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Montreal vs Ottawa Which city is better to live in

Montreal vs Ottawa: Which city is better to live in?

If you’re considering a move to Canada, two cities that might be on your radar are Montreal and Ottawa. Both cities offer unique experiences and lifestyles, making it difficult to choose between the two. 

Montreal is better to live in since its cost of living is 10% less expensive than in Ottawa, with Montreal ranked as the 2311th and Ottawa as the 2019th most costly cities in the world. 

Additionally, the average after-tax salary in Montreal is enough to cover living expenses for 1.7 months compared to 1.8 months in Ottawa. 

So read on, as we explore and unravel the distinct charms and hidden secrets of these two Canadian gems, and ultimately help you decide which metropolis truly reigns supreme as the ideal place to call home.

Montreal vs Ottawa: Cost of Living

Montreal vs Ottawa Cost of Living

If you’re moving to or from Montreal and Ottawa, it can be helpful to know how much your monthly expenses will be. 

This cost of living comparison takes into account the average rent for apartments in each city, as well as other basic costs like groceries and transportation.

1. Housing Costs

Housing Costs' Homepage
Apartment Costs of Montreal vs Ottawa
1 bedroom apartment (Monthly Rent) in City Centre1,452.80 CAD1,764.12 CAD
3 bedrooms apartment (Monthly Rent) in City Centre2,536.53 CAD2,960.91 CAD
Units for Sale in City Centre (Per Square Metre)8,376.03  CAD8,746.90  CAD
Data sourced from: Numbeo

When it comes to housing costs, Montreal is more affordable than in Ottawa.

In Montreal, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is approximately $1,400, while in Ottawa, it’s around $1,700. 

For larger apartments, a three-bedroom in Montreal’s city centre averages $2,500, whereas Ottawa’s is closer to $2,800. 

Although both cities offer a range of housing options to suit various budgets, Montreal’s lower rental prices make it a more attractive option for those looking to save on housing costs.

2. Food Costs

Food Costs' Homepage
Food Costs in Montreal vs Ottawa
1 litre of regular Milk2.90 CAD2.67 CAD
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)3.88 CAD3.21 CAD
Beef Round (1kg) 17.22 CAD17.36 CAD
Banana (1kg)2.07 CAD1.64 CAD
Chicken Filets (1kg)15.85 CAD15.26 CAD
Data sourced from: Numbeo

In terms of food costs, Montreal is generally more affordable than Ottawa.

Although, groceries in Montreal are about 2.4% higher than in Ottawa, with items like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products often costing less. 

Meanwhile, eating out in Montreal tends to be more budget-friendly, with the average cost of a meal at an inexpensive restaurant being around $22, while in Ottawa is $25. 

Moreover, Montreal’s diverse culinary scene offers a wide variety of affordable options, making it an attractive city for food lovers seeking both quality and affordability in comparison to Ottawa.

3. Transportation Costs

Transportation Costs' Homepage
Transportation Costs in Montreal vs Ottawa
Local one-way ticket3.50 CAD3.75 CAD
Regular monthly pass94 CAD125.50 CAD
Normal tariff of 1km (taxi)1.75 CAD2.75 CAD
Data sourced from: Numbeo

For those who prioritise cost-effectiveness in transportation, Montreal emerges as a better option compared to Ottawa.

A monthly public transportation pass in Montreal costs around $94, while Ottawa’s equivalent is approximately $125, a noticeable difference of around 31%. 

Additionally, taxi fares start at a lower rate in Montreal, with a base fare of $4.10, compared to Ottawa’s $4.50. Gas prices, on the other hand, are relatively similar between the two cities.

The overall affordability of Montreal’s public transportation system and lower taxi fares make it a more budget-friendly choice for residents and visitors seeking cost-effective transportation options.

Montreal vs Ottawa: Quality of Life

Montreal vs Ottawa Quality of Life

When evaluating the quality of life in Montreal and Ottawa, it is crucial to consider various factors that contribute to an individual’s overall well-being, such as cultural offerings, healthcare, education and safety. 

