A Backpacker’s Guide to Toronto

Personally, coming from the west of the country, I’m prone to taking stabs at Toronto.  The city we call “the Big Smoke” is often seen as big, dirty, and loud by people from outside the region. However, the truth is that the city is the center of entertainment in Canada. The beauty of Toronto is that despite being a massive city with an even larger outlying population, it still doesn’t feel really big. The downtown area is quite easy to walk around, and unlike the streets of cities like New York and Chicago to the south, the sidewalks in Toronto rarely become overly crowded. From a tourism perspective there is a lot to do in Toronto that will guarantee to keep you entertained.

Time Needed: 3-4 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 50-60USD$

Things to do in Toronto

There is plenty to do in Toronto, and the average tourist will be more than happy with the variety of activities available. If you’re planning on doing nearly all the top activities you’ll want to buy a Toronto CityPass which will save you a good bit of money and only cost you $60. The CityPass gives you entry to CN Tower, The Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, Toronto Zoo and The Ontario Science Center.

Beyond the previously mentioned items you might also want to check out:

  • The Hockey Hall of Fame: This is the way a museum should be: interactive.  You can shoot a puck and play games all a midst some of the most famous memorabilia of Canada’s game.
  • Toronto Island Park: Catch the ferry out to Toronto Island Park and enjoy a reprieve from the hectic nature of the city while still having the view of the city right in front of you.
  • Skydome (Rogers Center): You can see if from the top of the CN Tower, but why not check out a baseball or football game if you’re here in the summer?
  • Steam Whistle Brewery: Why not enjoy some beer while taking in some history at the same time?
  • Distillery District: This is hipster central in Toronto.  The artsy side of downtown comes full force in the Distillery district.  On the bright side, you’ll find some great theater and some nice art galleries in this part of town.
  • Niagara Falls:  You don’t need to spend a couple days at Niagara, you can do a day trip.  Moreover, you don’t need to waste your money on tours or rental cars, just catch the greyhound down for the day.

Where to Eat in Toronto on a Budget

Eating in Canada, in general, can be quite expensive.  Actually, I have found that it is actually more expensive to eat out in Canada than in most countries in the world; that is, unless you want to exposure yourself to fast food.  That being said, if you’re willing to dig a bit there are some good places to grab grub.

  • Smoke’s Poutinerie: You can’t visit Canada without trying the unofficial national dish.  Smoke’s poutines are so good you’ll fall off your chair.  Ok, I have to stop writing about poutine, I’m getting hungry.
  • Sushi Delight: In Toronto you’ll find a sushi shop on nearly every corner.  They run from very expensive to fairly affordable.  Sushi Delight wont blow you away with fancy dishes, but they do the traditional ones very well and at a great price.
  • Little India: There is a massive Indian population in Toronto so if you’d anticipate very good Indian food, and you’ll get it.  Little India doesn’t look very appealing from the outside, but the food is great and the price is right.

Where to Stay in Toronto

Admittedly, I have never stayed at a hostel or hotel in Toronto because I have a sister who lives in the city.  What I can tell you is that you’ll want to be in the center of town.  There is HI-Toronto on Church Street which appears to be the best value for your buck.  However, I’ve heard rave reviews about a hostel called Planet Traveler which is on College Street, so that might be worth checking out as well.

Photos of Toronto

Getting out of Town

Toronto is very well connected.  You can get out of town via the plane, train or bus.  If you’re taking the bus into the United States to somewhere like New York City, check out Megabus.com as they have very cheap deals and comfy buses with good wifi and plugins.  If you’re flying, the international airport is Pearson which can be reached by the metro or shuttle service.  The ViaRail leaves from Union Station in downtown Toronto and might be a good option if you’re going somewhere like Montreal or Ottawa.  However, if you are doing a long trip to somewhere like Edmonton or Vancouver, the train is very expensive and will take you a number of days.

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