  

Outside of larger cities, it can also be useful to have a car, especially if you are used to driving at home. But, keep in mind this can cost a lot extra. To get an idea of how much it costs to drive a car in Canada, check out this driving costs calculator by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).  

Entertainment costs 

Canada offers many cultural and outdoor activities for you to enjoy. You can find world-class music festivals, skiing and snowboarding, and giant sporting events like basketball, hockey, and baseball games.  

Of course, you will also still get to enjoy many things you did at home. Here are a few things you might like to do in Canada, along with how much each costs:  

  • Visit a renowned museum (many offer free evenings, and entrance for young people or students) 

  • Meet a friend for coffee ($1.76 CAD at coffee chain Tim Hortons) 

  • Rent skates and go ice-skating outdoors (about $10 CAD)

  • Watch a movie in theaters (about $15 CAD)

  • Eat dinner at a casual restaurant (about $15-25 CAD)

Insurance costs 

Canada has a publicly-funded health system. However, each province and territory administers its own healthcare. Whether or not you can receive publicly-funded medical coverage will depend on where you are in Canada.  

If you don’t qualify for public healthcare, your institution might require you to enroll in a specific insurance plan or find your own private coverage. You should check with your institutions about exactly what coverage you need to study safety in Canada.  

Hidden costs 

Lots of hidden costs arise when studying abroad, and there are a few things students in Canada should keep in mind.  

For one, it is expensive to own a cellphone in Canada. In fact, cell phone bills in Canada are among the highest in the world. Canadians pay $101 CAD/month, on average, for a cellphone plan.  

You will also need to buy warm winter clothing – including a jacket, boots, socks, gloves, hat, and scarf. You can expect to pay about $300-$400 CAD for these items brand new. However, thrift stores might also carry winter clothing for much cheaper.  

Finally, you shouldn’t forget about Canadian sales taxes. Taxes in Canada are higher than many places in the world and range from about 12%-15%.

Feeling ready to go to Canada? 

At PTE Academic, we want to help you achieve your Canadian study dreams. Book your PTE Academic test today – wherever you are in the world.  

Find the closest test center to you now.