’Tis the season to choose your next adventure! For graduating high school and CEGEP students, the question now is: Where to next?
For Quebecers, Canadians, and Americans in the northeast especially, Montreal is a top university destination. Its four world-class schools and vibrant and diverse culture put it on par with just about any North American city for college-bound students, and its vast array of academic programs make it a good fit for any student. And within just two hours of the big city, there are several other can’t-miss campuses throughout La Belle Province. Time to plan your Montreal university campus bus tour!
Why do you need a bus for your Montreal university campus tour?
If you’ve ever been to Montreal, you know that Canada’s second largest city is a metropolis to marvel at. Yes, there are skyscrapers, but there’s also the cobblestone roads of the Old Port of Montreal, the Lachine Canal running along the city’s southern rim, and of course Mount Royal, visible from nearly anywhere in the city. For all its beauty, the locals will tell you that driving in Montreal is no Sunday picnic on the mountain. (Side note: Work a Sunday Mount Royal picnic into your itinerary!) From the city’s dense traffic to its legendary potholes to the orange construction cones that have become synonymous with city life in the 514, navigating Montreal is best left to an expert driver.
Read on to learn the easiest way to rent a bus in Montreal for your tour of the city’s four major university campuses, as well as five other higher education institutions throughout Quebec.
Decide on your group size
Depending on how many people you’re travelling with, your transportation options will change. Each bus caters to a particular group, and it’s not just your group size you should be thinking about — the length of your trip, required amenities, and budget will all factor in.
For any group larger than a single family, chartering a bus for your tour makes perfect sense. Driving through a foreign city in a fleet of cars hoping no one gets lost on route? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Instead, gather your group in one vehicle and make the most of your time on the road. In a bus, not only does everyone get to sightsee during the drive, family members get a chance to chat, bond, and compare notes on the different schools between trips.
For a group of 20 or fewer taking a school tour together, a minibus is the best option. Like a school bus but cozier, these buses are built for hop on hop off style itineraries — and since Montreal’s four major universities are relatively close in proximity, that will be the nature that part of your trip. For longer trips, you may want to upgrade to a mini coach bus for some added features, such as Wifi, leather seats, and an audio system.
For tour operators registering large student and family groups, look at our bigger group bus rental options: the school bus and the coach bus. Nothing says ‘field trip’ quite like a big yellow four-wheeler, and our school buses are best for local groups looking for a simple way to get from one school to the next. For long-distance trips from, say, Toronto, Ottawa, or Quebec City, a coach bus rental is the popular choice, outfitted with storage, a bathroom, and added comfort for all.
Plan for chaperones
Certain universities require a chaperone to be present during student campus tours. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to have an adult onboard for long road trips with high school or CEGEP students.
When travelling with minors, keep in mind there is specific documentation, like permission slips, you’ll need depending on what country or state you’re coming from. Chaperones in attendance will have to sign papers to signify they accept responsibility for the minors travelling in the group.
Prior to the trip, the group organizer will want to make sure to book their group’s school visits ahead of time so that there are no surprises on either end. For groups of less than 10, scheduling a visit may not be necessary. For groups larger than 30, the school may require you to split your group in two to meet their maximum. Do your research and adjust accordingly!
Chaperones should keep an eye on the itinerary the whole way through, making sure each member of the group — including, or especially, the bus driver — respects it and sticks to it. Communication will also be key, and the group leader should ensure, for big groups in particular, there is an easy, reliable mode of communication, whether a WhatsApp group or otherwise.
Decide on when to visit
Montreal is a tale of two cities: Its long winters and short summers each carry a completely different vibe. This noticeable difference in the city’s energy makes for two completely different experiences depending on the season.
Since the school year takes place primarily during the winter, it may be a good idea to get a taste of what you’ll be living during your university career in Montreal and its surrounding areas. The harsh winters — we’re talking freezing temperatures and an abundance of snow and ice — may seem brutal during a weekend visit, but you have to look deeper. Montreal’s winters are when the city’s hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens, takes over. Plus, as a cold-weather town, MTL knows how to embrace the season, from winter festivals like Igloofest and Montreal En Lumiere to the Underground City and Metro system.
