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Moving to Toronto

Expats relocating to Toronto will find this the most developed of Canadian cities. Its population, infrastructure, economic power, architectural sophistication and cosmopolitan atmosphere is unmatched in the country.

This Ontario capital nestles between the two Great Lakes of Huron and Ontario, after which the region is named. The lakes are one of the continent’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 film, business, finance, biotechnology, aerospace, media, communications and IT will find this is a great place in which to build their career and gain lots of experience.

Downtown Toronto is one of the most densely populated city centres in North America and boasts some of the world's most revolutionary and 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.

The arts are widely celebrated in Toronto, possessing more than 50 ballet and dance companies, six opera companies, two symphony orchestras, a number of theatres, open-air Shakespeare plays, the Toronto International Film Festival, and one of the top film schools in the Pinewood Studios Group. Expats will quickly become arts appreciators if they weren’t before.

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 specialty boutiques find themselves wedged between exclusive European and American outlets.

Expats with a resident permit will be able to take advantage of Canada's excellent public education system as well as tax-funded health insurance. Those who are 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.

This means that within Toronto, personal vehicles have been relegated to luxury status. Furthermore, it may be worth investing in a bicycle as the Toronto council has made a special effort to make its inner area cyclist friendly.

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 more than 200 cultures on its streets. Newcomers will soon realise that the city operates at a taxing 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 around 230 different 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

Rent is more expensive in Toronto than anywhere else 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 such as Ontario, 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 around a quarter of a million people. 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 Toronto

- Con: Expensive, unreliable public transport

Toronto is one of the world’s 10 most expensive cities when it comes to public transport fares. Added to that, buses are routinely packed and the subway often breaks down.

- Con: Traffic congestion

Toronto struggles with traffic congestion as most big cities do, though busses and subways are among the alternatives to driving.


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 other Canadian cities.


Raising kids in Toronto

+ Pro: Broad schooling options

The city’s school system provides a high standard of education and can accommodate students who don’t speak French or English – the country’s main languages. Students can find aids in languages such as German, Punjabi or Vietnamese. Another plus is that residents and those who have work permits can enroll 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 have residence permits will have to rely on private health insurance, rather than the tax-funded OHIP.


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, home-cooked German meals and Mediterranean-style dishes.

+ 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: Multiculturalism

While Canada is, on the whole, accepting of different cultures, Toronto’s appreciation for diversity is apparent in its neighbourhoods. People from all over the globe have shaped various parts of the city, adding signature elements of their cultures to the Toronto experience.

+ 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 of the major banks in Canada, but it also houses well-developed film, biotechnology, finance, tourism, aerospace, software development, media and telecommunication sectors.

Toronto, like many other cities, is experiencing significant demographic changes, with a high ageing population and a low birth rate. As such, the government is focused on building a knowledge-based economy and hiring skilled professionals from overseas to fill shortages in particular sectors of the economy. 


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.

Toronto is known as one of the world’s top financial centres and is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange, which has been ranked as one of the world’s top 10 largest stock exchanges. 

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 the largest economy in the world. 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 and finding accommodation.

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.

Those 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.

In Toronto, and throughout Canada, having specialised skills is a significant bonus. It can be difficult to find work without a Canadian reference. The best advice is to take what one can get, and use that initial job to build a reputation for reliability.

Cost of Living in Toronto

Toronto is one of the most expensive places to live in Canada. However, expats moving to Toronto from parts of the USA or Europe may find the cost of living considerably cheaper. Additionally, the 2019 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Toronto at 115 out of 209 cities surveyed, placing it just behind Vancouver.


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 regular groceries is cheaper in Canada than in Europe, but more expensive than in the USA. There are also lots of opportunities to eat out in Toronto at a reasonable price. There are 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 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. Therefore, it's 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 for Toronto in March 2020.

