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Moving to Toronto

Nestled between three of North America’s Great Lakes, namely Eerie, Huron and Ontario, the bustling city of Toronto attracts droves of tourists who come to hike, swim and boat along their shores.

Besides boasting oodles of natural splendour, Toronto is a multicultural, cosmopolitan city with plenty to offer in terms of its job market, entertainment and overall quality of life, which is why it is such a hotspot for expats.

Living in Toronto as an expat

Toronto is the heart of Canada's working world and home to several large banking institutions as well as plenty of opportunities in business, finance, biotechnology, aerospace, media, communications and IT.

Downtown Toronto is constantly expanding and boasts a variety of accommodation options for expats. The iconic CN Tower, which was once the tallest freestanding structure in the world, can be seen from anywhere in the city. Locals claim that navigating by the tower is a foolproof way to avoid getting lost, and this can be helpful for newly-arrived expats.

Toronto has also earned recognition as one of the best shopping destinations in the world. Many local stores and speciality boutiques find themselves wedged between exclusive European and American outlets.

Toronto has a highly efficient public transport system. Almost every area and suburb has access to buses, trains and a rather unique streetcar system. The backbone of the city’s transport, though, is its extensive subway, which links most of the outlying suburbs to the city centre.

Cost of living in Toronto

Expats who hold resident permits will be able reduce their expenses by taking advantage of Canada's widely-praised tax-funded health scheme. Those in Canada on a more short-term basis will need to invest in private health insurance to cover their medical needs during their stay.

Expat families and children in Toronto

Expat parents moving to Toronto will find the city ideal for raising a family. As mentioned, expat families can rest assured the healthcare specialists in Toronto are highly qualified and the facilities advanced.

With excellent public, international and private schools throughout Toronto, parents will have no shortage of options when it comes to their children’s education.

Family get-togethers, hikes, picnics and leisurely strolls are sure to become regular pastimes for expats, thanks to the many green spaces, lakes and forests in and around Toronto. The city also boasts exciting theme parks, museums and other attractions for families to explore.

Climate in Toronto

The climate in Toronto is categorised as continental and is milder and more enjoyable than in other parts of Canada. Winters in the city tend to be cold with plenty of snowfall, while summers are surprisingly hot and humid. The city experiences year-round rainfall.

Overall, expats who choose Toronto can expect a welcoming and safe city with a rich quality of life.

Weather in Toronto

While the Canadian climate might conjure images of polar bears and frozen footprints, the weather in Toronto is actually quite mild. Lake Ontario, the central geographic element, generates these comfortable climes.

The city generally experiences hot and humid summers and cold, snowy winters. These are bearable compared to the likes of the northern territories.

Summer temperatures reach an average high of 79°F (26°C), while winters can get as cold as 16°F (-9°C). Rainfall levels are fairly high throughout the year. Autumn is considered the best time of year in Toronto, with mild days and cool nights.

 

Pros and cons of moving to Toronto

Often ranked as one of the best places to live in the world, Toronto is home to a thriving economy, vast green spaces, and a vibrancy that can only be born from a multicultural society. Newcomers will soon realise that the city is fast paced but can expect many opportunities to pause and revel in its world-class cultural and culinary delights.

Our list of pros and cons offers a snapshot of what expats can expect in Toronto.


Accommodation in Toronto

+ PRO: Wide range of neighbourhoods

The Greater Toronto Area has a wide variety of neighbourhoods, all of which are distinctive in style, character and architecture. Newcomers stand a good chance of finding the right fit for their taste and budget.

- CON: Rent is expensive

Toronto has some of the most expensive rental costs in Canada, and there are a few reasons for this. For one, the city has attracted many foreign investors who can afford to pay top dollar for accommodation, which drives up housing costs. The addition of condos in many neighbourhoods has further affected rental prices. As the real-estate market places a higher value on condos, their presence drives up rent in previously affordable neighbourhoods.


Working in Toronto

+ PRO: Strong job market

Toronto is Canada’s financial capital and is a great place to further a business career. Indeed, the city’s financial sector employs more than 200,000 people. Some of the world’s biggest tech, pharmaceutical and international research companies have offices in Toronto, and the startup scene is robust and boasts constant job creation. 


