Getting Around Montreal

Montreal cityThe city of Montreal is conveniently laid out in a grid pattern, and is defined by neighborhoods and districts. The main downtown is the area south of Mont Royal, with Rue Sainte Catherine-the main shopping street-running through its center from east to west.

Another popular street in Montreal is Rue Saint Denis in the chic district of Plateau Mont Royal. The street, also referred to as "The Main", delineates traditional French-English boundaries with the area east of The Main remaining French-inspired.

Here are some helpful tips in getting around Canada’s second largest city.

East or west? – Montreal has historically been divided into east and west by Boulevard Saint-Laurent, and most addresses indicate whether they are located on the "Ouest" or "Est".

Subways are the way to go – Montreal has a very extensive and very practical subway network run by Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) with termini at the Montreal Central Station and at Lucien L’Allier. It is very advisable to take the subway because traffic is a little heavy. The commuter trains are divided into six zones, and you need to buy tickets according to appropriate zones. Please do note that paying instructions are only available in French.

Don’t drive in Old Montreal – The old city has narrow streets and often congested, which is why locals prefer to take the subway or other modes of transportation, including walking.

Driving around the city is a challenge – It is most important to note that all road signs use symbols, and that pedestrians have a much greater confidence in your ability to brake than you might. Also, you need to remember that: 1) turning right during red light is strictly prohibited in Montreal; 2) the stop lights are on the far end of the intersection, not at the stop line; 3) many downtown streets are one-way; 4) and that the streets are either heavily potholed or subject to perpetual construction (largely due to the use of salt on the streets during severe winter). Also, parking is difficult especially in residential area.

Walk around – Most locals actually prefer to walk around the densely packed downtowns and narrow street, especially during the warmer months.

Underground walk – Winter is harsh towards pedestrians, with icy and extremely hazardous sidewalks as well as the danger of falling ice from overhanging balconies and roofs. To solve this, the locals take the stairs down to the city’s underground corridors called RESO. These walkways connect to the subway, shopping centers, and office complexes.

Jaywalk at your own risk – Jaywalking is widespread and rarely punished. However, be aware that drivers will not stop or slow down to let a pedestrian cross the street, except in intersections.

Take a bike – Aside from walking, cycling-and in-line skating-is popular among locals, especially after the cold winter. The city has over 660 kilometers of well-maintained cycle paths. However, you need to be aware of drivers, even while on a bike path. You can rent a skate or bike in shops along Old Port and the Plateau districts. Don’t forget to wear a helmet, which is recommended (although not required).

Get on the bus – The public transit system in Montreal is safe, efficient, and pleasant to use. Tickets are valid for one trip, including transfer. When riding a bus, it is important to have the exact face since the driver does not give change. When leaving the metro, you can take a transfer ticket that you can use on a bus instead of paying the fare twice.

Tourist pass – Montreal offers unlimited bus and metro travels on tourists through one-day or three-day passes. They are available from most downtown metro stations during the summer.

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