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Moving to Toronto

The capital of Ontario, Toronto nestles between the two Great Lakes of Huron and Ontario, after which the region is named. The area's lakes are one of North America's most distinctive features, and many tourists come to hike, swim and boat along their shores.

Toronto is the heart of Canada's working world and home to a number of large banking institutions. Expats looking for job opportunities in business, finance, biotechnology, aerospace, media, communications and IT will find this is a great place to build their career and gain experience.

Downtown Toronto is constantly expanding and boasts a variety of luxurious accommodation options for expats. Glass, metal and red face brick compete to be the face of the city.

The CN Tower, which was for 30 years the tallest freestanding structure in the world, can be seen from all over the city. Torontonians claim that navigating by the tower will ensure that getting lost is next to impossible, and this can be helpful for expats recently arrived in the city.

Toronto has also earned renown as a world shopping destination. Those taking the time to wander down and into Yonge Street, the bustling Thomas Eaton Centre, Queen Street West and Bloor-Yorkville will find a host of the world’s top brands. Many local stores and speciality boutiques find themselves wedged between exclusive European and American outlets.

Those who hold resident permits will be able to take advantage of Canada's widely praised tax-funded health insurance. Expats in Canada on a more short-term basis will need to invest in a private health insurance policy to cover any medical needs during their stay in Toronto. Regardless of one's position, though, expats can rest assured the doctors in Toronto are highly qualified and healthcare facilities are advanced.

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

With so much at their fingertips in this vibrant city, expats should find it easy to slip into life in Toronto.

Weather in Toronto

While myths of polar bears and frozen footprints typically dominate ideas about Canadian weather, the climate in Toronto is actually quite mild. Lake Ontario, the central geographic element, generates these comfortable climes.

In general, the city 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 is 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 powerful economy, vast green spaces, and a verve that comes from having hundreds of cultures on its streets. Newcomers will soon realise that the city operates at a fast pace, 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.


Accommodation in Toronto

+ PRO: Wide range of neighbourhoods

The Greater Toronto Area has a wide variety of neighbourhoods, all of which are distinctive in some way, whether through style, character or architecture. Newcomers stand a good chance of finding the right fit for both 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 a lot of foreign investors who can afford to pay top dollar for accommodation. The amount they’re willing to spend drives up housing costs throughout Toronto, meaning local costs don’t reflect local salaries.

Another reason for high rent prices is that developers are adding condos to many neighbourhoods. As the real-estate market perceives condos to be higher end, their presence drives up rent in neighbourhoods that previously featured mostly houses and apartment buildings. The city’s services also contribute to the high rent. In short, Toronto, in terms of amenities, offers more than smaller cities, so it costs more to live there.


Working in Toronto

+ PRO: Strong job market

Toronto is Canada’s financial capital and is a great place to further a career in business. 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 there, too, and the startup scene is strong. New jobs are constantly created. 


Getting around in Toronto

- CON: Traffic congestion

Toronto struggles with traffic congestion as most big cities do, making driving a hassle. There are some good alternatives though, such as buses and the subway system.


Raising kids in Toronto

+ PRO: Broad schooling options

The city’s school system provides a high standard of education. 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 a variety of venues, from farms and amusement parks to kid-friendly museums. There’s no shortage of things for little ones to do.


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 Ontario Province. Residents pay a minimal monthly premium that is automatically deducted from their salaries, with the cost covering doctors, specialists and surgery.

- CON: The OHIP only covers residents

Expats who don’t yet 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 where Toronto residents are saddled with hefty bills. Drinks, food and utilities are all pricier than in almost all other Canadian cities.


Lifestyle in Toronto

+ PRO: Eclectic food scene

Toronto is easily among the best foodie cities in North America. Gastros who relocate here can explore the world through their palates, as Toronto’s celebrated multiculturalism applies to its dining options too. Choices 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

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

+ PRO: Low crime rate

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

- CON: Challenging weather

Toronto’s winters are slightly milder than those in other Canadian cities, though temperatures can get extremely chilly. Summers, on the other hand, can be hot and humid, with temperatures reaching around 95°F (35°C).

