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Vancouver vs Toronto Which is the best city for international students

Vancouver vs Toronto: Which is the best city for international students?

Trying to decide if Toronto or Vancouver is better for you as an international student? Well, let’s see how these two stack up regarding essential aspects that will make a better experience of living in a foreign land.

If you’re looking for the best educational experience, Toronto and Vancouver both offer quality education. Although, the former is home to Canada’s highest-ranking university, the University of Toronto. 

But if you want a more affordable option, Vancouver universities are cheaper than Toronto by 26.77%. 

Overall, your decision will be based on your preferences. To help you out, we’ll compare their cost of living, educational opportunities, diversity, safety, and more. Read on! 

Educational Opportunities for International Students in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Educational Opportunities for International Students in Toronto vs. Vancouver's Homepage
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Overall, Toronto has better educational programs for international students and the variety and quality of education.

The University of Toronto ranks 26 in the QS World University Rankings, having over 27,536 international students enrolled. This number is higher than the University of British Columbia, ranking 46 and having over 15,399 international students.

Plus, according to the International Student Survey, 93% of international students are satisfied with their educational experience in Canada.

You can get easily persuaded by their world-class universities and programs.

Here are a few universities in Vancouver and Toronto:

VancouverToronto
University of British Columbia (UBC)
QS Rank: 46
University of Toronto
QS Rank: 26
Langara CollegeYork University
QS Rank: 494
Simon Fraser University (SFU)
QS Rank: 298
Ryerson University
Columbia CollegeGeorge Brown College
Kwantlen Polytechnic UniversityCentennial College

Both cities offer a variety of programs that stretch from arts to business to sciences. 

And competitively speaking, Toronto provides a higher quality of education and more experience handling many international students.

Tuition Fees in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Vancouver offers more affordable tuition for international students since its average minimum is $11,000. This figure is slightly less expensive than Toronto’s $15,000 tuition minimum.


Thus, Vancouver is 26.77% cheaper than Toronto in the minimum tuition fee of universities or colleges.

Tuition fees for international students in Vancouver can range from $11,000 to $50,000. Although, the total costs depend on the institution, course, program, and level of education.

Meanwhile, tuition fees in Toronto can range from $15,000 to $30,000 annually. 

Plus, if you’re aiming for law or medicine, the costs are bound to be more expensive! 

That said, international students can explore external scholarship opportunities from their home countries, international organizations, foundations, and private donors that support students studying in Canada.

Here’s a list of possible scholarships from the Canadian Government that you can apply for in both Vancouver and Toronto:

Canadian Government Scholarships
VancouverToronto
Canada-ASEAN Scholarships and Educational Exchanges for Development (SEED)Canada Graduate Scholarships – Master’s Program
Canada-CARICOM Skills Training for the Green Economy ScholarshipsEmerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP)
Canada-China Scholars’ Exchange ProgramGlobal Affairs Canada Scholarships
Banting Postdoctoral FellowshipsVanier Canada Graduate Scholarships
Emerging Leaders in the Americas ProgramCanada-CARICOM Leadership Scholarships Program
Organization of American States Academic Scholarship ProgramCanada-Chile Leadership Exchange Scholarship
Study in Canada Scholarships
Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

On the other hand, there are private scholarships that are available in some universities. Here are some options:

Private Scholarships
VancouverToronto
University of British Columbia:
• The International Major Entrance Scholarship
• Outstanding International Student Award
University of Toronto
• Lester B. Pearson International Scholarships
• University of Toronto Scholars Program
• Faculty-Specific Scholarships
Langara College
• Langara Scholarships in recognition and support of outstanding achievement
Ryerson University
• International Student Scholarships
• FCAD International Scholarships, 
Columbia College
• Entrance and Academic Scholarships
Seneca College
• Seneca International Entrance Scholarship
• Government of Canada Scholarships
Simon Fraser University
• SFU Undergraduate Scholars and Graduate Entrance Scholarships,
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
• The President’s Scholarship
• Merit Scholarship, 
University Canada West
• Entrance scholarships
• Scholarships for Academic Excellence
Vancouver Island University
• International Undergraduate Student Regional Entrance Scholarship

Immigration for International Students in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Immigration for International Students in Toronto vs. Vancouver's Homepage
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Vancouver and Toronto (toronto vs vancouver for immigrants) both have favourable immigration systems and programs for international students.

