I may be slightly biased because I’m Canadian, but I don’t even care—Canada is one of the most breathtaking and diverse countries. From the landscapes to the people, it’s safe to say that this is a country that will give travellers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Unlike most of my Canadian peers, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of seeing a lot of my own backyard over the years. Having spent a fair amount of time in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal and road tripping from east to west, I feel like I know Canada like the back of my hand.
While I haven’t yet made it to the northern territories (someday soon!), I’m confident in saying that I’ve explored a lot of this beautiful country. As a result, I have a lot of firsthand knowledge of spending during your time here.
I won’t sugarcoat it, but the truth is that Canada isn’t a particularly budget-friendly destination, especially if you’re coming here to enjoy it as a visitor. It’s one thing to live frugally as a student, but another to be a tourist. That being said, there are ways to enjoy your time here to the fullest without breaking the bank and sleeping out in your car every night.
If it’s possible, come to Canada ready with a budget saved up; but know that it will be 100% worth it. The expression “spend money on experiences not things” will just hit even closer to home.
What’s Included in this Post
This budget breakdown covers how much I spent on accommodation, transportation, activities, and food while I travelled around the country.
I’ve not included flights into and out of Canada as this is going to vary significantly based on where you’ll be arriving from.
The amounts in this guide are listed in U.S. dollars, simply because the vast majority of my readers are from the U.S. And if you’re converting U.S. dollars, Euros or even Pounds to our weak Canadian Dollar, then your time here might also feel more budget-friendly.
Okay — let’s get started!
The Cost of Accommodation in Canada
When it comes to accommodations in Canada, budget-friendly options look a bit different compared to backpacking Southeast Asia, Europe or even Central America. There’s not as much of a hostel scene here, and even the few popular hostels will ring you in higher than you might expect for a dorm bed.
If you’ll be travelling Canada on a mid-range budget, then you can find good quality stays in prime locations for around $100 – $200 a night.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous and frugal, you could opt to drive and camp your way through Canada. This can cost you as low as $20 a night. But just make sure that you reserve your spots with Parks Canada ahead of time as they can get full very fast.
Outside of camping, here’s a list of my favourite accommodation options in Canada:
Toronto — Elegant Downtown Homestay ($97 a night): While you’re in Toronto, you can’t pass up staying at this lovely homestay. The location, quality and affordability (for the area) can’t be beat. You want to be as central as possible during your time in Toronto and this homestay is nearby popular spots like Yonge-Dundas Square and The Distillery District. The hosts keep the rooms immaculately clean and spotless. And the comfort, combined with the modern decor, is an added bonus. But what really makes this place special is the kind and courteous hosts that will check in on you and help with anything you need.
Montreal — M Montreal Hostel ($23 a night): Montreal is the kind of place where there’s always something going on, whether that’s a party, an exhibition or a festival. With a bustling nightlife and social scene, M Montreal Hostel is the perfect place to meet people that you can experience the city with. And it’s great value for the money considering its central location, continental breakfast and shared kitchen. You can recharge after a day of exploring and a night of bar crawling with some lounge time in the rooftop jacuzzi. Also, if you want to meet people, but want a bit more privacy, then they also offer private rooms at pretty reasonable rates for the area ($88 a night).
Ottawa — Auberge des Arts Bed and Breakfast ($68 a night): You couldn’t ask for a better price in a better location. Being in the heart of the Byward Market in downtown Ottawa, Auberge des Arts B&B is close to all the action while being located on a quiet street. You’re just steps away from major attractions like Parliament Hill and the National Gallery. Beyond the location, this B&B offers excellent value, charm and hospitality. The owners go out of their way to ensure it feels like a home away from home, whether they wait up for your late arrival or cook the most delicious breakfast.
Vancouver — O Canada House Bed & Breakfast ($171 a night): Now that I’m living in Vancouver, I can definitely attest that this B & B is in the heart of Vancouver. You’re in one of the most central locations, within walking distance to hotspots like Stanley Park, Gastown and Granville Island. But it’s not just the location that makes this place special—the staff do everything they can to accommodate you, from packing you sandwiches for an earlier send-off to keeping the place immaculately clean. Not to mention, the elegant yet charming decor coupled with a stocked pantry make this the place you must stay at during your time in Vancouver.
