Montreal is located in the Quebec province of Canada and is one of its oldest cities. This place was founded in 1642 by European explorers, although the lands were first inhabited by an Indigenous community. It is one of the country's top cultural hubs and is often called Festival City because of all the annual events that go on here. Montreal is known for its impressive arts, food scene, sports and active nightlife. No matter why you find yourself in Montreal you are sure to discover something fun to do and there are so many incredible museums, landmarks, shopping centers and festivals to participate in.
Montreal is Canada's second largest city so getting around can be confusing. The town has an expansive Underground City located below most of the downtown area and everything is connected by a big rail system, but since there are several bus and metro lines it can be easy to get lost if you don't know where you are going. This is why it is a good idea to do some research and try to understand the public transportation system as well as you can before your trip, and this guide can help you to do just that. Before you go out to explore the city find your way to the closest suitcase storage facility in Montreal to drop off your bags.
How to get around Montreal by train and subway
In Montreal you will find both an above-ground train and an underground subway. The train, from either Gare Centrale or Lucien L'allier, will take you in and out of the main downtown area to the other boroughs and neighborhoods in the city. The trains are affordable, fast and very comfortable, so if you need to take a train somewhere be assured that the ride will be enjoyable. Most of the trains have a top and bottom section, and the one located above is reserved for those who want a quiet ride so you will have to keep the talking to a minimum.
The train schedule runs from early in the morning to late at night and are more frequent during the rush hour in the morning and afternoon. When you go to buy a ticket you will notice that there are different options with varying costs. You will have to find out exactly where you are going and check the chart to see which zone you need to buy a ticket for. The zones that are further away from downtown will cost more, whereas those who are closer are cheaper. You can buy single fares for a one-way ride or store several on your OPUS card, if you have one. Keep your paper ticket on you in case the transit police ask to see it during your ride.
If you are looking for the metro, you can find the nearest station by keeping an eye out for the blue and white signs of a circle enclosing a down-pointing arrow. There are metro stations located around the whole Downtown Montreal area so it won't take you too long to come across one, and most of them are within walking distance from the shopping districts and major landmarks. They are operated by the Société de Transport de Montréal or STM and the metro tunnels and trains are generally well-kept, especially since they just installed new trains in the last few years.
This is definitely the fastest form of public transit in the city and you can ride from one end of the line to the other in no time. The trains run from early in the morning to just after midnight and even later on Saturday night to accommodate everyone who is out enjoying the nightlife. The nice thing about the subway is that you can simply pay for one ticket to get into the metro and then you can go anywhere, meaning that you are not charged by distance. Tickets will last for two hours and can often be used on both the metro and bus, so you can easily get where you need to go for about $3.50 Canadian. If you are planning to be on and off of the metro regularly you can buy a day pass or a weekend pass.
How to get around Montreal by bus
Getting around the city by bus is also fairly simple, although there are a lot of different routes so if you get on the wrong bus you could end up somewhere completely different. The most popular buses run regularly, although some only circulate around every half-hour or even less often so be sure to check the schedule before you leave for the station. They circulate around the downtown area as well as other boroughs outside of the city center and they can take you in and out of the main district to places off of the Island of Montreal too, although they are slower than the commuter train. Most Montreal buses are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers too.
When you buy a metro ticket you can use it on the bus as long as the time hasn't run out yet. If you are buying the ticket on the bus directly keep in mind that you will need the exact change which is about $3.50 local currency. All that you need to do is put the change into the machine by the bus driver and your paper ticket will pop out. If you already have a ticket, simply insert it into the right slot and it will come back out once it has been checked.
How to get around Montreal by car
If you arrive in Canada from the Trudeau International Airport then you will need to use one of the transit options to get to your hotel. Another option is to take a ride in one of the taxi cabs. There are several different styles of taxis in Montreal but they can always be distinguished by the plastic signs located on their roof. You can often find taxis outside of events and big hotels or circling around downtown, so if you hail one then the first taxi to see you will stop and pick you up.
