International student life in Calgary compared to the rest of Canada

Published: March 16, 2023

Moving away from home in pursuit of higher education can be a life-changing experience, one that many international students find fulfilling and satisfying.

In fact, in 2019, Times Higher Education reported that Canada (along with New Zealand) was one of the two most popular “study-abroad” countries among international students in terms of likelihood to recommend.  

Need support or have questions about applying to SAIT? Contact a regional Recruitment Advisor for more information!

This, then, gives credence to the fact that Canada is seeing a significant boost in the number of international students arriving in this country. In fact, after welcoming over 400,000 international students in 2019, Canada has gone on to welcome a new single-year record-high number of international students for one year in 2022 (551,405).  

Note: As of December 31, 2022, a total of 807,750 international students held valid study permits across the country, marking another all-time Canadian record. 

Top considerations for international students   

Survey results from a September 2022 ICEF Monitor report indicate that affordability is steadily becoming “a rising factor in international students’ choice of destination.” In fact, in the report, student recruitment agents from around the world were asked: “when planning their study abroad, which are your students’ most important decision-making factors?”   

To this question, 75% of respondents indicated that “cost of study and living is the most important factor for students, above even work and immigration opportunities.” 

Need support or have questions about applying to SAIT? Contact a regional Recruitment Advisor for more information!

Comparing different Canadian international student destinations 

Appropriately, as international students decide where they would like to pursue their education, here is how four principal costs compare for international students in Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Calgary.   

Rent: On-campus and off-campus  

On-campus housing costs are variable, even within different residences at a single institution. Appropriately, an in-depth comparison of on-campus housing costs in these four cities is simply too nuanced for discussion in this article.  

Off-campus housing, meanwhile, is easier to compare thanks to standardized data on rental prices of a one-bedroom apartment from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). 

Note: The below data is based on October 2022 “primary rental market” prices published by CMHC. 

CityAverage Rent (1 bed. Apt.)
Vancouver (source)$1,629
Montreal (source) $909
Toronto (source) $1,527
Calgary (source) $1,224


City (Transit Pass Type) Monthly Transit Pass Cost
Vancouver (TransLink, 1 Zone) $102.55
Montreal (STM, Zone A) $56.50
Toronto (TTC, Post-Secondary) $128.15
Calgary (Calgary Transit) $112.00

Notably, Calgary and Vancouver also have U-Pass agreements for post-secondary students, although the prices for those are not listed here because those agreements do not apply to all institutions in either city.   

Note: SAIT is one of only five post-secondary institutions in Calgary that currently participates in the city’s U-Pass program with UPass Calgary Transit 

Need support or have questions about applying to SAIT? Contact a regional Recruitment Advisor for more information!


StatsCan publishes monthly data on the average retail price of different goods in every province and territory. The prices of three common grocery items – eggs, milk, and butter – from January 2023 will be used to compare grocery costs in these major cities.  

Province (City) Item (Quantity) Average Cost of Item
British Columbia (Vancouver) Eggs (12)
Milk (1 litre)
Butter (1 pound)
Eggs (12)
Milk (1 litre)
Butter (1 pound)
Eggs (12)
Milk (1 litre)
Butter (1 pound)
Eggs (12)
Milk (1 litre)
Butter (1 pound)


As tuition varies based on the chosen program and institution, the following outlines the average international student tuition in each major city’s province based on preliminary Statistics Canada (StatsCan) data for 2022/2023. 

Province (City) Level of Study Average Cost of Tuition
British Columbia (Vancouver) Undergraduate

On average, Ontario has Canada’s highest international student tuition and Alberta has the lowest (among these four provinces). For illustrative purposes, what follows will outline an example of tuition costs at one Canadian designated learning institution (DLI) in each of the four major cites above. 

Note: An acceptance letter from a Canadian DLI is required in order for international students to receive a Canadian study permit 

At the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus in Vancouver, international student tuition fees for 2023/24 range from $44,000 to $58,000 depending on the program. At Montreal’s McGill University, international student tuition for those enrolled in an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts (BA) program during the 2022-23 academic year (the most recent available data) was $31,500.50.  

Meanwhile, in Ontario, undergraduate international students studying in the Arts and Science faculty at the University of Toronto’s downtown campus can expect tuition of $60,510 for the 2023-24 academic year. Finally, annual tuition and fees at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary, Alberta’s largest city, amount to $21,000 

Note: This figure from SAIT includes the cost of gym access, health insurance, ancillary fees and a transit pass (more on that later) 

Life as a Canadian international student at SAIT 

Returning quickly to the earlier discussion on housing options for international students, SAIT offers two residence buildings, each with different kinds of amenities. At Begin Tower, students can either reside in studio apartments with a single bedroom or suites with two bedrooms and a shared bathroom. East Hall, meanwhile, offers single-bedroom residence options as well as units with four bedrooms, which include a shared bathroom and common area. 

Note: To learn more about SAIT’s on-campus residence options, click here to learn more about Residence Life and use this link to explore the different Rooms and Rates available.   

Notably, SAIT has welcomed international students from 140 different countries during our more than 105 years in the world of education. Located just five minutes from downtown Calgary’s famous Peace Bridge, the polytechnic college is also one of just fifteen DLIs in Alberta’s most populated city. This means that international students who attend SAIT will be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) of up to three years upon graduation from an eligible program. For international students who aspire to eventually become Canadian permanent residents, this is crucial because obtaining a PGWP is vital to accumulating the one year of work experience required to be eligible for Canadian permanent residence.  

More about Alberta and Calgary 

Alberta is becoming an increasingly popular location for arts and leisure in Canada.  

In fact, The Last of Us, one of HBO’s most recent global television successes, was filmed in several communities across the province. With shoot locations including Fort McLeod, Canmore, Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta has become a popular backdrop and destination of choice for tv and film producers around the world.  

See: Must-see Blockbusters and TV Productions Filmed in Alberta 

For those looking for leisure, Alberta is also filled with opportunities to experience everything from history to the great outdoors. From sightseeing tours and museums to activities like camping, canoeing or ice fishing, Alberta has plenty to offer with respect to affordable events and experiences no matter what the time of year. Visit Travel Alberta to learn more. 

Contact SAIT to learn more! 

The information provided throughout this article is just a glimpse into the costs and expenses associated with life in these four major Canadian cities as an international student. Still, every international student will have different priorities and choose to weigh certain expenses over others.   

What we hope, however, is that this article has provided prospective international students with a good springboard into understanding the financial reality of coming to Canada in pursuit of higher education.   

Please visit our website to learn more about SAIT and contact us with any concerns or questions about applying to study here, coming to Canada as an international student and more. 

Need support or have questions about applying to SAIT? Contact a regional Recruitment Advisor for more information!

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