Accommodation

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 2,300 

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

CAD 1,900 

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 3,600 

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

CAD 2,700  

Shopping

Milk (1 litre)

CAD 2.95 

Loaf of white bread

CAD 3.00 

Chicken breasts (1kg)

CAD 15 

Rice (1kg)

CAD 3.80 

Dozen eggs

CAD 3.50 

Pack of cigarettes 

CAD 16 

Eating out

Big Mac meal

CAD 11 

Coca Cola (330ml)

CAD 2.40 

Cappuccino

CAD 4.50  

Bottle of beer (local)

CAD 8  

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

CAD 80 

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)  

CAD 0.40

Internet (average per month)

CAD 67 

Basic utilities (per month for 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

Perhaps best known for its assortment of neighbourhoods and living options, expats may nonetheless find that securing affordable residential accommodation in Toronto can be a challenge. 

Toronto considers itself a big city made up of little neighbourhoods: Greek Town, Chinatown (all six of them), Little India, luxurious Rosedale and Kensington Market, to name just a few. While each neighbourhood boasts its own distinctive, thriving and evolving history and culture, they all still welcome everyone from all walks of life, especially newcomers.

Types of property in Toronto

Expats moving to Toronto will find there are plenty of different types of property available and newcomers are likely to find something to suit their budget and circumstances.

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 busy constructing more high-rises and skyscrapers than even Manhattan, 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.


Finding accommodation in Toronto

Whether purchasing or renting property in Toronto, there is a great variety available. One can find anything from a bachelor condo to a luxury detached home. 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. Properties for sale generally come unfurnished. However, it is important to realise that even if an apartment is marketed as unfurnished, it still most likely includes a few basic appliances such as a refrigerator and stove. Newer unfurnished accommodation may even include a washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher and microwave.

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.


Renting property in Toronto

Lease agreements are very important in Canada and are usually followed to the letter. Therefore, it is important that new arrivals in Toronto read the contract carefully, as once it's been signed, its conditions will be legally binding.

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 also 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 also 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, the West End, Downtown, Midtown, Uptown, East York, the East End and Scarborough.

The city’s vibrant downtown core is a robust mix of commercial and residential property, making it a relatively safe place to live, play and work, especially when compared to other major North American cities. However, expect to pay a premium for condos and houses in the area. 

Still, for those who can’t quite afford property within Toronto proper, there’s a healthy choice of outlying commuter towns that offer lower prices and a longer, but reasonable, drive into the city. Getting around Toronto isn't too difficult so the drive shouldn't put people off.

Expats should keep in mind that there are many other neighbourhoods to discover and explore. It is important not to rush the process of finding a home in Toronto. New arrivals should do adequate research in order to ascertain which areas and suburbs of Toronto are best suited to their individual needs, family situation and lifestyle.


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. A GO Train station plus its proximity to major roadways like Bayview Avenue, Don Valley Parkway (known as the DVP) and Yonge Street make it a favourite of commuters.

Glen Park

Glen Park is home to large numbers of Italian and Orthodox Jewish families and new immigrants from around the globe. The neighbourhood’s well-known public school is very popular as well as a lower-income pocket close to the Allen Expressway.


Uptown

Bedford Park

Thanks to its wide selection of schools, Bedford Park has become a destination of choice for families with small children. They also appreciate other 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

The Annex

With its proximity to University of Toronto campuses, the Annex is a favourite of white-collar and creative professionals who appreciate its casual, artsy atmosphere. Its bars, bakeries, cafés and pubs make it a particular favourite of students.

Forest Hill

This is one of the city’s most exclusive and attractive neighbourhoods, one adorned with dignified mansions, tree-lined streets and prestigious private schools.

Yorkville

Yorkville is a glamorous yet charming neighbourhood, popular with visiting celebrities and locals alike. It is famous for its “Rodeo Drive” style shopping, 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

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. Drawing favourable comparisons to New York's vibrant Soho neighbourhood, it also has the honour of each year hosting the celebrated Toronto Film Festival.