Working in Toronto

Toronto is at the forefront of the Canadian working world. Not only does it act 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 sectors.


Job market in Toronto

As one of the most populous cities in North America, Toronto offers many job opportunities to expats moving to Canada, especially for those who have highly developed and unique skills sets. However, those in the service and teaching industries will find a lot of competition for positions in the city.

A number of manufacturing and industrial centres exist just outside of the city. Its proximity to the US high-powered industrial centre of New York has afforded Toronto the role as the principal contact point between the two countries. This allows the city to easily connect and trade with one of the world's largest economies. In turn, the partnership has produced extensive growth and wealth, which support the Torontonian lifestyle.


Finding a job in Toronto

Many expats who relocate to Toronto are transferred through a company they have worked for in their home country or elsewhere. Highly skilled expats are often head-hunted or manage to secure a job before moving to the city.

However, those with the desire to move to Toronto will find that there are plenty of systems of support and a variety of resources to help individuals find a job in the city.

Expats who haven't secured a job are advised to begin their job search at home. It is important to do the relevant research, such as learning about the relevant visas and work permits, before deciding to make the move. Applicants should ensure that their qualifications obtained abroad are recognised in Canada before applying for a position. 

The best place to start a job search is usually online. There are plenty of job portals available and online classifieds of local newspapers are also useful sources of information. Networking and establishing connections in Toronto is very important and will certainly help new arrivals make headway in the workplace.


Work culture in Toronto

Toronto's work culture varies depending on the industry. There is a more formal atmosphere and dresscode in finance jobs, for example, than in media. Generally, Canadian workplaces function in an egalitarian manner where everyone's views are heard, but the ultimate decision lies with the boss. Typical 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. That said, expats moving to Toronto from major cities in the US or Europe may find the cost of living considerably cheaper, though this shouldn't be taken for granted as it's continually on the rise.

The 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Toronto at 98th out of 209 cities surveyed worldwide, placing it just behind Vancouver. This is significantly higher than the city's rankings in previous years.


Cost of accommodation in Toronto

The largest expense that expats relocating to Toronto will incur is likely to be 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 in recent times, so it won't be cheap.

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


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. There are also lots of opportunities to eat out in Toronto at a reasonable price. There are also many low-cost entertainment options and plenty of free outdoor activities in Toronto


Cost of transport in Toronto

While the public transport network in Toronto is extensive, expats that choose to have a private vehicle will find the cost of a car fairly economical. Petrol (gas) is also relatively cheap throughout Canada. It's important, however, to remember that car insurance premiums are high in Toronto. 


Cost of healthcare in Toronto

Although the Ontario government offers free basic health insurance to residents of Toronto, recipients must have lived in the province for at least three months before they become eligible for this benefit. 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 are able to attend public schools in Toronto at no cost, those without a 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 January 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent in a good area)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 2,100 

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

CAD 1,700

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 3,400 

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

CAD 2,500 

Shopping

Milk (1 litre)

CAD 3

Loaf of white bread

CAD 2.90

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CAD 14

Rice (1kg)

CAD 3.80

Dozen eggs

CAD 3.40  

Pack of cigarettes

CAD 15

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

CAD 11 

Coca-Cola (330ml)

CAD 2.40

Cappuccino

CAD 4.50 

Bottle of beer (local)

CAD 7

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

CAD 90 

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)  

CAD 0.40

Internet (average per month)

CAD 65

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

CAD 140

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

CAD 2

City centre bus/train fare

CAD 3.25 

Petrol (per litre)

CAD 1.20 

Accommodation in Toronto

Accommodation in Toronto is made up of properties of every shape and size, and newcomers should be able to find something to suit their budget and circumstances without much hassle. Whether purchasing or renting property in Toronto, there is a great variety available.


