I arrived in Kingston for the first time this past July without a map, and without much of an idea of how I was going to spend the next 45 hours. This was part of a new effort to travel more serendipitously. How hard can it be to visit a nearby Canadian city of 123000 people when you already live in Canada?

I also wanted to force myself to interact more with the locals. My introvert nature coupled with good planning skills often means that I don’t have to rely on other people a lot. I like the independence, but feel like I’m missing out on some social interactions. What better way to practice than in my home country?

As is most often the case, I was travelling on my own. Yet, the total cost of my 2-nights visit was only $201 CDN, including transportation, accommodation and food. How? This post explains my little secrets.

Budget breakdown


I used Megabus, one of the two bus companies that operate between Toronto and Kingston (the other is Greyhound). My ticket came to only $7.35 (including taxes and booking fee)! Megabus’ fare structure operates like an airline, so booking early, or during less-busy times usually guarantees a lower fare.

I also spent $2.50 on a city bus to take me from the Bus Terminal to my accommodation. (The home owner graciously offered me the return ride.) The 20-minute ferry ride to Wolfe Island was free (and very refreshing).

Total transportation costs: $9.85


I used AirBnB to book a one-bedroom basement apartment for $50 a night. Including the $10 cleaning fee and the 12% fee that AirBnB charges, the cost for two nights came up to $123. The house was in a residential neighbourhood, half-an-hour walk from downtown Kingston. The suite had everything I needed, including WiFi, a coffee machine (with coffee) and a kettle (with tea).

Total accommodation costs: $123


Because the apartment had a fridge, stove, and microwave, I could prepare my own meals. However, part of the fun is being able to sample the local gastronomy. I bought a box of breakfast pastries, a piece of pizza, and a sandwich from a nearby grocery store ($13.18), and ate two meals downtown: one at Olivea, an Italian restaurant ($26.67) and the other at an Irish pub called Tir Nan Og ($26.88).(Read my review of Tir Nan Og.)

Total food bill: $66.73


I didn’t visit any museums or other paying attractions on this trip. My only cost was the $2 I gave to a busker after a rather entertaining performance.

Note: If I had been interested in visiting some museums, a little advance planning would have been useful in determining the free day or night. Many museums offer free admission for a short period, once a week.


Don’t worry, I won’t go through this kind of tedious cost analysis for every destination I visit, but thought you might be interested to see what my type of “budget travel” entails.

The observant reader will notice that this budget is missing the return transportation cost to Toronto. In this case I was continuing onward to Montreal, but if I had returned directly to Toronto, I could have bought another $7.35 ticket from Megabus, bringing my grand total to $208.93.

If you are interested in affordable Canadian travel, see also How to save money on Canadian travel.

All in all, it was a short but worthwhile visit. With tips and brochures from both my host and the Tourist Information Office, I managed to painlessly make my way through the city and get a good cross-section of experiences. Of course this “serendipitous” technique works better in some places than others, and I’ll expand on that in some future posts.


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