Transportation - Get In
Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (IATA: YUL) (formerly and still known to locals as Dorval Airport) is west of the city centre on Expressway (Autoroute) 20. Note that travel time to the airport from the city centre can be as much as an hour, depending on traffic. The airport is served by all major Canadian and U.S. airlines and is a major hub for Air Canada, Air Transat, and WestJet. There are multiple daily trans-Atlantic flights to and from (among others) London, Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva, Zurich, Athens, Doha, Frankfurt, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, Munich, and Casablanca. The sole trans-Pacific flight, though, is Air China's thrice weekly flight to Beijing.
The taxi fare to and from downtown is a fixed price of $40 (a sticker on the window behind the driver gives the boundaries of the zone where the flat fare applies; if you are going from or to places outside this zone, you will have to pay a metered fare with a minimum rate of $17).
STM Airport Express bus 747 offers service between the airport and downtown Montreal 24 hours a day. A single fare will cost $10 (exact change in coins only when paid in the bus) and includes unlimited use of the STM bus and metro network for the following 24 hours. There is also a ticket booth in the airport where you can purchase fares (including a three day pass for $18). The bus will stop at Lionel-Groulx metro station and a number of downtown stops.
It is possible to go downtown by the cheaper regular public transit system. Late at night, it is all right, but during peak hours, you will need to complete several transfers with potentially crowded vehicles so it is really only best to do so only if you are on a very low budget and/or have very light baggage.
Between 5AM and 1AM, take STM bus 204 east (est) which leaves from outside arrivals every 30 min to Gare Dorval (Dorval Train Station). Check that the driver is not going west (ouest) as both ways are served from almost the same place, and the sign does not say. You can also use the 209 on weekdays to get to Gare Dorval. Also, be sure to keep the ticket that the driver will give you as it is a transfer which you will need later. From Gare Dorval, use your transfer ticket to catch any one of buses 211, 411, 405, 425, or 485 to Lionel-Groulx metro station. Also make sure it is going east as the same routes go west too. Your transfer will then let you into the metro. Take the Montmorency-bound orange line or the Honoré-Beaugrand-bound green line into downtown on the metro. This costs only $3.25, but exact change in coins only must be provided to the first driver.
Between 1AM and 5AM, for the same price ($3.25, exact change in coins only), take bus 356 (again, check that the driver is going east, not west) directly into downtown via Sherbrooke. This bus runs relatively close to most downtown hotels. However, if needed, a transfer can be completed to access the rest of the city. See the STM's trip planner or Google Maps for more details.
At Gare Dorval it is also possible to catch the AMT commuter rail to downtown (Direction Lucien L'Allier), during the day from 6AM to 8PM for a single one-way fare of $6, leading to the downtown station of Lucien L'Allier which is also atop the Lucien L'Allier metro station.
Plattsburgh International Airport and Burlington International Airport, both located in the US, 1 hour 20 minutes and 1 hour 50 minutes, respectively, by car from Montreal. Adirondack Trailways offers a bus service between Plattsburgh International Airport and Montreal. Greyhound offers a bus service from Burlington International Airport and Montreal. For travellers from the US, these airports may offer a significant cost savings compared to Trudeau but at the added inconvenience of arranging ground transportation between the US and Canada.
Montreal Central Station (Gare Centrale) is at 895 rue de la Gauchetière Ouest, one block west of rue University, and is served by the Bonaventure metro (subway) station. Note that prices are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise specified.
VIA Rail Canada operates fast and comfortable passenger trains from Montreal along the busy Quebec-Ontario corridor and to destinations in northern Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. All fares below are five-day advance booking prices for one-way travel in "Comfort" (coach / economy) class, expect to pay almost 50% more if you book on the day of travel. Check the VIA website for "express deals", which are posted every Thursday. Highly discounted tickets are available, typically for long distance train routes or short distance trips at non-peak hours. Express deals on short distance trips (e.g. Montreal-Toronto) are typically offered only for the upcoming weeks, whereas long distance deals (e.g. Montreal to Winnipeg) may be available several weeks in advance. Business Class is available for a premium and includes a meal, alcoholic refreshments, snacks, and free wireless internet in both station lounges and on board the train. An ISIC student card can obtain a discount on all services (both VIA and Amtrak). Bicycles can also be brought aboard as is on certain Corridor trains during the summer months.
- Five trains a day operate to and from Ottawa (two hours, from $35).
