Planes, trains and automobiles: travelling home, à la undergrad

Anyone who's waited for a bus inside the Toronto Coach Terminal will be aware of what a noxious experience it is, complete with a Soviet-inspired, roofed-in parking lot in which, as you stand in line waiting to board, you are gassed with diesel fumes by an armada of endlessly revving buses. Such was the start to my fall reading break this past weekend. My bags resting on the spit-covered, gum-checkered pavement, I stood, half-suffocating beneath the terminal's decorative cement canopy, partially high from inhaling exhaust, thinking, "There must be better options." And lo and behold, I've discovered that there are many options for student travel. Here's a table for you, plus a few extras:   





The bus


-15% discount with student card

-10% off if you buy 7 days in advance 

-25% off 14 days in advance

-50% off 21 days in advance, but only to some U.S. destinations

The stink at the station. Plus you can't buy tickets online without having a Student Advantage Card, which costs $20.

If you're organized, it's a far better deal to buy your tickets two weeks in advance, saving a quarter of the total price.

Ontario Northland

15% student discount on all tickets

If you're going north, you still get gassed waiting in the terminal, but do eventually get driven to cleaner air for a relatively cheap price. Student ID is all you need. 

The train

VIA RAIL: student discount

35% student discount with ISIC card.

The train is more expensive than the bus, but there is a substantial student discount, both online and in person. You must have an International Student Identity Card, which you can pick up through UTSU. VIA accepts no other student ID.

The train is spacious, does not involve staring at the 401 for hours of touch-and-go fun during rush hour, and there are plugs and internet access on board, so you can work while staring out across the blue expanse of Lake Ontario.

6 Pak

Six discounted train trips, with varying prices.

This allows you to travel to and from one destination six times at a highly discounted price. You still need an ISIC to get the deal.

Non-student discounts

Special, discounted, and supersaver fares.

You generally have to buy the ticket 3 to 7 days ahead of departure; there are generally no refunds, and changes will cost you.

The car


Car rental with varying prices:

Per hour, fees range from $5.50 to $9.75 plus mileage.

Per day, prices range from $48 to $70 plus a mileage fee.

This is a fantastic service, made for people who don't have, or don't want to have, their own car in Toronto. You need an AutoShare membership, G-class  driver's license, and a credit card. You can travel relatively cheap, booking the car you want for as long as you need it, and picking it up at one of many locations throughout the city. You do end up paying for the gas and time, but at $10 an hour or $43 a day, it's far cheaper than rental cars.

Craigslist and Kajiji:

Very cheap. But potentially a little scary.

Use at your own risk! Ride shares get a 10 for cheapness, but a 1.2 for safety (hitchhiking coming in  at a 1). You never know who you'll meet, what they're driving history is (or isn't), or how many times they've been to jail. But it certainly is cheap. Chip in for gas and you're on your way, provided that you can decide where to meet.

Prices vary.

This is really only any good if you're travelling about as far as Guelph, and doing so on a regular basis. But still, if you're doing it a lot (I smell a long-distance relationship), it's definitely worth looking into.

The plane

Air Canada

-Super Tango


-Regular economy fares

Tango tickets are really cheap, but come with restrictions: they're non-refundable, there's no switching your ticket after it's purchased, and seat selection comes with a fee. There is no crappy airplane food included.


Discount air fare

Sometimes cheap tickets, although I'm usually surprised to find that Tango is cheaper.

Porter Airlines





Three titles given to the type of ticket you purchase — they don't describe the quality and width of your seat.

An inexpensive commuter airline departing frequently from Bishop (a.k.a. Toronto Island) Airport. There are direct flights to Boston, NYC, Montreal, Halifax, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, and more. “Firm” flights between Ottawa and Toronto start as low as $119; to Thunder Bay, $79. These are prices that rival even bus fares.

Flight Centre

$19 to Montreal!

$59 to Fort Lauderdale!

$19 to Mumbai!

You can shop around with other airlines, but be warned that that $59 ticket you just booked to Fort Lauderdale is a) uninsured b) not available. As you're booking, they tell you the fare you were looking at is no longer available, and the only other one for sale will cost you $359. Discount flight indeed.

- Mary


5 comments on “Planes, trains and automobiles: travelling home, à la undergrad

  1. It should also be noted that in some cases where Greyhound is the typical mode of bus transportation (read: Peterborough, Barrie, Guelph, Kitchener/Waterloo, St Catharines, Niagara Falls), GO Transit now offers competitive rates on buses and trains.

    The adult GO price is often close enough to the Greyhound student price, and discounts are available on multiple rides or monthly rates.

    Plus, you can use either Union Station’s train and bus terminals (and other terminals around the GTA).

    Trips to some destinations take longer via GO Transit, but also often allow flexibility regarding final destination (e.g., in Peterborough, GO Buses continue past downtown Peterborough to Trent University and stops along the way at park-and-ride/carpool lots near smaller towns).

  2. We’re allowed to say ‘crappy’?!

    All these fares make me pine for the days when humans were strong enough and had the time to walk everywhere.

    (I say that as if I was there :S)

  3. Liesl, I like the idea of horse and buggy. Imagine how fun every trip would be if you carried with you several kilograms of oats and apples, and heard bells jingling the whole way.

    Jack: so true about the GO. I hadn’t thought about it, as I don’t take it all too often. I guess if you’re really looking to save, you could also see if you could take the GO as far as possible, then switch over to coach or train. I wonder if you’d save much… permitted that you had that kind of time to spend organizing.

  4. This is great – I was curious about the plane prices especially. I went with my family to Aruba this summer for twos, and a good friend of mine happened to be arriving the same week as mine. We were scheduled for the same flight, but at the stop-over, she mentioned she was taking a different flight, because she had received a student discount. I was like “WHAT?!” 🙂 in jolly good excitement.

    So I was curious – can we get student discounts for airfare? We do weigh as much as adults, so that would surprise me 🙂

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