Toronto

For other places with the same name, see Toronto (disambiguation).

Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. It is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. Toronto, with a population of 2.6 million, is at the heart of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) which contains 6.2 million people. The city is the anchor of the Golden Horseshoe region, which wraps around Lake Ontario from Toronto to Niagara Falls and totals over 8.5 million residents, approximately a quarter of Canada's entire population. Toronto is the fourth largest city and fifth largest urban agglomeration in North America.

Spawned out of post-glacial alluvial deposits and bluffs, the area was populated at different times by Iroquois and later Wyandot (Huron) peoples. The settlement by Europeans started with the French building a seldom occupied fort near today's Exhibition grounds in the mid-1700s, then grew out of a backwoods English trading post established as York in 1793 (reverting to the current name Toronto in 1834). Later in the 19th century, it grew to become the cultural and economic focus of Canada. Owing largely to the country's liberal immigration policies starting in the 1960s, and the region's strong economy, Toronto has, in recent decades, been transformed into one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the world. More than 80 ethnic communities are represented, and over half of the city's residents were born outside Canada.

Districts

When Metropolitan Toronto was amalgamated in 1998, its six former municipalities became one new "mega-city". Toronto is made up of varied and unique neighbourhoods. Covering more than 600 square kilometres, Toronto stretches some 32 kilometres along the shores of Lake Ontario. The city is laid out on a very straightforward grid pattern and streets rarely deviate from the grid, except in cases where topography interferes such as the indented, curved Don River Valley and to a lesser degree the Humber and Rouge valleys at opposite ends of the city. Some main thoroughfares do intersect the grid at angles. For travel purposes, we have divided Toronto into twelve districts:

Central Toronto

The dense urban core of Toronto. It includes many of the city's attractions and hotels.

Districts of downtown Toronto
Yonge-Dundas
The heart of downtown Toronto with Yonge St, the Eaton Centre, theatres and City Hall.
Entertainment and Financial Districts
The entertainment and financial heart of the city, including some the city's most prominent tourist attractions: the CN Tower, Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome), Union Station and the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Kensington-Chinatown
Diverse neighbourhoods with lots of little shops, markets and restaurants, and some of the city's best known bars for live music. Includes Queen West and the Fashion District to the south.
Yorkville and the Annex
The boutiques of Yorkville and the museums and student energy of the Annex and University neighbourhoods.
Harbourfront
The Harbourfront area south of Downtown is popular for its parks and recreational activities. Walk along the water's edge, take a harbour tour by boat, have some family fun at various events at Exhibition Place ("the Ex"; including the Canadian National Exhibition ("the CNE") in August) or take in a Major League Soccer game at BMO Field.
Toronto Islands
Take the ferry to the Toronto Islands. Stroll through the parkland, enjoy the beaches, see the petting zoo, have fun in the amusement park, see the quaint cottages and front-yard gardens of the permanent island community.
Downtown East
Older neighbourhoods between Church St and the Don Valley. Includes Church & Wellesley (Toronto's gay village), Cabbagetown, the St Lawrence Market, Old Town Toronto, and the Distillery District.

Outside Central Toronto

These are the older suburbs that ring the downtown followed by an outer ring of post-war suburbs. There are fewer attractions here, but if you have the time, some of the neighbourhoods are well worth visiting.

Outer districts of Toronto
Midtown (Yonge & Eglinton, Davisville Village, Forest Hill)
Upscale neighbourhoods with grand old mansions housing the city's moneyed and elite, beautiful parks and ravines that extend for kilometres. The area around Yonge & Eglinton is in the midst of a rapid transformation into an urban core of its own.
West End (Little Italy, West Queen West, Parkdale, Roncesvalles, High Park)
Ethnic enclaves, dive bars, and hipsters abound in this rapidly gentrifying part of town. High Park preserves a slice of green space from Humber Bay all the way north to Bloor Street, providing an escape from noisy city life.
East End (Greektown, Leslieville and The Beaches)
The West End's quainter, quieter alternative, with low-key neighbourhoods and nice beaches. This area hosts multiple ethnic and cultural festivals throughout the summer months. The Beach, centred along Queen Street east of Kingston Road, is alive with weekend foot traffic year-round, out to take in the refreshingly small, local businesses, and the lake breezes in the summer.
Etobicoke
An economically diverse suburb with some undiscovered gems along Bloor Street and near the lake in Mimico, New Toronto and Long Branch.
North York
This district is largely suburban but has something to offer the casual tourist. The centre of this district is more densely urban in makeup as it was designed to serve as the downtown of the former City of North York.
Scarborough
The eastern suburb of the city has lots to offer, including the Scarborough Bluffs, Rouge National Urban Park, authentic (and affordable) ethnic cuisine and the Toronto Zoo.

Yonge Street

Begun in 1794, Yonge Street is one of the oldest streets in Toronto, but few of its current buildings date back to much before 1900. It divides the city into east and west resulting in street numbering for east-west streets to be reckoned from one both east and west of Yonge Street. Within the City of Toronto, Yonge Street is roughly 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) long.

Under Yonge Street runs the eastern branch of Line 1 Yonge–University serving nearly the entire length of the street in Toronto. You can drive along this street if you want (give up trying to find parking), but the smart way to explore Yonge is on foot, with a subway day pass to whisk you between the spots you want to see.

Until 1999, the Guinness Book of World Records repeated what became an urban myth that Yonge Street was the longest main street in the world, running from Toronto's harbour to Lake Superior, a distance of 1,896 kilometres (1,178 mi). It was erroneously assumed that Yonge Street ran the full length of provincial highway 11 when in actual fact it runs only only a distance of 88 kilometres (55 mi) to Barrie, Ontario on Lake Simcoe. Nonetheless, the myth is enshrined by a bronze map set into the sidewalk at the southwest corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets.