- Six trains a day operate to and from Toronto (four and a half hours, from $85).
- Five trains a day operate to and from Quebec City (three hours, from $47).
Three evenings a week, VIA's "Ocean" service departs for the overnight journey to New Brunswick (fifteen and a half hours, from $110 coach, $162 upper berth, $219 bedroom) and Nova Scotia (twenty hours, from $133 coach, $187 upper berth, $245 bedroom). The choice of sleeping accommodation varies according to the season. Along with trains between Montreal and Quebec, the Ocean is now almost exclusively operated by modern Renaissance trains that were originally built for the aborted Channel Tunnel sleeper services between Great Britain and France.
Three evenings a week, the Ocean also pulls the "Chaleur" train as far as Matapedia. The train divides in the early morning and the Chaleur follows the southern shore of the Gaspé peninsular as far as Gaspe (17.5 h, from $106 coach, $165 upper berth, $215 bedroom).
VIA also offers three weekly round trips to Senneterre, in Abitibi (eleven and a half hours, from $81), and Jonquière in the Saguenay (nine hours, from $55). Both trains operate as wilderness services: a request stop may be made at any point along the route for those who want to hike and kayak in the remoter regions of Quebec that the train passes through.
Amtrak operates the "Adirondack" service to New York (11 hours, from $61 US) which departs daily, with connections in Schenectady to (but not from) Chicago (24 h, $114 US) and in New York to Philadelphia (14 h, $97 US) and Washington, DC (16 h, $120 US). The train also passes through much of upstate New York and hugs Lake Champlain for a large part of the trip. South of Albany, the route follows the Hudson River and passes a number of historic sites. Reliability of the service has improved greatly since an extra hour was added to the previous 10 h schedule, but one should still factor in the frequent possibility of arriving an hour later than scheduled.
The journey to New York is cheaper but slower than by bus (see below), which takes 7-9 h, but the superior comfort, extra legroom and ability to walk around the train and visit the cafe car for food and drink at your leisure, as well as the good view from the train of the Lake Champlain and Hudson River scenery, make up for this. While the bus is superior in terms of speed for a direct journey to New York, where getting for A to B is most important, the extra time on the train is more pleasantly spent in terms of comfort and scenery.
Train passengers leaving from Boston may take the Regional Service to Penn Station, New York, and transfer to the Adirondack line to Montreal, but this method requires significant layover times in New York.
The train station has no permanent lockers but it's usually possible to keep it guarded by viarail for less than a day if travelling with it. There is Wifi and a few power outlets.
There are extensive services to Montreal from cities in Ontario, Quebec, New York, Vermont, and Maine. Buses arrive and depart from the Station Centrale d'autobus (not to be confused with the Gare Centrale or central train station) at 505 boulevard de Maisonneuve est, (directly above the Berri-UQAM metro station]. Call +1 514-842-2281 for schedules and prices.
Intercity bus services to Montreal are offered by Megabus, Coach Canada,Adirondack Trailways, Greyhound Canada, Greyhound Lines, Voyageur, and Orléans Express. Orléans Express is the principal bus carrier in the St. Lawrence Valley, including the Montreal—Quebec City route and connections in Rivière-du-Loup to Maritime Bus, which serves destinations in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Voyageur, a subsidiary of Greyhound Canada, provides service to Hull and Ottawa, connecting with other bus routes to points in western Canada. Coach Canada provides service via Kingston to Toronto, connecting with other bus routes to western New York, southern Ontario, Michigan and Illinois. Other regions of Quebec are served by various companies.
Greyhound Lines offers three daily direct services and Adirondack Trailways offers two daily direct services, from New York, with additional trips operated on weekends and in summer (8 h, from $76.50 US). Greyhound Lines also offers four daily direct services from Boston (7 h, from $72 US). Note that there is no student discount on the Montreal-New York service.
For Montreal/US service, the train is slower but significantly cheaper; around $62 CA compared to about $75 CA for the bus. However, for about $15 CA extra, the bus makes for a much quicker journey with a much quicker passage through customs; so for speed, the bus is far superior; but for comfort and scenery, the longer train journey is more pleasantly spent.
From Toronto, take Highway 401 east about 5 h until it becomes Autoroute (Expressway) 20 on the Quebec side of the border. It will then take about an hour to get to downtown. Be alert for frequent speed-limit changes along this road. To reach downtown follow the Centre-Ville signs and take Autoroute 720 (Autoroute 20 continues over the Pont Champlain bridge to the South Shore).
