- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Calgary Guide (PDF)
Expats will find getting around in Calgary fairly straightforward as the city has a reliable public transport network consisting of buses and trains. While most of Calgary’s residents use public transport to commute during the week, many find it worthwhile to have their own vehicle in order to explore a bit further afield.
Public transport in Calgary
Public transport in Calgary is fast and efficient, with an extensive multi-modal network and an integrated ticketing system.
Single tickets allow 90 minutes of travel on any train or bus route. For expats who will be regular commuters, the best option is a monthly pass. Both single and monthly tickets are available at any CTrain station, convenience stores or online.
Calgary’s light rail transit system is known as the CTrain. The CTrain network is not as extensive as those in other major cities and, in many cases, commuters may also need to rely on bus services to complete their journey.
Trains run fairly punctually from 4am to 1am daily. On special holidays and festivals, there is an extended 24-hour service. Unfortunately, CTrain commuters experience frequent closures, especially on weekends, due to construction or maintenance. So, those planning on travelling over the weekend should check for updates on the CTrain website.
Calgary’s extensive bus network covers more than 100 routes. Buses in Calgary also service those areas not covered by the CTrain network. All the bus routes are numbered and designed to connect Calgary’s areas and suburbs to the city centre or CTrain stations.
Buses aren’t as frequent as trains in Calgary; passengers can expect an average 30-minute wait time, but this varies between routes.
Taxis in Calgary
Taxis are readily available throughout Calgary. While taxis certainly aren’t cheap, they provide a safe and efficient door-to-door service. This is especially useful for late-night travel and getting to the areas inaccessible by the CTrain or the late-night bus service.
Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are also available in the city.
Cycling in Calgary
While Calgary has a good network of off-street bike paths, expats might find that motorists are not always courteous to cyclists. It is, therefore, best to be vigilant when sharing the road with cars. Calgary has also contracted two private companies, Bird Canada and Neuron, to facilitate their shared micromobility programme that encourages using e-scooters and bikes for short trips around the city.
Walking in Calgary
Calgary’s city centre is highly pedestrianised, making walking the quickest way to get around. In the winter, most people navigate their way around the city using the Plus 15 system, made up of several enclosed walkways.
Driving in Calgary
It is not essential to have a car in Calgary, but most expats choose to purchase their own vehicle. A car may be practical for expats with children or those looking to explore the region in their leisure time. Expats can drive using their national driver's licence but will eventually have to apply for a local Alberta licence.
Expats who decide to drive in Calgary may find it initially challenging to navigate the city’s quadrant system. Those using a car to commute into Calgary’s city centre will experience plenty of traffic, especially during rush hour. Drivers commuting to work should be aware of Calgary’s lane reversal rules, which are operational during peak hours of the week.
Driving in winter conditions is something expat drivers will need to get accustomed to. The city authorities do take safety measures, including ploughing, salting and sanding all major roads. That said, motorists should beware of driving on potentially dangerous smaller residential streets after a snowstorm.
►For an overview of public transport and driving in Canada, check out Transport and Driving in Canada
"Calgary has an extensive public transport system consisting of an integrated system of trains and buses. For the most part, they run efficiently, and we usually use the train if we want to go downtown. If we go anywhere else, we use our own car. While I feel safe, it can be a bit dodgy sitting at the train station in downtown at night as there are often unsavoury characters wandering around looking for drugs. There have been some interesting characters on my train rides, including a man who hopped on with his shopping cart of all his worldly possessions and another who played his reggae music and sang along on max volume on a packed rush-hour train."
Read more about Catherine's expat experiences in Calgary in our interview.
Are you an expat living in Calgary?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Calgary. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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