Here is a brief description of Yonge Street as it passes each district from south to north:

Understand

In 1998, the cities of Toronto, Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke, and York and the Borough of East York amalgamated to form the current City of Toronto. This is also known as Metropolitan Toronto or "the 416" after its area code (although now there are some new area codes, the overwhelming number of landline phone numbers in the Toronto area are still "416") and has a population of over 2.6 million people. More than half of these were born in some country other than Canada: a fact obvious to any visitor immediately, as the city has many vibrant bustling neighbourhoods with street signs in several languages.

Toronto and its surrounding suburbs are collectively known as the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Outlying suburbs are also known as "the 905" after their area code, although technically this code is also used in the Hamilton and the Niagara Region, stretching from Cobourg and Colborne in the east to the border in Niagara Falls to the southwest. The entire area including Toronto is known as the "Golden Horseshoe" and has a population of over 8 million people. Distances between cities in the area can be great as it sprawls along, outward and even wraps around the western end of Lake Ontario; public transit is not always effective enough to make it a quick or seamless trip. Many suburban residents rely on motor vehicles to get around.

A popular urban myth has it that the United Nations rated Toronto as "the most multicultural city in the world". While the UN and its agencies are not in the habit of rating cities, it remains a fact that Canada is a nation of immigrants, and Toronto demonstrates this abundantly. A UN agency lists Toronto as second only to Miami as the city with the most foreign-born residents, but Toronto's residents represent far more cultural and language groups, which is arguably a better measure of multi-culturalism. Most immigrants either pass through Toronto on their way to other parts of the country or stay in Toronto permanently. Many people born abroad consider themselves Canadian as much as born Canadians and will be offended if treated otherwise. This contributes to the overall cultural mosaic that is Toronto today. Within Toronto, most ethnic groups will work their way into the fabric of Canadian society but some still retain their distinct ways such as language, dress (if only for special occasions), customs, and food.

As a result of this cultural mosaic, Toronto is home to many ethnic festivals throughout the year. Toronto also has several radio stations that broadcast in various languages, and two multilingual television channels. The City of Toronto officially deals in 16 different languages while the Toronto Transit Commission (public transit) has a helpline that deals in 70 languages. Even large department stores such as The Bay in downtown Toronto proudly advertise service in 9 languages. The lingua franca of Toronto, however, remains English.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) -1 0 5 12 18 24 27 26 21 14 8 2
Nightly lows (°C) -7 -6 -2 4 10 15 18 18 14 7 2 -3
Precipitation (mm) 61 51 66 70 73 72 68 80 83 65 76 71

See the Toronto 7 day forecast at Environment Canada

Toronto's climate is on the whole on the cool side and variable conditions can be expected. Temperatures average -3.8°C (25°F) in January downtown, however the type of extreme cold experienced in parts of Canada further north do not hold a tight grip for usually more than a couple of days at a time. Despite this come prepared: winters are still cold, mostly cloudy, at times snowy and uncomfortably windy. The city experiences warm and humid summers with an average high of 27°C (80°F) and a low of 18°C (65°F) in July/August with many muggy evenings but rarely extreme heat, with an average of only 12 days where the temperature exceeds 30°C (86°F) but hotter airmasses often arrive with moderately high humidity levels. Late spring/early summer and early fall are generally considered to be the best times to visit for weather and less crowds, mid-summer is the peak tourist season, but visitors will find that Toronto's vibrancy extends through the winter with outdoor skating rinks and bundled up clubgoers, etc. Toronto's public buildings are nearly all air-conditioned and fully heated.

Sometimes during the winter, severe storms can slow down transportation and activities in the city for a day or two. In the summer, thunderstorms occur from time to time, most lasting less than an hour.

Visitor information

Sports teams & arenas

Toronto has several major league sports teams:

The Air Canada Centre, 40 Bay St. Sometimes referred to as "The Hangar".

The Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way. Most often referred to by its original "SkyDome" name.

The Maple Leaf Gardens, 60 Carlton Street. Historic arena in Toronto, on the northwest corner of Carlton Street and Church Street in Toronto's Garden District; now converted into a Loblaws supermarket and an athletic centre for Ryerson University, the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens.

Get in

By plane

Pearson International sees the most traffic and connections of all airports in Canada

Toronto Pearson

Terminal 1 features some interesting modern art

Toronto Pearson International Airport (IATA: YYZ) in Mississauga is about 30-50 minutes by car from downtown Toronto (depending on traffic) and is serviced by most major international carriers. There are two terminals: Terminal 1 hosts all Air Canada flights and a few other international (mostly Star Alliance) carriers while Terminal 3 hosts all other airlines. When travelling from Toronto International (and other major Canadian airports) to the United States, travellers will go through United States immigration and customs pre-clearance in Toronto, and should leave some extra time to account for this. The airport has free WiFi internet access.

Look for bus 192 (the Airport Rocket) to get from the airport to the nearest subway station
You can land pretty much right in downtown Toronto if you choose to fly to Billy Bishop airport

Billy Bishop Airport

Porter Airlines offers a network of connections across eastern Canada and northeastern US from their base at Billy Bishop Airport

Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport, (IATA: YTZ), (commonly known as "The Island Airport" by locals), handles short-haul flights only. Its main tenant is Porter Airlines, a short-haul carrier that operates turboprop planes to many cities in eastern Canada (Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and St. John's) and parts of the United States (Boston, Chicago, New York/Newark and Myrtle Beach). Air Canada provides service to Montreal. Porter is aggressively fighting for market share and you can take advantage of it by getting really low fares (often lower than Westjet - if booked 2 weeks or more in advance) combined with complimentary drinks and a waiting lounge with amenities.

One of the main benefits of flying into Billy Bishop is its proximity to the downtown core. Upon landing, you can be downtown within ten minutes. A tunnel under the channel takes you to the city. A free ferry service also makes the short crossing: it is just 121 metres, the world's shortest regularly-scheduled ferry route. It operates between TCCA and the mainland every 15 minutes: see full schedule. Once on the mainland, a free shuttle bus connects the terminal with the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, across the street from Union Station.

