Moving to Montreal


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5 out of 5

  • Affordability 4 out of 5

  • Safety 4 out of 5

  • Healthcare 2 out of 5

  • Traffic Flow 3 out of 5

  • Property affordability 4 out of 5

  • Climate 3 out of 5

  • Environment quality 5 out of 5

Despite being the largest city in the almost entirely francophone province of Quebec and a history of French and English in-fighting, Montreal today is a genuinely multilingual city. It mixes the very best parts of Parisian and North American culture to create a blend of booming business, high culture and big fun.

The city lies mostly on an island river on the St Lawrence River in the southwest corner of the province of Quebec just 60km from the US border and a 1.5 hour flight from New York. The three headed hill from which the city takes its name – Mount Royal – is now a public park to the southwest of the CBD.

While English and French speakers were traditionally split between east and west nowadays you’d be much harder pressed to find a boundary with pockets of majority anglo- and francophone inhabitants scattered all over. Around 57% speak French at home, 19% English and the rest other languages. 56% of the population are bilingual French and English speakers.

Historically the most important economic centre in Canada, Montreal is now second to Toronto but still packs a hefty punch as a financial centre, the largest inland port in the world, a major media hub and the home of large aerospace, pharmaceutical, software and telecom companies.

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Moving to Montreal from the UK

Though there is a hefty English speaking contingent in the city, the official language of Montreal is French so those moving to the city from the UK should really make an effort to learn it.

Luckily, as well as many free online resources, the Quebec government also offers all permanent residents French language courses of 4, 6, 9 or 12 hours per week (up to a maximum of 1,800 hours). Full-time courses are also available. Ask Immigration-Quèbec for more information and a list of providers.

For children too old to integrate with a French-taught curriculum, the English Montreal School Board runs 40 elementary schools and 17 secondary schools throughout the city.

While the metropolitan area of Montreal has a population much lower than that of London it covers a much greater expanse, so deciding where to live is a crucial decision. A short term let could be a wise option while you find your bearings and assess local amenities and commute times.

Property prices are still well priced in Montreal. You can buy a three bedroom single family home on Montreal Island for as little as CAD 200,000 (£125,000).

Those looking to rent will be able to find a similar property for around CAD 1,000 (£540) per month.

Comparing Montreal vs London

Montreal sees warmer summers and colder winters than London. Average highs in July are 27°C, four degrees higher than in London, and average lows in January are -12°C, fifteen degrees lower than in London. Snow cover generally lasts from mid-December until late March. Montreal sees more rainy days per year on average than London but gets about 36% more hours of sunshine too.

As well as enjoying lower property prices and lower rents than Londoners, Montrealers also pay less for meals out, transport and utilities, giving them considerably greater purchasing power.

Healthcare in Montreal is rated better by its residents than in London, safety is considered greater, pollution lower and commutes less arduous.

Montreal has been described as Canada’s cultural capital – a label which springs from its culturally diverse population as well as its focus on the arts. The Place des Arts is a world class centre for music and theatre, home to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Les Grands Ballets and the Opéra de Montréal. The city hosts an International Jazz Festival, the Montreal World Film Festival and the Just for Laughs international comedy festival.

Sports fans will be well served with three North American major league sports teams and the Canadian Grand Prix.

Living CostsLondonMontreal
Disposable Salary£1,992 GBPpcm£1,785 GBPpcm
3 Bedroom Apartment£2,590 GBP£956 GBP
Imported Beer 0.33cl£3 GBP£4 GBP
Bottle of Wine£7 GBP£10 GBP
Marlboro£7 GBP£6 GBP
Eggs£2 GBP£2 GBP
VW Golf 1.4£15,943 GBP£12,750 GBP
Basic Utilities£160 GBP£56 GBP
Rice (1kg)£1 GBP£3 GBP
Capuccino£2 GBP£2 GBP
Meal for 2£50 GBP£38 GBP
Cinema Ticket (1)£11 GBP£8 GBP

Living costs

Living in Montreal is quite affordable when you’re used to London’s high prices. When comparing the cost of living in the two cities, it takes about 44 percent less money in Montreal to give you the same standard as living, for those who choose to rent. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs about £6.52 in Montreal as opposed to about £12 in London. Going for a pint after work also costs less, at £3.26 each. A public transit pass is an incredible 66 percent less than in London.