Halifax — Cambridge Suites Hotel Halifax ($83 a night): Halifax is the heart of Canada’s east coast. It’s a fantastic base to do some exploring while staying here. Especially given the fact that each room comes with a small kitchenette and a complimentary breakfast is included. You’re only a 10-minute walk away from the gorgeous Halifax waterfront and there’s a rooftop patio offering panoramic views for your evening nightcap.
Banff — Banff Boutique Inn ($82 a night): This place is a steal when it comes to accommodations in Banff, especially considering Banff is one of Canada’s most expensive vacation destinations. Staying at the Banff Boutique Inn feels relaxing and easy. They have clean, spacious rooms with comfortable beds. And they offer a number of great amenities including a shared kitchen, complimentary onsite parking and a cozy common room with books and games. Not to mention, you’re only 5 minutes away from Banff city centre!
The Cost of Transportation in Canada
Car Rental — This is the main way that I’ve explored Canada and I can’t recommend it enough. If you have the time, then nothing screams adventure quite like a multi-week road-trip. Give yourself the time to see as much of Canada by car.
You can find great rental deal rates by using RentalCars.com in Canada, which is who I use to find cheap rentals all around the world. To give you an idea of the average cost, a two-week economy car rental from Vancouver to Toronto costs around $954 which ends up being around $68 per day. That’s not including the cost of gas or insurance, but if you were to split this with one or two other people, that’s actually pretty decent!
Keep in mind that you need to be at least 25 years old to rent a car in Canada.
Bus — This is an affordable, but less flexible way to get around Canada and it wouldn’t be my first choice for long distance travel. Though in some cases, buses may be your best transportation option to travel between cities that are within a reasonable distance from each other.
If you are going to take a bus, I would recommend taking Megabus for travel in Ontario. I used Megabus often while I went to university in Ottawa and felt it was both comfortable, reliable and affordable. They also travel from Toronto to Montreal for only $60! A couple of other well-known bus companies in Canada include:
- Coach Canada: Toronto, Montreal, Kingston, Niagara Falls and Hamilton
- Rider Express: Vancouver/Calgary, Winnipeg/Regina, Calgary/Edmonton, Edmonton/Regina
Train — Via Rail is Canada’s top long-distance train network which offers both comfort and style from coast to coast. They cover eight provinces and 7,800 miles of track. I’ve used Via Rail frequently in Ontario and know many people who have used it to travel the country.
Without a doubt, if you want to see a lot of Canada with little time, this is the way to do it. Get your camera out and prepare for some jaw-dropping views. Here are the most popular routes and their one-way Economy fares (taxes are not included):
- The Canadian Route ($417): Toronto – Vancouver, 4 nights/4 days
- The Ocean ($138): Montreal – Halifax: 1 night/1 day
- The Best of Manitoba ($207): Winnipeg – Churchill: 2 days/2 nights
- The Pacific North Coast ($139): Jasper – Prince Rupert: 2 days/1 night
Flying — For a long time, flying across Canada cheaply was unheard of. And that’s the reason behind why so many Canadians weren’t able to do much travelling within their own country. It was just cheaper to fly to Europe than it was domestically.
But over the past number of years, there’s been an emergence of budget-friendly airlines in Canada that make flying a viable option if you want to cover extensive ground efficiently. Air Canada is the country’s biggest airline, but you will usually find cheaper prices with WestJet, AirTransat, Flair Airlines and Swoop. In my opinion, you can’t really go wrong with any of these airlines for a domestic trip. Swoop and Flair tend to have the cheapest fares.
Here are some of the most common one-way routes and their average prices from Skyscanner:
- Toronto to Vancouver — $72
- Toronto to Halifax — $62
- Calgary to Vancouver — $40
- Toronto to Calgary — $66
- Montreal to Vancouver — $192
City Travel — When you’re sightseeing in a major city, the best way to get around is local transit. I would recommend buying a Presto Card for your time in Ontario as this can be used and uploaded across 11 regions, including Ottawa and Toronto. You can buy a Presto card for $4.76 online or in-person at a Transit Customer Service Centre, Shoppers Drug Mart or Real Canadian Superstore Location.
