Moving to Toronto | Country Guides | I Love International Moving

Essential Things to Know Before Moving to Toronto

Posted Country Guides / January 31, 2014
Steven Rogers

Apart from sharing Captain America's name, our freelance writer Steven is also a big fan of moving, history, and geography.

If you decide to move to Canada, then moving to Toronto might be your natural choice. It is the capital of the province of Ontario, and with 2.8 million people, it’s the largest Canadian city, as well as its economic capital.

The city is regularly ranked very high on the lists of the best places to live in and also is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with people from more than 200 countries. English and French are the official languages, though people speak French a lot less, and the local currency is the Canadian Dollar (C$). The city offers a whole lot in terms of cultural and social life, with National Ballet, National Opera Company, symphony orchestra, numerous theatres and music festivals, and thousands of restaurants and bars.

Locals have their own way of talking about their hometown, so don’t get confused if you hear people uttering names like “The Six,” “T.O,” “Hogtown,” “Hollywood North,” “Queen City,” or even “Megacity.”. All of those have their detailed origin, so go out on the web and explore some of the town’s lore and urban legends. It is said that a thousand miles journey begins with a single step, so let’s go over the basics.

What to Do Before Moving to Canada?

The first thing you need to do after you decide to move to Canada is to check what paperwork is required for it. Citizens of the United States do not need a visa to enter Canada. There are, however, a number of documents that are required and conditions to be met for a permanent move, especially regarding your future employment. Some professions do not require a work permit across the border. Still, most of them do, so be sure to go through the information posted online or to contact the consular office for a detailed guide to administrative issues.

It is also important to collect and bring all documentation regarding health, such as past surgeries, medical conditions, and medical records. All Canadian residents are beneficiaries of public health insurance, but it comes only after three months, so it would be good to pay for private insurance during that time.

Then there is the question of money. If you don’t have a job waiting for you, it’s highly recommended that you have a few months of living expenses covered, just in case.

International Shipping Costs

Establishing a life in another place is a big and often stressful event, and especially so if that place is abroad. Staying on a budget is very significant, and the cost of international moving by sea or international moving by air is an item that can greatly affect it.

You’re probably tired of hearing this, but do your research before choosing a shipping company. It is important both because of the cost and quality of service. Check what kind of containers they use and whether that is fitting for your needs.

The cost of overseas shipping mostly depends on distance. During 2019, those varied from a few hundred USD, if shipping to a location relatively close to the US, to a couple of thousand USD if you are going to Australia or New Zealand, for example.

The final word on this may be to stay mindful of the budget, but spending a few extra bucks to ensure that your belongings arrive safe and undented is almost always money well spent.

Finding a Job in Toronto

The local economy is booming, which is to be expected in the nation’s economic capital, so finding work should not be hard. Still, before you can get on with browsing the labor market, there are a few administrative issues to be taken care of.

To apply for a work permit across the border, you need a document called Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) accepted by authorities. Make sure to learn all about it and the paperwork necessary for it from relevant sources and acquire it before you move. Also necessary for working in Canada is government-issued personal Social Insurance Number.

Since most relocations are motivated by economic reasons, the best option would be that you already have a job lined up and waiting. If not, visit some of the many websites that give an overview of the market and companies, with information on vacancies and professions in demand. Some of those sites will even help you with interviews.

Finance and insurance companies and banks are among the biggest employers in “Hollywood North.” As the very name implies, the movie industry is high on that list. Tech companies, too. Among the major, multinational companies that have offices here are Google, PepsiCo, Ford, Samsung, and AIG.

Of course, there certainly is a large number of lower-paying jobs, mostly in the retail and hospitality industry, but those are subject to special requirements for immigrant workers. In those cases, your potential employer would have to prove that he first interviewed a Canadian citizen for the same position and explain precisely why he needs you to fill the vacant job spot.

In case you have a more adventurous spirit, you may want to give it a try as an entrepreneur. Toronto’s start-up scene is robust and growing, and there is always a place for innovative ideas.

