The Cheapskate Guide To: Toronto

Can you travel cheap in Toronto - Canada's biggest city? Of course! These budget travel tips from a local will help you find the best cheap food, cheap lodging, and cheap things to do in Toronto!

Toronto is sort of Canada’s New York City … so you’d think it’d be expensive, wouldn’t you? Well it is! Sort of. But if you’re looking for Cheap Toronto, you’re in luck! I pulled in a local to give us the low-down.

Hi! I’m Rebecca Esther. I blog about travelling with a disability at  I’ve lived in Toronto all my life, and I still can’t get enough of exploring this city, finding new things to do and places to go– and eating and Instagramming as I go.

Toronto has something for everyone: Whether you’re a history buff, an artist, or a shopaholic on a budget, this city is for you. Few places in the world come close to being as inviting and multicultural.

The most populous city in Canada, Toronto is also the fourth most populous city in North America, after Mexico City, New York and LA. We have lots of green space, a well-connected public transit system including a subway, buses and streetcars, and numerous walkable neighborhoods, so it’s easy and pleasant to get around (especially if you avoid rush hour). The New York Times named Toronto a top travel destination for 2016. So what are you waiting for?

Bonus: If you’re visiting Canada from the US, now is the perfect time! The American dollar has a strong exchange rate, and the weather here is gorgeous. It’s finally starting to feel like spring.

Can you travel cheap in Toronto - Canada's biggest city? Of course! These budget travel tips from a local will help you find the best cheap food, cheap lodging, and cheap things to do in Toronto!

Cheap Lodging in Toronto

Unfortunately, Toronto can be very expensive– almost on par with the likes of New York and Washington, DC (particularly if you are visiting from somewhere other than America). Most hotels cost upwards of $150 CAD/night… But there are some ways around that

House sit – Free!

Imagine staying in an immaculate mansion on Millionaire’s Row, or in a chic waterfront apartment– without paying a dime! If you’re willing to do a little commit a few months in advance, and are able to take care of the home owner’s pets, plants and property while they’re away, housesitting could be the perfect opportunity for you.

Check out this housesitting guide to get started. (Note: most housesitting sites charge for an annual membership, but housesitting itself is free).

Airbnb – $13+ CAD/night

Airbnb has tons of options, from sofa beds to entire furnished apartments, starting at just $13 CAD per night. Prices go up to over $500 CAD per night, so be sure to use the toggle on the left side of the page to choose your price range.

And if you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking!

Hostels – Around $25-40 CAD/night

Hostels are an excellent way to save money on lodging and meet new people. You’ll share a dorm room and bathroom facilities with a few other people (sometimes rooms are separated by gender), essentially splitting the cost for accommodations, and being in the perfect place to make fast friends.

Here are a few highly rated hostels to start your search with: All Days Hostel, College Backpackers, and HI Toronto Hostel.

The Bond Place Hotel – $105 CAD/night

If you can afford a bit of a splurge this boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Toronto (near bustling Yonge and Dundas Square and the world famous Eaton Centre shopping mall) is an amazing value. The rooms are comfortable and airy, and the beds are super soft. Just make sure you book at least a couple weeks in advance. I’ve scored a room for $90 CAD this way!

Cheap Food In Toronto

Being a world class city of immigrants (our motto is “Diversity Our Strength”), you won’t be hard pressed to find delicious food from around the world at a variety of price points. Here are some of the best, most affordable options:

HoSu Bistro – $8.50 CAD for a 10 Piece Sushi Lunch

If you’re a fan of Japanese and Korean cuisine, give HoSu a try. With two convenient locations (one at Yonge & Eglinton and one on Queen Street West) and a delicious specials menu, you definitely won’t leave hungry. If the sushi lunch doesn’t appeal to you, try the Jab Chae (only $3.95 for a surprisingly hearty portion) or Vegetarian Bibim Bap ($7.95 CAD).

Steeles Bakery – $3 CAD for an Enormous Lemon Danish or Blueberry Bun

I’ve been going to Steeles Bakery since I was a kid, and I can’t resist the huge, luscious pastries they’ve been serving since the 1960s. You’ll also find Challah, fresh buns and multiple varieties of cakes and cookies at this Jewish bakery.

BeaverTails Toronto – $5.09 to $6.52 CAD for an authentic Canadian BeaverTail

Relax, relax… A BeaverTail is a pastry shaped like a beaver’s tail. We would never eat the adorable animal gracing our nickels! This famous dough pastry is covered with toppings like cinnamon sugar, bananas and chocolate, or a decadent mix of hazelnut spread, peanut butter and Reese’s Pieces.

BeaverTails has been open in nearby Ottawa since 1980, but Toronto got its first permanent location just last month. It was worth the wait!