Types of accommodation in Toronto

For most cities, it is the case that the closer to the city centre, the more expensive the rentals become. This is only partly true of Toronto. While luxury condominiums dot the skyline, and while the city is continuously constructing skyscrapers, there is a large immigrant population living in sub-par housing within the city’s core. This creates a striking contradiction where multi-million dollar condos reach upward next to homeless shelters that can appear to be near collapse.

This uneven distribution of wealth means that 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 amongst them from which to choose.

Keep in mind that though it's possible to find nearly any type of accommodation in any given area of Toronto, some areas are more commonly associated with certain accommodation features. For example, accommodation on the periphery of Toronto is more 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 specified otherwise.


Finding accommodation in Toronto

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


Renting accommodation in Toronto

Once an expat has found a property they like, they will need to review and sign the lease.

Lease agreements generally cover the following: duration of the lease (usually 12 months), additional financial responsibilities of the tenant (water will usually be included in the rental charge, but tenants will have to pay for gas and electricity usage), deposit (usually two months' rent, refundable in principle), and forfeiture conditions (which explain how any breach of the contract leaves the tenant liable for eviction from the property).

It is important to carry out an inventory and note any damages when moving into a property because deductions from the security deposit will be made for any damages to the property at the end of the tenancy.

Areas and suburbs in Toronto

Canada's biggest city has a large foreign-born population, and each and every one of the areas and suburbs in Toronto 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 property, 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.

Expats should keep in mind that there are many neighbourhoods to discover and explore and it's important not to rush the process of finding a home in Toronto.


Uptown

Davisville

Bedford Park

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

North Toronto

North Toronto is located in one of the city’s fastest growing areas, and one targeted for city redevelopment. Families benefit from the selection of schools and access to parks and other facilities. Meanwhile, at the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton, towering condos and lively shopping and entertainment options create a vibrant urban atmosphere.


Midtown

Yorkville

The Annex

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

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 and well heeled, Forest Hill has a distinctly small-town atmosphere and is well connected to the rest of Toronto.

Yorkville

Yorkville is a glamorous yet charming neighbourhood, popular with visiting celebrities and locals alike. 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. Available residential properties in Yorkville are hard to come by and extremely expensive.


Downtown

Harbourfront

King West Village

King West Village is an area which is experiencing rapid growth. This newly hip neighbourhood is a favourite with young singles and couples, 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 plentiful condos with 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 Harbourfront'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 desirable place to live.


West End

Old Mill

Junction Triangle

This hidden gem was a one-time industrial and commercial area run through with railroad tracks. Today it is increasingly popular as a residential area, with the construction of townhouses and lofts. It is enviably close to High Park, good shopping 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. In addition, 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 has made it a sought-after area. It stands along the banks of the Humber River yet is close to plentiful shopping in Bloor West Village.


East End

The Beaches

The Beaches

This is one of the most coveted addresses in Toronto, with charming one-of-a-kind old homes beside Lake Ontario rarely becoming 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 high demand. In addition to a good selection of schools, it is known for its family-friendly parks, good public transit and handy shopping. Housing prices reflect this, with home buyers coming mostly from upper-middle-income families.

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 of commuters.

Glen Park

Culturally rich Glen Park is home to large numbers of Italian and Orthodox Jewish families and new immigrants from around the globe. There are several good schools in the area, making it a great pick for families with young children.

Healthcare in Toronto

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

This comes at a minimal monthly premium, automatically deducted from a person's salary in tax, and covers doctors, specialists and all necessary medical surgery. Co-payments are minimal or non-existent.

Unfortunately, only those Toronto expats who have residence permits or work permits are eligible to take advantage of the tax-funded health insurance system, so those who don’t will need to rely on private health insurance coverage to fund any medical needs.


