Do you want to move to Canada to study? If YES, here are 20 best cities in Canada with affordable schools and low cost of living for international students. Canada, over the years has grown to become a booming hub for international students whose dreams include remaining in the country where they completed their studies.
Canada also provides a direct path to permanent citizenship – an option many international students seek. Canada has ranked as one of the top ten places to live in the world for over twenty years, and also boasts of an educational system that ranks among the best.
Why Study in Canada?
Canada is now a popular option for students who need a less expensive alternative to studying abroad. Canadian universities are now providing equally prestigious degrees as those in the US, often at a more affordable cost. Also note that Canadians place a great amount of importance on learning, and standard of education in Canada is uniformly high.
It’s very important to note that Canada is widely considered as one of the safest places in the world to live. But, it is still advisable to follow the same common sense safety precautions in Canada that you would anywhere else in the world. Students in Canada are also provided a number of options when it comes to accommodation.
Whether you’re staying on campus or living in a private residence, you will be able to find the right housing for you. After deciding to study in Canada as an international student, the next step is to choose an institution.
There are a variety of great educational institutions throughout Canada, so narrowing down your list of choices can be a tough task. Fortunately, there are many cities in Canada that are not only affordable, but also have great schools. If you’re looking to save money while you study, you may want to consider living in one of these cities listed below.
20 Best Cities in Canada for International Students
Table of Contents
- Catharines, Ontario
- Winnipeg, Manitoba
- The Interior, British Columbia
- Montreal, Quebec
- Abbotsford, British Columbia
- Moncton, New Brunswick
- Laval, Quebec
- Sherbrooke, Quebec
- Thunder Bay, Ontario
- Calgary, Alberta
- Edmonton, Alberta
- Lower Mainland, British Columbia
- Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
- Ottawa, Ontario
- Gatineau, Quebec
- Quebec, Quebec
- Windsor, Ontario
- Kitchener, Ontario
St. Catharines, Ontario is notably the largest city in Canada’s famed Niagara Region. St. Catharines boasts of a cost of living rate 0.5% below the national average, with the average monthly cost of a one bedroom apartment sitting at $1,136. St. Catharines is known as “The Garden City” thanks to its 1000 acres (4 km2) of gardens, parks, and trails.
It’s also just a 20 minute drive from Niagara Falls! St. Catharine’s is one of the cheapest cities to live in Ontario. St. Catharine’s is mainly a base for the manufacturing and service industries. It’s also very affordable for international student due to its low cost of living.
This city is home to over 740,000 people, making Winnipeg a culturally diverse city. Employment in Manitoba has increased recently with at least 2000 new jobs. Most new work opportunities were in the hospitality, information and creative industries. Homes, electricity, auto insurance, tuition all are available at the lowest prices in Canada, leaving students and families with more disposable income.
The Interior, British Columbia
This region includes cities like Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops and Penticton. In the Kootenay region, coal and ores have been the main economic industries for generations, while forestry reigns in the Thompson Okanagan region. When compared to Vancouver, the cost of living is less especially when it comes to accommodations. It’s also one of the cheapest cities and more affordable for international students due to its low cost of living.
Montréal has remained Canada’s top city for quite some time now and has also moved a place in the global ranking from 8th in 2015 to 7th in the QS Best Student Cities.
When a city consistently makes it to the top, unlike cities that make a surprise entry one year only to disappear from the list completely the very next year, you are assured of one thing: there is stability and solid ground holding that city together, which would enable it to weather any storm, whether it is an unexpected economic downturn or anything else.
Note that among the many things helping Montréal cement its place at the top are a slew of highest ranking educational institutions, including the highest ranked McGill University.
What is also special about the city is that despite being a largely English-speaking country, it has assumed a more cosmopolitan nature, largely due to immigration taking place from all across the world. If you are a cultural person, you have the largest comedy festival in the world, Just for Laughs, for entertainment; and it is only one of the many cultural extravaganzas that portray the rich cultural landscape of the city.
Also, one other unmistakable feature of this top student city is its amazing public transit system, which is powered by its efficient bus system, operating in over 200 bus routes; the metro; and to a lesser extent by the regional train service.
