Getting to Know Toronto

Immigration

The Centre for International Experience has extensive information about coming to the University of Toronto from outside Canada. The first stop for international students should be the website for Citizenship and Immigration Canada which gives instructions on applying for study permits and visas. Students can obtain letters from the Graduate Administrator providing the information required by CIC, such as funding guarantees (for PhD students) and length of studies (for both MA and PhD students). International students interested in working off-campus may apply to do so after six months of residence in Canada, and information on obtaining a Social Insurance Number and Work Permit is available from Service Canada.

Housing

The University of Toronto Student Housing Service provides information to students on living in Toronto. You may also wish to contact the graduate administrator at the Centre for Medieval Studies to be put in contact with other students offering or looking for housing.

Getting around Toronto

Transit

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) provides services in three forms.

Subway: Toronto has 4 main subway lines: Bloor (runs east-west), University-Spadina (runs north-south), Yonge (runs north-south), and Sheppard (runs east-west from Sheppard on the Yonge line). The Scarborough LRT runs from Kennedy station east to McCowan. Subway tip: never go through a turnstile if you are not certain you have reached your destination. You will have to pay again!

Streetcar: Don’t let a Torontonian hear you call this a ‘trolley’! Enter the streetcar at the front doors unless you are otherwise instructed by TTC personnel. You must have exact change, or a token or pass to ride the streetcar. Transfers are sometimes necessary if the streetcar does not come directly inside the subway station. Streetcars can be slow in the winter when the roads are in bad shape. The quickest streetcars are the ones that travel in a dedicated lane, like Spadina or St Clair. Queen and King can be quite slow depending on the time of day.

Bus: Buses can be unreliable because of traffic conditions and slow schedules in the middle of the day…you’ll get to know your local bus. Exact change, token or pass will get you on the bus. Exit from the back door of the bus, which will sometimes require a push to open (wait for the light to flash).

Quick Facts:

  • A single ride is a steep $3.00 – buy tokens in bulk for a slightly cheaper rate ($2.50). Day Passes are available if you will use the subway 4 or more times in a day. There are also weekly passes. BONUS: on a weekend, 2 adults (and up to 4 children) can ride on a single day pass!
  • If you will use the TTC at least 5 days a week, a Metropass is the most affordable. You can get a Metropass for post-secondary students through stations and some grocery stores.
  • You must have exact change, a token, or a valid transfer to ride the streetcar or bus. Streetcar and bus operators cannot provide you with change.
  • If you do not have exact change for cash fare at subway stations, give your money to the fare collector and s/he will give you change for the entire amount, from which you will deposit your fare into the box. The collector does not deposit your fare for you! Do not just take the change and go through, because you have not paid.
  • Transfers must be taken from the stop where you BEGIN your trip. If you will be transferring to/from a bus or streetcar and you are not sure if you will need a transfer, make sure you take one just in case. You do not need a transfer to switch subway lines.
  • Flying home? TTC is a great, cheap way to get to the airport. Take the subway to Kipling and catch the airport express bus. Allow extra time at rush hour.

Cycling Resources

Bikechain, located in the basement of the Centre for International Experience, has volunteers who will help you tune up your bike, give you maps of bike trails and advice on cycling in Toronto.

Trails: Toronto has many beautiful cycling trails. Try the Toronto section of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail, which itself stretches from Niagara-on-the-Lake in southwestern Ontario to the Québec border. High Park is a great place to cycle as well, although there are cars in some areas. The Don Valley Trail takes you down into the ravine right next to the Don River. The map available at the City of Toronto’s website shows these and many other trails.

Cycling events: Toronto cyclists love to get together. Events include ‘The Coldest Day of the Year Ride’ (January 30th, the statistically coldest day for Toronto), Critical Mass (last Friday of the month at Bloor and Spadina at 6), and various events during Bike Month (usually held in May).

Miscellaneous: If you are a hard-core cyclist you should check out Jet Fuel on Parliament south of Wellesley. It is the original Toronto bike courier coffee spot and still boasts excellent espresso and a bike team.

Eating & Drinking

On Campus

The Wymilwood Café (in the basement of Victoria College, entrance on St. Charles Street). Cheap, canteen-style food, soup, bagels, sandwiches, plus a quiet place to sit and a microwave.
Sammy’s (in the basement of Hart House). Better food than Wymilwood, but also noisier, busier, and less convenient for the department or Kelly Library.
The Kelly Library café (on the ground floor of the library, on your left when you enter.) A very basic coffee-shop setup, with a small selection of sweets and sandwiches. Not really worth it, but there if you’re desperate. Only plus is a good-sized seating area.
The Robarts food court (Robarts Library) grim, full of undergrads, but serviceable. On the second floor.