Harbourfront

Harbourfront is known for its plentiful condos with stunning views of Lake Ontario. City dwellers congregate there from all over Toronto to enjoy a breezy stroll by the lake, take a ferry to the Toronto Islands and visit Harbourfront's many antique stores, restaurants and galleries. Harbourfront is one of Toronto’s main cultural centres. Add to that, the architectural flair and unbeatable location make it a highly desirable area to live.


West End (including York and Etobicoke)

Junction Triangle

This part of Toronto 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

One of the city’s most affluent areas, with mixed-use properties along Bloor and Dundas Streets. 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

This is a place appreciated by higher income families thanks to the plentiful parkland, old world charm and picturesque beauty of the area. It stands along the banks of the Humber River yet is close to plentiful shopping in Bloor West Village.


East End (including East York and Scarborough)

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.

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. Residents and visitors stroll along the boardwalk beside the beach and enjoy shopping and dining along Queen Street East.

Guildwood

Established as an artists’ colony in the 1920s, Guildwood is now an up-and-coming yet quiet family neighbourhood with a 1950s and '60s suburban feel. Residents can walk to the lake in minutes, and get to Union Station by GO Train in under half an hour.


Nearby communities in Toronto

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is the largest metropolitan area in Canada. Naturally, Toronto is the central city, and it is surrounded by the four regional municipalities (Durham, Peel, Halton and York) that collectively make up the GTA.

Toronto is arguably the most desirable place to live in the region, but housing costs prevent many people from settling in the city proper. That is why Toronto residents have one of the world’s longest commuting times, at almost 90 minutes to and from work each day. The suburbs and 'commuter' or 'bedroom' communities within driving distance of Toronto and the GTA are popular with families. They feel they can get “more house for their money” while still being able to work in the city and enjoy Toronto’s many leisure activities.

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 very low or non-existent.

Unfortunately, only those Toronto expats who have residence 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 written confirmation from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) stating that they are eligible to apply for permanent residence status in Canada.

At the OHIP office, all expats will have to do is fill out an application form and get a photo of themselves taken. A CareCard is posted to their home address three months later. 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. Significant medical costs are billed directly to OHIP by the respective provincial medical administration. For cheaper bills, such as doctor’s consultations, patients have to pay and they can claim back from the local health ministry upon their return to Ontario.

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 due to the delays.

For this reason, some expats prefer to take out private insurance in addition to that offered by the public system. Not to mention that private insurance provides comforts not covered by the public insurance, such as private hospital rooms and the dental, optometry and ambulance services which are not in the public coverage. 


Hospitals in Toronto

Below are some of the most prominent hospitals in Toronto:

Mount Sinai Hospital 

www.mountsinai.on.ca

Address: 600 University Avenue

 

St Joseph's Health Centre

www.stjoe.on.ca

Address: 30 The Queensway

 

St Micheal's Hospital 

www.stmichealshospital.com

Address: 30 Bond Street

 

The Hospital for Sick Kids

www.sickkids.ca

Address: 555 University Avenue

 

Toronto General Hospital

www.uhn.ca

Address: 200 Elizabeth Street

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.

In fact, there are aids for most people who do not speak English, with languages such as Punjabi, Vietnamese and German catered for. There are also extensive provisions made for children with special needs.

Toronto has an extensive network of public schools that expats, both permanent residents and those with work permits, can enrol their children in for free, and the city also claims a robust assortment of private schools.


Public schools in Toronto

Public schools in Toronto, both elementary and secondary, take their curricular mandate from the Ontario Ministry of Education. Generally, the standard of education is high. But like anywhere in the world, students at 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. Thus, parents may want to pinpoint a 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 exorbitant 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. Furthermore, they’re assumed to be more demanding of students, placing extra homework burdens upon them, and demanding a greater level of school participation.

Some private schools in Toronto are faith-based and a religious emphasis is integrated into the curriculum. Other private schools follow an international language and curriculum. Expats who only plan to be in Toronto on a temporary stay may want to consider this option for their children.


Tertiary education in Toronto

There are many fine academic institutions in Toronto. The University of Toronto’s St George Campus is located in Downtown Toronto, and its land takes up a significant portion of the inner city. This means that the wide green university grounds, student houses and the students themselves form an important sector of Torontonian society.