Getting public health insurance in Toronto

Expats moving to Toronto will need to 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, the card is posted to the applicant's home. This contains a personal health number and gives access to the public health insurance plan. This card should be carried at all times. In the interim, between applying for the CareCard and receiving it, expats should maintain some sort of 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 each year in the province.

While the healthcare system is good and the medical professionals are of the highest standards, the system often falls victim to the downfalls of bureaucracy. Waiting periods can be long and it is often difficult to find a general practitioner still taking 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 the dental and optometry services which are not in the public coverage. 


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: 30 Bond Street, 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 operates at a high standard, and is even able to accommodate expat children who don’t speak either of the primary languages, English or French.

Toronto has an extensive network of public schools that operates alongside a robust assortment of private schools.

Permanent residents and expats with work permits can enrol their children in public schools for free. Expats not in these categories can send their children to public school but will have to obtain a study permit for their children and pay schools fees, which can end up being equal to 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 some cases, though, the best public schools are thought to be better than the most expensive private schools.

In Toronto, children can register at their neighbourhood school, or they can apply to a school that’s not within their residential area. Note that preference will be given to those in the associated geographic catchment areas.

Parents can check how well students from particular schools have performed by consulting rankings published by the Fraser Institute. Some parents may want to first pinpoint a desired school for their child, and then base their house hunt on this fact.


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 choice international schools and boarding schools levying even higher fees. 

That said, as is the assumption in most global destinations, these schools are thought to boast better infrastructure, state-of-the-art facilities and a larger selection of extra-curricular activities.

Some private schools in Toronto are faith-based and a religious emphasis is integrated into the curriculum. These tend to be cheaper than other private schools.

There are specialised private schools that follow a foreign curriculum, such as that of the US, the UK and the International Baccalaureate. Some international schools teach in a language other than English, such as French. These curricula tend to be easily transferable worldwide, so expats who only plan to be in Toronto on a temporary stay may want to consider this option for their children.


Special-needs education in Toronto

The state of Ontario promises inclusion and equality for children with behavioural, communicational, intellectual or physical needs that cannot be met by the standard educational system. Such students are officially identified as 'exceptional' via assessments by the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee. School boards are responsible for drawing up an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each exceptional student which details the interventions being taken. These are regularly reviewed to ensure the student's needs are being met.


Tutors in Toronto

Tutors are popular in Toronto and are often hired leading up to major exam periods. 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 schooling abroad and current education in Canada, especially where a completely new curriculum is being followed. There are also tutors specialising in language who can help expat children develop their English skills, or maintain fluency in their mother tongue.

Some of the top 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 high, parents have plenty of choice when it comes to education 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.

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

Below is a list of the 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
Website: www.gistonline.ca

Lycée Français de Toronto

Gender: Co-educational
Ages: 3 to 18
Curriculum: French and Canadian
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. If the day-to-day excitement of the city isn’t enough, expats will be glad to find that there are many annual events to anticipate. Leisure time will never be dull in Toronto, which has plenty to satisfy all tastes.


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, while 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 excellent nightlife hotspots for expats in Toronto to experience, 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 where international artists take to the stage. 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

Thanks to the city’s unique creative spirit, expats are lucky to experience a number of world-renowned festivals, events and venues that celebrate arts and culture.

The scene is incredibly diverse in Toronto. While expats can marvel at masterpieces at the Art Gallery of Ontario, it's also possible to appreciate the city’s artistic community while out and about thanks to the vibrant and ever-changing street art that is displayed around Toronto.

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

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 host popular Broadway productions. Whereas those looking for smaller shows should visit the Young People’s Theatre or the Soulpepper Theatre Company in the Distillery District.


Eating out in Toronto

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

World-class restaurants abound in Toronto, with different cuisines scattered around town. College Street offers some of the city's best Italian restaurants and trattorias, 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. Gerrard Street is a great option if looking 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 each year, which many restaurants participate in. It’s an excellent way for those on a budget to try some of the city's fine-dining establishments.