TTC streetcars are available a short walk north from the mainland ferry terminal. Route 511 Bathurst provides service north along Bathurst, to Bathurst subway station. Route 509 Harbourfront travels east along the waterfront (Queens Quay) to Union Station. Both routes end a short distance to the west at Exhibition Place. However, the most convenient connection to TTC subway and GO Transit services are via the free shuttle to Union Station.

Hamilton Airport

Hamilton International Airport, (IATA: YHM), , located about 80 km from downtown Toronto and Niagara Falls, is served by WestJet and CanJet. This airport is served by the Hamilton Street Railway from the Hamilton GO Station (36 Hunter Street East) where you can catch a GO commuter bus to Union Station in downtown Toronto ($9.50 one-way). Buses run every 30 minutes. A taxi from downtown Hamilton to the airport is about $25.

For frugal travellers coming from the United States, Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, (IATA: BUF), , is another option. Flights to Buffalo tend to be significantly cheaper than to Pearson. Megabus, has varying prices and requires early booking. They run from the Buffalo Airport to Toronto. The trip takes 3 hours, including the border crossing. Rental cars are available at the airport if you prefer to do the drive yourself. Buffalo Airport Limo offers a flat rate of $175 to downtown Toronto from BUF.

By bus

Intercity bus

The main bus terminal in Toronto, the Toronto Coach Terminal (also known as Bay Street Terminal or the Metro Toronto Coach Terminal), is used for intercity coach travel and is served by Greyhound, Coach Canada, New York Trailways, and Ontario Northland.

The bus terminal's main entrance is on Bay Street immediately north of Dundas and the terminal's departures building takes up the northern half of the block bounded by Bay Street, Dundas Street, Edward Street, and Elizabeth Street; the arrivals building is located immediately across Elizabeth Street from the departures building. The departures building is connected by the underground PATH walkway system to Dundas subway station on the Yonge line via the Atrium on Bay shopping centre. The terminal is also several blocks east of St Patrick subway station on the University-Spadina line. Unlike Union Station, the bus terminal has lockers in which people may store luggage. The cost is $5 for 24 hours and you must get a token from one of the token machines located next to the lockers. The lockers are located in the hallway connecting the departures building with the arrivals building. Storing items in lockers overnight is not advisable as break-ins are common at night. Certain items too large to fit in a locker may be stored in the information booth at an extra cost.

The bus terminal in Toronto is very poorly designed, forcing passengers to queue in a space that is little more than a shed with walls on two sides, as a result passengers queueing are forced to inhale the diesel exhaust fumes from the coaches as well as endure the cold winters and hot summers. In addition, there are often queues so long for the commuter coaches that they block other coaches from reaching their platforms. Platforms are also poorly marked, and it is not difficult to queue up for the wrong bus. Do not hesitate to ask anyone for help. Most people in the terminal have plenty of experience with it and understand how difficult it is to navigate. Arrive at the terminal at least 30 minutes before your coach is scheduled to depart. You can avoid the hassle of having to purchase tickets at the terminal; it is generally faster to buy tickets online if possible. If you must purchase tickets at the terminal, be wary of peak travel periods, as the line can take up to 20 minutes. But be aware that Greyhound tickets purchased at the terminal can be used at any time (although they may have blackout periods) while tickets purchased online force you to reserve on a certain bus.

Coach Canada buses to Montreal and Greyhound buses to Peterborough and Ottawa also stop at the Scarborough Centre bus station to the east of central Toronto, this station lies on the Scarborough RT mass transit line. Greyhound buses to Kitchener, Guelph, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and New York City and Coach Canada buses to Buffalo and New York also stop near Union Station, either in front of the York Street entrance to the Royal York Hotel or on University Avenue north of Wellington Street.

Two new, heavily-discounted services between Toronto and New York City operate from the sidewalk in front of the Royal York Hotel, across the street from Union Station. Both advertise electrical connections at each seat, wi-fi, movies, and more legroom than traditional buses. If purchased far enough in advance, tickets can be found for $1 although in reality, most seats range from $15 to $50.

Commuter bus

GO Transit runs the commuter transit network in the Greater Toronto Area. Its bus services are designed to supplement their commuter trains, most of which run only during rush hour. When the trains are not running, GO runs buses on the same route. Most GO buses run to the Union Station Bus Terminal, adjacent to Union Railway Station. GO Transit also operates services to bus stations at several subway stations, including: Yorkdale Mall, Finch, York Mills and Scarborough Centre.

By train

All scheduled passenger trains in Toronto run in and out of Union Station, which is located at 65 Front Street, between Bay and York Streets. Opened in 1927, Toronto's Union Station is generally considered to be one of the grandest, most impressive train stations in North America; with an enormous great hall, the ceiling rising to a height equivalent to seven stories. Despite this impressive hall, most of the activity in the station takes place in the underground concourses which link the commuter rail platforms with the subway station. The great hall is still used for purchasing intercity rail tickets with a row of ticket booths and several ticket machines. The train station is served by a subway station with the same name, accessible from the GO concourse. The main intercity concourse is accessed from the great hall, but all commuter rail platforms are accessed from the underground GO Transit concourse, as is the Union Station Bus Terminal across the street. The GO Transit concourse is accessed by taking any one of the three large staircases in the great hall or directly from the subway.

Most intercity rail travel in Canada is provided by Via Rail. Union Station is one of Via Rail's main hubs and connects several of their lines. Railway lines operated by Via Rail out of Union Station include:

Travel times by intercity rail:

Montreal 4hrs 37min
Ottawa 3hrs 57min
Winnipeg 34hrs
Saskatoon 46hrs
Edmonton 56hrs
Vancouver 83hrs

By car

Major highways leading into Toronto are the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), the 404, the 401, the 400, and the 427. Toronto is in the enviable position of being the largest city in Canada, so it's relatively easy to find a sign pointing you in the right direction. Traffic on incoming highways can be extremely heavy. In the downtown core there are many turn restrictions, particularly from main thoroughfares to other main thoroughfares (e.g., Yonge to Dundas Streets).