Abbotsford, British Columbia
Due to Vancouver’s extremely high living costs, British Columbia is generally thought to be an expensive province to live in. However, Canada’s Pacific province is home to some cities that are student-friendly in terms of budget. One of the most affordable is Abbotsford, which is the largest city by area in BC.
Abbotsford’s cost of living sits 3.6% below the national average, which makes it the cheapest largest city in BC. International students will also find one of Canada’s most diverse populations in Abbotsford, as the city has the third highest proportion of visible minorities in the country.
Moncton, New Brunswick
Although this is the largest city in New Brunswick, Moncton is actually one of the most affordable places to live in the province. The cost of living is 6.3% below the national average, with a one bedroom apartment going for an average of $835 per month. Like much of Canada’s east coast cities, Moncton is a welcoming place for international students, as the region has seen a large influx of students from other countries in recent years.
Generally, students can save quite a bit of money by studying in Quebec. This is because Quebec has some of the lowest tuition costs among Canadian provinces. However, many cities in Quebec also have costs of living that fall under the national average.
In other words, students can maximize their savings by choosing a city that has lower living costs, such as Laval. Located just 30km northwest of Montreal, Laval is one of Quebec’s larger cities and has a cost of living over 9% below the national average.
If you are looking forward to studying in Canada, the city with jaw-dropping backdrops, courtesy the Grouse, Seymour and Cypress mountains nearby, would leave you spellbound. Also, these mountains aren’t just restricted to sightseeing, as a number of popular adventure activities like skiing attract tourists from all over the world. If you are an outdoorsy person, there are a number of fun activities you can engage in, right in the middle of the city.
The cultural life of the city is no less amazing, as there are theaters and music at every bend. In fact, the city will bring alive the artist inside you. The city has two universities ranked by QS, with the University of British Columbia the highest ranked. Both the universities are set in beautiful, natural settings which accentuate the fun of studying here.
Sherbrooke, Quebec is located about 160 km east of Montreal, Sherbrooke is Quebec’s unofficial “student town”. With 40,000 students spread across eight institutions. Perhaps because of this status, Sherbrooke is very affordable for students. The cost of living is 15.6% below the national average and it’s not uncommon to find 1 bedroom apartments for well under $800 per month.
Thunder Bay, Ontario
The cost of living here is approximately 0.1% above the national average. Lying on the Lake Superior, this city is a commercial, administration and medical center. It’s also one of the cheapest cities and more affordable for international students due to its low cost of living.
With open spaces, rivers, mountains and more sunshine than any other Canadian metropolis, Calgary is a beautiful place to stay at. The city is popular for leisure activities and it boasts of the most extensive bikeway system in North America.
The cost to live in Calgary becomes even more manageable when Alberta’s low provincial taxes are taken into consideration. While tuition costs in Calgary are similar to those in Edmonton, a slightly higher cost of living makes it a pricier city to call home.
Renting is more competitive in Cowtown, with a vacancy rate of 3.9%, which has pushed average bachelor rents up 2.4% over the last year to $879. It’s also more expensive to take public transit, with passes costing $106. Eating out will cost an estimated $134 per month, while a gym membership is $55.
Also, with their close proximity to the oil and gas industry, Calgary schools are known for the quality of their engineering programs, as well as business, medicine, and agriculture.
Local universities and colleges include the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, Bow Valley College, and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). Popular neighborhoods for students include Sunnyside and Kensington, for their hip feel, walkability and transit access, as well as Connaught, which is just a short C-train ride from U of C, and steps from 17thAvenue SW, the city’s nightlife hub.
This Canada’s northernmost major metropolis has many excellent educational institutions – combined with cheap living costs. It’s a popular destination for students. Renters enjoy a much more relaxed market than in other cities with a vacancy rate of 5.3%, which keeps the average bachelor rent under $1,000 at $862.
One can also get around the city for less than $100, with monthly passes priced at $97. While dining out costs a bit higher at $134 monthly, students can work out for quite cheap, at around $44 for a monthly membership.
