International Students

Day-to-day Living in Quebec



Learning French

If you’re an international student and want to learn French, have a look at the links below, provided by Polytechnique Montreal’s Services aux étudiants:

At Polytechnique:

Outside of Polytechnique:

Below is a non-exhaustive list of language schools and associations that offer French courses:

Computer, tablet, or smartphone applications are also available for download (see below) but you may incur fees.  

  • (free for the basic version)
  • Rosetta Stone

You can also watch short Youtube videos for beginner language lessons.

Opening a Bank Account

To open a bank account in Montréal, you need to make an appointment and bring specific documents with you:

  • your passport
  • your Study Permit or your Work Permit
  • your letter of admission
  • proof of a permanent address in Montréal

Some banks may also request additional information that differs from the above.
Most banks require you to have a certain amount of money to open an account.

Before selecting a bank, you should learn about various student account plans, as banks will generally bill per month of transactions. Also consider the availability of bank machines on-campus and nearby to where you live.

The main way Quebecers access banking services is via debit card (bank card; INTERAC card). This card can be used to withdraw cash from a bank machine, pay for purchases, and pay bills. Personal cheques aren't used very often - perhaps only for certain bills or to pay the rent.

Other handy facts

There are no foreign exchange services in Quebec banks.

The most efficient way to receive money is via fund transfers. If you deposit a cheque in an account upon your arrival, be forewarned that it may be inaccessible (frozen) for up to 30 days.

Lastly, the most frequently used credit cards in Quebec are VISA and Mastercard. However, be warned that those with temporary status often find it difficult to qualify for a credit card in Quebec.

Banks near Polytechnique Montreal

Bank of Montreal
5145, chemin de la Côte des Neiges
(514) 341 – 2240

National Bank
5355, chemin de la Côte des-Neiges
(514) 340 – 9550

RBC- Royal Bank of Canada
5700, chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges
(514) 340 – 3130

Caisse Populaire Desjardins
3333 Queen Mary Rd Bureau 100
(514) 274 – 7777

5501, chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges
(514) 342 – 4360

Cost of Living

You’ll surely notice a few differences between the cost of living here in Quebec, versus your country of origin.

Tips are never included in the bill at a restaurant, café, or bar. Generally speaking, you should leave your server a tip equivalent to 15% of the total bill (before tax).

You’ll also note that prices displayed in stores and restaurants generally does not include federal and provincial sales taxes. GST (federal goods and services tax of 7%) and QST (provincial sales tax of 7.5%) are added at the cash register.

Phone and Internet

To receive phone service where you live, contact one of the two main service providers in Quebec: BELL CANADA or VIDEOTRON. Activating a landline phone will entail an installation fee of up to $60.

Local phone calls are free in Quebec. Basic phone plans cost a fixed amount each month, regardless of how many local calls you make. You’ll also have your choice of options: voicemail, call display, call waiting, a second line, and so on. It’s up to you to determine which package suits you best.

Long-distance calls (outside of greater Montréal/international) are billed based on call duration. Find out about long-distance rates before you dial: the cost can be high!

A prepaid phone card is an excellent option that’s very popular with international students. Widely available in denominations of $5, $10 or $20 at grocery stores, drugstores, convenience stores or the Polytechnique CO-OP, these cards let you call home at advantageous rates. Some offer special rates to specific regions of the globe. Ask the merchant when you buying a calling card.

Some students opt to get a cell phone (mobile phone) while in Quebec. Companies that offer cellphones and rate plans include BELL MOBILITÉ, Rogers, Telus, Fido and Virgin Mobile. However, keep in mind that, though the network continues to expand, cellphone communication in Quebec is somewhat less widespread and more costly than in many countries.

Internet and Cable TV

For home Internet access, various packages are offered by major telecommunications companies. You might find it advantageous to sign up for a “bundle” that includes various phone, Internet, cable TV, and cellphone options.

There are many Internet service providers in Quebec. Be sure to get an Internet package that offers adequate monthly Internet usage - particularly if you share living space with roommates.

For cable TV, contact one of Quebec’s many cable service providers.

Public Transit - Bus & Metro

The STM (Société de transport de Montréal) operates a bus and subway network that covers the entire Island of Montréal.

There is a special student rate for a monthly transit pass, which permits unlimited travel on the network. Those interested must firstly purchase an OPUS card, with proof of residency in Montréal, and a piece of ID that attests to being 25 years old or younger. You must also complete an online form which the Registrar can validate for you. 

Note that every year, the STM comes to campus to issue student OPUS cards. Information about the visit will be publicized early in the semester.

The OPUS card is a chip card that can be recharged in Metro stations, as well as in numerous pharmacies, corner stores (corner shops / depanneurs), and at COOP Poly.

When travelling by bus, exact change is required.

On the STM's website, you can find the TOUS AZIMUTS travel planner, which was developed by a Polytechnique Montréal professor! It's very handy when you're navigating Montréal.


Taxis are relatively affordable and a safe option - they're often used by students getting home after the Metro system has closed for the night.

Driving in Quebec

Most students who have driver's licences written in either English or French are able to drive in Quebec. If your licence is not in one of these languages, it is advisable to seek out a translation of the document, or to acquire an international driver's licence. For more information about using a foreign driver's licence, visit the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) Web site.

Sports Complex

The Université de Montréal sports complex, CEPSUM (Centre d'éducation physique et des sports de l'Université de Montréal) is located right next to Polytechnique Montréal. As a Polytechnique student, you have free access to the pool, sports grounds, climbing wall, track, and many more facilities.

Certain other activities may require payment of a fees, for example, access to the weight room.