Living in Toronto?
Healthcare and Transportation in Toronto
How to Stay in Good Health
Your physical and mental well-being is in good hands in Toronto. The city is home to almost two dozen public hospitals of various specializations and highest quality. As Toronto attracts highly skilled medical personnel from all over the world — and trains many more in the numerous educational institutions around town — you will have no problem finding qualified doctors and other healthcare staff. Toronto is also a major center for medical research, with institutions such as the Discovery District, the McLaughlin Centre for Molecular Medicine and the Medical and Related Sciences Centre located in the city.
Get it Quickly! The Ontario Health Card
Anyone whose primary place of residence is Ontario can apply for free medical care services provided by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The range of services includes all necessary medical examinations by physicians, dental operations in hospitals, and a yearly eye examination. Furthermore, the plan offers partial or full coverage for additional services such as ambulance services, prescription medication, or long-term care. The Health Card does not cover any procedures that are not necessary from a medical standpoint.
The Ontario Health Card is also available to expats, provided that they are employed with a company in Ontario and have a work permit valid for at least six months. You have to make sure that you are physically present for 153 of the first 183 days after you establish your residency in the province. Of course, expats with permanent residency permits are eligible as well. Unfortunately, as the waiting period for newcomers to Ontario is three months, you need to look into other ways of insuring yourself for the first stretch of your stay in Toronto.
To apply for your Ontario Health Card, visit one of the many ServiceOntario centers around Toronto, where you will have to fill out an application form and present a number of documents. The government of Ontario provides a list of necessary documentation on their website.
Using Public Transportation
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is responsible for all public transportation services in the city. The TTC operates four subway lines (including the Scarborough Rapid Transit line), eleven streetcar lines and over 140 bus lines that will take you to and from every part of the city. All of the major arterial routes of the city grid, both in west-east and north-south orientation, are covered by the TTC’s range of services.
Public transportation is hugely popular in Toronto, and the frequency of intervals reflects that: most lines adhere to a 5–10 minute interval during peak times, and 5–20 minutes off-peak. Some of the most heavily used lines even have a two-minute interval. On the website of the TTC you can find information about fares and passes, look up schedules and plan your trip!
Toronto in general is a very cyclist-friendly place, and the public transportation system also takes this into account, at least to a certain extent: while you cannot take your bike on the subway or streetcar, the main bus routes are serviced by buses equipped with bike racks in the front. Their use is free of charge. However, this often makes taking your bike with you a bit of a gamble, especially during rush hour: the racks can only hold two bicycles, and spots are given on a first-come, first-served basis.
An important piece of advice to bus passengers: you are expected to greet your driver (and show your pass or, failing that, pay in cash) when you get on, and thank them when you get off. Be polite and show respect!
Other Means of Transportation
As in most other parts of North America, cars are still among the preferred means of transportation. The network of roads and highways is of very high quality and among the busiest on the continent. However, this has led to a number of pressing issues. Apart from the obvious problem of near-constant gridlock during rush hour, the scarcity of (and hefty fees for) parking spaces might quickly put a strain on both your commute and your wallet.
As mentioned above, cycling is a very good option most of the year. Many roads have bike lanes, allowing for quick and safe movement on two wheels. If your workplace is not too far away and you are of the outdoorsy kind, this is a great way of both staying in shape and avoiding traffic-related stress.
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