Edmonton is home to the University of Alberta, as well as MacEwan University, and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). Popular student neighbourhoods include Strathcona, which is just a stone’s throw from the nightlife found on Whyte Avenue, and Parkallen for its proximity to U of A, LRT access, walkability and green space.
This city was recognized as the most livable city in the world by Metropolis Magazine. Then in another report, consulting firm PwC put it at number four in the list of best cities to live in and work for 2014. Meanwhile, when it comes to assuming the mantle of being the “Cultural capital” of Canada, it is almost a tie between Toronto and Montréal: for its part, Toronto is buzzing with food scenes, high-brow fashion and art, historical monuments and a large concentration of people with creativity.
This city has three universities ranked by QS, with the University of Toronto the highest placed at 34th. If there is one aspect where Toronto steals the show over its arch rival is that it has a larger international business sector, which understandably will be appreciated by international students who come to study in Canada.
The presence of these business sectors opens up work avenues for international students, whether you are looking for full-time or part-time job. The city is home to many post-secondary institutions including the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, York University, as well as George Brown, Seneca, Centennial, and Humber Colleges, just to name a few.
Popular neighbourhoods to dwell for those taking classes downtown include the Annex, Kensington Market, and Chinatown. The high-density condo neighbourhoods of Liberty Village and CityPlace are also popular for those willing to share a unit with roommates.
Lower Mainland, British Columbia
Vancouver is the eighth-largest city in Canada with more than 603,000 residents. Residents enjoy a temperate climate that allows them to participate in more outdoor activities throughout the year. Transportation, housing, food, household goods, clothing and entertainment costs account to make Vancouver among the three most expensive cities in North America.
Saskatoon region has more opportunities for business and individuals because of infrastructure, research and development facilities, natural resources, and educated workforce. There are six dominant industries within Saskatoon including mining energy, manufacturing, transportation, construction, life sciences and agriculture. Wages in Saskatoon are competitive when compared with the province and country.
Ottawa’s rental market has been gradually heating over the past few years, as the city’s stable job market has been an attractive draw for new migration from other provinces as well as the Greater Toronto Area. Report has it that it pushed the vacancy rate lower to 1.6%, and the average bachelor rent up 1.3% to $881 from last year.
Transportation will run students $118 per month, while dining out runs about $175, and gym memberships at $51. Located in the nation’s capital, Ottawa schools are renowned for their political science, business and journalism programs, with popular institutions including the University of Ottawa, Carelton University, Saint Paul University, and La Cité Collégiale.
Nearby student neighbourhoods include Old Ottawa South, where stately homes have been divided into apartments, as well as Centretown / Little Italy / Chinatown, where units are affordable, with close access to transit and good walkability.
Gatineau cost of living is 1.3% above the national average, less costly to Ottawa directly across the river, where the cost of living is 26.1% above the national average. Because it’s so close to Ottawa, Gatineau is a base for many federal government offices. It’s also one of the cheapest cities and more affordable for international students due to its low cost of living.
The most impressive aspect about the city has to be the grandiose Chateau Frontenac, which happens to be the only preserved city ramparts in the whole of North America and is a world heritage site. In fact, historical buffs will have their hands full as the city is littered with items of historic and cultural importance; if you love figures, there are around 37 historic sites of national significance in the region.
The cultural scene of the city is not to be left behind as starting from colorful life music venues to winter carnivals, to thriving art, the city has it all. Also, it doesn’t make the slightest difference whether you are staying in an on-campus or off-campus accommodation , as you can equally wallow in the richness of the city and get enriched.
The cost of living in Windsor is 0.7% above the national average. The city, which lies directly across from Detroit, Michigan, is one of Canada’s favorite centers for the automobile industry. Tourism, education, and government services are mostly found here too. This city is among the affordable cities in Canada where an international student will like to study because of the low cost of living therein.
This unique city is home to a diverse economy based on manufacturing, finance, insurance, healthcare and many digital media. It’s also one of the cheapest cities and more affordable for international students due to its low cost of living.
Canada is one country where you can pick a city with your eyes closed, and you won’t go wrong. But there are some cities that are more equal than others. Be sure to make your own personal research and ascertain that any city you pick will line up with your goals.