- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Calgary Guide (PDF)
Famed for its breathtaking views and well-preserved frontier history, Calgary is fondly known as ‘the Texas of Canada’. The city boasts a fantastic quality of life, yet the cost of living is much gentler than in Vancouver or Toronto. Be that as it may, just like any destination, there are some advantages and disadvantages to life in Calgary.
Below is our list of pros and cons.
Lifestyle in Calgary
+ PRO: Great sports and outdoor activities
Thanks to Calgary’s proximity to the Rocky Mountains and its abundance of green spaces, lakes and rivers, residents can enjoy a wide range of summer and winter activities. The popular pursuits include snowboarding, mountain biking, horse riding and skiing.
- CON: Limited arts and culture scene
While fitness enthusiasts may feel right at home in Calgary, art lovers may be disappointed by the city’s decidedly low-key cultural scene. Nevertheless, this is slowly changing as Calgary’s theatre industry grows and culturally diverse neighbourhoods like International Avenue become more popular.
Working in Calgary
+ PRO: Favourable tax policies
Calgary is well known for its business-friendly policies with lower taxes and less government intervention than anywhere else in Canada. These favourable policies have enticed many corporations and small businesses to set up their operations in Calgary, which has helped diversify the city’s economy.
- CON: High unemployment rate
Calgary’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. The city’s economy relies largely on the oil and gas industry, which has been in decline in recent years, leading to a boom and bust cycle. Despite this, skilled expats can still find opportunities in the architecture, agriculture, IT and finance sectors.
Accommodation in Calgary
+ PRO: Impeccable standard of accommodation
Accommodation in Calgary is in the form of both furnished and unfurnished stand-alone houses, apartments, condos, and townhouses. The housing is generally good quality, with some apartment buildings offering modern and highly sought-after amenities.
- CON: Competitive housing market
Housing in Calgary is becoming increasingly expensive due to a rise in demand. This has led to a fiercely competitive housing market, where properties don't stay on the market for long.
Getting around in Calgary
+ PRO: Exceptional public transport infrastructure
Getting around in Calgary is fairly easy with an integrated travel pass, allowing access to the CTrain and buses. The city also has e-hailing and taxi services readily available.
+ PRO: Cycling in the city centre is encouraged
With off-street bike paths and a pedestrian-friendly city centre, Calgary is a cycling enthusiast's dream. The city has two shared micromobility programmes, which provide residents with access to bikes and e-scooters for short trips.
Cost of living in Calgary
+ PRO: Free education
Expat parents on permanent residence visas will be eligible to enrol their children in one of Calgary’s top-tier public schools for free.
+ PRO: Publicly funded healthcare
Thanks to Canada’s excellent social development programmes, citizens and expats on permanent residence and work visas can access the excellent Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) at no cost.
+ PRO: Low entertainment costs
As much of the entertainment in Calgary is focused on outdoor physical activity, which is usually free or fairly low cost, expats can significantly reduce their monthly expenses.
- CON: Exorbitant accommodation costs
The cost of housing in Calgary has seen a dramatic increase in recent years. Accommodation is likely to be the biggest expense expats will have to contend with, as prices in the city are now comparable with those in Toronto.
Safety and security in Calgary
+ PRO: Calgary is extremely safe
Voted North America's most liveable city in 2018, Calgary has significantly low crime rates. Still, residents are encouraged to use common sense, lock their doors and keep their personal items safe.
►For an overview of life in Calgary, check out Moving to Calgary
"We had a great quality of life in South Africa, and we lived in the winelands region so we loved getting out and about to the vineyards and the beach. Calgary also offers a wonderful quality of life, and while we no longer have the vineyards and beach, there are so many more places to explore. We definitely feel much safer here – while there is crime, it’s mostly petty in nature and it’s not unusual to see people leave their garages wide open all day or kids leave their bikes and toys laying in the front yard."
Find out more about life in Calgary in our interview with South African expat Catherine.
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.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
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