1. Cultural Offering

Cultural Offering's Homepage

When it comes to cultural offerings, Montreal holds a clear advantage over Ottawa due to its vast array of festivals and events throughout the year. 

Montreal hosts more than 300 festivals throughout the year, including jazz, comedy and film festivals. Meanwhile, Ottawa has fewer annual events but still manages to produce  big ones like Winterlude or Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill every July 1st. 

It also has several museums worth visiting including the National Gallery of Canada which houses works by Picasso, and Van Gogh. 

2. Healthcare 

Healthcare's Homepage

The healthcare system in Montreal is better than Ottawa, and is one of the best in Canada.

The city of Montreal has a large number of hospitals, including McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), which is ranked as one of the top ten hospitals in Canada.

The accessibility of healthcare services is high, with most residents having access to primary care physicians within easy reach. 

Residents can also receive treatment at any time without having to wait for an appointment or spend hours waiting in line at a clinic or hospital emergency room.

3. Education

Education's Homepage

When it comes to a wide range of universities and schools, Montreal has a lot to offer compared to Ottawa.

Montreal’s array of universities and schools offering a wide range of programs at all levels, including the prestigious McGill University and Concordia University, make it an excellent destination for students seeking a quality education. 

  • Concordia University – Located in downtown Montreal, this university offers bachelor’s degrees in arts & science as well as business administration & management, and law.
  • McGill University – Founded by James McGill himself back in 1821! This school offers undergraduate programs through its Faculty of Arts & Science as well as graduate programs through its other faculties such as Medicine or Law School.

The presence of these institutions, along with other universities and schools in Montreal, makes it an attractive destination for students seeking a quality education.

4. Safety

Safety's Homepage
Safety Index in Montreal vs Ottawa
Safety walking alone in morning87.13 Very High 84.47 Very High 
Safety walking alone in evening67.21 High 63.25 High 
Data sourced from: Numbeo

In terms of safety, Montreal is a safer city compared to Ottawa, as it has a lower crime rate. 

In 2017, Ottawa had 5,965 reported crimes per 100,000 residents compared with 4,211 in Montreal. However, both cities have similar emergency services coverage.

Both have 911 emergency service centres that dispatch police officers or firefighters when necessary. 

Furthermore, both cities also offer ambulance services through private companies contracted by local governments, as well as life flight helicopters or air ambulances if necessary.

Montreal vs Ottawa: Job Opportunities

Montreal vs Ottawa Job Opportunities

When comparing job opportunities, Montreal holds an edge over Ottawa due to its diverse economy and thriving industries. 

Montreal boasts a strong presence in sectors like technology, aerospace, gaming, and film production, offering a wider range of job prospects. However, Ottawa, being the nation’s capital, offers ample opportunities in government, and technology sectors. 

While Montreal has a slightly higher unemployment rate at around 5% compared to Ottawa’s 3%, the city’s diverse job market attracts a larger pool of talent. 

Ultimately, the choice between Montreal and Ottawa for job opportunities depends on one’s career preferences and industry focus.

Montreal vs Ottawa: Population

Montreal vs Ottawa Population

In terms of population, Montreal is a clear winner over Ottawa, with a larger metropolitan area and a more diverse and cosmopolitan environment. 


With a population of over 3.6 million, Montreal is the second-largest city in Canada, attracting people from various cultural backgrounds and providing a rich blend of languages, cuisines, and traditions.

In contrast, Ottawa’s metropolitan population stands at around 1.4 million, ranking it as the fourth-largest city in the country. 

Ottawa, being the capital city, also draws a diverse population, but its primary focus on government and public administration makes it less densely populated than Montreal.

Overall, Montreal’s larger and more diverse population can make it a more attractive option for those seeking a vibrant and multicultural environment. 

