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What is it like living in Toronto? Where is Toronto? How does the cost of living in Toronto compare with other cities? After moving to Toronto, how easy is it to settle in?
This guide will help you address some of the questions you may have about living in Toronto. When you’re done, be sure to read the rest of our Moving To Toronto city guide for further research.
- If you’re planning on landing in Toronto soon, see our page on getting from Toronto Pearson Airport to downtown.
Where is Toronto?
Toronto is located on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario and is the provincial capital of Ontario.
Toronto is in Southern Ontario, with the province of Quebec to the east and the American states of New York and Michigan to the southeast and southwest respectively.
It takes less than two hours to drive to the US border at Buffalo, NY.
Millions enjoy living in Toronto, as it’s an amazing city. It has bright lights, culture, history and, most of all, diversity.
Since World War II, Toronto has welcomed millions of immigrants. Italians, Portuguese, Chileans, Greeks, Southeast Asians, Chinese, West Indians, British, and Irish are all living in Toronto.
It is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. More than 140 languages and dialects are spoken in the city. About 49 per cent of people living in Toronto were born outside Canada.
With such a mix of nationalities, Toronto is the definitive multicultural city — there is something for everyone, whatever their tastes and interests.
Downtown Toronto, for example, may be the financial centre of the country, but it’s also home to many neighbourhoods, each having its own distinctive culture. (See our Toronto neighbourhoods guide for more).
It’s easy to get around downtown to experience the city’s diversity for yourself. The city offers 50km of waterfront with beaches, parks, marinas and waterfront trail, making it very easy to enjoy the lake.
Toronto is consistently rated as one of the world’s most livable cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey. The locals are friendly, helpful and passionate about their city, which makes living in Toronto an attractive proposition for anybody thinking of moving to Canada.
Toronto is Canada’s commercial capital and home to one of the world’s top financial centres.
Toronto experiences four very distinct seasons. This means that living in Toronto does present challenges.
However, the weather is generally relatively moderate for Canada due to its southerly location.
The temperature varies significantly throughout the year, with warm, humid summers and pleasant, if short, transitional seasons.
Winter, by contrast, can be extremely cold, with temperatures sometimes remaining below −10 °C (14 °F) for periods, making the city’s underground paths a great place to hide out.
A warm winter coat and a good pair of boots are essential. Wellies (or “rubber boots”, which are fashionable in Canada) are great for rainy days, but extra warmth and comfort are required for navigating through the snow.
Transit in Toronto
You can drive in Toronto, but it comes with expensive downtown parking fees, and the longest average commute time in Canada.
Public transit, on the other hand, is a great way to get around. Subways, buses, streetcars, and bike paths all cover the city.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) provides service within the city of Toronto (including all of downtown), ferries connect to the Toronto Islands, and GO Transit handles commuter service to the suburbs.
TTC services are covered under one payment, which ranges from $3.25 for a single trip ($2.90 with PRESTO) to $141.50 for a monthly Metropass.
Passes are sold at subway stations. If you are newly arrived in Toronto, ask the fare collector for a free TTC Ride Guide map. You can also buy passes at convenience stores displaying a “TTC Fare Media Seller” or “TTC Ticket Agent” sign.
Toronto subways run very frequently, as often as every two minutes in rush hour and about every five minutes at other times. Service runs approximately 6am to 1:30 am, with a 9am start on Sundays.
Each subway station has at least one staffed entrance which accepts all fares. Other entrances are automatic and accept tokens and weekly/monthly passes only.
If paying with cash or tokens and switching to a streetcar or bus later in the same trip, get a paper transfer from the small red machine just past the turnstiles so you don’t have to pay more than once.
Toronto is endowed with a fleet of streetcars. It’s the largest such system in North America in terms of ridership, number of users, and track length. Streetcar stops are marked by a red and white pole with a streetcar icon. Much of the streetcar network is concentrated in the downtown core and in proximity to the city’s waterfront.
Dining out in Toronto
The cultural diversity of Toronto ensures that eating out offers a multitude of choices for every budget. Many bars serve food and it is common to start a night out with a meal as well as a few drinks. BlogTO.com is a valuable resource for finding great places to eat.
There are a number of websites providing information on Toronto’s culinary scene, such as Dine.to, and Toronto.com. You should also join GroupOn while living in Toronto for discounts in bars and restaurants.
An American influence is noticeable throughout Toronto, with countless burger, pizza and wing joints as well as a hot dog stand on almost every corner.
Another inexpensive and popular dining option are Burrito bars, which are now as common as pizza slice spots.
Biking in Toronto
If you’re living in Toronto long enough you’ll notice that the TTC isn’t usually the best way to get around, especially in summer.
You’ll also see many people biking. In most cases, biking is going to get you to where you need to go a lot faster than the street car ever will.
Biking is hugely popular for those living in Toronto, and it’s possible to bike year-round if you get the right winter gear.
Be warned — if you’re done for breaking rules of the road on your bike you can actually get penalty points on your Ontario driver’s licence. Toronto has a great system of ravines where you can cycle for miles on bike paths, mostly running north-south.
A cheap second-hand hand bike might set you back anything from $50 to $250 from a used bike store. An average new bike from, say, Canadian Tire, will cost around $150 to $300. A high-end bike from any of the trendy bike stores in town can go up into the thousands.
There’s also a DIY Bike Shop located on Bloor St West called Bike Pirates where you pretty much have access to everything, but you do all the work.
If you are going to cycle around this city while living in Toronto, get the proper gear. Invest in a helmet, front and rear lights, and proper brakes. Be careful of the streetcar tracks.
If you cycle long enough in this town, you’re probably going to have a near run-in with either a car or a pedestrian at some stage, so you want to make sure your brain matter stays intact.
Just use common sense, don’t go too fast and obey the same rules as the traffic (meaning stop at red lights and stay off the footpath) and you’ll be zipping around Toronto like a pro.
Special thanks to the following people for making the Toronto section of Moving2Canada possible: Cathy Murphy, Grainne Burns, Judith Gannon, Claire O’Keefe, Lucy O’Connor, Eoin Kane and Shane Irwin. Your patience, assistance and insight into living in Toronto is greatly appreciated.
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