- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Montreal Guide (PDF)
Getting around in Montreal is easy thanks to the city’s excellent public transport system. Expats who live in the city or the surrounding areas and suburbs with access to the public transit network will not need a car to get around and see the sights.
There are plenty of buses and an extensive metro system, as well as taxis and bicycles to help expats navigate Quebec’s most populous city. Those who do choose to drive will find good roads, although heavy traffic and snowy conditions in winter can be a problem.
Public transport in Montreal
Public transit in Montreal is clean, efficient and safe to use, and is the best way of getting around the city. Montreal has extensive bus and metro networks, and there are regional trains available for those wanting to do some intercity travelling. Public transport in Montreal is run by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM).
Frequent commuters can purchase an OPUS card from station ticket booths and approved retailers throughout the city. These smart cards can be recharged at station vending machines, recharge terminals and ticket booths, and can be used across the Greater Montreal region. There are other card options for pre-determined destinations which cannot be topped up.
Montreal has an efficient bus system that is easy to use. There are plenty of routes throughout the city and expats can identify bus stops by their numbers. Most stops also have maps and bus schedules available, but if passengers are unsure of anything they can call the STM info line, type in the bus stop number, and the operator will give them the information for the next few buses arriving at that stop.
Passengers can use their OPUS card on the bus, or they can pay for their journey in exact change to the ticket booth attendant.
The metro in Montreal is the most popular way of getting around the city. The metro has an extensive reach and its four metro lines can be identified by their colour. Maps are available at all metro stations.
The metro can conveniently be accessed via Montreal’s Underground Pedestrian Network, consisting of a large collection of underground walkways. The trains are clean and quiet as they run on rubber tyres.
Tickets can be bought at any of Montreal’s metro stations, which are particularly beautiful because each one has been designed by a different architect. An OPUS card can also be used to pay for subway journeys at station turnstiles.
Taxis in Montreal
Taxis are readily available in Montreal, and can be called in advance, hailed off the street or found at taxi stands across the city. Cabs in Montreal differ in appearance depending on the company they represent but should be clearly marked. Some companies only operate in central Montreal, so expats should ask their local friends or colleagues about which company is the best to use in their area.
Ride-hailing applications are also available in Montreal.
Driving in Montreal
Expats who choose to drive in Montreal will have to deal with the traffic congestion that is present in most large cities. Those commuting from suburbs off the main island will bear the brunt of the bad traffic. A car trip from the western part of the island to downtown takes about 45 minutes with minimal traffic, and as long as 90 minutes in rush hour.
Non-residents can use their existing driving licences to drive in Quebec for six consecutive months. During this period, they must exchange their foreign licence with a Quebec licence. Processes vary depending on where the expat's present licence was obtained. Most licences obtained in Western Europe, elsewhere in Canada and America can simply be exchanged.
Expats with driving licences from other countries, however, will need to take a driving test and apply for a Quebec driving licence.
Roads in Montreal are relatively good 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 issues fairly quickly.
Cycling in Montreal
An extensive network of bike paths run throughout the city, making cycling in Montreal an easy and pleasurable way to get around.
The city also has an effective bicycle rental programme called BIXI Montréal. Expats can rent a bike at automated pay stations or an app, and use the bike to get around the city. Credit cards or OPUS cards can be used to pay for rental charges at BIXI Montréal automated pay stations. Expats who intend to use this service frequently should consider buying a weekly, monthly or annual pass.
Walking in Montreal
Walking is another eco-friendly and healthy way to get around in Montreal. The Montreal Underground Pedestrian Network is a great way to explore the city, especially during the bitter winters. This network, commonly known as Underground City, spans 20 miles (32km) and is lined with shops and restaurants. During the more temperate months, residents get to enjoy the sights that tourists pay to see on urban walking tours.
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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