A Day In Toronto For Less Than $25

“Toronto is a big, sophisticated city and multi-ethnic, and people love coffee here.”

                                                                                           John Williams

The autumn colors of Canada's Rocky Mountains
The autumn colors of Canada’s Rocky Mountains. Photo credit: Kevin Cappis.

 

Why Canada and why Toronto

Did you know that Canada has been named one of the world’s most livable countries in the world? It has all you can ask for – from stunning lakes and forests, multicultural cities, exciting theme parks, spectacular gardens and festivals to incredible mountains and glaciers. Moreover, Canada’s laid-back attitude makes it an incredible place for solo travellers, couples as well as families going on a holiday with children.

toronto skyline
Toronto skyline. Photo credit: Maurizio Peddis.

 

Are you a bit of a city traveller, nature freak or/and outdoors lover? If so, Canada should be your top bucket list destination and Toronto must be listed on top of it. It’s a hectic city that will keep you busy all the time by providing unforgettable attractions and sightseeing spots you can’t get enough of; such as CN Tower, island cruises, amusement parks, art galleries, churches, museums and much more. A day or two spent here will be full of adventures, even a few months.

Ok, now you know the main reasons to visit vivid Toronto so now we can plan your budget. Is Toronto affordable? Is it a budget friendly place at all? I might surprise you here, but in fact, it is and you don’t need to plan to rob a bank at the end of your stay in the city.

Toronto sunset
Toronto sunset. Photo credit: Nitish Bhardwaj.

 

Just to give you a brief overview of local prices, here is a list of prices of various items and products you may spend your money on when in Toronto:

[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]1 Canadian dollar (C$) = 0.91 US dollar ($)[/box]

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Dining out:

Meal for two at inexpensive restaurant – 10C$ ($9.12)

Regular cappuccino – 3.50C$ ($3.19)

Beer (0.5l) – 6C$ ($5.47)

Water (0.33l) – 1.50C$ ($1.37)

Grocery shopping:

Milk (1l) – 2.16C$ ($1.97)

Bread – 2.50C$ ($2.28)

Apples (1kg) – 3.00C$ ($2.74)

Eggs (12) – 3.00C$ ($2.74)

Cigarettes – 10.00C$ ($9.12)

Transportation:

Single bus ride – 3.00C$ ($2.74)

Taxi (1km) – 1.90C$ ($1.73)

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After seeing these prices, how affordable is it to live in Toronto in your opinion?

The good news is that we found a way to spend a day here for less than $25. You might not enjoy all of the attractions the city offers, neither dine out in fancy restaurants, but you will still have a lot of fun while saving some money for next destination on your Canada trip!

Go couchsurfing (free)

Canadians are extremely laid back and open-minded people who love to interact with foreigners from all over the world. Therefore, couchsurfing is something locals are familiar with. Staying in the house of someone you have never met before can be pretty daunting, but it is a great way to meet people and explore Toronto like a local, on the cheap. If you are planning on staying here for more than a day, then this would be a great accommodation solution for you. Your Canadian host can show you around the city and tell you anything you need to know about places worth seeing and exploring. It does not cost anything, but it can turn your Toronto visit into a real adventure.

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A word of caution:

Be extremely careful when choosing your host and always make sure you double check people’s profiles and references. Don’t couchsurf with someone who has different interests or hobbies. Try to pick up those who seem to have something in common with you.

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If you decide for some reasons that couchsurfing isn’t for you, Toronto offers a great variety of youth hostels and budget hotels.

Eat your way around the city for $15

There are at least three places in Toronto where you can dine out on the cheap:

#1 St. Lawrence Market.

St. Lawrence Market
St. Lawrence Market. Photo credit: Peter Davies.

 

It’s the largest market in Toronto which contains over 100 different food vendors with fresh meat and poultry, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables and seafood. The St. Lawrence Market has been named “The best local market in the World” by National Geographic. A lot of locals love to come to the market on the weekend to stock up on groceries. It can get a little crowded and touristy, but nothing beats a Saturday morning walk around!

Smoke house burger  ($15) – classic cheese burger, smoked cheddar bacon, black & tan onion ring.
Smoke house burger: classic cheese burger, smoked cheddar bacon, black & tan onion ring. Photo credit: Renee Suen.

 

When coming here, you can’t miss out on Kozliks mustards ($3), Ukrainian pierogies ($6 a plate) and local cheese. You should also try some $1 pepperoni sticks, $1.5 delicious Portuguese egg tarts and $4 Pemeal sandwich.