Off Campus

Baldwin Street Walk south down St. George Street, continue south across College and onto Beverley Street, and keep going until you hit Baldwin. A pretty street with about fifteen restaurants suitable for many tastes and budgets. Includes Fujiyama (a great sushi place) and Vegetarian Haven (a small, good quality, imaginative vegetarian restaurant).
Chinatown centres around the crossroads of Dundas and Spadina streets. Fruit markets, Asian food stores, restaurants, bakeries, health centres and more.
Little Italy College Street west of Spadina and east of Ossington. A long stretch of bistros and restaurants. Harder on the wallet than Chinatown, but lots of nice places. Highlights are Kalendar, and Utopia Cafe and Grill (burgers, wraps, lots of vegetarian options).
Kensington Market The whole area boxed in by College, Augusta, Spadina and Dundas streets. Lots of little eateries and cafes are mixed in with the retro clothing shops and grocery stores; highlights are Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (for pie),
Fresh A favourite vegetarian restaurant at Spadina and Bloor. Always buzzing. Stop in on weekday afternoons after 3pm for their extra-cheap smoothie of the day.

Alcohol

The Duke of York (39 Prince Arthur Avenue). A solid pub, and a favourite with CMS students. For this and the Bedford, turn right out of the department, walk one block north, turn left.
The Bedford Academy A nice outdoor area. See above for directions.
The Village Idiot (Corner of McCaul and Dundas). Usually crowded and busy.
Sin & Redemption (McCaul, just north of the Village Idiot, opposite the church, hence the name). Great European beer selection, lovely on summer evenings.
The Pour House (182 Dupont Street). A nice Irish pub, if a bit out of the way.
The Green Room (296 Brunswick Avenue). Delightfully seedy, always buzzing.
The Fox’s Den (1075 Bay Street). A nice place to unwind, decent value food.

Caffeine

GreenBeanery (corner of Bloor and Bathurst). Somewhat clinical coffee joint.
Urbana (1033 Bay Street). Does good value cards; convenient for Kelly library coffee runs.
Manic (426 College Street). Noisy and full of hipsters. Does great roasts.
Madelines, Cherry Pie, and Ice Cream (1087 Bathurst Street). Great desserts, nice place to sit.
David’s Tea (Queen Street West). A great selection of all kinds of tea; helpful staff. Not much seating area, better to buy and take away.

Things to Do

Royal Ontario Museum (Bloor and Avenue, opposite the department). Notable for the controversial architectural addition to the front of the building by Michael Lee-Chin that looks like a glass explosion, and the dinosaurs. Free admission to the ROM is available on Tuesdays to students with ID; on Wednesdays from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm general admission is free; and half-price admission applies to entry after 4:30 pm on Fridays.
Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West). Was renovated in the last few years; fantastic space, and great Canadian Art collection. Also has a small collection of beautiful medieval carvings. Wednesday nights free from 6pm; get there at 5:30 to queue.
The Toronto Islands (a $6.50 ferry from the Toronto Ferry Docks, at the very end of Bay Street). A lovely countryside-in-the-city place for a walk, a picnic, a bike ride or even a visit to the “clothes-optional” beach on Hanlan’s Point. A great view of downtown.
Cinema The two big downtown multiplexes close to campus are in the Scotiabank centre (St. John and Queen) and the Manulife Centre (Bay and Bloor).
Kelly Library DVD Collection (Ground floor, on your left). They have a big selection.
Bata Shoe Museum (327 Bloor St. West). A couple of hours takes you through the whole thing, but it’s more interesting than it sounds!
Casa Loma (Spadina and St. Clair Ave West). ‘Canada’s Majestic Castle’, half-finished by an eccentric tycoon in the early twentieth century whom the project bankrupted, briefly a nightclub and a top secret base for building submarine guidance systems in WWII, now a tourist destination. Combines mock-medieval style with state-of-the-art (for the time) bathroom finishes.
The Royal Conservatory of Music (273 Bloor St. West) hosts concerts of various genres throughout the year, and provides $10 rush seats 90 minutes before most performances.
Tafelmusik is one of the world’s most renowned baroque orchestras, and plays at two locations on Bloor Street. Student tickets are available, and “Face the Musik” nights are by donation for those under 30.
Toronto International Film Festival (tiff) Sept. 9–19. Go see films, or stalk celebrities around the hotels on Bloor. Sighted last year by CMS students: Colin Firth, Julia Roberts.
Nuit Blanche Oct 2. An all-night art event, with mini-exhibitions, performance art pieces and more happening all over the city.
Open-air Ice Skating at City Hall or the Harbourfront A good time all winter.