It is a good idea to have the address of your destination ready as some taxi drivers might not have English as a first language. Also keep in mind that some might only accept cash so have some on hand just in case. Make sure that the meter is running once you pull away from the curb so you know that they are charging you the right amount.
Another alternative is to rent your own car for your stay in Montreal. There are several companies that specialize in car rentals and you can also grab one from the airport. You can get anywhere in Montreal by car and the highways make it a quick and simple option. However, if you are planning to drive around the city then there are some things that you will need to be aware of.
Driving in the winter can be dangerous especially if you aren't used to the road conditions and ice so make sure that your car has snow tires, especially since you will receive a ticket if you get spotted by the police and don't have them installed by the deadline.
Make sure to always obey the speed limits to avoid getting pulled over and pay attention to the road signs. There are several limited-access expressways that can get you to your desired destination with ease, although navigating large cities like Montreal can be challenging and it can be wise to bring a GPS.
Keep in mind that, as in most cities, traffic can be bad during rush hour and local drivers can be impatient and aggressive. Lastly, parking in the downtown area of the city can be hard to find and if you see a sign specifically prohibiting parking then you must obey it.
Can I get around Montreal by foot?
Montreal is a city that can easily be navigated by foot and if you are visiting during the spring, summer or fall then you should consider walking instead of using the public transport. The downtown city center is compact and most things aren't too far away from each other, so if you don't mind getting some exercise and want to save a couple dollars you can get there by foot.
If you are visiting the city for the first time, you can benefit from exploring it on your own since you will be able to take your time and you might even spot a hidden gem or fabulous museum that you could miss otherwise. The more touristy neighborhoods are full of activities, cute restaurants, live performers and street art, and you can see some amazing things just by strolling through the streets. Make sure to watch for the walk sign before you cross the street, and always check for oncoming traffic before using the crosswalk.
How to get around Montreal by bike
It is not uncommon to see people cycling around the city, and thanks to the numerous bike paths it is a very realistic option as well as a popular recreational activity throughout the whole town. Many people use bicycles to get around the downtown area and there are bike lanes along most of the main streets which make it an easy and safe way to get around. However, be aware that there are a lot of cars in the city and you must always obey the rules of the road. If you come to a cross street you should pause until you are sure it is safe to keep going and stop red lights to wait for the flashing green light before continuing. Bikes can also be taken on the metro and train.
If you don't have a regular bike then a great way to save money is to use Montreal's bike sharing program. There are Bixi bike stations scattered throughout the city and you can easily rent a bicycle from one spot and drop it off at the closest docking station once you reach your destination. You can either pay individually when you rent a bike or buy a day pass, although trips of 45 minutes and under are available for free. Keep in mind that the Bixi bikes are not available in the winter. There are about 5,000 bikes and 400 stations found around the whole city, and the bike sharing system has helped a lot of people save money and time.
Understanding Montreal's Public Transit
Overall, Montreal is an easy city to get around if you plan your trip and know where you are going. In total the city has four metro lines, bus stops posted on most street corners as well as taxi stands, and the bike sharing system which are all great options for getting around.
There is so much to do and experience in Montreal, and the underground city makes traveling to different areas easy as well as warm and safe from the rain and snow. You can easily enter a métro station and make it from one point in the city to almost anywhere nearby within a couple of minutes, which means you can stop by the Vieux Port, Le Plateau Mont-Royal, the Mile End, and even Parc Jean Drapeau in a single day.
Driving around the city in a car is another option, although it can be a hassle because of the cost and the limited number of parking spots. If you are traveling to Montreal in the summertime you can achieve further savings by exploring the city by foot, especially in areas like Old Montreal and the Old Port. It might be a good idea to get an OPUS transit card if you are planning to use Montreal's public transportation system often as you can keep several single rides on the same card instead of buying them individually each time.