Here are some options for international students:

Immigration OptionsDetailsWhere it is Offered
Study PermitInternational students must obtain a study permit from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to study in Vancouver or Toronto.Both cities
Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)This permit allows international students to work in Canada for a period equal to their study program, up to three years. 

Thus, providing you with some leverage in gaining Canadian work experience.
Both cities
Canadian Experience Class (CEC)International students who have completed their studies and gained Canadian work experience may be eligible for the CEC. 

It allows individuals with Canadian work experience to apply for permanent residency. 
Both cities
British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP)This offers immigration courses for international students.
The BC PNP considers factors like work experience, education, and job offers in British Columbia.
Vancouver
Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) Designed to attract skilled workers, international students, and entrepreneurs to settle in Ontario.Toronto

You could easily look up more scholarship programs or directly inquire about universities for opportunities that will fit your aim and background. The ones on the list only scratch the surface of the many possible ways out there!

Cost of Living in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Cost of Living in Toronto vs. Vancouver's Homepage
Image source: BBC

The cost of living in Toronto is 0.2% more expensive than in Vancouver for international students. 

According to LivingCost, both cities are part of the top 3% of most expensive cities in the world — Toronto ranked 4th in Canada, while Vancouver is ranked 5th.

The cost of living is essential when deciding where to study, especially for international students. It matters a lot more compared to if you were a resident. Some necessary expenses are rent, utilities, food, and transportation.

Let’s compare the average monthly expenses in Vancouver and Toronto:

VancouverToronto
Cost of livingOne personRoom for 4One personRoom for 4
Total with rent$2344$5237$2348$5264
Without rent$863$2816$912$2924
Rent & Utilities$1480$2421$1436$2340
Food$565$1478$542$1424
Transport$140$364$244$618
Data retrieved from LivingCost.org for Vancouver and Toronto.

The overall 0.2% difference between Toronto and Vancouver —Toronto being more expensive — may not seem much until you add all of this into monthly or annual expenses. 

So we suggest you have a clear picture of your budget before choosing a city to avoid skipping meals once you get there.

Job Opportunities in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Job Opportunities in Toronto vs. Vancouver's Homepage
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In both Toronto and Vancouver, there are several options international students can choose from, especially with part-time jobs. So they can quickly gain employment without any prior working experience.

According to Statistics Canada, the share of new principal applicant immigrants with Canadian study experience increased from 6% to 38% from 2000 to 2019.

It’s no secret that many international students want a job during their stay, and some need it to help them during their studies.

Here is the minimum wage in both cities to give you an idea of what to expect when applying for a job as an international student:

VancouverToronto
$16.75 an hour$16.55 an Hour

Next, let’s take a look at some top job opportunities for international students:

  • On-Campus Jobs: You can apply for on-campus positions at universities or colleges. These jobs include working at the library, campus bookstore, student services, or as a research or teaching assistant. 

Conveniently, an on-campus job is a great way to earn if you need something that can work around your schedule.

  • Off-Campus Jobs: For instance, you can go for industries like retail, hospitality, food services, customer service, and administration. 
  • Co-op and Internship Programs: These programs allow students to gain hands-on work experience in their field of study. 

It involves partnerships with local companies and organizations, so you can take advantage of this and go for a company you want to work for.

  • Work-Study Programs: Work-study programs are initiatives by institutions wherein students can work part-time on campus or with community organizations.

As a heads up, research the requirements you’ll need to work, like a work permit. There are different requirements for on-campus, off-campus, and internships.

Although there may be more restrictions for immigrants or international students when it comes to working, at the end of the day, there are still plenty of employers willing to hire you!

Public Transportation in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Vancouver has a more convenient and efficient public transportation system, thanks to its extensive coverage and easy transitions from one transport to the other.

Here’s a quick rundown of the public transportation system in Vancouver and Toronto:

Vancouver vs. Toronto: Public Transportation Systems
Vancouver Toronto
TransLinkIncludes buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express Toronto Transit CommissionIncludes buses, streetcars, and subways
Compass CardContactless smart card for fare payment on all TransLink servicesPRESTO CardContactless smart card for fare payment on TTC services
Concession FaresDiscounted concession fares for students enrolled in eligible institutionsConcession FaresOffers discounted concession fares for students enrolled in selected institutions
Extensive CoverageCovers Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey, and other surrounding municipalitiesSubway SystemIt has 4 main lines that connect various neighbourhoods, downtown, and major educational institutions
Student-oriented ServicesIncludes increased service frequencies during peak hoursBus and Streetcar NetworkBus and streetcar routes cover the entire city, providing convenient transportation options to reach different areas
Night Bus ServiceProvides transportation options during late-night hours

As you can see, Vancouver’s transit systems cover a wider area and have more convenient means of switching modes of transportation. 