Getting around in Toronto

- CON: Traffic congestion

Toronto struggles with traffic congestion, as do most big cities, making driving a hassle. The city’s public transport is efficient, and the buses and subway system are great alternatives to driving.


Raising kids in Toronto

+ PRO: Broad schooling options

The city’s school and education system are of a high standard. Residents and those who have work permits can enrol their kids in public schools free of charge.

+ PRO: A range of fun activities

Parents can entertain children at various attractions, including farms, amusement parks and kid-friendly museums. There isn’t a shortage of things to do with the little ones.


Healthcare in Toronto

+ PRO: Publicly funded healthcare

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) funds Toronto’s healthcare system, and coverage extends to all residents of the Ontario Province. Residents pay a minimal monthly premium automatically deducted from their salaries to access doctors, specialists and surgery.

- CON: The OHIP only covers residents

Expats who don’t have residence permits will have to rely on private health insurance rather than the tax-funded OHIP.


Cost of living in Toronto

- CON: The city is expensive

Rent isn’t the only expense driving up Toronto’s eye-watering cost of living. Drinks, food and utilities in Toronto are pricier than in other Canadian cities.


Lifestyle in Toronto

+ PRO: Eclectic food scene

Toronto is easily among the best culinary cities in North America. Gastros who relocate here can explore the world through their palates, thanks to Toronto’s multiculturalism. Options include heavenly dim sum in Chinatown, authentic pasta in Little Italy, tasty curry in Little India and Mediterranean-style dishes in Greektown.

+ PRO: Incredible arts and culture scene

The city is also a wonderland for art lovers, who can sate their appetites for beauty, meaning and sophistication with an enviable list of attractions. Theatre, live music, comedy shows and poetry readings will vie with exciting museums and galleries for their attention.

+ PRO: Low crime rate

Though some degree of crime is inevitable in every city, Toronto suffers relatively little of it. In fact, it often ranks among the safest big cities in North America and the world.

- CON: Challenging weather

Toronto’s climate is slightly milder than those of other Canadian cities, though winter temperatures can still get extremely chilly. Summers, on the other hand, can be hot and humid, with temperatures reaching highs of 95°F (35°C).

Working in Toronto

Toronto is at the forefront of the Canadian working world. Not only does it serve as a headquarters for all five of the major banks in Canada, but it also houses well-developed film, biotechnology, tourism, aerospace, software development, media and telecommunication industries.


Job market in Toronto

As Canada’s commercial hub, Toronto is brimming with job opportunities, especially for those with highly developed and unique skillsets. However, expats intending to work in the service and teaching sectors will find a lot of competition for positions in the city. 

Toronto’s proximity to New York means that it is the principal contact point between Canada and the US, resulting in close ties and easy trade with one of the world’s largest economies. The partnership has led to extensive growth and wealth for Toronto, which in turn has resulted in a wave of expats looking to contribute to and share in the city’s prosperity.


Finding a job in Toronto

Many expats who relocate to Toronto do so via an intra-company transfer. Highly skilled expats are often head-hunted or manage to secure a job before moving to the city. 

Those who intend to move to Toronto without a job offer in hand will find that there are plenty of support systems and resources to help individuals secure employment in the city. Still, it’s important to start the job search before arriving, and to do the relevant research regarding requirements, qualifications, and visas and work permits

The best place to start a job search is usually online. There are plenty of job portals and social networks, such as LinkedIn, to assist with the search. Networking is also highly important in Toronto and will certainly help new arrivals make headway in the workplace.


Work culture in Toronto

Toronto's work culture differs across industries. For instance, there is a more formal atmosphere and dresscode in finance jobs than in the media or other creative sectors. Generally, Canadian workplaces function in an egalitarian manner where everyone's views are heard, but the ultimate decision lies with the boss. Standard working hours are from 9am to 5pm, five days a week.

Cost of Living in Toronto

Toronto is one of the most expensive places to live in Canada, though expats moving to the metropolis from major cities in the US or Europe may find the cost of living considerably cheaper.

The 2022 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Toronto 90th out of 227 cities surveyed worldwide, placing it ahead of Vancouver at 108th. The city's ranking has increased from the previous year, making it the most expensive in Canada.