Save money with a rideshare. There are daily rides from Toronto to Montreal and back for $30-50, which is cheaper than any other means of transportation between the two cities. A good website for ridesharing in Canada and the USA is Craigslist. Dedicated rideshare sites include LiftSurfer and eRideShare
Warning: Advertisement for a van (with a DVD player) that offers rides to Montreal and back every day has drivers that hardly speak any English at all (nor French). The service provider is unreliable. Service is also very poor.
From Ottawa, it's about 2 hours east along Highway 417 (which becomes Autoroute 40 in Quebec) to Montreal.
From Quebec City, it's about 3 hours west on either Autoroute 40 or Autoroute 20.
From New York City, take Interstate 87 north through Albany and the eastern half of New York State for about six hours. After the border crossing near Plattsburgh, the freeway becomes Autoroute 15, which leads directly into downtown Montreal over the Pont Champlain, the most beautiful approach to the city. The drive time from Plattsburgh to downtown Montreal is approximately one hour.
From Boston, take Interstate 93 to Interstate 89 after you cross into New Hampshire. Follow Interstate 89 north to and through Vermont to the border crossing, where it turns into Highway 133. This secondary road continues to Autoroute 10, which leads directly into downtown Montreal. The whole trip takes about 5 hours. Once you cross the border it is about 1 1/2 hours to Montreal.
Montreal is an island in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, accessible only by bridge. Not all bridges are bike accessible; however, several are, including the breathtaking Jacques Cartier bridge. Prominent bike lanes exist throughout the city, most notably along the Lachine Canal, Rue Rachel, boulevard de Maisonneuve, rue Brébeuf, rue Berri, rue Cherrier and most recently along rue Laurier. The Plateau-Mont-Royal is where most of these bike paths are and is the neighbourhood, along with neighbouring Mile-End, where there are the most people who cycle and walk as a means of day to day transport. It has the highest density population wise and the lowest car ownership rate per household. However, bike theft is an issue, especially in the Plateau. Most locals can recall a time when they witnessed bike theft, though the situation is getting better now that the public bike share program, Bixi, has been implemented. It was not uncommon to have somebody offer you a stolen bike for sale on the street. Be equally aware of the peripheral articles of your bicycle; seats, baskets, and wheels can often be easily detached if not properly secured to the bike's frame or locked with a u-lock.
From Montreal Central Station (Gare Centrale)
Upon disembarking the train, go to the baggage claim area and wait there for a baggage attendant to bring your bicycle to you. If you have checked other baggage, claim it at the conveyor belt. The easiest way to exit the station is at the main entrance near the baggage claim through the parking garage onto rue de la Gauchetière. All other exits require you to carry your bike up flights of stairs. At the west side of the station is the entrance to the Underground City and access to Bonaventure metro station on the Orange line. However, there is no elevator access to the metro from the train station, which means that you have to carry your bike and luggage down several flights of stairs.
From Montreal-Trudeau International Airport
The airport is on the western part of the island. From the main terminal, exit onto the main access road and turn right. Wind along the access road until the first major interchange and turn right. You will reach Albert de Niverville Boulevard and be forced to turn left (south) towards the main highway (Autoroute 20). At the end of this Boulevard, turn right on Cardinal Avenue. To your right, you will come to a pedestrian underpass that takes you under the railway tracks and leads to the Dorval Circle, a very busy traffic circle. This looks intimidating, but the traffic lights will allow you to ride safely under Autoroute 20 to Dorval Boulevard (Boulevard Dorval). Continue south down Dorval Boulevard until the end. Turn left on Lakeshore Drive (Chemin Lakeshore) towards the city. This road turns into Boulevard St. Joseph. You will eventually come to a bike path to your right that winds along the shores of Lac-Saint Louis (part of the Saint Lawrence river) through the town of Lachine. Continue down this path until you reach the entrance of the Lachine Canal. Cross the canal and continue down the Lachine Canal Bike Path (Piste Cyclable Canal Lachine) and follow the signs to the Old Port (Vieux Port) in Old Montreal (Vieux Montreal). The Lachine Canal Bike Path can be quite busy on weekends and holidays, so be ready to take your time. It is paved over its entire length.
