It is no secret that I have fallen in love with Québec City. The oldest fortified city in North America, Québec City is oozing with history (and salacious tales), character, and culture. The highlight of Québec is Vieux Québec, more commonly know as the old city.
With its stone walkways and cobbled roads, winding roads, steep hills, and houses dating back to the late 17th century, it is easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re in a European country, and not in Canada. It’s one of the reason why I chose to move to the city for a time. Can you think of a better way to beat the winter blues? Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t have cancelled that flight to Thailand, but I did it thinking I would challenge myself. I would live in Québec City for winter and embrace it as much as possible.
I’ve received messages from a couple of my readers asking about the cost of living in Québec, the language barrier, and working in the city. While I am not an expert in all of these areas, I can provide some (hopefully helpful) information, especially in terms of the cost of living.
While there is a hostel located in the old city, I decided to sublet a furnished apartment instead. This to me felt more homey and at the time that is exactly what I was looking for. I’m working on a rather large project here in Québec, so I need a space where I can work, relax, cook for myself, etc.
I found my apartment on Kijiji with the help of a friend here in Québec City. I found the ads confusing as Québec uses a weird (to me) number system when describing apartments. For instance 1 1/2 means a studio apartment with a bathroom (1/2 = bathroom), 2 1/1 means a one bedroom apartment with a bathroom, and so on. The apartment I’ve rented (technically I am subletting) is suppose to be a 1 1/2, but the guy who leases the apartment has built an illegal second floor (which I call the treehouse).
I decided to rent the sublet based on location; my apartment is right in the heart of Old Québec and only cost me $630. In Québec rent prices usually include heat and hot water which is invaluable in winter!
Some of the bed & breakfast places in the city will rent rooms for a decent price in winter, and there are a few apartment available if you’re cool with buying furniture. Rent starts around $600 and goes up, which is amazing compared to other cities in Canada. Searching Kijiji is a great way to start if you’re planning ahead. If you’re already in Québec City, try walking down the small streets and look for signs on doors and windows. They do exist!
Sigh. Food is always my downfall. I love food, and if I had a bank account with an endless amount of money in it I would eat like a queen every single day. Alas, I am a freelance writer, which means that some months are scary in terms of cash flow. This is another reason why I rented a place with a kitchen. I wanted to save money by cooking for myself.
That being said I do enjoy the occasional croissant and chocolat chaud from Paillard ($5.85 for a croissant and large chocolat chaud).
For me, surviving in Québec City needed to have a mixture of home-cooked meals and nights out. I wanted (and in a way needed) to explore some of the local cuisine, but I also want to keep my expenses as low as possible so that I can save money for the next stage of my 2014 travels. A tricky thing to do.
In the old city most people shop at the épicerie for quick things like basic vegetables, fruit, beer and wine. An épicerie is in essence a small grocery store. The épicerie is usually very easy to get to and can make quick shopping more enjoyable. That being said you’ll pay $1.99 for a 1/2 bag of spinach leaves, which is kind of ridiculous.
In Saint-Jean-Baptiste on rue Saint-Jean there is an épicerie, La Marché, which is where I shop when I don’t feel like walking down the huge hill to Metro. The prices are fairly decent. I pay about $2.50 for two chicken breasts, which is already way better than Ontario prices for chicken.
To get the best prices, you need to walk to them, like the small grocery store in Saint-Jean-Baptiste (only a 10-15 min walk from the old city, depending on where you are), or down the hill to the Metro in St. Roch.
$131.25 on groceries
$17 on laundry ($5 for a bag of laundry soap pods, and $3 per load)
$21 on toiletries like shampoo, toilet paper, girly products
The trick to eating cheap is to actually plan out your meals. Shopping for groceries and cooking at home can be just as expensive as eating out, if you’re not careful. In order to keep my food costs down (and allow myself to eat out from time to time) I planned meals where there would be leftovers that I would actually eat. For instance I made a Red Thai Chicken Curry (which is a favourite dish of mine) this month and had it two days in a row. Curry is one of those dishes that always tastes better the second day. It might cost me around $12 to buy the ingredients for lasagna, but I can get six meals out of that one dish, which means I was spending $2 a meal. It’s like I’m eating street food in Thailand; except I’m not, I’m eating lasagna in an apartment in Québec. Sigh.
I live in Québec City where there are things like flaky, buttery croissants and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) made with real chocolate. I cannot ignore those things! Also, I need ‘test’ some restaurants as part of a big project I’m working on, which means I am eating out a little more than I normally would.
I spent $177.50 on eating out. I ate out a lot as I’m currently doing research for a book and looking for various restaurants to feature.
You can find cheap eats in Québec. Ashton is a great place for cheap and yummy poutine, especially in winter as the price drops with the temperature. Like if it is -30C, then the price of poutine is 30% lower. Cool, right! Snack Bar is a another good option for cheap eats. There are also some pizza places, and a shawarma place (yes!). For more info read this post on Cheap Eats in Québec City.
Note: I don’t have wi-fi at the apartment, so there are times when I need to go to a café to work (usually when the library is closed). I’ll buy a croissant and chocolat chaud for $5.83 and then spend 3-5 hrs working.
I almost never take transportation in Québec as the city is very walkable. The only time I take the bus is when I need to go to Montcalm, Sillery, and Ste. Foy as they are a little far to walk to – unless it is a gorgeous sunny day outside. Bus fare for adults per ride is $3.00. If you are planning to take the bus a lot, then a pass is best. 1 day is $7.25, 2 days is $13, and a 7 day pass is $27.50.
A lot of places in Québec City are free to visit, like historic churches, Plains of Abraham, historical neighbourhoods (Place Royale, Petit-Champlain, Vieux Québec). Museums do charge a free, but it is usually from $5 to $20 depending on the museum.
Day tours around the city start around $22 and go up depending on what the tour entails.
An Affordable Canadian City
In comparison to many capital cities in Canada, the cost of living in Québec City is quite affordable. It is very easy to live in the old city for $1,100/mth (rent, food, transportation). The trick is to limit yourself to only a few croissants. Those things are devilishly delicious!
I have fallen for Québec City. In fact I was recently asked if I would live in Toronto and I said no, I would rather live in Québec City and take the train into Toronto for a few days every month for meetings. Now THAT is love!
Are you planning a long term stay or move to Québec City?!