Foreign students are welcome at Canadian universities. But they must be prepared to shoulder tuition fees as much as four times as high as Canadian citizens. 

International Schools in Toronto

Expat parents moving to Toronto will be glad to know that the general standard of state education in Canada is high, and both permanent residents and those on work permits can enrol their children in state schools for free.

Many English-speaking expats in Toronto choose to send their children to either a good Canadian public school or private school because English is the first language in Ontario. However, for those wanting their children to continue education under the curriculum from their home country, there are a number of international schooling options available in Toronto. 

Unlike Canadian public schools where admissions are based on catchment zones, many international schools 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 most prominent international schools in Toronto.

 

German International School Toronto

www.gistonline.ca

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 3 to 18 

Curriculum: German

 

Lycée Français de Toronto

www.lft.ca

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 3 to 18

Curriculum: French

 

Sunnybrook School 

www.sunnybrookschool.com

Gender: Co-educational

Ages: 4 to 12

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

 

The York School (TYS)

www.yorkschool.com

Gender: Co-educational 

Ages: 4 to 18

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

 

Toronto French School (TFS)

www.tfs.ca

Gender: Co-educational 

Ages: 2 to 18

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

 

Upper Canada College

www.ucc.on.ca

Gender: Boys only

Ages: 5 to 18

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

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 relieved 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 outlets 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 London, Milan and Paris fashions; 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 (formerly Air Canada Centre) where international artists take to the stage. The Budweiser Stage (previously known as the Molson Amphitheatre) 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 (AGO), it's also possible to appreciate the city’s artistic community while out and about thanks to the 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. Historic venues such as 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 in the Distillery District.


Eating out in Toronto

Thanks to the multicultural make-up of this vast city, Toronto has over 10,000 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 watch 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 finer 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 extremely child-friendly. The weather is important for deciding on family outings, with stark seasonal contrasts. Think warm summers and cold, snow-filled winters. Families can look forward to a variety of activities that change throughout the year. Additionally, the city is renowned for its high standard of education. As is the case in the rest of Canada, the healthcare system is also among the best in the world.


Education in Toronto

Toronto is known not only for its private schools, but also for its high-quality public schools. The Ministry of Education is working to create gender-based schools in some areas and full-day kindergarten in other areas. On the whole, the public school system in Toronto is so strong that expats are bound to find a school suitable for their child, no matter the location. 

Alternatively, expat parents will be able to find schools for children with specific needs, including:

  • Private schools that specialise in certain language instruction

  • Top-notch private schools for boys, girls or co-educational

  • Arts-based private schools

Daycare facilities exist primarily for children aged 18 months and older, but it is easy to find places that will accept infants as well. Many daycares will provide kindergarten as well, so there may not be a need to move one's child to a larger school until first grade. 


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 than 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.

Additionally, newcomers won’t want to miss the CN Tower, McMichael Gallery or Blue Mountain.


Parent resources for 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. 

If a child needs extra support or has specific needs, it can be guaranteed that there is a teacher or a programme that will be a perfect fit. This is definitely a city focused on families.

See and Do in Toronto

Toronto has an array of outstanding attractions, charming neighbourhoods and beautiful natural scenery for expat 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 Gardiner and 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. There are four observation decks on the tower and two phenomenal eateries.

Gardiner Museum

The Gardiner Museum of Ceramics offers a glimpse into a collective art form spanning centuries, with over 3,000 historical and contemporary ceramic pieces on display. Visitors can also enjoy ceramic lessons and lectures, as well as a gift and coffee shop.

Harbourfront Centre

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

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.

Kensington Market

Founded in the early 1900s by Jewish and Italian immigrants, the Kensington Market now hosts traders, artists and craftsmen from all over the globe, including China, East Africa, Vietnam and the Caribbean.

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 for expat residents to enjoy. It's a definite favourite amongst locals and visitors alike.