Cost of accommodation in Toronto

The largest expense expats relocating to Toronto will incur is likely the cost of accommodation

The process of buying a property in Toronto is fairly straightforward, even for expats. So those planning a long-term stay will find that it's worth looking into purchasing a home. However, prices have continued to skyrocket with no signs of letting up. 

For those looking to rent a property, costs vary considerably in Toronto and there are lots of options to suit any budget.


Cost of food and entertainment in Toronto

It's possible to maintain a good standard of living in Toronto without spending a fortune. The cost of groceries is cheaper in Canada than in Europe, but more expensive than in the US. It’s also possible to eat out in Toronto without breaking the bank. Plus, as a vibrant cultural hub, Toronto has many low-cost entertainment options and plenty of free outdoor activities to engage in.


Cost of transport in Toronto

While the public transport network in Toronto is extensive, it is also one of the priciest in the world. That said, commuting with a monthly pass can bring down costs. Expats who choose to own a private vehicle will need to budget for the considerable (and rising) costs of running a car. Insurance premiums are notoriously high in Toronto, while petrol (gas) prices continue to increase.


Cost of healthcare in Toronto

Although the Ontario government offers free basic health insurance to Toronto residents, the conditions for eligibility state that recipients must have lived in the province for at least three months. It's therefore best to purchase a comprehensive health insurance policy before moving to Toronto.


Cost of education in Toronto

Expats relocating to Toronto with children may need to factor in the cost of schooling. While expat students with a residence permit can attend public schools in Toronto at no cost, those without this permit will be required to pay fees.


Cost of living in Toronto chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in July 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent in a good area)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 2,125

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

CAD 1,814

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 3,468

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

CAD 2,907

Shopping

Milk (1 litre)

CAD 3.26

Loaf of white bread

CAD 3.46

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CAD 16.88

Rice (1kg)

CAD 3.71

Dozen eggs

CAD 3.80

Pack of cigarettes

CAD 17.60

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

CAD 12

Coca-Cola (330ml)

CAD 2.52

Cappuccino

CAD 4.82

Bottle of beer (local)

CAD 7

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

CAD 100 

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)  

CAD 0.40

Internet (average per month)

CAD 76.06

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

CAD 171

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

CAD 1.75

City centre bus/train fare

CAD 3.25

Petrol (per litre)

CAD 2.01

Accommodation in Toronto

Accommodation in Toronto consists of properties of every shape and size, and newcomers should be able to find something to suit both their budget and needs relatively easily.


Types of accommodation in Toronto

For most cities, rent is usually more expensive in the city centre. This is only partly true of Toronto. While luxury condominiums and skyscrapers dot the skyline, there is a contingent of immigrant communities living in sub-par housing within the city centre. This creates a striking contradiction where multi-million dollar condos reach upward next to homeless shelters that appear to be near collapse. 

This uneven distribution of wealth means there are apartments available for people from all walks of life almost anywhere in the city. While the districts in the west and north have some extremely expensive properties and rentals, there are plenty of townhouses, high-rises, and small houses in and among them from which to choose. 

Some areas in Toronto are more commonly associated with certain accommodation features. For instance, accommodation on the periphery is likely to come with green space and ample parking opportunities. 

Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Toronto but, typically, most rentals are unfurnished unless otherwise specified.


Finding accommodation in Toronto

The best way to find accommodation in Toronto is by perusing the plethora of online listings. Real-estate agents can also be incredibly helpful, as they are familiar with the market and the logistics around leasing and negotiations. In many cases, these agents also host listings on their company websites. Landlords are responsible for paying the agent's commission, so expats needn’t worry about incurring extra costs.


Renting accommodation in Toronto

Once an expat has found a property they like, they must review and sign the lease. Leases can be negotiated with the landlord, and normally require two month's notice before moving out.

Leases

Lease agreements generally cover the duration of the lease (usually 12 months) and the forfeiture conditions explaining the eviction terms for a breach of contract.

Deposits

Deposits are usually two months' rent, which is refundable in principle. It is important to carry out an inventory and note any damages when moving into a property to avoid any unfair deductions from the security deposit at the end of the lease.

