Moving to Canada for a working holiday but stuck between choosing Vancouver or Toronto to live in?
It’s a common decision IEC working holiday participants have to make. This comparison may help you make the right choice!
Read on to discover some of the differences between living in Toronto and Vancouver, two of Canada’s biggest cities.
Published 2020, last updated January 2023.
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Vancouver vs. Toronto: Lifestyle
Toronto is THE big city in Canada, the financial and cultural centre of the country.
Vancouver is undoubtedly a bustling place too, but it just doesn’t quite have the global city vibe that Toronto has.
The nightlife, shopping and eating options are generally better than Vancouver. If you’re looking to live in a Canadian New York City, Toronto is the place for you.
Laidback and health-focused with a dash of hippy, Vancouver is perfect for those who like their cities a little more on the relaxed side (think San Francisco or Melbourne).
Vancouver has all the essential conveniences you would expect to find in a city plus a bunch more opportunities you typically wouldn’t.
Skiing and kayaking, for example, can both be done within a 30-minute drive from downtown.
Vancouver vs. Toronto: Location
Surrounded by ocean and mountains, Vancouver must be one of most beautiful cities in the world.
Toronto isn’t an ugly duckling by any means (that skyline!) but any city would find it hard to compete Vancouver’s eye candy.
Where Toronto does particularly excel is its proximity to other major cities in North America – Ottawa, Montreal, New York City and Chicago can all be reached relatively easily.
Vancouver in comparison is a little stuck out on its own with only Seattle as close company.
But on the other hand, you will have all of beautiful British Columbia to explore instead.
Vancouver vs. Toronto: Cost of living
Toronto and Vancouver are both expensive places to live when considering the average wage, housing costs and the price of day-to-day living.
Vancouver, however, does edge Toronto out when it comes to things like rent, utilities and groceries.
Salaries in Vancouver are also lower, on the whole, just to exacerbate the problem.
The demand for affordable rental properties in Vancouver means that you must be ready with a deposit when viewing a place.
If you don’t, the next potential renter through the door probably will.
Things to do in Vancouver and Toronto
Want to work in a city and play outdoors every evening or weekend? Vancouver is the place for you.
Hiking, biking, running, skiing, paddling, diving…it’s all here and within a short distance of downtown.
There are plenty of city-based activities (great restaurants! fun festivals! art galleries!) for those not interested in the outdoors, but the best Vancouver has to offer is most definitely found outside the city streets.
Toronto is for city-lovers. It has everything any city slicker would want and more.
Having said this, there are still many opportunities to explore and experience nature from the city (though the drive to do them is most certainly longer).
Crossing country skiing, ATVing, skating and snowmobiling are all popular activities in Ontario.
Canoeing is almost a right of passage in this area of Canada. Living in a province filled with thousands of lakes, it is a tradition for Torontonians to ‘escape to the cottage’ every long weekend.
Read Next: Finding Adventure in Toronto – the Best Things to Do, Places to Go and More
People of Vancouver and Toronto
Home to just under 6 million residents in the metro area, Toronto is two and a half times bigger than Vancouver.
The city is also often named the most multicultural city in the entire world, having representation from over 200 nationalities.
Such diversity is clearly represented in Toronto’s many ethnic neighbourhoods (Little Italy, Koreatown, Little India et al) and a huge number of festivals and cultural events.
Over in Vancouver, more than half of the local population speak something other than English as their first language.
Being on the Pacific Ocean, the city has more influence from East Asian culture (specifically Chinese) than Toronto and First Nation culture is also more prevalent.
Vancouver vs. Toronto: Weather
Toronto, with its drastic temperature fluctuation, is both muggier and colder than Vancouver.
Summer temperatures hover around 27-30c with high humidity and then dip as low as -30c in the winter….plus wind chill.
Ever heard of an ice storm? These happen in Toronto and are as fun as they sound.
But that is just the extremes. Toronto can experience mild weather too. At the time of this update (January 10th 2023), daytime temperatures are hovering around 0c.
Vancouver has mild winters (0-4c) and warm to hot summers (22-30c). The pleasant climate is a major reason for many people to choose Vancouver over Toronto.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s not all sunshine and roses (quite the opposite!) in this coastal city.
The West Coast is often nicknamed the ‘Wet Coast’ for a good reason – it rains a lot here.
It can be grey and gloomy in Vancouver for weeks, especially in winter. For a handful of days every year, the rain falls as snow in the city.
Wildfires are common in British Columbia and Vancouver can be hazy in late summer and fall.
Choose Vancouver if you like:
Anything outdoors, cheap sushi, mild winter weather, being by the coast, relaxed vibe, rain!
Book Vancouver accommodation on Booking.com now
Choose Toronto if you want:
Big city life, a ‘real’ winter of snow and freezing temperatures, slightly cheaper lifestyle, central location, more going on
Book Toronto accommodation on Booking.com now
Which will you choose, Vancouver or Toronto?
Read these working holiday Canada articles next:
The Best Travel Insurance for Working Holidays in Canada
Vancouver vs Calgary for Your Working Holiday in Canada
A Guide to Arriving in Vancouver for a Working Holiday
Visiting the USA while on a Working Holiday in Canada
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Thursday 9th of April 2020
You did a great job of providing an unbiased, informative answer to what can be a rather explosive topic between Canadians! I grew up in Vancouver but have spent plenty of time in Toronto, and would say your article is correct - an excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with the two cities.
Friday 9th of March 2018
I spent over a year in Toronto and cannot complain. If you like a bigger city, watching sports and so. Choose Toronto :]
Saturday 10th of March 2018
Good tip Emil!