Comparing the two cities: Winnipeg vs Toronto
Toronto is one of the most well-known cities in Canada, so well known that some people even think it’s the capital (that’s Ottawa but good try). For many young Canadians, Toronto is the goal in terms of cities to live in. It’s our largest city, it’s multicultural, and there’s always something to do. That being said, it’s also one of our most expensive cities to live in. In contrast, Winnipeg is a city that more and more people are moving to, mainly because of the price. Let’s take a look at the cost of living in Toronto and Winnipeg, as well as what a fun day out might cost you in each city.
To start I should say that I’ve lived in Winnipeg my whole life, other than a year spent in China. But I do have family and friends in and around Toronto and have been a number of times. It’s also where I would like to eventually end up, mainly for the art and music scenes, as well as better public transport, and much better weather (Winnipeg is one of the coldest cities in the world).
First, let’s compare the general cost of living expenses in Toronto and Winnipeg. And keep in mind this is geared towards people in university or new graduates, we’re not looking at multi-million dollar houses, but smaller (still nice) apartments, and average grocery and restaurant prices, not whatever Drake eats in downtown Toronto.
According to rentboard.ca, a studio apartment in Winnipeg is going to average at about $1,078, with a minimum price of $650, and a max price of $1,650. Compared to Toronto where a studio will cost around $1,663 with a minimum of $1,170, and a maximum of $3,250.
Maybe you want a roommate so you want two bedrooms, which can, of course, save you quite a bit of money. In Winnipeg a two-bedroom apartment is going to be around $1,449, the minimum will be around $775, and the maximum is quite a leap at about $3,800. Let’s compare that to Toronto again. For a two-bedroom in Toronto the price averages at $2,516, has a minimum of $1,492, and a maximum of $5,000. Of course, if you’re splitting that in half in both cities, then it helps but that’s still not cheap!
Public transportation in Winnipeg consists solely of buses. And while the city has tried to make them more efficient over the last ten years or so, it’s still one of the worst public transit systems I’ve ever used, including countries like Thailand and Cambodia. Toronto is a much better city to get around in if you don’t have or don’t want a car, with busses, a subway system, streetcar, and Go-Train that connects the city to nearby suburbs and small towns and cities. As of January 2020, full-price bus fare in Winnipeg will set you back $3 or $2.50 for seniors and youths, and the price doesn’t change whether it’s a short or long bus ride, so that can be good or bad. Getting tickets or using the e-card instead of paying cash will save you a bit though, at $2.65 for both adults and post-secondary students, $1.88 for youths, and $1.33 for seniors.
In Toronto, the prices are a bit higher which is to be expected, but they’re not bad, and transportation is much more efficient. I have yet to see a Winnipeg bus be on time, and I’ve had no problems getting around Toronto. The bus in Toronto costs $3.25 for adults paying cash, and $2.20 for seniors and students (age 13-19). Using their card system saves you a little bit, costing an adult $3.10 and seniors and students $2.15. The streetcar costs the same for adults paying cash, but only $2.00 for seniors and students, and using your tap card costs an adult $2.90, and only $1.95 for seniors and students. The subway costs the same amount as the bus, and it’s much faster, though unfortunately it only covers a small portion of the city.
Food prices in the two cities also differ quite a bit, but of course, it depends on what kind of foods you eat, and how often you eat out vs cook at home. According to numbeo.com, the world’s largest database of user-contributed data about countries and cities, Winnipeg is again cheaper for food than Toronto but not by too much, and though Winnipeg is having more and more restaurants open, offering different options to foodies, Toronto still has a much larger selection. We’ll start our food comparison with everyone’s favourite fast food place, McDonald’s! For a general combo meal at a McDonald’s in Winnipeg, you’ll pay around $10.00, and for the same thing in Toronto, you’ll pay around $11.50. A meal at a mid-range restaurant in Winnipeg might cost about $30.00, and for something similar in Toronto you’ll pay about $40.00.
If you head out to your local bars and get a bottle of beer in Winnipeg you can expect to pay around $6.00 for a domestic beer and around $7.00 for an import, depending on what you’re getting. In Toronto you’ll pay around $8.00 for both domestic or import, again depending on what your drink of choice is. Personally, I drink Guinness when I go out, so in Winnipeg that costs me $8.00 and in Toronto it was closer to $10.00 (though I think I got a proper pint-size in Toronto, but don’t quote me on that). Basic groceries like milk, bread, eggs, cheese, fruits and veggies, and basic chicken and beef aren’t too expensive in either city, but as I’m sure you’ve picked up by now, they are all a bit pricier in Toronto. But of course, buying groceries and cooking your own food anywhere you live makes it cheaper to eat. Be it in Toronto or Winnipeg, the cost of living is impacted by cooking your own food.
When you want to relax and do something like see a movie, full-price tickets in Winnipeg cost $13.00, but on Tuesdays that’s half off. I really only ever see movies on Tuesdays for that reason. In Toronto, it looks like a full-price ticket costs $15.00, but their cheap day actually beats Winnipeg on price, with their AMC theatre offering prices as low as $5.00 for members.
If you’re into history, science, or art, you can also check out museums and art galleries in both cities. Winnipeg has some pretty good ones, with the Museum for Human Rights being our stand-out museum. Toronto being a much bigger city has larger museums and galleries, and more options. A day at Winnipeg’s Museum for Human Rights costs $18 for adults aged 18-64 years old, with discounts for students at $14.00. They also have the first Friday of every month free from 5-9 pm, and every other Friday it’s only $5.00 for the same time.
If art is more your scene, a day at the Winnipeg Art Gallery costs $12.00 for a full-price adult ticket and $10.00 for students. It’s certainly not the biggest art gallery I’ve been to, but they do have new exhibitions coming through, and a nice fixed gallery as well. Winnipeg also hosts North America’s second-largest Fringe Festival every year, which brings over 170 different acts, local, national, and international. Price varies from show to show, everything from free, to donate what you can, to some that cost $25.00 or more. Toronto’s largest museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, is well worth the visit, but it’s not cheap. Full price adult tickets cost $23.00, and a student ticket costs $18.00. They do offer free entry on the third Tuesday of every month from 5:30-8:30 pm. The good news is if you want to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, it’ll be free for most university students and recent graduates, as anyone 25 and under gets in for free! This is also in my top three art galleries I’ve ever been to, up there with The National Gallery in London, England, and the China Art Museum in Shanghai. Both Toronto and Winnipeg have thriving underground art scenes, everything from small theatre companies to local bands playing a hole in the wall venues, to drag shows. With a lot of this being a draw for younger people still in school, or recent graduates. Meaning that all of these things are going to be pretty reasonable for the price.
The numbers don’t lie, Toronto is a more expensive place to live than Winnipeg, particularly if you don’t have a lot of income coming in every month as a student or recent graduate. However, Winnipeg’s job market is horrible, while on the contrary Toronto’s is still thriving from what I can see. So you may have a better chance of getting a better, high paying job in Toronto over Winnipeg. But as it seems, the cost of living in Toronto is higher than that of Winnipeg.
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