As the fifth most populous city in North America and as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Toronto is one of the most popular international tourist destinations in the world. Although often overlooked for the nearby American cities of New York, Boston, and Washington D.C., Toronto is a destination in its own right. Toronto also matches other large cities in the high prices of a vacation there. However, there are several ways to have a great time in Toronto without breaking a budget. There is never a dull moment in Toronto, even when vacationing on a budget.
Toronto is home to Canada’s busiest airport, which can sometimes be a boon or a bust to budget travelers. In summer at the peak of the travel season, airfares skyrocket. However, in the spring and winter seasons, airfares are slashed and tourist numbers dwindle. As winters can be notably harsh, the best time for travelers to visit is between September and November, when fall foliage is at its scenic peak. Other options for transportation to Toronto include the Canadian high-speed train, as well as driving access from major freeways that connect Toronto to the northeastern United States. Once in Toronto, a $10 day pass can be purchased for the subways, streetcars, and buses that zigzag across the city. On weekends and holidays a single pass can be used for an entire family.
As far as budget lodging in Toronto goes, there are a large number of hostels concentrated in the downtown area, especially near the major universities. As with any large city, avoid cheap hotels that have bad reviews or are in unsafe neighborhoods. If splurging is an option on any aspect of the trip, always pay a little more for the lodging. This definitely holds true in Toronto, where there are slightly fewer hostels than other cities of comparable size. Of course, in the downtown area there are dozens of mid to high price range hotels. For a particularly fabulous stay in downtown Toronto, splurge on the Fairmont Royal York in the center of downtown.
Toronto also has no shortage of free or cheap activities. Simply strolling around some of Toronto’s diverse neighborhoods is an attraction in its own right. Chinatown stretches from Spadina Avenue to Dundas Street West. In this area there are plenty of Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese restaurants and markets. Toronto includes sizable Little Italy and Little Portugal sections, as well as a considerable concentration of Middle Eastern shops and restaurants. The Saint Lawrence and Kensington Markets provide a glimpse into more traditional Canadian culture. If seeing Toronto’s famous orchestra is on your to-do list, a ticket lottery is held there nightly. Tickets are given away at only $25 a piece as opposed to the normal $100. For the budget traveler, it is best to avoid the very expensive CN Tower area.
There are literally hundreds of other things to do in Toronto that are free or at little cost. For the budget traveler, Toronto is a perfect Canadian destination.