The cost of living in Canada

The cost of living in Canada in 2021

From the people’s world-renowned positivity to its natural beauty, Canada has plenty to offer new residents. Whether you’re planning to retire somewhere tranquil or study in one of its diverse cities, it pays to understand the cost of living. Discover the basic costs of living in the Great White North, including renting an apartment, utility bills and eating out.

What does the cost of living mean?

The cost of living is the amount you need to cover basic expenses such as housing and food in a particular place. You can compare the standard of living, i.e. your comfort level, in one city versus another using cost of living. 

If you have a large family, you may find that 100 CAD gets you twice as many groceries in Winnipeg as in Toronto. Knowing the cost of living gives you a clearer picture of what you can afford in terms of accommodation, transportation and entertainment.

Did you know? Multinational companies use the cost of living data to assess expatriate salary packages for international employees.
The cost of living in Canada in 2021

Canada attracts many people from the likes of Thailand, the Philippines, China and beyond. The most popular cities for expats include Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Montreal, and Edmonton. 

These cities offer more employment opportunities, modern transport, and better healthcare and education. But what is the cost of living in these cities? 

To give you an idea, we’ve compared the price of 12 regular sized eggs. 

Same quantity, different city – and as you’ll see, different prices. According to ‘cost of living experts’ Numbeo, the price of a dozen eggs varies by city: 

  • Toronto = 3.32 CAD. 
  • Montreal = 3.29 CAD.
  • Vancouver = 4.20 CAD.
  • Calgary = 3.55 CAD.
  • Winnipeg = 3.38 CAD.

While egg prices don’t tell you everything you need to know about costs in Canada, they do give you an idea of the differences. We’ve used additional Numbeo data to produce the table below.    

City1-bed apartment (city centre)1-bed apartment (other)Monthly basic utility billsMonthly travel passRestaurant meal for two
Toronto1,954 C$1672 C$172 C$156 C$83 C$
Montreal1,296 C$895 C$94 C$87 C$75 C$
Vancouver2,020 C$1,617 C$90 C$100 C$75 C$
Calgary1,245 C$1,052 C$198 C$109 C$78 C$
Winnipeg1,060 C$962 C$182 C$103 C$65 C$

*Some figures have been rounded up to the closest Canadian dollar (CAD/C$)

Did you know? You can open a Canadian bank account before you get there. Kick-start your move to the Great White North by reading our guide to setting up a bank account in Canada

Where is the best place to live in Canada?

The cost of living in Canada in 2021

That depends. If you’re looking for job opportunities and world-class universities, Vancouver or Toronto may be to your liking. If you speak French, you may feel at home in Quebec.

As recently as 2019, three Canadian cities ranked in the top ten of The Economist‘s annual ‘liveability’ index. The list compared 140 cities based on their:

  • Economic stability.
  • Healthcare system.
  • Culture and environment.
  • Education.
  • Infrastructure.

Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto came in fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. While the ranking doesn’t take the cost of living into account, some cities stand out for their suitability for migrant workers. 

For example, Toronto and Winnipeg have large Filipino communities. Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver have large Pakistani communities.

More recently, the Nigerian community in Canada has been growing at an incredible rate. Recent US travel bans mean that many Nigerian expats have opted for Canada instead, relocating to provinces such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Nationwide, you’ll find Canada is tolerant of all races and beliefs, with Islam now the second most followed religion.

What is the cost of living in Canada for international students?

Canada’s international student population has tripled over the past decade. And there’s little surprise why. Studying in Canada gives you access to world-class tuition, entertainment and facilities. But this can all come at a hefty price as admission to universities in Canada requires serious financial investment.

The average tuition fees for undergraduate programmes in 2020 was CA$30,000* per year. Although, as each university sets its own fees, prices vary from one institution to another. 

One way of reducing the cost is by getting a scholarship. You should universities well in advance about scholarship opportunities for international students and their applica­tion guidelines. Even with a scholarship, you’re looking at yearly costs of tens of thousands of dollars.

According to government board EduCanada, you’ll need around CA$7,000 and CA$20,000 per year to cover accommodation, food and health insurance.

Unfortunately, these estimates don’t include the costs for: 

  • A study permit. 
  • Visa application fees.
  • Flights to Canada. 
  • Moving costs.

Despite the costs, a qualification from a Canadian university can be highly rewarding.  

*Taken from Statistics Canada data