Tickets, textbook, pencil, toothbrush, food, and compass card illustration.
August 8, 2018
4 mins read

Your Vancouver expense guide

Have you ever wondered how much living in Vancouver really costs?

Whenever I’m settling into a new city, I like to play a game of “This Is How Much?!” because no amount of Lonely Planet articles can prepare you for the steals and steep prices of some daily necessities.

With that being said, the cost of studying in the world’s 'most livable city,' ironically, means living in Vancouver may cost a little more than you might be used to.

So whether you’re an out-of-town student or just starting to consider your daily expenses as a new bird out of the nest, here are some prices to prep your wallet and your budget.

colourful sushi and drink illustration

Food

Vancouver is renowned for having a diverse and high-quality range of cuisine to curb those cravings. Remember: it’s courtesy to tip 15% at a sit-down restaurant, whether you’re having sushi or shawarmas.

(P.S. In BC, the food and restaurant tax is 5%, which means a $9 avocado toast is really $9.45.)

Coffee

$2.50 a cup

This is your base rate for an Americano. But for your free-trade nitro pour-overs with half soy—expect a little more.

Brunch

$10.50 - Eggs benedict

Vancouver is a place where mimosas are a-plenty and the egg bennies runneth over with yolk. In other words, we love brunch. Mind you, there will be a discrepancy between your local diner and that new waterfront spot.

Dinner

$15 - Aburi sushi set

This is your average price for a good neighbourhood meal—a little less if you’re at a food court and a little more if you’re feeling fancy.

Groceries

$45 to $60/week

This will really vary depending on your diet and what’s in season. Produce is often purchased by the pound (despite our metric system), so look out for that if you’re used to kilograms! Also, did you know you get 10% off groceries if you show your student card at the IGA on West 4th?

Colourful illustration of soap dispenser and toothbrush

Living

Phone plans

$60 - Unlimited talk & text (2 GB data)

This will vary with your provider and if you’re bringing your own device. The best promotion I’ve seen on a phone plan was $40 for 4 GB of data (plus talk and text), so be prepared to make the decision between paying for data or always asking for the Wifi password.

Bed and Bath

$70 - Twin duvet

If you order online from Campus Linens of Canada, they’ll deliver straight to your residence before you move in. Not sure what size mattress to expect at your residence? Check out the UBC bedding guide.

Toiletries

$8 - Shampoo

Luckily there are two Shoppers Drug Marts on campus if you’re ever low on those daily necessities.

Clothing

$70 - Raincoat

Vancouver is picturesque for 3 months out of the year—and less so during the rest. I’d recommend investing in a reliable raincoat to really soak in that Raincouver culture.

Colourful illustration of compass card

Transportation

There are plenty of easy ways to get around Vancouver: buses and trains to connect you across the city and beyond, car-sharing services for impromptu road trips, or cycling to get around this very bike-friendly city.

Public transit

$41 - Monthly pass

All full-time UBC students are eligible for a U-Pass, which gives you unlimited access to bus, SeaBus, SkyTrain, and Canada Line transit services. The pass is included as part of your student fees—however, you do have the option of opting out.

Gas prices

$1.50/L

As of today—but who knows a month from now.

Parking rates

$1 to $2/half hour on campus 

Check out UBC parking for specific location rates. If you drive regularly, consider buying a parking permit online to get a discount (e.g. a day permit is $8.25 plus tax vs. $16 if you pay at the machine).

Colourful illustration of movie tickets and popcorn

Entertainment

There’s always something going on in one of the nooks of this city. Check out some of the more unconventional things to do in Vancouver.

Movies

$14 - Regular admission

On Cineplex Tuesdays, all tickets are at a discounted price of $8.50! The closest Cineplex Theatre to campus is Fifth Avenue Cinemas (sorry minors, it’s a 19+ theatre) or Scotiabank Theatre in Downtown Vancouver (this one’s for all ages!).   

Concerts

$40 to $80 – General Admission ticket

Luckily, Vancouver is a stop for those headlining North American tours, but we’re also home to some local talent, music festivals, and, if you’re in the loop, free concerts.

Colourful illustration of pencil and textbook

Academics

School is an expense we all have to consider. But know there are resources that can help, like online budgeting templates, free Financial Wellness workshops (scroll down to see sessions) to help you stay on top of your money, as well as potential UBC awards (like scholarships and bursaries) that can supplement your funding. And, of course, your Enrolment Services Advisors are always available to chat!

Textbooks

$70 - Standard textbook

The types of supplementary material you’ll need will vary by price and with different courses. Luckily, there are ways to buy books on a budget and to save up as a first year.

School supplies

$5 - Notebook

Keep an eye out on campus during the first week for free UBC stationery and swag like notebooks, agendas, pens, and tote bags.


The above is just a snapshot of some prices to expect. You can also check out the first-year cost calculator to map out your expenses (which include tuition and housing). It can help bring a little perspective to your financial planning.

Expenses don’t need to be terrifying. There are plenty of resources and tips to help you manage your finances or, at least, help you start looking at numbers in a manageable way. And when in doubt, ask for student pricing or discounts—you’d be surprised at the number of perks you can get with your UBCcard.