Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in all of Canada and we’re damn proud of it! It’s the home of the CN Tower, Drake, and TIFF. But still, like most big cities it can rack up quite the bill.
After 7 years of living in this city, I’ve accumulated quite the resource of restaurants, bars, places to see and things to do that are budget friendly or free! So prepare to see, taste, feel and hear the heartbeat of this city while keeping your wallet full.
Accommodation in Toronto can a big mess of expensive hotels or grimy
and still pricey hostels. As you may know from another article I wrote (include link) I’m a big advocate for couch surfing and I frequently attend meetings where I meet travelers and locals alike. I understand that everyone may not feel comfortable surfing couches just yet so I researched the going rate for the cheapest Airbnb’s in the city.
Airbnb (20-25$ a night)
The TTC is the main (and cheapest) way to get around the city. Amongst Torontonian’s, there is a serious love-hate relationship with the transit system. We love to hate it and we hate that we love it.
Jokes aside, it’s actually the best way to get around this sprawling city!
Subways run until 2am, night buses run on all major streets overnight (reduced service aka longer wait).
TTC weekly pass = 43.75 (adult) / 5 days = 8.75/day for unlimited travel.
Prices based on No frills only, prices rounded up
Buy groceries from no frills and have that for breakfast every day: Bread: (old mill cracked wheat 675g) 2$/bag Eggs: (no name grade A white) 2.50$/12 Cheese: (Philadelphia brick cream cheese) 2.50$/brick Bananas: 2$ Jam: (no name raspberry) 2.50$/500ml Milk: (Neilson skim) 2.60$/1L TOTAL: 14.10$/ 5 days =2.82$/day
Promise to keep your minds and mouths open and I promise I won’t recommend any chain restaurants or
god forbid a Tim Hortons.
- Randy’s Roti, Yonge and Bloor (2 for 5$ Doubles), Type of Cuisine: Caribbean
- The Bagel House, multiple locations (Avocado veggie sandwich 5$), Type of Cuisine: Breakfast
- Mean Bao, 511 Queen west (chicken, sloppy jones or tofu mushroom bao/5$), Type of Cuisine: Chinese
- Latin America Emporium, 243 Augusta Ave (pupusas, tamales, antojitos mostly under 5$/each), Type of Cuisine: Type of Cuisine: Latin
- no website available but trust it’s on point
- Goldstone noodle restaurant 266 Spadina Ave (bbq pork noodle in a soup as well as other options under 5$), Type of Cuisine: Chinese
- El Furniture Warehouse, multiple locations (all menu items 6$), Type of Cuisine: Bar Food
- Rasta Pasta, 61 Kensington (jJamaicanmi crazy chicken/7$), Type of Cuisine: Jamaican Pasta Fusion
- Ali’s Roti, 1446 Queen west, (Dhalpourie roti chana, spinach or potato 7$/each), Type of Cuisine: Caribbean
- Smokes Poutinerie, various locations (traditional poutine 7$), Type of Cuisine: Canadian
- Kanga, 65 Duncan Street, (traditional Aussie meat pie 6.85), Type of Cuisine: Australian
- The Dime, 538 Queen W, (all food 5.95$), Type of Cuisine: Bar Food
- Java House, 537 Queen w, (sandwich/ perogies/ wrap combo 6.75), Type of Cuisine: Bar Food
- Frankies Diner, 994 Queen St W, (Frankies original burger 6.75), Type of Cuisine: Diner
Eating in the 6ix is only as expensive as you make it!