The main streets in Toronto are laid out in a grid pattern that makes it one of the easiest cities to get around in by car. Getting from point to point anywhere in the city can be achieved with only a few turns. Parking in the downtown core can be expensive and hard to find, but is plentiful and inexpensive or free throughout the rest of the city.

Transit bylaws

Toronto follows some bylaws related to the transit system that often confuse or surprise visiting drivers:

  • If a streetcar in front of you and travelling in your direction has its doors open, by law you may not pass the open doors, because of the risk to passengers exiting and boarding. Often (especially during rush hour when large crowds are to be expected), passengers will step out into the road before the streetcar has come to a complete stop, in anticipation of the doors opening. In this situation, it is customary to stop, as crowds of passengers can overwhelm the road within seconds, and some can be quite brazen about stepping off the curb. If a streetcar pulls alongside your vehicle while you are stopped, and opens its doors, you must remain stationary until the doors have closed. Cyclists on the road frequently disregard the stopping rule, as they generally can fit around the crowd, but it is best practice to stop, out of consideration for passengers.
  • However, if a traffic island (it'll look like a raised median with a transit shelter on top) separates the streetcar from your lane, you may pass with caution. Beware of jaywalkers who do not wait until the light has changed to cross the lane.
  • When in mixed traffic, streetcar tracks are located in the centre lane of the road. Streetcars perform right turns from this lane; other vehicles are generally not permitted to do so (except oversized trucks), and it is important to give clearance so that turns can be made, whether travelling in the same direction as the streetcar or facing an oncoming one. These turns are marked by dotted white lines following the contour of the curve, indicating how far out a streetcar will swing.

Additionally, drivers are advised that Torontonians generally take their obligation to give a wide berth to emergency vehicles quite seriously: if you hear sirens or see lights, pull over to the side of the road safely but quickly.

As Toronto is the largest city in Canada, major highways run through the city, and it is quite easy to find a sign showing that you are in the right direction. However, traffic on the highways can be remarkably heavy, and in the downtown core, parking places are often quite expensive and hard to find. On the other hand, the main streets in Toronto have a grid pattern that makes driving quite easy.

Also, given the extent of the city, several areas are not enough served by the public transit system. In the Greater Toronto Area, almost everybody uses a car. This is why the highways suffer from traffic jams every day, almost all day, and it gets worse during rush hours: even the 401, with 9 lanes in each direction, is slow at those hours.

By ferry

The trip to the Toronto Islands from the downtown core (Bay St and Queen's Quay) is a pleasant 15 minute ferry ride, with frequent summer service and the best views of the Toronto skyline.

There are also guided sailing vessels that take tours of the inner/outer harbour and circumvent Toronto Island.

Get around

Toronto is huge, and most roads run for very long distances. Streetcar rail, subway rail, and intercity rail services are clean and efficient, and it's entirely possible to get around Toronto without a car, especially downtown. You may find it quicker and easier to drive, but be aware that the highways regularly backup during rush hour (7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM). Toronto has plentiful parking garages downtown, but they are very expensive.

Many in Toronto travel by bicycle (especially in the warmer months) and this mode is very convenient for getting around the downtown district. Visitors should be aware that not all motorists will consistently give way to cyclists and that not all cyclists are fully compliant with the rules of the road; caution is recommended for all who wish to share the road.

Transit

A streetcar during a rainy day downtown.

Toronto Transit Commission Toronto has a very large transit system, the third most heavily used in North America (after New York City and Mexico City). It consists of buses, streetcars, subway lines, and the quasi-subway Scarborough Rapid Transit line. The number for automated information are: +1 416-393-4636 (INFO), +1-866-642-9882. Operators are available 8AM-6PM daily except for holidays.

The subway is the fastest means to move across the city with train frequencies varying from 2 to 5 minutes. Each subway station has a booth at the primary station entrance where riders can buy tokens, tickets and passes. Most subway stations have platforms within the station area to provide a simple and convenient connection to adjacent bus and streetcar routes. Most streetcar lines serve the south, central part of the city. Some streetcar lines and one bus route (Downsview Station to York University) have dedicated lanes to avoid getting caught in Toronto's notorious rush-hour traffic, a problem that particularly affects long bus and streetcar routes in mixed traffic.

Fares

Cash fare is $3.25 (discounted to $2.90 for tokens/Presto). When using the subway, all manned booths sell tokens and there may be vending machines at unmanned entrances. Be aware that some token vending machines are out of service, but do not have signs on them to indicate that, otherwise making it safer to use manned ticket booths whenever possible.

Presto is a smartcard for public transit in Ontario, but it has not been fully implemented on the TTC as of December 2015. The TTC website has a list of locations where the card can be used. Only streetcars and less than half of the subway stations support Presto. (However, the TTC intends to support Presto at all subway stations and on all surface vehicles by the end of 2016.) Presto cannot be used to pay a fare on TTC buses. Unless you are also using the Union Pearson Express and/or other Ontario transit agencies, Presto is probably more trouble than it is worth, as the card costs $6 and is non-refundable. Be careful not to load too much money onto the card, as it can be a hassle to get a refund.

Seniors, 65 years of age or over, are eligible for the senior fare of $2.00 cash per trip or 5 tickets for $9.75. Youthful looking seniors may be required to show a driver's licence, an Ontario Photo Card or a passport to serve as proof of age.

Children 12 years of age and under ride free of charge; however, be prepared to show proof-of-age for children who are tall for their age. Teenagers between 13 and 15 years old do not need identification to travel using student fares which are 5 tickets for $9.75. For proof of age, teenagers between 16 and 19 years old require a high school photo ID or government issued photo ID (e.g., driver's licence, Ontario Photo Card, passport) to use student fares. This requirement may be impractical for some visitors who must then pay the adult fare.

