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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Moving To San Francisco From Montreal: Cost of Living Comparison

I haven't posted in a while because of all the craziness: I moved to San Francisco from Montreal, Canada.

I wanted to share my thoughts on some basic costs for those who want to move here. First of all, I come from Montreal, Quebec, and I have to tell you that the cost of living in la belle province is significantly lower than the rest of Canada. I hear rent in Vancouver and Toronto is extremely high ($2,000 for an average one-bedroom apartment) so the shock of moving to San Francisco might be lessened if you're from one of those cities.

Rent for 1-Bedroom Apartment 

San Francisco: You're looking at $2,000-$3,000 for an average place with a single bedroom. There are a lot of rich people here, given that almost every tech company you've ever heard of is just around the corner (i.e. Google, Facebook, Apple, Linkedin, Twitter, Adobe...). It's impossible for the average Joe to live within 10km of downtown the way I did back in Montreal.

A local told me that there is no rent control on new buildings (anything built after the 1960's of something) so crazy rent hikes are not unheard of. Also, applying to rent a place is almost like applying for a job. Proof of salary, tons of references, one month prepaid deposit etc are all needed. The good thing is that some leases are monthly, unlike in Montreal where you have only year-long leases.

Montreal: You can get an average apartment 10km from downtown for $600-$700. For $1,000, you'd get something really nice and you could be a 10 minute metro ride to the city core. Montreal and everywhere else in Quebec is by far very affordable.


We have to pay about $130/month for water, which back home is "free".

Tennis Clubs

Golden Gate Park
San Francisco: We looked into joining a club, just for kicks and the costs were utterly insane. I'm sorry, I'm not Bill Gates and I don't have thousands of dollars to spend in membership fees. The cost to sign up, without a single hour of court time was something like $3,700 (sign-up plus monthly fees). You'd have to pay $20-$40/h per court time on top of all of that. There are some public courts around and they are free so that's cool and the weather allows you to play year-round.

Montreal: About the same hourly rates but membership costs are around $800. I played on public courts at Kent Park or Jarry Park (Stade Uniprix) and had no membership fees. In the summer, it was $7/h for the court and in winter, a bit pricier at $30-$40/h per court.


Left to right: Primo Patio: Lamb and chicken jerk, Chili House: Noodles and pork crepe. Both places are very good and about $10-$15

San Francisco: Eating out is a bit cheaper than in Montreal if you go to "Western" restaurants. You could get a good meal for $12-$15 and the equivalent in Montreal would probably be $20+. Chinese restaurants, however, are about the same prices as in Montreal but since it's already cheap it's hard to go lower.

I did notice that fast food is cheaper even in the health-oriented city of SF.


San Francisco: Groceries seem to be comparable or a tad more expensive than in Montreal. It doesn't help that I don't have a car so I'm stuck going to Safeway or some other local grocer but I always thought food was a lot cheaper in the US. I guess I'm used to US food prices in north eastern states like Vermont (near Montreal) but San Francisco is no Vermont.

Montreal: If you are lucky enough to live near Supermarché PA, you can get really cheap produce. I love oranges and when you can get 10 for $2, that's a win for me.

Public Transport

San Francisco: There are a few separate transit systems in the city, meaning you need to pay separately. It's actually cheaper to take the MUNI ($2.00) and the BART ($3.00) is the same price as in Montreal. The only sad thing is that the BART runs from the suburbs to downtown and no where else really so you're really limited to sites that are close to downtown. It doesn't even go to the touristy Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge or the other 80% of places you'd want to go when in town.  

The other day, I made the mistake of thinking that buses were part of MUNI and the subway was part of BART. Both MUNI and BART have subways and it's weird to have two subway systems in parallel. You have to scan your Clipper card at the entrance of the BART station but for MUNI subways, you have to scan it inside the actual train as you enter. Weird indeed.

More to come...



  1. Housing is cheaper in Montreal, but taxes, gas and food costs (a few things off the top of my head) are higher in Quebec than other parts of Canada.

  2. Thanx for sharing your though on it. I'm planning to move to San Francisco also, after finishing my mba in 2 years hopefully, if accepted lol

  3. Bill, let me know if you have any questions about SF!

  4. Hi Randy, thank you very much for the comparison. I am in Montreal, and thinking of moving to SF. I am in project management in IT. Could you provide some insight on job opportunites and income in SF compared with Montreal, please? Thank you.

  5. SImon, I would say there are a lot more jobs in tech in SF compared to anywhere in the world. This is the right place to be!

  6. Thanks for the infos. I'm thinking to move from Montreal to SF as well.
    I'm curious, what would be a the salary equivalence to keep the same standard of liiving? 180% 200% 250 % ??
    The average Joe here wouldn't ask 100 000$/year... but it seams like it'd be the only way not to loose quality of life...

  7. You would have to check Glassdoor for average salaries as it really varies by domain. It also depends on what you are making back home and if you live with room mates etc...

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