Utilities

Additional financial responsibilities of the tenant in Toronto will include gas and electricity usage, while water is usually included in the rental charge.

Areas and suburbs in Toronto

Toronto has a large immigrant population, and each of the unique areas and suburbs in Canada’s biggest city is a testament to its ethnic and cultural diversity. 

Toronto’s many neighbourhoods are located within one of 10 distinct areas: Etobicoke, York, North York, West End, Downtown, Midtown, Uptown, East York, East End and Scarborough. 

The city’s vibrant downtown core is a robust mix of commercial and residential properties, making it an ideal place to live, play and work. That said, one can expect to pay a premium for condos and houses in the area. Areas further out from the city centre generally have more affordable housing options.


Uptown

Davisville

Bedford Park

Home to several excellent elementary schools, Bedford Park is the neighbourhood of choice for families with small children. Located just outside the city centre, this area has many useful amenities such as efficient transit, a local library and plenty of playgrounds.

North Toronto

One of the city's fastest-growing areas, North Toronto provides families with a fantastic selection of schools and access to green spaces. Meanwhile, the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton is home to towering condos and lively shopping and entertainment options, creating a vibrant urban atmosphere.


Midtown

Yorkville

The Annex

With its proximity to the University of Toronto, the Annex is a favourite among students and creative professionals who appreciate its casual, artsy atmosphere. Its bars, bakeries, cafes and pubs make it a great place for socialising.

Forest Hill

This is one of the city’s most exclusive and attractive neighbourhoods, adorned with dignified mansions, tree-lined streets and prestigious private schools. Favoured by the wealthy, Forest Hill has a distinctly small-town feel but remains well connected to the rest of Toronto.

Yorkville

Yorkville is a glamorous yet charming neighbourhood, popular with visiting celebrities and locals. It is famous for its high-end designer stores, four-star hotels and gourmet eateries, all within walking distance of stunning Victorian-era homes on quiet streets. Residential properties in Yorkville are eye-wateringly expensive and seldom put on the market.


Downtown

Harbourfront

King West Village

King West Village is an area experiencing rapid growth. This trendy neighbourhood is a favourite with young people, thanks to its proximity to downtown office buildings and an array of pubs and nightclubs. Much of the housing here is in the form of upmarket condos.

Harbourfront

Harbourfront is known for its condos, most of which have stunning views of Lake Ontario. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a breezy stroll by the lake, take a ferry to the Toronto Islands, or visit the area’s many antique stores, restaurants and galleries. Harbourfront is one of Toronto’s main cultural centres. The area's architectural flair and unbeatable location make it a highly coveted neighbourhood.


West End

Old Mill

Junction Triangle

This hidden gem was once an industrial and commercial centre with railroad tracks. Today it is an increasingly popular residential area, booming with the construction of townhouses and lofts. It is enviably close to High Park, good shopping centres and the subway (although many residents are also avid cyclists).

The Kingsway

The Kingsway is one of the city’s most affluent areas. Large-lot, single-family detached Tudor homes on the side streets give the neighbourhood the look and feel of a quiet English village. Additionally, older apartment buildings stand alongside newer condominiums near the Old Mill subway station.

Old Mill

The plentiful parkland, old-world charm and picturesque beauty of Old Mill have made it a sought-after area. It stands along the banks of the Humber River and is close to the shopping district in Bloor West Village.


East End

The Beaches

The Beaches

This is one of the most aspirational addresses in Toronto, with old charming one-of-a-kind homes beside Lake Ontario rarely available. It has been said that the community looks more like a lakeside resort town than a big city neighbourhood.

Leaside

Leaside is always in demand and its housing prices reflect this. In addition to a good selection of schools, it is known for its family-friendly parks, good public transit and handy shopping.

Guildwood

Established as an artists’ colony in the 1920s, Guildwood is now an up-and-coming yet quiet family neighbourhood. Residents can walk to the lake in minutes, and get to Union Station by train in under half an hour.


North York

North York

York Mills

This was once a heavily industrial area but is now one of the city’s most affluent neighbourhoods, with luxury condos and gracious homes. The area's train station plus its proximity to major roadways make it a favourite for commuters.

