BP103: Living in Canada

What Types of Accommodation Can You Choose From? 

Explore the diverse accommodation options available for international students in Canada, including on-campus dormitories, off-campus shared apartments, homestays, and furnished or unfurnished student apartments, to find the perfect home for your study journey.
Written by: BorderPass Corp.
Last updated:  
April 2024

Moving to Canada for education can be an exciting yet challenging journey for international students. Navigating the sea of accommodation options can seem overwhelming. Nevertheless, with the proper guidance, you’re bound to secure the perfect place to stay!

If you want to learn more about accommodation options, read this article because we’ll provide valuable insights into Canadian student housing. Moreover, we’ll break down and examine each option, helping your adventure abroad go as smoothly as possible. 

In this article, we share expert advice on: 

  • Types of accommodations for international students in Canada 
  • On-campus housing vs. off-campus housing 
  • Ways to find housing options in Canada
  • Accommodation costs for international students in Canada

Let’s dive in! 

Main Types of International Student Accommodations

Being an international student in Canada is a thrilling and transformative experience. Finding your own space to live and study in is essential to this experience. Let’s take a look at the different types of housing options to help you find the most suitable accommodation: 

Student Residence: Dormitories & Townhouses

Some schools in Canada provide student residence on-campus or close to campus. Dormitories are generally larger buildings that house many students. On the other hand, townhouses are detached and usually house three to six students. 

Dormitories have common areas, cooking, entertainment, exercise amenities, shower facilities, and shared bathrooms. These dorms sleep one or more persons per room and are directly managed by the school. A dormitory is often the most suggested housing option for first-year college and university students. 

Townhouses typically contain three to six bedrooms, single occupancy rooms, and a central floor where the kitchen and living room are found. This accommodation is usually reserved for second-year, third-year, and fourth-year undergraduates and postgraduates. 

Both these styles of accommodation can include a nearby food court or cafeteria. Both options may include utilities like heating, hot water, electricity, and internet. 

Off-Campus Shared Apartment or Condominium

Off-campus shared apartments are similar to townhouses. They include a single or shared room where you can reside with one or multiple roommates. This type of apartment or condominium has shared spaces such as a living area, dining area, and kitchen.

Not all schools in Canada can assist in finding you off-campus housing. However, they can refer you to one or more external agencies and services to help you find suitable accommodation. Borderpass is one such service that can help you search for housing and roommates.

Host Family/Homestay

Living with a host family can give international students a sense of security and home. These comforts can be essential for international students as they adjust and settle into their new life in Canada. Homestays typically provide an internet-ready private or single-occupancy room and serve one to three meals daily. 

A host family can answer questions about the city you’re new to. Students living in a homestay can opt for shared accommodations with meals or room-only without meals. 

Unfurnished Student Apartments

Student rental apartments are private accommodations where international students can stay alone or with roommates. You can select unfurnished apartment-style houses if you want to reside away from the campus and explore Canada. 

In most cases, additional expenses such as water, electricity, and food will not be included in the rent. Based on our past experiences, renting an unfurnished apartment can be challenging to navigate for first-time international students in Canada. Rental costs can vary for cities such as Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and others.

Furnished Student Apartments

An online service like Kijiji and Airbnb can help you find a rental. These sites present furnished accommodation options you can look through before arriving in Canada. Just be sure to check the feedback from other guests and read the reviews of each rental. 

This type of rental typically requires a security deposit, depending on your location. However, it is also one of the best short-term options while you search for long-term accommodations. 

On-Campus Housing vs. Off-Campus Housing

Canada offers various accommodation options for international students, primarily on-campus or off-campus.

The main difference between on-campus and off-campus housing is that on-campus housing is owned by an educational institution and situated on or near school property. In contrast, off-campus housing refers to private rental units not tied to the school.

When sorting out your housing, the first step should be to consult with the international student’s office. Doing so will help you access information about available housing options. 

