- Download our Moving to Montreal Guide (PDF)
Getting around in Montreal is relatively straightforward thanks to the city’s excellent public transport system. Expats who live in the city centre or the surrounding areas and suburbs needn't worry about having a car.
Be that as it may, a vehicle may be a worthwhile purchase for those with tots or those looking to explore the greater Quebec area. Expats who choose to drive will find Montreal’s roads to be of exceptional quality, although heavy traffic and snowy conditions in winter can be problematic.
Public transport in Montreal
Public transit in Montreal is clean, safe and the most efficient way to move around the city. Montreal has an extensive bus and metro system, with regional trains available for intercity travel. Public transport in Montreal is run by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM).
Frequent commuters can purchase an OPUS card from the ticket booths at stations and approved retailers throughout the city. These reloadable smart cards can be used to access public transport across the Greater Montreal region. There are other single-card options available for pre-determined destinations.
Montreal has an efficient bus system that is easy to use, with plenty of routes throughout the city. Expats can identify bus stops by their numbers, and most are furnished with maps and bus schedules. Passengers can also call the STM info line for more information on the buses arriving at their stop.
The metro can be accessed conveniently via Montreal's Underground Pedestrian Network and is the most popular and extensive mode of transport in the city. Its four lines are easily identifiable by colour, while there are maps available at all metro stations.
Taxis in Montreal
Taxis in Montreal are readily available, and can be called in advance, hailed off the street or found at taxi ranks across the city. Cabs in Montreal differ in appearance depending on the companies they represent, but they should always be clearly marked. Some taxi companies only operate in central Montreal, so expats should ask their local friends or colleagues about the services operational in their area.
Ride-hailing apps are also available in Montreal.
Driving in Montreal
Expats who choose to drive in Montreal will have to deal with the traffic congestion characteristic of most big cities. Those commuting from the suburbs off the main island bear the brunt of most of the terrible congestion. A car trip from the western part of the island to downtown takes about 45 minutes on a good day, but can be as long as 90 minutes during rush hour.
Non-residents can use their existing driving licences in Quebec for six consecutive months. During this period, they must either fill out an application for a Quebec licence or exchange their current foreign licence. Depending on where an expat obtained their licence, they may have to take a driving test. Driving licences from Western Europe, Canada, and America are eligible for a simple exchange.
Montreal boasts excellent road infrastructure, although drivers should look out for potholes, especially in spring when melting and thawing ice can cause holes and cracks in the road. The city does, however, attend to these fairly quickly.
Cycling in Montreal
An extensive network of bike paths runs through the city, making cycling in Montreal a pleasurable and healthy means of transit.
The city also has a bicycle rental programme called BIXI Montréal. Expats can rent a bike using an app or at automated pay stations using their OPUS or credit cards. Those who intend to use this service regularly should consider purchasing a weekly, monthly or annual pass.
Walking in Montreal
Walking is another eco-friendly and healthy way to move around Montreal. The Montreal Underground Pedestrian Network is a great way to explore the city, especially during the bitter winters. This network, commonly referred to as Underground City, spans 20 miles (32km) and is lined with shops and restaurants.
►Transport and Driving in Canada gives more information on transit options in the country
"Considering extreme weather conditions and distances, I’d say you do need a car, especially if you have young kids. Public transit is slow, expensive and unreliable once you’re out of the city centre."
Read about French expat Juliette's experiences in Canada in our interview.
Are you an expat living in Montreal?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Montreal. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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