Falafel – $5.49 CAD at Tov Li

Tov Li is a kosher restaurant specializing in Israeli and Mediterranean food. They’re known for having healthier, vegetarian options, including an amazing falafel sandwich. The breaded cauliflower ($3.99 CAD) and apple crumble ($3.99 CAD) are also delicious. Two locations (both on Bathurst St).

Can you travel cheap in Toronto - Canada's biggest city? Of course! These budget travel tips from a local will help you find the best cheap food, cheap lodging, and cheap things to do in Toronto!

Cheap Things To Do In Toronto

It’s very possible to skip expensive and predictable attractions like the C.N. Tower, Canada’s Wonderland and the Toronto Zoo, and not even miss them, thanks to the incredible free and super cheap activities Toronto has to offer. And hey, with all the money you save, you’ll be able to afford some Justin Bieber merch, a huge jug of maple syrup, or a Maple Leafs jersey (all proudly Ontarian!).

Kensington Market – Free

One of the most multicultural and distinctive neighbourhoods in Toronto, Kensington is a National Historic Site of Canada. The neighbourhood is home to quirky cafes and eclectic vintage and independent shops. Browse Blue Banana for affordable and memorable gifts and novelties, and Courage My Love for unique vintage items.

The numerous markets and bakeries in the neighbourhood (as well as nearby Chinatown) are incredibly colourful and Instagrammable, and are perfect for grabbing a slice of pie, fresh fruit or a Jamaican patty.

The ROM – $10 CAD on Friday afternoons 

Dinosaurs. Ancient Egypt. A simulated bat cave. The Royal Ontario Museum is seriously riveting. Anyone who grew up in southern Ontario probably visited the ROM on a school trip or a family vacation, and secretly (or not!) finds it just as magical and immersive as an adult. This is not your typical, stuffy museum. You’ll learn, and you’ll have a wicked awesome time doing it.

The Distillery District – Free

The Distillery District is home to the largest and best-preserved collection of Victorian industrial architecture in North America. The pedestrian-friendly area is home to art galleries, cute cafes, boutiques and art installations. My favourite way to spend a day in the District is enjoying a cupcake at Sweet Escape, exploring a couple boutiques, and walking around outside, taking in the art and architecture. I’ve visited dozens of times, but never tire of it.

Earl Bales Park – Free

Accessible by local bus, this urban green space is perfect for outdoorsy types, or anyone who just wants a break from the hustle and bustle. The park offers picnic sites, playgrounds and multiple walking and cycling trails. In the summer there’s a splash pad, and in winter, you can even go skiing or snowboarding!

Can you travel cheap in Toronto - Canada's biggest city? Of course! These budget travel tips from a local will help you find the best cheap food, cheap lodging, and cheap things to do in Toronto!

West Queen West – Free

In 2014, Vogue ranked Toronto’s West Queen West the second coolest neighbourhood in the world. Lonely Planet calls it “Toronto’s creative heart”. Home to galleries, shops and cafes, it’s clear to see why locals and visitors alike jump on the Queen streetcar to spend their days here.

Be sure to stop at Dufflet (787 Queen St West) for espresso and a fresh pastry, Graffiti Alley to check out street art, and the Drake General Store (1144 Queen St West) to browse quirky Canadian made souvenirs.

Thanks so much for sharing, Rebecca! I’m sure there are lots of Torontonians with things to add – tell us your favorite cheap things in the comments!

P.S. How to live out of a suitcase – glamorously

photos via hostelworld, wikipedia, scott webbPatrick Tomasso // cc

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  1. MJ

    I’d suggest High Park (similar to Central Park). It has a small zoo and a great children’s playground. It’s near Bloor West Village and Roncesvalles Village which are neighbourhoods you could explore and eat at. There are inexpensive, decent restaurants in both. What about Toronto Islands? It’s a short (inexpensive) ferry ride. There’s Centre Island, which has an amusement park, but even better is Ward’s Island with a great beach and a couple restaurants. The Islands are fun to explore by bike (no cars allowed) and you can rent bikes on the Islands. Or Riverdale Farm is worth exploring. The Art Gallery of Ontario is amazing and is free every Wednesday evening from 6-9 pm. If you’re into textiles, there’s the Textile Museum of Canada near the AGO. Also, near the AGO (and Kensington Market) is Chinatown, which is worth exploring.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ooooh! All that sounds great! Thanks for weighing in, MJ!

  2. Aya

    I’m very surprised and happy to see Tov Li mentioned here…. it’s a small random restaurant, but I can vouch for the food being delicious and incredibly fresh as my family has worked in their kitchen and it’s spotless. Great guide!

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