Moving to Montreal part 2 | A Guest Blog by Lee Gellatly
A beautiful Montreal skyline at dusk
We’ve been fortunate to have local Montreal artist, musician and writer Lee Gellatly share with us her first-hand
experience with moving to Montreal, down to the nitty gritty details! Here’s part two of her incredibly useful account, we
hope you enjoy it! (Be sure to check out part one, first!)
Moving to Montreal – a quick and frank reference for moving to the city Part 2
Immigration and visas
If you are moving to Montréal from outside of Canada and you don’t have citizenship, sorting out your paperwork for a
work visa is best done early. There are many different types of visas offered by Canada, and Québec is the only province
that has its own immigration system that differs from the rest of the country. To find out what visas you need to work in
Québec, be sure to visit Québec’s website on immigration.
Cost of living and transport
Drawing from personal experience with moving to cities, having moved to 9 different locations on 4 different continents, my
advice is if you don’t have a job lined up before your arrival, make sure to have enough savings to last a minimum of 6
comfortable months without work. One year’s worth of savings is even safer.
Quebec describes apartments a little differently than everywhere else in the world. In Quebec, an ad for a 3.5 room
apartment would indicate that there is a bedroom, a living room, and a kitchen, with the .5 indicating the bathroom. Low
rent is a major perk of living in Montréal. It’s not uncommon for 3.5 room bachelor pads to go for $500/month + utilities.
Sometimes you can find exceptional bargains. One friend of mine had a 6 room apartment in the heart of the Plateau for
$490/month including all utilities!
Food is expensive and can cost between $30 and $50 per week per person. Here are some approximate price examples:
4 liters of milk is $7
Bananas are $0.89/lb
900ml of yogurt is $4
500ml of maple syrup $8
Breakfast cereal $7
2 lbs of lemons $4
Beefsteak tomatoes $1.40/lb
Canned tuna $2 each
Family sized chips $4/bag
Then add 15% tax at the cash register. The best places to go for cheaper foods are usually the smaller privately owned
fruit stalls that hide out of plain sight. Avoiding the big grocery chains will save you a lot of money.
The Société de transport de Montréal (or STM) is Montreal’s public transit system. Trips cost anywhere from $3 per trip to
$79 for a monthly pass. In the summer, Montreal has its own bike sharing program, which is a great way to get to know the
If you’re someone who lives by the minimalist philosophy, and you are only bringing yourself and your one suitcase, you
won’t have to face the daunting task of packing your life into boxes and praying that they will arrive at your destination
For shipping parcels within Canada, the cheapest for a long time was to ship with Canada post. But since April of 2014,
the prices increased almost twofold overnight. Still, the prices are affordable. For example, a 20lb regular parcel from
Vancouver to Montreal will cost about $28. Greyhound will ship large packages across the country for a reasonable fee.
For more expensive and fragile items, FedEx and UPS will insure against lost, stolen and damaged items for the full cost,
but on the downside, it costs far more than conventional Canada Post shipping.
Moving companies are only worth the expense if you are moving an entire household worth of furniture. Sometimes it’s
better to sell as much as possible before the move to avoid paying the astronomical fees involved with hiring a moving
company. Check to see if you have tenant insurance with your old residency before you move, and whether or not
damages incurred from moving are covered with the plan. Moving companies usually sell quite limited insurance packages
(for example, covering up to a maximum of $60 per box, regardless of contents). In my experience, things often got
Health insurance and drivers licenses
Unfortunately, in Québec, when it comes to government-issued anything, be prepared to face a never-ending paper
nightmare with rules seemingly made up on the fly. A sad reality of beautiful Québec is that it has perhaps one of the most
hilariously-convoluted bureaucratic systems in the country (world?) and nothing comes easily. Switching over a driver’s
license is usually pretty straight forward, but do make sure to bring a reading book with you as you wait in line for 2 hours.
Also don’t be surprised if you get told after making a huge effort to commute halfway across town that the particular
government office you visited doesn’t issue driver’s licenses, even if it says they do on their website.
To get government health insurance in Québec, you must first prove that you are a resident of the province. This can be a
challenge at the best of times. The documents needed to prove you are a resident include any one of the following:
letter of employment
an attestation of enrollment at a Québec institution
sworn statement confirming your place of residence
All of these must have your Québec address printed clearly at the top. These forms are what you need in theory,
according to the government’s official website. In reality though, you may need to make several back and forth trips to
satisfy one particular super-diligent official who didn’t like how a particular word looked in your document. “Patience is a
virtue” goes the old saw; patience also helps to keep from going insane. For more information on eligibility for Québec
Health Insurance, visit the government website here.
A Be sure to check out Part 2 of this article, which focuses on cost of living, transport, immigration and visas, shipping,
health insurance and driver’s licenses.
A very quick breakdown on a few of Montréal’s neighborhoods and streets:
The Village: AKA the Gay Village, this always vibrant part of downtown has many nightclubs, cafes, clothing stores and
Le Plateau: A “grassroots” area that attracts bike mechanics, gardeners, and musicians who like to jam in the park at
Mile-End: Artists, small businesses and startups, studios.
China Town: Sometimes referred to as “Chinablock” because of its tiny size, but still a great place to visit.
Rue Crescent: Go here if you like to pub crawl.
McGill Ghetto: Not actually a ghetto. Not run down. Just infested with McGill students.
Rue St. Catherine: Downtown’s major shopping hub and traffic jam.
To get a better understanding of the right neighborhood for your lifestyle, check out
Navut’s Neighborhood Finder.
Navut helps visitors find their ideal grounds by recommending areas according to your interests and values. They list 7
major cities across Canada and more than 1000 neighborhoods as of this writing.
Need more information?
This article on moving to Montreal has only scratched the surface about what this flamboyant and eccentric city has to
offer. Be sure to visit these website resources below as you prepare for your big move to Montreal.
Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec – for all healthcare related applications
Immigration Québec - Official government website for immigrating to Québec
Société de transport de Montréal – Montréal’s public transit system
Montréal Bixi – Montreal’s public bike sharing system
If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below! Thanks
for reading, and be sure to visit Navut for more useful neighborhood information, and our blog for other tips!