How to navigate Montreal on a budget
By: Alexandra Fasulo
If you’ve never been to Montreal before, get ready to brush up on your conversational French-speaking capabilities. Though Canada is an English-speaking nation, the Montreal district is heavily French, and many people in Montreal only speak French. Not everyone is courteous about switching over to English for tourists, so if it’s possible to learn the French words for left, right, bathroom, etc. you’ll save yourself some frustration on the trip. But, most restaurants and stores do have English-translated menus if you ask for them – so don’t be too worried!
Walking around Montreal is like walking around Europe. The cobble-stoned streets, walkways blocked off for pedestrians, bicyclists, and outdoors shops with seating along the street will have you thinking you’re in Italy. Montreal is amazingly beautiful, and a stark contrast to the American cities just below it in New York. Montreal is located along the water and looks absolutely stunning at night when the sun is setting.
There’s a ton to do in Montreal, and for starters, you should immerse yourself in the French cuisine, and buy as many authentic meals as possible. Montreal takes breakfasting seriously, so go enjoy a massive crepe brunch with mimosas and other French breakfast drinks. Stroll around old Montreal and look at the French cathedrals, architecture, and take a rest at one of the many city parks. There is a lot of street and building art to behold while walking around, so be sure to bring a camera along.
The best stay-accommodations to pursue in Montreal are through Airbnb. Using the third party platform gives you the ability to stay right in the heart of Montreal. You can stay where the nightlife erupts on St. Laurent, or in a more quiet, historical part of the city. The Airbnb pricing for apartments in nice areas is surprisingly cheap in Montreal and about half the price of a hotel stay. Montreal is also pretty easy to bring a car to and has many streets that permit overnight parking. Do be cautious, though, that the street parking signs are in French. Definitely, learn French street/car words to make sure your car isn’t towed while you’re exploring. And, if braving street parking isn’t your thing, there are tons of parking garages scattered throughout the city. They usually charge about $8 per night.
Now that you’ve got your stay if you decided to train or fly there, Montreal has an amazing, and clean, public transportation system. Their metro (they don’t say subway) is the cleanest metro in probably all of North America. It’s very easy to navigate and can bring you all around the city, including city parks located on islands in the water (check out Parque Jean Drapeau!). Just grab a 3-day unlimited metro pass for about $20 and explore every corner of the city you can!
Montreal is also a highly cultural and musical city. Be sure to read about any festivals that may be occurring while you’re there. Most of the time, they’re completely free and wildly unforgettable. All summer, the city pays tribute to a lot of the indigenous tribes of Canada who have been there for thousands of years. There’s usually always some free stage with live music playing throughout the summer.
Montreal is absolutely a summer city to explore. Do not go in the winter. The temperatures are unbearable and make exploring impossible. But in the summer, the weather is absolutely perfect, and usually hovers around a crisp 78 degrees. Though the city is stunning year round, you’ll regret making it your New Years destination.
In Montreal, you’re going to have to use Canadian currency. They don’t want American dollars. The good news is, right now, the American dollar is stronger than the Canadian dollar, which makes the trip inexpensive for Americans. Canadian products are more expensive than typical American products due to their high taxation rate, but with the offset exchange rate right now, it’s the perfect time to go explore the French city. If you don’t exchange the money before crossing the border, there are plenty of exchange locations around the city. Do try and have it exchanged at your local bank before going, though, or they’ll charge you a fee.
With winter just around the corner, Montreal may be a little chilly for the next few months. But come May-Sept Montreal could be just the destination to avoid the winter blues! It’s clean, beautiful, European, and bustling with shopping and nightlife… Not to mention realitivly hasstle free to get to. Go exchange your Australian & American dollars and book an Airbnb today.