Bienvenue a Montreal! It's easy to fall in love with Montreal, but we know you're wondering about the basics. What language do Montrealers speak? How cold does the city get in winter? Get acquainted with the city using the tips below.
- French is the official language of the province of Quebec, and one of Canada’s two official languages!
- French is the primary language used on signs, in public service establishments, and in businesses.
- In many regions of Montreal, English is widely spoken and the majority of information is available bilingually. You may want to download a translation app on your phone or pack a French-English dictionary, especially if you plan to venture outside of downtown Montreal.
- In order to help you integrate into Montreal’s bilingual culture, McGill provides various French-language tutorial resources to current and prospective students. McGill’s French Language Centre (FLC) is a department of the Faculty of Arts with a unique mandate to offer credit courses in French as a Second Language to students registered in any academic program. Look for them by their FRSL course subject code. Another fun way to learn French at McGill is to take a SSMU MiniCourse. You can also look into French immersion programs happening during the Winter or Summer break in areas such as Québec City.
Montreal's public transportation is arguably one of the most efficient in North America. Operated by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), our buses and Métro (subway) make getting around extremely convenient. Exploring is a simple and inexpensive experience as well — we wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a shot!
If not buying single tickets, you must purchase a rechargeable OPUS card, which is normally good for a year. Reduced fares are available for students.
For more information, consult the STM's transit maps, fares, schedules and OPUS card information online. To be eligible for the student fares, order your OPUS card in Minerva, get more information here!
Public transit tips:
- Bus drivers don't give change. Tickets may be purchased on a bus for exact change (or by overpayment). All Métro stations have ticket booths and some convenience stores (dépanneurs) sell tickets and passes. Student fares are substantially cheaper than regular fares, but you must have a student OPUS (photo ID) card to verify your eligibility.
- If you're purchasing monthly passes, you may be eligible for a non-refundable tax credit. Make sure to save your receipt so that you can claim this credit when you file your tax return.
- If you are paying in cash, it’s important to keep your proof of payment receipt as it will permit you to ride several buses and the Métro on one ticket, valid for up to 120 minutes. You do not need a transfer or pass to exit the Métro system but STM security does make regular verifications of people's tickets or passes inside the Métro or when getting off a bus.
Bixi is Montreal’s public bike system. The stations are installed in the spring, starting at the beginning of April, depending on weather conditions. Stations are kept in service until Mid-November, before being removed from the streets for the winter. There are a number of Bixi stations around McGill.
If the public transit routes or schedules don't suit your needs, you can always hail a taxi on most major streets. Alternatively, give them a call and they'll pick you up. Major taxi services include:
Macdonald Campus (West End / West Island)
- Co-op de l'Ouest: 514-636-6666
- Lachine Taxi: 514-637-7011
Macdonald-Downtown shuttle bus
McGill buses shuttle students between the Downtown and Macdonald campuses on weekdays. Shuttle schedules during the academic year, summer and exam periods are posted online.
Travelling outside of Montreal
Montreal is served by Pierre Elliott Trudeau International airport. If you are coming to Montreal by car, get driving directions.
Taxis are required by law to charge a flat rate for the trip to or from Trudeau, plus posted rates for luggage handling.
The STM 747 Express Bus line runs from the downtown bus terminal to Trudeau International, making several stops along the way. There is a charge to get in and this comes with a 24h pass for any other bus and the metro. If you have the monthly pass, you may ride the 747 bus for free.
Montreal has bus connections to cities throughout North America. The main bus terminal is the Station Centrale de l'Autobus de Montréal. Major bus companies include:
- Montreal weather is fairly unpredictable.
- Depending on the season, some days it’s warm and humid in the morning and by evening it’s windy and snowing. That being said, don’t worry! It’s manageable. All you need to do is make sure you’re prepared. Dressing for the weather is important, and in the colder months, multiple layers of clothes work well. If it is your first Canadian winter, plan to purchase a warm pair of winter boots and winter coat.
- Make sure to take advantage of the warm days, such as by hiking Mont-Royal, dining outdoors, or biking any part of the 14.5km-long Lachine Canal path, which was ranked the third most beautiful urban circuit in the world by Time magazine.
- McGill offers many news sources, both published by the university (The McGill Reporter, McGill News) and student-run (e.g., The Tribune, The Daily, Le Délit).
- For local news, check out the Montreal Gazette or le Journal Métro de Montréal.
- Notable local blogs include MTLblog.com, Tourisme Montréal Blog, and CULTMontreal.com.
- 514 is the telephone area code for Montreal and most of its surrounding area.
- In 2006, 438 was added as another Montreal-region area code. Most new phone numbers now use 438. Area codes 450 and 579 encompass the off-island suburbs of Montreal.
- Unlike in some countries, most Canadian mobile phone companies consider long distance to include different cities within the country. If you’re in Montreal calling a Toronto number, it may be considered long distance. Likewise, if you have a Montreal number and visit Toronto and use your phone there, it may be considered roaming and long-distance charges may apply.