Montreal vs Ottawa: Immigration Process

Montreal vs Ottawa Immigration Process

When it comes to the immigration process, both Montreal and Ottawa offer different options for applicants to obtain permanent residency in Canada.

Montreal vs Ottawa: Immigration Process
The Quebec immigration process starts with obtaining a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) through one of the available programs, such as:

• Quebec Skilled Worker Program
• Quebec Experience Program
• Quebec Business Immigration Program

After securing a CSQ, applicants proceed with the federal application for permanent residency.
Ottawa follows the general federal immigration programs of Canada. The federal immigration programs include:

• Express Entry system
• Provincial Nominee Program
• Family Sponsorship Program

Additionally, the city offers settlement services and resources for newcomers to help them integrate into Canadian society.

Montreal, located in Quebec, follows the province’s distinct immigration policies, which include a separate skilled worker program and a mandatory French language proficiency for certain applicants. 

In contrast, Ottawa, located in Ontario, adheres to the general federal immigration programs such as the Express Entry system and the Provincial Nominee Program, without a compulsory language requirement. 

Therefore, immigrants should consider their language skills and desired immigration programs when choosing between Montreal and Ottawa.

Montreal vs Ottawa:Taxes

Montreal vs OttawaTaxes

When it comes to taxes, Montreal has higher income tax rates compared to Ottawa due to Quebec’s provincial tax system. 

Tax Bracket of Montreal vs. Ottawa
2022 Taxable IncomeTax Rates2022 Taxable IncomeTax Rates
$46,295 or less15%$50,197 or less15%
More than $46,295 up to $92,58020%$50,198 up to $100,39220.50%
More than $92,580 up to $112,65524%$100,393 up to $155,62526%
Over $112,65525.75%$155,626 up to $221,70829%
Over $221,70833%

Quebec’s top combined federal and provincial income tax rate is approximately 53.3%, while Ontario’s is around 53.5%. 

Additionally, Quebec’s sales tax is higher, with a combined rate of 14.975% (GST 5% and QST 9.975%) compared to Ontario’s HST rate of 13%. However, property taxes in both cities may vary depending on the assessed value and municipal tax rates. 

Therefore, individuals should consider the tax implications when choosing between Montreal and Ottawa. Those who are willing to pay higher income and sales taxes in exchange for a vibrant and culturally rich environment may prefer Montreal.

On the other hand, those who prioritise lower taxes may lean towards Ottawa.

Montreal vs Ottawa: Pros and Cons

Montreal vs Ottawa Pros and Cons

Montreal and Ottawa are two of Canada’s most popular cities, each with its own unique character and charm. Here are some of the pros and cons of each city.

• Montreal is known for its rich history, festivals, and diverse arts scene, offering numerous entertainment options.
• Montreal’s mix of French and English speakers creates a unique bilingual atmosphere, beneficial for language learners.
• Compared to Ottawa, Montreal has more affordable housing options, making it attractive for renters and potential homeowners.
• Montreal boasts an extensive public transit system, including the metro and buses, offering easy navigation across the city.

• Montreal residents face higher income and sales taxes than those in Ottawa.
• The prominence of French can be challenging for non-French speakers in terms of employment and daily interactions.
• Montreal experiences colder, snowier winters compared to Ottawa.
• As Canada’s capital, Ottawa offers a stable job market, particularly in the government and tech sectors.
• Ottawa’s residents enjoy lower income and sales taxes compared to those in Montreal.
• The city’s green spaces and nearby parks provide ample opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
• Ottawa is home to prestigious universities and research institutions.

• Ottawa’s housing market and overall cost of living are higher than Montreal’s.
• Ottawa has a smaller population and is generally considered quieter and less culturally diverse than Montreal.
• While Ottawa has public transit options, they are less extensive than Montreal’s, making car ownership more desirable.

Ultimately, the choice of which city to live in will depend on individual preferences and priorities, such as career opportunities, lifestyle, and personal interests.

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