A day pass is available for $12.00. This pass allows unlimited travel on all TTC services within the City of Toronto, except for Downtown Express buses. For one person, it allows unlimited one-day travel on any day of the week, from the mid-morning (9:30AM) until 5:30AM the next morning. On Saturdays, Sundays, statutory holidays and the holiday period roughly from the Saturday before Christmas to the Sunday after New Year's Day, up to 6 people (maximum 2 adults over 19) can travel with one TTC Day Pass, from the start of daytime service until 5:30AM the next morning. The day pass does not have to be purchased on the day of use.

An adult weekly pass costs $42.25 a week. It allows unlimited travel from 5:30AM Monday morning, to 5:30AM the following Monday. The weekly pass is transferable, meaning it can be used by more than one person but only one person may be travelling under that pass at any given time.

An adult monthly pass, termed the Metropass, costs $141.50 per month. This pass is also transferable, under the same rules as the weekly pass.

Tickets, tokens and passes are available at subway stations, variety stores and news stands throughout the city. Most businesses that sell passes and tokens have a TTC logo sticker on their front door.

Subway station collector booths will accept debit and credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, or American Express) for purchases of $10.00 or more in fares.

Important tip: If you are paying your fare by cash, ticket, token or Presto, then as soon as you pay your fare, obtain a transfer as a receipt for proof of payment (POP). The rules for describing when or when not a transfer is required can be involved and are to change in the future especially on streetcar routes. If you have a pass, you never require a transfer as your pass is your proof of payment. See the section on Transfers and Proof of Payment for more details.

Transfers and Proof of Payment

This section applies only to those riders who pay the fare by cash, token, senior/student ticket or Presto card. These riders should always obtain a transfer as proof of payment (POP) immediately after paying the fare. (Presto cards cannot be used as proof of payment in many situations.)

Transfers are never required for daily/weekly/monthly pass holders as the pass itself is the proof of payment. Thus, this section does not pertain to pass holders.

Transfers have two purposes:

For a bus or older streetcar: Pay fare at front door and ask driver for a transfer.
For a new streetcar: Use a payment machine to pay fare and issue transfer.

Transfers are free, but should be obtained at the first vehicle or station you enter on your journey. If you start your journey at a subway station, look for a red machine just beyond the ticket booth with a digital time clock on its face. Press the gold button and collect your transfer. If your journey starts on a bus or on an older streetcar (top photo), pay your fare at the front door and ask for a transfer by simply saying "Transfer, please". (If you are paying by Presto on a streetcar, swipe your card at the front door and ask for a transfer.) If your journey starts on a new streetcar (bottom photo), you must use a payment machine to process your fare. If you pay by cash (coins only) or token, the machine will give you a transfer to be used as proof of payment (POP). If you pay by senior/student ticket, use the TTC Ticket Validator to time stamp the ticket converting that ticket into a transfer. If you pay by Presto, swipe your card by the second or third streetcar door, and then swipe it a second time at the payment machine to get a transfer for proof of payment. Payment machines are available on board new streetcars and on the platform at most stops along the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina streetcar routes. The platform machines allow you to pay your fare by cash, token or senior/student ticket (but not by Presto) before boarding a streetcar.

The TTC has prepared a video describing payment, transfers and proof of payment on all forms of TTC vehicles.

Unlike other transit systems, a transfer is valid for one trip rather than a specific duration of time (i.e., you cannot use a transfer obtained going on a northbound bus to go on a bus of the same route southbound). If you board the wrong bus in error, be sure to ask the driver for a "wrong way transfer", specifically punched to permit an immediate U-turn without incurring a second fare.

The transfer is not valid for stop-overs, round trips or circular trips. Walking away from a transfer point instead of waiting for a bus or streetcar will invalidate your transfer from further use as your stroll will be considered to be a stop-over.

Subway & LRT

The Toronto Rapid Transit Map.

There are three subway lines and one "RT" line:

The subway system operates approximately from 6:00 am to 1:30 am Monday-Saturday, and 8:00 am to 1:30 am on Sundays. The TTC website gives more precise first and last train times by subway station.

Streetcars

The current TTC streetcar network, in relation to the subway; all eleven regular routes appear red.
510 streetcar on Spadina Ave at King St

Toronto is one of the few cities in North America (the only city in Canada, in fact) to have kept any of its streetcar routes and, while the original streetcar network was much larger, the Toronto Transit Commission is planning to replace several of its busiest bus lines with high capacity LRT lines.

If you have a transfer or Proof of Payment, you may enter the streetcar by any door; otherwise, enter an older, high-floor streetcar by the front door and a newer, low-floor streetcar by the second or third door to pay your fare and obtain a transfer.

Caution: When getting on and off streetcars, make sure that the traffic is stopped in the lane next to the streetcar. While drivers are required by law to stop behind open streetcar doors, some drivers don't do so, especially if they are not from Toronto; pay special attention to vehicles with non-Ontario licence plates, as this is often the first warning that they may be unfamiliar with local laws. This does not apply when there is a safety island between you and the traffic lanes. Also, be aware of pickpockets in crowded rush hour situations. Do not keep your belongings (especially phones and music players) in outside pockets.

Connecting public transit services

The areas that surround Toronto—Mississauga, Brampton, York Region, Durham Region—have their own transit systems. There are no free transfer privileges between the TTC and these other transit systems. To use both the TTC and another system, two fares must usually be paid (though see GTA Pass below). In many places, these networks do overlap, so you can transfer easily. Prices are similar to prices for the TTC.

A weekly GTA Pass (Greater Toronto Area Pass) is available for $54. It is valid on the TTC and the transit systems in Mississauga, Brampton, York Region, but not Durham Region. This pass is also transferable, although only one rider may use it at a time. If you are travelling through the fare-zone boundary in York Region with a GTA pass, you will have to pay an additional $1.

The regional transportation agency, Metrolinx, operates the Presto farecard system which allow users to pay transit fares throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (with the exception of the TTC, where only select subway stations currently accept the card). Although fares and transfer rules are set individually by each transit operator, using the card generally provides a discount from the cash fare and discounted or free transfers between certain systems. Cards cost $6 and are not refundable, but visitors making significant use of GO Transit, or several GTA transit systems might find some cost savings and convenience over using cash or tickets.