- The Rhino, 1249 Queen W, (pulled pork or grilled cheese sandwich, 9$), Type of Cuisine: Bar Food
- Wilbur Mexicana, 552 King W, (various tacos under 4.75/each plus chips. Get two.), Type of Cuisine: Mexican
- Tacos 101, 101 Dundas St E, (any taco except fish and chips/salsa 7.47$), Type of Cuisine: Mexican
- Porchetta and Co, 545 King st w, (the porchetta sandwich (7.25$), Type of Cuisine: Sandwich http://porchettaco.com
- The Golden Turtle, 125 Ossington Ave, (any of their Pho soups 9$ or less), Vietnamese
- P.G Clucks, 610 College, (classic sandwich 8$), Sandwich
- South Indian Dosa Mahal, 1262 Bloor St W ( veggie thali, paratha or biryani meal/8.50), Indian
- No website available
- Pho Hung, 350 Spadina Ave, (any small Pho soup under 8$), Vietnamese
Having a weekend bender or the occasional after dinner drink is still an option on a budget, but in Toronto, bar prices vary on which bar you go to and when, so in this section, I will list all the bars and what they are famous for or the deals that are usually on.
- Wide Open – “Dive Bar” – 139a Spadina Ave
This little hole in the wall off Spadina, south of Richmond tends to fill up fast! Come early to get a seat! (5$ Mixed drinks on Saturday, 5$ Jim Beam shots always)
- The Green Room – “College Bar” – 414 College St
A university student’s staple this bar recently had a makeover and moved to a new location! Worth staying and having a drink or two ( cocktails 6.95$, Pitchers of beer under 20$)
- The Madison – “College Bar” – 14 Madison Ave
Check out the multiple levels at this staple University bar. Keep an eye out for the piano man, and enjoy a good selection of cheap beer! (first Tuesday of every month 4$ food and drink specials)
- Bar 244 – “Cheap Club” – 244 Adelaide West
This joint has a small bar on the upper level and a dance floor with a bar on the bottom, Check out the DJ on Friday/Saturday nights and get your dance on. ( 3$ drinks, always)
- Nirvana – “Bar/Restaurant” – 434 College St
This low lit bar offers an awesome selection of food and even better drink specials (Friday/Saturday Tall cans 5$, Sangria Sunday 16.75$/pitcher 5.95$/glass)
- Triple-A Bar – “Bar/Restaurant” – 138 Adelaide St East
This bar is where you’ll find all the industry staff (cooks, waiters/waitresses) after hours, and for good reason! (amazing bourbon selection and 3$ Tequila shots)
- Java House – “Bar/ Restaurant” – 537 Queen St West
This bar/restaurant is famous for it’s cheap food, cheap beer, and amazing patio! Go see for yourself! (Bar rail drinks under 5$, wine 4.50$)
- The Rhino – “Bar/Restaurant” – 1249 Queen St st West
This Parkdale hot spot is a staple for tasty dishes and its extensive beer menu! (Most draft pints are under 7$)
Things To Do
There are plenty of things to do in Toronto that are free or nearly free to keep you on your toes! Going up the CN tower is overrated anyway! Check out this list of awesome must see’s around Toronto.
- Wander around the St Lawrence market and try some food in the market kitchen, or peruse the unique meats, cheeses and veggies and wares being sold here!
- Hop the ferry over to Center island for a wonderful day exploring, check out the beautiful Toronto skyline, nude beach or free zoo! (Tickets are 7.71$). The Island is a really great spot to get some night shots of our iconic skyline, but be sure to not miss the last ferry back to the mainland at 11:15pm or you might be in for a night of camping under the stars!
- Explore some of Toronto’s most famous neighbourhoods! Kensington Market, Yorkville, Distillery District and Queen West. Make sure to take your camera and pop into some of the unique shops and restaurants you’ll find along the way
- Pack a picnic to take to High Park! Try your hand at Geocaching or watch people fish in Grenadier Pond. Plenty of famous movies have scenes that were filmed in this park! See if you can spot some of the locations! They also have many trails to hike and a train tour to take you around! (tickets 4.50$)
- Check out some poetry at The Art Bar at the Free Times Cafe! (5$ at the door)
- See some beautiful works of art at the AGO on Wednesdays! (free from 6-9pm)
- Visit the Allan Gardens Conservatory, one of the oldest parks in Toronto. It’s a great place to see if you love plants or you want a break from the city for a while
- Walk through the Eaton Center (just to say that you did) on your way to Yonge and Dundas square! They have events going on yearly in the square (more so in the summer) you can watch a live performance, art exhibit or an outdoor movie but even when there isn’t something scheduled the vibes alone are a good reason to put it on the list.
