How to Get Around Montreal Without a Car
One concern I always have when planning a trip to a new city is getting around without a vehicle. I typically fly to my destinations and rarely rent a car so when I can find a city with great public transit, I’m a happy camper. I get to see more of the city walking or taking a bus than I do when I’m driving and I never have to worry about parking. Montreal is just such a city so I’m going to show you how to get around Montreal without a car.
Montrealers like to joke that they all get around with a BMW: Bus, Metro, Walk. Thanks to Montreal’s public transportation system, there really is no need for a car. Parking is relatively cheap, but you might have difficulty finding a spot in the more touristy neighborhoods.
Whether you’re staying in a boutique hotel in the Vieux Port or a hip vacation rental in Mile End, once you master the Montreal BMW you’ll leave the car behind.
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If you want to live like a local, take public transit to get around. In Montreal, this means STM (Société de transport de Montréal). It’s an integrated network of busses and the metro.
Fares are determined by ride, rather than distance in montreal. Single rides are $3.50 but you can save money by getting a L’Occasionnelle card and buying multiple rides at a time (2 or 10), or purchasing an unlimited 1-day, 3-day, week (Mon-Sun) or weekend pass. The L’Occasionnelle card is a non-rechargeable smart card, similar to the OPUS card you’ll see locals using, but limited to busses and metro. Any daily or multi day ticket includes free use of the 747 shuttle from the airport, potentially offering further savings.
Whether you’re entering a metro station or getting on a bus you’ll need to tap your pass on the reader.
If you fly to Montreal, the most affordable way to get from Trudeau International Airport to downtown is by taking the YUL Aéroport MTl-Trudeau (747) shuttle. It runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, between Montréal-Trudeau Airport and downtown. To buy a ticket for the shuttle, look for the 747 information booth and vending machines on the airport’s international arrivals level. If you’d prefer, you can also pay the $10 fare in cash to the driver on the bus. There are 11 stops (mainly at hotels along boul. René-Lévesque) between the airport and the Berri-UQAM metro station so be prepared for 45-70min of travel time. Great time to queue up a podcast.
Once you’re in the city, consider taking the bus when you need to travel between neighbourhoods. One advantage busses have for travellers visiting the city is that they run above ground so you get to see the city as you travel, compared to the metro. Busses can also take you to places that aren’t close to metro stations, like Schwartz’s Deli. The STM has 217 Bus routes in Montreal with 8806 bus stops so if they don’t have a stop nearby, you probably didn’t want to go there anyway.
With 4 lines and 68 stations, the Metro (STM) can get you just about anywhere you want to go in Montreal. The stations are marked on the street by blue-and-white signs that show a circle enclosing a down-pointing arrow.
The metro operates daily from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. (1:30 a.m. on Saturdays). Trains typically come every 5 to 10 minutes so you’ll never be waiting long and the entire system is underground so you won’t get wet or snowed on while you wait.
Montreal is a large city but its individual neighbourhoods are often quite walkable. In fact, this safe, healthy, and budget-wise mode of transportation is one of the best ways to see the city’s lively neighbourhoods, day and night. Getting from one attraction to the next, especially in neighbourhoods like old Montreal or Downtown, can be done on foot. Even if you’re visiting during the winter, don’t rule out walking; the Underground City makes getting around downtown both simple and warm.
For example, you can walk from Hotel Bonaventure to Bota Bota spa on the river in about 20 minutes (1.6km). Or from the Bell Centre to Notre Dame Basilica in the same amount of time. So take a walk and appreciate the graffiti, architecture, and beautiful people Montreal has to offer.
If you’re visiting Montreal in the warmer months, consider cycling to get around town. It’s healthy for you, healthy for the planet, and cheaper than any other form of transit for short distances. Plus you’ll get to enjoy the sights and sounds of Montreal as you explore some of the 780km of bike paths in the city.
Did you know, Montreal has been named one of the most bike friendly cities in North America by the Copenhagen Index?
BIXI is Montreal’s bike-sharing program, and it’s straight forward to use. To get a bike, simply pay for a one-way ride at one of the docking stations, ride the bike to your desired destination and drop it off at the closest docking station (there are more than 680 locations throughout the city).
One-way pay as you go rates are $0.50 + $0.10/min for regular bikes and $0.25 for electric. So a 30min cycle on a regular bike would cost you $3.50. Much cheaper than a taxi or Uber.
You could also rent a bike for a day from one of the companies that provide bike tours around the city. Ma Bicyclette is a popular kiosk for rentals of all shapes and sizes. If you’d prefer a guided bicycle tour, check out Montréal On Wheels for group rides and their Montreal Bike and Bites food tour on wheels.
When you know it’s far (or don’t know how to get there), need to get there quickly, and aren’t concerned about cost, taxis or Uber is the way to go. Unlike in some cities, taxis in Montreal can be any colour. You’ll know it’s a cab by the sign on the roof of the car (lit when it’s available, off when it’s not). It’s typically easy to flag one down on the street. You can also call them or you can find them at one of the city’s many taxi stands or in front of most major hotels.
Taxis are $3.45 for the initial fare and $1.70 per km with a waiting charge of $0.63/minute. So for example, a taxi from Hotel Bonaventure to Schwartz’s Deli can cost between $9 and $15, depending on traffic. Tip 10-15%.
If you’d like to ride in an electric taxi, look for the green and white Téo taxis. You can hail one on the street or you can use their mobile app to order, track, and pay.
Uber is also operating in Montreal if that’s your jam.
By BMW (bus, metro, walking) or cycling you don’t need a car to get around Montreal. Explore the city and save your money!
Book Your Trip to Montreal
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Expedia. It's one of my favourite search engines because it allows you to search for and compare flights from multiple airlines.
Book Your Accommodations
You can book your hotel with Booking.com as they have the most comprehensive inventory so they are best for booking a hotel. If you want to stay in a vacation rental or cottage in Montreal, use VRBO to find the perfect place for the whole family.
Book Your Car Rental
If you want to travel on your own timeline, be sure to book your car rental with Discover Cars early.
Book Your Travel Insurance
While Montreal is generally a safe city, you never know when something could happen. Be prepared with travel insurance from SafetyWing. Travel insurance has certainly saved my butt before.