GO Transit

A system of regional trains and buses, GO Transit, connects Toronto to its surrounding areas. The majority of these services, especially trains, are oriented to weekday commuters travelling to and from downtown Toronto. Trains are large and comfortable, but with the exception of the half-hourly Burlington–Toronto–Oshawa Lakeshore line, they run only at peak times. The GO bus network is much more extensive and fills in for trains in the off-peak hours. The vast majority of tourist destinations are reachable by TTC, although you might want to use the GO network to get to the Toronto Zoo, or to the homes of family members or friends in the Greater Toronto Area.

GO fares are the same on buses and trains, and are distance-based. The suburban bus services (but not the TTC) sometimes offer discounts on connections to or from a GO Transit rail station. The GTA Pass is not valid on GO Transit.

NOTE: in many cases, a GO bus will not stop unless the passengers-to-be indicate wanting to be picked up, even if they are standing at a designated stop. Users must flag the bus down, usually just by raising their hand or ticket in the air as the bus approaches. That is because GO stops often share stops with other municipal transit systems.

GO Trains operate on the Proof-of-Payment system; passengers must possess a valid ticket for the entire length of their journey before boarding a train. Tickets cannot be purchased on board, and there are no gates or staff before boarding to ensure you have a fare for a particular train. GO Transit enforcement officers conduct random inspections of tickets, issuing expensive fines to anyone without the correct fare. Enforcement officers have likely heard every possible excuse from passengers who regularly try to avoid paying a fare, and are often unforgiving of any (even legitimate) reason you might give.

Each GO train runs with a three-person crew. There are two engineers, who are responsible for operations, as well as the Customer Service Ambassador, who is responsible for passenger service (opening/closing doors, making station announcements, answering questions, dealing with emergencies, etc.) The CSA is stationed in the Accessibility car (the 5th car behind the locomotive), and introduces him/herself during his/her opening spiel. If you are unfamiliar with the system, it is recommended that you remain close to them.

Taxis

Taxis are plentiful and safe, but not cheap. The base rate is $4.25, with an average 5 km trip costing $13. As with most big cities, driving a car downtown can be annoying; parking is often hard to find and expensive, and traffic along certain streets can make vehicle travel slower than mass transit. However, travelling longer distances, when not close to subway lines is often significantly faster by car or taxi.

Uber's UberX service is available via smartphone app throughout the city with fares running roughly half the price of a taxi. An average 5-km trip costs roughly $8.25.

By bicycle

Bike Share Toronto rack near the Toronto City Hall.

Toronto is trying very hard to become a bike-friendly city, with dedicated bike lanes being added all the time. There are many casual cyclists out all the time. And it is fast: door to door, in all of downtown Toronto, a bike beats a car or transit nearly every time.

There is a lack of clear understanding about regulations regarding bicycles and as a result, there can be hostility between automobiles and cyclists. Generally speaking, if you are on the road, you are expected to obey the same laws as cars, and you are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. In reality, cyclists have all sorts of driving styles; expect the unexpected.

The city is predominantly flat, aside from a general climb away from Lake Ontario and the deeply indented, forested Don Valley and Humber River Valley, and post-and-ring locking posts are present throughout the city. There are many bike-only lanes on major roads and threading through various neighbourhoods and parks. The city publishes a cycling map, available on the city website .

Bike Share Toronto provides a public bike system with 1,000 bikes available at 80 stations throughout downtown. Subscriptions start at $5 for 24 hours and allow you to use a bike for 30 minutes or less, as much as you like (usage fees apply for trips longer than 30 minutes). It operates 24 hours a day, all year long (but see the warning below about winter biking). Several businesses also offer rentals .

It is a provincial law that cyclists under 18 must wear a helmet, and all riders must have a bike with reflectors and a bell. This tends to only be enforced when the police go on their annual "cycling blitz".

Some dangers:

Some recommended cycling routes:

See

Individual listings can be found in Toronto's district articles

Museums

The Royal Ontario Museum
Casa Loma
CN Tower viewed from Rogers Centre
Toronto City Hall at night

Landmarks

Parks

Do

Individual listings can be found in Toronto's district articles

Outdoors

Arts & entertainment

Annual events

Exploring neighbourhoods

Crowds along Chinatown, on Spadina.
Pedestrian streets in Koreatown.

Toronto has so many eclectic neighbourhoods that a random walk is fascinating in its own right. You might start in the Downtown area and then try other neighbourhoods around the city. Here are a few suggestions of neighbourhoods to visit. More details and more examples are found in the district articles.

Buy

Toronto has ample opportunities for shopping, and nearly any section of the city has unique places to shop:

Interior view of the Toronto Eaton Centre.

Money

Most Canadians don't carry large amounts of cash for everyday use, relying on their credit cards, ATMs and direct debit cards. Personal cheques are rarely accepted. Many places in Toronto accept US dollars for small transactions - with a rough 1:1 exchange rate - and it advised to obtain some Canadian dollars if you will use cash. US coins are often mixed in with Canadian coins at stores since they are similar in appearance.

Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.ca) branches include:

Travelex (www.travelex.com/ca) has branches in the Financial District (+1 416-304-6130; First Canadian Place, Bank of Montréal, 100 King St W; 8AM-5PM Mon-Fri) and at the airport in Mississauga.

Calforex Currency Services (290 Queen St West) give good rates for cash, buying and selling GBP, USD, EUR; on substantial sums can be as little as 1% from interbank rates.

American Express branches in Toronto only function as travel agencies and don't handle financial transactions. Sub-prime cheque cashing firms such as Money Mart (+1 416-920-4146, multiple locations) can usually exchange US to CAD, but the rates tend to be worse than at other financial institutions.

Eat

Toronto is generally considered to be one of North America's top food cities. It has the same variety as New York or San Francisco and the compact and safe downtown keeps them closer together. As one of the most (if not the most) multicultural cities in the world, Toronto has authentic ethnic cuisine like no other city in North America. It is easy to eat out in Toronto and have a superb meal for cheap.

