Is Getting Across Canada On Less Than $25 A Day Possible?

When Agness, Cez and I agreed to swap blog posts between eTramping and Canadianyw, I have to say I was thrilled. Thrilled, and a little apprehensive. Everybody’s favourite tramp-duo makes it look easy to travel round the world on $25 a day, but is it actually? When I write my usual blog posts, I think about the cost, but only in a very abstract sort of way – I never sit down with a calculator and tally it all out. Well, I have now, and I have to say I’m horrified. But, after some blunders and careful addition and on one notable occasion an accidental multiplication, I’ve managed to (more or less) get across Canada on $25 a day (on paper, at least).

Trans-Canadian Highway - Rocky Mountains in Background
Trans-Canadian Highway – Rocky Mountains in Background

 

Let me first just say Canada isn’t like Eastern Europe or Asia or South America. It is, sadly (kind of), a developed country and it comes with developed prices. Restaurant eating on less than $25 a day is a no-no. So is, generally, buying yourself a province-to-province train ticket. Hotels, too, are pretty much a no-fly zone on this budget. The tramps do it better than me. But I’ve done some sidestepping, and we may well get through this with canadianyw’s dignity intact.

Canadian street food is still one of the cheapest I’ve seen anywhere in the world, and the hostels found in the main cities, whilst taking a decent chunk out of your budget, won’t eat their way through it entirely. You’re going to have to better than that, though, so bring a tent and find campsites along the way, there’s nowhere better than Canada for camping, and this time you may well have to. Another very fortunate point is that the “Great Outdoors” is why so many people visit Canada. One of the many great things about the rural side of Canada is that it doesn’t have a toll both. Bare that in mind.

Poutine with bacon - not Canada's prettiest dish, but it's incredibly good and immensely cheap
Poutine with bacon – not Canada’s prettiest dish, but it’s incredibly good and immensely cheap

 

The next trick up my sleeve (and this is more or less essential) is hitchhiking. The Trans-Canadian Highway goes through more or less the entirety of Canada and is full of truckers and commuters along its length. 90% of Canada’s population is located along the highway, near the US border, so if you hitchhike in the right direction, it can’t really go wrong for you as far as destinations are concerned. This will save you so much money that you can afford to spend a little now – try street food and ice beer and have a decent night’s sleep in a hostel – you’ve earned it.

Expect Beautiful Sights in Canada
Expect beautiful sights in Canada

 

When in Toronto, make sure to eat as much as you can – there’s so much available at ridiculously low prices. When in Montreal, go out for a few drinks in a hipster den with the money you’ve saved hitchhiking around the place and sleeping in campsites. And when in Vancouver, enjoy a walk or a rented cycle around the mountains in the city. Or mix it up a little – nobody’s going to mind. Canada isn’t a cheap place to visit – that doesn’t for a second mean it’s not worth the money.

Have you ever managed to survive in Canada for less than $25 per day?

Me 2If you enjoyed this (or didn’t, and are looking for somewhere to insult me) check out my blog. For more world travel posts and some more info on where to visit when you’re in Canada and follow me on Twitter.

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23 Comments

  • I was always hoping to see my home country pop up here, but I figured there was no was on less than $25/day. Hitchhiking, camping and street food are basically the only way to do it. Even a crappy hostel dorm bed will set you back $20-$40/night in Vancouver, and a return subway/bus ride is $5.00! I imagine this would be pretty tricky. Canada is beautiful and amazing, but not cheap.

    • I know. I’ve done some research and I was shocked to see how expensive budget hostels are! No wonder why Canadians go to Asia and live like kings here with the money they earn :). I agree, Canada is so beautiful and definitely worth exploring!

  • sometimes I don’t realise how hard this $25 a day thing is and I must say reading your article has got me thinking… “could I do Sydney on $25 a day” probably not! being one of the most expensive cities. You make a very good point about the great outdoors, since its beautiful in Canada but also free. maybe ill give myself that challenge one day. from Sydney to Melbourne in $25 a day… that would be an interesting one!

  • I think in a country like Canada (given the prices Rika mentions, especially) Couchsurfing should really be added to this list of suggestions. And I assume that since so much of the population must be online, finding hosts shouldn’t be too hard. It really does look like a beautiful place, and I’m really interested in getting to know some of its cities, Montreal and Vancouver in particular!

  • It is true that Canada is not a cheap country but it is certainly a beautiful one. These tips of hitching a lift and hostels as well as street food is a good way of keeping costs down. I dare say house sitting could well be an option if not couchsurfing? I’m sure there are plenty in the community in the big cities such as Toronto and Montreal.

  • Sadly Canada is one of those countries where everything is expensive! After a brief visit to Vancouver, I was horrified! From my experience even the US is more budget friendly. :-(

  • I planned on visiting Canada next Spring by way of Niagara Falls heading West to Alaska. I’ve no clue how much it’ll cost me (that’s why I’m doing the research now and happened to stumble upon your post). But at least now I can try a round about figure of $25 usd per day. How was hitchhiking in the area? Was it pretty easy to get a ride?

    • Hey Ron,

      Hitchhiking is easier than is the states or most European countries – generally someone will pick you up eventually – but you should still be careful and make sure to wrap up warm whilst you’re waiting!

  • You’d have to travel in the summer if you want to rely on hitchhiking. I took a 3-day Greyhound ride from Montreal to Calgary and that cost me about $200. A guy I met on the bus, who got on in Ottawa and got off 4 hours later, told me his brother was doing the same journey as him by bike. It would take him 3-4 days and he would be camping along the way. For anyone who plan to do this, remember that a big portion of the highway is just the wilderness, so be careful out there.

    And as Rika mentioned, even hostels are expensive here. I’ve found AirBnB to be reasonable if you do long-term stays. My room in Montreal was $500 a month (so like $17 a day) and in Calgary it was $600 a month. Couchsurfing, as already mentioned, is a great option for short stays.

  • Hi all,
    I live in beautiful Vancouver ( originally from Alberta). It is definately expensive to visit; however, there are definetely cheaper places to eat (Richmond is a suburb just across the water from Vancouver and it has thousands of cheap places to eat), you can get an all day transit pass for 9.95, and if you look on craigslist you can most likely find a cheapish place to stay if you are careful. However, as a mom please be careful hitchhiking, Canada is a large country so it is expensive to get across I would never advocate hitchhiking. A good way to get past this is to meet people, they can introduce you to friends that are driving to another province. We Canadians love to drive and think nothing of getting in our cars for long road trips and we love company. If you are camping spring and summer is the best time to camp but again if you meet people they can introduce you to or recommend someone they may even call friends or relatives that live in another city, province and you maybe able to couch surf. We love meeting people from other countries and helping them explore our beautiful large diverse country there is no other place like it. Good luck in you travels!

    • This is truly an amazing experience, but you must be careful. My mom is also overprotected and she would never let me do that! :) Hope you will have an amazing time!!

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