Casa Loma

Dating back to 1911, Casa Loma is an impressive medieval-style castle with secret passageways, a very long tunnel (244m) and beautiful gardens to explore. All together, they make for a wonderful attraction for expat families.

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, this is a very interesting place to visit.

Hockey Hall of Fame

Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame, a shrine to Canada's national sport, showcases ice-hockey memorabilia and artefacts spanning decades. Not to mention, the interactive display is a great place to try one's hand at the game.

What's On in Toronto

Regardless of whether an individual prefers colourful carnivals, music festivals or cultural events, expats will find that the city's events calendar is full of great festivals to keep them occupied throughout the year.

The city's multicultural make-up means everything from food festivals to athletic events is on the bill, so be sure to keep abreast of what's on in Toronto and book tickets in advance. There is always something to see and do, regardless of the time of year.


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 put on shows at over 40 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 savoury cuisine, fine wines and stunning waterfront scenery. The city's top gourmet event also helps to craft excellent up-and-coming chefs with the Toronto Taste Chef Challenge. 

Toronto Pride (June/July)

This 10-day long event celebrates the LGBTQ+ community in Toronto with street festivals, music, political marches and a famous parade. Toronto’s Pride Week is one of the most well-attended in the world, and even if someone is not a member of the “pink” culture, this festival is certainly worth a gander and open to all visitors.

Toronto Fringe Festival (July)

This is an annual theatre festival featuring new plays by both unknown and established artists. Performances take place at a variety of theatres throughout Toronto. Many productions launched at the Fringe Festival have gone on to become award-winning shows, such as 'Kim's Convenience', 'Come From Away' and 'Life After'.

Toronto International Film Festival (Sept)

The Toronto International Film Festival is the largest film festival in the city and is open to the general public. It flaunts the glamour of Hollywood each September in a build-up to the Academy Awards, seeing some 480,000 guests stream through the doors each year and a host of celebrities grace its screenings.

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. The only caveat being to avoid traditionally run-down areas after dark. Do this and little will likely 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 such as the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum. Boating, swimming and fishing are popular on the nearby lakes. There are a number of sports teams to watch, notably the Blue Jays in baseball and the Maple Leafs in ice hockey. 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 very efficient and by far the fastest way to get around Toronto.

TTC has an integrated ticketing system which is based on tokens, and covers all modes of transport. Commuters can save money by opting to buy bundles of prepaid tokens rather than paying for each single journey separately. Prepaid tokens can be bought in bundles at ticket booths or vending machines, which are located at transit stations and newstands throughout the city.

However, for expats who plan on using public transport in Toronto on a regular basis, the most cost-effective option is to invest in a monthly Metropass. These passes allow commuters unlimited travel on all TTC services.

Subway

Toronto’s subway system is made up of colour-coded subway lines, which connect the city centre to various neighbourhoods of Toronto, including Scarborough, Etobicoke, Bloor-Yorkville and Rosedale. 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 very regular and if someone misses a train then chances are that the next one will arrive in just a few minutes.

Bicycles are not allowed to be taken onto the subway during peak times.

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 original streetcar network was much larger than the one in existence today. However, there are still a few streetcar routes in operation which serve Toronto’s city centre and populations living in Etobicoke, Cabbagetown, High Park and Deer Park. Most streetcars run continuously, with special routes designated for those streetcars operating at night.

Streetcars in Toronto are generally safe but it is wise to be aware of pickpockets on crowded rush-hour services. It is also best to exercise caution when getting on and off streetcars, by making sure that vehicles that share the road have completely stopped in the lane next to the streetcar. While drivers are legally expected to stop behind open streetcars, many choose to ignore this rule.

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.

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.

Certain suburbs such as Etobicoke, East York, Parkdale and Lawrence Manor have their own community bus services, which assist people in getting around within these areas.


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. Taxis in Toronto only become cost-effective if they are shared between a group of people who are travelling to the same destination.


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 over 2,700 bikes. These bicycles can be picked up and dropped off at any one of the docking stations, which are 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 a 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 require a straight swap or may involve retaking a written and road test.