Outdoor activities in Toronto

Expats who enjoy being outdoors will love city life when the weather in Toronto isn't too extreme. There are many parks dotted around the city to enjoy a family get-together. Niagara Falls is just a short drive outside the city and the Toronto Islands are a great place for a picnic and family day out in the summer.

Those who enjoy trail running or mountain biking can head to Durham Forest. Woodbine Lake provides wonderful opportunities for Toronto residents to try their hand at a few water sports such as kayaking.

In the winter months, Toronto becomes an ice skater's paradise with many ice-skating rinks opening up all over the city.

Kids and Family in Toronto

Both parents and kids in Toronto will find it an extremely child-friendly city. The weather is important for deciding on family outings, with stark seasonal contrasts. Think warm summers and cold, snowy winters. Families can look forward to a variety of activities that change throughout the year.


Activities for kids in Toronto

There are many things to do in Toronto with kids which include outdoor and indoor places where the kids can run around, tons of museums, amusement centres and interesting attractions. Parents are likely to find their child's schedule is jam packed.

There are hundreds of incredible neighbourhood parks all over the city that provide great play structures for children of all ages. Some parks are larger and may even include access to a free zoo for kids, and others have splash pads to help make the hot summer days more bearable. These parks also run camps through the summer. Expat parents can find out specifics through the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation department.

When the weather turns less desirable, or if parents simply think their little one could do with some culture, they can take solace in the fact that Toronto is a hub for theatre. On any given day, one can find large-scale Broadway-style productions, as well as local fringe festivals and small theatre groups performing especially for kids and families.

What’s more, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario Science Centre can provide hours of educational entertainment for kids. These specific centres even have children’s play areas, and most run programmes and camps directed at kids throughout the year and during school breaks.


Parent resources in Toronto

For those that need that extra helping hand upon arrival, Toronto has plenty of resources specifically aimed at parents and children. For starters, most neighbourhoods will have a local community centre that runs parent groups, many of which can be found listed online.

There are programmes that involve both parents and children, as well as programmes just for kids. Most of the groups can also help parents connect with other mums and dads in the area for carpooling.

Schools can be great sources as well. Many institutions run parent groups in the afternoons, and most schools will introduce new parents to their PTA where they can find out about programmes in the neighbourhood.

See and Do in Toronto

Toronto has an array of outstanding attractions, charming neighbourhoods and beautiful natural scenery for residents to enjoy. There are always things to see and do in Toronto, no matter the weather. Popular attractions include the iconic CN Tower, museums such as the Royal Ontario, and the peaceful Toronto Islands.


Recommended sightseeing in Toronto

CN Tower

The landmark CN Tower stands at 1,815ft (553m) and is perhaps the most impressive contender on any list of things to see and do in Toronto. 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. The SkyPod is 33 storeys higher and is one of the highest observation platforms in the world – on a clear day, Niagara Falls and New York State are visible from this platform.

Harbourfront Centre

The Harbourfront Centre is a great place to spend the day visiting galleries, relaxing at a cafe or strolling along the waterfront. It also serves as the venue for several live theatre-, music- and visual arts shows throughout the year.

Toronto Islands

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

Distillery District

The Distillery District is a national historic site which often hosts film shoots, festivals and special events. This pedestrianised village is home to dozens of art galleries, restaurants, bars and live music venues. During the festive season, the annual Toronto Christmas Market can be found here.

Royal Ontario Museum

Famous for its golden mosaic ceiling, the Royal Ontario Museum has over 40 separate galleries displaying art, archaeology and science exhibits. With dinosaurs, a bat cave and a jewel room, Canada's largest museum is an interesting experience for both young and old.

What's On in Toronto

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

The city's multicultural make-up means everything from food festivals to sports events is on the bill, so be sure to keep abreast of what's on in Toronto and book tickets in advance.


