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Money and living costs in Canada

Make the most of your money

Of course, you want to enjoy a healthy and happy study life in Canada. Understanding how much money you’ll need whilst living in Canada is the first step, but keep in mind the cost of living may be higher or lower depending on exactly where you live in the country.

EduCanada suggests you budget between $7,000 and $20,000 Canadian dollars (Can$ / CAD) per year to cover the costs of food, accommodation and compulsory health insurance. In addition to this you will also need to budget for your tuition fees, plus any of the relevant student, administration, application or permit fees. Don’t forget to include extra spending money for yourself such as socialising with friends, travelling during your study breaks or attending local events.

There are some helpful websites you can use to assist you when budgeting your time in Canada. One such website is Expatistan, which calculates the cost of living in Canada using up-to-date, crowd-sourced data. Or have a look EduCanada’s Step 1-2-3 tool to see how your costs may change based on where you live.

Your banking and payments options

In Canada, you will generally pay, and be paid, in dollars and cents. Canadian frequently call individual coins by their nicknames – a nickel (5 cents), a dime (10 cents), a quarter (25 cents), a loonie ($1) and a toonie ($2).

Most Canadian banks will be happy to open an account for you while you’re studying in Canada. To open an account, you will usually need:

  • Your passport
  • A document that confirms the school, college or university you are enrolled with
  • Proof of your address at both in your home country and in Canada
  • Statements and / or a reference from your bank in your home country.


Some Canadian banks offer special student accounts, which often have extra benefits such as free banking and travel discounts. You should ask your bank in Canada if they offer student accounts and if you’re eligible for one.

Whatever account you choose, you must read the fine print to ensure you know all the important information, including what fees may apply.

Getting a phone and your internet organised

You’ll want to get a phone and Internet access sorted pretty quickly after you arrive in the country.

When it comes to phones, there are three main options:

1. Landline: usually this is only relevant if you choose to live off campus. You might be able to find a good deal by bundling your landline with your internet access, or you could choose not to have any landline at all and just use your mobile.
2. Mobile – prepaid: this gives you greater control over how much you spend and you can stop using this whenever you want. A pre-paid SIM card is widely available from shops and supermarkets in Canada, as well as from mobile phone providers,. Pre-paid SIM cards include a set number of calls, text messages and data.
3. Mobile – contract: Depending on how frequently you use your mobile and what for, a contract with a Canadian mobile phone provider could prove to be cheaper.

Making international calls

International calls can be much more expensive than calls within Canada. You might wish to buy an international calling card (which gives you cheaper rates) or you might wish to use online options such as Skype or FaceTime instead. International calling cards can be bought from most convenience stores.

  • To call a Canadian telephone number from overseas, you need to use the country code - 1 - followed by the area code within Canada and then the telephone number.
  • To call another country from inside Canada, use 011 followed by the appropriate country code followed by any relevent area code within the country you are calling and then the telephone number.


Access to the Internet

There are lots of options for internet access in Canada, but it pays to shop around to ensure you find the plan that offers the best price and download limits for your needs.

Most educational institutions will provide free Wi-Fi which you can access with your student log-on and password. If you care unable to access the Internet on your own laptop or computer, you can usually find one in the student library, at an off-campus public library or in an internet café.

Many locations offer free Wi-Fi, but some Internet cafes for example, will charge by the hour. You must remember to check the security of the network you are connecting to.

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