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Cost of Living in Toronto and Tips for Saving Money

Compared to other big cities around the world, salaries in Toronto are lower. That is compensated by lower prices of mostly everything. The only exception to that is a very significant one – housing. But before we turn our full attention to that, let’s stay on lighter matters for a while.

Groceries, clothes, and consumer goods are mostly less expensive than in many counterparts. The same goes for dinner at a restaurant or a pint down the local pub. Food is, by all accounts, excellent.

After a while, as you get the knack of twists and turns of “The Big Smoke” (now you know another nickname of this place), you’ll certainly find even better prices at a supermarket in an alley behind your workplace or in a cozy bar two blocks away from your home. Give some time to the search, and you won’t be disappointed.

Now, since “where to sleep” is as important as “what to eat and drink,” let’s talk about housing.

Housing Costs

That housing in Toronto is expensive is an inescapable fact. Even though nominal prices are lower than in other big towns, they are on the constant rise in both renting and buying. The situation gets even more complicated because, unlike people in most of the other big cities, Torontonians actually live downtown, instead of streaming in every day to work and then heading back to the suburbs in the evening.

Because of that, renting a small apartment in the center goes from C$1200 upwards. Buying a home in the center is another option, but for that, you’ll have to spend at least around C$7000 per 10,7 square feet, so be prepared for a final price tag of at least seventy or eighty thousand for the cheapest flats and over a million for average ones. Prices for accommodation outside the center are lower, but that comes at a disadvantage that we will get to a bit later.

So, before your travel, do your research on the town and its neighborhoods and make a list of preferences. That can help you plan your budget better, and also find a flat or house closer to the workplace.

Another useful possibility is to share expenses with a roommate. There are websites that connect people in need of a roomie and help them find a suitable one.

Buying an Apartment and Moving with Your Things

If you intend to buy a property, then you only have to choose. Wherever you turn your eyes to in this place, there will be at least a couple of construction sites, with condos being built.

In that case, one of the things that you should consider is bringing furniture from back home. Once you go over the regulations to check if there is anything among your belongings that is for whatever reason not allowed to cross the border, call a reliable international relocation company to transport them.

Should the need arises, many companies offer storage space all through the town, so your furniture or other things can be safely stored until needed.

How to Choose the Best Place to Live In

Toronto is incredibly multicultural and diverse. Therefore it should surprise no one that it has 140 officially listed neighborhoods, with even more that aren’t on the books. If you’re to make your new living there, you should give some thought to the part of town that would most suit your needs.

Important questions include the price of accommodation and distance to your work, but also some more personal matters. Is there a restaurant of your favorite cuisine nearby, for example. Even a good old pub. Or good kindergarten or school for kids. Perhaps you want to live in a neighborhood with lots of trees, parks and other green spaces. Again, research in advance will make life a lot easier.

Also, having a subway station in the vicinity is always a huge advantage to have, and even more so if you don’t have a car.

Best Neighborhoods in Toronto

With so many of them on offer, making a list of the finest neighborhoods may be completely out of order, and every single online guide will put out a different one. Since “finest” comes down to every person’s own likings, the good thing is that “Queen City” can offer great things to everybody.

Do you enjoy long walks along the waterfront? Harbourfront or Beaches are places for you since they are located on the shores of Lake Ontario. Prefer to down a pint in famous bars? Yonge and Ellington. Want cheap but good food? Annex might be your choice, or Cabbagetown. Shopaholic? Go straight for Kensington Market or Queen St. West.

Unlike Back Home, Healthcare is Free

By becoming a resident of the northern US neighbor, you become a beneficiary of health insurance, which covers most medical and hospital costs. To use it, you need a Health Card, the second document that all Canadians must have, whether citizens or residents. As said before, insurance comes into effect after three months.

This metropolis has twenty public hospitals, most of them cooperating with medical faculty at a local university, but also numerous non-profit organizations dedicated to combating specific illnesses.

Opportunities for Education are Plenty

If you’re looking for a good education for you or your kids, you came to the right place. There are four public universities and four colleges, and four public school boards cover the need for primary and secondary education. Schools are almost evenly split between those with English as a first language and those that go with French.

