The type of accommodation to go for while in Canada depends on whether you’re planning to stay short or for a longer period.
Depending on your budget, preference, expectations and other circumstances, schools in Canada can provide or connect to various accommodations on and off-campus.
If you are a foreign student, the first place to start looking for accommodation is the international student office or the website of the university you attend.
So, get one that suits your needs.
Main types of accommodation
1. Student residence
Some schools offer residences for students on campus or near the campus. The dormitories are generally large, student buildings, while the terraced houses are independent and can accommodate three to six students.
The shared rooms have common areas for entertainment, cooking, and exercise, as well as shared bathrooms and showers. These bedrooms can accommodate one or more people per room and are administered directly by the school. Canadian students often choose to live on campus during their 1st year of post-secondary education. As an international student, this option may appeal to you, too. It’s a great way to meet friends and connect with other students
The townhouses usually have three to six rooms with single rooms (no roommates) and the main floor includes a kitchen and a living room. This type of accommodation is usually reserved for second and fourth-year university students and graduate students.
The benefits of living in on-campus residences include:
· Easy access to the campus and library
· Less need for transportation
· Chance to make friends
· A smoother transition to living as a student in your new country
· A guarantee of steady water supply, constant power and sometimes, a mini night library for night readers.
On-campus housing sometimes includes the purchase of a meal plan, which allows students to eat meals at on-campus cafeterias allowing them to spend less time cooking and more time focused on their studies.
Sometimes on-campus housing comes with other benefits as well, like access to fitness or aquatic facilities operated by the school. The cost of living on campus depends on the school, and maybe more or less expensive than off-campus options
When you register at your college or university, you can determine the cost of living in residence and decide if this option works for you.
In Canada, the cost of living in a hostel is $250 – $625 per month.
2. Off-Campus - Shared Apartment, Condominium, Furnished/Unfurnished Apartment
The off-campus apartments offer students a single room in a living room with one or more roommates. Like the single-family houses (above), most of the time they contain a single room or living room, as well as a shared kitchen, bathroom, dining room and living room. If you choose to live off-campus, the rental price may be lower than living in residence.
Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to pay for additional items, including:
· Furniture (unless the apartment is furnished)
· Bedding and towels
· Cooking utensils for the kitchen
· Food and cleaning supplies
· Internet connection
· Cable television or streaming service
Laundry machines may be available on-site. If not, you can take your clothing to a laundromat and pay to wash and dry your clothes.
Off-campus accommodation costs vary widely, particularly in the larger cities of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Since rentals can be expensive, many students choose to live with roommates to share the cost.
The benefits of living in private housing can include feeling that you:
· Have more freedom
· Have more privacy
· Are integrating into Canadian society
Your university may have a housing office that helps students find housing. The student union or student association on campus is another good source of information. They may offer an online list of private housing near the campus. You can also check local newspapers, Kijiji or Craig’s List to find accommodation.
· Canadians who own properties near large university campuses may rent rooms or apartments in their home to students.
· Apartment buildings that specialize in renting to students often exist near university and college campuses.
Prices of lodges usually differ depending on the size and location. One can expect to pay from CAD400 to CAD800 to rent a room in a house. The cost will be slightly higher if they include food. This is only applicable when the homeowner says they offer “board” with the room.
If you rent a room in a house shared by students, you’ll need to pay for your room and buy your food. An apartment in a high-rise building may cost CAD 900 to CAD 2,000 per month, depending on the city or town where you live and the number of rooms in it.
In large cities like Toronto and Vancouver, apartment rentals are popular. An apartment rental can cost CAD 900 to CAD 3,000 per month depending on how many bedrooms it has, the neighbourhood and age of the building
Another popular off-campus housing option is a homestay program. Some schools pair students up with families in the area where they are studying, these are referred to as homestay. Each homestay is different, but the student usually has their room but otherwise lives with the family, sharing meals and responsibilities.
Living with a host family can give you a sense of welcome and security when you start your new life in Canada. A host family can also help you answer questions about the city, get acquainted with Canadian culture and customs and share their meals with you. Shared housing may be an option, and lodging-only options (without meals) may also be possible.
Students who live with host families should expect to travel between 30 and 50 minutes by bus or train to get to school. It is normal to travel time in Canada.
Things to keep in mind
Start Looking Early
Once you have received your acceptance letter, many schools will send an orientation packet before departure, along with accommodation options. These options are often listed on websites, brochures or other school marketing materials, and for this reason, they should be researched and compared before any formal request for the study presented to the school.
Once you are ready to register and pay for your accommodation, register for the service. Most accommodation options in family homes and quality apartments decrease between four and eight weeks before the arrival date, especially during peak periods, such as in August and September.
Many students who live on-campus also opt for a meal program. These meal plans are paid in advance and provide a flexible and cost-effective way to eat at the participating cafeterias and restaurants.
In both cases, these types of accommodation may include a cafeteria or a food court nearby, where you can eat daily, or near or in campus food establishments. Both options can include services such as heating, hot water, and Internet, or offer them at a discounted rate.
Like hot water and electricity, and more and more Internet services can be included or not included or reduced (in the case of bedrooms). Ask before committing to your accommodation for any additional cost.
Special Needs for Accessibility
Students with accessibility needs should contact the school in advance and, in some cases, register to receive special services and accommodations.
When to Relocate
Give yourself enough time to become familiar with the neighbourhood and campus facilities. If you arrive in the summer, keep in mind that on many campuses, some facilities may be closed until the first week of September and many students may still be on spring break. For this reason, it is good to arrive early, but not so early that you feel isolated.
Signing a Lease
You should expect to:
· Sign a lease (9 or 10-month leases are common in some university and college towns).
· Pay for the first month’s rent immediately.
· Pay the last month’s rent immediately (this is legal; it protects the landlord in case you decide to leave suddenly).
· Pay a damage deposit to the landlord.
A damage deposit is money you pay the landlord before you move into the housing unit. It may be as much as one month’s rent. It can be any amount your landlord decides to charge:
· If you damage the housing during your lease, the landlord keeps the amount of the damage deposit to pay for repairs to the unit (if the damage costs more than your deposit amount, you will be responsible for paying for it).
· If you do not damage the housing, the landlord returns the amount of the damage deposit to you at the end of your lease.
· Be sure to ask your school or agent if they can help you book your accommodation in Canada.
· Beware of scams on some websites like Craigslist and never send money before seeing the apartment or meeting the owner face-to-face.
· Schools can provide on-site housing services, go to a placement agency, or expect students to install themselves. Ask your school and be proactive.
· It is not compulsory to choose the accommodations provided or mentioned by the school.
Regardless of what you decide to do, be sure to find a place where you feel comfortable and safe, where you can study and make your stay in Canada a success.