Frommer's lists exact prices in the local currency. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing, consult a currency exchange website, such as www.oanda.com/currency/converter, to check up-to-the-minute rates.
Toronto is one of Canada's most expensive cities (along with Vancouver), but compared with other major world cities, such as New York, London, and Tokyo, it's very affordable. There are some exceptions, like the above-mentioned high taxi fares, pricey museum admissions (especially compared with the recent, progressive programs in places like London that draw crowds with discounted or free admissions), high sales taxes, and thanks to the government monopoly on alcohol, inflated prices for wine, beer, and cocktails.
Canadians use dollars and cents: Paper currency comes in C$5, C$10, C$20, C$50, and C$100 denominations. Coins come in 1-, 5-, 10-, and 25-cent, and 1- and 2-dollar denominations. The gold-colored C$1 coin is a "loonie" -- it sports a loon on its "tails" side -- and the large gold-and-silver-colored C$2 coin is a "toonie." If you find these names somewhat . . . ah, colorful, just remember that there's no swifter way to reveal that you're a tourist than to say "one-dollar coin."
Ideally, you should exchange enough petty cash to cover airport incidentals, tipping, and transportation to your hotel before you leave home; however, it's very easy to withdraw money upon arrival at an ATM at Pearson airport. Check with your local American Express or Thomas Cook office, or with your bank. American Express cardholders can order foreign currency over the phone at tel. 800/807-6233.
It's best to exchange currency or traveler's checks at a bank, not a currency exchange, hotel, or shop. Get up-to-the-minute exchange rates online before you go at www.oanda.com/currency/converter or www.xe.com/ucc.
What Things Cost in Toronto (C$)
Taxi from the airport to downtown 60.00
Subway ride 3.00
Round-trip ticket for the Toronto Island Ferry 6.50
Local telephone call 0.50
Double at the Chelsea Hotel (moderate) 189.00
Soup, sandwich, and frites lunch at Gilead Café (moderate)* 23.00
Three-course dinner for one at Grano (moderate)* 50.00
Pint of beer at Mill Street Brew Pub 7.00
Coca-Cola (355mL/12-oz. can) 1.50
Cup of coffee (black, not latte) 2.00
Admission to the Art Gallery of Ontario 18.00
Movie ticket 12.99
Ticket for the Canadian Opera Company 20.00-317.53
Show at the Second City comedy club 30.00
375mL (12.7-oz.) bottle of Inniskillin Vidal ice wine (LCBO) 79.00
*Includes tax and tip, but not wine
The easiest and best way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine), sometimes referred to as a "cash machine," or a "cashpoint." The Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) networks span the globe. Go to your bank card's website to find ATM locations at your destination. Be sure you know your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. Note: Many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank's ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions than for domestic ones. In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. For international withdrawal fees, ask your bank. Banks that are members of the Global ATM Alliance charge no transaction fees for cash withdrawals at other Alliance member ATMs; these include Bank of America, Scotiabank (Canada, Caribbean, and Mexico), Barclays (U.K. and parts of Africa), Deutsche Bank (Germany, Poland, Spain, and Italy), and BNP Paribas (France).
MasterCard and Visa are almost universally accepted in Toronto; American Express has become more common, but many independent boutiques and small restaurants still don't accept it. Overall, credit cards are a smart way to "carry" money. They also provide a convenient record of all your expenses, and they generally offer relatively good exchange rates. You can withdraw cash advances from your credit cards at banks or ATMs, but high fees make credit card cash advances a pricey way to get cash. Keep in mind that you'll pay interest from the moment of your withdrawal, even if you pay your monthly bills on time. Also, note that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% "transaction fee" on all charges you incur abroad (whether you're using the local currency or your native currency).
Traveler's checks are something of an anachronism in Toronto, since ATMs have made getting cash accessible at any time. However, traveler's checks are still widely accepted -- and unlike cash, can be replaced if lost or stolen.
You can buy traveler's checks at most banks. They are offered in denominations of $20, $50, $100, $500, and sometimes $1,000. Generally, you'll pay a service charge ranging from 1% to 4%.
The most popular traveler's checks are offered by American Express (tel. 800/807-6233, or tel. 800/221-7282 for card holders -- this number accepts collect calls, offers service in several foreign languages, and exempts Amex gold and platinum cardholders from the 1% fee); Visa (tel. 800/732-1322); and MasterCard (tel. 800/223-9920).
Be sure to keep a record of the traveler's checks serial numbers separate from your checks, in the event that they are stolen or lost. You'll get a refund faster if you know the numbers.
Another option is the new prepaid traveler's check cards, reloadable cards that work much like debit cards but aren't linked to your checking account. The American Express Travelers Cheque Card, for example, requires a minimum deposit, sets a maximum balance, and has a one-time issuance fee of $15. You can withdraw money from an ATM (for a fee of $2.50 per transaction, not including bank fees), and the funds can be purchased in dollars, euros, or pounds. If you lose the card, your available funds will be refunded within 24 hours.