In lieu of a Presto Card or when you’re outside of Ontario, here are some of the day pass rates for major Canadian cities:
- Toronto TTC Day Pass: $10.72 per person
- Vancouver TransLink Day Pass: $8.34 per person
- Montreal Day Pass: $7.94 per person
- Ottawa OC Transpo Day Pass: $8.74 per person
The Cost of Food in Canada
Picture all of your favourite dishes in the world in one place—that’s what it’s like to eat in Canada. Delicious and authentic eats can be found in nearly every corner, from Vietnamese to Ethiopian to Italian.
While there aren’t many “Canadian” dishes, you definitely have to get your hands on some poutine and a beavertail (don’t worry, not an actual one!). Beavertails are stretched pastries made out of fried dough to take the shape of their namesake; they can be topped with anything from sugar to peanut butter to chocolate. One of my favourite Canadian must-dos is to go skating, followed by a warm beavertail and hot chocolate; there’s truly nothing better in the winter.
And of course, a trip to Canada is not complete without multiple Tim Hortons coffee runs, which by the way, is very budget friendly. You can get a coffee and bagel for as little as $3!
The cost of food ranges depending on what you like to eat and how much you like to eat at restaurants. That being said, there’s plenty of ways to eat on a mid-range budget.
Fast food will cost anywhere from $5-$10 per person while eating out at a mid-range restaurant like Cactus Club or Swiss Chalet will cost around $15-$30 per person.
If you’re staying at accommodations with shared kitchens, this is a fantastic way to save money on food. Groceries typically cost me around $80 per week, which would be around $11 per day for fruit, vegetables, protein and snacks.
I would recommend buying groceries and cooking as much as you can, while eating out only a few times per week to save money. During a typical day that I cook and go out for lunch, my cost of food is around $25.
The Cost of Activities and Entrance Fees in Canada
You’re in luck when it comes to the cost of activities and entrance fees in Canada, as most of what you see is beautiful Mother Nature herself! This is when road tripping is worth it, because driving through Canada is an activity in itself. You just get complete joy out of witnessing jaw-dropping views from your window seat.
But there are some attractions and parks that, in my opinion, are worth seeing if you’re in the area. Learning from exhibitions at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, seeing whales in their natural habitat and walking next to Niagara Falls are a few of my favourite travel experiences in Canada because they all left something memorable in my heart or mind.
If you’re more of a nature or outdoorsy person, I would recommend spending more time and money on activities and attractions in western Canada (B.C. and Alberta). But if you’re more into history, the arts and urban exploring, then central and eastern Canada (Southern Ontario, Montreal) are more up your alley.
Here’s a breakdown of some my favourite attractions in Canada and their respective costs:
- CN Tower (Toronto): $30 per person
- Parliament Hill Tour (Ottawa): FREE
- National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa): $12 per person or FREE on Thursday evenings
- Banff Gondola (Banff): $43 per person
- Columbia Icefield Skywalk (Banff): $28 per person
- Whale watching (Vancouver): $119 per person
- Canadian Museum of Human Rights (Winnipeg): $14 per person
- Anne of Green Gables Heritage Place: $6 per person
- Niagara Falls: FREE
If you’re like me, and love to make the most of time, then tours are really a great way to experience a country. I recommend hopping over to Viator for a range of activities and tours, like the Whistler and Sea to Sky Gondola Tour ($146), Banff National Park Big Canoe Tour ($50), Ottawa Express City Bike Tour ($38) or a Niagara Falls Day Tour ($77).
How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Canada?
It’s time to tally up all of my expenses to see my total travel costs!
Accommodation: $80 per day
Transportation: $68 per day
Food: $25 per day
Activities/Entrance Fees: $0 per day
Average amount spent in Canada: $173 a day!
Author bio: Born and raised in Toronto, Lydia has found “home” throughout her travels around the world. She’s a passionate storyteller and writer and you can usually find her dreaming about new adventures or having a deep conversation with a friend.
[Images in this post are via: Mumemories/Shutterstock, RicJacyno/Shutterstock, Kai Nishizawa/Shutterstock, and Sylvie Bouchard/Shutterstock]