Exchange: Canada

2012-01-09 05:51

I’ve been in Canada for 5 days now. I didn’t post this right away because I didn’t (and still don’t) have internet where I am staying (I’m currently tethering it from my phone). I’ve been settling in, buying various necessities and getting uni things set up (internet, email, passwords, etc).

Canada is great. The people are nice and the weather is cold (but bearable). To summarize my experience so far, here is a list of the key differences I have noticed between Australia and Canada.

The key differences I have noticed between Australia and Canada

  • There is a tax on all items, similar to Australia's GST. It's 13% (rather than 10%) but the main difference is the prices on items don't include the tax, so it seems like everything is really cheap when actually it is not. But even with the tax, things are a little cheaper than in Australia.
  • There are no bus tickets (at least in Toronto). There are passes (e.g. weekly passes) but for people who do not commute regularly there are bus tokens. These are little coins which you deposit in a box on the bus.
  • At supermarkets (at least at the one I frequent) they do not sell normal milk. Instead there are loads of products which contain milk, and have added vitamins. I don't think any of these products are advertised as being "milk".
  • The walk signal when crossing the road is white and it doesn't make any noise when it's time to cross.
  • Walmart!

Public Transport in Toronto

I’ve gotten past the learning curve associated with a new public transport system. Now that I’m used to it, I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s much better than the one in Sydney. Here’s how it works:

As mentioned in the key differences section, fares are represented by tokens. Each token costs $3 (or you can get 5 for $13). These tokens work for both buses and trains. A single token does not equal a single trip (where a trip is defined as the period between getting on and off a particular vehicle). A single token will get you from one station to any other (provided that the time between getting on the first vehicle and getting on the final vehicle is less than 90 minutes), which generally uses multiple vehicles. This is achieved through “transfers”. Buses stop at train stations and trains stop at bus stations. To catch a bus at a bus station you walked to, you must deposit a token. To enter a train station from the non-bus-stop entrance you must also deposit a token. No token is needed to enter a train station from a bus stop, and no token is needed to catch a bus from a train station (as you either arrived by train, or deposited a token to enter the station from the outside). When catching 2 or more consecutive buses, you can take a transfer ticket from the first bus to present to the other buses. So the whole “physical token” thing is a little old fashioned but it works and unlike in Sydney if you need to take multiple buses to get where you’re going you don’t need to pay multiple fairs.

But I haven’t gotten to the best part yet: Buses and trains always arrive, and they do so at the correct times. That is a nice change :)

This is all based on my observations and a brief explanation of transfers I got from a bus driver. Please correct me if any part of my explanation was wrong.


One of the first things I did when I arrived was get my phone set up. I went with Wind Mobile. I pay $29 each month for unlimited internet, calls and SMS inside Canada. So the first thing I’m doing when I get back to Australia is leaving Telstra. Unfortunately Wind does not work on iPhones, so I now have a Samsung Nexus S. No complaints so far (apart from those brought about by me not being used to the user interface - but these don’t really count). It cost about half as much as my iPhone 3G and is much more responsive (but this is probably because it is newer - no fair comparison can really be made between them).


Sorry for not posting any photos. As I mentioned earlier, I’m tethering my internet and it’s too painfully slow to upload any photos. Once my internet at home gets fixed I will upload photos.