Glen Park

Culturally-rich Glen Park is home to large numbers of Italian and Orthodox Jewish families as well as immigrants from all over the world. There are several good schools in the area, making it a great pick for families with children.

Healthcare in Toronto

The healthcare system in Toronto is publicly funded by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), which affords coverage to all residents of the Ontario province. 

This comes at a minimal monthly premium paid through automatic income tax deductions, and allows free access to doctors, specialists and all necessary medical surgeries. Co-payments are minimal or non-applicable. 

Unfortunately, only Toronto expats who have residence or work permits are eligible for the tax-funded health insurance plan, so those who don’t will need to rely on private health insurance.


Getting public health insurance in Toronto

Expats moving to Toronto must visit a ServiceOntario centre in person to apply for their Toronto health care. Applicants must bring proof of identity (such as their passport), evidence of their OHIP-eligible immigration status (such as a Permanent Resident Card), and confirmation that they live in Toronto (such as a local driver's licence or tax assessment). 

Once approved, a card which gives access to the OHIP through a personal health number is posted to the applicant's home and should be carried at all times. In the interim, between applying for the CareCard and receiving it, expats should secure private health insurance. 

The OHIP covers its members throughout Canada, provided that Ontario is their place of residence and they spend more than six months of the year in the province. 

While the healthcare system is excellent and the medical professionals well trained, the system often falls victim to the pitfalls of bureaucracy. Waiting periods can be long and it is often difficult to find a general practitioner willing to take on new patients.  

For this reason, some expats opt to take out private insurance. Private insurance also provides comforts not covered by the public insurance, such as private hospital rooms and dental and optometry services.


Hospitals in Toronto

Below are some of the most prominent hospitals in Toronto.

Mount Sinai Hospital 

Website: www.mountsinai.on.ca
Address: 600 University Avenue, Toronto

St Michael's Hospital 

Website: www.stmichaelshospital.com
Address: 36 Queen St E, Toronto

The Hospital for Sick Kids

Website: www.sickkids.ca
Address: 555 University Avenue, Toronto

Toronto General Hospital

Website: www.uhn.ca
Address: 200 Elizabeth Street, Toronto

Education and Schools in Toronto

The school system in Toronto is of a high standard, and is also able to accommodate those expat children who don’t speak English or French (Canada’s primary languages).

Toronto has an extensive network of public schools, alongside an equally robust assortment of private schools.

Permanent residents and expats with work permits can enrol their children in public schools at no cost. Expats who don’t fall into these categories can send their children to public school but must obtain a study permit and pay school fees, which can sometimes equal some of the cheaper private schools.


Public schools in Toronto

Public schools in Toronto take their curricular mandate from the Ontario Ministry of Education. Generally, the standard of education is high. But like anywhere in the world, certain schools seem to perform better than others.

In Toronto, although children can register at schools both within and outside their neighbourhoods, preference is usually given to those in the associated geographic catchment areas.

Parents can research schools’ academic and overall performance by consulting the publicly-available Fraser Institute rankings. Some parents may choose to first pinpoint the desired school for their child, and then coordinate their house hunt around this.


Private and international schools in Toronto

Private schools in Toronto are a different matter entirely. While there are scholarships for gifted students, private schools are expensive, with prominent international schools and boarding schools levying exorbitant fees.

That said, these schools boast better infrastructure, state-of-the-art facilities and a wider selection of extra-curricular activities.

Some private schools in Toronto are faith-based and integrate religious values into the curriculum. These tend to be cheaper than other private schools.

There are also specialised private schools that follow an international curriculum, such as that of the US, the UK and the International Baccalaureate. Some international schools teach in languages other than English. These curricula are highly transferable worldwide, so expat parents planning a temporary stay in Toronto may benefit from this option.


Special-needs education in Toronto

The state of Ontario is committed to inclusion and equality for children with behavioural, communication, intellectual or physical needs that can't be met by the standard education system. Such students are identified officially as 'exceptional' via assessments completed by the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee. School boards are responsible for drawing up and reviewing an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) for each exceptional student, which details the interventions to support students.