[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Budget tip: If you decide to visit more expensive restaurants nearby or local stores, make sure you use promo codes from Flipit to keep your budget in check.[/box]

#2 Kensington Market.

Kensington Market is a fun neighbourhood to kill some time, get a little drunk, eat some small grub and maybe buy something from a flea market. It is a maze of narrow streets and alleys with charming Victorian houses which make this place even more beautiful. The good prices of fruits, vegetables, exotic spices and sweet treats attract hundred of locals and tourists here.

Kensington Market Streetcorner, Toronto
Kensington Market Street corner, Toronto. Photo credit: John Meadows.

 

What food should you indulge into when in here? Start from snacking on chocolate filled churros ($2), then treat yourself with a yam burrito ($5) washed down with a glass of coke ($1.5)  and end up having a massive portion of baked empanadas in beef, chicken and veggie varieties ($8) for your dinner.

#3 Chinatown.

Toronto’s Chinatown area is one of the largest in North America where you can find a lot of different stores with various spice, fresh vegetables and fruits on the marketplace and plenty of Asian restaurants. If you are a big fan of spring rolls ($4), Chinese dumplings ($5), congee ($3) or noodle soup ($3), you can’t miss out on this place.

Chinatown, Toronto
Chinatown, Toronto. Photo credit: Helio, Jr. Bertolucci.

 

Word of caution: I came across some negative comments on this place such as:

“Chinatown was dirty, frightening, and left me feeling terrible for dragging my husband here. It was a long walk there, which we didn’t mind, but once there we felt concerned for our safety as there were many people looking at us (we clearly didn’t belong), digging in trash cans, and appeared to be on drugs. There is nothing worth seeing”.

Caitlin F, Dallas, Texas. Tripadvisor website.

“Didn’t really do anything specific in Chinatown, didn’t really want to do anything except leave. We enjoyed visiting a cafe on its outskirts, but I found Chinatown dirty-looking, sketchy and just looking generally run-down.”

RowMac, Toronto, Canada. Tripadvisor website.

Go explore the city for $10

Toronto is packed with free and / or cheap things to do. Apart from visiting Chinatown, Kensington Market and St. Lawrence Market (mentioned above), you should definitely add the following activities to your list:

#1 Visit museums and art galleries.

You can visit various local museums and art galleries during discounted hours. The Royal Ontario Museum can be a great example here. The museum offers discount admission on Fridays (15:00 – 17.30).

The Art Gallery of Ontario is free every Wednesday between 18:00 and 20:30.

#2 Go ice-skating.

Ice skating
Ice skating. Photo credit: Himy Syed.

 

Toronto is overloaded with ice rinks and the admission fee is only $3. It’s a great way to spend your afternoon if you are visiting the city in winter.

#3 Attend a concert.

You can also attend one of the Canadian Opera Company’s free lunch hour performances and enjoy dance or a variety of musical style concerts in the sun.

#4 Relax at High Park.

Japanese Cherry Trees admired in High Park Toronto
Japanese Cherry Trees admired in High Park Toronto. Photo credit: Harvey K.

 

If you feel like chilling out, head directly to High Park which is the largest park in Toronto. It’s a park well-known for fishing, playgrounds and hiking trails where you can meditate, cycle, have a picnic or workout,.

Add some extras.

After a day busy exploring Toronto, you deserve to make a photobook to keep all of these unforgettable moments and memories alive. At Photobook Canada, you can create just about any book you like even much cheaper when using Photobook coupon codes for 60% off thanks to Flipit.

How do you like this idea of spending a day in Toronto for less than $25? If you have more budget tips, share them please in comments.

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47 Comments

  • Agness, I was excited to see the title of this article. I’ve been to Toronto a number of times and always found it pricey, well pricey for me as a Brit.

    The inexpensive restaurant with a meal for 2 quoted above sounds like a fabulous find, I’d love to track this place down.

    I also love that first quote “people love coffee here” :-)

    I normally stay in a hotel by The Eaton Center which is literally a straight walk of a couple of hundred yards away from that ice rink!

  • I’d like the day you suggested. The city is definitely on my bucket list. I actually think of applying for a working holiday visa for Canada within the next years so I hope to check out the city soon.

  • Nice to see my hometown be featured :) And great list! Toronto’s a pretty expensive city! I love eating in Chinatown…so much good food and cheap too! :D

  • If I didn’t love warm weather and diving, I would make a visit to Toronto! I love everything you suggested… often I find the free/inexpensive things such as markets and cheap eating among my favorite things to do in a new city. They provide a great backdrop for photos and a glimpse into local life.

    • I’m a warm weather lover as well, but it’s good to experience something different from time to time like freezing cold Canada :D!!