Necessities

Banks

Bank of Montreal (BMO) (Bay & Bloor, Bedford & Bloor, University & College etc.)
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) (Yonge & Bloor, Bay & College, Spadina & College, etc.); also operates the online bank President’s Choice Financial
HSBC (Avenue & Bloor, Spadina & Dundas, Yonge & Adelaide, etc.)
ING Direct (Yonge & Shuter)
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) (Harbord & Spadina, Bloor & Yonge, University & College, etc.)
Scotiabank (Spadina & Bloor, Yonge & Wellesley, College & Bathurst, etc.)
TD Canada Trust (Bay & Bloor, Church & Wellesley, Yonge & Carleton, etc.)

Groceries

NOTE – shopkeepers in Ontario are required to charge five cents for plastic bags, but most sell recycleable shopping bags at reasonable prices.
Metro (Spadina & Bloor, Yonge & College etc.) Expensive. Limited selection. The one near Spadina and Bloor is one of the only 24-hour grocery stores in the downtown.
Loblaws (Dupont & Christie, St. Claire & Yonge (directly above St. Claire West TTC stop), Dundas & Bloor). Better quality than Metro, but even pricier. Loblaws will usually have any special food product you need.
No Frills (Parliament & Carlton, Dufferin Mall, Sherbourne & Isabella). You get what you pay for, and you pay very little.
Price Chopper (Bloor & Dundas, Dufferin & Dupont, etc). There aren’t many of these, but they can be super cheap for specific items (like meat).
Kensington Market (Chinatown, south of College, west of Spadina). Cheap area to find ethnic and organic food, good cheese and produce, bread, meat and fish, clothing, coffee, local eccentrics, drug dealers. Check out Car-Free Sundays every last Sunday, May – October! Also has a small supermarket (Freshmart).
St Lawrence Market (Jarvis, on both sides of Front St.). A huge array of expensive, delicious food on sale, both raw ingredients and pre-prepared stuff, including Toronto’s famous peameal bacon sandwich. You can get good produce for reasonable prices on Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market in the north building
Farmers’ Markets Toronto hosts a large array of farmers’ markets (including certified organic produce) held in parks. Major markets include Trinity Bellwoods, Riverdale Park, Dufferin Grove, and Withrow Park. For the times and days of these markets check out The Toronto Farmers’ Market Network. There is also a tiny one on Thursday afternoons in University College from January to April.

Pharmacies

Shopper’s Drug Mart (Spadina & Bloor, Yonge & Carlton, Yonge & Charles (this one is open 24 hours), etc.)
Rexall/PharmaPlus (Bay & Bloor, Bay & College, etc.)

Furniture and Furnishings

Canadian Tire (Yonge & Church, Yonge & Dundas, Eglinton & Laird, etc.)
Grand & Toy (Bloor & Avenue)
Home Hardware (College & Spadina, Parliament & Carlton, Bloor & Bathurst – the workers at this one are very eccentric, but very nice)
Ikea (Kipling & The Queensway – take the subway to Kipling; an IKEA shuttle bus departs the station from the car park out back every half an hour; Leslie & Sheppard – take the subway to Leslie; an IKEA departs the station every half an hour)
Honest Ed’s (Bloor and Bathurst). This is definitely worth a visit as a Toronto cultural experience, and sells everything under the sun at cut prices, but is very overwhelming and difficult to navigate.
Wal-Mart (Bloor & Dufferin, Runnymede & St. Clair)
Zellers (Gerrard & Carlaw)

Office Supplies

Grand & Toy (Bloor & Avenue)
Tru-Copy (1033 Bay Street)
U of T Bookstore (214 College Street, at College and St. George). Sells everything from U of T stationary and merchandise to laptops and cellphones. Also includes a post office.
Staples (375 University Avenue). Office chairs, computers, stationary, etc.
Post Offices. There’s one in the U of T bookstore, and one in the Shopper’s Drug Mart at Spadina and Bloor, but for the closest one to the department, turn right onto Bloor, walk along, and go into the lobby of the first condo building. The little post office is inside, on your right.

Clothes et al.

The Eaton Centre at Yonge and Dundas is a massive shopping mall—overwhelming, but occasionally useful (if, say, you want to comparison-shop phone service providers, or buy sweaters from Old Navy). Has a big Future Shop and Best Buy for all your electronics and digital entertainment needs.
The Dufferin Mall (Dufferin, between College and Bloor).
Queen Street West (between Yonge and Bathurst) has a variety of more hip and trendy shops for clothes, records, memorabilia, hats, et al. Other highlights include Come As You Are (at 701 Queen St), one of Toronto’s local friendly feminist sex shops (the other is Good For Her, at 175 Harbord), and David’s Tea (at 336), a great little tea store.