Tutors in Toronto

Tutors are popular in Toronto and are often hired leading up to major exams. They are also ideal for children who struggle with a particular subject, such as maths or science. In the case of expat families, tutors can be useful in bridging the gap between a child's previous curriculum and that of Canada. There are also tutors specialising in language who can help expat children develop their English skills, or maintain fluency in their native language.

Some of the reputable tutoring companies in Toronto include Tutor Bright and Teacher On Call.

International Schools in Toronto

While the general standard of state education in Canada is outstanding, expat parents are also spoilt for choice when it comes to private institutions in Toronto. The city is home to a number of private international schools for families wanting their children to continue with their home country's curriculum. Some international schools offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.

Unlike Canadian public schools, where admissions are based on catchment zones, international schools aren't bound by the same restrictions. Many also offer students the option of boarding, which gives expat parents a little more flexibility in their choice of where to live.

Below is a list of some of the most prominent international schools in Toronto.


International schools in Toronto

Bronte College

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 14 to 18
Curriculum: Canadian, International Baccalaureate and American (Advanced Placement)
Website: www.brontecollege.ca

Columbia International College

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 12 to 18
Curriculum: Canadian (Ontario)
Website: www.cic-totalcare.com

German International School Toronto

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 14
Curriculum: German and Canadian (Ontario)
Website: www.gistonline.ca

Lycée Français de Toronto

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: French and Canadian (Ontario)
Website: www.lft.ca

The York School

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 4 to 18
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Website: www.yorkschool.com

Lifestyle in Toronto

Toronto’s expat lifestyle is filled with fantastic restaurants, loads of shopping options, and great entertainment and nightlife venues, not to mention a plethora of fantastic outdoor pursuits. If the day-to-day excitement of the city isn’t enough, expats will be glad to know that there are many annual events to anticipate, and the city is also a good jumping-off point to explore further afield whether in Canada or the US.


Shopping in Toronto

Hailed as Canada's shopping capital, Toronto's stores offer everything from top international brands to locally-produced masterpieces. The Eaton Centre is a popular arcade with numerous shops, restaurants and entertainment centres. Yorkville, on Bloor Street, is the place to find unique clothing and jewellery from London, Milan and Paris. Queen St West also has some trendy boutiques. 

The St Lawrence and Kensington markets are good for arts, crafts and vintage clothing, and there are some lovely art galleries in and around Bathurst Street.


Nightlife in Toronto

There is an assortment of exciting nightlife hotspots in Toronto, from trendy bars and lounges to pumping nightclubs and live music venues. 

Those who want to see big international artists perform should check out listings at the Rogers Centre and Scotiabank Arena. The Budweiser Stage is a stunning outdoor concert venue where expats can enjoy their favourite bands and the summer weather.


Arts and culture in Toronto

The arts and culture scene in Toronto is incredibly diverse. Expats can marvel at masterpieces at the Art Gallery of Ontario and appreciate the city’s artistic community while taking a stroll, thanks to the vibrant and ever-changing street art displayed around Toronto. 

Timeless music auditoriums such as Massey Hall and the Phoenix Concert Theatre host regular events. The Opera House provides a more intimate space for performances, while the building’s balcony offers spectacular city views. 

Toronto’s theatre district is centred on King Street West. Historic venues such as the Ed Mervish Theatre, the Royal Alexandra Theatre and the Princess of Wales Theatre often present popular Broadway productions. Whereas the Young People’s Theatre and Soulpepper Theatre Company in the Distillery District stage smaller shows.


Eating out in Toronto

Thanks to the multicultural make-up of this vast city, Toronto has thousands of world-class eateries offering a multitude of cuisines. 

College Street offers some of the city's best Italian restaurants, and Greek food is best enjoyed in the Danforth area. 

Authentic Chinese restaurants are located in Chinatown around Dundas Street and Spadina Avenue, and also north of downtown in Markham, while Gerrard Street is great for Indian cuisine. 

Expats should also be sure to look out for the many food festivals popping up around the city. Toronto does a Summerlicious and Winterlicious prix fixe event annually, with many restaurants participating. It’s an excellent way to try some fine-dining establishments for expats on a budget.