Although Toronto has reliable transit, considering the city is two and a half times bigger than Vancouver, the limited area coverage may challenge you to get from points A to B.

Thus, you would have less difficulty navigating the city with the Vancouver transit system. 

In addition, Vancouver transit fares are also cheaper than Toronto and lesser with student discounts.

Here’s a short list of price ranges for public transportation in Vancouver and Toronto:

VancouverToronto
Monthly transit pass (students)$56-$98$116-$134
One-way transit fare$2.95-$3.00$3.10-$3.25
Bike rental (per hour)$8-$10$7-$10

Accommodations in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Accommodations in Toronto vs. Vancouver's Homepage
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Toronto and Vancouver offer various accommodations for international students at varying prices. But, overall, Vancouver offers more affordable options. 


The average price for on-campus housing in Vancouver is $1,100, cheaper than Toronto’s $1,300 average. As for off-campus rentals, Vancouver is also more affordable, with an average of $2,400, while it’s $2,750 for Toronto.

International students have several accommodation options based on their preferences, budget, and lifestyle.

Let’s go through some accommodation options for international students:

  • On-Campus Housing: Typically, these are furnished rooms with shared amenities such as common areas, study rooms, and laundry rooms.
  • Homestays: It involves living with a local Canadian family in their home. You get to experience Canadian culture firsthand, practice English, and receive support from your host family.
  • Off-Campus Rentals: For instance, shared apartments or houses where students rent and share common areas with other tenants.
  • Purpose-Built Student Accommodations (PBSAs): PBSAs are privately-owned accommodations for students. These are similar to on-campus housing. 
  • Renting Apartments or Condos: Some students may opt to rent their apartments or condos in Vancouver. Although this option offers better privacy and independence, it usually has a pricier tag.

As for accommodation costs, Vancouver and Toronto are pretty close to each other. 

Here’s a comparison table of their monthly accommodation costs:

AccommodationVancouverToronto
On-Campus Housing$700 – $1500$800 – $1800
Off-Campus Rentals$500 – $1500$1800 – $3000 (city proper)$600 – $1800$2000 – $3500 (city proper)
Homestays$800 – $1500$900 – $1800
PBSAs$800 – $1800$800 – $1800

The gap is not that big, but Vancouver has cheaper accommodation rates than Toronto, especially with city-proper rentals since you’re closer to necessary establishments.

Demographics in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Demographics in Toronto vs. Vancouver's Homepage
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Toronto and Vancouver both have relatively diverse residents, but the former has more immigrants and minorities in its population. In Toronto, recorded immigrants represent 46% of its people. Meanwhile, there are 41% in Vancouver. 

And looking at it from a nationwide perspective, Toronto immigrants represent 35.9% of the immigrant population in Canada.

The demographics of a city play an important role, especially for international students who seek belongingness. On that note, being in a diverse city can help you find a community you feel comfortable with.

For this, we made a table with stats gathered from World Population Review

Racial Composition VancouverRacial Composition Toronto
White43.1%White43.50%
Chinese20%South Asian13.96%
South Asian14%East Asian12.73%
Filipino6%African9.60%
West Asian3%Southeast Asian8.12%
Korean2%Middle Eastern4.03%
Latin American2%Latin American3.35%
Black2%Indigenous0.83%
Japanese1%Other/Multiracial3.88%
Arab1%
Indigenous2.40%
Visible minority0.60%
Multiple visible minorities1.90%

Impressively, Vancouver has over 989,545 immigrants taking up almost 41% of the city’s population. You’ll get to meet people from different places, and the top countries include China, India, the UK, the Philippines, and Hong Kong.

And a fun fact, Vancouver has a large Asian population and a Chinese community. Vancouver’s Chinatown has also made a name for itself, being the second largest in North America and a popular attraction.

Meanwhile, according to a report from Statistics Canada, Toronto takes the cake as the most diverse Canadian city. It’s also considered the top destination for immigrants.

That said, you shouldn’t worry about being the “new kid” in town just because you’re from a different country since both cities have more diverse students than other countries.

Culture in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Culture in Toronto vs. Vancouver's Homepage
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As an insider scoop on their culture, the city has an impressive arts and music scene, with places like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Opera, and Arts Club Theatre Company. You can check out upcoming theatre events to explore more.

