Our trip to Montreal taught us a lot about this multicultural and festive city (see blog posts in July 2013 for specifics).
Based on our experience, we have 6 tips to help you plan your trip.
These tips will help you choose when and where to stay in Montreal, while getting the most for your dollar!
Tip #1: Consider the season (and your festival preference!) when planning your visit.
- No matter the season, consider planning your visit around your favorite of the 100+ festivals Montreal holds each year.
- If you love summer, consider joining Montreal’s festive atmosphere by participating in Festimania, which includes a scavenger hunt around the city as well as discounts and other perks for 12 of the most popular summer festivals.
- An annual Festimania pass can be purchased for $5 or is free if you’ve bought a ticket to a qualifying show.
- If you love winter, the Underground City may hold appeal. Or, according to the proud locals, Old Montreal is gorgeous in the winter. Given our preference for warm climates, we’ll have to take their word for it!
Tip #2: Select which area of the city you want to stay in – Old Montreal or elsewhere.
- If you want to visit Old Montreal, we highly recommend staying there, so that you can enjoy it at its best (by night) without having to take a cab or the metro. During our stay, we walked Old Montreal every evening and never once felt unsafe.
- There are many hotels and vacation rentals available in Old Montreal:
- We can personally recommend the locations of the Westin, Embassy Suites, Place d’Armes, and Hotel le St James (all near our VRBO location), as safe and within a 5-10 minute walk of the metro, though I imagine most of Old Montreal fits this description.
- For the most authentic accommodation, the Pierre du Calvet house is the oldest house (circa 1725) that provides public accommodation.
Tip #3: Be aware of the hidden costs for restaurants and accommodation in Montreal.
Consider the following hidden costs when choosing where to stay and how to eat:
- Taxes + fees on hotel accommodation (~20% on total bill) = 5% GST (goods and services tax) + ~10% PST (provincial service tax for Quebec) + Destination Marketing Fee (for Montreal: $2/day + 3.5%)
- Taxes + tip on food in restaurants (~30%+ on total bill) = 5% GST + 7.5% PST + at least 15% tip (more for good service)
- Groceries are not subject to these taxes, since they are considered a need, but snacks are subject to GST.
- For us, we found that splurging on a luxurious penthouse suite through vacation rental by owner (VRBO.com) cost us less than a hotel stay (with eating out at all meals), since taxes and fees were already included in VRBO costs, we could cook our own meals, and a discount was available for longer stays.
Tip #4: Decide how you want to get around.
- Downtown Montreal and Old Montreal can easily be visited by foot. Areas farther afield are best visited by metro or bus.
- The metro is easy to use and passes can be bought in unlimited 1-day, 3-day, or weekly passes, as well as other denominations. Passes can be used for the metro and bus.
- Official information on the metro is available through STM (Société de Transport de Montréal). Additional helpful information can be found here.
- Hidden cost: You pay $6 for the card itself + the cost of the fare. The card is good for 4 years. Reduced fares are available for children and seniors.
In addition to these tips for planning your trip to Montreal, we have 2 additional tips on how to make the most of your time in Montreal…
Tip #5: Carry a French phrasebook with you.
- While this certainly isn’t required since most people are bilingual, the playful spirit of Montrealers made me want to try out my French. As you’d expect, we butchered it (a bit) but it was fun to try. We encourage you to jump in and do the same!
Tip #6: If you are unsure, ask. Everyone is helpful.
- Montrealers are so friendly that we recommend you strike up conversations with locals whenever you get the chance. We made new friends during our short time in this beautiful city. Hi Adriana!
In addition to our above tips, we suggest you check TripAdvisor for comprehensive information on accommodation and things to do. Another good resource is a fellow travel blogger, A Montrealer Abroad. She offers many excellent insider tips. You can also read The Curious Travelers reviews on both TripAdvisor and VRBO.
We hope these tips help you plan (and execute) your ideal trip to Montreal. There is something for everyone, so we have no doubt you’ll find something you’re interested in!