Outdoor activities in Toronto

Expats who enjoy being outdoors won’t be disappointed, especially when Toronto's weather plays along. There are many parks dotted around the city for everything from running, strolling, and frisbee tossing to family get-togethers. Niagara Falls is just a short drive from the city, and the Toronto Islands are a great place for a picnic in the summer. 

Those who enjoy trail running or mountain biking can head to Durham Forest. Woodbine Lake is a wonderful spot to try water sports such as kayaking. In the winter months, Toronto becomes an ice skater's paradise with many rinks opening up all over the city.


See and do in Toronto

There is plenty to see and do in Toronto, no matter the weather. The city boasts incredible galleries, cuisine and green spaces. Below is a selection of our favourite attractions.

CN Tower

The landmark CN Tower stands at 1,815ft (553m) and is one of the highest observation platforms in the world. Expats can head up to the 113-storey-high LookOut Level to see Toronto from a brand-new perspective through the floor-to-ceiling windows and glass floor.

Habourfront Centre

The Harbourfront Centre is a great place to spend the day visiting galleries, relaxing at a cafe or strolling along the waterfront.

Toronto Islands

Just off the city’s Lake Ontario shores are the Toronto Islands, a quiet natural haven where expats and their families can spend time away from the city enjoying the gorgeous views and beaches.

Distillery District

The Distillery District is a national historic site where films are often shot and festivals and special events held. This pedestrianised village is home to dozens of art galleries, eateries, the Toronto Christmas Market and live music venues.

Royal Ontario Museum

Famous for its golden mosaic ceiling, the Royal Ontario Museum is a perfect family outing with more than 40 separate galleries displaying art, archaeology and science exhibits.


Whats on in Toronto

Whether expats prefer colourful carnivals, music festivals or cultural events, new arrivals will find that the city is full of exciting festivals to keep them occupied throughout the year.

Canadian Music Week (May)

This is one of Canada's most influential media and music conferences, attracting performers and emerging artists of all genres throughout the week.

Toronto Taste (June)

Toronto Taste is a charity fundraiser celebrating top-notch cuisine, fine wines and stunning waterfront scenery.

Pride Toronto (June/July)

This decades-old event celebrates Toronto’s LGBTQIA+ community with street festivals, music, political marches and a famous parade drawing in over a million attendees each year.

Toronto International Film Festival

The Toronto International Film Festival hosts world-famous actors and directors yearly. The city’s biggest film festival holds screenings, panels and special events.


Where to meet people and make friends in Toronto

Meeting people in a new city can be daunting. Below are a few suggestions for expats looking to make friends and integrate into their new communities.

Toronto Newcomers Club

Toronto Newcomers Club is an inclusive club created by expat women passionate about supporting new arrivals adjusting to life in the city.

Toronto Recreational Sports League

This sports league offers a variety of sport, including basketball, floor hockey and volleyball, and is a great way for adult fitness-loving expats in the Yonge & Eglinton community to make friends while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The Day Breakers

The Day Breakers is an international dance club focused on promoting sober habits and helping people jumpstart their mornings with a dance party. It’s a fantastic way to build friendships with like-minded people.

Toronto Public Library

With more than 99 locations across the city, the Toronto Public Library offers many programmes and book clubs to engage people from all walks, making it the perfect space to meet people with similar interests.

Frequently Asked Questions about Toronto

The fourth-largest city in North America, Toronto is an exciting metropolis and expats moving there are likely to have many questions about life in their new city. Here are answers to some of the most common expat questions about Toronto.

How safe is Toronto?

Toronto is very safe. It is safe to walk the streets at almost any hour of the day or night, with the only caveat being to avoid traditionally run-down areas after dark. Heed this and little will go wrong.

What is there to do in Toronto?

Toronto is a world-class city with a large and varied population. If the world has got it, Toronto probably has it too. Expats will find that there is plenty to see and do in Toronto. Cultural activities and artistic endeavours are celebrated and there are a wide variety of performances and festivals.

If that’s not enough, Toronto boasts an excellent array of museums and art galleries. Boating, swimming and fishing are popular on the nearby lakes. For nightlife, there is a great deal from which to choose, with restaurants, clubs and bars open into the early hours of the morning.

Do I need a car in Toronto?

