Last month, I decided to take a trip to Toronto, which checked off my experience of traveling solo for the first time ever, which was scary but exciting.
Initially, I was eager and ready to head to Canada alone, but once my day of departure got closer and closer I became a little nervous. The reality had set in. I was really about to embark on my first solo trip. I started to worry about the dangers of traveling alone (especially as a black woman), making it to my flights and navigating through Downtown Toronto. I was somewhat at ease because like always I did my homework on the ins and outs of the city and I was lucky enough to have a friend that is a Toronto native to link up with during my stay.
I booked my trip through Cheapoair back in February and my tickets were $299 USD, which wasn’t too bad for booking a month in advance. I flew with Delta and WestJet (a Canadian partner of Delta) with only one layover in Detroit that was about two hours. It was a pretty smooth trip with no delays except for when I was going home. There were some issues with aircraft parts or something. I never flew alone so I was so nervous about that, but I had music to keep me chilled out, but alert throughout the whole process.
Back in January, I booked my Airbnb and it was $426 USD for 4 days. It was located in the Financial District of Downtown Toronto. I didn’t mind paying a pretty penny for my Airbnb because I knew that my airfare wasn’t going to drain my pockets. It was pretty spacious and comfortable for little ol’ me. I picked up the key for the condo at a KeyCafe location around the corner, which wasn’t too bad. The Keycafe is basically a box that has a ton of compartments for holding keys for the hosts. All I had to do was put in the verification code I received from my host via email then a door opened with my key. I hated that I had to bring my luggage around to do that.
The spot was really nice and exactly like the pictures. It was pretty secure. You needed a key fob to access the building as well the elevator. The kitchen was equipped with pretty much everything (not that I had planned to do any cooking). There was a washer and dryer as well. There were huge windows and a patio. The view was kind of awkward because it was facing two business buildings. The host had Netflix available too which was great because I didn’t feel like going through the whole login process and trying to remember the password for my own account.
Before I actually got to Toronto, I already had an idea of the things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go and see thanks to Curiocity and blogTo. I followed those two accounts on Instagram so that I could have a clear idea of the things that I wanted to do rather than wander through the streets aimlessly.
Check out some of the places that were on my agenda:
Allan Gardens Park & Observatory (Free): A beautiful botanical garden with free admission so what’s not to love? I really loved seeing all of the flowers and cacti. They even had little ponds where koi fish and turtles lived.
Royal Ontario Museum ($20 CAD): This museum was cooler than I thought it was going to be. I liked the bat cave exhibit, bird exhibit as well as the crystals and rocks.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada ($31 CAD): I pretty much knew what to expect as far as aquariums go, but this still somehow amazed me. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has a fish tank tunnel that you can look over and see the sharks on the upper level. However, on the lower level you can walk through the tunnel as the fish and sharks swim over and around you. They also had a petting zoo area where you could touch the horseshoe crabs and zebra sharks.
CN Tower ($38 CAD): The CN Tower and the aquarium are located right next to each other so two birds, one stone. Honestly, I went to the CN Tower not thinking twice and if I did I probably would’ve never went (lol). The tower is sooooo high up. The elevator has glass floors so you can see straight down as you’re going up. When you get to the top you can look over the city and Toronto Island. It has a breathtaking view that’ll momentarily distract you from the fact that you’re so high up in the air. It takes forever to get on an elevator down so be prepared to stand in line for like 45 minutes just to leave. Oh yeah and if you go while they’re still doing renovations you can access the upper level for free.
Nathan Phillips Square is a wide open plaza. There’s a huge, multi-colored Toronto sign along with an ice rink.
Graffiti Alley (513 Queen St W Toronto ON M5V 2B4) I provided the most direct address because it’s ducked off in an alley of course. If you miss it just look for the Urban Outfitters located just a couple feet ahead and you’ll know you’re basically there. It’s a cool alley that goes around corners and goes up for a couple blocks. I wouldn’t suggest going there at night. As artsy and cool as it looks it’s still an alley. That particular area in general is great to walk around because there’s so many shops and scenes. Streetcars go up that way too if you’re up for using public transportation.