In the summer, the locals come out of hibernation, filling the Downtown streets, parks, and terraces and flocking to globally-attended events like the Jazz Festival, Just for Laughs, Grand Prix, and Osheaga.
Map out your itinerary
If you’ve already decided on Montreal as your future university town, then you’ll have four schools to choose from. Outside the big city limits, the province of Quebec offers several more. But if you know which academic path you’re likely to go down, perhaps you can narrow the focus of your visit.
Universities in Montreal
McGill ranks as one of Canada’s top universities year after year, having held down a top 25 QS World University Ranking 12 years in a row. It has, after all, produced eight Nobel Laureates, one hundred and thirty-two Rhodes Scholars, and two Canadian prime ministers. McGill’s beautiful, almost 200-year-old campus is found behind the Roddick Gates nestled between Sherbrooke and Mount Royal.
Concordia‘s main downtown campus — which includes its world-renowned John Molson School of Business — sprawls over several blocks in the heart of Montreal between Guy and Bishop, Sherbrooke and St-Catherine. The school accepts visits all year long of up to 30 people with an optional trip to the Loyola Campus which houses the Journalism program and many of the school’s sports facilities.
Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
UQAM brings with it an international flair thanks to high-ranking joint MBA programs as well as one of Canada’s top business schools, ESG. UQAM’s large city campus straddles Downtown’s east in the city’s Entertainment District at the famed Rue St-Denis. No other school in Quebec invests more in research than does UQAM.
Université de Montréal (UdeM)
The French-language UdeM attracts top students with its Polytechnique Montreal engineering school. Unlike Montreal’s other three schools, Université de Montréal’s sprawling campus sits on the north side of Mount Royal in the Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce borough. U de M proudly ranks 7th in the world for its performance against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
An extension of Université de Montréal, the HEC business school is one of the country’s finest. The graduate level program is offered bilingually, and in 1907 was the first management school established in Canada. It is across the street from the main campus.
Universities East of Montreal
Université de Sherbrooke
With three campuses to visit, a University of Sherbrooke tour will certainly require a bus. From west to east: The Longueuil campus is just across the Jacques-Cartier Bridge from Montreal on the city’s South Shore. One hundred and forty kilometres to the east in Sherbrooke, the grassy main campus houses seven faculties, loads of green space, and bike paths. A 20-minute drive gets you to the Health Campus, where Medicine and Health Sciences students spend their time.
Roughly two hours from Montreal and slightly southeast of Sherbrooke, in the small town of Lennoxville, you’ll find the small liberal arts-focused Bishop’s. Along with McGill and Concordia, Bishop’s is one of three primarily English-language universities in the province of Quebec. MacLean’s Magazine currently has Bishop’s ranked as the top school in Canada for student satisfaction.
University of Quebec in Trois-Rivieres
After a rural 100-km drive north from Sherbrooke, you’ll wind up in the small town of Victoriaville, a town with an impressive list of notable residents that includes hockey legend Jean Beliveau and former Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. UQTR boasts strong programs in Medicine, Chiropractic Education, and Engineering.
While it is often assumed this university is just north of Montreal in the city of Laval, Laval University is actually 250 km to the east in Quebec City. Founded in 1852 but with roots dating back to the 17th century, Laval is Canada’s oldest centre of higher education. Its alumni include three Canadian prime ministers and eight Quebec premiers. Its famed Rouge et Or football team has won a record 10 national championships.
Universities West of Montreal
Université de Québec en Outaouais
Two hours west of Montreal, UQO is close to the banks of the Ottawa River, just north of the nation’s capital. Students looking for a unique specialization might find a home at Université de Québec en Outaouais, the only school in Canada offering French degrees in Comic strip design, Graphic design, and Museology and heritage.
Next stop: university! Make sure that you coordinate properly with all of your peers to make the most of your charter bus rental by packing as many future uni students onto your rental as possible. Good luck!