Canada is a big country and having a car allows exploration beyond the city limits. However, within Toronto, there are few places that can't be reached with the public transport system, so a car is an unnecessary expense for most. Added to this, the city experiences some of the heaviest traffic in the country, so driving can be more of an inconvenience than anything else.

What is the cost of living in Toronto like?

The cost of living in Toronto is high, with accommodation likely to put the biggest dent in an expat's budget. Still, the salaries are generally higher to match, and the benefits of Canadian schooling and healthcare usually outweigh the slight loss of buying power.

Getting Around in Toronto

Toronto is a massive city, so finding the most efficient way to get around will be a priority for new arrivals. Luckily, the city has an extensive public transport network that makes it possible to get around Toronto without a car. 

However, expats with kids, those living in the suburbs or those planning to travel around Canada will find a car a worthwhile investment.


Public transport in Toronto

Toronto has a wide-reaching public transport network that extends well into the suburbs. The network is made up of buses, streetcars and a subway system, which are all operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)

While the buses and streetcars fall victim to Toronto’s notorious rush-hour traffic congestion, the city’s subway system is generally efficient and by far the fastest way to get around Toronto. 

TTC has an integrated ticketing system called PRESTO, which allows tickets to be used on any TTC service. One-ride, two-ride and unlimited day passes are also available. For expats who intend to commute regularly, the PRESTO card is the most cost-effective option. These smartcards can either be used on a pay-as-you-go basis or as monthly passes. 

Fare vending machines can be used to buy tickets or to purchase and top-up a PRESTO card.

Subway

Toronto’s subway system is made up of colour-coded subway lines that connect the city centre to various neighbourhoods. All subway services generally operate between 6am and 1.30am daily, except Sunday when operating hours are between 8am to 1.30am. Services are regular and waiting times are usually just a few minutes.

Streetcars

The streetcar is a mode of transport that is now largely unique to Toronto as most North American cities have phased them out. Toronto's streetcar routes often reach inaccessible areas and can be useful as an adjunct to other public transport services.

Buses

Toronto has an extensive bus network, which consists of more than 140 bus routes. So wherever expats choose to settle, the area is likely to be covered by at least one bus route. The frequency of bus services varies according to the route. During peak hours, services run every few minutes. During off-peak hours, buses run every 10 to 20 minutes. Buses usually operate from 6am to 1am daily, except for Sundays when services start at 8am. 

Generally, commuters will find that buses in Toronto arrive on time. However, services operating in the city centre and those running during rush hour can be delayed due to bad traffic or weather conditions.


Taxis in Toronto

As is the case in most big cities, driving a car in the city centre can be stressful, especially for newcomers, so it is useful to have the option of hopping into a taxi once in a while. Generally, travelling by taxi is the most expensive way of getting around Toronto. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft are also available.


Cycling in Toronto

Cycling is becoming a popular way of getting around Toronto, and the city is fast on its way to becoming more bike-friendly. Toronto is developing a network of dedicated cycle lanes and safe bicycle-storage facilities. 

Toronto has a public bike-sharing system called Bike Share Toronto, which offers users access to thousands of bikes. These bicycles can be picked up and dropped off at any one of the hundreds of docking stations scattered throughout the city. 

Bike Share Toronto offers a number of subscription packages starting from 24-hour access to monthly and annual packages. Cyclists are initially charged a flat rate for the duration of their subscription and then charged an extra-usage fee depending on how long they use the bicycles.


Driving in Toronto

Driving a car in Toronto’s centre is not advisable. The city is often congested, and parking is expensive and difficult to find. However, expats planning on travelling around Canada and exploring greater Ontario may find it useful to invest in a car. 

Expats planning on buying a car in Toronto will need to budget accordingly. One of the large expenses expats need to consider is insurance premiums, which are remarkably high in Toronto.  

Apart from traffic congestion, a lack of parking and hidden speed traps, expat drivers in Toronto will find the general condition of roads and infrastructure to be of a very high standard. Signage is also clear, and it is fairly straightforward to navigate around the city. 

While expats are initially allowed to drive in Toronto using their national driver's licence, they will be required to exchange their licence for an Ontario driver's licence within 60 days of arriving in the province. Depending on the driver's nationality, this may be a straight swap or they may have to retake written and road tests.