You can also refer to your school’s website if it assists with finding temporary accommodations. Moreover, you can chat with the team at Borderpass, who have experts available to help.

Benefits of On-Campus Housing 

Based on our first-hand experience, most students in their first or second year of study prefer to stay on campus. On-campus options often provide better support for international students. If you’re staying for an extended period, you can look into long-term options once you are more familiar with the area. 

On-campus residences are an excellent choice for first-year students because they support finding housing that accommodates social or cultural activities. It also supports maintaining mental and emotional well-being by contributing to a well-rounded university life. 

  • Community: On-campus housing provides a supportive community and facilitates community-building activities. Spending time on campus outside of studying will provide invaluable sharing experiences and help you form lasting friendships.  
  • Convenient and Accessible: Living on campus ensures accessibility for individuals with specific needs. You can save plenty of time since you are only a short walk from courses, libraries, and other academic resources.
  • Safe and Secure: Since universities prioritize the well-being of students, on-campus housing ensures safety and security measures. It also ensures compliance with housing regulations and offers assistance with resolving housing-related conflicts.
  • Multicultural and Inclusive: When you reside on campus, you can participate in cultural exchanges and receive multicultural support from students all around the world. 
  • Facilities and Utilities Included: Choosing an on-campus residence supports maintaining physical health and wellness. Campuses offer amenities such as gyms to enhance your overall student experience.  
  • Structures Learning: Proximity to campus supports academic success and progress by allowing you to immerse yourself fully in your learning experience.

Benefits of Off-Campus Housing

Living off-campus can provide you with more housing availability and allow you to explore your city beyond the university campus life. Students typically sign a one-year lease in either September or May, including the summer term. Depending on the province, you may be required to put down a security deposit, your first month’s rent, or last month’s rent. 

Off-campus student accommodation takes you from bustling campus life to a world of culture, independence, and experiences. It becomes your sanctuary in the heart of Canada’s diversity. 

  • Affordable and Flexible: Off-campus housing can save money by opening many options for cheaper accommodations. 
  • Independence: Living off campus will allow you to enjoy your space and routines, fostering a sense of autonomy and responsibility. 
  • Roommate Matching: You will experience living with a range of people. Roommates can come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and countries.
  • Cultural Immersion: Choosing to live off-campus allows you to connect with local cuisine and traditions and enriches your understanding of Canada’s multicultural fabric. 
  • Develop Life Skills: When living off-campus, you will utilize essential life skills to help prepare you for the world, such as cooking, grocery shopping, and managing utilities. 
  • Privacy: Off-campus residences allow you to discover the luxury of a quiet and cozy place that is your own. It serves as a haven for relaxation and focused study. 

How to Find Housing Options for International Students in Canada

After a comprehensive evaluation, we’ve rounded up some of the most crucial steps in finding accommodations for international students in Canada: 

Determine Your Budget

First, you must research the typical price of accommodations in the city you are studying, then factor in the cost of living. If you have a work permit, consider your personal expenses and income and adapt accordingly. 

Regarding financial aid availability, you can also search for a program that offers assistance with accessing housing-related financial aid. Similarly, you can look up an organization that assists with finding housing subsidies.

Research the Neighborhood You Want to Live In

Deciding where you should rent can start by asking your classmates or the student center or noting potential areas when you’re out and about. Here are some of the most vital considerations to keep in mind when researching a neighborhood as an international student in Canada: 

  • Access to Laundry
  • Close to Amenities
  • Well-maintained 
  • Comfortable 
  • Access to Parking
  • Spacious 
  • Well-Equipped 
  • Smoke-Free
  • Access to Study Spaces
  • Pet-Friendly 
  • Close to Transportation
  • Access to Resources

Decide What Type of Housing You Want

Since most students in Canada either live on-campus or off-campus, you need to be clear about the exact type of housing you need. You could be looking at dorms, condos, townhouses, or suites. Remember, your monthly costs will largely depend on factors such as your school and city, including a meal plan.  