Things to Expect When Driving

Shipping a vehicle overseas and getting around by car may be exciting, since making a wrong turn may prove to be a shortcut to your final destination. Or at least land you in your next favorite bar.

First of all, all drivers in Ontario must have a provincial driving license. A driving test may or may not be necessary, depending on the country you come from. Thankfully, the US is in good books, so you may simply exchange your driving license without passing a test.

Owning a car is an advantage because one of the points city’s known for is pretty slow public transport. On the other hand, be prepared for expensive parking fees, probably the highest in the country.

One thing that many people complain about is cyclists. They are everywhere and can drive even the most decent drivers mad. Yet, before you decide to go in full Mad Max mode on them, you should know that traffic cops are many and unforgiving. Traffic or parking violation, be ready for a swift fine.

And another way to make your cost of living lesser may be to share a ride. Or go to the dark side and get a bicycle.

Slow Public Transport Is Not a Myth

One of the first pieces of information you’ll probably get about Canada’s biggest town is that commuting takes forever. That may be true. On average, a citizen can expect to spend about 45 minutes per ride. Still, it’s reliable, and it’ll get you from A to B. You may choose to travel by bus, rail, one of four subway lines, streetcar, or ferry.

When it comes to paying for it, you may opt for a single ticket, but also a daily, weekly, or monthly pass.

Don’t Look for Trouble and No Trouble Will Find You

Compared to other cities of its size, Toronto is generally a safe place. Crime rates may be increasing in certain surveys, but they are still lower than in Ottawa or Montreal, for example. Taking a walk at night is no problem, so no worries there.

Yet, like in every other metropolis in the world, there are seedier parts, and parts to be avoided. That is also a kind of thing that any guide might tell you, so inform yourself and do your part for staying safe.

And be sure to secure your bike, if you own one. If not, there is a high probability that it won’t be there when you return for it.

Are You in for a Freezing Cold?

Despite what might be your first thought when you think of Canada’s climate, Toronto’s weather is pretty mild. Average high temperatures during summer are around 80.6°F, while in the winter, they stay at about 32°F.

So hang on to your jacket, but you’ll rarely need anything fur-like to save you from the elements.

Things to Do Once You Are There

The good thing about the place is that you can do whatever you like, while within the law, of course. Toronto’s public library has more than eleven million books, the town is famous for its hospitality industry, from traditional pubs to hipster restaurants, food is excellent, and it has a lake.

Many Torontonians take pride in their beaches, nude included. And in case you ever get bored inside, get in a car and travel to some of the nearby destinations. Niagara Falls, for example, is just a 74,5 miles away, and you can’t deny that it’s great. For travel to farther places, there are the Pearson International Airport and a few smaller ones.


It’s really a feat to get bored in this place. Its artistic scene is booming, with over 200 performing arts organizations, be it ballet, opera or dance companies, orchestras or theaters.

You’ll understand the nickname “Hollywood North” once you know that it hosts more than 80 movie festivals every year, with Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs being the most prominent.

In the other niche, the Royal Ontario Museum and Art Gallery of Ontario are located there, as well as scores of other museums.


Last but not least, you’ll be living in the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame, just to begin with. If you’re a fan of ice hockey, Maple Leafs are your choice. In the other fields, Raptors took the NBA championship in 2019, Blue Jays are two-time World Series winners, and Toronto FC competes in the MLS. So no miss there.

Still, there are lots of local teams that compete in Canadian leagues, so take your time, do a quick search and give them a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Final Tips for Moving to Toronto

A final few words before we finish our little guide through the essentials. Most places in town are pet- and especially dog-friendly, so don’t hesitate to take your four-legged friend on a bar tour.

When it comes to bars, except in the days of festivals, the last call comes around 2 am. Also, tips are at 18%, with a tendency to rise to 20%.

And most important of all things to know: never, ever reject an invitation to a brunch! Seriously, people are obsessed with it.

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