Farmer's markets

Surrounded by the extensive fertile farmlands of Southern Ontario, Toronto has an abundance of farmer's markets - one is happening, in season, almost every day. Several markets are year round, while others are seasonal, generally running from May to October.

Other farmer's markets in Toronto:

Interesting food districts

Cafés

Check the district articles for independent coffee shops.

Vegetarian

Some districts with vegetarian restaurants are Kensington-Chinatown, The Annex, and Chinatown East.

Drink


The majority of nightlife in Toronto is centred on the appropriately named Clubland and in the fashion district on Queen Street West. Nearly everywhere is packed to the brim with pubs and bars, but none so much as Adelaide and Queen Street in those districts. Clubs tend to operate on Richmond and Adelaide streets (both run east-west, 1 block apart); names change frequently, but the district keeps on going. Three other clubs of note outside this district: The mega club/ultra lounge Muzik Nightclub (by Exhibition Place), and The (long-lasting) Phoenix (on Sherbourne) and the Docks (literally operating on part of Toronto's commercial port, but this place has an outstanding view of the city on warm summer nights, and boasts an extensive entertainment complex).

Some of Toronto's newest and hottest nightclubs have opened up in the King Street West/Liberty Village area. This area tends to attract a more mature (25+ years old) crowd; however this comes at a cost as drinks and admission into the venues are typically a bit more expensive here than in Clubland.

Hip art and music oriented crowds tend to gravitate towards Parkdale (Queen West past Bellwoods Park). The hipsters hangout in the wide array of bars, galleries and clubs that dot the area - in particular Stones Place (mostly Indians and sometimes gay crowds), The Social (a mixed bag), and the Drake and its poor cousin Gladstone Hotels. The same folks also frequent the Annex and Kensington Market areas of the city at night for club nights, casual drinks and art and music events. One of the main "corsos" of the city is Little Italy: College Street, between Bathurst and Ossington flows over with music, sidewalk cafes and excellent food and a crowd that enjoys the summer heat and the offerings. College Street, east of Bathurst, is home to many student hangouts, including Sneaky Dee's which is famous among locals for its nachos. The legal minimum drinking age is 19.

Toronto has over a dozen microbreweries. One popular microbrewery is Steam Whistle Brewing (south of the CN Tower in the Entertainment District) which offers tours of its brewery located in a former locomotive roundhouse. Unlike Steam Whistle, most microbreweries in Toronto are brewpubs serving in-house brews with pub fare. About half of the brewpubs are in the West End district. Other districts having a brewpub are Harbourfront (Amsterdam BrewHouse), Distillery District (Mill St. Brew Pub), Midtown (Granite Brewery) and East End (Left Field Brewery).

Sleep


Individual listings can be found in Toronto's district articles

Most hotels and hostels are situated directly outside the downtown core. Prices for rooms generally range from $150+ for a standard hotel, $60–80 for a motel, and $20–40 for a bed in a hostel.

Hotels

Toronto has a wide variety of hotels that can suit every budget.

Hostels

Toronto has several youth hostels, including ones in the downtown area, such as HI-Toronto Hostel located at the foot of Church Street, and Canadiana Backpackers Inn located on Widmer street.

Bed & Breakfast

Another popular alternative for over nighters are bed & breakfasts, of which Toronto has hundreds, many of them in the downtown core. Prices range from $60 to several hundred dollars depending on the house and amenities offered. The Toronto Townhouse are Toronto Tourism award winners and still is one of the better ones. They have two locations - one in Cabbagetown and the other in the Annex area.

Another popular inexpensive place is Castlegate Inn Toronto Bed and Breakfast because of its proximity to the Spadina subway station and the University of Toronto.

Learn

University College at the University of Toronto

International students often prefer to study in Toronto because of its safety, proximity to other tourist destinations, and favourable exchange rates and visa policies. However, despite its status as the largest city in the country and Canada's economic centre, it is surprisingly under-served by universities. This lack of post-secondary education has led to the development of major universities in the mid-sized cities that surround Toronto: the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, the University of Guelph in Guelph, Brock University in St. Catharines and Trent University in Peterborough. The universities in Toronto remain some of the best in the country:

Toronto, like other Canadian cities, also has dozens of English as a Second Language (ESL) schools. The largest association of private English and French language schools is the Canadian Association of Private Language Schools.

Connect

Calling

For life-threatening emergencies or crime in progress, dial 9-1-1 on any landline, mobile or pay phone (toll-free).

Local calls at pay phones cost 50 cents. Toronto's local calling area extends roughly from Oakville to Ajax; Oshawa, Hamilton and their adjacent suburbs are long-distance. Local calls are not metered, so you can talk as long as you want. Due to the popularity of cellphones, there are fewer pay phone booths than in previous years, so they can be difficult to locate. Most large public facilities still have ample pay phones to use. In malls, pay phones are usually located between the inner and outer doors at the entrances. Payphones are also routinely provided in TTC subway stations, including on the platforms, as a safety feature. Cellular service is generally unavailable in the subway, except in outdoor or above-ground areas. In other underground areas, such as the lower levels of malls and in the PATH, reception is generally available, if somewhat weaker.

In addition, many public facilities (such as shopping malls) now also have phones which provide free local calls, which are funded by advertisements run on colour LCD screens. Watch for large, wall-mounted ovals in high-traffic areas.

Toronto has three area codes: 416, 647, and 437. These area codes are all associated with the same geographic area. The suburban areas outside of the city have three overlapping area codes: 905, 289, and 365. As a result, Toronto has 10-digit local dialling. You must always dial the area code as part of the number you are trying to reach.

International calling cards are widely available to many countries for reasonable rates. As coin-paid long distance calls are overpriced (Bell payphones charge nearly $5 in the first minute and a lower rate thereafter, competitors are $1 for three minutes), if you must place toll calls from telephone booths, it's best to buy prepaid cards.