I didn’t eat a ton of food while I was there because I just didn’t have a taste for anything really, but I did try some of these food places:
Labothéry ($7.05 CAD) is a cool new bubble tea shop. My drink cost me $7.05 CAD. So here’s the breakdown: $3.25 for whichever base choose (milk tea, fresh tea or slush base). Then, $1 for every test tube or syringe of flavoring you add. Test tubes contain powders like coconut or durian. While the liquid flavorings in the syringes are more for fresh tea or slush bases. You can add toppings like the bubbles or whipped topping for .50¢. I got a green tea base, two syringes that were guava and passion fruit with pineapple and strawberry beads. It tasted great. Be prepared to wait in line for awhile. Labothéry is still new so everyone is dying to get there.
Pancho’s Bakery (3 Churros for $5 CAD): This spot is located in Kensington market. (I suggest getting condensed milk with it). Also, check out the rest of the Kensington Market area there’s a bunch of shops and other street food spots that won’t kill your pockets.
Fran’s Restaurant ($16.99 CAD) I ordered the Big Breakfast from Fran’s. It consisted of pancakes, toast, sausage, eggs, bacon and hash browns. It was definitely a big breakfast and it was good. I would get breakfast from there when I go back.
Hangry Burger ($18.75 CAD) I ordered dinner from here on my last night in Toronto and it didn’t disappoint. I got the Hangry Burger Combo, which consisted of a beef burger with sautéed portobello mushrooms with a side of poutine. Now poutine is something that sounds strange and different at first, but it’s actually just fries, cheese curds, and gravy. It’s simple, but really delicious.
- If you’re looking to save money on an Uber from the airport just take one of the buses to get you a bit close to cut the cost in half. Bus fare is $3.25 CAD. I took the 192 bus to Kipling Station, which made the cost of my Uber to my Airbnb go from $70-90 CAD to $25-35 CAD.
- Use wifi where it’s available because relying solely on Canadian cell service just won’t do it. It’s annoying and slow. Luckily most places have wifi so don’t fret.
- Your best bet is to do the currency exchange when you get to Canada because based on the phone calls and comparisons I made, I would’ve gotten less money if I would have did the exchange at BWI so I just held out until I landed at YYZ. However, don’t be apprehensive about using your USD because everywhere takes it and you just get your change back in CAD.
- Never go to an ATM alone. Keep your money in separate places. It’s smarter to divvy up your money and place them in different compartments, purses, pockets or wherever in case of an emergency. This is something I’ve always done when traveling. Don’t bring your ATM card out unless you have to. A lot of the places there especially tourist spots use Apple Pay or tap to pay so if you have that use it.
- Keep your phone charged up and pack your charger. You’ll definitely need it to navigate through the city. You can always stop in a Starbucks to charge your phone while talking a break from exploring. I have a Mophie charging case ($100 USD). It helps a lot. I also have an iPhone 6 that’s still functioning well so to preserve my phone’s battery, I just use the 6 to take pictures or videos.
- If you have an iPhone use the share location feature to keep friends and family up to date on your whereabouts to ensure your safety, which is a good habit to pick up for traveling anywhere. I don’t know of any features for androids but you can always make sure to check in on sites like Facebook or Snapchat.
- Always use Uber Pool. It’ll save you a lot of 💵
- Also, I checked the Maps app a million times to gauge the distance of one destination to the next because if it was walkable I would just walk. I also did Uber price estimates too. One thing I will say is you get to see a lot more on foot rather than if you took an Uber everywhere. If you plan on doing some walking make sure you wear walking shoes otherwise your body will hate you. Toronto is a pretty busy city so thankfully Uber pool is an option if you don’t sharing your ride with strangers.
- Always ask questions if you see someone and feel comfortable enough to ask them something. Simply asking questions will help you avoid wasting money, walking in circles and any other confusion. Toronto is kind of like Manhattan so there’s many different people from different places speaking different languages. Be mindful and aware of your surroundings. I was traveling alone so I never went anywhere at night alone.
My trip to Toronto definitely marked the beginning of my solo traveling. There are a ton of places I would love to travel to and this just checked one off the list. I never wanted to feel like I had to wait on anybody to pull themselves together or coordinate with me so doing this alone got my feet wet. I will say that I’m naturally a lone wolf so this wasn’t too different for me, but nonetheless it was something new and fun. Stayed tuned for more.
Check out more of my pictures on my Instagram