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The cost of living in Canada as an expat

Living abroad as an expat comes with unique challenges. There is an almost universal tradeoff between living cost and quality of life. This applies to accommodation, food, healthcare, travel, and all other components. Here is a look at what to expect when moving to Canada.


Renting a house in most parts of Canada is a relatively straightforward business. Expats can choose from one, two, and three-bedroom apartments, hostels, and other lodging options. One may decide to rent close to a city center or away from urban centers. As expected, rent in most towns is relatively higher compared to the outskirts. The 2019 National Rent Report observed that residential rents in Canada had increased by 5.5% on average during the previous year.

In Toronto and comparable cities, one can rent a studio or 1 bedroom apartment for CAD 1,800 per month. A similar apartment in North Vancouver can cost CAD 2,200 monthly. One can find both furnished and unfurnished apartments. It is advisable to inspect the house for plumbing, electrical, and repair issues prior to moving in. The payment schedule for most rentals starts at the beginning of the month. Rental contracts are usually made for 12 months. The rent does not change for the duration of the contract. Owners usually inform tenants 90 days in advance of a planned rent increase. Consulting a real estate agent can widen your options. However many homeowners do not advertise commercially. They simply place ‘to-let’ signs outside the property. It often proves useful to take a house-hunting walk or drive in your desired area.


The cost of food in Canada is considered lower as compared to neighboring countries. Data from Numbeo shows that a meal that costs CAD 17 in Canada would cost the equivalent of CAD 19.75 in the US. The average McDonald’s meal in Canada costs CAD 10, whereas a three-course meal at a nice restaurant costs about CAD 70. It is notable that the prices mentioned on most restaurant menus do not reflect the tax component, which is an additional 10-15%. Beverages, alcoholic and otherwise, are also taxed. These taxes vary by state. According to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario taxes on alcohol must be included in the price list.

Many expats prefer to cook at home. This saves considerably on food costs as compared to dining out.  Cooking also serves to provide a more personalized culinary selection, which is a priority for many. The average Canadian spends about CAD 214 on groceries each month.


Canada is renowned for its superlative healthcare system. The system prioritizes citizens and permanent residents. Nevertheless, all residents of Canada have access to excellent medical care. Expats can apply for a Medicare card if registered as residents. It takes 3 months to be issued. With Medicare, expats need only pay 30% of their medical bills. Expats who don’t have Medicare can get private healthcare at their own expense.


Canada offers free schooling for residents, refugees, asylum seekers, and documented immigrants. However, education for expatriates and their children is not free. Expats who wish to pursue higher education in Canada must provide proof of English language proficiency. University applications cost CAD 200. Tuition and university fees range between CAD 20,000-30,000 per academic year. Aspirants can apply for one of several scholarships.


A transport pass in Toronto costs about CAD 151 per month. Taxis cost CAD 2 per km. Single-use bus ticket costs CAD 3.25. A liter of gasoline costs CAD 1.25 on average. Canada has world-class public transport. Yet, for many of us there is no better way to get around than to drive. Expats can buy new cars starting at CAD 30,000 or opt for used vehicles that may cost about CAD 10,000. Insurance is a must for car owners. Third-party liability insurance costs CAD 900 annually.


Most expats in Canada prioritize savings, which enable them to send money online to their families back home by way of remittances. Regardless of priority, recreation options abound. Despite the cold climate Canadians love the outdoors. The serene surroundings offer opportunities for activities that most expats don’t have access to in their home countries. These include whale watching (CAD 155 per person), skiing (CAD 50 for rentals) and other snow sports, and generally taking in the endless scenery on one of the numerous sightseeing tours (CAD 60-100 per person). Canada is the second-largest country on the planet. Even after spending many years in Canada expats rarely get to explore all of it.

About the author:

Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.


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