Narrow Down Your Choices

After deciding which type of housing you require, it’s time to check out the listings or available residences to compare your choices. If unsure, you can use your student center or consult a real estate agent that ensures transparency in rental pricing and fees. 

Visit Your Housing Options

Make sure to view the property you’re interested in before committing to move in. Photos can be inaccurate when displaying the rental’s true condition. 

You may run into existing tenants while visiting a prospective property. Ask them how they like living there or how a new resident facilitates communication with landlords.

Ask Questions About What is Included 

Check if utilities, furniture, repairs, internet, and other services are included in the rent. Remember to favor a responsive landlord that ensures transparency in rental agreements.

Inquire About Additional Costs

Documentation of specifics, such as the rent amount and any additional costs, is vital. Enquiring about essential aspects such as lease flexibility ensures transparency in the application process.

Research and Educate Yourself on Your Rental Rights

Knowing your rights as a tenant is one of the most vital steps before signing a lease in Canada. The city’s municipal website provides information about rental rights and responsibilities if you are looking for resources. 

Your school’s international student resource center also offers assistance with understanding lease agreements. Lastly, we can help you here at BorderPass when it comes to navigating housing-related legal processes! 

Cost for International Student Accommodation in Canada

Canadian universities offer different types of accommodation to international students at various costs. While Canada ranks as one of the world’s most expensive countries for students, it has a range of affordable towns to live in. 

The most affordable housing options for international students cost between CAD 2,500 and CAD 16,000 per year. Low-cost student accommodations included studios, shared apartments, and living as paying guests. 

Key Takeaways

From our experience, accessing student housing within the college or university is ideal for international students. Aside from on-campus dorms and residences, students can rent an apartment in the city or opt for a homestay. Homestays are perfect to help with the transition to Canadian life. 

To make the right decision, you need to consider several factors and every type of expense on top of accommodation costs. If living off-campus, research the area you want to live in and research your rights as a tenant. For any more questions regarding housing and moving to Canada as an international student, Borderpass is here to help!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is There a Deposit That I Need to Pay to Confirm My Accommodation?

When you're looking to rent a new place, your landlord might request that you pay a security deposit. This deposit is usually the equivalent of the cost of one month’s rent but can exceed this. After you move out, you should receive a full refund of the security deposit unless there are any damages. 

When Should I Start Looking for Student Accommodation in Canada?

International students in Canada can begin looking for a place to stay when they receive an acceptance letter from a DLI (Designated Learning Institute). Of course, you can conduct preliminary searches to help with your decision of which school to attend in the first place.

How Much Will Be the Expense for Rent in Canada?

On-campus accommodations can cost anywhere from CAD 3,000 TO CAD 7,500 per year. Off-campus housing options can range from CAD 2,000 to CAD 36,000 per year. 

BP101: Studying in Canada

Can I Apply for PR After 1 Year of Study in Canada?

Can I Apply for PR After 1 Year of Study in Canada?
BP101: Studying in Canada

PTE for a Canadian Study Visa: What is the Minimum Score?

PTE for a Canadian Study Visa: What is the Minimum Score?
BP102: Working in Canada

How to Get a Co-Op Study Permit in Canada

This article explains the process for obtaining a co-op study permit in Canada, detailing eligibility requirements, application methods, and specific conditions for international students to work alongside their studies and gain practical experience.
BP101: Studying in Canada

Can I Apply for PR After 1 Year of Study in Canada?

BP101: Studying in Canada

PTE for a Canadian Study Visa: What is the Minimum Score?

Explore other modules


BP101: Studying in Canada

The essentials to your Canadian education
Get Started

BP102: Working in Canada

Work permits, labour law, taxes, and more
Get Started

BP103: Living in Canada

Planning your journey to permanent residence
Get Started

Take the next step in your journey today

Become a Member
Contact our support team at hello@borderpass.ca or use the chat button below