And naturally, they host many festivals and events like the Vancouver International Film Festival and Vancouver International Jazz Festival.

Here’s a list of places and theatres that showcase both cities’ cultural experience:

Cultural Entities in VancouverCultural Centres and Festivals in Toronto
• Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art 
• Chinatown 
• Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden 
• Vancouver Art Gallery 
• The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra 
• Vancouver Opera 
• Arts Club Theatre Company 
• Theatre Under the Stars 
• Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
• The Improv Centre 
• The Power Plant
• Royal Ontario Museum
• Ontario Science Centre
• Chinatown
• The Bata Shoe Museum
• Four Seasons Centre for the Performing 
• The Toronto Fringe Festival
• North By Northeast Music & Film Festival
• Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre 
• Toronto International Film Festival
• Toronto After Dark Film Festival 

Good news for film-junkies, Toronto is well-known for being a film, television, and digital media center. It even makes a record-breaking $2.5 billion contribution to the Toronto economy.

And it’s only appropriate that there are initiatives to showcase these cultures; fortunately, they organize festivals. Some include the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, Pride Toronto, and the Toronto International Film Festival.

Being immersed in their culture can help you have a better outlook on both cities and appreciate the place more beyond your studies.

Safety in Toronto vs. Vancouver

Safety in Toronto vs. Vancouver's Homepage
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According to the Canada Crime Index, Toronto has a Crime Severity Index (CSI) of 56.7%, and Vancouver has 90.1%. These are both relatively good, considering Toronto’s population is about four times larger than Vancouver’s.

Also, Vancouver has a safety index of 59.09% which is higher than Toronto’s safety index of 57.53% — a small win for the former.

However, note that both cities get evaluated with different types of crimes; thus, the weight per crime also fluctuates.

To be comfortable enough to study or walk around the city, feeling safe and secure is crucial. 

For a breakdown of the Crime Severity Index (CSI) that monitors the severity level of police-reported crime, according to Canada Crime Index, see the table below:

Safety in Toronto vs. Vancouver
CityPopulationOverall CSIViolent Crime CSINon-violent Crime CSI
Toronto2,794,39656.7%88.3%45.2%
Vancouver675,21890.1%98.9%86.8%

To show you the perceived crime comparison level between Toronto and Vancouver, we also sourced information from Numbeo. Do note that below are survey data and are subject to change with more respondents over time.

Type of Crime TorontoVancouver
Level of crime46.66%42.46%
Crime increasing in the past 3 years67.11%61.58%
Worries home broken and things stolen36.08%34.70%
Worries being mugged or robbed37.39%30.04%
Worries attacked38.69%34.04%
Worries being insulted42.26%38.19%
Worries being subject to a physical attack because of your skin color, ethnic origin, gender or religion28.15%23.16%
Problem property crimes such as vandalism and theft48.23%53.68%
Problem violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery44.89%35.91%

In addition, international students are bound to walk alone most of the time to go to and from universities and other places. To show the safety rate for walking alone during daylight and night, see the table below:

Safety TorontoVancouver
Safety walking alone during daylight74.94%80.59%
Safety walking alone during night52.84%56.23%

Vancouver may be a safer choice when it comes to the crime rates and the nature of crimes; however, nothing beats staying vigilant and being aware of your surroundings no matter where you are.

Vancouver vs Toronto: How They Stack Up

To sum up, both cities are excellent choices for international students who prefer to study in Canada.

Although, technically, Vancouver one-ups Toronto on our list of elements, more is needed to rule out that one is better. Both cities are tied in almost everything, from immigration to job opportunities.

Ultimately, it all comes down to your preference, convenience and lifestyle. Let’s review the different factors and suggestions we have for each city:

FactorsThe Better CityWhy
EducationTorontoToronto ranks higher, and has more international students enrolled.
ImmigrationTiedBoth have favorable immigration processes and have a large number of international students.
Cost of LivingVancouverToronto is more expensive than Vancouver.
Job OpportunitiesTiedEmployers are open to hiring students.
Public TransportationVancouverHas an extensive coverage and is more affordable
Accommodations VancouverVancouver has cheaper rentals, especially in the city proper.
DemographicsTorontoToronto is more diverse and is a top destination for immigrants.
SafetyVancouverVancouver is a safer choice, with cases that mostly revolve around petty crimes.
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