- Take a walking tour of the Harborfront! This area of Toronto between Bathurst and Yonge on Queens Quay has recently been revamped to be more transit and bike friendly. The harborfront plays host to many multicultural festivals and events year-round and on any given night of the week, you’ll find people paddle boating, dancing salsa or enjoying a cool drink in the Muskoka chairs at HTO beach.
- Go for a hike and learn a thing or two from Evergreen Brickworks. You get some great #views from the top of the hill.
- Speaking of #views, Riverdale Park East is a great place to sit with a warm coffee and enjoy one of the most dazzling views at night or during the day. Riverdale farm (the west side of the park) also has a free farm!
- Have a mini photoshoot day in the city! Grab your selfie stick or tripod and check out some of these locations: Graffiti Alley, Nathan Phillips Square (free skating in the winter), The CN Tower, Humber River bridge, Scarborough Bluffs (more of a day trip)
- Hang with the locals under the big trees and day drink in Trinity Bellwoods Park! Keep an eye out for a famous little Torontonian- The white squirrel.
- Venture out East to check out the most stunning view from Scarborough Bluffs!
- Saving my best and my most prized spot for last is the Secret Beach. To be honest I’m not really sure what the stretch of beach east of the water treatment plant is or who it belongs to but I know it is the calmest and quietest place in the city, the best spot if you want to feel like you’re not in Kansas anymore. This rocky beach has been known to host the occasional rave, picnic, dog walker or nudist (not all at the same time). You should be aware that you will have to climb down the side of a steep hill to get there, negatives aside this place is worth it.
Instructions to get there:
Take the 501 Queen streetcar east as far as it goes (Neville Park).
At the last stop (Neville Park) walk east towards the R.C Harris water treatment plant.
Head down the driveway of the apartment buildings beside the water treatment plant and to the back parking lot.
Along the black chain link fence, there should be a break or a hole to get through. (as of June 2018 there is a construction wall around the water treatment plant but don’t let that throw you off! You can still get in! )
Once through (on the water treatment plant property) follow the black fence towards the water, again you will find a break in the fence.
Go through and CAREFULLY climb down the hill
Once down follow the beach east, there are many inlets along this beach, I usually go 3-4 inlets in to be more out of the way.
It is entirely possible to walk to Scarborough Bluffs from here but I only recommend it to those who are very skilled and athletic or prepared. It took me about 2 hours to do this on a nice summer day, mostly because you are boulder hopping or wading through water to get there.
If you do decide to visit please be respectful of the space and take out what you bring in.
Some good things to know about Canada and Toronto before your trip:
- We don’t include tax in our prices. All prices include a harmonized sales tax of 13% on pretty much anything you buy from a store. Taxis and hotels all include the tax (usually)
- Please tip your server, taxi/Uber driver or delivery person at least 15% of the total of your bill.
- Most people on the streets may look unapproachable but if you are lost and need direction or assistance most people are willing to help if asked nicely.
- A lot of people in Toronto use the North/South/East/West system when giving directions. The street names change from West to East at Yonge Street. If you are ever confused by this or lost downtown look for the CN Tower, that direction is south.
- Tim Hortons, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Large shopping malls and most cafes offer free wifi that you can use.
The Final Total
After all is said and done the Couch surfers total comes to 51.57$ a day and the total for those who chose to Airbnb is 74.75$/ a day.
These are some of my personal favorites and most treasured spots in Toronto and all of them have been tested by me, or trusted sources. I really hope you can make it out and get to experience Toronto like a local!