What is more expensive in Montreal is store bought food and alcohol. Most staples cost more, like a litre of milk (£1.13), tomatoes (£2.22 per kilo) and fresh bread (£1.75). Both beer and wine bought at the market are about 16 percent more expensive in Montreal. Internet access is also more costly, averaging £24.88 per month.

Property Information

Montreal’s housing is an interesting mix of the old and the new. If asked to describe it, most Montrealers would talk about the city’s iconic row houses and duplexes, complete with exterior metal staircases. Housing in the city is generally affordable and safe. For those who prefer to live downtown, renting is the most popular option.

In the city centre, the average rent prices are £502 for a one bedroom or £957 for a three bedroom apartment. It’s not necessary to have a car when living downtown, as the area is quite walkable and the metro system is efficient. Outside of the city centre, prices are even lower. A one bedroom unit rents for about £355, and a three bedroom about £643.

For those looking to buy in Montreal, real estate prices are also affordable compared to the UK. According to the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board, single family homes sold for a median price of $280,000, or about £153,031. Median price for condos was $230,000 or about £125,704. Interested in becoming a landlord? Multiplexes sold for $430,000 or about £235,012.

Transferring money to Montreal

If you’re thinking of moving to Montreal, you’ll probably need to convert some of your British pounds into Canadian dollars.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Wise, an easy-to-use online international money transfer service which uses the real exchange rate, and charges low fees.

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Neighbourhood Picks

If you’re thinking of moving to Montreal, there are some great neighbourhoods to discover. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your hunt.

  • Family-Friendly: Anjou – For expats with young children, check out Anjou. Found in Montreal’s east end, it is home to many schools, libraries and parks. It’s a surprisingly quiet area considering its 40,000 plus residents, many businesses and large industrial park. Housing is a mix of apartment buildings, row houses and single family homes, with about 55 percent of the population renting.
  • Upmarket: Westmount – If you’re looking for upscale and exclusive, Westmount is the neighbourhood for you. The municipality of Westmount is mostly Anglophone. It’s located close to downtown, at the foothills of the famous Mont Royal. The lower part of Westmount has many multiplexes; the upper area is mainly mansions.
  • Hip & Trendy: Le Plateau – Artistic, eclectic and trendy, Le Plateau is a great place to live. Located near the bottom of Mount Royal, the area is predominantly French speaking. There are many low-rise and row houses for rent in this zone. Rent is a bit higher here, but it comes with access to an exciting lifestyle. Bars, restaurants, cafes and boutiques line the streets. It’s no wonder Le Plateau has been named hippest neighbourhood in Montreal.
  • Up & Coming: Quartiers des Spectacles – Once known for its sketchy bars and unsafe streets, this area is undergoing a ruthless revitalization. Dilapidated buildings are being torn down, making room for clean, modern developments. Measuring about one square kilometre, the Quartier des Spectacles is home to 30 performance halls, 80 cultural venues and 45,000 jobs. It’s becoming Montreal’s version of Time Square or Piccadilly Circus.

Schools and Education

In Canada, each province and territory has its own education system. Although many are similar, they each have their distinctions. All schools in the Montreal area follow the Quebec education system. About 80 percent of students attend school in French, but there are several English language schools for those who qualify.

In Quebec, students attend elementary school up to grade 6, then move on to high school: Secondary I, II, III, IV and V (1-5). Students are about 16 years old when they finish their high school and get their diploma. They are then expected to move onto CEGEP which offers two main branches: university preparation (2 years) or technical studies (3 years). At the end of this first level of post-secondary education, students earn a DCS or Diploma of College Studies.

The second level of post-secondary education is university. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree, which takes three to four years. Master’s degrees and PhD require a few additional years of study. In Montreal, McGill University and Concordia University offer programs in English. For French speaking students, there is the Université de Montréal as well as the Université du Québec à Montréal.