In this post we’ll look at some of the best and cheapest cities to live in Canada. The five featured below may not rank as the outright top places to live in the country but all have something to offer in terms of quality of living and rank as much more affordable than the likes of Toronto and Vancouver. We also have a cost of living table for the 15 largest cities in the country which may be a useful starting guide for anyone considering moving to Canada.
5 of the Best & Cheapest Cities to Live in Canada
One of Canada’s largest, best known and most visited cities, you may be surprised to learn that Montreal is also the cheapest of the really big cities in the country. 1,800 Canadian Dollars per month should be sufficient for living if you’re sensible with your money, a big saving on some of Canada’s other major metropolises.
Located in the east of the country, Montreal is the cultural hub of life in French Canada. It’s perhaps most famous for its culinary appeal with more restaurants per capita than any other place in North America. Whether you’re into fine dining or filling street food, Montreal has got all bases covered and it’s also certainly the best of the five cities featured here when it comes to a night out with a range of bars, clubs and music venues.
While frequently compared to Paris for obvious reasons, Montreal has a considerably more industrial, even grimy feel to it which makes comparisons with large cities in the US such as New York or even northern parts of the UK perhaps more fitting.
Estimated Living Costs* – 1,800 Canadian Dollars per Month (approx US$1400)
*The estimates in this post on the cheapest and best cities to live in Canada are according to what one single person might spend in a typical month. The idea is to cover all living costs as well as the cost of renting a room in shared accommodation or a small private flat where it’s viable to do so.
However the figures should only be taken as a rough guide and are more intended to be a means of comparison. Finding really high quality accommodation in a good area and having a very active social life will see you spend far more. Students or anyone looking to live a frugal lifestyle ought to be able to get by on marginally less in most cases, but again it really does depend on the individual.
Next up is Edmonton, frequently ranked as one of the best places to live in Canada. It offers better rental rates than most other cities in North America and also has quite a youthful population which makes it a good base for anyone on the younger end of the age scale.
While it may not have quite the fun factor of Toronto or Montreal, Edmonton is still a sizable city with more than a million residents. It’s the capital of the western province of Alberta so it’s not like you will be short on options when it comes to entertainment. The Edmonton International Fringe Festival is the highlight of the city’s cultural calendar, similar to the Edinburgh equivalent and the largest event of its kind in the Americas.
It is important to consider the city’s climate though before you make any radical decision to move to Edmonton. It is the northernmost city in North America and it is bitterly cold during the winter with temperatures rarely rising above freezing between early December and late February, even during the day.
Estimated Living Costs – 1,850 Canadian Dollars per Month (approx US$1450)
If you’re put off by the high cost of living in Toronto but want easy access to it, Hamilton is a good compromise. The two cities are only 70 km away by road with plenty of public transport links so it’s possible to live and rent in Hamilton but still enjoy everything that Toronto has to offer.
While the gap is narrowing, rental prices are approximately 40% lower in Hamilton, which in any case may suit those looking to live in a slightly smaller city. While it may not be a glamorous place, with an industrial reputation, Hamilton is gentrifying quickly and now caters to a large number of commuters who work in Toronto, as well as students at McMaster University, one of the best in Canada.
Like its larger neighbour, Hamilton boasts a lakeside location and is also located within easy access of the stunning Niagara Falls on the US border – which will make for a memorable early day-trip should you make the move.
Estimated Living Costs – 1,850 Canadian Dollars per Month (approx US$1450)
MFT Recommends – Unless you already have a Canadian bank account, getting a Revolut Card before you move to Canada will help you avoid hidden banking and exchange fees. Even if you ultimately intend to open a local bank account, Revolut will certainly come in handy during your opening days and weeks in the country.
St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
If you’re keen on living in a slightly smaller city and are more interested in Canada’s wonderful nature rather than its urban life, St John’s, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador may be the perfect place.
Located on the very easternmost point of North America (apart from Greenland), you are a world away from the continent’s major urban centres. Living on Canada’s largest island serves up all kinds of opportunities to get out into the great outdoors with endless options in terms of hiking trails.
With averages of around 300 cm of yearly snowfall, you probably need to enjoy the white stuff to consider making it your home but summers are pretty mild with average highs of 20°C during July and August ensuring you get to enjoy the changing of the seasons and witness one of Canada’s most picturesque cities in various different shades.
Estimated Living Costs – 1800 Canadian Dollars per Month (approx US$1400)
Quebec City, Quebec
Finally, we head back to French Canada and Quebec City, the capital of the province of the same name. One of the cheapest places to live in Canada, Quebec City ranks as the most affordable of the 15 largest cities in the country with estimated living costs of around 1,600 Canadian Dollars per month. If you’re from south of the border, looking to move to Canada, it’s worth noting that living costs are less in Quebec City than in even the very cheapest major cities in the USA such as Phoenix or Memphis.
It also just happens to be a very pretty place to live with a large number of cultural charms. As one of the very oldest European settlements in North America, it’s a city with a long story to tell and boasts that genuine historical feel that many of its Canadian and US counterparts lack.
Quebec City’s social calendar is full of festivals, especially during the summer and winter months. The main disadvantage of living in the city though, at least for English speakers, is that it is a very Francophone place. This can make life in the suburbs and away from the central and tourist districts a bit more complicated, but it shouldn’t put you off considering living in Quebec.
Estimated Living Costs – 1,600 Canadian Dollars per Month (approx US$1250)
Find Work Placements in Canada
Join Worldpackers (using our $10 discount code) to get access to dozens of work placements across Canada. These include everything from web design and hostel roles in the cities to farm and homestays in magical remote destinations such as Yukon territory. It can be a good way to get a taste of working life in Canada before fully committing to living there.
Cost of Living in Canada – Cities Compared
For the table below (and figures above), numbeo’s cost of living data has been used as a guide to work out the estimated cost of living in Canadian cities. Below you can find our estimates for how much you may need to live in the 15 largest cities in Canada.
While it is based on real data supplied by actual residents in each location, everybody is different and your actual cost of living will vary considerably depending on your lifestyle. It is primarily designed to be a means of comparison and to showcase the range that exists with cities such as Toronto and Vancouver considerably more expensive to live in than the likes of Windsor and Quebec City.
If you are planning to find a job or have one lined up, you should of course consider that you will most likely also earn more in the cities towards the top of the table. Students, digital nomads and remote workers may be wise to base themselves in one of the five featured above or another of the cheaper cities.
|City||Estimated Cost of Living (Monthly in Canadian Dollars)|
You can find even cheaper places to live of course but in such a vast country, you may have to settle for living in a much smaller or really isolated town if you want to get by on significantly less than any of the figures quoted above.
At the time of writing, US$1 = 1.28 Canadian Dollars, €1 = 1.55 Canadian Dollars, £1 = 1.73 Canadian Dollars.
This post on the cheapest cities to live in Canada was published in January 2021.