Female student works in an art studio; Mountains with a clear blue river flowing between them.

Prepare your budget to study in Canada

As an international student in Canada, it’s a good idea to establish a budget to plan for the cost of living and studying abroad. You’ll need to consider the study costs for international students in Canada from elementary to university, including tuition fees at your school of choice.

Our Search colleges and universities tool will lead you to information about college and university programs. You can search for programs at institutions across Canada and compare the cost of tuition. The tool provides cost of living estimates to guide you.

Living expenses in Canada

After you figure out the cost of going to school, it’s important to plan for the other expenses associated with living in Canada.

Your student budget

There’s more to your study costs than tuition. Don’t forget to set aside money for:

  • Books
  • Computer
  • Housing
  • Food
  • Fun
  • Clothing
  • Travel
  • Transportation
  • Health insurance
  • Travel insurance

Housing and accommodations

What type of housing will you live in as a student in Canada? Living in a residence on campus is something you can do at most Canadian universities. It’s a great way to make friends quickly, and it’s an appealing option when you are a first-year student. Many Canadian students also choose to live in residence their first year. One of them could be your roommate.

Other great reasons to live in residence:

  • Residence offers a safe way to settle into post-secondary studies in Canada.
  • It can be affordable since the cost of residence also includes food from the cafeteria.

Your university’s website will outline the cost of living in residence.

If you are attending a college or language school, it’s less likely there will be a residence on campus. In that case, you’ll have to search for off-campus housing. Living off campus might involve getting your own apartment or sharing one with friends.

How much should you plan to spend on your accommodations? It depends on the city and your living arrangements. We generally recommend setting aside 25% of your study in Canada budget for housing.

Food and groceries

When it comes to food, Canada offers variety. As a multicultural nation, Canada offers all the foods you love, so you can easily feel at home. Our large cities are home to people from all around the world. They offer everything from small specialty food stores to grocery stores with huge selections of international foods.

If you live on campus at your college or university, you can register for the meal plan, which gives you access to your college or university cafeteria for all your meals. If you live off campus, you will likely do your own cooking or share cooking duties with friends.

Build the cost of food and groceries into your study budget. You can easily investigate the costs online by looking at Canada’s major national grocery store chains. Shop around for the best prices. You can even download apps that will allow you to compare costs from store to store or find the best deals on food.

If you like to treat yourself to restaurant meals from time to time, plan to build those into your study budget.

Health insurance

Canada has no national healthcare plan. Instead, each province and territory provides universal health care to its citizens. This coverage is free and applies to all Canadian citizens. It includes the cost of doctors and hospitals, but not the cost for dentists, physiotherapists and other health providers.

As an international student, you need to determine whether your province or territory extends health insurance to you. In provinces where there is no coverage for international students, your school will have medical insurance plans for purchase.

Travel health insurance

Travel health insurance is different from basic health insurance. It will be useful if your time in Canada is short (less than one year) and you expect to live in different parts of Canada. This may apply to students planning to attend:

  • High school for only 9 or 10 months
  • Language school for 12 or 20 weeks
  • A summer camp language school
  • A co-op program or internship

Travel agents and the school where you are enrolled can provide details on travel health insurance.

Entertainment

It’s important to take time to relax. Be sure to include your “fun time” expenses in your budget. You may enjoy going to clubs to dance or seeing the latest movies at the cinema. Who knows? You may quickly become a hockey fan and want to attend games. Or your favourite entertainment may involve buying an X-box or PlayStation, so you can play video games.

How much money do you think you’ll spend on entertainment each month? You might want to include things like yoga classes or restaurant meals with friends when you plan your budget.

Clothing

Set aside some money to cover your clothing budget in Canada. There are countless shopping options—from factory outlets where you can find great deals to shopping centres, boutiques, big box stores and more. Thrift stores and second-hand clothing stores are also very popular. They sell used clothing and shoes including winter coats and boots that will keep you warm without costing a lot of money.

Your clothing budget will depend on how much you like to shop and how much you feel you’ll need to buy for your time in Canada.

Transportation

When you come to Canada, you will want to get around to see and experience life in your new country. Plan for your transportation costs by estimating how much money you’ll need for:

  • Public transit, like buses and subways
  • Bus or train tickets if you want to explore other cities in Canada
  • Plane tickets home to visit your family

You may want to get a local bus or subway pass to see and experience your new city or town. If you are a college or university student, check with your school to see if the cost of a transit pass is included in your tuition fees. You’ll find that many cities with public transit also offer special student rates.

Some international students choose to buy a car when they come to Canada. If this is something you want to do, plan for the cost of your car, automobile insurance, gasoline and parking in your budget. 

Canadian cities and towns often feature beautiful bike paths in recreational areas and bike lanes on busy streets. This makes owning a bike a great and economical option to experience the city around you.

For elementary and high school students, school boards generally provide school buses to take elementary school students to and from school each day. In some cities, high school students use public transit to get to school.

Travel

When you make friends who are Canadian students, they may invite you to spend Thanksgiving or other holidays with their family. This could involve travel by bus or train.

At other times of the year, when you need a little getaway from your studies, why not experience the rest of Canada? Consider your travel plans when you budget for your studies. If you’re looking for inspiration, explore the Government of Canada’s travel website, Destination Canada.

The most important travel you will do while studying in Canada may be to your home country. How much does that cost? Make sure to include this in your yearly budget.

Discounts for international students in Canada

Do you love a great deal or a discount? As an international student in Canada, you’ll find them all around. Stores, restaurants, public transit, airlines, trains and others offer reduced prices for students. To access these student discounts, you will need a valid student identification card. We also recommend getting the International Student Identification Card for additional benefits. Why not make the most of your study in Canada adventure?