Cyclist approaching Montreal from the west should take secondary highways to Dorion, where Autoroute 20, inaccessible to bicycles over most of its length, becomes accessible as it crosses bridges first to Île Perrot (Perrot Island) and then to the Island of Montreal (at Saine-Anne-de-Bellevue). Bicycles should use the sidewalk on these bridges as traffic is usually heavy. From here, cyclists may take Lakeshore Boulevard and the Lachine Canal Bike Path (see Airport section above) to Old Montreal and the downtown core.
The Isle-aux-Tourtes Bridge on Autoroute 40 is not accessible by bicycle.
From the United States
Cyclists approaching Montreal from the South Shore to the south and east of Montreal may access the Island of Montreal a number of ways (See map: [www] ).
The surest (but not foolproof) way is using the sidewalk Jacques Cartier Bridge. When it is not closed for repairs, it is open year round and all day. A paved bike path along the shores of the Saint Lawrence River provides the most scenic approach to the bridge.
An equally popular route is from the Saint Lambert Locks (Ecluses Saint-Lambert) of the Saint Lawrence Seaway near the Victoria Bridge (Pont Victoria) east of Montreal. The bike drawbridge may be blocked by the entertaining spectacle of a ship passing through the seaway. From here, cyclists take the Grand Prix racing track (Gilles-Villeneuve circuit) on Île Notre Dame to the Concord Bridge to Montreal. This route is closed sometimes for car racing events [www]. In this case, cyclists can take a circuitous detour down a gravel causeway dividing the seaway and river to the Estacade, an ice boom that crosses the river parallel to the Champlain Bridge to Nun's Island and eventually Montreal. A lesser known crossing involves one at the Sainte Catherine Locks (Ecluses Sainte-Catherine) at Saint Catherine south of Montreal. These bridges cross the seaway to the same causeway as the Saint Lambert locks. In this case, the road to the Estacade ice boom is paved. These bike links from the South Shore are open from 15 April to 15 November, from 6:30AM to 10:00PM. [www].
The Champlain Bridge, Mercier bridge, and Lafontaine Tunnel are definitely inaccessible to bicycles. These can be dangerous, even in a car. A bicycle path crossing the Mercier Bridge is under construction and is expected to be open by the Spring of 2012.
Transportation - Get Around
Montreal has historically been divided into east and west by boulevard Saint-Laurent, with the west side traditionally being Anglophone and the east side traditionally being Francophone. Numbered addresses on streets that cross Saint-Laurent start there and increase in either direction; most addresses are given as "rue ____ Ouest" (west) or "rue ____ Est" (east). Many streets are named after Catholic saints and figures from local history, both well-known and obscure. Note that in Montreal street names, "east" and "west" refer to the direction parallel to the St. Lawrence River, and "north" and "south" refer to the direction perpendicular to the St. Lawrence River. Because the St. Lawrence River runs almost north-south near downtown Montreal, "east", "west", "north", and "south" are actually northeast, southwest, northwest and southeast respectively. Confusingly, most maps displayed in the city have "Montreal north" on top which can be confusing with a satellite navigation that uses pole north. Also, don't try to navigate by looking at the sun!
Walking is a favoured way to get around the densely packed downtown and the narrow streets of Old Montreal, especially during the warmer months. However, beware during winter months, as sidewalks can be icy and extremely hazardous after winter snow and ice storms. Winter boots with good grip are essential for surviving pavements that have not been cleared. Beware also (as much as you can) of thawing ice falling from overhanging balconies and roofs. But you can always take the stairs down to Montreal's famous "Underground City" (Montréal souterrain), called RÉSO [www] , a network of pedestrian corridors connecting Métro (subway) [www] stations, shopping centres, and office complexes.
Jaywalking is widespread and rarely punished. However, be aware that drivers will usually not stop or even slow down if a pedestrian steps out in front of them, even at marked crosswalks. At an intersection, however, a pedestrian will have right of passage before turning traffic and most drivers respect this. Despite Montreal drivers' poor reputation for aggressiveness, they generally respect pedestrians.
