One of my favourite cities to visit that is relatively close to Toronto is Montreal. With the rising prices in gas it is becoming quite costly to drive there, especially if you are travelling alone or with 1 other person. During my trip there last weekend I decided to do some investigation into the cheapest ways to get from Toronto to Montreal.
Cost: $40-$90 Return Trip (depending on when you book and which times you select – prices may increase during long weekends and other busy times if you don’t book ahead)
Total Travel Time: 5h 45m to 6h 30m each way
Departing / Arrival Station: From Toronto Bus Terminal at Bay & Dundas to the Montreal Bus Terminal (1717 Rue Berri, Montreal)
Booking: Available Online or at the Bus Terminal
Review: I used Megabus to get to Montreal on my last trip. The bus departed slightly later than expected and arrived about 10-15 minutes later than scheduled. They advertise that the buses come equipped with WIFI though from what I have heard from others this is not always available. During my trip the WIFI stopped working about half way through the trip. The staff was very friendly and when I boarded and also was able to respond to my concerns about the WIFI via Twitter. The bus I was on had several empty seats so it made the journey a bit more comfortable, though the seating is very basic and nothing to write home about. If my goal is to return to Montreal for the cheapest possible way I will definitely look to use Megabus for my next trip.
Overall Value: 8.5/10
Via Rail (Train)
Cost: $165 Return Trip (when booked minimum 4 days before departure)
Total Travel Time: 4h 40m to 7h+ each way
Departing / Arrival Station: From Toronto Union Station to Montreal Central Station (895 Rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, Montreal)
Booking: Available Online or at the Train Station
Review: I have taken the train to Montreal twice now and it is one of my favourite options if I don’t mind spending a little bit more. I live close to Union Station so this may have something to do with it, but I also find their service to be one of the best I have seen. From the moment I arrived at the station throughout the entire ride, every single employee I encountered was very friendly and ready to help. On my first trip I had trouble with the Internet and tweeted about my displeasure as the WIFI was what originally sold me on the train. Almost right away someone from Via replied to my tweet and helped me relocate to another car where the Internet was working better! The chairs are quite comfortable and very spacious and all have plugs for your electronic devices. I also really like how the train drops you off very central downtown and is very convenient for getting anywhere in the city! My only complaint is I find it somewhat pricey. If the price were dropped $30-$40 this would be the best value option by far!
Overall Value: 8/10
Porter Airlines (Air)
Cost: $275 and up for a Return Trip
Total Travel Time: 1h 10m
Departing / Arrival Station: From Toronto Island Airport to Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
Booking: Available Online or through a Travel Agent
Review: I can’t say enough great things about Porter. They changed my outlook on flying with their amazing service! Unlike a trip to Pearson Airport, you can arrive just an hour before your flight and take the ferry over to the island. Once there you can relax in the Porter Lounge drinking as many FREE cappucinos, waters, juices, etc. as your heart desires and chowing down on all the FREE snacks! Once onboard the plane you will get some kind of a small meal or snack and a glass of wine or Steamwhistle beer to wash it down (again, all for FREE). With a travel time of just an hour and 10 minutes, this is the fastest way to get to Montreal. The only downsides with Porter are unless you live downtown, their airport might not be convenient for you and once you arrive in Montreal you will have to pay to get from the airport to downtown. It’s not cheap, but if money is no option, this is the best way to get there!
Overall Value: 6/10
Conclusion: If money is the determining factor, the bus is the best choice. If you want a quicker travel time, great service and much more convenient location then I would suggest taking Via Rail. If you are looking to splurge and money is no object, fly Porter.
HOT DEAL UPDATE (May 2, 2012) – I am not sure how long this deal will last but Porter Airlines and Air Canada have both dropped their prices for flights this summer. Right now you can book a roundtrip flight on Air Canada for only $146 Roundtrip INCLUDING Taxes!! This is SUPER HOT! Porter Airlines on the other hand is about $30 more. For details visit this link.
Driving – The nice thing about driving to Montreal is you have a car to use when you get there. Of course this also means that you are going to have to pay to park it somewhere at night so this option can get quite costly considering the gas alone nowadays will probably be around $200 to get there and back. If you are going with more than 1 or a group of people though, this is probably one of your best options. If you don’t have a car I suggest checking Enterprise if you are looking to rent one as I have found they have the best pricing.
Ride Sharing / Carpooling – A friend of mine used to go to Montreal quite frequently to visit his family there and used to look on Craigslist or Kijiji looking to rent a spot in their car in exchange for some gas money. Craigslist actually has a section called Rideshare where people post these kinds of things. Personally, the idea of spending 5 hours in a strangers car doesn’t do it for me and it is hard to organize a return trip, but if you are looking for the cheapest possible way because the buses are already full, this is an option. He was quite a big guy and could handle himself if anything went wrong but I would not recommend this option for solo female travellers or timid individuals unless you have some kind of a martial arts background. This option is a huge BUYER BEWARE!!
If you know any other ways to get from Toronto to Montreal cheap that I may have missed I would love to hear about them in the comments below! :)