Internet

Toronto has many Internet cafés, especially on Yonge Street around Bloor and also Bloor Street between Spadina and Bathurst, although their numbers are declining. Most major hotels offer high-speed Internet in their rooms and in their business centres. Most coffee shops, a few hamburger joints and many food courts and restaurants in the city offer wireless Internet (more often free, sometimes not). On repeat visits to the city, the Internet café one used last time often will have disappeared, a casualty of widespread high-speed Internet availability elsewhere. Once one finds a place to call home, costs are normally around $3 for 30 minutes.

Cogeco operates a public WiFi network called One Zone that covers six square kilometres in the downtown core. Rates are $5 for one hour, $10 for a day, or $25 for a month.

Free internet access is available on computers at Toronto Public Library branches, and the Toronto Reference Library also provides free wireless access on the first two floors.

A number of TTC subway stations, mostly in the downtown area, have free wi-fi; the ad-based service uses network name TCONNECT. Check the TTC website for an up-to-date list of stations supporting wi-fi. As of December, 2015, wi-fi is available along subway line 1 between Bloor-Yonge and St George stations and along subway line 2 between Castle Frank and Christie stations.

Mail

Generally stamps are purchased and parcels are weighed and shipped, at a postal outlet located in a retail store such as a variety store or a drug store. It seems that most Shoppers Drug Mart stores have a postal outlet located at a special counter often at the back of the store. Postal outlets may sell philatelic items (recent issues only).

Newspapers

Free weekly newspapers, distributed from boxes on street corners and in racks in stores and restaurants are good sources of information on cinema, dining, music, theatre, and other events as well as local news:

Xtra!, which provides gay and lesbian news and listings, had stopped publishing a print edition, but continues online.

Depending on where you go in Toronto, you will be able to find locally printed newspapers in a variety of languages. For example, in Chinatown, you will find Chinese newspapers. In "Little Italy", you'll find Italian newspapers. You'll also find newspapers in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, Arabic, Tagalog, Greek, Urdu and more.

Stay safe

Crime

Toronto is remarkably safe and the streets are vibrant with pedestrians and bicyclists, even at night in most neighbourhoods. If you use common sense, you should have no trouble at all.

The overall violent crime rate in Canada, and particularly in Toronto, is much lower than that found in major cities in the United States. Petty crime is generally not a problem in Toronto, but as always is the case, keep vigilant with your possessions. Car and bike theft are comparable to other large North American cities.

There are neighbourhoods which are known in the media and on the street as being more dangerous, though police statistics are not commonly used to justify these beliefs. Nevertheless, while assaults and other crimes can happen anywhere, especially late at night when few people are around, it is reasonable to avoid certain areas (again, generally late at night). These areas include in the old city and inner bouroughs: Crescent Town, Regent Park, parts of Parkdale, parts of St. Jamestown, Moss Park, Alexandra Park, Flemingdon Park/Victoria Village and Weston-Mount Dennis. Outer areas: Jane and Finch ("Jane Corridor"), Lawrence Heights, the Peanut (i.e., Don Mills and Sheppard), Rexdale/Jamestown Crescent, Malvern, Kingston and Galloway, Steeles-L’Amoureaux, Dorset Park, Westminster-Branson and Eglinton East-Kennedy Park. Stay away from dodgy looking areas, where drugs, prostitution and violent crime such as armed robberies can occur. These neighbourhoods become noticeably worse from a visual standpoint, giving ample warning to turn around.

Homeless

Toronto has a visible homeless population, many of whom will ask you for money. If you do not want to offer them money, simply look the beggar in the eye and say "No thank you" or ignore them. If you do give the person money, they usually leave you alone. There have been occasional occurrences of aggressive beggars, with one resulting in a fatality. If a beggar becomes aggressive, move away quickly and alert a police officer.

Beggars in Toronto have been known to ask for handouts on the pretext that they need TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) fare. When offered TTC tokens, they will accept them and then approach other passers-by in an attempt to resell these tokens for cash. If a street person offers to sell you a token they claim to have "found" in Toronto, sometimes at less than face value, odds are this fare media was given to them by some well-meaning passer-by who believed their false claim that they needed TTC fare to get home.

There have also been instances in the past with "squeegee kids" who would jump into intersections when traffic is stopped at lights and solicit money for cleaning windshields. This is becoming less common as this form of interference with vehicle traffic is expressly illegal under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act and may be reported to police.

Pedestrians

Be careful when getting off the streetcars and look always to your right before leaving the car. Although vehicles are supposed to stop when the streetcar doors open, some motorists and cyclists will ignore this and keep going.

The proliferation of mobile data devices has led to "multitasking" in a large percentage of the pedestrian population of this city. If driving, cycling, or even walking, in Toronto do not forget to keep an eye open for a pedestrian who may be a little more focused on his or her device than is healthy.

Weather

Avoid river/creek banks or bridge underpasses during periods of excessive rain, during/after heavy thundershowers or melting snow. Recent flooding can soften soil and cause it to suddenly collapse into the water under any weight.

Occasionally, Toronto will be hit with a severe winter storm accompanied by significant snowfall (quite often mixed with freezing rain/ice/sleet). Avoid driving during and immediately after the storms if at all possible. This is especially true for those unfamiliar with winter driving and controlling a car in a skid. Take public transit, walk, or stay inside.

Cope

Consulates

Go next

Toronto is a great starting point for exploring southern Ontario. There are many golden sand beaches along the clean fresh waters of the Great Lakes that are ideal for hot summer days. Popular beach destinations within 1.5 - 2.5 hours of Toronto include Wasaga, Sauble Beach, Sandbanks, Grand Bend, Long Point, and Turkey Point.

South

West

East

North

Routes through Toronto

Winnipeg Parry Sound  W  E  END
Kitchener Mississauga  W  E  END
END  W  E  Oshawa Kingston
London Oakville  W  E  END
Niagara Falls Oakville  W  E  END
Barrie Vaughan  N  S  END
London Mississauga  W  E  Pickering Oshawa
Newmarket Markham  N  S  END
Hamilton Mississauga  W  E  END


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.