Rue Sainte-Catherine is Montreal's main commercial artery and busiest pedestrian thoroughfare. The "Underground City" and the Green Line (or line 1) of Montreal's Metro is easily accessible from all the major office complexes, shopping malls, department stores, and theatre complexes that line it. Smaller chain stores and restaurants also vie for valuable commercial space. Well-kept historic churches with green space provide quiet oasis and contrast with the giant neon signs of strip clubs. Major hotels generally can be found one or two blocks north and south of Saint Catherine in the downtown core. Bars, restaurants, and dance clubs cluster within a block of Sainte-Catherine around Crescent and Bishop, catering to a mostly English-speaking clientele. Rue Saint-Denis, farther east, and the Gay Village between Berri and de Lormier, even more to the east, are mostly French-speaking. McGill College Boulevard in the downtown core from Saine-Catherine offers an open view of Mount Royal to the north and an impressive view of the Place Ville-Marie skyscraper to the south. Keep your head up and beware of following the flow of the crowd on this street: throngs of pedestrians often walk across cross streets against red lights, risking life and limb.
Rue Prince-Arthur, east of Saint-Laurent, is for pedestrians only. Another pedestrian-only locale is Montreal's Chinatown, situated on Rue de la Gauchtière Est between Saint-Urbain and Saint-Laurent. A good trick for navigating downtown Montreal is to remember that streets slope up toward Mount Royal, which is just north of downtown and easy to see from most locations.
The districts surrounding downtown Montreal are especially delightful on foot. To the south is Old Montreal (Le Vieux-Montréal) [www] (its narrow streets and buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries really can make you feel like you're in Old Europe) and the Old Port (Le Vieux-Port) [www], a waterfront strolling park with exhibits and boat tours, is very popular with the locals. To the north, the Golden Square Mile and the McGill University Campus is wedged between Mount Royal and Sherbrooke Street on the southern slope of the mountain. Old Victorian mansions and townhouses can be found along the sloping streets, many now housing McGill University's offices and libraries. Just west of downtown is affluent Westmount, a perfect example of 19th-century English-style homes and gardens (inhabited to a great extent by English-speaking people) climbing the slopes of Mount Royal's western part (the higher you climb, the larger the old mansions). Just east and northeast of downtown are the mostly French-speaking Gay Village (Le Village Gai) and Plateau (Plateau Mont-Royal) districts. Street after street displays turn-of-the-19th-century row duplexes and triplexes, replete with famous Montreal outdoor staircases, overflowing front gardens (or snow-covered gables, depending on the time of year), and tiny shops tucked into every nook and cranny. For people who like to see a culture where it lives, Le Plateau is the place to wander about in.
Mount Royal (Mont-Royal) is also accessible from the urban core on foot. [www] . Fit pedestrians can climb Rue Peel to the southern edge of the park. A series of renovated staircases will take you directly to the Chalet near the top of the mountain, with its classic view of the downtown core. A more leisurely climb to the top awaits those on Olmsted Road (6.5 km), a wide, gently sloping bike and foot path accessible from the Plateau in Parc Jeanne-Mance (also known as Fletcher's Field). Smaller foot paths serendipitously branch off from this road. A cross-country ski path also winds to the top in the wintertime. Mount Royal's park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, a landscape architect who lived from 1822 to 1903 and was also responsible for the design of Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston.
By metro or bus
The public transit system, run by Société de transport de Montréal (STM), is safe, efficient, and is overall pleasant to use. Tickets have been replaced by cards with magnetic stripe containing one trip, called an à la carte ticket. These are valid for one trip (including unlimited transfers in the same way for 90 min) on the metro and buses, costing $3.25 each (exact fare in coins is required on the buses but not on the metro) but are also available for less when you purchase two for $6.00 or ten for $26.50 (OPUS card required) either from the metro agent or the automatic fare vending machine located in metro stations. Signs and announcements are only in French, though ticket machines are bilingual in French and English. Many, but not all, Métro counter staff are also able to speak English.
Note that Montreal metro stations and train cars lack air conditioning, the Metro can sometimes get uncomfortably hot, in every season. It does however still exist as the best transport option in the city.
Note that only certain metro tickets are valid in Laval and Longueuil. Currently, 10 trip tickets, as well as weekly and monthly passes, are still not accepted. You may need to buy another ticket for the same price ($3.25) A full listing of all types of tickets and their validity can be found here:[www]
You need to keep your payment card as it is both your transfer and your proof of payment (correspondance); fare inspectors may give you a large fine if you are unable to show it when they request it.