  • The markets look very nice, I can see myself spending a bit of time there. I’m also a big park lover, which means that I’d probably hit High Park too if I was going to visit Toronto. It looks like there is plenty of choice anyway. Thanks for the tips! :)

  • Nice post, but I kind of disagree about Toronto being the top place to see. A lot of people say that, of course, but only until they go to Montreal. :P

  • High Park looks absolutely gorgeous, and in fact Toronto in general looks lovely. I was sold when you quoted John Williams and said that it’s big, sophisticated, multi-ethnic and coffee-loving!!

  • Great tips. One of the great perks to living on Toronto are all the fabulous cheap eats here. Something I can recommend is sightseeing by streetcar. The 506 Carlton travels from Main Station all the way to High Park, taking a long scenic ramble through Little India, leafy neighborhoods, two Chinatowns, past Kensington Market, the old Little Italy on College, all the way to the park. For a day’s TTC pass for individual or group, you can have a lovely tour, hopping on and off the streetcars for funky meal and coffee stops. The streetcars are my fave way to explore the city.

  • Great post! I always “forget” about visiting Canada because of its close proximity to the U.S. Although I would love to visit the more remote places up there!

  • Some other Toronto tips would be:
    -Nearly every weekend in the summer there are festivals – many of the neighbourhood ones are free to wander into and you can get cheap street food and artisanal goods. A big one is ‘Taste of the Danforth’
    -Free concerts – Toronto’s ‘time square’, Dundas Square, has a stage that hosts many free concerts during NXNE. You can also find free/cheap concerts during Illuminato, TIFF and Toronto’s jazz fest.
    -The beaches in the summertime to escape the heat and humidity: Toronto Island, Cherry beach, the beaches, Woodbine park to name a few
    -Queen Street east and west: Queen Street is a great place to wander. I am particularly biased towards Queen west (there are a lot of delicious restaurants in the Parkdale neighbourhood) but both ends of the city are great for walks, people watching, grabbing non-chain store coffee and window shopping.

  • Great post,Agness. I love Toronto, and it has much to offer.

    But I would remove the pic of the Rocky Mountains from this post as they are in Alberta, which is 3 provinces (and a 3-day drive) away from Toronto. Canada is the second largest country in the world and I think that sometimes visitors fail to realize just how widespread it is!

    • Hi Doreen,

      It’s so true. Toronto does have a lot to offer. As for the picture, I know it was not taken in Toronto, but it perfectly expresses the beauty of Canada and my introduction to the post. That’s why I have chosen it :).

  • I can’t wait to visit Toronto some day. I have never ventured over to the eastern side of the country, but from the western side of Canada I love it there. The people are so friendly and the countryside is beautiful!

  • I Love Canada. Totally american in every way, but I love canada. I think my favorite parts are their national parks though.

    That bit about their China Town made me curious. Was it just distinctly Chinese? China can be a little grimy at times…

  • Great rundown of Toronto. I lived there for 10 years and visit at least once a year since my son and daughter-in-law live there.
    A trip to Toronto Island in the summer is always a fun thing to do and there are some surprisingly good bike paths that meander through the city.
    I don’t think you can beat the markets you mentioned for reasonably priced food.

  • I was curious to see what you’d write about my hometown! Well, I’m not from there, from a town nearby, but work there and spend plenty of time there. I don’t find Chinatown scary at all…and High Park is beautiful in the Spring especially! Kensington Market is one of my favs. I still need to make it out to St. Lawrence Market. We DO love coffee (mmmm) and for all of you who love warm weather and think Toronto is always cold…come here in the summer! It gets HOT!!!!!

    • Thanks Lauren for sharing. As for the Chinatown, it’s what people were saying on the Internet. High Park is beautiful indeed and I wish I was there this spring and summer :-).

  • I currently live in Toronto. It is definitely one of the safest and most livable cities in the world! And Torontonians are the friendliest and coolest people on earth! :)

  • Canada is a great place to live, one of the countries that has not been affected by recession thanks to their sound economic policies. Toronto is a lovely place but little expensive, so I have heard. Thanks for this article on how to do a day in less in 25 dollars.

  • Great write-up of our beautiful city.
    There is so much to do. Visiting the harbour front is an amazing thing to do. There is always so much going on in the summertime (Hot and Spicy food fest to the Vegetarian Fest) Also a great place to people watch.

    Another great thing to do on a budget is to head to Toronto Island and walk around. Many people pack a lunch and head over to enjoy the peace and quite and the beautiful (different) view of Toronto.

    We are pretty excited to head home for the summer!!!

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