Annual festivals in Toronto

Canadian Music Week (May)

This is one of Canada's most influential media and music conferences, becoming increasingly popular ever since its inception in the 1980s. Throughout the week, performers of all styles and genres of music put on shows at venues all over the city. It is a great opportunity to hear music from emerging talent.

Toronto Taste (June)

Held in June each year, Toronto Taste is a charity fundraiser celebrating top-notch cuisine, fine wines and stunning waterfront scenery. The city's top gourmet event also helps to nurture excellent up-and-coming chefs with the Toronto Taste Chef Challenge. 

Pride Toronto (June/July)

This decades-old event celebrates the LGBTQ+ community in Toronto with street festivals, music, political marches and a famous parade. With over a million attendees a year, Pride Toronto is one of North America's largest pride celebrations and is open to all.

Toronto Fringe Festival (July)

An annual theatre festival featuring new plays by both unknown and established artists, Toronto Fringe is a must for culture vultures. Celebrating the creation of indie and grassroots art, the festival consists of more than 150 shows across around 30 downtown venues.

Many productions launched at the Fringe Festival have gone on to become award-winning shows in Canada and beyond, such as The Drowsy Chaperone and Come From Away.

Toronto International Film Festival (September)

The Toronto International Film Festival is the largest film festival in the city, holding screenings, talks and special events. It flaunts the glamour of Hollywood each September, hosting some of the world's best-known actors and directors.

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 and it is possible to get around Toronto without a car, especially for expats who live and work close to the city centre.

However, those living in the suburbs or planning to travel around Canada will find that having a car is an asset. That said, expat drivers should be aware that there is a lot of traffic congestion on the highways during rush hour and parking in Toronto’s city centre is expensive.


Public transport in Toronto

Toronto has a large and extensive public transport network which extends well into the suburbs. The system 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 do 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 known as PRESTO in which tickets can be used on any TTC service. One-ride, two-ride and unlimited day passes are available. For expats who plan on using public transport in Toronto on a regular basis, the most cost-effective option is to invest in a PRESTO card. These smartcards can either be used on a pay-as-you-go basis or monthly passes can be purchased, allowing cardholders unlimited travel on all TTC services.

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, which connect the city centre to various neighbourhoods of Toronto. All subway services generally operate between 6am and 1.30am every day, except Sunday when operating hours are from 8am to 1.30am. Services are regular and if someone misses a train then chances are that the next one will arrive in just a few minutes.

Streetcars

The streetcar is a mode of transport that is now largely unique to Toronto as most other North American cities have phased out their streetcar services. Toronto's streetcar routes often reach areas that the subway doesn't and can be useful as an adjunct to other public transport services.

Buses

Toronto has an extensive bus network, which consists of over 140 bus routes. So wherever one chooses to live, 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 can run every 10 to 20 minutes. Buses operate from 6am to 1am daily, except for Sundays when service starts at 8am.

Generally, commuters will find that buses in Toronto do arrive on time. However, services operating in the city centre and those that run during rush hour can be delayed as a result of traffic or bad weather conditions.


Taxis in Toronto

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


Cycling in Toronto

Cycling is becoming a popular way to get around Toronto and steps are being taken to make it a more bike-friendly city. There is a growing network of dedicated cycle lanes as well as safe bicycle-storage facilities being placed all over the city.

Toronto has a public bike-sharing system called Bike Share Toronto, which consists of thousands of bikes. These bicycles can be picked up and dropped off at any one of the hundreds of docking stations scattered all over 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 also charged an extra-usage fee depending on how long they use the bicycles for.


Driving in Toronto

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

Luckily, most expats moving to Toronto will find the cost of cars reasonable. The price of petrol is also fairly cheap. The only large expense expats need to consider when buying a car in Canada is that of insurance as premiums are notoriously high in Toronto.

Despite 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 very clear and it is fairly straightforward to navigate one's way around the city.

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