If you are using cash to pay your fare on the bus, it is important to have the exact fare since the driver does not give change; you will receive an à la carte ticket, your proof of payment and your transfer. Pictures and specific instructions can be found here. [www]
Tourist passes offer unlimited travel on the bus and metro for periods of one day ($10) or three days ($18) and are well worth it to avoid fumbling for change, checking transfer times and restrictions, and worrying about getting off at the wrong stop and having to repay. There is also an option for unlimited evenings ($5), valid between 6pm and 5am the next morning, which can be practical on a night out, since it's cheaper than buying a two-way ticket (which would cost $6.00). They are available for purchase at all metro stations (pay cash or use Canadian credit or debit cards only). Weekly ($25.50, valid for one calendar week running Monday through Sunday) and monthly ($82.00, valid by calendar month) passes are also available; unlike one day and three day passes, weekly and monthly passes must be loaded onto an OPUS card (see below) and are not available in paper ticket form.
The OPUS card is a smart card with a chip that contains your fare and transfer information. The OPUS card can be purchased at all metro stations and transit fare points of sale. As of February 2013, the card costs $6. You can find your nearest seller here. [www]
OPUS cards can be refilled at metro stations using the automated machines or at the ticket booth.
The STM website offers an online trip-planner service. [www] Trip planning can also be done using Google Maps. Free bus and Metro system maps are available from the ticket booth at most metro stations. These are useful to find where you are on the island. [www]
At each subway station, directions are not indicated by compass directions, such as westbound or eastbound. Instead, trains go in the direction of a subway line's terminus. The green line runs from Angrignon in the west to Honoré-Beaugrand in the east. If you were to travel eastbound, for example, you would look for Honoré-Beaugrand on the platform. If you were to travel westbound, you would look for Angrignon. There are four interchange stations at which commuters can change subway lines without extra charge: Snowdon (blue/orange), Lionel-Groulx (orange/green), Berri-UQAM (green/yellow/orange), and Jean-Talon (orange/blue).
Bicycles are permitted aboard metro trains outside of the rush hours such as: 10:00am to 3:00pm and 7:00pm to end of service on weekdays and all day Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. Bikes are only allowed in the lead car of the train up to a maximum of 6. STM staff may deny bikes aboard the metro for safety reasons such as special events that might generate a high level of ridership. Lists of such events are posted on the STM website and at the entrances to metro. During festival season in Montreal, bikes are seldom allowed at all.
Bike riding inside stations or the Underground City is strictly prohibited.
Driving (SAAQ [www]) in Montreal can be a challenge for many North American motorists. Although turning right on a red light is allowed across the rest of Quebec (except at intersections where a sign indicates this is not permitted), right turns on red are strictly prohibited on the island of Montreal. The stop lights at most of downtown intersections are located on the opposite side of the intersection, not at the actual stop line as in some of Europe.
The use of road salt to keep roads ice-free during severe winters takes its toll on the roadways, which are either heavily potholed or subject to perpetual construction. Downtown traffic is dense. Street parking can be difficult. Parking meters are in use seven days a week in most districts (9am-9pm Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm Sat, 1pm-6pm Sun), including statutory Holidays. The standard parking ticket cost is $52. Parking tickets may be appealed in court only by the owner of the car that was subject to the infraction, so if a rented car is ticketed, the person who rented may be unable to contest the charge. Car parking downtown is expensive at around $3 an hour at parking meters or $25 per day at commercial parking lots. Parking signs are all in French, and will describe a day and hour (based on 24h clock) along with conditions for parking. Many arterial roads prohibit parking on one side during rush hour, and vehicles are subject to $150 fine plus towing costs and other fees. Also be aware that Montreal does not paint curbs red next to fire hydrants, but it is still illegal to park there.
There are also many private and public parking lots, and their prices vary widely. There may even be $15–$20 differences between two parking lots just a few blocks from each other.
During the winter months, heavy snowfalls are common. In the aftermath of a snowstorm, an intensively-prepared "déneigement" (snow removal) process begins with intimidatingly large snow plows and trucks clearing, chewing up, and transporting away the snow. If you leave your car parked on a street, pay close attention to any orange "no parking" signs that will appear on roads to be cleared. Tow trucks will sound a loud 2-tone horn siren just before clearing. This is an announcement that a street is about to be cleared and that all parked cars will be cited/and or towed if they are not moved. For this reason it's important to be able to check your vehicle at least once daily after a snowfall. It is best to use indoor or underground parking if snow clearing is likely.
