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Canada: Student Finances - Must read

How much does it cost to study in Canada?

The cost of living in Canada is an important consideration for all international students looking to move there. To help, our detailed guide breaks down what you can expect to pay.

Graphic of two hands pushing money across a map of Canada, with the country's flag beside them.

Famous for its friendly people and vibrant cities, Canada is a great place to study. Of course, as an international student, you may be wondering about its price. From the cost of accommodation to everyday essentials, it may seem complicated, but it is something you would be very wise to consider.


To make things more simple, our guide to the cost of living in Canada explores everything you need to know, providing you with all the information you need to make the right choices.


What will I need to pay for?


This can vary. However, while you’ll be able to cut some costs depending on your lifestyle, there are certain things you will definitely need to consider when working out your budget.


These things include:

  • accommodation
  • food and everyday essentials
  • travel and transport
  • entertainment
  • connectivity (internet, mobile phone etc)
  • hidden costs (things that are unique to you, for example, course supplies or visa fees)


Tuition fees


Broadly speaking, as an international student in Canada you can expect annual tuition fees in the region of:

  • CAD 13,000 to CAD 125,000 (undergraduate level)
  • CAD 5,000 to CAD 100,000 (postgraduate level)


Clearly, these are broad estimates. For a more detailed overview of tuition fees in Canada, read our article on the subject.


Difference in cost between regions


As with any country, you’ll pay more to live in certain areas of Canada than you will in others. Cities are typically more expensive than rural areas, and there’s variation between provinces too.


Ontario and British Columbia are generally considered the most expensive provinces in Canada. In fact, they are also home to the two most expensive cities in the country: Toronto and Vancouver. Both are well known for being vibrant student hubs.


By contrast, the cheapest provinces to live in are New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Québec.


However, you shouldn’t let the typical cost of living be the only factor in deciding where to study. Prices vary everywhere; even between suburbs and properties. It’s worth researching individual areas before making a final decision.




Perhaps the most stressful expense for many students is rent. It’s often costly and not something you can avoid. In Canada, most students choose to live on-campus in the first year, moving into a private rental for later years.


A less common option is a homestay, where you live with a local family for the duration of your course. For this, you might expect to pay in the region of CAD 800 to CAD 1,200 a month.

When comparing costs, remember that in a university-owned residence you will usually only pay rent for the academic year (eight months), whereas in private rentals your contract is for a full year.


University residence


Canada follows a similar university accommodation model to the USA, with on-campus residence being the most common choice for first year undergraduate students.


Most on-campus accommodation consists of dormitory style rooms which are often shared with one other student. You’ll also be able to make use of shared kitchens and communal areas.


Rent for on-campus accommodation usually covers your room, utilities (electricity, gas and water) and sometimes even a meal plan. Depending on the university, you can expect to pay somewhere between CAD 750 and CAD 2,750 rent per month, with prices at the lower end not including meals.


Private rentals


For students choosing to rent privately, you can still reduce costs by sharing a property with other people. Not only will this cut your rent, but also your bills. Plus, it’s a great way to get to know people!


Depending on the city and whether or not you choose to share with other students, you’ll likely be paying somewhere between CAD 500 and CAD 2,500 a month in rent.


One disadvantage of renting privately, though, is that utilities are rarely included in the cost. And in a country like Canada, where winters are long and cold, you’ll definitely need to budget for utility bills. Depending on the number of people you share with, you’ll probably spend between CAD 75 and CAD 300 a month on water, gas and electricity.


Food and shopping


If you don’t have meal plans included in your accommodation, you’ll need to shop for groceries. Cooking for yourself is one of the fun life skills you’ll improve during your time at university, and although budgeting for it can be a challenge, you’ll quickly learn how.


Assuming your accommodation is self-catered, and including everyday items such as toiletries and cleaning products, we’d recommend setting aside CAD 400 to CAD 550 a month for general shopping.




Depending on where you live in relation to your university, you may find you can walk or cycle to your classes, especially in the summer. But in the winter, or if you live further away, public transport will probably be more appealing. In Canada, you’ll most likely be using trains, the subway, or buses.


A short, single bus journey can cost anywhere between CAD 2.50 and CAD 3.50. A ride on the train or subway costs slightly more, usually starting at CAD 3.00. Taxis are also an option, but they are expensive and not ideal for a tight budget.


Many cities offer various travelcard options to make multiple journeys cheaper. For example, Vancouver’s SkyTrain offers a day pass for CAD 11.25.


Some cities also have pay-as-you-go style cards, which deduct credit from the overall balance. These include Toronto’s PRESTO card, which also offers discounts.


It’s worth knowing that some universities’ tuition fees include free transport within their city. Even if this doesn’t apply to you, you should be entitled to some student discounts.




Budgeting for entertainment is more important than you might think. As a student, you'll want to have fun and take part in things. Even if it’s just going for coffee with a friend, socialising is essential to the university experience.


Of course, it doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are plenty of free things to do in Canada if you know where to look. Many cities are full of beautiful parks and gardens, and if you’re on the coast, there’s nothing better than a stroll by the ocean.


Another option in most cities is signing up to taster sessions in a new skill or activity – for example, yoga or cookery – for free. This is a great way of deciding if you like something before you commit to a course.


Some average costs for entertainment in Canada include:


  • pint of beer : CAD 6.50
  • cinema ticket: CAD 12
  • concert ticket: CAD 140
  • restaurant meal for two: CAD 90




Staying connected with friends and family back home is often a top priority for international students. For this, internet and a phone with a good amount of data are essential. University residences will usually cover broadband fees in their rent, but in a private rental you’ll need to pay separately.


Connectivity in Canada is unfortunately expensive, though you may be able to find cheap deals with a bit of research.


The average cost of broadband internet for a household in Canada is around CAD 100 per month. But as this is per property, if you share with other students, you can expect to only pay a portion of this amount.


It’s similarly expensive to have a SIM card with plenty of data. However, this may be preferable to paying costly international phone rates when you want to call home. Expect to budget CAD 50 to CAD 100 per month for a good SIM-only plan.


Miscellaneous and hidden costs


It’s really important to arrange an emergency budget for unexpected costs when you’re living abroad. But there are also one-off or occasional costs for which you can prepare.


As with anywhere, you’ll need to consider clothing, but in Canada you should give real thought to what you will wear in winter. This will be essential to your stay, but can be quite expensive. And for those famously cold months, you should also consider whether you’ll need to buy any additional household goods.


When it comes to your course, you should be able to find many of your reading materials in the university library or online. However, you’ll still need to budget for textbooks, stationery and any course equipment you might need.


You’ll also want to consider costs associated with your arrival, such as your study permit and medical insurance. Our article on applying for a study visa in Canada offers insight into what to expect.


Try not to get too stressed over the cost of living in Canada. Just remember to keep an eye open for student discounts. Plus, if finances are a real concern, you can always take on a part-time job to help fund yourself.


Disclaimer: All figures in this article are indicative and correct at the time of writing. Since the economy can be subject to rapid, unexpected changes at any time, we always recommend you do your own research before booking any travel.