Books

Indigo (55 Bloor Street West, in the Manulife Centre). A big mass-market bookstore.
BMV Books (471 Bloor Street West). A big second-hand bookstore. There are several others around it.
Toronto Women’s Bookstore (73 Harbord Street). A feminist bookstore.
Bakka-Phoenix Books (84 Harbord Street). A science fiction and fantasy bookstore. This location was previously occupied by Atticus Books, but Bakka-Phoenix is slowly moving in at the moment.
Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street). Check out the amazing Arthur Conan Doyle collection.
Lillian H. Smith Branch, Toronto Public Library(239 College Street). Has two great reference collections: one sci-fi, one children’s fiction.

Your Health

Health Plans

All full-time graduate students are enrolled in supplementary health coverage through the Graduate Student Union. This covers some expenses not covered by OHIP and UHIP. Aside from emergency, hospital, and other kinds of coverage we hope you won’t need, this insurance partially reimburses for prescriptions, eye exams, and dental care. Also covered under this program are some alternative treatments, including chiropractice and massage therapy. Further information can be found on the GSU website`. This website also provides a link to Green Shield Canada’s online student centre, where you can download a PDF booklet describing your benefits in full.

This is a reimbursement program through Green Shield Canada. This means that you will be required to pay providers the full amount due when you receive services. You must submit your forms and receipts before the end of the year (the last day of August) to be reimbursed. Reimbursement forms can be printed out from the Green Shield Canada Online Student Centre.

At the Green Shield Student Centre you can also find their Discount Vision and Discount Dental networks, with lists of dental and vision care providers who—as the name suggests—offer discounts to Green Shield’s student members. You are also automatically enrolled in a travel benefit plan through the GSU, for coverage when traveling out-of-province. Detailed information is, once again, in the booklet available on the Green Shield Canada website.

International Students (UHIP)

International Students are automatically enrolled in basic health insurance (UHIP) through the Centre for International Experience. This is your primary and basic coverage (what you show to people at the university health centre, for example.) You will need your card to take advantage of this program. These cards should be picked up at the ISC (on St. George near College) at the beginning of every academic year, although they may not be available at the beginning of September. If you need proof of coverage before the cards are available, they can print out a temporary proof-of-coverage for you at the ISC.

UHIP coverage is comparable (but not equivalent) to Ontario’s health insurance program. It covers basic treatments and exams, surgery, and care related to pregnancy. For more detail about any specific concerns you may have, please see their website. Should you need it (and we hope you don’t!) they have a preferred hospital list, available on the website.

Where do I go?

Most students make the Student Health Services (in the Koefler Student Centre at College and St. George) the place they go for primary care. They do basic physical exams, gynecological exams, immunizations, and all other services you would expect from a family doctor. While you must call or book online for an appointment, they do have a limited number of drop-in slots every day. If you’re planning to drop in, be sure to get there early and be prepared to wait. And if you have a sensitive reason for being there, they might not be your first choice: you always run the risk of running into a classmate who wants to ask why you’re there.

They are located at 214 College Street on the Second Floor. Please visit them in person or call 416-978-8030 to make an appointment.

If you need specialized services (X-Rays, for example), Health Services will provide a referral. However, prescriptions and referrals should NOT be necessary for alternative treatments like chiropractice.

Student Health Services is not the only clinic in the area, and for urgent (but non-emergent) care, a walk-in clinic may be the best option. Health Services provides the following list of walk-in clinics in the area of the university. Do call ahead, just to make sure you don’t need an appointment.

  • The Doctor’s Office (595 Bay Street): 416-598-1703
  • Bay-Wellesley Med. Services (#100 – 984 Bay St.): 416-929-1900
  • Bay-College Medical Centre (#216C – 777 Bay St.): 416-977-8878
  • College-Care Walk-in Clinic (351 College St @ Spadina): 416-915-9285

Counselling and Psychological Services

Your supplementary GSU coverage covers a limited amount of psychiatric care. However, an easier option if you find yourself needing counseling for the first time— or know exactly what you need (e.g. prescription management)— is to take advantage of the University’s Counselling and Psychological Services, also in the Koefler Student Centre. They offer short-term individual counseling and psychotherapy to students at the University.They are located at 214 College Street, on the main floor. Please visit them in person or call 416-978-8070 to make an appointment. You do not need a referral; however, on making your first appointment you will be asked to go through a twenty-minute phone interview in order to establish what services are most appropriate to your situation.

Do note that because of the great many students at the University of Toronto, they have a limit on the number of hours of counseling any one student may receive during their time at the University. However, it is a generous limit and they are mindful of it, working with students to ensure that they are using their allotted time in the most efficient way possible. Sessions are covered through OHIP or UHIP automatically and you will not need to pay upfront or fill in a reimbursement form.