Many downtown streets are one way, which can complicate getting around. If you see a sign at an intersection that has direction arrows in a green circle, that means those are the only directions you are allowed to turn. Left turns are allowed on a green light provided there are no other signs prohibiting. Visitors should be familiar with the flashing green light, which indicates a protected left-turn (priority), which is equivalent to a green arrow in other parts of the world. Some signals are green arrows that flash, this is the same meaning. Autoroutes (expressways or freeways) can be challenging for visitors, as most signs are French, but most symbols are the same as in English Canada and the United States.
Cycling is the best way to visit the City, especially its central neighbourhoods like the Plateau Mont-Royal; it is a very popular mode of transportation once the coldest winter weather is over. The city is criss-crossed by 660 km of cycle paths, including some which cross the St. Lawrence onto the island of Montreal. By far the nicest path is the Lachine Canal path that stretches from Lachine, along Lac St-Louis, down to Old Montreal along the canal. You can cross over to the South Shore either on the Jacques Cartier Bridge, Île Notre-Dame, or via the Estacade ice bridge from Île des Sœurs.
Even if you are on a bike path, beware of drivers especially if they are turning, as lines of visibility at intersections are not well enforced in the city. Generally Montreal drivers in the central neighbourhoods are used to sharing the road with bikes and so are courteous, there are always a few, usually from outlying neighbourhoods, who give all drivers a bad name. Some downtown bike paths are separated from the road by parked cars, which decreases visibility, both yours and the drivers. The often crowded bike path on rue Rachel one is the worst for this, however the Plateau part of the path will be renovated soon to make it safer and greener. If one is comfortable driving in Montreal, one generally can feel comfortable biking there as well. Montreal pedestrians are known for not waiting for a light to change if there are no cars coming; cyclists are a bit like that too and often treat the many stop signs on residential streets more as yield signs than as stop signs. Wearing a helmet is not required under the law, though, for children especially, it's better to be safe than sorry.
The Bixi system is a public bike share system. Rated the best in the world, it was designed and developed in Montreal and has since been exported to many cities around the world including London, UK and Sydney, Australia. Major credit cards are accepted. The Bixi was conceived for local active transit but is accessible to tourists as well. For a flat $7 fee, you can use Bixi bikes as much as you like for 24 hours provided you don't use a particular bixi bike for more than 30 minutes at a time before returning it to a docking station. After returning the bike to a docking station, you can get another bike (even at the same station) after a 2 minute waiting period. There are over 400 Bixi stations with over 5000 bikes around the city concentrated in the downtown and central neighbourhoods like the Plateau (though its expanding all the time). The tourist information centre has maps of the stations. Helmets are not provided nor are locks. You could use your own lock, but there is usually a station not more than a block away on a commercial strip so returning the Bixi to the nearest stand is always the safest and most cost-effective choice. Be aware that stations fill up and empty quickly; you may have to bike to the next station to find an empty docking spot. If you have a smart phone, there is an app that shows you real-time the nearest stations, how many bikes are docked, or whether there is a free docking spot available.
Skate and bike rental shops are common, particularly in the Old Port and the Plateau. Visit La Maison des Cyclistes (the cyclists's house) at 1251 rue Rachel Est for all info on cycling in Montreal.
Montreal has a commuter train system run by the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) with termini at the Montreal Central Station (Gare Central) and at Lucien-L'Allier (both are accessible from the metro). Commuter trains are handy for getting to suburbs and neighbouring towns.
Commuter train stations are divided into six zones that radiate out from downtown. Stations have automated machines from which you must purchase a ticket appropriate to the zones of the station you are traveling to or from, whichever is farther (for example, a trip from Zone 1 to Zone 3 or vice versa would require a Zone 3 ticket). A prepurchased ticket card (SOLO) must be validated at the card scanners at the entrance to the platform. In general, reduced fares (for students and seniors) require ID that is not available to travelers, but if you are staying in the area, ask an employee for more details as the rules are complicated, but you can get good savings.
There are no ticket machines on the train and ticket inspections are random. Incorrect tickets sometimes go unnoticed because inspectors check only occasionally. However, it is best to avoid taking chances as if the ticket is not valid, the customer can get a fine of $400. Note that the ticket machines should now all be bilingual in English and French. The two downtown stations have staffed ticket booths Monday to Friday, but not in the evenings. Other stations may also have booths but generally only during either the morning or afternoon rush hour.